Life On The Street
I wasn’t as shocked at seeing an infected person this time. A couple of years working in the emergency room had conditioned me for crisis. I glanced around to check my options.
The alley wasn’t a good option. I had no idea what was back there or even where it really went. The only other option was to go through the infected man onto the street.
He didn’t have to think of a plan. He just kept coming.
I guessed he was about fifteen or twenty feet away. In between us I noticed two metal garbage cans. I sprinted.
He continued his limping advance. As I neared he seemed to prime himself.
I snatched up the lid from one of the cans.
The infected man jumped at me.
I spun the lid as fast as I could.
The infected man grabbed the lid’s rim with both hands.
I pushed as hard as I could, hoping to bowl him over.
He yanked the lid.
The force of his pull swung me around to the side. I felt the lid being torn from my grip. I stumbled, but I knew I was passed him.
He dropped the lid and dove at me.
I tried my best to sprint, but I was still off balance. I tripped over some garbage and fell.
The infected man stretched and groped at me.
I scrambled to my feet and made it into the open road. I took at glance back at the alley.
The infected man was back on his feet and shambling for me.
There was also movement from in front of my building. The man whose fingers I had smashed under the door was facing me, hand still caught. He struggled to stand, tearing at his trapped hand.
I knew he’d be free soon.
The other infected man emerged from the alley.
The little voice inside me was screaming again for me to run, so I turned and ran. I had no idea where I was going, but I knew I had to put some distance between myself and those two infected. Enough distance that they couldn’t follow me.
I turned at every intersection for the next few blocks. Hopefully that’ll lose them. Eventually I slowed and stopped in the middle of a block. My decision to leave seemed completely idiotic now. I was trapped outside in the heat of the day. I had no friends to help me, no shelter to hide in and no protection other than an old baseball bat. I also had no idea which building might already have infected people in it.
I caught some movement in the windows around me, and I could feel the inhabitants watching me. I knew they were asking themselves if I was infected or not. Some were probably even wondering if I was one of the terrorists on the TV that started this mess. No one was going to let me in.
A man’s scream echoed from within one of the nearby buildings.
I wondered how many buildings across the city were filled with the same screaming. Why isn’t the government doing anything about this? What happened to the Army? Are they going to let the city just die? I decided it wasn’t a good time to debate this in my head. I still needed to get off of the street.
I remembered my original plan to find a place the among the factories and shops to the south. That still seemed plausible, so I started for them.
More and more often noises were echoing from some distant house as the virus claimed its victims. One house’s door appeared to have been beaten in.
My skin began to crawl. I wondered if anyone or anything was still inside. I decided not to check.
Inside an apartment building up ahead there was a lot of shouting. The shouting led to what sounded like muffled gunfire.
My resolve hardened. I was consumed with a single thought â€“ find a safe place. I wasn’t about to put myself in harms way by checking out anything that sounded dangerous. I picked up the pace and passed by.
A door opened behind me.
I stole a glance to see, and sure enough, it was the apartment building.
A man stumbled out of the door and fell. He pulled himself to his feet again. He looked as if he had been in a nasty bar fight. He had cuts on his face, he was favoring his right leg, and his left arm appeared to have been bitten several times. He looked around, saw me and started across the lawn.
“I need help.”
My heart sank. Up until last night, my whole life was about helping people in emergencies. I wanted to go bandage him up, but I knew what those bite marks meant. There is no helping this man. I took a step back.
A woman came out of the door behind him. She had the same vacant stare I had seen before. She said nothing, but turned toward the man trying to escape. He didn’t need to look back. He knew who was chasing him.
“Please help!” He reached out a hand.
There is no helping this man. To stay and help was suicide. I ran.
His tortured screams echoed in my ears.
I kept running.
Soon enough, the houses gave was to machine shops and small factories.
My lungs burned. I stopped and gasped for air.
The look of horror on his face was etched in my memory.
I felt sick to my stomach. There was nothing I could do. If I had stayed, I just would have gotten infected, too. I knew it was true, but it still hurt to just abandon the man like that.
A building caught my eye. At three stories, it was the tallest building on the block. The plaque mounted next to the door read “Oasis Medical Center Research Annex Two.” On the door was painted the hospital logo.
I knew the hospital had several labs throughout the city, but I had never been in any of them. Still, seeing a building with the same logo that was on my scrubs made it feel something like going home. I decided to look for a way in.