Infected. Katie was infected. That was what the doctor woman said. Her friend was infected. Her Katie. No. No no no.
Lindsay spent days trying to see her, trying to get out of bed and find her, to help somehow. Maybe if they did a blood transfusion? Maybe if… maybe…
In the end she couldn’t get out of the room. Even though she felt stronger and her wound barely pained her anymore, the metal door remained locked from the outside. The doctor woman, Major Richards, came to check on her every four hours. She brought her books and an old tablet to watch some movies on. None of it helped alleviate the urgency to get out and find Katie. She partially marveled at her own recovery speed, how the pain in her shoulder went away after just 48 hours. She figured maybe it was painkillers.
The other man in the room remained unconscious. Major Richards checked on him when she came to visit Lindsay. On the second day, she removed Lindsay’s restraints and let her sit up and walk around. She considered bolting for the door, but it didn’t open from the inside. Major Richards knocked to be let out. So she helped the woman with her other patient instead.
He was gaunt and bruised. Several days of beard growth had robbed him of any youthful appearance. The fingers of his left hand were splinted and set where they’d been badly broken. It was on the third day, when Lindsay quietly handed Major Richards damp cloths, that she thought to ask who he was.
“They call him Jazz, but his name’s Evan Keys. He’s a pilot.” Richards turned her gaze on Lindsay, and despite the situation, Lindsay thought she looked concerned. “You didn’t say anything about torture, you don’t have anything to tell me right?”
“No,” Lindsay said, but didn’t look at her.
“When they first brought you in, I checked you for signs of rape. I didn’t find any, so I wanted to let you tell me anything else on your own. Your injuries seemed minor, but physical ones are easily mended. Evan has suffered a lot. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to help him. I’d like to help you, if I can?” Richards turned back to the man and checked on the bandages at his neck, shoulder and chest. She seemed to quietly wait for something.
Lindsay said nothing. She thought about the skinny man who had tried to hurt her. In her mind she felt the bones and cartilage of his neck give way beneath her knee. If she closed her eyes, she’d see his face, pleading her. It was like a knife in her gut, twisting. She felt it in her spine, in her stomach, and in her hands. It was like electricity buzzing for release. She realized she feel even a little remorse and that frightened her.
Major Richards sighed and stood back, checking Evan’s vitals on the monitors. Lindsay moved away, intending to go sit on the small couch in the room. She felt ashamed and angry and fearful. She thought of her father. Thought of how he never apologized once for what he’d done to her and her mom. He’d been angry at them when the police came. During the trial he’d laughed.
He’d had no remorse either.
“Lindsay?” Major Richards said, stepping away from Evan’s bed and walking towards the door. “I’ll see you in a few hours okay? I think we’ll go outside.”
Lindsay’s heart leapt into her throat. She turned, all thoughts of her father and the dead man gone.
“I want to see Katie.”
Major Richards winced. “I’ll see what I can do?”
“Please! You said she was infected. I… I have to see her, before… before…”
She didn’t cry. Lindsay wasn’t sure she had any tears left to shed. Instead she felt tired, weary, hopeless. Major Richards came to her, squeezed her shoulder.
“We’re treating her. We’re close to a cure here. Trust us.”
None of her words seemed to lift the haze on Lindsay’s mood. Even the thought of a cure felt strange and far away. She nodded anyway, not meeting the doctor’s eyes.
Major Richards turned and knocked on the door. A moment later it opened. Through the opening, Lindsay saw a man in a uniform with a rifle held across his chest. He held the door for Major Richards as she began to slip through.
The voice was hoarse and dry like brittle paper. Lindsay turned just enough to see Evan’s eyes open, searching and confused. Major Richards paused in the open door. The guard had heard it too and was frowning, opening the door wider to look inside.
“Jazz?” the guard said. “You awake buddy?”
“Lieutenant Keys—“ Major Richards began, turning to take a step back into the room. They were both looking at the man in the bed. Neither were looking at her. The door was open. She could see the gray corridor outside.
Lindsay ran for it. She ignored the sudden, shocked protests of the guard and Major Richards and scrambled into the corridor. The guard grabbed for her, but his fingers found little purchase on the thin slip she wore.
Her bare feet felt cold cement beneath her as she ran, turning blindly down hallways that all the looked the same to her. It felt oddly similar to the radio station. Behind every door might be Katie, but instead of blank walls, these rooms had big, open windows. She could see perfectly into them. Most were dark and silent but some were filled with horrors.
Shouts rose behind her, booted feet running to catch up to her. She ran harder, ignoring the sight of infected milling aimlessly within their sealed rooms or trying to push through the bars of cages. They reminded Katie of human-sized kennels.
She felt like she ran for hours, but the complex was not that big. In just under a minute, she found a window that looked into a room like her own. It was slightly smaller, with only one bed. Katie lay on it, strapped down by her ankles and wrists. Her eyes were closed and she looked pale and bruised but that was all. She wasn’t a monster yet. Yet.
“There!” She heard the guard’s voice and more people came. She felt them approach and banged on the glass, calling Katie’s name. Her friend didn’t open her eyes, didn’t even move as they dragged Lindsay away from the window. She fought and screamed and pleaded but two men held her firmly and Major Richards was saying things to her that she didn’t hear.
They took her back to her room and sat her on the small couch. One guard stayed while the rest left, shutting the door. The guard looked exhausted and pissed off but didn’t say anything to her. Lindsay said nothing in return. Evan Keys was no longer awake and the machines hooked to him beeped softly.
A few minutes later, the door opened and Major Richards arrived, worrying over a syringe. One more guard trailed her and this one took hold of Lindsay’s arm and pulled it out straight. She struggled to pull it free but his grip was too strong. Major Richards pulled the cap off the syringe and approached.
“What is that?” Lindsay said, finding her voice. She found she was afraid too.
“Just something to make you sleep. Lindsay you shouldn’t have done that. It’s dangerous down here.” Major Richards paused, looking her in the face. She looked sad.
“I wanted to see her…”
“I know,” Major Richards said. “It’s hard when you can’t help your friends.”
Something welled up in Lindsay’s throat and before she knew it, she was sobbing. Something had broken inside, seeing Katie lying there, helpless. She couldn’t even sit with her, hold her hand, talk to her.
“I told her I loved her and now I can’t even talk to her!” She managed. The syringe paused above her skin, Major Richards turning to look at her. Her brow furrowed, her expression softening.
“Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry,” she said.
Lindsay heard a new voice in the room. Major Richards looked away from her and towards a man with close-cropped, gray hair, a narrow face, and deep-set eyes. The guards seemed to stand up straighter when he looked their way.
“Major,” the man said. “What’s happening here?”
“Sir, she got out. I was just going to give her something to help her sleep. Calm her down.”
The man looked from Major Richards to her. His eyes narrowed, lips pursed. His hands were behind his back. After considering her for a time, he sighed.
“No need for that, Major.”
“Lindsay, was it?” the man said, coming to crouch in front of her. It put them almost at eye level. Lindsay nodded.
“I’m Gideon. Gideon Fitzpatrick. I’m sorry for what you’ve seen here. For what you’ve been through. I can’t imagine what this must be like for you.”
His voice seemed genuine and it put her somewhat at ease. She still didn’t know what was going on, and almost didn’t care. Katie was lying in that room, sick. She had to do something.
“I just wanted to see her.”
“I know. She’s important to you?”
“My daughter died of this shit a while ago. She wasn’t much older than you. Twenty-four, newly married. I didn’t understand why God could do this to me. To her. This plague is the devil’s work and it’s going to be very dark before His light returns. What you saw was us fighting back. We’re working on a cure. If we can do it, I can save your friend. Save a lot more daughters from dying.”
Lindsay nodded. She didn’t know what else to say but she wanted to believe him. A cure for Katie meant life. It meant she could hold her hand again, talk to her, hear her voice.
“My men told me what you did at the compound. How you handled yourself. You are a resourceful girl. I could use someone like you.”
“Sir,” Major Richards began but he held up a hand and she went silent.
“Me?” Lindsay said, blinking. “What can I do?”
“There is a woman who can help cure this plague but she’s in a bad place. I’m sending some people to get her. I think you could be of some real help. She’d trust you where my men might look scary. We’re going to rescue her and bring her here so she can help solve this thing. Do you think you can help us?”
“Will she be able to cure Katie?”
“Okay,” Lindsay found herself saying. He took her hand and stood up, helping her to her feet. Standing nearly a foot taller than she was, Gideon Fitzpatrick nodded down at her.
“Then let’s get you ready.”