"Ok, Ma'am??? I need you to calm down, alright?" I urgently shouted into the phone as I heard her losing her control again and getting hysterical on me. "I need you to speak clearly and give us an address. We'll send someone out to you as SOON as we possibly can, alright!"
She cried, "I don't...I don't have any way out of here. I don't understand what's happening..."
"I understand that you're scared. But we can't help you if you we can't find you. I need to know where you are." I said, hoping that the calmness of my voice would somehow get her to stop shaking long enough to give me a location.
After a few more sniffles and tears, she finally got up the nerve to say, "I'm at 957 West Belmont! Top floor!"
"Ok...Mary, was it?"
"Yes..." She whined, helplessly.
"Do you have a safe place to hide out for a little bit? We're doing all we can here at the station, but I want you to get to high ground and barricade yourself in a room, attic, or rooftop, as son as you hang up, ok? I need you to stay safe until we can get someone out to you." I said.
"PLEASE, hurry! I'm trapped! The whole city is falling apart! I had to close my windows! All I can hear outside is...screaming!" She sobbed.
"Ok, Mary, I need you to shut your windows and lock all of your doors. Stay inside! I'm logging you in right now as a priority case right now, and the moment we have an officer in your area, we'll send someone to retrieve you and bring you in. Ok?" I told her. "Until then, don't open the door for ANYBODY! I'm documenting your case, when our officers come knocking...the password will be 'arcade'! I repeat, the password is 'arcade'. Don't you open the door for anyone else."
"Ok. Ummm...ok. I'll be here."
"Say the password back to me for verification, Mary." I asked.
"That's right. You wait for the officer on the other side of the door to say 'arcade' before you open that door. You hear me? We're approaching a hostile riot situation and you can't trust anyone else. Not your neighbors, not your friends, no one on the street. We're doing all we can with the resources we have, but for right now...I need you to stay put and listen out for that password. Do you understand?"
"I understand." She whimpered.
"Ok. Get yourself locked up, and we'll be there soon."
"Thank you! Oh God, thank you!!!" She said.
I could already hear the symphony of screams coming through her windows before she hung up. I made sure to document the area that she was living in. The whole precinct was overrun with panicked calls and dire emergencies that had to be handled all at once. We were so overwhelmed that we didn't have enough cops to answer the phones, much less get a rescue team out to the people in need.
The whole thing started off as a few disconnected incidents of madness. More than what we were used to, but nothing so far beyond the imagination as to think that it could escalate into something like...this.
"Officer Logan!" Somebody called out to me from across the room. "We need you to take the call on line seven!" Our police chief was a competent one, but he hadn't been with us for very long. About eight months at the most. And nothing...I mean nothing...could have prepared him for something like this. Society itself was falling apart right before our very eyes, and none of us ever dreamed that the city would break down into a state of utter chaos so quickly.
Every officer that we had on duty was running around on a fear induced adrenaline high. The entire police station was a complete and utter MESS! But who had time to organize? It almost felt like the whole damn world was ending.
"Don't worry. I got it." Said a close friend of mine on the force. Officer Sanchez and I had a special camaraderie from day one, almost 9 years prior to this situation. As well as Officer Frye, who bonded with me personally when he found out that we both served our country well before getting into law enforcement.
Sanchez answered the next panicked call, and Frye put a hand on my shoulder as he saw me attempting to wipe the fatigue from my eyes. "You look worn out, man. How many hours has it been?" Frye asked.
"I can't even remember. Twelve. Fourteen, maybe." I said, feeling my knees start to buckle as I searched for a chair to rest in. "What the hell is going ON out there, Frye? This whole situation is SO surreal!"
"I wish I could tell you." He replied. "Whatever it is, though...it looks like it's going to get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. We've got six different divisions trying to jump on this before it gets any further out of hand, but...to be honest with you, bruh? I'm starting to think that our bullshit efforts aren't going to be enough. I mean, do you SEE this shit? This is crazy!"
"Hello??? Hello???" Sanchez yelled into the phone, and then slammed it down on the receiver. "I lost him. I heard some breaking glass, and some hollering, and then I lost him. The last day or two has been INSANE, man! What the fuck is going ON out there???"
Frye said, "We can't keep this up. Not for much longer. I mean, are you hearing this shit right now? We can't keep this up for much longer."
Sanchez said, "No bullshit, people are treating this like some kind of an outbreak or something. I've never seen anything like it before."
Frye asked, "What, like a bad case of chicken pox or something?"
Sanchez answered, "WORSE! To be totally honest, some of the phone calls that I answered today??? They were saying that people were...eating one another! Like...actually devouring flesh!"
I saw Frye frown up and say, "Devour? Like...on some cannibal shit?"
"EXACTLY! It's the craziest shit I've ever heard!" Sanchez replied.
Reluctant to feed into the hysteria, I finally nodded my head and said, "I've been hearing a lot of the same thing. I thought it was just a few panicked ramblings at first...but all of the calls that I'm answering now seem to be giving the same details. Nearly identical reports of people assaulting their friends and neighbors and...'biting' into them the moment they get close enough. It's unreal."
"You think it's some kind of drug or something? Like that deal with the bath salts?" Sanchez asked.
"More like mass hysteria. Maybe a virus? Maybe a 'cult' of some sort? By the time we had enough reports to connect the events we had more incidents than we could possibly deal with. I mean, just look at this place. It's a madhouse." I said, almost drowned out by the sounds of constantly ringing phones on every desk and dashboard, people hurrying back and forth through the station, a growing army of scared citizens impatiently gathering into a cluster at the front desk, demanding answers. "This is getting out of hand. And fast."
Frye looked at us and said, "You know what I've been hearing around here, right? More than once."
"Don't you start with that again,man." Sanchez told him.
"They're saying it's a zombie outbreak. More and more, I'm hearing that word over and over again." Frye made a spooky face, widening his eyes as he leaned over to Sanchez and whispered, "Zombieeeeee...."
"Whatever. People in a panic don't ever know what they're talking about. Last week, somebody said there were an army of vampire teenagers partying underground! The week before THAT, some guy said he saw werewolves at his Bible camp! We just need to deal with the threat at hand and worry about horror flicks and monster movies later."
As I heard the voices of the crowd at the front desk getting louder, I felt that queasy stirring in the center of my gut. I've been under fire before overseas, and I know a downhill slide when I see it coming. This thing is going to geta LOT worse before it gets better.
I need to check on Spencer.
I grabbed my phone and started dialing the number. Frye asked me what I was doing. "I'm trying to get through to the hospital again. This is the third time, and I'm starting to get a seriously fucked up feeling about this." One ring, two rings...five...ten...twelve? "DAMMIT!!! Nobody's picking up!"
Sanchez said, "Calm down. I'm sure Spencer is ok. The hospital is probably just backed up with injuries and they're having problems of their own."
Frye wrinkled up his forehead and said, "You skeptics are the champions of optimism, you know that? Where do you get this stuff from?"
"It's called a rational mind and a sense of logic. If you want I can let you borrow some one of these days."
"Real funny, Sanchez. When are you going to hit the open mic at the comedy club, huh?"
Just at that very moment, the doors of the precinct burst open, and seven or eight of our best men came rushing inside, making sure to close and lock the doors behind them. A few of the officers had to be half carried for support. A few others...had to be dragged in, leaving grotesque swashes of blood behind in them in long streaks...as it appeared that large chunks had been bitten right out of them. It looked more like a shark attack than any civilian based riot.
One of the cops was screaming, "They wouldn't stop! THEY WOULDN'T STOP! They're everywhere! It's already too late!" And when he turned his head in my direction, it looked as if half of the left side of his face had been chewed off, a large piece of his lip dangled over his chin like an old shoelace, and part of his lower eyelid had been gnawed off, making one eye look much bigger than the other one. Almost as if it was ready to slide right out of the socket the moment he leaned his head forward. I never thought I'd be a witness to this type of horror ever again. Not since I came home.
Frye looked at Sanchez and asked, "So....you mind telling me where that fits into your rational mind and sense of logic?"
Sanchez gave him a middle finger, but I was instantly distracted as I hear the phone ringing in my pocket. I didn't recognize the number, but I was quick to pick it up anyway. "Hello?" I think I heard some heavy breathing, but had to plug up one of my ears and turn around to focus. "Hello? Hello?" It was then that I heard a light 'cough' on the other end and recognized it instantly. "Spencer? Spencer, where are you?"
"Dad...?" He sounded so weak. His voice shivering with fright.
"I'm HERE, Spencer! What's the matter? Where are you?"
"I'm...'cough cough'...I'm behind the nurse's desk."
Trying to block out the increasing noise behind me, I walked over to the window for more privacy. "The nurse's desk? What you doing behind the nurse's desk?"
"Dad...things got weird here. I don't know what to do!"
"What do you mean, 'things got weird'??? Talk to me!" What was going on? Why was my son not being taken care of in his hospital bed? Why was nobody answering the phone at the front desk?
"I don't KNOW!" He whimpered. "There's a lot of noise! People yelling! I tried to call the nurse but nobody came. People are running around on every floor. I don't understand what's happening." He coughed again, a few sniffles as he trembled from underneath the desk. "I'm scared, Dad!"
As I looked out of the window before me, I could see the downtown area of Chicago, noticing a few clouds of smoke in the distance. Fires, and panic, and police sirens trying to rush towards the high rise skyline in a feeble attempt to correct the situation. My 12 year old son felt SO far away from me at that moment. Even while hearing his voice on the phone.
My mind was racing, parental instincts kicking in to high gear without even thinking about it. All consequences fade when it comes to the people you love. Hearing that boy cry over the phone struck something in me that nearly broke me down into tears myself.
I remember my wife, Rachael, as she lay in a hospital bed of her own a few years back. Wasting away to nothing. Holding her hand was like holding a collection of cobwebs...she was almost ghost-like in the final weeks. But even as the Cancer ate away at the high school sweetheart that I loved with all my heart, she managed to give me that million dollar smile that once captivated me from across that Senior year cafeteria.
I refused to let her accept the fact that she might die. There are miracles that happen every day. Sudden advancements in medicine, sudden remissions, sudden unexplainable events that science doesn't yet have a formula for. Hell, just any stroke of luck would have sufficed. I deserved it, right? I've been a good person, I pay my taxes, I fought for my country, I work to protect these streets...certainly there's somebody up their who would give me a break. I did everything that I was supposed to do. I nurtured the love of my life, and made my son the most important thing in my life. She was supposed to stay with me. She was supposed to be a part of the plan.
But in the days where she realized that it was harder to hold on than it was to let go...she began to look at me with tired eyes. She made peace with the idea, and lightly took a hold of my hand. Saying, "Spencer is going to need you to be there for him, John."
I sat at her bedside and gave her hand a squeeze. "I told you not to talk like that. K?" I was teary eyed as I leaned in to give her kiss on the cheek. "They say that...attitude is the key in beating this thing. I know that you've got a whole hell of a lot of fight left in you. I can remember that one time...you thought that I was going to ask Tina Wheeler to the prom instead of you. Hehehe, you talk about 'fight'! I was sure that you were going to..."
She stopped me. Softly, but sternly. "John...I need you to listen to me, ok? Please?" I didn't want to. If I could have blocked out the sound of her voice entirely, I would have. "I wish that I could be here for all of the wonderful things that I'm sure life is going to bring your way, and see the achievements our son is sure to make in the future. But we both know the odds on this. Don't we?"
I wanted her to stop. PLEASE stop! "Rachael..." I said, doing everything that I could to be strong for her, even as tears welled up in my eyes. "...You need to rest. Ok? I'll call the doctor in and..."
"John..." She asserted herself with that tone of voice, as weak as it may be. "...Out of all the things you've ever done in your life, I can guarantee you that being a parent is the scariest experience of them all. I've never known you to not step up to the task at hand. Promise me...that you'll do all you can for our son. Do whatever it takes to keep him safe. He's so little." She giggled slightly, but it turned into a cough halfway through.
As the first tear dripped from my eye, my throat began to burn as I whimpered, "I don't know, Rachael. Heh...this is the one thing I felt I was never trained for."
"You're his father, John Logan. You'll figure it out."
At that moment, I heard my son cough again, and I was shocked at how much he mirrored his mother's final moments when he did so. The emotion that flooded into my system was so overpowering that I found myself being led into a state of controlled hysteria just like everyone else. I'm his father. He needs me. NOW!
I told him, "Spencer? I need you to get BACK to your hospital room right now! You hear me?"
"I'm all alone, Dad! People are screaming! I can hear them!" He sobbed.
"Don't worry about that. I need you to get back to your room, and push whatever you can against the door so nobody can come in. I know you're not feeling good, but if you can move chairs, the bed, anything that moves...push it in front of that door. And STAY QUIET!"
"Are you gonna come get me?" He asked.
"I'm on my way. Daddy's coming, alright! Just...get away from that desk and stay out of the hallway. Stay away from the windows. DON'T try to leave! No matter what! Not even to call me! I'll be there as soon as I can!"
"...ok..." He whimpered.
"Hang up, and go now!" I told him, and then closed my eyes, praying for him to get back to his rom safely! Room 603, Room 603, Room 603! I remember it well. Ok...alright....this is going to be tricky, but I've got to find a way out of here.
Frye and Sanchez were still talking to one another, and a third officer was telling them, "I've been in the field, and whatever these things are, they don't stop. They refuse to go down! We try to use non-lethal force, but they just keep coming until we hit them with a headshot." The other officer was shaking so badly that he had to sit down to keep from falling over. "I saw their eyes. I've never seen such a blank stare before. They were the kind of eyes that you only see in crime scene photos. It was like...like there was 'nothing' there. It was so chilling."
"You gonna be alright?" Frye asked him.
"I don't think any of us are going to be alright." He said. "The mayor wants us to stand down. He's asking for peaceful resistance..."
"Peaceful resistance???" Sanchez asked. "How the hell are we supposed to do that?"
"That's what the order is! We're killing people in the streets. In case you haven't noticed, Chicago PD hasn't been the best slide under the microscope over the past few years..."
"You mean to tell me that they want to play politics during a fucking zombie apocalypse???" Frye scoffed.
Sanchez reminded him, "It's NOT a zombie apocalypse!" Adding, "And YOU can tell the mayor to go fuck himself in whatever heavily guarded, padded room, shelter he's gotten himself all boxed up in while the rest of us deal with the real shit going down in the streets right now!"
At that moment, I started letting the spontaneous thoughts in my head build up into enough of a concrete jumble to put a plan together. So I walked right between the officers in front of me with a sense of urgency, walking back towards the locker rooms. Everybody throughout the entire precinct was either super busy, super confused, or merely absent...that I was sure that I'd be able to get away with much more than I could any other time. The world was falling apart, I was hardly a priority.
Sanchez saw me pass them all up. "Ummm...where are you going?" I just kept walking. "Logan? Logan? What the...?"
Both Sanchez and Frye followed me into the back of the station. The first thing I did was fill my pockets with my personal items. Then I put on a bulletproof vest and started tightening up to my fit.
Frye asked me, "You playing dress up, or what?"
I said, "I need to go. I'm leaving."
They both looked at one another and said, "Leaving?" Simultaneously.
I took my sidearm out and packed it into my belt, but I had a feeling that I was going to need more firepower than that to get through the city. The hospital was on the other side of the downtown area, and that's where a majority of the disturbance is. I'm going to need some heavy metal to bully my way through the masses.
"What are you doing?" Sanchez asked me.
"Spencer's in trouble. The hospital is being overrun. I need to go and get him." I told him, and went to the weapons rack to see how many loaded firearms I could carry. With all that's going on, I doubt that I'm going to have to sign for anything when I walk them right out the front door.
Frye said, "Look, I know you want to look out for your baby bird, Logan. I get it. But everybody here has got family that they want to look out for. But we're in crisis mode right now. You can't just run out on the whole city like this."
"I told Rachael that I was going to look after him, and that's exactly what I'm going to do!" I said, and started loading up with as much guns and ammo as I possibly could. Guns big enough to do some real DAMAGE if needed!
"Jesus..." Frye mumbled to himself.
"How do you plan to get out of here with everything that's going on? People are fleeing the city in droves. We're not just talking average Chicago rush hour traffic here." Sanchez asked.
"I don't know. But I've got to try. I'm out."
"You can't just bypass the city of Chicago, John! It's a pretty big city!"
"Then I'll just blaze right through it!" I said.
"How do plan on doing that?"
"I'm taking one of the cop cars out of the lot. Pulling to the side for a siren is a brainwashed automatic response for most people. It might save me some time." I told him, still trying to grab just ONE more gun or clip of ammunition to take with me.
They looked at each other again. Sanchez said, "So you're STEALING a squad car now? Is that what you're telling me?"
"It'll be one of the undercover cop cars. One of the all black ones with the lights in the back window."
Sanchez said, "OH! Well, it's an undercover cop car! That's MUCH better than just...WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT????"
Frye said, "I know you're hurting right now, and you've got every right to be concerned about your boy...but we can't let you do this, man. We just can't."
Feeling the pain in my heart, the sense of duty, the idea of honor for my job, and the dignity of wearing the badge...when I thought about my lost wife, and the danger my son was in at that very moment...my chances of losing him too increasing with every second of hesitation...I simply abandoned it all and fought for the courage to do what had to be done.
I turned to them and said, "I'm going to get my son. I'm not asking you to help me. I'm only asking you to stand aside."
Sanchez told me, "By doing that...you compromise all three of us. You know that right?"
There was a brief silence between us. I said, "Just eight months ago, you both came to my son's 12th birthday party, and I gave you one of the BEST strawberry, vanilla frosted, angel food birthday cakes in existence! You remember that? You want him to have another birthday, don't you?"
I said, "I'm just asking you to step aside. Nothing else."
After biting his lip, Sanchez turned to Frye and said, "I wonder where Officer Logan ran off to. I haven't seen him all day, have you?"
Frye smiled. "That was some bomb ass vanilla cake. For another slice of that...he can stay gone."
They didn't exactly say anything verbally to give consent to my actions of theft or abandonment of my position on the force, but they both turned their backs on me to let me know that they weren't going to stand in my way. That was all the permission I needed.