BY GUEST AUTHOR, DAVE
It settled on the forest across the lake like a crown of clouds, coating the weary fir trees. Limb by limb the trees were drowned. I heard the birdsong slowly growing softer and softer. I imagined I heard the gentle thumps as their bodies hit the earth below the trees. Maybe some birds were making it out, flying away in fear of the mist. I doubted it.
The CDC was dusting the forest with old farm crop-dusters and Forest Service fire-fighting planes. The birds wouldn’t find a safe haven and any flight would take them through more mist as it slowly drifted to the ground. That was the point.
The virus had mutated so that any bird could be a carrier without quickly succumbing to the virulent disease. They could carry the virus and be communicable for weeks with only a 40% mortality rate. Humans were not so lucky. We could carry it just as long, infecting most of the people we came in contact with but the mortality rate for the airborne virus was hovering around 90%. No one had been able to come up with a vaccine for this strain yet, either. Not that a vaccine would help if you were already infected.
Once the threat was understood, it was too late for most of the world. The WHO instituted their plans for dealing with a pandemic but the world was already panicking and spreading the disease from person to person and country to country.
The CDC mandated testing and extermination within the poultry industry as a stop-gap effort to eliminate the source of the infection. Once the first tests started coming back people realized just how screwed we all really were. Turkeys, ducks and geese were extinct within a matter of weeks. Chicken populations were hovering at the threshold. We’d been incubating the damn virus in our own backyard without knowing it was there. Martial law was declared shortly after I reached our lake house, hoping to hunker down with my family while the virus burned itself out.
Sandy fell sick 2 days after we arrived. John and Laura didn’t quite understand what was happening or why they couldn’t see mommy. But it was too late by then; deep down I knew it even if I couldn’t admit it until the symptoms started appearing. They died in her arms and she gave in to the fever shortly after that.
I watched from across the lake, marveling as the mist slowly flowed across the water. It lost volume and body the further from shore it went, slowly dissolving into the water. I could see the bodies of fish slowly float to the top. The Game and Wildlife people had pulled some strings to save some of the species and were planning on reintroducing them as soon as the lake tested clean again. If there was anyone still around to follow through by then.
The fever was slowly building in me. It wouldn’t be long before I started slipping in and out of consciousness. The planes should be hitting my side of the lake by then, cleaning the world as best they could for whoever would be left to inherit it.