The Solitary Apocalypse by Jeff Haws
Surrounded by people, Michael is alone.
Along with the rest of a North Georgia town that survived a deadly worldwide plague, Michael’s forced to wear a steel ring around his waist wherever he goes. He’s seen cohabitation banned. Marriages dissolved. Families torn apart.
But he’s a good soldier, supporting the leader’s draconian policies — until he learns an explosive secret about her that threatens to destroy the delicate balance they’ve achieved between safety and order.
Now, Michael must enlist help to confront the awful truth about the town of Alessandra, and the fate of what may be the last human colony on Earth.
Within two months of the virus taking hold, whole cities started going dark; within four months, federal and local governments had lost control of what populace was left. By the six-month mark from the first mentions of the plague in the media, that same media was mostly blacked out around the world; in Alessandra, they were either alone or forgotten by the rest of civilization.
It was at this point that Dr. Richard Giles told her he completed his research, and determined that the virus was spread via physical touch. He said he thought other doctors were missing this because they were probably too overwhelmed to study touch in a comprehensive manner. He also said his study determined there was reason to believe the virus could lay dormant for some period of time, so people could be asymptomatic but still contagious. Audrey hailed this as a major breakthrough but, by this time, they had no way to communicate with anyone else. Still, the information had the potential to save Alessandra. She determined that keeping people from touching each other might keep the town safe. With cities and towns throughout the world being decimated and abandoned, anything was worth a shot.
She found, though, that this was an impossible policy to enforce. How do you tell people they can’t touch the ones they love? Even if you tell them, what do you do to prevent it from happening? She knew almost immediately it would require a series of changes that would be received harshly by the citizens, and could crush whatever mandate to leadership she had. But she also knew it was absolutely necessary, and she could be a hero if she could sell them on that idea.
“I know this isn’t what you all want to hear,” she said from a podium in the town square one chilly January evening, as the plague’s progress brought it closer and closer to their isolated town. “But I’m tasked with maintaining order in this town and protecting its citizens from threats, and sometimes that means telling you difficult truths. The fact is we’re still here right now, and that’s more than most of the world can say as I stand before you today. Remaining here is going to be trying on even the strongest of us. It’s going to take collective sacrifice. It’s going to take cooperation and brotherhood. Determination and grit. You’re going to have to want a life more than you want this particular life, for the time being. You’re going to have to accept changes you never thought you’d have to accept, and be part of something greater than yourself, greater than your family, greater than everything you already know. That’s the price to be part of a rebirth. I want you all to follow me there.
“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. My friends, I believe that’s true, today more than ever. I stand before you today to bear witness that we can do this. We can live. We can fight another day, and come out the other side of this nightmare stronger, more together than ever before. Will you follow me? Will you be a part of this?”
Jeff Haws is a long-time journalist who has turned his writing eye to fiction. This is his second published novel and fourth published book. His first novel, “Killing the Immortals,” was published in 2016, along with the novellas “Tomorrow’s News Today” and “The Slingshot.” Over the past 20 years, his writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Miami Herald, Arizona Republic, New Orleans Times-Picayune, and many other publications. He lives with his wife in Atlanta, Georgia.