3 years ago, in a newly-successful chemical lab known as Nuelemen Inc., a vial containing a sedative meant to help restrain prisoners was being carried down the hall to a testing chamber. The hall was brightly lit, and the person carrying the vial down the hall was very cheery: a bob in her stride and a hum in her throat. In fact, there was a thick air of cheeriness at the plant. The company was still small enough that it maintained the feel of a small business, but successful enough that it could afford the luxuries of a larger business. There was a small waterfall in the lobby, to give an example.
The woman, who was a moderately attractive Spanish woman named Rosa, handed her little vial to the short, bespectacled man who was sitting at the work desk in the room she had just walked into. “Thank you, Rosa. Did you manage to work out the protein anomaly that was in the last formula?”
“Yes, just recently. The new formula appears to be stable. No worries!”
“Very good. How about the C-11 compound? How’s that one coming along?” The man fixed her with an expectant, twitchy gaze.
“It still photodegrades too quickly to be useful.”
“Have you tried working with it in the dark?” The man’s gaze narrowed.
“Well, of course we have. But its intended use-“
“You can stop right there, you’ve made your point.” The man settled back in his chair, evidently sated by her response. “Have one of the interns try to work that out. You can start on the new fruit preservative.”
“I’ll start on that right away, Mr. Klatch.” She left promptly, her dislike of the man evident in her eyes, which darted around the room nervously as she spoke to him. The bob eventually found its way back into her step as she made her way back to her own office, and by the time she sat down, she was again humming.
Back in the dimly lit, cramped office, the man with the thick round glasses perched on his nose took out a syringe, and drew some of the contents of the vial into it. The man in the chamber had been on a steady IV drip of a weak tranquilizer for the past couple of hours, and was growing delirious. “Benjamin. How are you doing?”
“I… I’m getting tired. How long did I have to lay here? My arms are getting sore.”
“Wait just a few more minutes, Ben.” The man with the glasses closed the valve feeding the IV drip from the bag into the man’s arm and injected the serum into the man’s bloodstream.
After a few moments, (during which Ben asked “What was in that syringe?”) he suddenly grew very quiet and very still. His eyes slowly slipped shut.
The patient’s vitals were measured and monitored closely over the next month. He was kept in a comatose state during this time by the tranquilizer. The long-term nature of the test was to determine the long-term effects of the sedative. Three weeks into the testing, the patient’s heart stopped.
The patient was disconnected from the IV and prepped for an autopsy. The body was unstrapped from the gurney, and a time of death was called. The patient’s family was notified. They were surprised to hear about him, he had run away from home years ago and had resorted to becoming a medical guinea pig to survive.
The body was left alone on the autopsy table while the staff at Nuelemen gathered in a meeting room to discuss what had gone wrong.
Meanwhile, the body of the patient, Ben, fell off of the autopsy table and rose to its feet. It began to shuffle toward the door before a surgeon who was hired to carry out the autopsy walked in to the room. The lights in the room were off.
Ben fell to the ground, after tripping on his own feet. “Yes, I’ll be back in a moment, I just forgot the folder in here.”
The surgeon turned on the lights, and saw the corpse lying on the ground. “They can’t even put a body on a table the right way… honestly.” The surgeon stooped down to lift the body back onto the table. (Ben was a small man, about 5’4”. The surgeon was roughly 6’2” and so lifting the body by himself was not a problem.)
While the surgeon carried the body back to the table, the body sunk its jaws into the arm of the surgeon.
“Ow!” The surgeon immediately dropped the body onto the floor. “What the hell?”
The deceased once again rose to its feet. “Hlll muh…” it mumbled. Its voice was a deep rasp cut off by the swollen tongue in its mouth. The surgeon grabbed a needle and loaded it with a powerful tranquilizer from the nearby operating table before plunging it into the neck of the cadaver. He depressed the plunger and stepped back, watching the impossible, tottering figure before him. His breaths were heavy and he began to perspire with mounting anticipation.
The zombie did not fall to the floor as the surgeon expected. The surgeon kicked the zombie away and ran out of the room back to the meeting hall.
“The patient is alive! And he bit me!” yelled the surgeon upon entering. The zombie stumbled after the surgeon into the meeting room. “See? There he is!”
Some of the staff screamed in fear, some of the staff scrambled for the other door of the meeting room, and two of them stayed to try to fight off the body.
“Why is he alive? His heart stopped! He had no pulse for a full 4 hours!” A tall man with a wispy goatee exclaimed.
“Hold him down. I’ll get a pulse to make sure he’s actually alive.” Mr. Klatch stated authoritatively. The surgeon and the man with the goatee complied, and held what was left of Ben against the wall. It bit the man with the goatee on the shoulder.
“Ah! Dammit… I’m bleeding a little!”
“I told you, he bites. Grab his neck so he can’t do that again.”
“Right, I don’t want to get bit again.” The man with the goatee grasped the throat of the corpse and the bespectacled man took a pulse.
“… Something isn’t right.” Klatch said.
“Well, obviously, he came back to life.” The surgeon said.
“No… He didn’t. There is no pulse. I… I think we have a zombie here.”
“An honest to goodness zombie? We should kill it immediately to stop the spread.” The man with the goatee said.
“No… I should kill all three of you right now. It bit both of you and you’re both infected.” Klatch’s eyes narrowed as he reached slowly toward his pocket.
“Wait… you’re not going to kill us!” The surgeon said.
“You’re insane!” The goatee-man said.
“No. I’m perfectly sane.” Klatch said. And he took out a hunting knife from his pocket and killed all three of them with a series of stabs to the eyes, neck, and gut.
The bespectacled man washed himself off, being very careful to completely wash off the blood from his hands. He put on a pair of latex gloves and put each of the bodies into large black garbage bags before hauling them, with his pick-up-truck, to the city dump. He returned to Nuelemen, which had become deserted after the rest of the employees fled the scene after watching him murder two of their coworkers. And there, he began to come up with a plan to combat what he knew would one day become a worldwide pandemic.
Eventually, the corpses were found by rats, and nibbled upon. This infected the rats with the virus, but they were not zombified. They became carriers of the virus.
3 years later, a rat wandered into a water treatment plant and defecated into a water tank. The little pieces of poop stuck to the inside of the pipes that carried the water out of the plant to the nearby city of Detroit. The water, over time, eroded the poop and the particles made their way into the drinking supply of the city. Two weeks after that, a man dropped dead while walking his dog. An hour later, across town, a woman fell to her knees and collapsed while playing tennis with her friend. 30 minutes after that, an elderly couple died in their sleep at the same time as one another.
Over the next several days, over 70% of the population died suddenly. And soon after, they rose again to devour the remaining 30%. Some fought, and some fled. But once all the people who had not been infected were either eaten or evacuated, the horde spread out across the state of Illinois, before reaching into Tennessee, Ohio, and the Carolinas. It was not long before much of the countryside was overrun with zombies. Of course, news reports were fired off, and armies were called in.
The armies didn’t kill all of them, and soon ran out of ammunition before some of them retreated, and others were resupplied. A tactical nuke strike was called on Detroit and several other major metropolitan centers in the area, such as Chicago and Indianapolis. But it was too little, too late.
Before long, the virus reached New York City, where a very prepared city awaited it. Many of the citizens purified their own drinking water to keep from contracting the virus, and some “Zombie Watch Groups” sprung up to defend against any zombies. For 5 years, NYC remained uninfected, against all odds. The subways were patrolled and the bridges were monitored.
But after 5 years, the zombies began to organize, however primitively. They, all at once, from all directions, staged an all-out rush of the city, through the subway tunnels and over the bridges. The zombie watch movement ended up defending the United Nations while they decided what the world was going to do about it.
During those five years, the zombie infestation spread westward all the way to the Mississippi river, and south all the way to the tip of Florida, where, for a grotesque couple of weeks, Disney World remained open even though much of it was overrun by the infection. A zombified man in a Mickey Mouse costume was seen chasing a young girl.
The rides continued to run, as they were mostly automated. Some thrill-seekers simply wandered around Disney World, killing zombies who happened to be wearing a costume. Finally, it was forced to close when people stopped coming there altogether, due to nearly all major airlines closing.
It also made its way into Canada, where it went north before curving off to the west. Finally, it curved south again, into Montana. By the time NYC was overrun, most of the rest of the continent with the exceptions of Hawaii (Hawaii never got infected with the zombie virus, and a notable group of survivors actually found refuge there about 25 years after the infection first appeared in Detroit), Greenland (Because no one wants to go to Greenland, not even a zombie), and most of the Caribbean islands except for Aruba (A tourist in Aruba spread the infection).
The UN finally decided after 2 months of discussion that a state of global pandemic must be called. The message was sent out via short-wave radio which was the most reliable method of communication left before the representatives from each country, and the members of the zombie watch, were airlifted to safety at an undisclosed island in the Pacific Ocean. Quarantines were enacted across the globe, in places with and without the infection.
15 years later, the world’s human population was reduced to 1% of what it was originally. 5 years later, that decreased to 0.1%, and this is when our story takes place.