Thursday, September 30, 2010

What is "Area 187"?

(Image Copyright Laura Conkle)

In 2007, an accident at a clandestine U.S. government facility in rural West Virginia released several test subjects infected with a highly contagious, necrotic virus. In an effort to maintain the secrecy of the project and prevent widespread panic, government operatives, military units and private forces are sent into Appalachia with orders to quietly eliminate all traces of the infected subjects, including “secondary infections”. The fiercely independent, close-knit nature of the people and the rough, isolated hills and deep hollows work against them, giving the virus a small yet strong pool of victims, spreading through the rural populace faster than its carriers can be found and destroyed. Whole extended families succumb to the growing undead tide as the loved ones they try to care for turn on them. In a matter of days, the virus is carried throughout southern and central West Virginia as the dead spread through the hills and into first the small mountain communities.

The rapidly-failing government conspiracy leaves no room for warning the populace of the coming zombie hordes or preparing civil services and medical personnel. Rural doctors and the small, ill-equipped regional hospitals that dot countryside rush the newly-infected to hospitals in the more heavily-populated areas of the state, inadvertently sending the virus biting and clawing into tens of thousands more. Days later the virus appears in northern Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania, forcing the declaration of marshal law in the affected states. Thousands of soldiers are lost as the military attempts to regain control of the region, their training in conventional warfare failing dramatically against their unconventional enemy. Within three weeks of the initial outbreak, the federal government and the Department of Homeland Security are forced to publicly announce the crisis. The bulk West Virginia and slices of Virginia and Pennsylvania are placed under strict quarantine. Ground forces are gathered and pulled back, creating defensive lines and temporary blockades as they retreat to the outer edges of the quaratine while the few heavily-populated cities in the state and other "key" targets are leveled from the air. Eventually, the defensive lines are fortified and nothing is allowed in or out, damning those missed in the short period of evacuations to a living hell and locking away the real truth of the virus’ creation.

Publicly announcing fears that the virus could be used to create the ultimate terrorist weapon, the United States government transfers the responsibility of maintaining the quarantine from the military to the Department of Homeland Security, which christens it “Area 187”. Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits and claims are dismissed under Homeland’s broad anti-terror legislation as government and military leaders and the research and development corporations involved in the development of the virus scramble to cover their involvement in the original project, distancing their investors and reelection campaigns from the large chunk of the continental United States now ruled by the dead.

Years pass. Homeland Security develops and enforces a total news blackout on all things Area 187. Dozens of laws are passed granting sweeping authority to maintain the security of the Area using whatever means Homeland deems fit. Like so many disasters before it, the American people grow tired of hearing the stories of those that escaped and of those that were left behind and of seeing the horrifying, shambling dead on the evening news. And while they continue donate to survivor causes and celebrate the additional day off from work each year, most have become more than willing to move on and allow the government to retake the Area on their own time table. Conspiracies continue to thrive outside the now-immense defensive wall and mercenaries known as “grave robbers” regularly slip in and out of the Area, stealing valuables and taking contracts to bring back specific items for well-paying customers.

Our story begins in the year 2014, seven years after the creation of the undead land the world has moved on, though it keeps a watchful eye on the chunk of the United States ruled by the dead. America itself has more or less made its peace with the Area, and even those in its neighboring states have done their best to forget it exists. Homeland Security and the federal government use this apathy to their advantage, quietly continuing the fortification of the massive walls, fences and state of the art electronic monitoring and satellite systems that now keep the shambling dead and the virus they carry locked away from humanity. But these measures not only keep the zombie hordes from devouring the nation. As the defenses grew, the few dozen survivors a month that managed to make their way back to the living world on their own dwindled to a few a month, then trickled off to a few a year with the last recorded survivors emerging from the death lands in 2012, more than two years ago. Currently, Homeland's position is that no survivors remain in Area 187. Conspiracy theories abound, both from those able to couch their reporting in language barely legal when held up to the light of Area 187 laws and from "outlaw" news sources alike. Many speak of the existence of proof still buried away inside the Area that the virus was created not by accident but as a viral weapon while others believe that Homeland not only knows of the exitence of survivors, but actively works to keep them hidden away behind the walls for fear of what they may know or that they may be able to carry a mutated form of the virus with them should they return to the living world.

Homeland's control of the Area, as well as any Area-related "offense" committed anywhere in the United States, has become absolute. While their agents cotinue their forays into Area 187 in search of grave robbers and sensitive information related to the creation of the zombie virus, others are tasked with tracking down those same things outside it as well. Laws allowing Homeland free reign to arrest, detain and indefinately hold anyone they believe a threat to the security of Area 187 are used to their fullest. The luckiest of the suspected "grave robbers" or those consorting with them are subject to immediate arrest, detainment and a rapid, loaded trial. Most simply vanish without a trace, never to be seen again. News and communications blackouts begun in the early days of the Area not only continue but have spread throughout the world. While Homeland continues to invesitgate and control all news and information concerning Area 187 from U.S. news outlets, networks and even the internet, the federal government controls foreign news gathering and reporting by threatening embargos, sanctions and withdrawl of vital foreign aid dollars to nations that fail to control Area 187-related disseminations. Officially, Area 187 will remain under strict quarantine for the next 25 years to allow time for the undead to rot away and for the virus, devoid of any fresh hosts, to rot away along with them. Officially, grave robbing is not only a crime but carries with it a huge risk that someone could carry the virus back to the living world. And, officially, no survivors remain alive behind the impervious walls of Area 187.

"Area 187, Book I; Almost Hell" follows Josephine Terrell, a television reporter, and John Heath, once an Air Force search-and-rescue team leader that escaped the Area after five years of fruitless searching for his wife, as they risk their lives from both the dead and the living to go into Area 187 to rescue a group of survivors. Josephine is looking for the story of the century, one that will prove survivors exist inside and that Homeland has been covering up their existence. Heath joins her after he sees what may very well be his wife, Eileen, in a video message from the survivors. Death will follow their every step as the pair makes their way on foot through the blasted, nightmarish landscape full of hungering dead. But the peril offered by the mindless corpses becomes second to the danger presented by the living.

Don't miss "Area 187, Book I; Almost Hell" by Eric R. Lowther, coming soon from Library of the Living Dead Press, along with "Area 187, Book II; Almost Home" slated for publication Winter 2010. And remember, check back here often for further publishing news, updates, free short fiction and more about the world of Area 187, and thanks for reading.

Eric R. Lowther

P.S. Just write, damn it.


  1. damn! this sounds great! i cant wait to get my rotten hands on this!

  2. I just happened to stumble upon your book on my Kindle and LOVED it. Thanks for such an entertaining ride! I only wish that you had some more books or that you would continue with some of the characters in a follow up book. I have added your book to my pintrest account under books-you-must-read.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it. Make sure you leave a review on Amazon. It's about the only advertising I get :) And, your'e in luck. Another Area 187 book is in production and some exciting news on future projects will be released soon. Until then, if you check out the rest of my little old blog you'll find another 200,000 words or so of free fiction in short stories and a few novellas.

  3. I did read on your blog your request to post a review on amazon and I did. I will check out your other stuff on here too.

    I am VERY glad to hear you are writing more on Area 187. I have read a lot of zombie-genre books and yours tops my list as my fav. The characters were so well developed. I wanted to jump into the book at times to punch a few people out (lol) and I also enjoyed the fact that it was contained in one area rather & was covered up by the government rather than a world-wide apocalypse. There was a great balance of human-social problems and zombie action.

    Thanks again!!