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“This is going to be epic,” Cane said from the driver’s seat of the van.
“It better be,” Carla said from the passenger’s seat beside him, peering out at the forested landscape that was interspersed with farms.
“I can’t wait to see Hortense Carnival,” Josie said.
Carla turned to look at her friend sitting on the bench seat behind them, unbuckled and snuggling her boyfriend Xander.
“Me too,” she said. “Do you think we’ll meet any members of the band?”
“Probably, and some from the other bands too,” Xander said before kissing Josie on the forehead. “There will be so many bands there it will be impossible not to at least run into a few of our idols.”
“Truth,” Josie agreed. “How many bands are performing again?”
“More than thirty, I think,” Carla said and turned back around to peer out the window again.
“We’re almost there,” Cane announced. “There’s a sign about Unrestival!”
They all looked where Cane was pointing. Along the side of the road was a bright, neon sign with UNRESTIVAL at the top with a bold, black arrow directing them to continue straight ahead. In front of them, the route was filled with RVs, cars, trucks, and vans.
None of the four had told their parents they were blowing off their college courses for a week to go to the festival where they would spend their time listening to bands they loved and protesting corporate America.
A couple of them would be sleeping in the van, the other couple in a tent, and living it up with like-minded people. And together they would change the world through peace and unity. Their vision of the event was one of comradery and sharing—much like the Burning Man Festival on the west coast. Unrestival was to be held in the same place as Woodstock; they’d all heard stories from their parents or grandparents about Woodstock and were excited to have their own place in history to promote their world views.
They’d looked up the event details online and had scraped money together for months so they could attend. They loved most of the bands that would be entertaining at the event, and they had signed up for a number of workshops on living off the grid and going green. The more they could do to reduce their carbon footprint and lessen their dependence on anything that fed into the greed of corporations everywhere was right up their alley.
“Is that the last one?” Tara asked as soldiers threw yet another black body bag into the portable incinerator set up for the purpose of burning the infected dead.
“Yes, ma’am,” the solider in charge said.
Tara nodded. “Was anyone injured?”
“No, ma’am,” he said. “It was a clean extermination and extraction.”
“Good to hear,” she said with a nod. “If any of your men begin to feel ill at all, let me know right away. But there’s nothing to be concerned about otherwise, since they were all given the vaccine.”
He nodded sharply, turned, and left the tent while she oversaw the burning of the corpses.
She turned the nob of the incinerator up as high as it would go and retreated as far away from the contraption as she could without leaving. She was in charge of containing the super virus she and her past colleague, Dr. Judy Price, had created. It had taken her almost a year, but she’d been able to devise a working vaccine. Unfortunately she had yet to contrive a serum that would heal someone who was exposed. Thus far she, with the help of the military, or rather the military with her help, had been able to keep the spread under control and the word “zombie” out of any press reports. If they would happen to slip up or make a mistake, she knew they wouldn’t be that lucky, going forward, for long.
They were at their furthest locale from where the virus breached the world, Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania. They’d hoped to keep it from crossing state lines, but human travel had made that impossible. But, luckily, since those exposed had a different heat signature—their body temperature being at least twenty degrees lower than the average human—they could be spotted using military satellites. If it hadn’t been for that, they wouldn’t have been able to track the infection…and the world would have already fallen into ruin.
General Marks came into the tent, startling Tara to attention.
She stood and said, “Sir.”
He’d been with her through the entire ordeal—he’d been the one to threaten to kill her on day one of the super virus’ release. She’d feared him then. Now she respected him. He’d motivated her to do things she never thought possible.
He glanced at the incinerator that was operating in a low growl as it consumed the diseased flesh inside.
“We’ll be scanning again, circling out from this spot,” he said, returning his attention to Tara. “The scan will continue for forty-eight hours or until we find more infected.”
Tara nodded. That was the norm. She prayed this time there would be none found, that they’d finally gotten them all. But she didn’t hold her breath. She knew how fast a virus could spread, and it was a lot faster than their travel, especially with all their equipment.
“Be ready to move as soon as possible,” General Marks barked before he turned and left the tent.
She smirked. She knew he was hoping the same as she was—that this was over. But she also knew he would be prepared, standing at the ready for any sign they needed to strike. And she would be there with him until it was over. After that she was promised her own lab. She prayed she’d be alive to see it…and the world was still a place where it could exist.
David pulled up to the gates to present his ticket and parking pass to enter Unrestival. He and his business partner, Ed, were there to give a workshop on wilderness survival. They’d named their workshop “Stayin’ Alive,” since Unrestival was also a music festival. He wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but Ed had insisted attending could open up a new market for them with the hippie, off-grid crowd. Their company’s goods mostly appealed to the hunting, hardcore survivalist crowd. The fact they couldn’t even bring guns to the event said to him that it wasn’t a place for them to be. They just weren’t his crowd and he knew he wasn’t their cup of tea.
“Kinda what I expected,” Ed said from the passenger’s seat of the extended cab pickup.
David smiled and nodded as he pulled through the gate and headed to their campsite.
“I still can’t believe you’re making me do this,” he said.
Ed grinned. “It’ll be worth it. You’ll have a good time and meet a lot of new friends.” He looked out the window at the people meandering around. “Who knows…you might even meet someone! You need to get out there and start dating again.”
“Son-of-a-bitch!” David barked as a group of people who weren’t paying attention walked out in front of him, having been blocked from his view by a monstrously large art piece until they were right in front of him. “God forbid,” he said, giving Ed a sideways scowl as he continued on once the dirt road was clear.
He noticed the pedestrians walked away laughing and happy while he tried to swallow the knot in his throat and calm the snakes that churned in his stomach. Not only was he nervous about being at the festival, but he was stressed from almost mowing down complete strangers.
Ed chuckled and shook his head.
They drove on.