The sun was just starting to inch its way down the skyline in the small town of Ionia, Michigan. It was a small yet busy town; most of the people had lived here their entire lives. My parents had moved here shortly after I had been born so this town was all I knew. The few people that were still out and about were quickly making their way toward home. No one stayed out very late anymore.
Almost a year ago the beginnings of a nuclear war had started. The United States and its allies were starting to meddle too much in the eyes of the Russians and their allies. Ever since Russia had started executing all the LGBT people it could find, the rest of the world stood up and decided that that was enough. The rest of the world felt as though Russia was committing a great sin and many political summits were held.
The summits seemed to be working at first. There were news stories that the number of LGBT individuals being executed had dropped drastically. Russia then learned that the US had sent in numerous squads of special ops forces to stop the executions without their knowledge and they felt as though the US had overstepped their boundaries. The US denied any knowledge of these special teams.
That’s when everything went downhill and downhill fast. A Russian missile struck an uninhabited island off of Florida and although the island was completely empty and no one had been harmed the US couldn’t let that “accidentally fired missile” (as the Russians claimed it to be) stand. Some missiles of our own were launched and soon war was declared. The missiles and bombs that had been launched and released had totally destroyed a number of various towns and villages around the world as more and more countries got caught up in the fighting. The war, later named The Nova War, would have lasted longer had a deadly virus not been discovered.
When the virus had been discovered, a peace treaty was made so that the scientists could try and find a cure. There was no other choice as this was one of the deadliest known viruses. No one knew exactly where the virus came from but some ventured it was the result of the high levels of radiation. No one knew that a certain facility called DOVE had released the virus on purpose. No, I found that out much later.
This virus would attack your body and was unique in the fact that it gave you exactly one year to live and that’s all we knew about it. Every week we would have to go and get checked to see if anyone had the virus. We all were told that if there were three beeps in a row it meant you had the virus. No one really knew what happened to those found with the virus, they seemed to just vanish from existence. There were rumors that they were experimented on or just killed off but no one knew for sure either way. The scientists are still unclear, to this day, as to how the virus spreads.
I stood in line with about fifty or so others my age waiting until they could get to me. The VDs, or Virus Detectors as they were called, were dressed in what looked like a weird space suit. It was really just their own special version of a hazmat suit.
Big gray boots, white pants and shirt, and a gray helmet totally obscured their face. They had taken great pains to make sure that there was no possible way for them to get the virus.
At first, it had been a frightening situation, being poked with a needle by the VDs, now it was no more than something that we just did. Five years had passed since the war. No one had been found to have the virus for over a year and no one was really worried about it anymore. It’s amazing how quickly people find a way to move on after a tragedy. It seemed like everyone just wanted to pretend like nothing ever happened.
The only good thing that seemed to have come from the whole situation was the liberation of Russia. The leaders had been assassinated by an unknown group, which the US vowed they had nothing to do with, although I wasn’t so sure about that part. A new power took control of Russia leading them into a new era. Everyone was welcomed under the new leadership and the LGBT community no longer had to hide in fear. I consider myself a strong advocate for equality as my best friend from high school was gay. Plus, I mean, equality and all that obviously.
I looked at my watch and hoped that it wouldn’t take too long. My parents don’t like it when I’m late for dinner. I guess you would say that we aren’t your normal family. We like to sit down and have dinner together and talk about how our day was and just spend time together. Not many families did that anymore and I always felt like ours is special in that way.
I would have been closer to the front of the line had it not been for Mr. David getting on my case again at school. Mr. David was the History teacher and not only was History my most hated class but it seemed like I had the most boring teacher in the whole world. He would drone on and on about what seemed like the most uninteresting unimportant things and then expect us to have a bunch of dates and minuscule details memorized for his many pop quizzes.
I hadn’t really meant to throw my pencil at Darcy but it had slipped out of my hand as I was swinging it around and whacked her right in the back of her head. I thought it was hilarious, unfortunately she didn’t hold that same sentiment. She had held her head high and called on Mr. David with her whinny little voice. I tried to defend myself saying it was an accident but of course Mr. David didn’t believe anything that I said. Darcy was the teacher’s pet and she could get him to believe anything.
The Virus Detectors waved the line forward and the shifting caused me to break from my train of thought. I watched as one of the VDs pricked the finger of a tall blonde girl, Vanessa. I knew her from school. I think she sits in the back of my math class. She didn’t wince at all and I admired her for that. A few seconds later the VD waved her away and I watched as her curls bounced with every step she took.
“You gonna move?” some kid behind me asked.
“Yeah, sorry,” I mumbled.
The kid behind me rolled his eyes and I quickly moved forward. Suddenly there was a beeping noise from one of the devices that a VD held. The device beeped three times clearly. Everyone froze and then slowly backed away. A short skinny kid with a scared expression on his face was left standing alone next to the VD. The kid couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 and I wondered why he was out here all alone with no guardian. The kid visibly shook and his eyes darted back and forth. He caught me staring at him; his eyes seemed to plead for help but I knew that there was nothing I could do. I broke away from his stare.
Even though he was covered from head to toe in protective clothing and wore a face mask, the VD also stepped back. No one wanted to have even the slightest chance of contracting the virus. The kid turned and bolted for a nearby alleyway causing several screams and everyone to run.
I stood spellbound as the VD pulled out a gun.
The kid fell as though in slow motion, most of his head blown away, his sandy blond hair now a red mess, half of it gone. I forced myself to turn my own head away as red liquid formed a pool around his prone body. Just like that, the boy’s short life had ended. He was dead and there was nothing I could do. I squeezed my eyes shut trying to get the image of his frightened face out of my mind. When I finally looked back, some VDs had already moved his body into the building behind them and were cleaning up the mess.
“Everyone who has not yet been tested form a line in front of me,” the VD who had fired the gun commanded.
No one moved. We were all too shaken up from what had just happened. He had just shot an innocent young boy.
“MOVE,” he shouted, shooting into the air.
This time everyone obeyed and I jumped forward hoping to get toward the front. I wanted to get this over with as soon as possible. My parents would understand once I told them what had happened here. Although, I didn’t think that I would be eating anything at dinner tonight. I wondered what they would think of the VDs just shooting a child like that.
Finally, it was my turn and I held out my hand for the VD.
“Name?” the man asked nonchalantly.
“Max Johnson,” I quickly said not wanting to waste any more time here.
The VD entered my name into the device and asked me several other questions about my current address, the names of my legal guardians, social security, and my phone number.
“Hand,” he commanded me to reach forward so he could test me.
I watched as he moved the device to my pointer finger. I relaxed my muscles so that the prick wouldn’t hurt as much. He pressed a button and I felt a sharp but quick jab. I held my breath as I waited for the device to check my DNA, do my blood work, and whatever else it calculated.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Time seemed to stand still and my heart seemed to beat a million times faster. Everyone knew that if the device beeped then you had the virus. That meant that I, Max Johnson, had the virus. That was something that I thought would never happen. How could something change so quickly? One minute I was a normal person and the next I had a death sentence. Memories flashed across my mind of my family and friends. I knew that I would never be able to see them again, no one ever did.
I would be put inside quarantine and that’s all I knew because once you went in, you never came back. The VD looked at the reading on the device and frowned. I could barely make out his muffled voice as he talked into a microphone inside his face mask.
“That’s two kids today Greg. It’s getting worse.”
Worse? What was he talking about? We hadn’t heard anything about any recent outbreaks or of anyone contracting the virus for that matter.
I couldn’t hear whoever Greg was but by the look on the VD’s face it must not have been good. He turned to me, pulled out some handcuffs, and put them around my wrists.
“No funny business or you’ll end up like Charlie.”
I nodded quickly. Charlie must have been the kid they had shot. A hood was placed over my head and I was led into what must have been the building behind where the VDs had set up. I was led around and around and soon I thought we were just going in circles; finally, we stopped.
“What are you doing here? You know the protocol, George.”
“We can’t just kill him like the others; I think he might make a good candidate.”
I wondered what they were talking about. We had always been told that they took you to quarantine if you had the virus and what was this about being a good candidate?
“You’ve said that about the last ten or so.”
“I know, I know, but I really think that he might be different.”
“You’ve said that too.”
“Please Greg, just this one time, do it for me? Besides, he’s only 1 day in, he has potential and you know it.”
The man named Greg sighed.
“Fine I’ll do it, but just this one. Drug him and take him to the cleaning bay. We can’t let him know where he’s going.”
“Thanks Greg, you’re a great guy you know. You’re nice and cool and-”
“Oh, shut up and get on with it.”
I felt a sharp jab on my thigh and involuntarily winced. I could feel a strange liquid seeping into my body and making its way to my brain. I tried to fight the feeling of drowsiness but it was too much. My world disappeared as I started to black out.
Rest now my child
Lay down your head
I will always protect you
Rest now my child
Morning will come
Let your dreams take you away
My mother’s soothing voice sang softly to me. I opened my eyes and could see her warm face hovering over me. I was in a small bed, a child’s bed, my bed; I was the child. She stroked my cheek softly.
“Go to sleep baby, mommy loves you.”
My eyes slowly closed and the darkness swallowed me up.