Autoimmune (working title, possible title “Sick”
A mutant form of “mad cow”(called Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in humans) is spreading rapidly through the states.
Martin is the young protagonist, who contracts the disease but survives, due to his autoimmune disease. Along the way he meets other survivors with autoimmune diseases of their own. Horror movie survivors are always young, healthy fit people, and that seems unrealistic to me. I wanted to write a novel that would be more realistic (at least in my mind). These people are alive because they’re sick; they have to not only battle the zombies but their own illnesses as well.
Read the first portion here
Martin Gale 22 -College Student- Crohn’s Disease - His hair is shaggy and a dishwater blond. He’s barely above average height for a male his age and a little underweight. He has a young looking face and appears perpetually sleepy. He’s moderately sick, but gets sicker as it goes on. Martin is laid back and introverted, often lost in thought. At times he’s whimsical but it’s only in his head, as he’s too shy to share. He is also perhaps the most outwardly emotional of the group. He’s almost Charlie Brown-esque. (named like Dorothy Gale =storm/turbulence. Also, say his name fast what does it sound like?)
Hannah Lancour 16-High School Student- Fibro and Celiac’s: Hannah is the sickest out of the group and looks it (unfortunately). She’s tallish for her age and thin with dark hair and bangs across her forehead. She’s delicate, almost ethereal, and could almost be described as “spooky.” She often times accidentally makes strangers uncomfortable. She is quiet but not in the same way Martin is. She is observant and much more perceptive than kids her age. Overall she gives the impression that she should be a prophetess or a sibyl… I’m not sure how to describe her properly…she almost has a supernatural air about her.
Rex Lancour 43 - Pawnshop owner -Fibro: Father of Hannah, He’s a comfortable looking man with dark graying hair. He’s also got some stubble going on. He has a few extra pounds, as his metabolism has slowed. He’s moderately sick but hides it well. Rex parents everyone in the group, but he can’t help it after taking care of Hannah alone for so long. He’s logical but seemingly not as educated as the rest of the group. He is however a very practical man, he can cook, fix things, and fire a gun…(Rex is also a nickname? I’m not sure of his actual first name yet, or if it will be known at all in the story if it is not)
darker hair with a cowlick at his right temple
thick black glasses for reading.
Jeans, tennis shoes, t-shirt (some 80s band) long sleeve denim shirt over that.
tattoo left arm?
Laurel Deigh (pronounced Day) 26 - ER receptionist- Lupus. She is just a little taller than Martin actually, making her the tallest after Rex. Her hair is honey blonde loose curls she keeps pulled up most of the time, and they go just past her shoulders. She is newly diagnosed with her disease (maybe two or three years) and is the most negative about her situation. She is opinionated, stubborn and sometimes rash. She also has a hard time admitting she values or likes people. At this point I’m thinking her mother was verbally abusive or overbearing. She seeks and finds (for the most part) a mother figure in Annie.
Annie 60-psychiatrist -Type 1 Diabetes: Annie’s hair is silver, layered, and shoulder length. She has kept in very good shape over the years and is possibly the most physically capable of the group at any given time. I’d like her to be the “least sick” of everyone given her age also puts her at a disadvantage. Annie is clever and sarcastic, she is a horror fan and will often bring up issues common in the genre. She is the comic relief in a way, wiling to look on the bright side to keep spirits up. She’s not parental in the way she takes care of the group but rather pragmatic about it. (Annie’s name will likely change, as it was sort of a placeholder name to begin with, I’m open to suggestions)
Other character notes:
Both men tend to overlook their own health to take care of the ladies
Laurel will do anything for Annie having adopted her as a surrogate mother figure. And then eventually Martin.
Martin is fond of Hannah in a sibling type way. He takes extra care to watch out for her and keep her safe. They are both quiet people, and she perhaps reminds him of family, or he sees himself in her (sickly quiet children who preferred books to people). Martin has a microwavable stuffed dinosaur (triceratops) heat pack he calls “Mikey” which he tells Hannah about on one occasion, she remembers this and it comes up in the section I submitted.
Both Martin and Laurel display signs that they might be developing arthritis or other joint problems. Laurel also develops romantic feelings for Martin (Info omitted here… for reasons listed in the intention statement!)
Annie comes up with the term “Feeders” for the creatures as she brings up they are not reanimated dead, they are living humans infected with a disease. The crew is forced to face this when dealing with Cady’s deteriorating health.
If we were looking at tropes, the team as the five-man band would (sort of) be:
Martin - The Hero
Laurel - The Lancer
Annie - The Chick
Rex - The Big Guy
Hannah - The Smart Guy
between the ladies they also are the “Hecate Sisters”
Maiden - Hannah
Mother - Annie
Crone - Laurel (“often sharp witted, sharp-tongued, bitter and unsentimental”)
Group will run into other survivors as the novel goes on and eventually hold up in a hotel with a surviving community of both healthy people and people with autoimmune diseases, and the novel will end with hope of rebuilding. I have no plans to kill any main character beyond Cady (if you would call her a main character)
Scientific info from here
Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD)
or specifically the variant (vCJD) that comes from eating infected tissue although it’s the least common of the forms, it’s the one I’m focusing on.
For the sake of argument I’m going to call my disease fvCJD, or Feeder Variant CJD. CJD is a prion disease not viral or bacterial, prions are non-living so there is nothing known that can stop it.
The characters themselves never call it fvCJD as I would say “Feeder” is just that particular group’s name for the infected. The characters will also call the disease a virus, not being as medically savvy, although Annie could know something.
“Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is marked by rapid mental deterioration, usually within a few months. Initial signs and symptoms of CJD typically include:
Sudden jerky movements”
fvCJD is mutated to add/change
a more rapid onset of dementia
extreme increase in appetite
the anxiety becomes irritability and then extreme aggression as the disease progresses.
in the first week of contracting the disease the infected will sleep much more than average, after it has taken full effect however the infected will not sleep.
There is also no difficulty swallowing…that would be a far too easy way to kill off the beasts.
After constantly consuming, the Feeders will need to void waste some how…use your imagination (this is why they are usually drooling and/or smell terrible…
The lifespan of someone with fvCJD is at this point one or two months, as it progresses faster and is more aggressive than the “about seven months” of the normal CJD. If the Feeder is starved it will die in a day or so.
The fvCJD spreads from infected meat, and also through bodily fluids of carriers. The disease wants to spread, forcing the infected to seek out and consume other living flesh. The Feeders will not only attack humans they will go for any warm-blooded creature, although the disease does not infect non-humans the same way. Any creature that comes in contact with a feeder is at risk.
If one survives the initial attack, the disease cannot be stopped, and will take full control in about a week. In that time the newly infected is safe from another attack. The disease gives off a pheromone to signal its host is already infected.
Because the infected are not dead, they can be stopped the same ways you could stop any other average human being.
Physically and mentally every feeder will be different, some are more physically crippled while others loose mental capacity faster. Often they will be missing bits of their lips, cheeks or tongue after having accidentally bitten them off while feeding.
I’ll leave you with this wonderfully sinister quote from the website
“No effective treatment exists for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or any of its variants. A number of drugs have been tested — including steroids, antibiotics and antiviral agents — and have not shown benefits. For that reason, doctors focus on alleviating pain and other symptoms and on making people with these diseases as comfortable as possible.”