By Ellie Taggert
At 6:45 every morning I catch the train to the Central Business District just to be amongst the people. I’ve found that those riding the trains are more likely to ignore personal space and less likely to move away from a coughing passenger. Once I reach the station, my routes aren’t set. Sometimes I follow certain people and sometimes I just let the crowd be my compass. I prefer to follow those who wear thick coats and have pockets lined with money. Today I decide to follow a man who ate an ice cream whilst wearing a white button up shirt. I’m told not to discriminate but I feel it’s my purpose to add fairness into my job. I feel my nose run and my ears are ringing again today. It’s the twelfth time this month. As I walk through crowds of people I make sure to leave my morning paper on a bench and brush shoulders with as many people as possible. Today I have connected with 53 people.
In the bathroom, I make sure to touch the soap dispenser and to open each of the cubicle doors. A man sits in the last cubicle shooting a needle into his arm. I smile and sniff at him. He sniffs back. His eyes go watery and sweat forms on his head.
“Why do you do it?” the man asks.
“To pay for my brother’s medical bills and to keep the family farm going. And you?”
“Can’t get a job anywhere else.”
I nod and wait for the men’s door to open. A young business man bustles in holding his briefcase. I knock into him and proceed into a routine of apologies and piling the items into his arms.
Every day I go to a different coffee store. I don’t even like coffee. Today is Beanz on Frank street. I cough in the line and gesture for someone to go before me. I tip the barista and ask if I could also pay for the next person’s order.
A cough echoes in the store. I look across the cafe at a woman in a cheap coat all buttoned up her thin body. She sniffs at me, blood dripping from her nose. I nod at her and sniff back. Another person with the Aurora Strain. I take my coffee and return to my car.
As I pull away from the city I see a young couple looking for directions. My initial instinct is to help however I notice the small child hiding behind the man. The child has the same frail figure as my brother. I reach for the cloth that sits scrunched up in my top pocket to dab my eyes with. I am provided with company issued tissues but I have a feeling they are laced with the Aurora Strain too. Instead I offer these to passers-by and weeping women on the train. I turn away from the family and back to my car.
The highway is deserted. I drive back to my motel and hope to catch the new tenants about to settle in. At the lights a man holds up a sign, his eyes wide, shouting at any car that will listen. His sign reads ‘the sickness is here’.
I wind my window down.
“Adremedium are making us sick. Their company sends spies to infect us,” he shouts.
I can’t help but load up a needle and inject my arm in front of the man just to prove his theory correct. His eyes go wide. And then mine roll back.
I wake up to a jolt of pain traveling up to my head. My rental car is nose to nose with a mangled-up car. I stumble out of my twisted door, and hear the screams of a woman.
“Louis!” she screams.
I sit on the fence along the highway taking in the scene. Blood drips from my nose. I wipe it away with my sleeve this time. A man, presumably Louis, crawls out of the car, blood dripping from his forehead. I walk past him, ignoring the cries for help. I cannot.
“A healthy man is the ideal candidate for the Aurora virus,” the recruiter once said to me.
This man can barely stand. A trail of blood leads out of his car door.
The screaming woman lies curled up on the ground in the middle of the road. A small child is wrapped in her arms.
“Please help me!” she shouts at me before continuing her screams. “Louis!”
She has a child. I back away and my back meets with the remains of their car door. Instinctively, I peer inside and see a young boy, maybe fifteen laying in the back seat. The boy stirs as I approach. The man shouts the name Louis again. I catch the eye of the boy. Instead of Louis I see my brother staring back at me.
I turn away. My case of the Aurora Strain was a rushed decision. A temporary job for a permanent goal.
My hands are covered in sweat and I begin shaking.
“Save my son!” the lady screams.
The woman’s words bring me back to the scene and I begin dragging the man towards my car. I hoist him into it and give my coat to the lady on the ground. She limps over to the car with the child in her arms.
I reach their car and hesitate.
“Are you here for me?” the boy says.
I sniff and lift the boy out of the car. A tear leaves my eye and I place him in the back seat next to his dad.
“Thank you for helping us,” the lady whispers as she touches Louis’s face.
I don’t look at them. They will all be infected.
Soon they will be wheezing and dry heaving. And then the nose bleeds will begin. By dawn they will be screaming for help again. And I will be there with my cheque book and a prescription for Adremedium.