“Remy,” Harlow whimpered, responding to my anxiety.
About as big as two or three city blocks, the brick alcove had small metal shacks all over it. Tatum dragged me towards one, while other soldiers led Harlow, Lazlo, and Blue to separate ones. Once they realized where they were going, Lazlo and Harlow began fighting them. I understood what was happening, and under ordinary circumstances, I would’ve calmed them, but I couldn’t now.
“No, stop.” I tried prying my arm out of Tatum’s iron grip, but he wouldn’t let go. “No, please. You don’t understand. I have to see my brother.”
“It’s just standard procedure,” Tatum said flatly. He opened the door to one of the shacks, and he had to physically lift me up by my arm and toss me inside.
“No! Wait!” I scrambled to my feet and charged for the door, narrowly getting my leg in before he slammed it shut. I’d have a nasty bruise for days after, but it’d be worth it. “No! I have to see Max!”
“Calm down!” Tatum was bewildered by the insistency in my reaction. “It’s just a clean hut! We leave you in here for three days to make sure you don't have the virus, and then you’re free to go find your brother or do whatever the hell it is you want to do!”
“No, please! Just let me see Max first!” I begged, but he pushed my leg in. As hard as I tried, he slammed the door shut. I beat my open palms on it, shouting at him. “Please! I have to see Max! Please! Just let me see him, and then you can do whatever you want with me!”
He didn’t answer, not that I blamed him. I’m sure he walked away from me as soon as he had the chance. I rested my head against the cold, heavy metal of the door and breathed in deeply. A frustrated tear slid down my cheek, and I wiped it away.
I turned back to look at the room. It smelled of bleach and disinfectant, signs of cleaning up after other contaminated individuals, I’m sure. A solitary light bulb hung from the ceiling, so at least they had electricity.
The room couldn’t be larger than a six-by-eight cell. No windows. No toilet, just a bucket in the corner for excrement. A cot sat pressed up against the wall. The only other things in here were me, the blanket, and the clothes on my back.
I went over and sat on the cot, wrapping the blanket tighter around me. I had never felt more defeated in my life, and it was hard fighting back tears. I had come so, so close to seeing Max, and I had lost it at the last minute. I lay on my side, pulling my knees up to my chest.
At least I wouldn’t have to be a zombie for long. Tatum, I’m sure, wouldn’t hesitate to kill me as soon as I showed definite symptoms. This quarantine appeared to be much more secure than the last one. The brick walls would be harder to penetrate, and the soldiers seemed more plentiful and prepared.
The “clean huts” were a genius idea. It was the same thing they’d done with Ol’ Yeller to keep him from killing something innocent without risking death or infection to everybody else. It hadn’t worked out so well for Ol’ Yeller, and it wouldn’t for me either, but it showed some good palnning.
It would be a nice, safe place for Lazlo, Harlow, Blue, and my brother.
I shouldn’t have gotten so involved with other people, because I knew they would only slow me down. But I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t just leave them behind, and I couldn’t not care because it would be easier that way. Max would understand that.
I curled up on the cot and waited to die.
– 16 –
When you know you have less than three days to live, sleep becomes impossible, even when there’s nothing else to do at all. Sometimes, I’d hear Lazlo singing or Harlow crying, but they sounded too far away to really talk to.
An armed guard brought me a meal three times a day, consisting of bread, raw vegetables, and water. I ate mostly because I was bored. My appetite had already died.
What sleep I did mange was filled with horrendous nightmares. Vivid dreams of me turning into a monster and killing all the people I cared about. Even people who were already dead, like Vega, Lia, and Beck, and my parents. I tore them apart, and I woke up screaming.
“Remy!” Lazlo shouted, his voice muffled through the walls. “Remy!”
“I’m okay!” I yelled back, even though it hurt. My throat had gone raw from screaming. My cheeks were wet with tears, and I wiped at them with the back of my hand and struggled to sit up in bed. “I’m alright!”
“What happened?” Even the distance couldn’t mask the panic in Lazlo’s words.
“Nothing! Bad dream!” I wanted to lie, but there was nothing else for me to scream about.
Except for turning into a zombie, which I’m sure he thought was happening. So did I, but I didn’t seem to have any symptoms yet. I felt like hell, but I was covered in untreated wounds, including a giant bite.
My clothes were filthy and covered in dried blood. I hadn’t bothered to try to clean them off or tend my injuries because I kept expecting to die any minute.
I lifted up my shirt to investigate the worst of it. The edges of the bite were red and swollen. The wound itself had partially scabbed over, but it kept breaking open and oozing blood and pus. My blood still looked like blood. It hadn’t taken on that greenish hue yet.
I had a thin cut across my stomach from when I had sliced it on a piece of glass in the car, but I only worried about it because I’d been splattered with zombie viscera. Broken glass had also scratched up my knees and legs, but they were too small to even care.
I had bruises all over, and my entire body was sore from the car rolling and the fighting. It was only natural that I felt like hell. I analyzed every pain and groan, wondering if that was a symptom. They might be normal aches and pains associated with everything I’d gone through, or they might be the virus killing my body.
A heavy knock came at the door, followed by Tatum commanding me to get back. I’m not sure if that was standard whenever they opened the door, or if that was just for my benefit since I had put up such a fight about going in here.
Although, in my defense, I hadn’t fought at all since then. I hadn’t even asked about Max. I’d been trying to except my fate.
“Supper time.” Tatum opened the door, and the metal tray clanged when he shoved it in.
“It’s supper?” I squinted at the sky through the small opening in the door. Time had no meaning inside a metal box.
“Yeah.” Instead of slamming the door like he normally did, Tatum hesitated. “It’s almost done. The 72-hour-hold ends at 2200 hours, but to be on the safe side, you’re staying in until after breakfast. That’s only one more meal, and you’re free.”