I love Wisconsin. It is the first place, probably the only place, I will ever see fields of dandelions for wine. We named our first cat after a circus town there – Baraboo. I have even been to Spring Green. It's a real place. And nothing resembling this installment story happened there. Really...
Now, sitting in the quiet house, Debra could almost hear the station attendant's screams and the echo of what remained of his humanity. But they were only memories and as she listened harder she could hear muted voices, floating up from the kitchen below, through the vent to Mary’s room. The voices were familiar and Debra felt a small comfort which grew as the aroma of fresh brewed coffee rode the wave of voices from the kitchen.
She looked around the bedroom, so different from the one in Chicago she shared with Dave. Everything was so different. Ever since Dave had burst into that bedroom, waking her from a dead sleep. He gave her fifteen minutes to throw everything she could into four rubbermaid tubs which were stuffed into the back of their car, already half filled with guns and ammunition. She never asked where the weapons came from. Dave worked in tech support. The only guns he had ever handled were made by Nintendo. They stopped at her hospital, Dave in the driver's seat. He gave her specific instructions of what to take and how long to spend. He would leave after fifteen minutes. With or without her. The hollow desperation which filled his dark blue eyes made it clear he wasn't kidding.
In the huge four poster bed in the center of the room, Mary continued to sleep, curled on her left side. Debra pulled the afghan over her friend’s shoulders and for a brief second placed her hand on Mary’s midsection. Under cover of the afghan, the huge pregnant belly resembled a beach ball and it was hard to associate the fullness with Mary’s normally slender shape. Debra smiled as Mary’s warmth permeated her hand and the baby underneath gave a tiny kick which was slowly pushed away by the tightening of uterine muscles. Mary had been in the beginning stages of labor for nearly twelve hours. It had not been too bad yet, but Debra feared that if things didn’t begin to progress more quickly both baby and mamma would be in trouble.
As if hearing her thoughts, Mary turned and opened her eyes. “It will be okay Deb. That one was only about five minutes after the one before. I just want to rest here a little longer and then I’ll walk some more.”
Debra smiled. “You rest as long as you want Momma. Does the coffee smell good? I’ll yell down for the guys to bring us some up.”
“No, I don’t want any. But, you go on down and get a cup. You’ve been up here all day. I would be ready to pull the flowers off this wallpaper from the sheer boredom.”
Debra began to protest. They had all decided. No one was to be alone. Ever. Not even in the house. Mary gave a mighty heave and sat up. “Look, unless those freaks have learned to be quiet there is no way they could climb up here and sneak in. Especially through these.” Mary motioned to the windows directly across from the bed. Hidden behind the partially closed blinds the windows were covered with two layers of barbed wire. An electric cord dangled down one side of the window where it was plugged into the outlet. The opposite end of the cord had been stripped and the red and yellow wires were wrapped around various barbs. Anyone daring to grab the wire would be greeted with a nice firm 2-20 handshake courtesy of Thomas Edison. Assuming the generator was working...
“Fine. I’ll go suffer through a cup of Jake’s coffee. You rest for another thirty minutes and then come down. We’ll fix a nice dinner. Your last as a childless woman!” Debra patted her friends belly again before walking from the room.
The generator lights of the kitchen and the warmth from the stove were a welcome respite from the chilly bedroom. Two months into the sickness, the Underground had begun its takeover of the utilities. Electricity was rationed county by county for four hours a day. Gas powered generators were still functional as long as gasoline was available but it was more and more difficult to get supplies. Jake had laid in a winter's supply of wood for use in the wood stove which filled half the living room wall. Winter in the middle of Wisconsin was not the time to trust utilities. That had not changed.
“The trend looks to be a slow die out as long as the food source is removed.” Jake was leaning against the counter. Debra’s husband Dave sat at the kitchen table. Several maps and various documents were scattered about.
“So, Chicago and Madison are gone?” Dave spoke without looking up. His finger traced a thin line along the map.
“Yup, shock and awe buddy. Shock and freakin’ awe! It was amazing. Flames twenty feet high.” Smoke from a single cigarette resting on a saucer illustrated his words.
Dave shook his head. “What about the people that were clean. The ones not infected yet?”
“That’s the key. Not-infected-yet. The Underground did all it could to get the word out. Those who stayed behind were too much of a liability. They were given every chance.” Jake grabbed the smoldering cigarette and ground it into the saucer center. With a grating crack the bone china broke into two pieces. “Shit,”Jake said as he turned away from his friend and elbows on the counter, placed his head in his hands.
Not sure what is happening here? Click HERE for part one. Come back on Wednesday October 9 for part three.