Title: Tipping Point
Author: Terry Tyler
'I didn't know danger was floating behind us on the breeze as we walked along the beach, seeping in through the windows of our picture postcard life.'
Year 2024. New social networking site Private Life bursts onto the scene. Across the world, a record number of users sign up.
A deadly virus is discovered in a little known African province, and it's spreading—fast. The UK announces a countrywide vaccination programme. Members of underground group Unicorn believe the disease to be man-made - and that Private Life might not be as private as it claims. Vicky Keating's boyfriend, Dex, is working for Unicorn over two hundred miles away when the first UK outbreak is detected in her home town of Shipden, on the Norfolk coast. The town is placed under military controlled quarantine and, despite official assurances that there is no need for panic, within days the virus is unstoppable.
This excerpt takes place three days after the first outbreak of the virus is announced.
On the way back, I saw Claire hurrying towards me.
"Amy Williams says Jack's ill, he's really bad!" she said. She was shaking. "Vicky, I'm so scared; I let Lucy and George go down there to see her kittens yesterday, they were making such a fuss about being kept in, you know, really playing up. I thought, well, it can't hurt, can it? They were being such a pain, and Tony was trying to work because he can't get into the flipping office, and I thought it was safe, they said on the news that it was just isolated cases."
And they always tell the truth on the news, don't they? "Do they feel ill?"
Her face crumpled up, and she brought her hand up to her mouth. "Lucy's got a temperature, and Tony keeps saying he's tired and he feels sick. Do you think they've got it?"
"I don't know, Claire, it could be anything—"
"I could kill Amy, she didn't think to mention that Jack'd been for a drink at the Sea View on Saturday night, I'd never have let the kids go if she had! People there have got it, haven't they? The vaccination units are up the Holt Road, I drove up to find them, and they said they won't be here until the end of the week—I begged them to give me ours but they wouldn't; God, how much of a jobsworth do you have to be to say no?"
She put her hand to her forehead. "I tell you, I almost barged in and grabbed some! I told them about Lucy and Tony, so they probably think we've already got it, and it's too late. I don't know what to do!"
Her voice faltered and she began to weep; I put my arms around her, stroked her hair.
I remembered those two spare vials, upstairs, but, just as I was about to offer them, Claire drew away from me, took off her huge sunglasses, and I saw that her face was sweating. She looked terrified. In horror, I reached out and touched her forehead; it was red hot.
Why, oh why, hadn't I offered them before? Because I'd wanted to believe that it was just isolated cases, too, didn't believe that anyone I knew was really going to catch it—
"I know," she whispered, when she saw the look on my face. "I went down to the chemist, just to see if I could get anything for the symptoms, and the girl kept giving me weird looks and ran out the back, she wouldn't serve me. I shouldn't have come near you." Tears streamed down her face. "I'm sorry, Vicky, I shouldn't have, I'm sorry."
"It's okay, I've had my shot." I didn't know what else to say.
"Lucky you." She didn't sound bitter, just very sad. "Tony says it can't be right that no one recovers. And we're healthy, I always make sure we have our five a day, so I reckon we'll get better, don't you? I mean, it's only like the 'flu, isn't it?"
I nodded. I didn't know what to say. I don't think she wanted an answer; she squeezed my arm, then walked away, slowly, hugging herself.
Maybe she was right. Maybe some people would recover.
"Claire!" I ran after her. "Let me do something. Anything, I can bring medicine round, get food for you, anything you want me to do. Is George okay? I can take him—"
She put her hand up, and edged away from me. "He's been snuggling in with Lucy because she feels poorly, so he'll have it too, won't he? Karen's coming up to help. We'll be alright."
She ran into her house, slamming the door.
At the far end of the road, the car with the loudhailer was doing its rounds.
'The vaccination unit will be with you shortly. Please stay in your homes, and remain calm'.
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Although Tipping Point was written during 2016/7, many readers have pointed out the many future-echoes of what is going on now, in the story. Also, it’s about real people, not post-apocalyptic superheroes. Vicky and her daughter Lottie, Phil and Kara, Heath and his son Jax, could be any of us – but it’s also about how in disaster those real people find hidden strengths.
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Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-two books available from Amazon, the latest being 'The Visitor', a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her popular Project Renova series. She is currently at work on 'Megacity', the third and final book in her dystopian Operation Galton series, after which she may decide to write something a bit more cheerful. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team. She lives in north east England with her husband.
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