Collapse – Exerpt (NaNoWriMo Novel)

Only 7 more days until the end. Current word count is at 41,347. Only a little more to go to hit 50,000! Let me know what you think.

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Synopsis

A couple uncovers a burial chamber while spelunking in one of the many unexplored caves in China. The chamber is filled with skeletons that have large fungal cones pressing out from their skulls. They don’t realize they’re already infected by spores of a cordyceps fungus. When they get back home to Winnipeg, it’s already too late. The infection spreads. The novel follows various people: two struggling musicians, an army vet returning to Winnipeg for his estranged father’s funeral, a disgruntled daytime soap actress, a first-grade teacher and his 4 year old daughter, and a no-nonsense religiously inclined data entry clerk, a womanizing general practitioner, and a voluntarily homeless person living in the a tent in the Assinaboine Forest. The story follows the characters as each tries to get out of the city to the wilderness while attempting to avoid the infection, the infected, and the most dangerous of all, other human beings.

“Collapse” Excerpt

Tressa felt really warm. It was an uncomfortable, bright heat that radiated out from inside of her. She could feel the waves of heat wobbling away as they left her body. She’d finished the slurpee and had sat down to watch the television but she never turned it on. She was focused on the feeling of the buttons in her sweaty hands. The buttons shone with a glistening oily sheen that made Tressa feel sick. When she looked up, the room had taken on new and frightening properties that she wasn’t before aware of. The walls were emitting subtle sparks that burst soundlessly into existence and then out again. She found herself breathing rapidly and she could feel her heart thudding against her ribs. They seemed to ring out every time her heart slapped against them. It was a weird amalgamation of sound and texture. She could feel some of the sound waves as they reverberated back into her body. Though not all of the waves reflected back. No. She could see some of the waves drift away from her, diluting into the sparks popping in and out of reality.

She stood up but instantly became aware that her consciousness was a few seconds ahead of her body. In her mind she was already standing, but her body was sluggishly following afterward.

Her mouth was dry and she could feel her rough tongue scraping against her frighteningly porous teeth. There were large holes in her teeth that seemed to snag her dry tongue. She didn’t stop doing it though. Instead, it made her to want to do it more. And the more her tongue scraped along her teeth the more anxious she became. She leaped up off her chair. She wanted to run to the bathroom to check her mouth to see what the fuck was wrong. Her legs wouldn’t move. She stared down at them and saw them waving back and forth at odd angles.

She screamed.

Tressa collapsed back down.

Her limbs felt heavy against the armrest. Their colour was bleeding into the colour of her shirtsleeves.

She screamed again. Tears were racing down her flushed cheeks.

“What’s going on?” she was sobbing. “Jesus, what’s . . . what’s happening?”

There was a light radiating from her middle dresser drawer. The one she kept the Bible in.

Her tears felt like candle wax against her cheeks. Her whole body shook. She stared impotently at her kneecaps, trying to will her legs to move. It was her left hand, though, that finally pushed her off the armrest and up into a standing position. Her body seemed to move on its own. She watched it lurch toward the dresser and pull open the drawer. Her arms looked unrealistically long and thin as they reached out to open the Bible. The light continued to bleed out from the book. She could feel the weight of the light against her face and neck. The feeling was accompanied by a dull warmth that pressed against her.

The sound of the pages grating against one another attacked the insides of her head as she flipped through the Bible. Her hand stopped at Luke and she began reading:

14 Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.

15 But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.

23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

 

 

“What are you doing?”

The voice was bright but forceful and seemed to be coming from inside her head. She looked around the room to see where the voice was but all she saw was Boodle.

“Boodle, sweetie. Stay away. Mommy’s sick.”

Tressa could sense the presence of someone else in the room but there wasn’t. Not anything that she could see.

And then her whole body tensed.

There were suddenly thoughts in her head. But foreign thoughts. Thoughts that seemed to be coming from somewhere else. They blended with the chatter of anxiety in her own mind and kind of harmonized; two distinct and separate columns of thought that ran parallel to one another. Hers were expressed in worried words that dribbled onto her brain but the other, the other seemed to be expressed as disconnected, rudimentary cognition, as if it were just only now discovering that it could think and that it could reason.

Her legs began to move again and she found she was heading over to the bathroom. Her hand flicked on the light and she stared into her reflection in the mirror.

The other in her head laughed.

She laughed.

For a while it seemed like they were trying to one-up each other with the intensity of their laughter. One ringing out in the tight confines of the bathroom, the other reverberating about inside her skull. Tressa’s throat tightened as she stared into her reflection and saw a large Cheshire cat-like smile growing on her face.

Growing and growing.

It wasn’t stopping. Her smile just kept getting large and larger, and curling up the sides of her face, maniacally.

Kit jumped up on to the counter and stared at her.

“You must resist, Tressa.”

She could feel the other in her head poking around inside her brain.

<<Cat>> It thought. <<Kit>>

Tressa screamed.

Beelzubul!