Author Feature: Termination: The Boy Who Died, by Richard T. Burke

Termination: The Boy Who Died, by Richard T. Burke is the second book in the Decimation series, and takes place a few years in the future.
The first book (Decimation: The Girl Who Survived) is set in a world where a pandemic emerged in 2016, infecting every living person. The virus lies dormant until a woman gives birth. Then she dies. For sixteen years, there has been no vaccine, no cure, until teenage wheelchair athlete, Antimone Lessing, becomes the first woman in a generation to survive childbirth.
In Termination, scientists have developed a treatment for the disease, but now the virus has mutated and is attacking children. The story follows Antimone, her partner, Jason, and their four-year-old son. Her survival is a closely guarded secret, but when the details of her past become exposed, ruthless forces prepare an audacious plan to kidnap Antimone and her young family.

Thursday 12th June 2036
Infant Creche, Bani Waled, Republic of North Africa

The woman glanced at her watch. In half-an-hour, it would be time for the midday sleep. She was supposed to stay awake to supervise the children, but she would often try to grab a few minutes of rest herself. The combination of the energy-sapping heat and the steady, rhythmic whump of the ceiling fan were already making her feel sleepy. Nobody will notice. She closed her eyes and leant back in the wooden chair.
A tap on the knee jerked her out of her drowsiness. The boy with the snotty nose stood in front of her. He held one hand to his face. The other tugged at the black material of her robes. She swatted away his grubby fingers. He dropped the raised arm, revealing a trickle of blood originating from his left nostril and mingling with the trail of mucus.
Why can’t he just leave me alone? With a groan, she reached once again for the box of tissues and tugged one free. When she returned her attention to the child, the red trail had developed into a stream. A reedy wail escaped from his lips. His open mouth revealed a rose-coloured stain on his tiny, white teeth. He balled his hands into fists and rubbed at his eyes.
The woman dragged him nearer and dabbed at the blood now gushing from his nose. Within seconds, crimson fluid saturated the tissue. She tossed it on the floor and grabbed another handful from the box.
The boy lowered his hands and grasped at his throat. His brown irises now sat amidst a labyrinth of burst veins where moments before there had been only white sclera. The boy’s chest heaved as he tried to suck air into his oxygen-starved lungs. A wracking cough culminated in a spray of blood and mucus into the woman’s face.
She wiped the glutinous mass away with her sleeve and levered herself upright. By the time she reached her feet, the child was convulsing on the floor. She lowered herself to one knee beside him, grunting with the effort. The boy writhed on the ground, his frantic movements creating red streaks across the discoloured white tiles.
What should she do? They hadn’t trained her for anything like this. She placed a hand on his chest to still the jerking spasms that rippled through his body. With a final twitch, the child lay still. Is he dead? That isn’t possible.
The sound of crying drew her attention away from the prostrate child. She raised her eyes to see three other children, each writhing in a pool of blood. The rest of the group backed up against the crude, childish paintings distributed along the roughly finished walls. As she watched, two more burst into a fit of coughing, hacking up gobbets of bloody phlegm.
The woman staggered to her feet, raising an arm to cover her face with her sleeve. Everywhere she looked, children were bleeding from their mouths, noses and ears. She took a step forwards as one of the closest victims stopped moving. Is this some sort of chemical attack? She turned in a full circle. Every single child in the room now either lay still or twitching in their bodily fluids. The mingled smells of blood and faeces assaulted her nostrils.
She stumbled to the mirror above the sink and studied her reflection: no nosebleed. The whites of the terrified eyes staring back at her remained clear. No blood emerged from her mouth or ears. Why am I the only one not to be affected?
When she turned around, every single child sprawled motionless on the floor. Those that faced her stared back with open, unseeing eyes.
The woman lumbered across the room as fast as her bulk would allow. When she reached the door, she fumbled with the lock and stumbled outside into the stifling midday heat.
“They’re dead,” she screamed. “The children are all dead.”

A Bite of… Richard Burke

Do you see writing as an escape from the sorrows of existence, an exercise in futility, or an excuse to tell lies and get paid for it? Or is there another option…

If writing was my sole source of income, I’d be a pauper, so it’s definitely not for the money. I don’t need to escape from the sorrows of my existence, and I don’t believe writing is a futile activity; which means there must be something else.
I write because I enjoy creating things. My aim is to create a book I would love to read. If other people enjoy my work, then all the better. And if they pay me too, happy days!

Have you ever written somebody you know into a book? A lover? A friend? An enemy?

I think every writer borrows traits from people they know, but I’ve never intentionally based a character entirely on an acquaintance. That said, I imagine it would be quite satisfying to recreate somebody I disliked in a book, then torture them horribly—the author’s equivalent to voodoo.

If you could meet one person (alive or dead) who would you choose? And what would you talk about? And what do you bring as a gift?

I’d choose Graham Norton or any other high-profile chat show host. I’d talk about my latest, multi-million selling blockbuster book. And what to bring as a gift? That’s obvious—a signed copy of course.

Richard came to writing relatively late in life. After a career spent in engineering, he finished his first book, The Rage, in 2015. Since then, he has published three others: Decimation, The Colour of the Soul and Assassin’s Web. After receiving encouraging reviews for Decimation, he decided to turn the story into a series in the form of Termination and Annihilation. All his books are essentially thrillers, but the Decimation series also contain a hint of Sci-Fi.
His short stories have been published by Bloodhound Books and Corona Books A new short story is due to be published later this year, but he is not allowed to name the publisher yet.
Richard lives with his wife, daughter and two dogs (both of whom he inherited) in North-East Hampshire. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter and on his own Blog.

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