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I am so screwed.
Rachel stood at the front window of her parents’ house, scanning the neighborhood with binoculars in hand. Mountains of rotted trash lined either side of the normally pristine street. She panned the area again, examining every dark shadow and possible hideout. Nothing. Some freak job with a gun could be hiding, waiting to attack, and she’d never know until it was too late.
Or, there could be no one out there. No one at all. Which was equally as bad.
“Godammit!” she choked out.
It seemed like such a good idea, moving out of her tiny apartment and into her parent’s house when they came down with Ruyigi ebola. She’d brought her sister,too, and nursed all three of them, sick after the initial outbreak, praying they’d recover quickly, waiting for the CDC’s miracle vaccine, which did not materialize. It never occurred to her they’d die, leaving her alone and scared shitless.
The streets and houses she’d grown up with twisted into a terrifying episode of the Twilight Zone. Abandoned cars and dead bodies choked the roads and sidewalks. A pillar of smoke rose from a building burning somewhere on the horizon.
Worst of all — she suspected everyone was dead. The streets in her neighborhood were empty and quiet. Too quiet. Maybe all the creeps toting guns and stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down had died from the virus. Maybe the soldiers trying to restore order were gone, too. Maybe the mobs of people fighting over food shipments were dead.
Two days ago, Rachel went outside to scavenge for supplies but found only a few wobbly and feverish individuals roaming the streets of San Diego. The power was still on, hanging by a thread. The TV was fuzz, the cellphones were static and the Internet didn’t work. All those things required people to maintain.
Hot tears ran down her cheeks. She sniffed and rubbed them with the back of her hand.
Rage surged through her body. Breath burst in and out of her chest. She slid her useless smartphone out of her pocket, peeled off the pink protective case and hurled the black rectangle against the wall. It bounced off Mom’s favorite wallpaper and skated across the floor, dented and scratched. Not good enough. Rachel strode over and dug her heel into the front screen until she heard a satisfying crunch.
She’d lived her whole life scared, hiding behind an extra 60 pounds, baggy clothes, a commanding father, and her beautiful mother and sister. Everyone knew she was that way—timid and shy, borderline agoraphobic. Heck, she even knew it. It wasn’t like she was in denial. But she’d recently lost the weight and…she choked back a sob… and now she’d lost her family.
She pushed a lock of hair off her sweaty forehead, pulled on the big girl panties and straightened her back.
Time to do something, even if it’s wrong.
She grabbed the keys to Mom’s Lexus, the only car that had a full tank of gas, and stuffed it with luggage, gallons of water and bags of nonperishable food she’d prepared hours before. Books, flashlight, sleeping bag, a few mementos, pictures of friends and family, and a laptop followed in the trunk. And finally, she forced herself to take Dad’s loaded revolver, wrap it in a towel and tuck it securely under the front passenger seat. Safe and sound. Just in case.
Goal number one: Get the heck out of town.
Goal number two: She’d figure that out after she got the heck out of town.