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Grade
12

           “In alliance with the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA is unable to disclose information regarding the whereabouts of Acting Chief Scientist, CAPT Gale Wentworth. Although still unclear, it is believed her disappearance may be in fact, a hoax. Many have reason to assume Wentworth to be at fault due to her recent studies in genetic animal testing. Insiders claim to have spotted her within the walls of the facilities but following the outbreak of bacteria 451 and the country’s hysteria, such information cannot be verified as of right now. Even so, riots are beginning to rise throughout the country, the largest and most violent being in the cities of Chicago, L.A., and Houston. The Red Cross is working diligently to treat those infected by the bacteria. But if you find yourself feeling ill do not ignore the symptoms. The illness associated with bacteria 451 stems from the consumption of poultry and/or poultry bi-products. It is also contagious and is thought to be spread through oral transmission. Those infected will experience hallucinations, blisters and/or sores, fever, sudden anaphylactic shock, and seizures. If you find yourself experiencing one or many of these symptoms due to your actions within the last 72 hours, contact the Red Cross at (555-555-5555).

           It is known that in past years the FDA has disregarded several health concerns of the public; some of which include L-Cysteine use within mass-produced breads and baked goods (an additive made from from Human hair and/or duck feathers), and the appearance of rat hair in several brands of chocolate. Although they claim to not be at fault for the country’s turmoil, perhaps they didn’t do much to prevent it either. This is Matt Dufro, reporting to you from WTYNH, be smart and be safe.”

With microphone still in hand, Matt rubs at his eyes. The sky is gloomy, dark, concerning… His body hacks at the thick smoke that surrounds him. The irritants cause his vision to blur. He stumbles towards the station van parked ahead and pulls at the handle. Once inside, he catches his breath.

“Di- did you get it?,” he chokes.

“Yeah, I got it. Really is hell out there, huh?”

His partner, Chris, slams the door behind him as he climbs into the driver’s side. His rough hands grasp the wheel ahead, dirt wedged beneath each nail. His body is rigid and yet it relaxed as he laid his head forward. The radio static whined through high and low frequencies.

“Do you think,” Matt begins, “one of us will get it? The infection, I mean.”

Chris swiftly glanced towards Matt and then at the floor.

“I don’t know, maybe.”

“I feel guilty. Those poor people out there are suffering and we’re here just talking about it, healthy and clean, as if we know squat,” Matt says, “I mean, we see stuff like this all the time but this is too much.”

“At least we aren’t alone,” Chris comforts.

“True, but what happens if one of us gets sick? Promise me you’ll help me, you won’t just leave me to die..,” Matt trails off.

“I promise dude. You’re my best friend.” Chris turns to him, pulling him in tight. As he lets go and retracts backwards, Matt begins to talk again.

“Do you think–”

           All of a sudden their ears began to ring at the sound of an explosion. Instinctively they both crouched beneath the dashboard. The vessel rocked slightly. They held their breath.

          Cautiously, Matt glances into the side view mirror to his right. In the distance he could see flames bursting from the windows of the station building they report from. He knew citizens began to blame them for keeping information from the public but never thought it to go this far.

There was nothing he could do! He himself didn’t know. He only reported what he was told– what was on the TelePrompTer in front of him…

“Shit man! We gotta go,” Chris whispers urgently. He begins to start the engine of the van but drops the keys in his panic.

“Uh, Chris? They’re coming for the van. Chris!”

           Several expletives blurt from his mouth as his hands search the floor. A mob of armed citizens was advancing  towards them. Their faces are blackened as if they were the charred remains of the fire itself. Matt is fixated on their maneuvers in the mirror, petrified.

“Got em!,” Chris yells.

           He shoves the keys into the ignition. The engine mocked their fear as it sputtered back.

“You have got to be kidding me!” Beads of sweat dripped from his forehead. “Matt!”

“Huh?” Matt snapped out of it, reaching over to turn the key once more.

           The van roared as Chris slammed on the gas. The road was almost empty ahead. They began to drive; away from the chaos, away from the fear.

           For miles they sat together in silence. The speakers screamed their static slurs in blurts throughout this time. And just as Matt was about to speak, an emergency radio broadcast began to air.

“Caution. Several acts of local terrorism have been reported within the last hour. If you find yourself in any of these locations, please evacuate immediately: Route 73, the city of Hartford, Tolland County, Highway 13… Due to the unpredictable behaviour of the public the President has issued for closings on all grocery stores, markets, restaurants, and/or any businesses used for the consumption of the public. As of right now it is presumed approximately 82% of the general population have obtained some form of the infection caused by bacteria 451. Increasing cases of starvation have been reported as well. Caution. Several acts of local terrorism have been reported within the last hour. If you find yourse…”

Chris began to pull over into a dirt parking lot and the message continued to sound until Matt slowly lowered the dial. He opened his mouth as if to speak but was interrupted by the groan of his own abdomen.

“I think I have a granola bar in the glovebox if you want it,” Chris offered quietly.

Matt’s eyes widened and his stomach ached at the mere thought of food.

“Really? Are you sure?,” asking cautiously.

“Yeah,” Chris whispered.

As Matt reached underneath the dashboard his shirt began to lift from behind. Paralyzed with fear, Chris found himself staring at the inflamed, pus-filled skin lining his friend’s lower back. His hands trembling, he fumbled with the handle of the door next to him.

“Chris?”

By then Chris had stumbled from the van, his feet numb and nearly useless. Matt leaned towards where he left, shouting after.

“You alright? What’s going on?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. We’re good,” Chris yelled back nervously.

           Trails of sweat gathered at his brow. He inhaled deeply and composed himself as best he could. Walking back to the van he remembered their promise.

           As he sat in his seat, he studied Matt’s face. He watched as he talked and tears began to well up in his eyes.

“Chris? Are you okay?”

          Chris leaned forwards and his arm searched below his seat. As he felt the cold grip in his hand, he pressed his eyes shut. Regaining posture, he looked down at his lap and back at Matt.

He watched his eyes grow and fall to rest. The echo of a gunshot rang through the hazy night.

“I’m sorry Matt, I promised.”

State
Connecticut
Zip Code
06066