The Carriers; Part Eight
July 9, 2013 Leave a comment
David hid in the large spirea bush next to the garage. He could hear shouts and screams coming from somewhere down the street, but he didn’t want to leave the safety of his hiding spot. Not while they were out. The gang didn’t come around often, but when they did, it was a good idea not to get in their way.
He stayed hidden until he was sure the shouts were moving away, and then carefully checked the street. He never thought he’d have to skulk through the village. At least, not in the day time. He hurried across and down the street. It wasn’t that much farther to the market. A quick trip there and back. Maybe he’d stop by and see Beth. He hadn’t seen her outside for a couple of days. A sick feeling filled his stomach. He hoped she was all right.
Papers and garbage blew down the main road as David crept around the corner of the grocery store, keeping a careful eye out for the gang. There were metal covers over the front windows and pressboard in place of glass for the door. A small view slot was cut out near the top. David knocked on the wood and a pair of eyes suddenly appeared in the slot. The hard glare softened when David smiled.
The door opened and a middle-aged man stood on the other side. “How are you today, David?”
David quickly went inside. “Not too bad, Mr. Bainbridge. How are things here?”
The man motioned toward the young woman at the far end of the store. “Tiffany and I decided to stay.” He leaned back against the wall. “Try to keep some normalcy going.”
“I don’t have much money—”
“Don’t worry about that, but I ask that you only take what you really need. I have no idea when any food deliveries will show up, so we need to ration as much as we can.”
David nodded and picked up a red shopping basket. Several of the overhead lights flickered as he made his way down the nearest aisle. There wasn’t much left on most of the shelves. Anything perishable was gone a long time ago, but there were still cans of food. Stuff he actually liked. He picked up a can of pasta and put it in his basket. He reached for a second can, but hesitated. Right now, it was just him and his Mom and he had no idea when his Dad would be back again. Just like when he was deployed overseas. David sighed and moved down the aisle.
He made one pass down another aisle as someone knocked at the door. There was something comforting about not being the only person shopping. It meant there were more people who weren’t sick. More who were hoping all this would just go away.
“How are you tonight, Edna?”
“Not too bad, Howard.” Edna lived a few houses down from David, and was a few years older than his Mom. She carried a large bag over her shoulder and smiled when she saw David. “I thought I’d bring you some fresh veggies from the garden.” She put the bag down on the nearest checkout.
Tiffany and her father went through the bag.
“That’s awful nice of you,” Howard said. “Nice to see some fresh food.” He looked at his daughter. “Go put these on the produce shelf.”
Tiffany picked up an apple as she took the bag. Edna focused on David. “How are you doing, Davie? Heard anything from your father?”
“Not since yesterday,” David said, as he put his few items into a plastic bag.
She turned to Howard. “You know, we should be organizing. Trying to help out those who are sick. I’ve been going house to house around here, doing what I can, but I’m only one person.”
Howard rubbed his head. “I’m not sure how many aren’t sick. I don’t see anyone unless they come in here.” He glanced at his daughter. “And there’s no way in hell I’m leaving her alone to run this place.” He motioned to the boarded up windows. “Not after what those damn thugs did here.”
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Edna said. “We need to start some kind of neighbourhood watch. That would stop those creeps from destroying more property. Would you consider using this place as a meeting place? The store is in the perfect place. Right in the center of town.”
Howard nodded. “That I could do, but I’m not leaving the store.” He looked at David. “Would you mind going door to door? Finding out who’s all willing to help out?”
David smiled. “Yeah, I think I can do that.”
“Make sure to ask your mom, okay.”
He nodded and headed for the door. “Mind if I ask Beth if she wants to do it too?”
“Go ahead.” Edna said. “If you think she’ll do it.”
He checked the street before walking out of the building, suddenly feeling a little wary of what his mother would say. His dad told them to stay inside, and she was kinda leery about him going down to the store. David figured she’d freak when she found out what he volunteered to do.
He ran all the way back to his backyard and dropped the groceries on the back porch. He wanted to get down to Beth’s place before it got too dark. He didn’t hear the gang out. Hopefully they’d moved on to terrorize another neighbourhood. He picked up his bike and rode off toward Beth’s house.
Beth’s dad’s beat-up truck wasn’t in the driveway and the house look like on one was home. David looked around before walking up to the front door. He knocked quietly, and listened. No sound. He turned to leave and the front door opened. A young blond girl several years younger than Beth looked at him through the screen.
“Is Beth here?”
Beth suddenly appeared at the door. “Hey, what’s up?”
“Hey. I wasn’t sure if you were here or not. You’re dad’s truck isn’t in the driveway.”
“Yeah, he left to get some food and stuff.” A sorrowful look washed over her face. “He hasn’t come back.”
David didn’t know what to say.
“What are you doing here?”
“Uh…I, they’re looking for volunteers to go door to door and check to see who’s sick and who isn’t. I said I’d do it and I thought you’d like too. Since, you know, you were helping out that old couple.”
“Sure, I’d love too.” She looked back at her sister. “You don’t mind looking after Mom, right?”
“Good.” She turned to David. “When do you want to start?”
“Great. I’ll come by your place early.” A woman called out to Beth from somewhere inside the house. “I have to go. See you tomorrow.”
David smiled as she shut the door. All the way back to his yard all he could think about was spending the day with her. Sure, they would be checking their neighbours, but still. The whole day with Beth Young!
He picked up the grocery bag off the back porch and walked inside.
“Mom, I got some food.” No answer. “Mom?”
David walked into the living room and saw his mother passed out on the floor, her cell phone in her hand.
“MOM!” David rushed to her side. “Mom! Wake up!”
He picked up her cell and pressed a button. “Dad, you have to come home. Mom’s sick!”
Marcus sat on the floor of his CO’s office, staring at the unconscious face of his younger brother. Parts of Marcus’ body were numb from sitting on the hard surface for so long, but he couldn’t leave him alone. Alan wasn’t dead, but he’d been out cold for nearly a week now, with no signs of coming around. He got up and sat on a nearby chair, pulling the mask away from his face. No use in wearing that damn thing. Alan wore one and it didn’t protect him. He dropped his head in his hands. This wasn’t happening. Everything was going to hell, and he needed his brother by his side.
The door opened and his CO walked in. “Any change?”
Marcus rubbed his face. “No. Nothing.”
Col. Norris left the door open as he strolled back out, motioning Marcus to follow. “We need to talk to you.”
Marcus followed his CO out into the hall. A young Asian man stood a few feet away. He was dressed in a doctor’s robe, but didn’t look like he was old enough to shave.
“This is Dr. Shane Quan. He’s been working at the General. Overseeing the patience there.”
The young man held out his hand. “Good to meet you, Captain.”
Marcus stood but just looked at his hand. “You’ll excuse me if I don’t shake your hand. Considering the situation, less skin-to-skin contact is best.”
The young man nodded and stepped back.
Marcus looked at his CO. “So what did you need to talk to me about?”
“I’ve been talking to the good doctor here, and he seems to be under the impression that the worst may be over.”
Marcus looked at him skeptical. “How do you figure that?”
“We’ve had very few patience come to the hospital in the last forty-eight hours.” Dr. Quan was fidgety. “We could be seeing the begging of a reduction of the infection within the population.”
A slight twinge of excitement stirred in Marcus. “How will we know for sure?”
“Probably not for a while longer.”
“Probably? Don’t you know for sure?”
“I’m sorry sir, I wish I could say for sure if and when, but—”
“But? Don’t give me excuses. I’ve been left in charge of a ghost town that’s quickly running out of supplies, not to mention the infrastructure is going to hell and you can’t tell me when or if this is going to get better?”
Norris put his hand on Marcus’ shoulder. “Now calm down, he’s doing the best he can.”
“Well he better do better. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep what little peace there is.”
“Then you might not like what else he has to say.”
Marcus faced the young man. “What else do I need to know?”
Quan glanced nervously back and forth between the two men. Colonel Norris nodded.
Quan swallowed. “People are beginning to die. Not many and it seems to be restricted to the very elderly and very sick.”
Marcus rubbed his face. “How many so far?”
“Several nursing homes resemble mortuaries. With whole families sick, there’s no one left to claim the dead. The staff are overwhelmed as it is with the residence who are still alive. Having to pull them away to bury the dead…”
“We’ve had a few deaths here as well,” Norris said. “All elderly.”
“Apparently their frail bodies can’t fight off the infection even with medication.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Is there any way you can find people to bury the dead?”
“From where?” Marcus said. I have a grand total of fifteen people running all the utilities for the entire city. There’s less than a skeleton crew for a police force that has to double as the fire department.” He looked at Norris. “What about here?”
Norris shook his head. “I don’t have anyone to spare either.”
“What about civilian volunteers?” Quan asked.
“They’re stretched to the limit there too,” Marcus said. “The few who aren’t sick are looking after the ones that are, or trying to keep things going where they are. I don’t think they can pull someone off to bury the dead.”
“Well they may have to. I don’t need to tell you what can happen if we leave dead bodies lying around in the streets.”
Marcus’ cell ran. He turned away as he spoke into it. “Davie, can this wait….” A chill ran through him as his son’s frantic voice rang out from the other end.
“Dad, you have to come home. Mom’s sick!”
The Carriers; Part Eight
© 2013 Dark Conteur Collection of Works