By:  Paul Kane  Completed
Language: English
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The sleepy English locality of Middletown is about to get even sleepier, as a strange malady starts to affect the population. It spreads quickly, causing the authorities to quarantine this small city, and seek out the only person who might be able to help: Doctor Andrew Strauss. However, Strauss has a secret, one that has linked him to this place all his life, one that has linked him to a particular person there, though he doesn’t yet know who. But he’s not the only one hiding things – and as he ventures into Middletown to collect samples with an army escort, a mixture of UK and US troops, cracks soon begin to appear in the operation. Especially when his team comes up against the most terrifying threat humankind has ever known.

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19 Chapters
    prologueSuzie had a recurring dream. In it she was a little girl, no more than about eight. Her parents had taken her to a country park somewhere, all trees, rolling hills and looking-glass lakes. They were having a picnic by one of those lakes, the chequered blanket spread out on the grass, and Suzie was basking in the warmth of the late August sun. Her mum and dad were smiling, laughing. It was a good time, a good dream. Suzie ate and ate until she thought she might burst: sandwiches, sausage rolls (her absolute favourite), crisps; and then ice cream, chocolates, fancy buns with icing on them her mother had made. There were birds singing, and Suzie looked up at the sky to see some of them flapping overhead—a V-like formation, like the Red Arrows had flown in at that air display her folks had taken her to. Closer to the ground, a butterfly flew past, the oranges and blacks so rich it looked like it had just been painted into
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Chapter 1
    chapter oneThe disorder presented itself as a mild form of fatigue at first. A Mr Norman Eley was badgered into going to his local GP by his wife, Corrine, who’d noticed his continual lack of energy over the past couple of days. She also insisted on coming along with him, to make sure the doctor got the whole picture. Corrine knew how Norman was for hiding things, especially from figures of authority. ‘So, let me see if I’m understanding this correctly,’ said Dr Marsha Wray of the East Middletown Community Health Centre, sitting behind her desk and glancing up at the anxious couple in-between jotting things down on the pad in front of her. ‘You say your husband has been feeling particularly tired of late, more so than usual?’‘Definitely,’ stated Mrs Eley. ‘He’s been nodding off as soon as he gets home from work at night... well, from one of his jobs.’Dr Wray paused. ‘Did you say one of his jobs?’‘Er... yes,’ admitted Mrs Eley.
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Chapter 2
    chapter two‘It’s time. Come, quickly... I need you!’The words followed him, up out of unconsciousness as he was roused from his precious sleep. Precious, for him especially as an insomniac. The time he spent in a dream state—especially these days—was few and far between, and he resented anything that interrupted it.Andrew Strauss groaned as he lifted his sore head off the pillow. Had it really been worth all that booze last night to put him under? Yes, definitely, always, if it meant he spent a few hours asleep. The incessant ringing of the phone on the bedside table—not his mobile, because that was switched off—seemed to be accompanying the booms he was hearing between his ears. A symphony for the hung-over in A-Minor. He needed pills... but painkillers this time; not the sleeping ones he seemed to be increasingly immune to these days. Alcohol didn’t usually have much of an effect, so he must have really tied one on the previous evening. Mos
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Chapter 3
    chapter threeThe move was a risky one, but if he held his nerve he could pull it off. Sweat trickled down his brow, his breathing coming in short bursts, but he fought to control it; fought to give the impression he was cool, calm and collected. He needed to, or everything was lost. Private First Class Jackson Monks sucked on the cigar sticking out of the corner of his mouth, watching for any hint of weakness in his opponents. He glanced down at his nut-coloured hands, which were as steady as a rock. He couldn’t afford any slip ups with this operation. Not now, not when he was so close to victory. His main enemy was staring straight at him, as if demanding he make his move. Jackson attempted a smirk, but it came out more like a grimace. His foe was about to strike, anyone could see that; but would he be able to beat Jackson to the draw?The soldier sitting opposite tossed a handful of twenty pound notes into the centre of the table
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Chapter 4
    chapter fourThe “something” that was rustled up turned out to be an old army bus, which had already had the seats ripped out so that it could be used for cargo transportation purposes. All they needed to do was put in a couple of cots near the back, and a table along the side, bolting everything to the floor of the bus for when they were moving—not that they were intending to break any speed records. Strauss watched as a stream of men loaded everything they needed on board. ‘Wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,’ he said to his assistant, ‘but it’ll do till we can get something better here. All our resources...’ He flapped his hand. ‘I don’t know, remind me again why I’m doing this.’‘You know why,’ she said coolly. He turned to face her. They hadn’t really had much of a chance to talk since the hotel—for one thing they hadn’t been alone, for another it had taken his hangover a while to subside—but, until now, he’d been glad of the fa
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Chapter 5
    chapter fiveBy about three in the afternoon, they were ready to set off. Or as ready as they’d ever be. Andrew Strauss and Bridget sat on the bus which led the way through the cordon, their driver a young Scottish soldier named McBride, chosen for his experience with heavy-duty vehicles. Like them, he was wearing the Hazmat gear provided—dark green in colour, unlike some of the more vivid kinds Andrew and Bridget had grown used to in the past. The air canisters on their backs were good for a few hours and a plentiful supply of them were on board. Mikes would allow them to keep in touch with each other, and whoever was in close proximity. Strauss looked out, first through the grimy window on one side of the bus, then the other: at the armoured personnel carrier with the US soldiers inside on the left, and the two jeeps carrying the British soldiers on the right. It felt like they were going to war (thank God he’d got at least the Bri
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Chapter 6
    chapter sixBridget had to admit she was taken aback when the first of the virus victims woke up. To begin with she thought they might not be needed here after all. Perhaps the effects of whatever this was had worn off, just like she’d said back on the bus. That because the disease was non-fatal—had actually been keeping these people alive, albeit in a hibernation-like state—it might have run its course and they’d simply recover, as you do when you get over the common cold. The violent shaking had simply been them shrugging off the last remnants of this illness.  Except the person she was looking at wasn’t awake, was he. That is to say, sure, he was sitting up, but his eyes were still healed over, the secretions still attached to him like candyfloss to a stick. He was staring right at her, but not really seeing. How could he, with his eyes welded shut like that? She had to go to him, help him. But damn, it was so eerie the way he was
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Chapter 7
    chapter sevenIn the darkness, he could hear her voice:Thank you! Oh God, thank you so much. You came!The last thing he remembered was a flash of light, so bright he thought he might have gone blind. Just like the—Oh no, he thought. He remembered where he was now, in the real world. What he’d been doing: rushing over to try and stop that soldier from shooting the kid in the head. There had been an explosion, the bus maybe? And right now he was lying on the ground, might even be dying. But somehow that didn’t matter. The real world was so very far away from this one, and he didn’t get to visit the dreamscape very often. Didn’t get to spend time with her, very much. You came! she repeated. I knew you would. ‘I had to,’ he said, though he didn’t even have to open his mouth. ‘You know I did. Where are you?’I can’t tell you that. She sounded frustrated. They won’t let me. ‘Who?’ he asked, but didn’t get an answer.I
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Chapter 8
    chapter eight‘He’s awake! Oh, thank God,’ said Bridget. ‘Keep it fucking down.’ That voice was gruffer. The man who’d refused to load the boy on the bus—and had probably been right not to do so... Andrew suspected that was to blame for the explosion. Timms, the soldier had been called. ‘We don’t want those bastards to find us again.’Andrew was on the floor, lying down. It was dark, but only because there were no lights on, nothing to give away their position. Bridget helped him sit up. ‘Are you okay, Andy?’ she asked in hushed tones. ‘You took quite a knock to the back of the head.’He nodded, wished he hadn’t. If he could have touched his skull there he would’ve felt a lump, Andrew was certain of it. Bridget went on to explain what had happened since the bus. They’d managed to escape the Sleepers at the car park, making their way through the backstreets. ‘The strange thing was none of the Sleepers we came across th
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Chapter 9
    chapter nineRadford stood in the makeshift watchtower that had been erected when they set up camp. He stared out beyond the cordon. Warning bells had first started ringing when the “expedition” didn’t check in on the hour. Many attempts had been made to raise them since, but to no avail. Now they’d been out of contact for almost three hours. It was dark, and the major had a really bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He’d taken his concerns to General Fitzpatrick, naturally—but he’d been in a meeting with Colonel Huxley. ‘They’re not to be disturbed,’ Dutton had informed him in no uncertain terms. ‘Excuse me?’ said the major, glaring at him, which had been known to reduce some men to tears. ‘He’s in the middle of something very important.’‘Our team has gone dark, Dutton. This is important, as well. We need to—’Dutton sniffed. Probably his allergies again, but Radford couldn’t help thinking the man was being dismi
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