The Silent Years: Mother by Jennifer R. Povey
Dorothy Mayling thought her worst problem was the long-standing family feud over her sister's choice of husband. Or her son's grades. Then the rumors started - bird flu in Seattle, SARS in Washington State? The truth is a hideous, terrible disease, one that slowly steals away the ability to speak and reason, turning people into nothing more than zombies. Worst of all, it was meant to be a weapon. Can Dorothy hold her family together as the world ends around them and people fall, one by one, to the silent plague?
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Winter was settling in. They had enough hay stockpiled for the livestock. But for next year? They would have to grow their own. Jason and the other men were bent over a sketched map of the land, working out what to do about the hay.
Dorothy decided to leave them to it. She would only be a cook too many. Three days ago, the grid had finally failed, contributing to her empty feeling. There had been more and more brownouts and then the power was gone. She took it as a sign: things would not go back to normal.
Their preparations had kept them alive so far. And their luck was holding out. They seemed to be immune, or just out of the pattern of infection.
She stepped out onto the porch. The air was still and quiet. It was just like one of those apocalypse movies where the survivors were shown at the end staring into space. Except, this was not the end. Or maybe it was; the last page of the story had happened, and all that remained were a few surviving characters. The author was no longer writing, the characters left in that moment, not moving forward...
The sound interrupted her thoughts, tore at them. What was that? There was a gun just inside the door. She grabbed it. There was another thud.
Finally, she realized what it was. What they were. Three Silents, and they were knocking down the well-kept garden fence, tugging at the rails. The thuds had been part of the top rail hitting the ground.
Now they realized they could step over the lower rail. She found herself unable to shoot. They came closer.
She pulled the trigger. The shot would be a signal, a warning. She felt the stock slam into her shoulder, just as if she was shooting a deer, not a human being. Or something that had once been a human being. But there was no choice. The house door opened, Jason emerging with a second weapon. "Tore many." He was tripping over words again.
She fired a second time. This time the shot hit, striking the Silent in the midsection. She saw the woman double up, going down with a wordless scream of pain. Too human. They were still human.
Jason shot once, twice, taking the other two down, but there was an odd look on Jason’s face. "Red."
"No..." she whispered. She turned towards him, leveling her gun at his chest. But she could not do it, the barrel lowered.
He looked at her. "Bleach tower red."
"Jason..." Had he realized? Perhaps, for he dropped the gun and abruptly ran past the bodies of the dead victims and into the night.
Dorothy could do nothing but let him go. It was over. They were all infected for sure, perhaps had been for a while. Most likely the incubation period was longer than they had thought.
"What happened?" A male voice from behind her, but in that moment she could not focus on who it was.
"Jason's gone." She should have killed him. She knew she should have, but she had not been able to.
"What do you mean, gone?"
Now she remembered the owner of the voice. Leroy. There was nobody else it could have been, but...
"Infected. He ran off." She leaned the gun against the wall, glanced at the bodies. It did not matter. They were either immune or doomed. Taking the bodies away was still necessary, but it did not carry with it the fear of contamination. Touching them could not make things worse. Nothing could make things better.
"Hell. What if he comes back?"
"I can't do it," she whispered.
"Then I will."
It was an odd relief to feel that responsibility taken away from her. "Assuming it isn't you next."
"More likely to be Janine," he said softly.
She did not want to think about that, but it was more likely her, closer to Jason physically. And Janine, so fragile... "I think at this point we have to assume we're all well and truly exposed. Immunity is our only chance."
"We have that chance. No point giving up just yet."
"Or a cure, if they come up with one." Maybe that was it. Maybe she could not give up on Jason.
"Distribution would be a problem, but..."
"Write another virus. Spread it the same way." Dorothy sighed. "Or maybe that's too dangerous. I don't know."
"We'll rebuild no matter what, but...dammit. I thought this would burn itself out and everything would be fixed by Christmas." Leroy glanced at the dead. "I guess I was naive."
"No. There's nothing wrong with having your glass half full."
"Depends on whether it's wine or vinegar."
"Hope is a good thing, Leroy. It's the only thing we have."
"Not the only thing. We have courage."
She had lacked the courage to pull the trigger. Was that strength, or weakness? She did not know.
Jennifer R. Povey is in her early forties, and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband. She writes a variety of speculative fiction, whilst following current affairs and occasionally indulging in horse riding and role playing games. She has sold fiction to a number of markets including Analog, and written RPG supplements, some of which are available from Occult Moon Publishing. Her first novel, Transpecial, was published by Musa Publishing in April, 2013. Her most recent release is the apocalyptic science fiction novella "Mother," first of The Silent Years series.
For more on the author check out these sites:
Smashwords Profile: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jenniferrpovey
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jenniferrpovey