The Carriers; Part Six
June 11, 2013 2 Comments
The church bells echoed across the town as David sat on the lawn chair in his backyard. Still a few weeks to go before summer vacation and he was already bored out of his mind. It would be better if Robbie wasn’t sick, but there was nothing he could do about that.
The back door opened and his Mom stepped out. “Have you seen my bottle of aspirin?”
“In the bathroom.”
“I checked. They’re not there.”
“Then I don’t know where they are.”
She walked to the edge of the deck. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Why don’t you go see what Robbie is up to?”
“Cos I’m waiting for him to call.” He looked back at him. “He’s sick, remember, and I don’t wanna catch it.”
“It’s been a couple days since you went over. I’m sure he’s better by now.”
He got up and walked to the edge of the yard. It’d been four days since he’d seen him last, and no word. He thought about going over, but the thought he might catch whatever his best friend had kept him away. No use in them both being sick.
The Wiseman house looked empty as he pulled up to the driveway on his bike. There was a car in the driveway, but something about the feel of the place wasn’t right. He looked in the windows first before knocking on the screen door.
Mr. Wiseman appeared behind the screen. He looked tired. “Hello, David. I’m afraid Robbie isn’t here. We had to take him to the hospital last night.”
“He developed some kind of respiratory infection.”
“But I thought the doctor said he’d get better.”
“Sometimes these things happen.” Mr. Wiseman stepped out onto the porch. He was carrying a knapsack. “I was picking up some of his things. I’m headed back to the hospital now. I’ll tell him you stopped by.”
Mr. Wiseman hurried past, got into his car and drove away. David took one last look at the house as he got back on his bike and headed home. Robbie was a tough kid. He never got sick. He hoped Dr. Hallowell was right.
His dad’s car was in the driveway when he rode up to his house. David dropped the bike just by the front steps and walked up to the back door. He heard his mother’s voice before he got to door.
“How long are you going to be?” she said, as David walked in.
“I’m not sure.” His dad walked out from the downstairs bathroom.
“Hey Dad, you’re home early.”
Marcus picked up a cup of coffee. “I wish I was. I’m just on my way back out again.” He took a sip from his cup. “We’ve got a lot of people sick so they’ve called in the reserves.”
David sat at the kitchen table. “Sick. Like with the flu?”
Marcus nodded. “Half the base is out.”
“I don’t like it,” Louise said. “So many people sick. It’s spreading too fast.” She looked at David. “How’s Robbie doing?”
“They took him to the hospital last night. Some kind of respiratory infection his dad said.”
Marcus messed up David’s hair. “Don’t worry, Robbie’s young and strong.”
David nodded, and brushed his hair with his fingers.
Marcus kissed Louise. “I’ll call you around supper.”
Louise grabbed him around the waist. “Be careful.”
Marcus opened the front door. “Don’t worry. This is going to blow over. It feels scary now, but remember SARS? Remember how everyone freaked over that?”
“This isn’t SARS, Alan. I’ve got a real bad feeling about this.”
Marcus shut the door. “Look, until the CDC puts out some kind of public warning, you shouldn’t be worried. Just you watch, in a month this’ll all be over.”
“I hope so.”
Marcus reached for Louise and embraced her again. “Trust me.” He kissed her gently on the forehead. “I’ll call you later.”
David sat at his computer desk, the blue hue from the screen the only light in his room. The web page for the browser game flashed with scenes from the videogame. He ran the curser over the page, highlighting the PLAY button. Robbie and him played this game. It wasn’t any fun playing without him, but he kinda wanted to pick up where they left off. He slumped back in his chair. No. That wasn’t fair. He could hold off until Robbie was back from the hospital.
He got up and looked out his bedroom window. Hardly anyone out. He didn’t blame them. He didn’t want to go out either. He knew he wasn’t sick, but what did he know? Someone else could be sick and what if he ran into them? No thanks. His bedroom was fine.
There was a quick knock at on his bedroom door and his Mom walked in.
“Can you do me a favour? Go down to the store and get me some aspirin, would ya?”
David slumped. “Do I have to?”
“Yeah. I can’t find the bottle we have here, and I have a migraine.”
He followed her down the stairs and to the front door. She turned and handed him two twenty dollar bills.
David frowned. “I don’t think they’re going to be that expensive.”
“I want you to get a few other things while you’re there.”
She shrugged and folded her arms across her chest. “Like stuff for the flu, if you can find any.” She rubbed her hand across her forehead. “Might be hard to find any after that newscast.”
David looked at her concerned. “Are you feeling okay?”
Louise smiled. “I’m fine. I just want to make sure we’re ready.” She paused for a moment. “In case something does happen, I have a feeling going to the hospital won’t be an option.”
The evening was quiet. Too quiet. David didn’t even hear any birds as he rode his bike along the side of the street toward the center of the village. Nights like tonight usually had kids playing out in their yards or on the street, elderly people out for walks and families sitting around eating bar-be-que. Not tonight. No since that news broadcast.
The parking lot at the grocery store had a few cars, which surprised him, but the store was practically empty, so the cars had to belong to staff. There was one lone person at the cash, and she wore a mask over her face, and didn’t say much as the cashier rang up her items.
“Hey, David,” Beth’s voice came from behind him. “Didn’t think I’d find you here.”
He smiled at her. “Yeah, my Mom wanted me to pick up some stuff.” He looked down at the contents in the wire basket. “You’re shopping too?”
“Oh, this isn’t for me. It’s for the Jespersens down the street from us. They’re elderly and can’t get out much so I thought I’d take some things.”
He headed down one of the aisle. “That’s really nice of you. Not many people would think of others in a crisis.” He winced inward. That made him sound like a dork!
Beth smiled and looked down at the basket. “Thanks.”
She followed him to the medicine aisle and stood back while he picked out a few things he figured they’d need. Just in case.
They walked to the cashier and unloaded their items.
The young girl shrugged. “This place is dead.”
“People don’t want to be out,” Beth said.
“Including the staff.” She rang up David’s items. “That’ll be $37.80. Just about everyone called in sick today. If I’d known it was gonna be like this, I would’ve too.”
Earnest Harmer stepped up behind Beth. “This is the Governments fault.” He dropped his basket of supplies on the check out. “Those meteorites were man-made. Probably by some terrorists tryin’ to make us all sick before they invade.”
Beth rolled her eyes and turned away. “Whatever.”
“Hey missy, don’t go rollin’ your eyes at me. You just wait. Once we’re all sick, those bastards will walk right in and take over. They’ll round up all the healthy people and put them in concentration camps, and start brainwashing us to their fanatical ways.”
“Whatever you say, Mr. Harmer.”
He wasn’t even looking at her now. “But they won’t get me. I’ve got the bunker shut down tight.” He rocked back and forth on his feet. “Anyone tries to get inside’ll find one hell of a surprise waitin’ for them.”
Tiffany rang up Beth’s items and they quickly left the store.
“I wish Mr. Harmer didn’t talk like that,” Beth said, as they walked along the main road. “People are freaked out enough as it is without hearing all his crap too.”
“He can’t help it,” David said. “Dad said there are people in the world who do nothing but think up crap like that and hope it happens.”
Shouts echoed from somewhere up ahead as a group of young men rambled along the main road. They kicked at benches and trash cans, threw garbage around and shoved each other around.
David pulled on Beth’s shirt in. “Let’s go another way.”
Beth jogged ahead of him. “Quickly.”
They were half way up a side street when the gang came into sight. Beth ducked in behind a bush, and pulled David and his bike with her. They watched the gang cross the street and head for the grocery story. David’s face was inches from Beth. So close he could hear her erratic breathing.
He watched her tremble. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I—” She caught herself. “I just got a weird feeling.”
They stepped out from the brush and headed up the street. The evening was even more quiet now than when he first went outside. He stole side glances of Beth every couple of feet. She didn’t look happy. His father’s words came back to him.
“Everything’s going to be okay. Remember SARS? Remember how everyone freaked out over that?”
“I don’t know, David. I have a feeling this could be worse.”
That didn’t work. He looked straight ahead.
Beth stopped at the gate of a white picket fence. “This is the Jespersens’s. I’ll just be a minute.”
She walked up to the wooden screen door and knocked. After a few moments she knocked again.
David leaned his bike against their fence and came up beside her. “Are you sure they’re home?”
“Why wouldn’t they be?”
He looked in through a side window. “There’s a light on but I don’t see anyone.”
“Maybe they’re busy,” Beth said and put the bag by the door. “I’ll just leave it here and come by later.”
“Do they have kids?”
“Yeah, in Kingston.”
“Maybe they went to visit them?”
Beth didn’t look convinced. “Maybe, but—”
Shouts from the gang echoed in the night.
David went to his bike. “Maybe we should get out of here.”
Beth followed. “Yeah.”
He motioned to her. “I’ll give you a ride back to your place.”
Beth climbed on to the seat of his bike. “Thanks.”
He struggled at first to get the bike going, but after a few churns on the peddles, the bike made better speed. The rode down the middle of the road toward the outskirts of town. For some strange reason, David couldn’t stop grinning.
The Carriers; Part Six
© 2013 Dark Conteur Collection of Works