There were three ways to survive the Blues, and they were not equal. The worst was also the rarest.
Myra Samson woke to the sound of the big box truck chugging up the street. She had watched it leave earlier that day, not knowing why. No one told her anything. Now it was back. It was getting dark. The sun was already behind the mountain. She had slept all day again.
They had put her in the attic of the Stonekey Biddy because it was the nicest one. The walls up here were insulated and there was enough room to stand. There was an antique wood stove in the corner. Shivering, she wrestled a log in and stoked the flames a bit before settling into her rocking chair next to the big picture window.
The box truck had just finished backing into the Rockby. A supply run, then. The truck gasped and wheezed as it settled and then the engine was off. Of the six people who climbed out either the cab or the back, she only knew the names of three. Nico, Mike, and Birdie were all here in the beginning. The others had shown up after she had locked herself away, the skinny redheaded feller only showing up a few weeks ago. Followed Birdie around like a puppy, that one, with a look on his face like he’d just ran into a wall.
He wasn’t looking at Birdie now. He was looking up at her. Myra leaned back, suddenly wracked with a coughing fit. Her handkerchief was over by the bed, damn it. She rode it out, shaking and feeling flushed, until finally the coughing had turned to nothing more than hiccups. She leaned back into the window and saw the skinny puppy was still looking up at her. She looked back. All Myra had was watching, and she wasn’t going to lose it because someone wanted to watch her.
There was something different about him. Mostly, that he had noticed her at all. The few weeks he’d been here he hadn’t seemed to really be here. He’d follow after Birdie, tripping over every rock and root in front of him. Barely missing bigger things like stairs and trees. Despite not even knowing his name, Myra had begun to feel a sort of bond with him. He was as trapped as she was.
Myra held up a hand and waved. He didn’t wave back. But he didn’t look away. A sneezing fit took her, and she was sure he’d be gone. Still there, still staring.
Birdie stalked past him, looking agitated, and that was curious enough for Myra to open the casement. That woman was usually a stone.
“…some bullshit, Nico.”
“I know, okay? I get it. But what the hell are we supposed to do about it?”
Myra couldn’t hear Birdie sputtering, but she could see it in the way her hands and arms waved around. She had a book in one hand.
“Doc!” Birdie started across the grass for the Doblin.
“Birdie, we have to empty the truck…Birdie!”
But Birdie was on a mission. The skinny man stood in the driveway for a few seconds longer, still looking at Myra. He eventually realized Birdie was leaving and followed, his eyes cutting away from her like she was a channel that had gotten boring.
There was a knock on the door, and then Frannie’s heavy voice.
“Myra, you up? I got some dinner here for you.”
Myra stood up out of her chair and walked a few feet, stopping halfway across the room.
“Thanks, Fran. Did Nico and Birdie and all them go down to Denver?”
“No, not Denver. Some mall Nico remembered a few towns over.”
Myra wheezed a sigh of relief, nearly collapsing in the middle of the room.
“Maybe they found me some books,” Myra said, trying to sound light.
“I think they did. Birdie’s losing her shit over a book down there, anyway. Hey, you running low on anything?”
Myra named off a few things and Frannie said she’d bring them in the morning. Myra stayed in the middle of the room, listening to Frannie’s footfalls down the stairs. She would still wait until she went to get her food.
It all reminded her of before the Blues. Her little house had been at the back of a town further up the mountain. She worked from home and had most everything she needed or wanted delivered. She knew the UPS man, the FedEx man, and the mailman all by name, although those names were dust to her now. It wasn’t quite the same, of course. She had friends, then. Online, in chat rooms and over video calls, but they were as real to her as a person standing in front of her.
As the news of the Blues had begun to dominate the television, she started hearing less and less from her friends. No calls, then no posts, and then no one was responding to her messages. The news was splitting its time between death tolls and vaccine information. The usual flu vaccine wouldn’t work, of course, this was a whole new strain. But the CDC was confident a new vaccine could be made, and fast.
It hadn’t been fast enough.
She had had enough in her house to stay there for weeks. It wasn’t until the major networks finally went down that she left the house, searching for something, someone, careful. So careful. She wasn’t going to get the Blues, that she was sure of.
Myra sat down on the edge of the bed. She was still wheezing. Slow, deep breaths. That was all she needed. Spring was here, and her allergies and asthma were working their way up from ‘manageable’ to ‘bad.’ She never thought she’d actually miss her inhalers.
It was only a few weeks after she’d found the Biddies that Keith showed up, and with him a terrible story. He’d come from Denver. There were people there, joining together from all the suburbs, trying to form some sort of town, and they had been doing well until the Blues had shown up.
“What do you mean, shown up?” John had asked. “Had the city somehow avoided it?”
But Keith had shook his head. “No, they got it. Someone came in just two weeks ago, they thought from the Springs, and they had it. And the people who got it the first time around were fine.”
“But the people who had avoided it?” Myra had asked with a watery voice.
Keith had just shook his head.
She had successfully avoided getting the Blues, and that was supposed to be a good thing. Myra had thought it was all over, but it wasn’t. Most everything was but the damned thing that had finished it all.
The Blues was still out there, and Myra could still get it.
After ten minutes, Myra finally opened the door and brought in the tray of food. She was glad that the strange man was looking a little less trapped. For herself, she was fairly certain she’d die in this room.