He drove and she lay with her head in his lap. The engine hummed and he combed her hair with his fingers.
“If there’s anything you want to tell me, now would be good,” she said. Her voice sounded alien.
Caleb laughed. “I’m pregnant,” he said.
Tamara wasn’t laughing. While he was still alive, Caleb could not infect her with Epsilon Rex. It was only after he died, and turned into a Wreck, that he was a danger fit for shooting and burning. She wanted children. They had always talked about it. She could turn her head right now and unzip his pants, there wouldn’t be much he could do about it…
Instead, she sat up and looked him in the eye. He looked sheepish, then confused. “What?”
“We should have a family,” she said.
“I know we should,” he said. “But we’re not… oh.”
“Yeah. You should fuck me right now.”
“Is it the right time?”
“When is the time going to be right, Caleb?”
“Midway through your cycle.”
“Oh, right. Shit.” Her menstrual cycle wasn’t going to suddenly fast-forward by sheer force of will. “Maybe we can swing by the sperm bank.” He laughed again.
After a minute Caleb said, “You’ll have kids one day, honey.”
“What? I don’t want anyone else’s fucking kids. Only yours.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Listen.” He took a deep breath. “In years to come, this is going to be like your nine-eleven. Your life is going to be normal again. Everyone’s going to have a story about the time the Epsilon Rex epidemic hit town. And you’ll say, ‘Yeah, it got my boyfriend.’ But you will not… you will not be some withered old spinster who says, ‘I never took another man since that day, because my heart still belongs to my true love, blah blah blah.’ You understand? Remember that. It makes sense. I’m sorry.”
Tamara groaned. As emotional as the moment was, it was also more than a little awkward. He was telling her to sleep with other men. She wondered if every couple hit by a terminal illness had this conversation.
High, old buildings rose around them. The regional offices of tech services were sandwiched in the same buildings as laundrettes and bars. If Rounlin was a person, it would be the geek that grew up in a family of factory workers. Struggling to change, to break free of foundations that didn’t fit. The road from Varsity met up with a six-lane highway before hitting a series of pointless traffic lights.
Rounlin looked like an oasis of sanity. Cars were passing by in every direction now. People ambled around the streets in suits, uniforms, summer dresses. The crisis did not seem to have brought this place to a standstill. This could be sanity or total lunacy, under the circumstances. The guns and chaos were noticeable only by their absence. Tamara tried to work out why this was happening, but couldn’t. There was no lockdown in Rounlin. Military rule was not in effect. It looked to her like a ticking time bomb. If Epsilon Rex had a Head Office with an evil Director, he would be laughing and rubbing his hands together when he saw this place. It was ripe for the picking.
They spotted the letters “METMA” on a large sign improvised from an election poster. There was a squad car at the junction and a single cop was trying to answer questions shouted from several cars. Caleb and Tam managed to extract the relevant information: the treatment centre was to their left about half a mile away. This road was closed to any other traffic.
They were on the home stretch. They had to wait for the line to start moving but the logjam was cleared. All good. Once again, there was a sense of normality like something from another world. Daily life was carrying on. Cafes were open. Call centres and sports shops. Tamara looked up at the windows of the offices. She saw people looking out at her. There wasn’t much to look at… except, of course, a caravan of death. Any one of these cars could turn into a bloodbath. And even if it didn’t this was what was in the news. The Infected Come to Rounlin. Ordinary citizens were expected to turn up for work and act like nothing was happening. But the circus was passing by outside. They hung casually out the windows, talking, pointing, eating muffins.