In the face of an unfathomable cataclysm, a group of survivors eke out a barren existence in a tormented landscape. Faced with disease, hunger, exposure and the constant threat of attack, they wander in search of a new home.
The mid-morning air was thick, like soup. A light morning rain had coated the earth, water now rising like a freshly boiled tea-pot in the fierce dawn sun. The doctor had enjoyed his stay in the city, it was an interesting place. Impossible to live here at this time of year though, he thought to himself as he waited for his taxi. He was going back to the desert. He preferred the dry air and missed his cool lab. The humidity had done nothing for his headaches.
His taxi pulled up and the driver grabbed his gear while he jumped in the back seat. He watched lazily as the city rolled away from him, filled with trees and people still waking up. He sneezed violently, the mist getting caught in the light, dancing before his eyes. He felt dizzy as the taxi driver offered him a tissue, accepting it gladly.
"Back home then, eh mate?" the taxi driver asked in his weird Indistralian accent.
"No, back to walk," the doctor replied thickly.
"Work, sorry," he blew hard into the tissue, "My head's a bit fuzzy."
"No problem. You alright?"
"Yeah, just a bit of the flu I think."
The driver chuckled, "Hope I don't catch it."
The rest of the drive passed in mostly silence, the only sounds were the bitumen passing under them, and the radio talking quietly. The trip was long by the city's inhabitants reckoning, dubbing it a 'two tin trip', only about twenty minutes. The more daring would call it a carton trip.
They pulled up outside the airport terminal and the driver got out to find his passenger a trolley for his gear. The doctor opened his door gingerly, still clutching his tissue. He paid the driver and thanked him. He tried to offer him a tip but the man just looked at him strangely. The awkward moment passed, and the driver went off to find more passengers. The Doctor wheeled his things inside to check in, throwing the tissue into the bin outside the automatic doors.
He waited in line with a small group of other travellers heading all over the world, sneezing and coughing every so often. The doctor checked in his heavy stuff, keeping his laptop bag, which he kept rummaging through in a desperate search for more tissues.
He was early for the flight and waited around the terminal for quite a while. He stepped outside for some fresh air on a little balcony, but quickly regretted his decision. It was a smokers alcove, filled with people madly trying to suck down the last drags before being stuck inside an airplane for hours and hours. He coughed and spluttered into his tissue, tossing them casually into any bins he could find.
At one point a nice Japanese family asked him to take a photo of them all, he obliged reluctantly. He took some happy snaps and they thanked him. The doctor was getting quite sleepy waiting for his plane to arrive, and decided to take a nap. He asked a young man sitting next to him to wake him when his flight was called, who said he would.
When he awoke the young man was gone, and the flight was now calling specifically for him. Cursing that kid and his entire generation the doctor waved at the gate staff who looked irritated, bloody tourists always do this. He blew his nose one last time, accidentally bumping into a young woman. She looked at him, disgusted, while he apologised and kept going.
He boarded the plane and thankfully found his seat. His head was still pounding, but he didn't feel it, and he hadn't noticed the specks of blood on all of his tissues. He sneezed into his shirt sleeve, squirmed around in his seat and fell asleep.
The disease spread so quickly it was impossible to stop. The world's governments had tried desperately to quarantine people, but it was impracticable.
First thousands appeared at hospitals all over the world, causing minor confusion. Then tens of thousands came, causing massive alarm.
Everyone was terrified when governments began locking down parts of big cities, trying to stamp out the wildfire. People on the news were frantically updating any rumours or whispers that pointed to a cure. Politicians were on the level the entire time, understanding the enormity of the situation. They divulged everything they knew, which was not a lot.
No one could see a way out.
The sick started exhibiting very peculiar symptoms. First they would become extremely photosensitive; leading some to believe it was a new strain of meningitis, easily curable. It wasn't. The second stage was a catatonic state; thousands lying near death in hospital cots, bedrooms and on the streets around the world. After a day or so of borderline lifelessness they became completely unpredictable, often bursting into excessive violence.
Then came the unified, unambiguous statement from anyone with a microphone, radio, television studio or loud voice.
"Get the hell out!"
Within days the world's cities were in a panic to escape. Power grids stayed live only thanks to the heroic efforts of engineers; trying to wheedle out every last skerrick of oomph in their facilities, costing them their health and safety. The streets of the world were lit, but the only shadows they cast were from the wandering sick and the terrified few who didn't get on the Exodus bandwagon.
As light was being shone on the spread of the disease, the global media went silent. No news of the outside world reached anyone left alive. The sudden shutout either opened a terrifying void inside them as they tried to grasp the enormity of the infliction, or triggered an un-killable hope, spurring survivors on to destinations of presumed safety.
The sounds of bustling city life were replaced with scattered gunshots and cries for help, barely heard over the roar of raging fires. The only creatures stirring were the forsaken sick, rodents striving in the chaos and those poor untainted souls caught in the maelstrom.