Chapter 8 of a multipart fantasy serial, new chapter every week, mostly.
If the clock on the computer was right, Patricia started reading the BBS posts at around 11pm Friday night. The zTerm app had dialed into some sort of civilian network of “preppers” and survivalists. Based on her reading, this particular “Node” was in Colorado Springs, and regularly connected to the other network nodes to copy and share messages in the BBS, or bulletin board service. There were messages posted by “Stations”, bunkers like this one, as well as automatically copied messaging from various military networks, including Cheyenne Mountain.
Starting Sunday (the day after her accident) there was conversation about whether or not this virus thing was dangerous, and what precautions people were taking. This quickly devolved into reports of affected areas, body counts, and some outright panic. There were detailed reports. The virus went from being a mild cough to vomiting blood in a few hours, and was fatal in all recorded cases. Simply breathing unfiltered air would cause the spread. There was a series of posts from one group of preppers, a family, who had bunkered early. Somehow, those in the bunker had got the virus anyway, and posts detailed the the symptoms and spread. All had succumbed, but before the last one (the mother) had died she had made one last post. Attaching an image to show the outcome.
Without thinking, Patrica downloaded the image, and after it finished downloading to the desktop, she opened it. The picture was fairly high detail, perhaps a nice digital camera, and showed the father lying in a small bunk bed, almost too much brown dried blood on his beard, and the pillow case. Just like Patricia had seen Demitri coughing up. That was horrible, but in her oddly disembodied state, Patricia felt nothing. Until she looked at a part of the picture that was just visible. Beyond the bunk, there had been another bed pulled nearby. In it was a small body. The blood had been wiped from her face. Patricia stopped looking at the picture. She closed the window on the computer. She walked over to the exposed toilet, and threw up. Not blood. Chili beans. She was holding his hand. Another round. Patty sat for a while and shook. She didn’t know when she had started to sob, but there it was.
Eventually, Patricia stood back up, and walked to the sink to wash off. She then climbed back down into storage to look for something to get the taste out of her mouth, and after looking around came back up the ladder with a bottle of Tequila that she had found. Patricia had drank a little before, her parents letting her drink wine and even shots of whiskey once on St. Patricks Day at home, their philosophy had been based on a trip they’d made to Europe before getting married and was basically, “You’re going to do it anyway, so might as well be where you’re safe”.
Patricia grabbed a metal cup from the cupboard, filled it about half way with the golden liquid, and looked around for somewhere to sit. There, on the wall by the ladder, was a futon that she hadn’t seen when she had come in, looking basically unused, and comfortable. She walked over and slumped in, drink in one hand, bottle in the other. Feeling oddly self conscious, and suddenly and ridiculously a little anxious about breaking the law and drinking underage. She took a good sized sip of the liquor feeling it burn down her throat while she tried to school any reaction. Who was she trying to look cool for, wasn’t everyone dead? Patricia laughed. At first a dark chuckle, but after another sip, she began to really let it out. How was any of this true? That’s just it. It wasn’t.
Patricia began to think while she sipped more on the tequila, and it became more obvious that this was some elaborate ruse. Why was there only Demitri when she woke up? She felt around at her injuries that had her in the hospital and other than some bruises and scabs, she wasn’t able to see anything that would have kept her hospitalized for a week. It didn’t add up. The only reason she could think of would be that Demitri was some kind of pervert and had locked her down here. Patricia got up from the futon, and shouted, “I’m onto you! I know you’re watching PERVERT!”, gesturing with the now empty cup as she walked around the bunker, scrutinizing the ceiling for cameras. “When my parents find you and this place you are going to wish you’d died of the hyper-ebola.”, a pause for a sip and the rant continued, “That picture of the girl with her ‘Dad’”, Patricia tried to make air quotes with her full hands while she said the word, “Almost had me fooled.”, Patricia put down the bottle and cup on counter. She was starting to feel a little warm as the Tequila hit her, but still stable enough. “I’m going to come up there and kick your ass.”
Patricia marched over to the entry ladder and started to climb up. The light, sensing her motion, kicked on and Patricia quickly climbed to the top. She spun the hatch and threw it open. Climbing out of the hatch into the well lit hospital room the triumphant words that Patricia was going to say were cut off. Demitri was still slouched in his chair, except now there was an unnatural whiteness to his slumped face, one of his hands was on the arm rest of the chair, and the other was palm up, like Demitri was about to beg her for money. His hand had purple splotching on it. The plastic sheets that had been hung popped a bit in the draft of air coming out of the bunker, and with horror Patricia watched as some of the duct tape that had been taping the plastic sheet to the dry linoleum floor separated and allowed for air to flow out underneath the sheet. Patricia, suddenly sober, ducked down and hurriedly closed the hatch above her, spinning the lock shut.
Breathing hard at the top of the ladder Patty cursed, and then screamed before calming a bit. That was no fake. Demitri was clearly, and very realistically dead. Had she just doomed herself? How long did the virus live in the air? She hurried down the ladder, and still shaking, uncorked the tequila once more, and took a shot straight from the bottle. She took it with her and headed over to the iMac once more, bringing up the closed terminal, dialing the BBS, and jumping forward past the story of the prep family. She went to an article from NORAD, written in all caps and formatted meticulously, she read the details. The virus can last in the air for at least 72 hours, though it was unknown how much longer. First symptoms happen within 12 hours of exposure, death within 24. NORAD had cases and they were worried the whole base had been infected somehow. Patricia began to curse with great speed. That was the last message on the BBS from anyone. And it was over 24 hours ago. Patricia made a post.
From: McKee Medical Center Evac #1
Subject: HELP! Is there anyone out there still alive?SOS -- I'm in a bunker in a Colorado Hospital. I believe that I'm the last person alive in this hospital, or at least that there is no one immediately coming who is able to help me. I may have been exposed to the virus, but I am showing no symptoms at this point. What is going on? Am I going to die?- Patricia
Patricia finished the message and stood up, feeling woozy and a little tired from the tequila. Despite being worried this could be her last 24 hours, Patricia lay down anyway, and was fast asleep on top of the sheets.
When she awoke, she had a headache, an awful taste in her mouth and about a 1/3 of the tequila was missing from the uncapped bottle next to the bed. There was also a message on the BBS:
From: Al Asad AFB, IQ
Subject: Hey Patty, a/s/l?
Patricia opened the post.