The amount of time it took for the world to flip completely upside down was surprisingly short.
As people stand in long lines at their designated quarantine centers, they listen intently to battery-operated radios, watch tiny, fuzzy screens on portable televisions. Men and women, disillusionment etched on their faces, shuffle into what soon becomes a false sanctuary, carrying their children in their arms and hastily-packed bags in their hands. A father drags along his son’s yellow Big Wheel.
An older man standing in line turns and looks back at the ghastly faces of survivors snaking a mile behind him and a chill runs down his spine: it reminds him of Jews being herded into Auschwitz at the beginning of World War II…
On one of the televisions overhead, a young female reporter, her face devoid of emotion but her voice steady, reads from a teleprompter: “The number of confirmed deaths has passed two hundred. The Governor has called a state of emergency…”
In the beginning, no one understood the severity of the disaster, especially those in charge. People were desperately trying to hold on to their old way of life. Those who didn’t go to the quarantine centers barricaded themselves in their homes. The rule of law quickly vanished.
A stocky man in blue-jean overalls, a shotgun across his knees, sits in a rocker in a dark living room, his wife and two small children huddled nearby. They listen intently to the radio in a house void of electricity. They hear the chilling words of a survivor recounting what he saw. His voice is filled with shock and disbelief: “There were hundreds and hundreds of bodies lining the streets.” A pounding at the door, strangled cries; the man jumps to his feet, shotgun at the ready…
Things only turned worse when waves of terror-stricken citizens flooded the make-shift quarantine centers. This, from a news broadcast in New York: “Panic spread worldwide after a leaked report from the World Health Organization showed that the latest vaccination tests have failed.”
Government officials, faced with massive riots on their hands, took the next logical step.
An exhausted nurse, her grimy uniform matted with blood, listens to her hand-held radio. With camera shutters clicking in the background, she hears these brazen remarks from a military commander: “…with the bureaucrats out of power we can finally take the necessary steps to…
Riots in major cities became the status quo.
A woman holding a small infant finds herself practically squeezed to death by a throng of rioters as police push them back. In her eyes, the vacant stare of disbelief that would soon be the hallmark of the non-infected. On loudspeakers overhead, a reporter’s voice delivers the current state of affairs: “Los Angeles is now the latest city to be placed under martial law…” Amid the yelling and screaming, her voice carries on: “All residents are required to report to their designated quarantine…”
Now, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago… Cities wracked by violent upheaval. A cold gray sky threatened to suffocate the huddled masses underneath.
As a man rummages through a dumpster flipped on its side, he hears this from his pocket radio: “Riots have continued for a third consecutive day and winter rations are at an all time low,” and in the background an angry mob screams and jeers.
In Boston, the sun managed to break through the cruel winter clouds. A brief respite from the biting cold.
In the corner of an abandoned building, a thin woman huddles with others under a heap of wool blankets. A radio propped up on an empty milk crate crackles with the latest news: “A group calling themselves the Fireflies have claimed responsibility for both attacks.” A female reporter adds, “Their public charter calls for the return of all branches of government.”
And then something rose from the gloom of utter despair. Something to give the suffering masses hope.
On the fifty-yard line of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, a tired man in a white hazmat suit digs another grave as others drag forth more decaying bodies. In his ear, the latest news from his battery-powered radio. A man’s voice reports: “Demonstrations broke out following the execution of six more alleged Fireflies.”
But for one survivor in Austin, Texas, the hope promised by this latest turn of events was rejected.
Joel lay in a hospital bed on the outskirts of Austin, his torso wrapped in bandages. He was in a make-shift triage center on a gurney which had been rolled into a shadowy corner of the tent. He stared at the ceiling. He was alive, but felt no joy; his heart was slowly filled with a boiling cauldron of black dark sludge. He heard the crackle of a radio playing nearby. Out of the darkness rose a woman’s faint, but urgent plea: “You can still rise with us.” And right before losing her grip on the microphone, she said, “Remember, when you’re lost in the darkness, look for the light. Believe in the Fireflies.”
And Joel turned painfully onto his side, away from the voice.