DAY 3: ZANE
“Emergency Services can be provided at Linvalley Hospital in Linvalley, Pennsylvania. Anyone who hears this message is urged to report to Linvalley as soon as possible. Repeat: Emergency Services can…” The message was being continuously broadcasted on every station. I kept it on because it comforted me to have some sort of noise to drown out the silence of the drive.
A couple hours out from Linvalley, I noticed I was low on gas. I knew the map I had didn’t show gas stations on it, so I kept my eye out for any signs along the highway, which would be difficult to see in the snow. At least I had a map.
I stopped the car to take my Xanax with one of the water bottles I packed from my dorm. Thinking about the strong possibility that the station wouldn’t have a hand pump was making me a little anxious. For the millionth time, I read the label on the translucent orange bottle. “PILLEN, ZANE A. TAKE 1 TABLET BY MOUTH TWICE A DAY AS NEEDED.” I always felt like the all capital letters were yelling at me. Through the bottle, I could see that I had about three days’ worth of the little white pills left. It was a blessing that I was headed to a hospital.
I took the first exit with a gas station symbol, leading me into some small town. Hopefully the area had already been evacuated. I didn’t need — no — want to run into people along the way, especially since anyone would probably just leech off of my supplies. Luckily, everything in the town seemed deserted.
I parked at one of the pumps out of habit, locked the car, and headed into the station in the hopes of finding anything that would help me get fuel. The mini-mart was completely raided, save for a few paper goods and cheap tools. Anything that could be consumed had already been culled, but since I had plenty of provisions, it didn’t bother me. I have always been the type to keep stocked up for emergencies.
I went to check behind the counter for some sort of hand pump or an instruction manual to jump start the ordinary pumps. The manual laid carelessly on the floor, no doubt by someone rummaging for supplies. A quick search through it revealed these particular model gas pumps, through some sort of miracle, did have a manual override — but only with a special attachment. [pullquote align=”center”]The mini-mart was completely raided, save for a few paper goods and cheap tools.[/pullquote]
In my search to find the attachment, I noticed that a lower drawer was locked. I bet I could pry that open with a screwdriver… It was probably just money or something else unimportant nowadays, but I had to check. I ran and grabbed the strongest looking screwdriver left in the place and worked on the lock. In no time at all, it came open with a loud clang.
There was a sudden shove against my back, and I fell forward, sliding a few feet. The layers of shirts and jackets helped to cushion my fall, but for a moment I was stunned.
I looked back to see a guy about my age in a puffy grey jacket crouching by the drawer. He pulled out the manual override and said something, but I couldn’t hear him. I decided to keep quiet. He looked at me as he stood up straight and spoke again. I still couldn’t hear him. The muscles in his jaw clenched, his taut skin growing white.
“… you deaf?” I couldn’t hear the start, but he got louder as he asked the question.
“Y-yes. I have h-hearing aids,” I said. I wouldn’t need to ask him to talk louder. He seemed like he enjoyed yelling.
“That your car?” He pointed out to the gas pumps where I’d parked. I nodded, though I suspected he didn’t need an answer.
“I’ll take the keys.”
I picked myself up slowly, trying to make it seem difficult. He knew now about my disability and heard me stutter, so I was certain he would underestimate me. Abruptly, I tackled him at full speed, or as close as I could reach in so many layers. As I knocked him down, I tried to grab the pump, but his grip was too tight. I just ended up falling to the side. I scrambled to stand again, anticipating a counterattack.
The guy was rubbing the side of his head. He examined his hand, eyes widening at the sight of blood. His hand went to his other ear: more blood. He screamed and pounded the pump into the wall, breaking it. He kept pounding as I ran for the door. I almost tripped over a girl sitting on the curb.
She looked up at me, “Where’s Devon?”
I assumed she meant the guy inside. She was wearing a hood and covered in snow, but the purple hue of the bruises on her cheeks still stood out.
I took a deep breath. “The A-Virus. C-come on,” I reached my hand out to her and she flinched, but took it. We ran for the car.
“We ha-have 10 miles. M-maybe,” I calculated out loud as I drove. “Then, about 160 miles to Linvalley. A p-person walks th-three miles per hour. That’s 53.33 hours. Add in s-sleep, eating, and some l-lag due to weather. We’re up to f-five days.”
She was looking at me strangely.
“Ma-math major,” I explained with a shrug.
She was saying something, but I couldn’t hear her soft voice. “Louder p-please,” I asked, motioning to my ear.
“What if I have it, too?” She checked her ear for blood.
“We’re go-going to a h-hospital.”
“No, I… to you?”
I guessed the full question.
“It d-doesn’t spread that way. Not through o-open wounds or b-breath. Ju-just infected m-meat.” I could tell she was still scared. I gave her an impish smile, “I’m Zane.”
“Moira,” she answered.
And we drove until we ran out of gas.
Xander McMenamin is a third-year student majoring in English writing with a minor in creative writing. He can be reached at AM787850@wcupa.edu. Lauren Christ is a first-year student majoring in communications. She can be reached at LC805869@wcupa.edu.