Author : Glenn Blakeslee
They said the best thing to do was stay at home. That way, they said, the retrovirus would have fewer chances to spread and the effects would be minimized.
We made it for three days, Donna and I. We had plenty of food we’d saved for emergencies. We both worried about Cody, who was at the Conner’s for a sleepover when the retrovirus broke out.
Like I said, we lasted three days. On the morning of the fourth day someone pounding on the front door woke me. A middle-aged man stood on my porch, yelling, “Let me in! This is my house!” He looked angry.
I opened the door a crack. The man tried to push through, but I pushed back. “Let me in!” he screamed through the crack. I yelled back at him, “This isn’t your house!” The man stepped back a little bit, looked at my house and asked, “Are you sure?”
The government says that the retrovirus rides piggyback on a gengineered meningitis virus. It’s able to push through the blood-brain barrier, and destroys something called NMDA receptors on hippocampal place cells. The government says that area of the brain is vital for “the rapid acquisition and associative retrieval of spatial information.”
I’m no scientist, but the retrovirus didn’t seem like a big deal.
I bolted the door, and discovered Donna was gone. We’d argued about Cody, whether he was safe, and I knew where she’d gone before I found the note. I ran for the car.
People were wandering the street. I watched the same man knock on three doors. My heart was pounding because I needed to find Donna and Cody, and I felt feverish but figured it was the adrenaline. I used my cell phone as I turned the corner, but none of my calls went through. A bus was parked past the corner, the passengers crowded about, some of them yelling at the driver who stood shrugging. At the stop sign three kids on bikes, two of them crying, rode aimlessly down the street. I turned at the stoplight, pretty sure it was the way to the Conner’s.
At the next light I realized I was lost.
I’ve lived in this goddamn city all my life. I’ve driven, walked or rode nearly every street. I’d remember houses, buildings, trees, and used them like a roadmap. Places had built a structure in my head, but I suddenly couldn’t access it.
Buildings have a shape and a texture, trees a form and color, but every tree and building looked like any other. I couldn’t point and say, “That’s a hospital,” because I didn’t know what a hospital looked like. I had built the structure visually, and now my eyes were all I had. It was my knowledge of places, and their relationship to one another, that had failed me.
I’m no idiot, I know my own address. I should have brought my GPS.
I drove, searching, until the gas ran out. Now I’m in a crowd of people on the street, milling about. Some are screaming and crying, some are smiling as they recognize others they know. One man climbed on a newsstand and started preaching, until a group of men pulled him down. The police are as confused as everyone else. We’re like a herd of lost animals.
I keep looking for Donna and Cody.
A woman I spoke to said that it’s like this everywhere. Everyone is lost. She said, optimistically, that the government will send in guys dressed hazmat-style, and they’ll lead us to our homes.
But then what?