Anderson Atlas YA novelist and illustrator

Anderson Atlas is an author and illustrator in Arizona

I’m an author / illustrator and have been since I was a wee babe. My days consist of sitting around the fire, recounting epics of giants and hidden fairies while exploring the sacred mountains east of the moors. I’ve crossed the forbidden boundaries, explored the dark dungeons, and returned to tell the tales.

The Last Virus: Fools’ Apocalypse Chapter 1 Preview

The Last Virus - Fool's Apocalypse part 1

Fools' Apocalypse

The Last Virus

     Six people were conned by a madman. Not for riches, not for fame but used to kill the world, to reset the human race. Something else happens, something unexpected. The dead rise. Was this planned by the mastermind, Zilla? Or was he caught off guard? 

      The six horsemen survive, only to fight the parasitically infected as well as their own guilt.

      Can they make things right? Can they find the true murderer? Or die at the hands of the thousands of undead. 


The Examiner Blogger

And the Wind Will Carry Us Away
Post Date: June 16, 2019

This is my last blog. I’ve brought you breaking news and government scandals for years, so you know I speak the truth.

The world as we know it will be gone in a matter of days. Last night, June 15, 2019, at 8:00 PM EDST, the president, members of his cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, leaders of both houses of Congress, the governor of New York, the mayor of New York City, along with federal and state law enforcement, issued a joint National Terrorism Advisory System (NATS) Alert of Imminent Threat. This alert is a genuine, Red-Label Level-5–the highest there is for public issue–and nobody is saying when or if it will end.

The reason for this NATS alert is a viral outbreak on the island of Manhattan.

The Department of Homeland Security Containment Plan was immediately set in motion for the Manhattan, giving local authorities no time to advise citizens of the specific dangers and how individuals should protect their families and themselves.

Minutes after the alert was issued, elements of the military and homeland security acted to forcibly quarantine over 10 million people, bombing bridges, flooding subways, sinking private yachts, and filling the Hudson River with destroyers and heavily armed Coast Guard patrol boats. Rumors of martial law being declared are rampant. No declaration from the president or congress has been made as of this writing.

Now, the news rags are saying the CDC issued a bulletin, advising citizens to remain calm because the virus is non-lethal.

Other sources are saying the Containment Plan, unofficially known as “Operation Forty Days” stopped a deadly virus from escaping the island, tacitly blaming the CDC for “underestimating the virulence” of the disease as the reason for not allowing anyone, including medical and rescue personnel, into Manhattan.

Yes, once again, the “mainstream” news rags, parroting the official Homeland Security line, are reporting the containment has worked, the situation on Manhattan Island is “fully under control.”

They spew lies.

This morning, I left my Long Beach home to get close to the containment line and was shocked to see both the Hudson River and the Lower Bay vacant of Navy and Coast Guard vessels. No New York National Guard personnel, active duty Army, Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard are manning any sort of containment line. They’ve cleared out completely.

And now I am sick with the virus. It’s in every nerve, and my body is breaking down into a sickening mush. This contagion is clearly lethal, the mechanisms it uses to spread and reproduce are unknown. No information regarding efforts to stop the spread, create a vaccine, or medical strategies for treating the sick has been issued to the citizens of Manhattan.

I fear for the future of humanity, and for myself. Darkness lingers in the corners of my vision. I am without hope.

Chapter 1

Ian Gladstone:

Soldier in the Making

The world is forever changing, that’s what it’s good at, so be a part of that change. That is the takeaway from the graduation speech. Ian Gladstone is in the front row, in cap and gown, trying to think past cheeky colloquialisms and motivational dribble to see if the speech applies to him. Post eye roll, Ian’s eyes land on a shadowy figure hiding in an exit nook, just out of the warm yellow light from the stage. Normally, this wouldn’t stop Ian’s rather rapid thought process, but he’s seen this silhouette before. Black trench coat, a cliché fedora, black gloves. Some creep wanna be from a bad nineteen-twenty’s movie is following me.

The speech ends and the parade of graduates begins. But as the minutes pass, Ian’s uneasiness grows. Who is this bastard? What the hell does he want with me? However meaningful the ceremony is meant to be, Ian misses it and when his name is called, he misses that, too.

A classmate nudges Ian, knocking from his cap a carefully placed curl of jet-black, neatly trimmed hair. He tucks the hair away and speeds up the steps to accept his master’s degree. He glances to the exit nook, but the figure is gone.

Ian rushes off stage and grabs his briefcase. He doesn’t notice the three-hundred-dollar flower arrangements, the gold trim on his professor’s gown, or the bright-eyed alumni in the crowd. The image of the man in the nook is burned in his minds eye.

He must be singling me out because of Mother. She’s the public figure, after all. However, she isn’t around, can’t be bothered to show up for the ceremony. No, that shady jerk was watching me. I’m gonna kick his ass the next time I see him. I swear to god. 

Today is a big day and time is tight, thanks to dragged-out stupid ceremonies. Ian can’t worry too much about a creepy fanboy. He shakes off his paranoia and pulls out his phone. He texts his mother as he waves down a cab. He fires off a text to the Senate staff assistant and the event coordinator his revised time frame all in the few seconds between standing, sitting and door closing. He was good at his job.

“Webster Hall,” Ian says to the driver.

“Webster Hall, here we comin’,” the driver responds. “That be the famous Queen Anne-style theater that gave birth to labor union rallies, weddings, dances, and lectures. Hell of a landmark. What happenin’ there tonight?”

“My mother is Senator Gladstone. Going to win re-election tonight. I’m sure you heard of her.”

“Hell yeah. How’s it being the son of the most powerful woman in the legislature?”

“Fine. Listen, I’m my mother’s campaign coordinator and speech writer and I’m the reason she’s won election after election since I was fifteen. You heard that right. I told her her rallies were boring and she listened. Now, I need to make her speech tonight not suck so if you don’t mind.”

“Sorry ta bother ya. I could tell you’re important. I know the drill.”

The cab slowly pushes through heavy traffic, allowing Ian to tighten up his mother’s acceptance speech. He’s a good writer, knows the right words to say, and can bring about shouting as easily as tears. The trick is to know how to blend lies with the truth in order to paint the most powerful story into people’s minds—just remember to be fact-check proof, too.

Ian pays the driver, tips heavily as always then gets out of the cab. He pauses, waiting for traffic to clear before heading across the street to Webster Hall.

Thunder rolls overhead.

Webster Hall has a redbrick façade and its weather-stained marquee is as old as the city itself, but that’s the charm. You can miss it, if not paying attention. Quite a symbolic place for an acceptance speech, paying homage to the working class and immigrants in the Lower East Side neighborhood. Now it’s a bumping nightclub and concert hall but still fills with blue collars most nights. 

A man in a dark suit steps in front of Ian.

“Excuse me,” Ian says, trying to swerve around the man. He stops short. Is this the creep?

The stranger’s skin is deep tan, glasses mirrored and hair cut short.  Not the dark figure that had been tailing him. “Walk with me a moment, Ian Gladstone.” The man turns Ian’s shoulder forcefully, and the two head away from the theater.

“You been following me?”

“Following? That’s a bit egocentric, don’t you think? I don’t care about you or your silly speeches. I want your mother. You could have a bright future ahead if you cut that anchor.” He didn’t waste time. “Your mother got the virus, son.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Ian flushes with irritation smoldering into anger. “I’ve got shit to do, man.”

“Not a real virus. A mind virus. She’s clinging to a romanticized idea that authoritarian power can solve everyone’s problems. And because of your mother’s wandering eye and greedy hands, she’s getting into trouble. Her  playing with the wrong people will set her up her to spend twenty years in federal prison. Did she ever talk about someone named Zilla?”

Ian stops dead in his tracks.

The man continues to walk but turns. “Don’t be a fool, Ian. Get your mother to turn herself in and we’ll go easy on her. Otherwise, she’ll go down as a traitor as will this Zilla person. They’re messing with fire, Ian. Don’t you get burned. I’ll be in touch.” He turns and walks off.

The anger in Ian’s chest vanishes, replaced by stabbing fear in his stomach. Who is Zilla?

Ian finishes editing his mother’s acceptance speech, albeit distracted and confused. He helps coordinate the team setting up the decorations in Webster Hall, verifies street closure and press pool area, and makes sure the food and wine are being handled. He checks the polls, but they’re handsomely in his mother’s favor, no worry there, so he goes home to wait until evening.

Time falls off the clock like tumbling bricks, but eventually, the polls close, his mother’s success is announced. Ian feels no relief. His mind searches, thinks, uncovering suppressed memories, ignored emotions. The human brain loves patterns. It also notices breaks in those patterns. Is she really in trouble? Or was that guy trying to scare me?

Ian’s mother, not shy about talking on the phone around anyone, had begun to shush her conversations when Ian entered the room. She went places at night, alone, and had been increasingly stressed this election—though it was a landslide.

Circumstantial. Ian shuts the worry off like a leaky hose bib, dresses in his most expensive tux and rushes off to go celebrate his mother’s success.

The limo drops Ian off at Webster Hall amid a hundred reporters and fans. There will be some pop stars in attendance tonight, and some deep pockets.

The music thumps the walls, the wine and liquor flow, and the balloons eventually drop. Flower bouquets crowd the stage, and the backdrop is a huge American Flag. It reminds Ian of his graduation ceremony, one he barely had the time to enjoy, let alone share with his mother. He’s here for her, but not the other way around. Ian is bothered by that fact more than he initially thought. Is she that selfish? Could she be breaking election rules to get ahead? Mingling with someone named Zilla? Sounds like Godzilla. Obviously, some fool with an ego the size of the Asian continent. If she’s in deep, it won’t be just her career that ends, it will be mine.

Minutes before midnight Ian leaves the celebration with his mother. She’s drunk, her eyes red, her sway pronounced.

Ian didn’t have a drop. He shifts nervously, never having confronted his mother before but finally spits out, “I was approached by some guy that looked like a Fed.”

His mother sits up. Her blue satin dress shifted; the carnation pinned to her dress falling to the dirty limo floor. “Intimidation. Those filthy Republicans.”

“Are you in trouble? You have to tell me.”

“Pffff,” she says. “You know how the shitheads play. It’s all fucking lies. Don’t worry about a thing.”

Ian helps his mother to her room and lays her on the bed, stripping her shoes off and tucking her feet under the sheets. “Goodnight, Mother.” He leaves a glass of water next to four ibuprofens on the nightstand and heads to the balcony to smoke. Something doesn’t feel right. She’s not acting like herself. First off, she doesn’t cuss and secondly, she had popped some pills earlier that Ian had never seen her take before.

The night glows of streetlights and backlit windows. Cars zip by, zipping through shallow puddles noisily unfazed by the late hour.

Halfway through the cigarette, the fed steps from a black SUV parked across the street. He stands in the middle of the road, looks up, puffing on his own cigarette.

Ian heads downstairs, out the front door, and to the sidewalk.

“Who are you? What agency are you with?”

“FBI.” The man pulls out a badge and holds it up, but it’s too dark to see. “Are you going to help your mother?”

“By turning her in? Are you fucking serious?” Ian shakes. He’s afraid, but trapped.

“Make a deal with us. Tell us everything you know and she’ll get a slap on the hand and your career will not get hit. Win-win.”

“Nothing’s win-win.”

The fed hands Ian his card, tosses his smoke onto the road, and smashes it. His foot twists and twists until the butt is nothing but filament. He leaves.

Ian paces on the sidewalk. The more he thinks about it, the more he knows his mother is doing something illegal. She’s tied into something, justifying what she’s doing, and a heartbeat from getting caught. I can try and dig it out of her. No. She’d never give into my pestering. She’s too stubborn.

Ian can’t sleep. He smokes, tries to watch TV, tries to exercise, but it’s all too much. Every minute that passes feels like an eternity, and every breath inflates his resolve to confront her about what she’s into.

At four in the morning, Ian hears the back door slide open. His mother, still in her blue cocktail dress, no shoes, slips outside with a large black briefcase and a shovel. She digs a hole under the rose bushes, quickly, and buries the case. She tries to fix the grass so it looks untouched. She fails.

She returns to the house and takes a shower.

Ian slips out of the shadows he’d hid in and digs the case up and opens it with a screwdriver, revealing stacks of documents and a dozen USB drives. “Of fucking course. What the hell else would be in here?” He mumbles, reflecting on the fact that his parents were filthy rich and didn’t need any money let alone an amount that could fill a small briefcase. He flipped through the documents. Missile designs. “Jesus. Selling defense secrets? Why? It’s not like we need the cash, mom,” he mumbles, sweat trickling down his forehead. Ian stands and turns just as his mother steps outside. Her hair is wrapped in a purple towel, another one around her body.  

She doesn’t say a word.

Ian tips up the briefcase and dumps out the papers and memory chips. The prints flutter to the damp grass. “Who’s Zilla? And what the hell are you doing for him?”

She stiffens like a statue, her eyes dark in her pill-drunk state. “You can’t tell anyone about this or about Zilla. I’m sorry you heard his name,” she says, stifling tears. “I tried to keep my conversations out of earshot.”

She doesn’t know the Feds are talking to me. “What did you do?” Ian yells. “Are you taking me down, too? Your own son?”

She shakes her head–because she was at the top of the steps she looks down on Ian. “The less you know the better. So stop snooping.” She whips around heading inside but pauses. “Pick all of that up and rebury it. Do it quickly.” She stomps upstairs without another glance back.

Ian doesn’t bury the case. He sets it on the breakfast table, shedding dirt on the table mats. I can’t go to jail. She won’t take me down with her, will she? He makes a cappuccino and, while steaming the milk, slips his hand in the pocket of his slacks, thumbing the Fed’s business card. All Ian can do is sit at the breakfast table and think.

He has seen some unusual activity. Strange meetings, large bills. Last year, Lester Comings of the New York Post, was found shot in the back near Central Park the very day he dared to ask questions beyond what Senator Gladstone agreed to answer. Could my mother Have had something to do with his death? It was never Ian’s place to ask about inconsistencies or discrete meetings, so he never did. But as his mind unwraps memories suppressed, he realizes how many secrets his mother is keeping and there are many.

As six rolls around, the doorbell rings. Ian pulls his exhausted body off the chair and slogs to the front door. He’s so tired but vibrating with an alien weight hanging on his shoulders. He swings the massive, red, oak door open, letting a massage therapist inside—the therapist knows where to go, lugging his table and bag to the stairs.

“You’re here early,” Ian snaps.

“So are you.”

Ian would normally retort with an equally vitriolic statement but he’s too tired.

His mother startled him, standing at the top of the stairs. “You’re done. I’ll be replacing you as of today.” She spun on her heels after the massage therapist lumbered past her, following him into her bed room.

Ian swelled with anger. “She’s fucking up my career too. God damn her.”

The world is a strange place. People are strange, but like animals, self-preservation is the number one rule. Ian dials the FBI and steps onto the porch. “I’ll tell you everything I know.”

A dozen agents arrive in minutes. They interrupt the massage, take the documents and USB drives, and haul the newly reelected senator out the front door. She’s not mad. Sadness fills her eyes, streams down her cheeks, but her jaw is locked tight.


She’s indicted on half a dozen charges including racketeering, perjury, conspiracy to sell Department of Defense trade secrets and others.

Ian moves out of his home, an order from his enraged father, though regret fills his heart, growing over the ventricle like a killer octopus.

Mrs. Gladstone pays the million-dollar bail and returns home to await trial.

Ian can’t stay away. He has to see her, to apologize and admit his act of preservation was the most selfish thing he’s ever done.

“Mom!” Ian calls out as he pushes inside the mansion.

“In bed,” she responds.

She stands in her bedroom doorway, wearing red silk pajamas. Ian notices how thin she looks, how her top sits on her bony shoulders like she’d forgotten to take out the hanger.

“I’m sorry,” Ian mumbles. “For turning you in. You fired me. I was oissed that you were betraying us, this city…this country.I-I couldn’t flush my life down the shitter.”

She motions him through the door and closes it. “I understand. I brought you up to follow the law. Drink this.” She hands him a scotch on the rocks.

Ian downs the drink in one gulp. “I feel like shit.”

She sits on the bed. “You should.” She breathes deep. “There’s one thing you don’t understand. The rules are bent out of shape. They’re like an airline wreck, just a mess. I broke them to gain the power to fix them. But I see my folly. Humanity is a caterpillar begging to cocoon and hatch into a butterfly. The whole system must be destroyed in order for a new one to emerge. Fighting from the inside of the system is futile.”

Ian listens. Shocked at the revelations. He never heard the skeletons in her closet rattle, but someone heard their seductive whispers.

“You are going to hear things about me tomorrow or the next day. The news will break that I transferred classified satellite defense documents to the Chinese government.”

Ian knows that part is true but the ‘why’ still confuses him. “Who is Zilla?”

“The truth is vastly more complicated.” She shifts her eyes away, looking out the window.

“What’s really going on then?”

She refills his tumbler and her own. They drink. Her eyes flutter. She’s pale, skin and bones. “I will lose this fight because the right-wing military industrialists powers are too strong. I must pass the torch to you now.”

“Wait a second.” Ian sets the glass on the nightstand among dozens of photos of him with her, from his newborn pictures to now.

She turns Ian’s face so he can look into her eyes. “Take the torch and run with it. We’re close to changing the system, so close. Don’t distract yourself with anything. Not girls, drugs, or greed. The system has cracks, so use them to smash the walls to bits.” Her eyes roll and she sways. “The powerful need to be checked. They are the future thieves, your future. Someone must stop them.”

“You’re stinking drunk.” The booze was certainly going straight to his head. “I guess I can’t blame you.”

She collapses, folding into the down comforter like a stone.

“Jesus, what’s wrong?” Ian touches her arm, then her forehead. Clammy.

“I love you. I’ll be watching. Go make me proud and don’t feel sorry for me. This is okay. I will never go to jail. Not ever. Zilla will contact you. Trust him.”

What’s going on? I’m calling the ambulance. You look terrible.”

Her grip tightens on his arm. His heart pounds and swells. Dizziness rolls through his brain as his veins flood with molten lava. The room darkens like shadows closing in. She pulls him down and hugs him hard. Ian pulls away, crying. “I need to get help,” he slurs.

“I remember you as a baby, and a boy. I remember your first bike, your broken arm, when you were at my swearing-in ceremony. . . I’m sorry I missed your graduation ceremony. Master’s is a huge step up.” 

Ian climbs off her bed, feeling as if someone had strapped bricks to his chest. “Phone, Mother! Fuck!” He pulls his phone from his pocket, swipes the screen open, and tries to focus on the icons. They’re blurry and swimming over the screen. Ian moves toward the door but can’t pick his foot up off the carpet.

Her voice softens to a whisper.

Ian falls to his knees and struggles toward the door. “Mother! What ju-do to me?” he says, slurring.

“I love you and I forgive you. Take my torch,” she says, over and over. “Trust Zilla.”

Ian turns back to her, then loses all sensations before crumpling to the plush carpet.

She dies in her bed, sixty years escaping in one last breath.


Initially, the press had thrown Senator Gladstone under the bus. Shockingly, the reports took on a gentler voice after her suicide. She left a twenty-page document expounding her innocence, and her loyal community believed every word.

Ian knew she was into something with this Zilla guy but tried to remain open-minded until finding out exactly what Zilla was about. He knew his mother. She wasn’t evil in any way, mix ed up maybe but not evil.

The more he played back the events in his head the more he realized he should not have turned her in. She had only fired him to keep his ass clean. He should have trusted her, listened to her, insisted she tell him the truth.

Zilla contacted Ian six months later through email. The note was simple: a generic greeting, a dozen dates and locations. Never said Zilla but Ian knew it was him.

The list was a sort of itinerary. Ian couldn’t resist and followed it to the letter.

He found himself tumbling through chaotic, backroom political rallies, self-avowed communist organizations, and unsavory, less-than-legitimate activist groups.

He let his hair grow long and forgot about suits and campaigns. Growing in his darkening heart was the desire to come at society from behind.



One year to the date, Ian gets an email from Zilla.

I can see you want to be a part of the change, Ian. Real change. Like your mother wanted. The email reads. I have a tough job only you can accomplish. Are you willing to get your hands dirty?

Ian smiles. “Hell yeah.”