A lot can change in a month. San Lazaro was a modern, attractive city, popular for its West Coast location and diverse population. But the winter of 2050 was unusually mild; a perfect breeding ground for the latest bout of avian flu. Parts of Asia and Europe had already been struck and now the virus had reached the United States. When the first cases emerged, the media termed the event Day 0. The virus mutated rapidly. Even the elite team of scientists sent to deal with the outbreak were helpless, unable to make any progress in finding a cure.
By Day 5, hospitals were overrun with patients and the National Guard were called in. Emergency personnel were summoned from across the country to assist with this unprecedented crisis. With misinformation and unrest rife, the government decided to limit communication by enforcing an information blackout: only officially sanctioned broadcasts could be made. Even so, a few rogue sources managed to report on the state of San Lazaro and none of it was good. Some residents began to flee.
On Day 12 came the first sightings of what are now known as crazies – individuals who roam the streets in a preoccupied, almost catatonic state then suddenly attack anyone or anything in the vicinity. Nobody was sure of the precise cause but these previously normal individuals were somehow transformed into rabid predators. Confusion and fear gripped San Lazaro.
Day 15 - With the Crazies on the loose and the situation deteriorating, the authorities seemed to concede defeat by withdrawing and isolating the city. They cut all power supplies and evacuated law enforcement, military, administrative and medical personnel. Within hours, scavenging and looting was rampant. A hard perimeter was established around San Lazaro – no one was allowed in or out.
On Day 18, thousands of residents observed military aircraft flying over the city, releasing an unknown airborne agent. National and international media questioned the Air Force and other official bodies but no answers were provided. Nothing could penetrate the physical and information blockade. Any unauthorized drones, cars, boats or planes were turned away or shot down. The outside world knew nothing of what was transpiring within San Lazaro. Similarly, the residents couldn’t get any information out or appeal for help. Escapees were foiled by the physical barriers and what came to be known as the ‘entropic disruptor’, an invisible shield that could block any lifeform or machine.
By Day 23, the Crazies had taken over entire areas of San Lazaro. The dead now numbered in the thousands. The embattled residents heard countless theories about what caused normal people to turn into rampaging killers and now they faced them alone. With reserve power supplies exhausted, water and sewage systems began to shut down. Only those residents with their own solar power sources could maintain anything like a normal life.
By Day 26, rioting and violent crime was rampant across the lawless, untended city. The main hospital was destroyed in an unexplained explosion and several civic monuments were torn down.
Day 28 – Now there are more crazies on the streets than normal residents. Nobody risks venturing out at night and even daytime can be dangerous. Strength can only be found in numbers. Some have joined The Survivalists - a group of tough misfits led by tech expert and auto mechanic Gadget. Their aim is to help the lowly and unfortunate survive this crisis. And then there are The Peacekeepers – former law enforcement and military personnel led by Lieutenant Buck McDonnell. This group is trying to maintain some semblance of law and order. Rumours also abound of escaped zoo animals on the loose and a group of makers and hackers forming their own faction – their purpose is unknown.
Memories of the old city have already faded. San Lazaro is a different place; a perilous place. Some have adjusted quickly and their sole aim is survival. Others hold out hope that a return to normality is possible. One thing is for certain: their city and their lives will never be the same again.
Next Story: 2. Prelude - Anna’s Story