It was the best of times, it was the end of times.
“And now, reporting live from San Diego, our field anchor, Maxine Bait.”
“Thanks, Steven. Behind me, you can see the police are making their assault on the San Diego Convention Center, where Comic Con International is in full swing. It’s unclear who perpetrated these murders or who called it in, but what we do know is that at least three people are dead inside, and there may be more victims.”
Elliott Bradbury sat in the Badger’s Hovel coffee house and sipped the latte he hadn’t really wanted, momentarily distracted from ogling the beautiful redheaded girl at the cash register. She was here at this time every day, getting a tall, non-fat sugar free mocha from the tall, non-fat barista who was also there every day. One was there to get coffee in an incidental sort of way; to the other, coffee was never incidental. The redhead waved at him, seeming to have no interest in the breaking news story from southern California, and left. His heart skipped a beat when she smiled.
Telling himself that he would be braver and actually talk to her next time, he turned his attention back to the television; there would be more time for that later. The reporter, a tall, curly headed brunette with bright blue eyes, had completely failed to stop chattering mindlessly into her microphone, repeating the same lack of information over and over.
Which of course made it much more difficult for her cameraman to get her attention, or for her to notice that someone was hobbling up behind her. Elliott perked up; the man coming up behind her looked bad. Not like he was necessarily going to do something bad (although that hardly seemed out of the question) but like he’d eaten something bad… and whatever it was, it was trying to eat him back. He was gray, gaunt, his eyes red rimmed. And he was shambling, like he was about to trip at any moment.
Muffled because the microphone was pointed in the wrong direction, the cameraman said, “Max, I think you’d-“
The reporter raised her voice to be heard over the cameraman. “…and the police behind me seem to be having some trouble getting in the door. Again, we have three confirmed casualties inside-“
“Damn it, Jake, we’re live!”
Coolly and stupidly professional, the reporter was staunchly ignoring her cameraman’s warnings. Hundreds of miles away, Elliott tensed, unable to rip his eyes away. What was wrong with that man? He looked… dead. Scratch that… he looked undead.
“….Once again, three people have lost their lives already in this senseless tragedy….”
“I think it’s about to be four, Max, not kidding here…”
Just then, the man leapt at the reporter. He’d been ten feet away and he didn’t look like he could survive being carried that far, much less jump it under his own power. But in the blink of an eye, he was on her. Elliott spat out a sip of coffee and suppressed a gag as he watched, on live television, a man bite a chunk out of the reporter’s arm. She screamed, and Elliott winced at her pain, but then he saw her pawing desperately for her dropped microphone, which had been inscribed with her name.
“No,” she moaned, “that was a gift from Larry King….”
The camera wobbled and crunched as it was dropped. Unfortunately this only provided a better view of the man trying his very best to eat the reporter, his teeth gnashing and low, unintelligible moans escaping his lips. Before the station cut the live feed, the man looked up at the camera, blood and what might have been tendon dripping from his mouth. One word was understandable, and it was unmistakable.
Elliott’s heart froze, and his blood ran cold. The camera was jostled, and several more hands, all gray and rotten, grasped the lens, and the picture went blank. Elliott was no fool, and he knew what he was seeing.
“It’s begun,” he said, to no one in particular.