Playing God has been a long time coming – I blame having to pay the mortgage and eating. As a result of many requests I have written a book that covers off some of the questions raised by my readers. The book has been made available on my website and Amazon from today, January 1st, 2016, in line with the events as they play out.
I don’t usually do 4 books in a trilogy for pretty obvious reasons, but here is an excerpt from the first chapter of the latest in The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle.
The Common Cold: Playing God
Chapter 1: Day Zero – Sydney, Australia
From his apartment on New South Head Road in Vaucluse, Sydney Harbour looked as beautiful as ever, if a little smog-hazed.
“It’s gunna be a scorcher,” Alex mumbled to himself while pouring yet another cup of strong coffee. He knew he shouldn’t drink it, his heartburn would begin to chastise him well before eleven o’clock at this rate, but he really needed the caffeine buzz just to give him the strength to leave home and go to work.
Friends-with-Benefits, he’d heard it called. It was a strange term for friends who had gotten intimate, and he really hoped their friendship remained intact – he would find out when he and Mattie met up for lunch later that day.
Dancing coyly around the edge of a physical relationship for about five years now, their mutual sexual attraction had finally boiled over on New Year’s Eve. Alex blamed Mattie’s skin-tight, short red skirt as a temptation too far. Just thinking back on that exquisite image he felt a hot flush surging through him.
Standing and daydreaming as he looked out the front window he watched as some lucky bastard in a yacht way out in the middle of the peaceful blue harbour glided gently across his view towards the Heads – why did the water have to be so inviting on a work day, he wondered? He gulped down the last of the coffee, grabbed his bicycle and hurried outside.
The streets were always quiet at this time of the day; who the hell would want to be up and at ’em before six in the morning anyway, unless they absolutely had to? Somehow the atmosphere this morning seemed oddly still – apart from the insistent sounds of numerous sirens off in the distance. The emergency services were starting what sounded like a busy day judging by the distant wailing of sirens all around him.
Sniffing the air he caught the familiar summer scent of something burning; only it didn’t smell like a normal bushfire. Some silly sod’s set a paper fire, he thought, hoping it wouldn’t get out of control and start a real blaze. Perhaps that’s what the sirens were about. He dismissed the thought from his mind as he began his semi-energetic cycle ride to Bondi Junction, from where he would let the train take the strain to the office.
Alex worked at Sydney International Airport in the suburb of Mascot and would occasionally cycle all the way there. Today he decided to catch the train; in spite of his personal fitness, the last week’s celebrations and late nights had taken their toll on his energy levels. The coffee was helping a little but the smoke in the air was making him feel a little queasy – or was it the partying? He didn’t know or care at that moment; he assumed that the fatigue he felt and his blocked sinuses was probably just the start of a summer cold.
Putting on his headphones he began to listen to John and Garry on 2UE. He always enjoyed their discussions, usually getting to the heart of the matter in short order – those guys never minced their words. This morning was different – only John was present, apparently Garry had not made it in, something to do with emergency services closing down roads in his area. Maybe that was the sound of sirens Alex could hear off in the distance; it was amazing how sound travelled across the Harbour. What was more disturbing though was John harping on about a meteorite that had been lassoed by a NASA spacecraft and brought back to earth. Apparently they had put some sort of covering around it that would protect it as it re-entered the atmosphere, preventing it from burning up in the process. John was criticizing NASA, reporting that in spite of their brilliance they had only succeeded in failing: the meteorite had broken up upon re-entry sending pieces hurtling through the atmosphere and dropping debris everywhere it went, all around the world.
Listening to John raging on about bloody scientists doing daft tricks they couldn’t control and the terrible consequences for mankind in general, Alex felt a sudden urge to call Mattie to make sure that she was alright. Balancing carefully and keeping an eye out for any police in the vicinity he continued to cycle while holding his mobile to his ear; for some reason he felt a frisson of fear when there was no answer. Perhaps Mattie had gone into work earlier than usual, but somehow he knew this was unlikely as in his experience she wasn’t known to be an early riser. She’d always loved her bed and sleep.
With his stress levels elevated, Alex put more effort into his cycling and was soon at Bondi Junction. Locking the bike up on the stands as usual, he hurried inside the station to his customary spot on the concourse. As he waited for his train to be announced, he noticed the illuminated boards were displaying numerous delays and cancellations across all platforms.
“Jeez, the trains are screwed up already?” he mumbled under his breath, his irritation rising, annoyed that his early start would almost certainly be for nothing.
Looking around he noticed that there were fewer commuters than he expected even following the New Year celebrations and those that were around were shambling about as if unsure of their intentions. Suddenly a man dressed in a business suit raced down the platform back towards the gates where Alex stood, a look of sheer terror etched on his face.
Alex’s heart began to race in anticipation of the worst.
“Get the fuck outta here, mate!” the man blurted as he raced past. “Save yourself! They’re coming!”
The unfit stranger was struggling hard to draw in enough oxygen, making it sound almost as if he was sobbing but in his adrenalin-fuelled panic he managed to keep on running away from the confusing scene.
Perplexed, Alex looked down the platform and noticed a raggedy crowd of about thirty people making its way in his direction.
Some of them appeared to be injured, globs of red matter, possibly blood, soiling their clothing and smeared on their faces. What the hell had been going on? It didn’t make sense. Had there been some terrible accident or…
Alex’s speculations were halted as he realised that although many of the approaching people had different kinds of injuries to their limbs and faces they all seemed to have one thing in common – their rapt attention appeared to be focused exclusively on him.