Authors: Matthew Kinney,Lesa Anders
Chase lowered his sunglasses, giving him a better view of a woman walking by in a bikini.
, he decided, looking away. She was probably pushing thirty. He scanned the area slowly, his gaze
coming to a stop on the pool where two girls were splashing each other and laughing. They were legal, but barely. Their hard bodies kept his attention riveted as his imagination played out numerous scenarios. He stood and ran a
hand over his thinning hair and sucked in his gut as much as possible before approaching the pool.
Ten minutes later, he was back in his lounge chair. One of the girls had even had the nerve to tell him to find someone his own age.
. As if he’d have to settle for some forty year old hag.
He had anticipated this Panama Canal cruise for years, ever since his co-workers had taken one and had returned with stories that could only be repeated in certain macho circles. As it had turned out, either
the singles’ smorgasbord that he’d been promised had been highly exaggerated or his long string of bad luck was continuing. The trip down the east coast from
New York had been enjoyable enough. He had scoped out the hot spots on the ship and had noticed several prospects that would be acceptable, at least for a
night. He had diligently worked his charm on them but for some unfathomable reason, he had been met with one rejection after another. In Miami, his luck
had been no better. Undeterred, he had held out hope that once he reached the tropics, the local cuisine would be more agreeable.
As he relaxed in his chair by the pool, Chase could hear snippets of conversation, mostly about the flu. It figured. He had finally
parted with the cash for a seventeen-day cruise and it happened to coincide with an outbreak of the H1N1 virus. Still, he didn’t worry much about it. These
things were always overblown; anything to sell a paper or get viewers to tune in to the news.
As the ship headed for the Panama Canal, he told himself that Central America would be better. That was where his friends had
really gotten lucky. With his virile good looks and impressive job as a DJ, bagging a local should be a cinch.
His luck there hadn’t turned out to be any better than it had been anywhere else. It wasn’t the party paradise he had expected
and the women he saw weren’t the babes he’d been dreaming about. His co-workers had assured him that all of the ports catered to the cruise ship passengers.
The picture he had envisioned was of brightly colored little shops with music playing and smiling vendors ready to sell him anything he wanted. What he
encountered instead was street after street of closed businesses and frightened-looking people hurrying to get from one place to another.
He quickened his step as he passed a woman who lay in a gutter, carrying on a heated conversation with herself. A bandage on her
cheek appeared to be leaking blood and God knew what else. The woman grew silent and her head slowly swiveled to follow Chase’s progress down the road.
Unnerved, he glanced back at her twice to find her eyes still tracking him.
As he walked a little farther down the main street, he noticed that many of the locals were wearing medical masks and avoiding
anybody that appeared to be ill. He saw one man cross himself as he spoke in hushed tones to a friend about ‘the crazy ones.’
A little after noon, the passengers were informed by armed guards that they needed to return to the ship immediately. Chase was more
than happy to comply, as a couple of men had started to follow him. It was obvious to him that they were drunk by the way they swayed with every step, but
it was something in their eyes that caused him the most anxiety. As he glanced back, he saw one of them lift a hand to reach for him, though he was a safe
distance away by that time.
The ship stayed in the harbor that afternoon. After the last passenger was back on board, the gangway was stowed away, ensuring
that nobody would be getting on or off. This ominous measure was the main topic of conversation for the rest of the day. The ship’s bars were full that night,
but the mood was somber.
As he sat down to have a drink, Chase overheard a quiet discussion. A man wearing a gaudy Hawaiian shirt was trying to convince
the woman next to him that it hadn’t been the flu that had necessitated the premature return to the ship.
“What was it, then?” she asked, keeping her voice low. Chase strained to hear the reply; something about an attack.
“Was it robbery?” she asked, playing with the umbrella in her drink.
“No. They weren’t even together and in both cases the victim was bitten. The flu doesn’t make people bite each other. There’s
something else going on here.”
“Maybe they have a vampire problem,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.
An announcement from the captain came the next morning. The remainder of the cruise would be spent at sea since the flu
outbreak was escalating in Central America. Besides concerns about exposure to the virus, there had been rioting and other violence reported. Free drink
tickets and onboard credits were given to all passengers to make up for the inconvenience. Two days later came another announcement, but it wasn’t the captain
speaking. The passengers were informed that the cruise would have to be cut short due to an emergency. The nature of this emergency was never disclosed,
but the ship picked up its speed and set a course straight for Los Angeles.
That night found Chase sitting in his room with the best company he could get; several bottles of booze. He had begun to count the
hours until they would arrive in Los Angeles and he’d already created a few stories to tell his coworkers. They’d never hear the truth from him; that the
trip had been a disaster and a complete waste of money.
He drank until he passed out, only to be woken during the night by the moaning pleasures of a neighbor more fortunate than
Chase. He pounded on the wall, but the obscene groans only seemed to intensify. They were mocking him, he was certain. Carefully, he sat up in bed, trying to
shake off the alcoholic haze that surrounded him. Several attempts to call the management led to a busy signal, so he would have to take matters into his own
hands. Standing up, he decided that there was going to be hell to pay. As he approached the door, he realized that the sounds weren’t coming from the other
room, but rather the hallway. He was stunned by the audacity of the couple. He decided that he would open the door stealthily and quickly, catching the
amorous couple in the act. The moans and movements outside his room disgusted him as he curled his fingers around the door knob. With a jerk, he opened the
door, but the harsh words he'd been about to spew died on his lips. Shock gave way to bewilderment until fear began to creep in as well, all in a matter of
seconds. When the two figures outside the door turned toward him, he took a step backward, his heart racing. His mind searched desperately to find an explanation
for the hideous sight, but he had no luck.
“What the hell?” he asked, but the words came out strained and uncertain.
The sound of his voice seemed to trigger something in the pair and they moved forward with arms outstretched as if to grab him.
The woman’s face was deathly pale, except for the blood stains which started at her teeth and snaked down her shirt. Her eyes were a milky white and seemed to
have a depraved intensity that chilled him to the bone. The man behind her had the same pale complexion and dull eyes, but where a good portion of his face
used to be, there was only bone and patches of torn muscle.
Chase stumbled back and fumbled for the door, still trying to make sense of it. Was this a joke? That's what it was; make-up. Damn good make-up.
“Joke's over!” he yelled, trying to force the door shut. “Keep coming and I swear I'll knock your teeth out!”
They continued pushing against the door, roused by Chase’s voice as others joined them. Turning, he ran into the bathroom and was
able to get the door latched just as his lumbering assailants reached it. He tried to gather his thoughts as they clawed at the door, emitting low,
threatening moans. If this was a joke they were taking it way too far. He could hear a chorus of unearthly lamentations, filling him with the distressing
knowledge that even more ghouls had entered the room. The door started to bend under the weight of the bodies as they pressed against it. Chase tried to hold
it but the latch snapped and he was forced against the sink of the tiny bathroom. In a second, they were on him. He held his arm out in a defensive
position and was met with a searing pain as the woman clamped her bloody jaws around it. He crumpled down to the ground and his foes followed him.
He felt each bite with amazing clarity as he tried in vain to kick his attackers away. The agony he endured as strips of skin were
torn from his body caused him to clench his teeth so tightly that he could hear them crack. One of the maniacs clawed into Chase’s mid-section and began to
drag his intestines out with a sickening sound. The others joined in, growling as they fought each other for the grisly entrails. Chase could only watch in
horror, praying for death to free him from the torture. A geyser of blood squirted from his belly, giving him the dreadful consolation that he would soon
bleed out. The burning misery began to numb and darkness started to close in on him. The last sound he heard was a chorus of hysterical wails and the tearing
When Chase awoke, he was dead.
The blaring of the alarm brought Keith awake and he fumbled for the off switch. Yawning, he sat up and rubbed his eyes as he tried to mentally prepare for the day. The
twelve-hour shifts were grueling, but he loved the three-day work week when it actually happened. He often got called in on at least half of his days off, but
he wasn’t complaining. The overtime was always welcome. He stood and made his way to the shower, glad that he had finally modernized the old bathroom. With the
new plumbing, he was always able to get hot water. He shaved after his shower and he noticed something. For the first time, he could see a resemblance
between himself and his late grandfather. It was something his grandmother and mother had always mentioned, but he had never seen it before. He wasn’t sure
what it was that made him suddenly aware of the similarities, probably just the angle of his face or the lighting, but it made him curious. He went to his
bedroom and dug out an old picture. Returning to the bathroom, he held it up beside his face as he looked long and hard into the mirror. The hair was
different. Keith had grown his out long and he kept it in tiny braids. His grandfather, on the other hand, had worn the military cut as had been required
of all the Tuskegee Airmen. He had been one of the first African-American pilots in the United States military and he had been proud of that fact. Keith
looked at the picture and smiled slightly, knowing that he was lucky to have had such an honorable man to look up to as a child.