A female voice in the car screamed, “DRIVE! DRIVE!”
Squealing tires. Another relieved voice rasped, “Oh, my God, oh, my God, that was so close…”
The view swung across the street. Amy thought she saw a reddish dog trot past. She thought, Molly?
The woman holding the camera phone had rested her arm so that the camera was now pointing at her lap, but continued recording—that’s why the viewers knew she was doomed before she did. While the woman held a nervous conversation with the driver, a crimson stain started forming across her abdomen. Then a puckered hole formed in her belly, like she was being shot from behind by the world’s slowest bullet.
Guts spilled out onto her lap, a tangle of wet sausages.
The woman screamed.
The clip cut to black.
Amy shut off her phone. She breathed. She called John and got his voice mail. She paced around her dorm room for a few minutes, trying to think of what to do next. Then she went into the bathroom and threw up.
6 Days, 6 Hours Until the Massacre at Ffirth Asylum
John saw Amy’s messages piling up on his phone and by Monday night he wanted to throw the thing through a fucking window. He knew how serious the fucking situation was, he could turn on a TV or look out his window—his motel was down the block from a Pentecostal church and he could see people piling through the door. On a Monday.
And oh, by the way, he wanted to say, he had been friends with David for ten years before Amy even knew his fucking name. John felt the loss in ways she couldn’t even conceive. He didn’t need her calling him every five seconds to tell him to do, what, exactly?
John had promised himself he wouldn’t drink today, he had overdone it Saturday night. But by Monday evening he started to have that swimmy, flu-feeling in his head and gut and realized it was stupid to try to put himself through rehab on a week when he needed to be 110 percent. He’d stick to beer, though, that much he decided. He got a twelve-pack and settled in for the night in the motel room, watching the news carefully for updates.
He’d call Amy tomorrow.
From the Journal of Amy Sullivan
Lines everywhere. Lines at the stores, lines at the gas station. Everyone is freaking out. People are leaving town and heading north, new people are showing up from the south like refugees. The National Guard has extended the quarantine zone out five more miles from around [Undisclosed]. Class cancelled. I haven’t slept.
No answer from John all day. Tried to call Dr. Marconi myself. Left a message.
Left John nine messages. Campus and the rest of town is now under a curfew. I think they are going to come looking for us. We SHOULD NOT STILL BE HERE.
Decided I’m not going back to the dorms. Staying with some guys who live off campus. Didn’t tell anyone in the dorm where I was going.
Rumors from inside quarantine are crazy. News has a rumor that the CDC had to pull all of their staff out of the hospital treatment facility. Government denies it. Hopefully David isn’t there either way.
FINALLY talked to John in the P.M. Suddenly he’s all bluster, says if we don’t hear anything by SATURDAY NIGHT—one week after all this started—then he and I will go down to [Undisclosed] ourselves and break David out on Sunday. Told him I didn’t need to break him out, I just needed to know that he was okay.
Meanwhile, getting calls on my cell from unlisted numbers. I don’t answer them.
Got a call from Nisha, said somebody from the government showed up at the dorm looking for me.
I called John. Voice mail. All day. Voice mail.
I cried again. Broke my streak.
Absolute information blackout from [Undisclosed]. No more video clips, no new information. I am going crazy. I can’t keep food down. A week. Where has David been sleeping that whole time? Is he in pain? Is he hungry?
The government FINALLY put up their Web site for families and friends of outbreak victims to search for names. Three categories—Quarantined, Status Unknown, and Deceased. The Quarantined list was HUGE, hundreds of names. David wasn’t on it. It was in alphabetical order but I read the list four times to make sure they didn’t just put his name in the wrong spot. Then I moved on to Status Unknown, and he wasn’t on there, either, and then I decided it was a stupid list because whose status do we actually know at any given time? They could have the whole world on there. I just closed the browser.
No return call from Marconi. When I tried to call John, got voice mail only. Again.
Left a message reminding him that tomorrow was the day. I gave him a location & told him to pick me up there at eleven A.M. No reason he can’t be up and around at that hour.
Scared. Excited. Going to see David tomorrow one way or the other.
18 Hours Until the Massacre at Ffirth Asylum
Amy wasn’t sure if she had been more freaked out about the crazy bustle of the campus earlier in the week, or the ghost town that it was now. Campus had emptied, everybody had left to go back home to Mom and Dad, scared the university would get swallowed up in the expanding quarantine zone. Well, those who had parents, anyway.
That morning, Amy wound up spending a solid hour just trying to get dressed, standing in the “guest room” at the house where she was now holed up (a huge old house occupied by three gay guys she had met in a pottery class). The “guest room” was just a converted attic covered in Bollywood movie posters and full of discarded exercise machines that had each once starred in their own informercial. The hour was spent almost entirely standing over her suitcase in her underpants, trying to figure out what would be practical to wear in this situation. After imagining a hundred different scenarios for what they’d see once they got down there, she finally realized that the quarantine staff would probably seize everybody’s clothes and give them hospital pajamas or something. So the best bet was to wear something she didn’t care about losing to an incinerator.
So then she was running late, and still had to go to the drugstore. She’d been avoiding it all week because she thought it’d be a madhouse like everything else. But it, like everything else, was eerily empty now.
Also empty? The shelves. There were handmade signs everywhere about per-customer limits. She wanted to get both of her prescriptions filled, but they were out of Oxy and could only do a partial refill of the muscle relaxer. She tried not to let the guy at the counter see how much this freaked her out, doing the math in her head to see how long the painkillers would last her until she was basically flat on her back and unable to stand up (answer: nine days). Then again the quarantine would be full of doctors so they probably had all kinds of stuff there.
She bought nasal strips—couldn’t sleep without them. She wanted some over-the-counter allergy pills. All gone. She looked for antacid tablets for David, all those were gone but they had some tropical-flavored Tums that even in an emergency nobody would buy.
Tampon aisle was bare. She also noticed the condom case was empty, though she figured that was a little too, uh, optimistic anyway. She did successfully get some sensitive-teeth toothpaste and the one brand of deodorant that didn’t give her a rash. Finally, the candy aisle. Twizzlers were gone, but she did get some Red Vines, which were basically like stale Twizzlers.
She could have kept going around and around the store for the rest of the day thinking up things she and David might need, but she was already running late and if John arrived at the meeting site to find she wasn’t there, he might freak out.
In her message, Amy had told John to pick her up at a bus stop in front of a huge Mexican restaurant that was impossible to miss. She took only one change of clothes, her bag full of pharmacy stuff, and her pillow. With her back the way it was, the pillow was a necessity. She could not sleep on any other pillow. They could have everything else, they could send her into quarantine wearing a potato sack. But they weren’t getting the pillow away from her.
She got to the bus stop at three minutes until eleven, and saw the white Bronco round the corner right at eleven on the dot. She took a deep breath and said a prayer.
14 Hours Until the Massacre at Ffirth Asylum
Two hours later, Amy was still sitting at the bus stop.
It hadn’t been John coming around the corner and it hadn’t been a Bronco, it was a different make. Some hillbilly behind the wheel.
She called John for the fifth time. Voice mail.
As she hung up, two guys walked past her on the sidewalk carrying shotguns. Right there in broad daylight.
She was freezing, her butt numb on the bus stop bench, sitting there with her pillow on her lap. She called the front desk of John’s motel to ask if they could check on him (they wouldn’t). She called Nisha, to see if she’d heard from him (she hadn’t).
No crying. She imposed a no-crying rule until further notice. She had eaten half a dozen of the Red Vines.
An SUV pulled over about a block down. Four guys got out of it, all of them carrying hard plastic cases that were shaped like they held rifles. Some had little briefcase-shaped ones that she guessed held pistols or some other kind of littler gun. They all headed off in the same direction.
She stared at her phone, willing it to ring.
At around 1:30, she finally got John to answer his phone.
“John! Oh my god. Where are you?”
“I’m, uh, at the motel. What’s happened?”
“What do you mean what’s happened? I’m here at the bus stop.”
“Okay are you taking the bus here or…”
“What? John? It’s Sunday.”
“The buses don’t run on Sunday?”
“Yeah? What’s wrong? Are you crying?”
She took a moment to compose herself, failed.
“John, we were supposed to go down to the city today. To see David.”
“Oh, yeah, okay. I didn’t hear your voice mail until just now. My phone has been messing up, I think the network is dropping a lot of calls because of the—”