DAY 1 : ANYA
It was so cold that steam rose from my nostrils with every exhalation. I was getting a brain-freeze just from breathing; it felt like a punishment for still being alive. So far, we were still in winter’s good graces. There hadn’t been more than an inch of snow since before New Year’s, and that was a while ago. If nothing else, the weather acted as the world’s largest freezer section, keeping our perishables fresh while we made the journey to Linvalley.
It would’ve been more useful if we were bringing meat with us, but after Farmer’s Flu hit the university, none of us could trust raw meat. All processed meat been recalled from the grocery stores months ago anyway. [pullquote align=”right”]But we didn’t have much trouble until we decided to head for Linvalley Hospital. They called the refugee center there a sanctuary, and that was enough to make our mouths water.[/pullquote]
I remember my mother calling to warn me. She asked me not to buy or eat any meat products for a while; the government was giving warnings on the five o’clock news.
“Since when do you watch the ‘disaster channel?’” I teased her, highlighting class notes for my Public Health Nutrition exam.
She laughed at our old joke. “Yeah yeah, Anya, I know. Just humor ya motha’, okay? It could be E coli or something. I’m just assuming the worst.”
We soon found out just how bad the worst could get.
When Oxborough University went down, Moira, Kathryn, Izy and I holed up in our apartment in town for a while, living off frozen meals and water-bottles. It didn’t take long for Moira to invite Devon into our home. It took even less time for Devon to start making decisions for the group, and Izy to fight him on every one.
But we didn’t have much trouble until we decided to head for Linvalley Hospital. They called the refugee center there a sanctuary, and that was enough to make our mouths water. Linvalley was only a couple towns over, but without a car, it would take us some time to get there.
“We’re going the wrong way,” Izy insisted, pushing ahead of Devon and pressing on further down the street. “If we make a left here we can get back on track.”
The muscles in Devon’s jaw clenched, his taut skin going white. “You’re wrong. We’re not going that way. We keep going straight.”
“But that’s stupid! We’re going in the opposite direction. We should turn left here,” she pointed to the street corner. I pulled my scarf tighter around my neck and shivered. In this moment, I regretted having cut my hair so short.
“Ya know, I’m getting real sick of your piss-poor attitude,” Devon grabbed a fistful of Izy’s jacket and pulled her back. The rest of us slowed our pace, coming to a stop in the middle of the street.
“Don’t touch me, you creep!” Izy screamed, her wild jet-black hair flying every which way as she ripped herself from his grip.
“Babe…” Moira pleaded, crossing her arms uncomfortably.
“What the heck is your problem?” Kathryn yelled, puffs of steam rising from her words.
Devon’s glare darted from roommate to roommate, and when his gaze landed on mine, I felt a shiver in bottom of my gut. Those were the eyes of a desperate man.
The glare only teased Izy’s ego.
“You got something to say to me?” she said, moving into his personal space.
I glanced warily from Devon to Izy, then back again. Hanging back, I reached into my jacket pockets, fingering the latch of my switchblade through my gloves. In the times since Farmer’s Flu started, I liked to be safer rather than sorry. Especially with death and uncertainty right around the corner.
“Just this,” he said.
Then Devon’s fist flew across the gap between them and connected with Izy’s face. His puffy grey jacket caught drops of blood from Izy’s nose.
We stood stunned as Izy hit the ground with a sickening smack. Devon stood immobile over her, wide-eyed. Then he regained his composure and crossed his arms.
“You made me do that,” he said, brushing off his coat.
Izy curled up into a ball and began sobbing silently. Moira shrunk back, well-rehearsed with Devon’s anger, and looked like she was going to cry herself.
Devon turned to the rest of us.
“Anyone else want to be the leader?”
His eyes found my blade griped tightly by my side. He looked from the blade, to me, then back again. He smirked.
And without another word, he walked up the nearest driveway and straight into the house it connected with. Kathryn shot me a worried glance, but Moira began to move toward the house, her eyes finding nothing but the pavement. With a sigh, Kathryn and I scooped up Izy headed into the house.
Devon refused to let us travel any farther that day, despite knowing we would lose half a day’s distance. He insisted we stay there for the night.
I sat by Izy most of the night and listened to her labored breathing. She had hit her head pretty hard, and she had been weak to begin with. I tried to clean the blood off her face with the sleeve of my sweater, but it didn’t do much.
Sometime after Devon was asleep, Kathryn came to me.
“We need to leave, Anya. It’s not safe here anymore.”
“But what about Izy?” I turned to the struggling girl.
“You know she’s not going to make it.” Kathryn was right, and I knew it. Still, I couldn’t help but tear up as we left. We packed all the supplies we could find and took off into the night. We walked for four hours before snowflakes began to drift from the sky, and we took cover in a backyard toolshed.
I awoke the next morning with the feeling of dust in my eyes. Kathryn wasn’t up yet, but the sun was. We overslept.
“Kathryn,” I said as I shook her shoulders, but she didn’t move.
“Kathryn,” I repeated, lifting her head. A thick lump dropped into the pit of my stomach as I lifted my arm from her ear and saw blood on my fingers. Kathryn was dead.
(To read “Day 2,” pick up the next issue of the Quad.)
Veronica Mattaboni is a third-year student majoring in English writing with a minor in creative writing. She can be reached at VM785925@wcupa.edu. Alecc Costanzi is a third-year student majoring in English writing with a minor in creative writing. He can be reached at AC688759@wcupa.edu.