The Cuban Epidemic
On a long bus ride down a windy road are twin brothers named Jeremy “Jere” and Jonathan “Jon” McKenzie who are in desperate need of a vacation. Both of them are busy professionals with next to no time for themselves. Concerned that they are forgetting to have fun, their mother Diane got them a trip to Cuba for their birthday. Truth be told, those two didn’t put up much of a fight since both of them are having difficulties in their lives. Now they are sitting on the bus waiting to get to their resort.
“This is so great.” Jon says excitedly, “I can’t remember the last time I went to a beach.”
“I can.” Jere says smugly, “Seven years ago when we went to Tofino, British Columbia and you learned how to surf.”
“And you learned how to fall.” Jon laughs. “Ah! Good times.”
With a chuckle, Jere replies. “Yeah man. They were.”
“I wonder what memories we’ll make here.” Jon says smiling.
The two brothers smile as the bus driver calls out. “Playa Cayo Santa Maria!”
“That’s us.” Jere says and the two brothers stand to walk out.
Jere and Jon are almost identical in every single way. Both have sandy blonde hair in the same short haircut and whisky brown eyes that any woman would drown in. Their sharp features and long lean bodies make them look more like models as opposed to professional men. Jeremy is a prominent pediatrician in a private practice and on-call consultant at the children’s hospital. Jon is a brilliant landscape architect with an excellent working knowledge of botany who just opened his own business.
They walk off the bus and the driver follows them out to help pull out their suitcases from the bottom compartment. After Jere grabs his suitcase, he looks towards the resort and doesn’t see any people around. There isn’t even someone behind the front desk. Jere looks at his watch and it’s only six o’clock at night in Cuba time. To him, this is very odd. Jon picks up his bag and joins his brother. He looks at his brother’s apprehensive face and can feel that something isn’t right.
“What’s wrong Bro?” Jon asks and turns to look at what his brother is gazing at.
“Where is everybody?” Jere questions and Jon sees what he means but isn’t as shaken as his brother.
“Maybe they’re in the back or on a break?” Jon guesses. “Let’s go find out.”
The brothers walk to the desk and see no sign of anyone around. Jon hits the bell a couple of times but no one comes. Jere walks around the desk to find two key cards and a note with their names on it.
“Dear McKenzie Brothers. These are the keys to your room, 412. There are no staff due to a lack of guests. Take care of yourselves and please help yourself to anything at the resort.” The note says.
“That is weird.” Jere says eyeing at the note in disbelief.
Jon turns around and notices the bus leaving. He takes off after it but he isn’t fast enough to catch it. Jon stops running as the bus turns the corner. He is completely breathless and sweating through his green cotton shirt. As Jon takes off his leather jacket, Jere catches up to his brother even more out of breath than he is.
“I couldn’t catch it.” Jon says.
“Well you tried but I think we are stuck here.” Jere says and takes off his grey tweed blazer. “Come on. We should get back, take our stuff to the room, have something to eat, and figure this out.”
Jere slaps his brother’s back and they walk to the resort in silence. Jon had to agree with him. If they are really stuck there, then the only way to get unstuck is where there is food, water, and ways to communicate with the outside world.
Jon walks all around the buffet restaurant waving his iPhone in the air, desperate to get a Wi-Fi signal. He sighs in frustration and puts his phone into his back jeans pocket when he realizes that he won’t get what he needs. He sits at a table while Jere brings over some lobsters with fries, strawberry sundaes, and pasta with vegetables from the kitchen. As soon as Jere sits down, Jon pipes up.
“I looked around while you were cooking. There’s no land line, internet, or signal for our phones.” Jon tells him, shaking his head. “So, what do we do?”
“I don’t know.” Jere says as he rolls up his blue shirt sleeve cuffs and starts dishing up his plate. “We don’t have any options right now. I guess stay put until we have a better idea.”
Jon smirks at his brother and gets up from the table to go behind the bar. He lifts a bottle and shows it to his brother while he carries it to the table.
“Well then, if that is the case. Let’s do something to enjoy ourselves then.” Jon says smiling, “Like this bottle of champagne.”
“What no glasses?” Jere says mockingly to his brother.
Jon lifts an amused eyebrow at him and pops the cork. The liquid spills out like a foaming geyser. A big WOAH! Sound out of both of them. Jon takes a big drink out of the bottle and passes it to his brother who enjoys a big gulp of champagne himself. A couple hours pass by and they open up another bottle of champagne after finishing their dinner. It’s a joyful evening but Jon has to bring up a tender subject.
“So, Mom told me that you and Lydia broke up.” Jon says and sorrowfully watches his brother’s face fall. “What happened Bro?”
“Lydia just could not take the fact that I work long and odd hours.” Jere sighs looking down sadly at the table. “She calls me passionless when it comes to her and wants the kind of attention I give to my job.”
Jon shakes his head. “That’s a little strange. She knows you’re a doctor and damn good one at that. People are going to seek you out when you are needed.”
“I know. I don’t just love my job. To me it’s a way of life.” Jere says and takes a big pull of the champagne before he passes it to his brother. “I want to help kids and give them the long lives they deserve. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
“That’s not true bro.” Jon tells him. “I mean you have always wanted to get married and have kids too. I think even before you wanted to be a doctor.”
“Maybe but what if Lydia is right? What if I…”
Jon swiftly interrupts him. “Dude that is so not true. Every time I saw the two of you, I could see how much you loved her. You have always given her your full attention and affection when you two were together. This is clearly not your fault. The right girl will understand what your job means and will be willing to wait for you.”
“Thanks man.” Jere says slapping his brother’s hand in their combination high-five, handshake that they have done ever since they are kids. Their mother called it their twin-thing. “How’s your new business working out?”
With that question, it is Jon’s face that is the one to fall. “Not so good. I can’t get work if my life depended on it and it does!”
As Jon sighs miserably Jere pipes up. “Jon, it’s only been a year and new businesses are always hard at first.”
“But this bad?” Jon says shaking his head. “If this keeps up, I’ll have to go back to work in some other firm.”
“No bro. That won’t happen.” Jere says and gives the champagne bottle to his brother. “You have the most brilliant and amazing vision that I have ever seen. You just got to get that one big client and then you will be set. If all else fails, Mom is always willing to keep you on permanent garden duty.”
Jon laughs and says, “And yours?”
“When I get that house, you are the one I am bringing in.” Jere laughs, smiling with his brother.
With both brothers cheered up, they continue to share the bottle of champagne and enjoy each other’s company. However, their plans of drinking and laughing the night away is interrupted. A huge bang comes from the kitchen. It startles the brothers at first but a minute goes by and they don’t hear anything. They look at each other, shrug, and were ready to joke around again. Suddenly, the bang got louder and repetitive. They slowly stand up and let the fear slowly seep into their bodies.
The loud sound keeps occurring and the brothers cautiously walk towards the kitchen to find where it’s coming from. They can see that it is coming from the large freezer. As they walk towards it, Jere grabs a rolling pin while Jon grabs the chopper’s knife for protection. Bracing themselves, Jere grabs the lock of the freezer and slowly opens it.
Inside they see a half naked man, huffing and grunting like a wild animal. His ebony skin is pale and his grey hair that could have been black is touched with frost. The man looks at the brothers with an inhuman snarl. His white teeth gleam as his soulless dark eyes pierce the brothers. The man lunges at them with amazing speed. The brothers try slamming the door but the man’s arms get caught. They flail wildly through the crack of the door while he hisses and growls. The brothers continue to struggle closing the door and the man lets out a roar as Jon slashes his right hand with the knife. That didn’t seem to stop him as his arms continue to flail out. His arms eventually go back into the freezer and the brothers lock the door. Without a second thought the brothers run out of the restaurant towards the building they are staying in.
They burst into their room, anxiously and slam the door. The two of them sit on their respective beds and take in what has just happened.
“What was that?!” Jon says, freaking out to his brother.
“I don’t know man!” Jere shouts out, fearfully and puts his head in his hands. He’s always the level-headed brother to his impulsive brother and he doesn’t have a logical answer to what they both saw. “There is no explanation for that!”
“Yeah there is.” Jon says starting to calm down a little bit. “That was a zombie.”
“A zombie?!” Jere looks up at his brother and shakes his head in disbelief. “Do you hear yourself? Zombies don’t exist!”
“Not according to the Online Conspiracy Theory Website. Now hear me out!” Jon yells before Jere can interrupt, Jon continues evenly. “He wasn’t affected by the cold from what I can see. He could not speak to us, he acted like an animal, he had inhuman speed and strength. I mean the both of us struggled to get that door closed again. He still puts up a hell of a fight even when I slashed his hand. What else could it be?”
Jere links his hands together and presses his chin to them. He tends to do this whenever he is thinking intensely. “Well in layman’s terms. The man has rabies. He was foaming at the mouth; true he can withstand cold but his brain is now plagued with the virus. It will cause an increase in adrenaline and therefore give what looks like supernatural speed and strength.”
“That’s all well and good but what about his eyes?” Jon asks. “You saw them too. They were completely lifeless. How do you explain that?”
Jere can give no answer to that. He lets out a sigh and shakes his head. “So now what do we do? I mean we both agree that whatever is wrong with him, he’s dangerous.”
“I don’t think we will find the answer tonight.” Jon says.
“You’re right.” Jere says. “We should take turns sleeping though. I don’t know if that man is the only one here and who knows what happens if he escapes.”
“Alright. I got first watch.” Jon says.
Jere doesn’t bother getting out of his clothes. He kicks off his shoes and crawls up to the head of the bed. After a few moments, Jere falls asleep while Jon settles for sitting on his bed and reading a book. The time seems so long and drags on yet Jon can’t think of any kind of solution about the man in the freezer. How they are going to get out of here? And most importantly, how is he going to protect his brother? Hopefully, they can come up with the answers soon.
The next morning, the brothers walk out of the apartment building and down the garden path towards the pool. They make their way to a small garden snack bar that would suffice as a place to eat some breakfast. Jere goes inside the kitchen to find some food while Jon looks around the bar to find something to drink. All he could find is cans of soda pop that look similar to ginger ale. So, he takes the pop cans and two glasses to the table. At the same time, Jere comes out of the kitchen with deep fried hash browns, various sandwich meats, and cut up fruits.
They both sit at the table and start eating when Jere pipes up. “So, I’ve been thinking. Remember back to our boy scout days? How we are supposed to get help if we are ever stranded somewhere?”
“Yeah.” Jon says taking a healthy bite out of the hash brown.
“We make a containable fire; I’m thinking right out in the middle of the first pool closest to the entrance. It’s like an island in the center so it will be easy to contain.” Jere says.
“Sounds good and I think we should write SOS and HELP on the beach, maybe put up some torches.” Jon puts in and Jere nods.
“Sounds good. We will get on that but I think we should check on that guy again.” Jere says.
“What? Why?” Jon says flabbergasted.
“Just to see if he is still alive, maybe I can assess him a little better.” Jere answers.
“Really? After he attacked us last night?”
“Jon, I’m a doctor. I made a promise to help the sick and do what I can.” Jere explains. “So please, will you come with me and just check on the guy?”
Reluctantly Jon nods at his brother. He doesn’t like the thought of going near that crazy guy but at the same time, if he is a person that’s in danger then as a human being, he must try to help him. It’s a lesson that their mother has instilled in both of them at a young age. They eat the rest of the food quietly and feel the dread slowly overtake them like the ticking timeclock that tells you the reaper is coming.
Cautiously, the brothers make their way to the kitchen. Jere grabs a rolling pin and Jon grabs a bottle of cooking wine just in case they need to protect themselves from the man again. Both men brace themselves as they slowly and quietly walk towards the freezer. A huge slam sounds out from the inside of that freezer and it has both brothers shout out in surprise. They back up with their chosen weapons in both hands as the freezer door gets slammed over and over again.
“I think he’s okay Jere.” Jon says. “I don’t think he needs our help.”
Another hard slam has Jere take a breath and shakily say. “Yeah. I think your right. Even if the man has rabies, you think he would knock himself out or get tired eventually.”
“This guy doesn’t sound tired. I’m telling you man. That’s a zombie in there.” Jon tells his brother.
Jere still doesn’t agree that the man is zombie but he knows that this man is too dangerous to treat without any proper medical supplies. “Whatever he is, there is nothing we can do for him right now.”
Jere’s face falls and Jon puts a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s get out of here. We will take some of this canned food and try to get some help. As soon as it arrives, we will do what we can for him then.”
Jere knows that his brother is right. There is nothing that he can do for that man. So, they put down their weapons, grab some canned food and resolve to find a way to get assistance.
That night, Jere and Jon sit in the back of the theater, going over the day’s events. They lit the bonfire in the middle of the pool area and nothing happened. They wrote SOS and HELP with their feet on the beach, torches included and nothing came of it even though they checked it on and off throughout the day. Now, with a bottle of rum in each of their hands, they sit and try to figure out what to do now.
“I don’t know what to do man.” Jere says to his brother.
“Me either.” Jon says. “I guess just keep doing what we are doing until we get help?”
Jere sighs and says, “Yeah I suppose. It has only been one day.” His face changes and suddenly gets more jovial. “But you know what? We are still on vacation, why don’t we go swimming in that ocean tomorrow?”
“Wow! My rational big brother is actually trying to make a bad situation into a good one?” Jon smiles up at his brother and clinks his bottle with his brothers. “Let’s do it.”
The brothers enjoying the night becomes short-lived when seven feral looking people burst through the set on the stage. The people look a lot like the man in the freezer. Jere and Jon scramble up after seeing them. These people are incoherent and unable to speak, they mindlessly destroy every object on the stage with an amazing strength that neither brother can understand. When they jump down from the stage, they swiftly start destroying the chairs and crawling their way towards the brothers.
Frightened, the two of them run towards the theater entrance, narrowly escaping the people. One of them grabs Jere’s leg. He kicks him over and over in the head but it didn’t even phase the man. Jon sees this and runs to grab his brother. He holds onto his arms and tries to pull his brother away from the feral man but that doesn’t help either. It isn’t until Jere grabs a rum bottle and hits the feral man in the eye. The bottle shatters in a million pieces and imbeds in the zombie’s face. The man lets go of Jere’s leg and he stumbles back towards his brother.
“Jere! Hurry!” Jon calls frantically. They both run around the corner and grab onto the gate.
The brothers manage to close the gate and lock it. Their attackers shriek in rage, climbing on top of each other, and still try to grab the two of them. They turn to run away but Jon finds himself being tackled by the man who was in the freezer. He starts biting at his face as Jon fights him off. With quick thinking, Jere grabs a shovel and hits the man hard on the head. The man gets off Jon but he has far from stopped. The man twists his body around and walks on his hands and feet with his back bent. In every fear-induced fiber in his body, Jere takes the shovel and decapitates the man.
Jere is completely shaken by what he had done but that changes as soon as he takes a closer look at the man’s body. He realizes that this man has decayed flesh on the back of his calves. It looks like it has been that way for weeks. And when he takes a closer look at the neck, Jere sees that a pink fluid coming out of it that smells surprisingly like formaldehyde. Jon runs up to his brother and puts his arm around him.
Jon pulls him away. “Jere lets get out of here!”
With that, Jere snaps out of it and runs out the entrance arch with his brother. The feral people scream out at them as they run into the night. The brothers run on the road and they stop to catch their breath. Jon looks ahead to see a lighthouse in the distance. Unable to speak, Jon taps Jere’s shoulder and points to the building. Jere looks to his brother and then to the lighthouse. He knows what he is trying to say and he nods in agreement with his brother. They stop running and start walking towards the lighthouse.
It takes a half-an-hour by the time they make it to the lighthouse. The two of them stop at the doorway but they are too exhausted to go any further. They sit up against the front door and wind up passing out.
The next morning, Jere wakes up to a beautiful bright blue sky. He takes a deep breath in and finds himself ready to take on the day. Jon is sleeping next to him and Jere gives him a gentle nudge to wake him up. Jon groggily wipes his face and looks out to the blue sky. He gives a little smile, happy to see something beautiful after a long night of fear.
Jere finally says to him. “I’m sorry Bro.”
“For what?” Jon gives him a confused look.
“You were right.” Jere says. “That was a zombie.”
“What convinced you?” Jon asks.
“When I cut off that man’s head, I saw what he really was.” Jere explains. “He had decayed skin on his legs but that’s not all. A fluid pours out of his neck and it wasn’t blood. It was pink and smelled really odd. Upon seeing it, I realized that it was embalming fluid. That man was dead. So, I admit it. He was a zombie and so were the others.”
“So, what do we do now?” Jon asks looking to his brother.
“Like our boy scout days. Search the place and see what we can find out about the area.” Jere explains. “If there is food and how we can get out of here.”
“Let’s do it, Bro!” Jon says and smiles at his brother.
They both get up and resolve to find a way home. They realize that they are in a small market place with a few roads and bright colored buildings. They walk towards a big sidewalk where there is a cannon sitting off to the side. They both can’t help but get a kick out of that but Jon looks forward, taps his brother’s shoulder, and points to a pirate ship. The brothers walk towards it and look at it. It has a fake moat around it so it is obvious that they can’t go on it. It is still a beautiful ship, especially with the half-naked mermaid at the mass. They stand there admiring it for several minutes.
“As cool as this is, we should go find a general store or something.” Jere says and Jon knows he is right.
They walk away from the ship and find a general store that is locked. Jon takes his lock pick out of his jacket pocket and starts tinkering with the lock.
“You brought your lock picks on vacation?” Jere asks shaking his head at him.
“Yeah, you never know when you’ll need them.” Jon says. “It’s fine, they were in my suitcase.”
“So, you never got out of your Harriet the spy phase?” Jere chuckles.
“It’s James Bond and I can still be him one day.” Jon argues humorously.
Jere continues to snicker while Jon works on the lock. In a minute, the door pops open and the brothers go inside. It is a small simple place with snacks on a shelf, cold beverages in the fridge, and ice cream in the freezer. There is also a long counter with a till on it, advertising Cuban cigars. Jere goes behind the counter while Jon looks at the snacks. He picks up a giant pizza pringles can and opens it to start feasting on it.
“Hey Jon!” Jere calls over from the back of the till. “I found something! Come here!”
Jon grabs another pizza pringle can to bring it to Jere and walks to the till. Jere pulls out a poster that has a large boat on the picture and a woman toasting a cocktail. The words on the poster says, “Ven a disfrutar de un paseo en catamarán en el océano.” Jon gives Jere the can of pizza pringles and he begins to eat them.
“Okay so here is what I am thinking.” Jere says. “We go here and we can get a boat to get out of here. We can go to Florida and make our way back home.”
“What about money and passports?” Jon says. “We left those at the resort remember?”
“I know but lets worry about this first. The biggest thing right now is to get the hell out of here where all the zombies are.” Jere says.
Jon knows that money and passports are not worth their lives. He looks down at the address. “This is where we have to go. We need a GPS or a map.”
“Yeah, I found one.” Jere says and puts a large map of Cuba on the counter. “Now what’s that address?”
The two men pour through the map and the poster. Jere takes a quick break to grab out a couple of orange juice bottles for them.
“Okay,” Jere begins. “Here’s what I’m thinking. We head to the dock and find a boat to get out of Cuba.”
“How do we get there though?” Jon asks but an idea pops in his head and he snaps his fingers. “Oh! When we walked here last night, I saw these classic cars just sitting there. Now you know, how much I love cars like that. So we can help ourselves to one there and get to this marina.”
Jere nods his head in agreement. “Lets do this.”
With that, the brothers make their way to the parking lot. A row of classic cars lined up as if they were all ready to get off the lot. Jere and Jon choose the first green car they see and jump inside. When Jon finds the car keys under the visor, he smiles and shows Jere the keys before putting them in the ignition. With the turn of the key and a gentle pushing of the ancient clutch, the brothers start driving the car down the road.
An hour later they make it to the Cayo Blanco Marina. What they see is a pleasant surprise. A young woman is leading people onto a catamaran boat. The brothers jump out of the car and run towards the group.
“Hey!” Jere calls out to the woman and immediately gets her attention. “Please wait! We need your help!”
“Yes!” She calls out and runs to meet the brothers half way. “I see that!”
The three of them meet up and the brothers explain to her what has happened to them. The woman listens carefully and pats their arms in a friendly manner. “Don’t worry. You’re safe now. These people are tourists just like you. We are sailing towards Florida and will be able to get you home from there.”
“Even without our passports?” Jere asks.
“Yes but you will have to talk to the Canadian Ambassy. They can help you with that.” She explains. “Now there’s no time to waste. We are in the middle of an epidemic, so climb aboard.”
“Epidemic?” Jon asks.
“Surely you noticed the zombies?” She asks snidely as she already knows their story. “Come on now. Lets get you two on the boat.”
Not bothering to argue the brothers follow the rest of the passangers and the woman onto the catamaran. In no time at all, the boat rides off into the water. The brothers see a whole group of people around a bar waiting for cocktails. The brothers follow the crowd and get a cocktail. It is a blue and purple concotion that tastes better than they could have imagined it. As soon as the brothers turn away, the woman stands on a bench to make an announcement.
“Alright everyone. We are on our way to Florida.” She burst out waving her other arm. “I’m very sorry that this epidemic has hit us but I promise you, we will get you all to safety. In the meantime, I don’t see why we can’t enjoy our time on the catamaran.” She turns to the captain driving the boat and says. “Maestro if you please.”
Dance music starts to play loudly over speakers and people joyfully start dancing to it. The brothers shout loudly at it and join the crowd in the dance. The day seems to fly by with music and drinks.
After a few hours on the catamaran, Jere looks out to the water. It is so calm and peaceful but questions keep nagging him. Is this zombie epidemic happening elsewhere? If so what are they going to do about it? That’s when Jon brings him back another drink and sits beside him.
Jon notices that his brother looks very pensive as he passes him his drink. “What’s on your mind Bro?”
“I’m just wondering if this is happening anywhere else. I mean are we really safe Jon?” Jere asks looking to his brother for some kind of hope.
“I don’t know but I do know this.” Jon says playfully nudging his brother. “This is the best vacation we could ask for.” When his brother shoots him an amazed look, Jon continues. “I mean think about it. We got to hang out in an amazing resort, got to drive a classic car, and now we are on a party boat sailing away into the horizon. I mean that’s a hell of a story we get to tell.”
“That’s true.” Jere says as he smiles at his brother. “And look out there. We get to see a show.”
Jere points at the two dolphins that swim up next to the catamaran, to delight of the passengers. Everyone starts cheering them on as the beautiful mammals jump and flip in the air. The brothers watch the dolphins with marvel and suddenly, Jere finds his hope renewed.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” Jere says to his brother.
Sure, there is zombie epidemic threatening but, in the end, he’s not alone. He’s got his brother Jon and they will be home soon. And let’s face it, Jon is right, this has been an incredible adventure. There is always something to smile about and everything turns out alright.
Special Thanks to:
Playa Cayo Santa Maria : For a beautiful stay that we will never forget. https://www.hotelplayacayosantamaria.com/en/
The Sunwing Sun Cruise Catamaran Tour: For a fabulous tour and the dolphin show. https://www.sunwing.ca/en/things-to-do/cuba/cayo-santa-maria/sun-cruise-catamaran-tour