Prologue

Billions died in less than twenty-four hours.

William Price was one of the first.

Price had been out of bed for less than ten minutes when it began. He had been standing in the kitchen when he'd felt the first pains. By the time he'd reached his wife in the living room he was almost dead.

The virus caused the lining of his throat to dry and then to swell at a remarkable rate. Less than forty seconds after initial infection the swelling had blocked his windpipe. As he fought for air the swellings began to split and bleed. He began to choke on the blood running down the inside of his trachea.

Price's wife tried to help him, but all she could do was catch him when he fell to the ground. For a fraction of a second she was aware of his body beginning to spasm but by that point she had also been infected. By that point the volume of oxygen reaching her lungs had reduced to less than ten per cent of her normal oxygen requirement.

Less than four minutes after Price's initial infection he was dead. Thirty seconds later and his wife was dead too. A further minute and the entire street was silent.

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