Merky’s friend Rob, the radio enthusiast, had searched the airwaves every night for the mystery broadcasts. Merky knew his friend was getting more and more disturbed by his hobby, and made him stay at Merky’s house. Rob looked bedraggled and confused when he arrived, like a child. His unshaven, thin, quivering face gave Merky considerable pause. He decided Rob would do better if he was in the company of others, and took him to work.
Merky looked at the headline. “Biological Warfare?” it bellowed. He saw the picture on the front page, bodies under blue tarp being led out of a hospital to a special CDC quarantine section. Apparently, a rare strain of flesh eating virus had appeared in the homeless population on the edge of town. Merky was surprised that the CDC let this get in the papers. They were usually more careful.
Eleven homeless and one small girl had died in two days from major skin hemorraging from an unknown subcutaneous virus. Merky tried to keep his cool at least for his friend, who was sitting across from him.
It had only been two months since he had been promoted to head of homicide, and he has an outbreak on his hands. Luckily, it wasn’t under his jurisdiction. The feds had taken over the scene, and kept him out. The only queries that Merky could get answered regarded death tolls, and he could read the papers for that.
“What’s in the papers, Danny?” Rob said, sitting on the orange couch at the other side of the small office. Merky had forgotten he was there. Rob had a creepy stillness about him, in spite of his anxiety.
“Oh, Rob, nothing very interesting. Some kids were killed in a gang shooting.” Merky didn’t want to arouse Rob’s interest. He knew how persistant a paranoid person could be.
Rob was quiet for a moment. He looked down at his feet, then suddenly looked up. “Do you still have the tape of that broadcast?” he asked, like a guilty kid.
Merky was glad he kept it. “Yeah, I can have Madeline get it for you. Madeline?”
Madeline walked in, and was surprised to see the unkempt visitor. “Yes Merk?”
“Could you go to the evidence locker and get that tape I filed a month or so back? The one marked ‘May 11 9:14PM, channel 201.4’ I think. Something like that.” With some things, Merky had a dazzlingly clear memory. After fifteen minutes, Madeline returned with a tape, ‘May 11 9:04PM, channel 204’. Close enough, he thought, pleased with himself.
“Thank you, Mads.” Rob looked hungrily at the tape. Merky wondered if he made the right decision, feeding a paranoid. “Rob, I want you to see this.”
Merky turned to his window, looked below, and threw the tape. It was overcast.
Fog sat alone in his room, staring at the unopened local paper. It made him feel nervous. He didn’t enjoy reading the news unless he had recently committed a crime. He needed to scan for any sign that his broadcasts had risen eyebrows.
On the front page, he saw the headline, “Biological Warfare”. Fog’s heart pounded and pounded for three minutes before he could begin to read the article.
There were some large words in there that Fog did not understand. As far as he could tell, twelve people had been killed by a flesh eating virus in about three days.
Fog was very frightened, and he felt his bowels fill almost instantly. He got on his coat and headed out the door, credit card and identification in hand. His ID said he was “Jake Felston”, aged 45.
Fog had not been this scared since he was in the pits, fighting the other orphans.
Fog exited the apartment and looked right and left. He saw a couple coming toward him. “Excuse me, where’s the nearest supermarket?” The woman smiled and said it was about ten blocks in the direction he was facing. He thanked them and left.
The supermarket was large and gleaming white. Parking was ample, but still full of cars. Fog had never imagined such decadence. The building looked like a beautiful palace. Pigs, they all were. Pigs at a never ending trough. Fog did some breathing exercises to calm down. He was glad to see a beautiful building at last, and decided to focus on the architecture of the thing instead of the pigs and the trough. The gray sky had not blocked out the sun, and as Fog jogged towards the building, it seemed eerie.
Inside it was cold, just as he liked it. Frantically, Fog gathered as much food that didn’t need preparation as he could. He knew he had to haul it all home without the convenience of a car, but he thought of it as a physical challenge. The kind of physical challenge he was trained on.
When he got back to his apartment, he flung down the six grocery bags to the floor. Mostly chips, cookies, and breakfast cereal. He put the milk in the fridge.
The sky outside looked ready to rain. Ready to wash off the city’s filth. Fog chuckled.
Fog’s door had six locks. He closed them all.
Merky had seen bad times, but nothing prepared him for this. The next day, the headline, “Residents Ordered to Evacuate” sent Merky into dry heaves of anxiety. Rob was stiff on the couch, his hands pressing his eyes into his head.
Merky’s secretary and most of his staff had already left town. Rob was, at that moment, approached by two men in coats at the request of Dennis, and taken out of the room. Merky’s office had never looked so messy. Even he thought it was bad.
There weren’t enough police to make sure everyone got out safely. Merky was sure that 50 people would probably trampled to death in the evacuation. Maybe there would be some wanton shooting. He could tell that there was looting. Looking out his window, he saw the store across the street from the police station getting smashed by ten or so desperate hoodlums. The station itself was safe from looting. The first two floors had bulletproof plastic windows, including the front doors. It cost tens of millions of dollars and fifteen years of lobbying by the police, but it was worth it. Merky could see that now, whereas before he thought it was a horrendous waste.
He looked out over the city. Bumper to bumper traffic. It was better than this morning, but not much. Merky was ordered to stay in town and find out what was going on. The report he received gave him some insight.
The fifty victims of the flesh-eating virus had all been bitten by unowned, unclaimed animals, mostly dogs and rats. There was reason to believe that the outbreak was artificial, but Merky was not given that information.
What a pile of shit this is, he thought. He was the only local officer left in town. Partly it was his own fault, because he loved the city so much, but it still made Merky feel like it was the end for him.
Merky crumpled to the floor of his office, letting some of his ejected notes sift through his fingers as he cried.
8 years ago