Tag Archives: Sutr virus

This Plague of Days: The Mackinac Bridge Massacre

An excerpt from todays’ revisions of Season 2 of This Plague of Days. 

TPOD season 1 ecoverJack ordered her daughter to close her eyes, too.

“No, Mom.”

“Anna! I don’t want you to wake up screaming with nightmares tonight.”

“No,” Anna said. “I’ll look. Years from now, I’ll tell my children what I saw here.” She gazed at tangled horrors as the van bumped along over a sprawl of bodies. The uncaring Sutr Virus had not done this. People had done this to other people.

Many of those murdered had no eyes now, but their gaping jaws suggested anger, fear, pain and surprise. Anna saw torn flesh. White bones rose. Skeletons emerged from their hiding places. 

“If I don’t look…” Anna said, “it’s not right. Someone has to bear witness. If I don’t look, it’s like saying this doesn’t matter or it means I won’t be around later to pass it on. Someday soon, the animals will finish eating and what will be left but me and my memory? Not looking is like…”

“Giving up,” Theo said. “Yes. Look, Anna! It’s a heavy load, but someone who can tell the story should carry the memory.” 

 

Season 2 arrives this fall. You can get Season 1 now by clicking the cover. The revisions are going well, but I’m adding a lot of new material as well. Season 2 is packed with action.

 


From the revision well: Chapter 2 of This Plague of Days

The moon lit the boy’s face as he peered over the fence into the next yard. Jaimie Spencer watched the couple on the lawn chair. The chair’s squeak had drawn him closer, curious. He wasn’t allowed in the neighbor’s yard, but moon shadows amid thick hedge leaves concealed him. A  woman he’d never before seen sat in the older man’s lap. The man, Mr. Sotherby, lay still beneath her. Jaimie could not see the man’s  face, but there was something grim about him, as if the couple were reluctant joggers in a cold wind. 

A cool hand slipped to the back of the boy’s neck. Without looking, Jaimie knew it was his sister, Anna. “Ears,” she whispered, “You’re being creepy again.”

The woman froze and turned her head. The couple whispered to each other, too. Sotherby’s voice was insistent. Hers was afraid. 

Anna guided her little brother away from the hedge line. Anna did not speak again until she and Jaimie stood by their own back door. “Mr. Sotherby has brought home another one of his flight attendant friends. You shouldn’t spy on them. It’s wrong.”

Jaimie did not look at Anna directly. He never met her eyes and he rarely spoke. Her brother cocked his head slightly to one side. That questioning gesture was a rare bit of Jaimie’s body language that few outside the family could read easily. Anna told Jamie that when he cocked his head that way, he looked like Fetcher, the cocker spaniel they’d once had. In every picture they owned of that pet, the spaniel’s head was tipped slightly sideways, perplexed by the camera. Jaimie thought the entire breed must cock their heads slightly sideways, hence their name. The boy abhorred instances of imprecision and illogic in language, and so he was frequently disappointed.

This Plague of Days III“Mr. Sotherby brings home his friends. Remember Mr. Sotherby’s a pilot? He gives rides to lots of people, Ears. He was just giving her a ride. That woman you saw thought she was part of a couple, but they were really just coupling.”

Couple: a noun and a verb. Jaimie had read these words in his dictionary. Overlaps of meanings and terms irritated. He wondered if his sister was trying to bother him. She often called him Ears when she was angry with him, though sometimes she called him that when she hugged him, too. More confusion and imprecision. 

“Dad says it’s a terrible thing what’s happened to flight attendants,” Anna said. “He says when they were called stewardesses, they were cuter. Now the older ones have a waxy look.”

Jaimie wondered how the change in the name of their occupation could have changed the way they looked. He’d heard there were magic words. “Flight attendant” must have powerful, and dangerous, magical properties.

Anna pulled her little brother into the house. “Let’s keep this between you and me,” Anna said and then burst out in a giggle. “Mom would worry you’re getting corrupted. I won’t say anything and I know you won’t.”

Jaimie followed Anna up the back stairs into the kitchen. She pulled out a box of cereal and poured a bowl for herself and one for her brother. He never asked to eat but was usually cooperative if a bowl and spoon was placed in front of him. 

He couldn’t stop thinking about Mr. Sotherby and the woman. Jaimie liked to watch colorful patterns that flowed around people. He had seen the colors around living things all his life. He assumed everyone saw them. The boy had seen something pass between Mr. Sotherby and the flight attendant he had never before seen. It was disturbing because it muddied their colors and made them less vibrant.

Jaimie stood at the sink and gazed out of the kitchen window as he ate.  The moon hung so low and full, the tip of a distant church spire reached, its tip stretching to split Clavius, a large crater toward the base of the moon’s face. The boy’s mind wandered over the words spire and aspire. Surely, the terms shared the same arrogant word root. But the spire would always be bound to the earth, many miles short of aspiration’s heights. The gap between hope and doomed reality turned the boy’s mind back to the naked woman in the next yard.

Small black spots had hovered between the pair like greasy flies. The black smear spoiled the usual pleasing weave of colors. There had been many of them, like a cloud of feeding insects, around the woman. They spread over Mr. Sotherby, too, reaching for him. Jaimie didn’t know what the black spots were, but he sensed a yearning and purpose in their movement. They aspired to reach Mr. Sotherby and overtake him. He sensed the black cloud’s aspirations would be fulfilled. 

That was Jaimie Spencer’s first glimpse of the Sutr Virus at its deadly work. He was sixteen. He might have mentioned it to someone, but Jaimie Spencer was a selective mute. 

“A very selective mute,” his father, Theo Spencer, called him. “Jaimie has something we all lack: A super power. My son can shut up until he has something to say.”

But Jaimie’s ability to communicate well still waited on a distant time horizon then. Billions would have to expire — and one death would have to transpire — before Jaimie found his voice.  

~ This Plague of Days will be ready to launch in roughly a month. In the meantime, please check out all the links to books by Robert Chazz Chute at AllThatChazz.com.

 


Extended, special sneak peek: How This Plague of Days begins

“Basically,” Dr. Julian Sutr said, “Viruses are zombies. They are neither classifiable as living nor dead. When given the opportunity, they reproduce using a host. Their molecules form complex

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin'.

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin’.

structures but they need hosts to reproduce. Nucleic acids, proteins — ”

The Skype connection froze for a moment and then the doctor understood he was being interrupted. “—preciate your summary, doctor.” Two men in uniform and one woman in a suit, each with their own screen, regarded him with impatience.

“The virus has grown more…opportunistic. What fooled us early on was the varied rate of infection and lethality. I suspect individual variance in liver enzymes accounts — ”

The woman cleared her throat and Sutr lost his place in the notes he’d prepared for this meeting. She sighed as he fumbled with his iPad. He had too many notes and not enough time. The woman sighed and tapped a stylus on her desk. “I’m meeting with him soon, doctor. I need the bullet, please. What do I tell him?”

Sutr removed his glasses and closed his eyes. This was too important to stammer and stutter through. Finding the correct words had never mattered more. He took a deep breath but kept his eyes closed and pretended he was speaking intimately with his beloved Manisha. His wife’s name meant “wisdom” and she shared her name with the goddess of the mind. He needed her and her namesake now. “My team and I…” He took another deep breath. “The virus has jumped.”

One of the men in uniform, an admiral in white, spoke, which automatically muted Dr. Sutr’s microphone. “First it was bats, then birds, then migratory birds, then pigs and cows. What animal do we warn the WHO about now? What animal do the Chinese have to slaughter next to keep the cap on this thing? A vaccine won’t help billions of Chinese peasants if they starve to death first.”

“I’m very aware of the stakes, sir, but the virus has jumped to humans. I asked my contact at Google to watch the key words. The epidemiological mapping of the spread is already lighting up in Japan, Malaysia, Chechnya and I already have confirmation it’s in parts of the Middle East, I’m afraid.”

“What’s your next step, doctor?” the woman asked.

Sutr opened his eyes. “I’ve sent my team home. They should be with their families now. As should we all.”

The man in the green uniform, a four-star general, leaned closer to his camera, filling Sutr’s screen. “This is no time to give up the fight, doctor. We’ve got a world to save from your…what did you call it? Zombie virus?”

“Pardon me, general. It was a clumsy metaphor. My point was that viruses are dead and I can’t kill dead things. I’m afraid we lost containment. I suspect we must have lost control sometime in the last two to three weeks. Perhaps less. Maybe more. There are too many variables. This virus is a tricky one. Something new.”

The general paled. “Are you saying this disease was engineered?”

For the first time, Sutr showed irritation toward his inquisitors. “I don’t know! I told you, there are too many variables. The loss of containment could have been sabotage or someone on my team made a mistake. Maybe they were too afraid to admit their mistake. It’s possible I made a mistake and I did not recognize it as such! I’ve identified the virus signature, but the work will have to be taken up by someone else. In my opinion, we need a miracle. As a virologist who has worked with Ebola, my faith in miracles is absent. Nature doesn’t know mercy or luck. That hope was beaten out of me in Africa.”

The admiral cut in. “Look, you’re already headed for the Nobel by identifying the virus. There’s time. We have to hope — ” but the woman in the suit held up a hand and he fell silent.

“We do appreciate the complexity of the challenge before us, Dr. Sutr. That’s why we need you. You’re the best and you’re farther along in the research than any of the other labs.” The woman looked conciliatory now and her voice took on a new, soothing note. “We’re very anxious to have you continue.”

Dr. Sutr stiffened. “I’ve already composed and sent an email for the lab network. You’ll have the entire data dump and I’ve made extra notes so your teams won’t waste time with what hasn’t worked. Dan, at CDC will coordinate my latest data to the other nodes. Good luck with it.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed. “You were vague about the virus gaining traction in ‘parts of the Middle East’. Have you line of sight confirmation, doctor?”

“Yes. I’ve seen the virus’s work in person. Here in Dubai, in my own house. Tarun, my baby boy died last night. My wife, Manisha, followed him to see where he went early this morning.”

“We’re so sorry for your loss, Julian,” the woman said. “Are you infected?”

“I have no doubt I will die.”

“How long have you got, son?” the Admiral said. “You’ve said the infection gradient and lethality is so variable…you could keep working. We could still defeat this thing.”

Julian Sutr’s voice came firm and steady. “General, Admiral…Madam Secretary. It’s entirely possible that I brought it home to them. My wife and child are dead by the virus that bears my name. I should have been an obstetrician like my mother. She brought life into the world…” A tear slipped down the doctor’s cheek. “You people ask me what you should tell him. Go to your briefing. Tell him that, in all likelihood, he is the last President of the United States.”

Dr. Julian Sutr picked up the Sig Sauer P220 from his desk, placed the muzzle under his chin and pulled the trigger.


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