Author : Adam Sprague

February 4, 2049

Ava flew out of bed like one of those spring loaded jack-in-the-box things she used to hear her grandmother talk about when she was younger. The Texas sun had just begun to cast its morning shadows as she grabbed her E-Comm and turned off its alarm.

“I know I didn’t set this thing that early,” she said to nobody in particular, while Tabitha began rubbing the crusted sleep from the corners of her eyes.

“What are you doing?” Tabitha sleepily slurred in her mother’s direction while she arose from the hotel bed.

No response. Ava’s eyes widened so quickly that she lost focus on the screen of her E-Comm. Her jaw plummeted downward.

“How old is this stream…how old is this stream!”

Ava began a series of shakes and smacks to the side of her E-Comm in hopes that pummeling the device would quicken the refresh rate of the screen.

“Four hours?” she screamed in a shaky, panicked tone of disbelief. Ava unleashed a string of profanity that Tabitha would not have otherwise learned for another three or four years and her daughter’s seven-year-old heart rate spiked.

“We have to go now!” Ava yelled.

“But what about Binkie,” Tabitha said as she reached back towards the stuffed rabbit on the bed.

Without another word Ava yanked Tabitha’s arm, nearly jerking it out of the socket. Still fumbling with her E-Comm, Ava plowed the door open and started jogging down the hallway, past the vacant front desk, and out the hotel’s main entrance. Everything was still.

“Bioter…Bioterror…Bioterrist attack, and nothing. It doesn’t make sense.”

She ignored the inquisitions of her child and scanned left to right as they stepped foot outside.

“Fuck me, the maglev isn’t running! We’re stuck…”

“Mom! Why is everyone sleeping in the street?” Tabitha cried out, pointing at a pile of bodies outside a local burger joint.

Bracing herself against the wall of the hotel, Ava felt the onset of a panic attack rising through her chest. Everywhere she looked, people were lying in the streets. Around the maglev, on the sidewalks, in the middle of streets, they were everywhere. It was worse than any stream she had ever seen on her E-Comm.

Hand in hand, both Ava and Tabitha began to put one shaky leg in front of the other and progressed down the street. They came within fifteen feet of one of the bodies and both instantly froze.

Ava quickly covered her daughter’s eyes as each corpse stared back at them with mushroom-like fungi extending from their ears, noses and mouths. It was then that she felt it herself.

Megaphones began to blare in the distance while Ava’s vision blurred and her mind turned to madness. She reached out for her daughter as her skull bounced off the pavement.

“The Department of National Security has quarantined the city of Abilene. Please remain indoors for your own safety, thank you.”

February 5, 2049

With a smile, the head of the Department of National Security ended the call on his E-Comm and turned towards President Leroy Gomez. Gomez, like a statue, continued to stare blankly out of his office window as he clenched his teeth in anticipation.

“President Gomez, Operation TX-24 was a complete success.”

“So this ends the testing then?”

“It does. Decades of research, and finally we know without a doubt what the Ophiocordyceps fungus is truly capable of.”

“At the expense of our own,” uttered Gomez with a remorseful sigh. He plopped himself down in the nearest chair and stared up at the ceiling.

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