Leah sat in the passenger seat of the beat up Winnebago as it rumbled down the highway. Beside her Dale was focused and quiet in the driver's seat, so the pair rode in easy silence. The trees outside the window flashed by as they headed to their next destination. Leah's window was down, allowing the cool breeze to circulate through the already stuffy Winnebago. Once again she wished her Dale would speed, if only to get them to their destination and out of the hot RV. Oconee Nation Forest was only 100 miles away, but it was already feeling like it was taking a lifetime due to the heat. Her uncle was focused on getting to their destination, even if it took them a year. They really were in no hurry, except to get out of the heat. She stretched her legs out onto the dashboard and tried to get comfortable again.
"Want to find something on the radio?" Dale asked.
"Sure, what are you in the mood for?"
He shrugged, "Lady's choice."
Leah scanned through static before settling on a popular country station based out of Atlanta. She sighed, "Why does it always have to be country?"
He shook his head and gave a soft chuckle, knowing the type of music Leah preferred. "This is just fine."
They fell into silence again, listening to Tim McGraw, Josh Turner, Miranda Lambert and Jason Aldean.
"Jennifer Jones here with the latest report on what seems to be a mysterious viral style outbreak." The news report cut into the middle of Taylor Swift's newest single.
"Turn it up?" he asked, keeping his hands on the wheel.
Leah reached over and turned the old volume knob. They had been hearing bits and pieces of this new virus people were getting. The reports had started just after they began their trip, only a week ago. Having limited access to TV and Internet as they traveled, she was curious for an update as well. Each report made it appear that it was spreading quickly, but surely there was some type of vaccine by now. She silently hoped this news report would bring good news.
"Several minutes ago, Governor Perdue declared that Georgia is officially in a state of emergency. The National Guard has arrived and is putting all emergency protocol into action. Anyone within a 50-mile radius of Atlanta is being asked to come into the city for safety where FEMA shelters are being set up."
In her best unemotional voice, Jennifer Jones began to list the locations of each FEMA shelter. "If you choose not to find safety in the city limits, the governor is asking that no one leave their homes until further notice." She continued on with emergency protocol and other news before the chords of Blake Shelton's newest song filled the airwaves like nothing at all had just happened.
Leah looked to her left and saw worry lines on the man's face. She knew that he was thinking hard, contemplating their next move. "Do you think it's really that bad," she asked.
"Sure sounds like it. I'm going to pull over up there," he pointed to a sign that said 'Rest Stop 1 Mile'.
The parking lot of the old rest stop was practically empty and Leah felt something sit in her stomach like a brick, she was nervous. Thus far, the outbreak had just been a tiny blip on their radar. After all, it couldn't have been that serious. Now as uncertainty and fear settled over her, she wondered how they had allowed themselves to ignore the situation for so long.
The older man stroked his beard after putting the RV into park.
"Should we go to Atlanta?" Leah asked.
He looked uncertain, "We are getting close, but I was planning on skirting around the city limits."
Leah grabbed her iPhone out of the console to check her GPS. Dale wasn't much for gadgets, preferring to rely on good old-fashioned paper maps. "Hmmm, that's weird. I'm still not getting service." She shook the phone, hoping that refreshing it would help. It didn't.
"Get the map from the glove box."
As Leah poured over the old paper thing, the man sitting beside her continued to stroke his face in thought. He had removed his bucket hat and was fingering the edges with the other hand. "We should probably just head to Atlanta until this all blows over. Just to be on the safe side."
"If you say so," Leah mumbled still tracing the lines of roads on the map. "We're only about 20 miles from Atlanta, but I'm sure traffic will be backed up for miles."
"If it's bad enough to call a state of emergency we should go, I would hate to get to the state park, catch whatever this sickness is and be stranded. Besides they'll have vaccines at the FEMA shelters by now."
Leah nodded in agreement. "So, detour then?"
"Detour it is," he went to shift the RV into drive when a man appeared from behind the building. He was moving slowly, lumbering and dragging his foot like he had been injured.
"Wait," Leah said. "There's a guy over there."
Dale stuck his head out the window, "Hello there, sir! We were just wondering-"
He stopped mid sentence when the lumbering man looked up at the camper with hollow eyes. They both realized right away, whoever this man was he didn't look human. Suddenly, his teeth bared and his slow gait increased in speed dramatically as he lurched forward towards them.
"Roll up your window!" Leah screamed as the sickly man hurled his body against the side of the camper. His jaw was moving furiously as he tried to bite through the glass that was quickly being rolled up. One of the things fingers got stuck between the window and the frame, with a sickening crack the tip fell off and rolled onto the floorboards of the RV. It didn't even faze the man who was now pounding against the window.
"Oh my god," Leah breathed out. "We have to get out of here."
The driver was just staring, wide eyed, at the monster on the other side of the glass.
"Uncle Dale!" Leah yelled. "Go! Get out of here!"
Her screams shook him out of his daze. Dale pumped the brake and threw the camper into drive before speeding out of the parking lot.
"What the hell was that?" Leah screamed as they re-entered the empty highway.
"That," Dale started, "was the virus they have been talking about."
"No way. No way in hell," Leah shook her head in disbelief.
Her uncle just nodded his head, "I think that is exactly what it was, honey. Don't you remember the report from a few days ago? They listed the symptoms!" His voice rose as he accelerated and reached speeds above his normal comfort level. His knuckles were white as he clenched the steering wheel.
Oh, so now he decided to pick up the pace? Ironic.
"That man fit the description of those symptoms. Do you have reception? Can you call 911?"
She looked down at her phone, "No. Nothing."
"We'll tell them when we get to the shelter then. We'll tell them so they can come help him."
Whoever had just attacked seemed beyond help to her, but she kept her thoughts to herself and stared ahead in shock. They couldn't get to Atlanta fast enough.