I thought it was just a cold. I’d never had one before, but other people got them all the time, so I figured the severity of it was just the cold exacting revenge for my healthy immune system.
I looked around the quarantine room with trepidation. Would I die here? Had I infected everyone I’d come into contact with for two weeks? They wouldn’t even tell me what I had. Apparently it was classified, although how they could classify a sickness from the sick person was beyond me.
It was 2:58. My nurse would be in to take my vitals any time now. It was nice to have a face to look at, these bare walls and sterilized floors became tiresome after one minute – it had been 3,037. Knowing that probably made me a math geek, but I couldn’t help that. I had been counting the seconds, all 182,220 of them – well 182,284 of them until the moment the new nurse walked in.
I guess I forgot to keep counting the moment she opened the door. She was wearing what looked to be a space suit, which she wore every time, but she moved differently. By the time her faceplate swung in my direction, I already knew she was a different nurse. It was the hunched posture that gave it away. My old nurse stood tall and straight with confidence – she had been tight-lipped and no-nonsense and very professional. This nurse was terrified.
The hunched shoulders and timid movements said enough, but when she turned to me her eyes were round and dilated with fear and her hands shook. If I had any doubts before, they were gone.
“What happened to my other nurse?” I figured the direct approach was preferable.
She jumped at the sound of my voice and finally met my eyes. She stared for a long moment before saying, simply, “She’s gone.” She fiddled with the needles and vials and such, but her hands were shaking so hard she was having trouble.
I reached out and grabbed her hands. I didn’t think it would cause her to fling herself away from me and hit the wall! “What? What is it? I’m not attacking you! I just wanted to help you calm down.”
She tried to calm her breathing, but it wasn’t working. “She’s dead.” It took me longer than it should have to realize she meant my nurse. “48 hours. I don’t want to die.”
I tried to think of something comforting to say, but failed miserably. People weren’t my specialty. “I’m still alive. How? Why?”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out. The entire city is under quarantine now. There’s no way we’ve contained it.” The ENTIRE city of Chicago? “You’re our last hope.”
“Then start taking some blood, woman!” I would like to believe I could bring life as well as death from this body.