Chapter 14: Ari Levin, September 22nd, Year O

In the morning of the 22nd, I woke to the sound of silence. There was no more gunfire coming from Colorado City. The smoke and the flames that could be seen yesterday to our west were gone. So far, here at the ranch, we hadn’t seen a single zombie.

It was time to see what was going on in town. I sent Graydon Minor, Tim Herndon, and Tom Marsden back to Colorado City. I told them to not take chances and to come back immediately if it looked dangerous. If the FLDS were ok, I told them to let the FLDS hierarchy know that we were doing well.

The fact that the outbreak occurred on September 11th convinced me that the zombies were no accident. This wasn’t the result of an aids vaccine gone bad. I’d been in the counter-terrorism business for most of my adult life. No organization that I have ever heard of had the technology to create zombie viruses. Even if it was humanly possible, there wasn’t a nation on Earth or terrorist organization that had the ability to successfully make and spread the virus throughout the world without other countries finding out who was responsible. With every intelligence service in the world trying to find out what was going on, there was no way a human organization could have kept everything secret. Once you’ve eliminated the impossible, the only explanation left no matter how improbable is usually correct. The zombie outbreaks had to be a result of alien technology. This explanation bothered me, “Why the hell would aliens go through the bother of making zombies? If they were that advanced, why not create a simple plague and be done with it?” I was reluctant to accept the alien theory.

I followed the news carefully. According to the scientists studying the zombie virus, it could only be transmitted by bite. This didn’t make any sense. The zombie outbreak wouldn’t have spread so quickly if this was true; twenty-four hours to take over an entire country was too fast. There had to be another form of transmission.

I carefully studied the videos of the zombies attacking from across the world. Americans have the highest rate of obesity in the world. Most Americans wouldn’t have noticed that there were an unusually high number of obese zombies in the initial outbreaks. I spent most of my adult life in the Middle East. There are very few obese people in that part of the world and they are typically wealthy. The wealthy always have more protection than the poor. There should have been a lower frequency of obese zombies during the first few hours of an outbreak, not more. I knew that obesity damages the immune system. Obese people are more likely to get sick. Zombies don’t look human. Their skin color and their lack of normal facial expressions made it difficult to judge their age. Once I started paying attention to their age, I realized that there were much higher numbers of elderly zombies than there should be compared to the general population. It looked like the zombie virus preferentially infected the immunocompromised, the sick, elderly, and obese.

I was sure that only a few of the FLDS got infected with the zombie virus. As a percentage of their population, they had relatively few elderly and obese. Also they were used to turning on each other. If any of them turned into zombies, their family members wouldn’t hesitate to shoot. The boys I sent wouldn’t be able to help themselves; they wouldn’t be able to keep quiet about the biggest news of their lives. They would tell everyone in Colorado City that I was the next FLDS prophet and that I had made them my disciples. I decided that the odds were good that the FLDS wouldn’t kill the boys immediately. If any of three were killed it would probably be Tom. He wouldn’t be much of a loss. Martyrs are good for religions.

I knew the assholes would come for me. Civilization died yesterday. The FLDS no longer had to worry about law enforcement. The assholes had too much to lose if I took over and my fortress was desirable property. The go-alongs for now had nothing to gain by starting a civil war. If I was the prophet, the assholes would fail. If I wasn’t the prophet, who cared if I died?

The boys left for Colorado City at sunrise. Shortly before lunch, we saw a caravan of vehicles headed for my fortress. I had all the gates open and deactivated the mines. I told my disciples to put away their guns. We waited for the caravan unarmed.

Malachi Marsden arrived with two others who were high up in the asshole camp followed by over a hundred armed men. The only guy from the go-along camp, was Lavel Sondermann. Graydon, Tim, and Tom came with the FLDS. Tom had been beaten; his face was bloody and his hands were cuffed behind him. I was surprised to feel a slight sense of relief that he was still alive. I guess I really did like the kid. The other two were unarmed. Their rifles and revolvers had been taken away from them. They didn’t look like they had been beaten. They weren’t restrained.

I greeted Malachi as soon as he got out of his vehicle. I pretended that I didn’t notice what had happened to Tom. I shook his father’s hand vigorously using a two hand grip. “Welcome Brother Malachi, come and enjoy my home.” I stepped back and gestured to my tower as armed men circled around me

“Funny you should say that Mr. Levin because I have come to claim this ranch for the FLDS. It’s a time of crisis and we need your ranch.”

“Brother Malachi, are you saying that instead of accepting my hospitality and the gifts I freely offer that you have come to take everything I own?”

“Mr. Levin, you understand correctly.” Malachi grinned; he was having the time of his life. He enjoyed taking.

I looked at him and the FLDS behind him. I angled my face to the sun. They flinched. My eyes were flashing red. I raised one hand in the air. I said, “The thief shall lose his hands and the sinners will speak no more.”

I set off a radio detonator. As part of my stage act as a magician, I used to pull up volunteers from the audience and switch out their watches without them noticing. When I shook Marsden’s hands, I wrapped bracelets made out of C4 around his wrists.

There was an explosion and Malachi’s hands were blown off. One of Marden’s men behind me was struck by a flying hand. His scream joined Malachi’s. Blood shot from Marsden’s wrists with every beat of his heart. He waved his stumps in agony. All of us nearby were sprayed with his blood. While attention was focused on Malachi, I shot his two counselors with tetrodotoxin darts. I didn’t need to attach flies to these darts so they flew well. My targets were too spooked to notice the darts penetrating. The poison was set to work immediately. Forty-five seconds after I darted Marsden’s buddies, they collapsed. In four minutes they would die. There is no antidote to tetrodotoxin.

The FLDS were stunned. They stood looking at Malachi and the others on the ground. Whatever they had expected when they came into my compound, it wasn’t this. Marsden never stopped screaming. The jets of blood coming from his wrists got weaker. He staggered toward the other FLDS seeking help. They backed away from him in disgust. In the strongest possible way they had been shown that he was damned. Finally he fell to the ground and lay unmoving.

I stood among the FLDS covered in Malachi’s blood. I shouted, “Glory to our Heavenly Father! We are at the end-of-days. I was born in the Holy Land. I have eyes of flame. I bring God’s judgement by word and touch. Answer me! Am I your prophet?”

They shouted, “Yes!”