To put things in perspective:
Zeke 1 had arrived at the Georgetown University Emergency hospital at 9:45 PM. By 10:05 Detective Wes Harrison had ventilated the first Zeke in the western hemisphere. At the same time, Zeke 2 had risen in the ER ward and bitten a nurse. Oh screw it, all hell broke loose just then and there…
It was now 11:00 PM just 1 hour into The Great Panic and its name was making sense already. The hospital was burning on at least 3 floors. 15 Metro Cops went inside the building, along with a dozen firefighters. The parking lot was a parade of emergency vehicles. Zekes were swarming most of the floors, penetrating the stairwells and cutting off all exits even though they sought to break out of the building and onto the university campus. The Zekes’ lack of cognition was the only thing preventing a swarm of over 100 from pushing through the egresses available to them.
Several Zekes had left the building though. One spectacularly went through a 3rd floor window while tackling a doctor. The bite was in-flight and the Zeke and his victim, along with an immediate bystander made 3 loose in the parking lot. This scattered all the faint hearted about 10 minutes ago. Where did those 3 Zekes go? Everywhere! It was later calculated that a simple equation could predict the spread of the infection and coined the “doubling rate”, the amount of time it would take the the number of Zekes to double.
If a single Zeke entered a location with any number of people, the doubling rate was based on the standard and predictable behavior patterns of human beings in a crisis. First, the Zeke would surprise everyone equally. Regardless of what information the humans had, the appearance of the Zeke would shock everyone. There were two ways this happened. One, if no one knew anything, perhaps if the gathering was at a restaurant and a Zeke crashed through the front door or plate glass window, 90% of the witnesses would freeze and do nothing for a few seconds. That was all the Zeke needed to bite the nearest person. Two, if everyone knew about the Zekes coming to get them, the mere appearance of the Zeke would still freeze enough people for victim 1 to be infected. So the outcome is the same.
Next thing that happens is interesting. Once the first person is infected, and the shock wears off, about 50% of the people will panic and tend to run in the opposite direction of the zombie. This would cause an immediate reduction in the opportunity to escape in an organized fashion. The rest of the witnesses would break down as follows: 25% would flee in a different direction, reacting to the other half who barred their own exits, 10% would stare in paralysis and be unable to cognitively assess the situation, another 10% would go into hero mode and attempt a variety of approaches to mitigate the event, and the rest would be somehow related to the first victim.
So let’s do the math as we scale up the epidemic:
A Zeke enters a room with 5 humans.
The Zeke has a 100% chance to bite the first person.
That leaves 4 witnesses, 2 will flee successfully – for the time being, from this location
1 will be related to the first victim and stay to see what happens to their friend or loved one
While 1 will stay and try and mitigate the situation.
The 2 that did not run will most likely get bitten since the Zeke can bite and reload within seconds, and the first victim will be turned in just a few minutes. Either way, a room of 5 turns into 2-3 Zekes pretty fast.
This scenario was happening all over the hospital for 1 hour now. Three Zekes had doubled every few minutes now into its 6th order. Making nearly 200 Zekes and over 50% of the entire hospital population. Additionally, our 3 loose parking lot Zekes were now off into the campus residential area and had been biting students for 10 minutes, doubling twice already. At this point, the first responders were only starting to get their story straight and understand the gravity of this event. The communication channels were filled with unverified and unintelligible chatter. No one had a definitive order on what to do. “Fall back and form a perimeter, 4 blocks from here in all directions.” Captain John Mercer barked into the radio in his squad car. “Form a quarantine line. Get CDC and all other agencies on the line immediately,” Mercer started rattling off, “Get the National Guard, get the fucking FBI and the fucking Army on the line. We have lost control here, we do not know what we are dealing with!”
As he released the transceiver button the lobby of the hospital filled with Zekes, he could see them through the glass facade. It was a swarm of about 25. More than his total unit in the parking lot. “Pull back now! Make Wisconsin and Reservoir the staging area. Stop all traffic entering this area.” He shouted back into the radio while his voice carried to the 4 officers near the emergency room carport overhang. Then it happened, the Zekes pushed through the swinging doors and hit the night air. The 4 front line cops screamed for them to stop and drew their sidearms. They fired in panic, they fired in vain. Mercer saw it now, first hand, and his Sunday School days and talk of the Apocalypse flashed before him.
He saw the infected, most in hospital johnnies or white uniforms, run at NFL linebacker speed, and hit with equal force. Women, sick old men, children, all swarming and sprinting toward any human. They were running them down like wounded prey. Mercer thought of Harrison and his final warning. “Sonofabitch Harrison.” He muttered and closed his squad car door. He saw them coming for him as he sped off, clipping an ambulance and taking out his left side headlight.
Wisconsin Avenue was 4 long blocks down Reservoir Road. That abutted the main campus and had dozens of dormitory residences. As Mercer sped by, people were entering the street and forming standby crowds. The horror these people would face in the next hour was indescribable. This was ground zero and they were the first ripple of death. There were 2 other cruisers with Mercer and he told them to stop, one on each side of the street and blockade the whole road. “Get out and order those people back into their homes, lock the doors, the whole shit tell them. You have less then 5 minutes!” he said into the radio. Mercer then slowed down, flipped on his PA and started warning people to evacuate on foot immediately.
As he got farther away, he thought of a staged evacuation. People too close had no time, best for them to barricade themselves inside. Others, with some time could just flee on foot to yet-to-be-set-up shelters. He could see a plan developing. Too bad the people were not listening. He slowed to a crawl and repeated, over and over, for them to evacuate. “Just follow me to Wisconsin Avenue, we have shelters there.” He started as some people paid attention. “Please, everyone, there is no time to return home for any items. Just head over to Wisconsin Avenue now!” Only a handful followed him. Many stayed to watch the smoke and flames rise from the hospital, some ran home to collect items or just put on the TV.
That was the irony with The Great Panic, people didn’t panic enough.