Tamara glanced at the girl with the egg t-shirt and was horrified by the level of exhaustion radiating from the kid. She swayed like a drunken clown.
“Hey,” Tam said. The girl looked at her. Her eyes were so hooded, it was like she’d got 50% extra eyelids free. “You wanna sleep for a while?” said Tam. “You can use my car if you like.”
It was dark, and at least half the people with seats were asleep. It resembled an airport at night, apart from the smell. Some people were curled up on the floor but that was desperation. The teenager smiled. It was a wide-mouthed smile that made her abruptly look like an actress. Tamara described the car and gave her the keys.
“Will you watch out for my number?” Egg Girl said. She gave Tamara her ‘ticket’, half an A4 sheet. The number of her victim was 729. Tamara looked at the board and realised it was already higher than that. She swallowed. People weren’t dying in sequence, but if someone higher than 729 had died, then 729 could go at any time. She tried not to think about it. Egg Girl left, dragging her feet comically.
Tam stuck with Ollie. His companionship helped her stay sane. He kept rabbiting on about stuff that was blissfully irrelevant like his boat, his collection of car decals, what he did during the Reagan administration to fuck the system.
Some people at the other side of the room—it was big enough to hold many large groups completely separate—were getting angry.
“Uh oh,” said Ollie. “Bad apples making a stink.” In fact, they were justifiably furious people who wanted what was right. But it ended with soldiers firing shots in the air to quiet them. The shots hit the ceiling and something metal came down and hit someone. He was bleeding. Tam was getting a headache and she hadn’t even been hit by debris. There was no vendor with aspirins. She had already checked.
A radio had attracted much attention. Tam and Ollie tried to get closer but ended up having to learn the news through others who had heard it. The story made Tamara shiver. The government had warned young people against “Wrecking” parties. Some estranged teenagers thought it was fun to deliberately get infected and all turn into zombies together.
“Ye gods,” said Ollie, mindfucked for the first time since Tam had met him.
“You’d be surprised,” she said. “Kids get so bored, they don’t think about consequences. Anything that comes along, they’ll do it. Sniffing glue, surfing trains…”
On the plus side, the radio also reported that army teams were keeping a lid on the outbreaks. The situation was “stabilising”. Still, there was no word of a cure.
Images of chaos were never far away. The public had been informed they should not under any circumstances approach hospitals. They were all swarming with Wrecks. Mysterious and surreal stories had also emerged where Wreck behaviour changed depending on the circumstances. Sometimes they tore each other apart. A few dried husks had been found that people were calling Wreck Mummies.
“I dunno,” said Tam. “Seems to me that we’re all underestimating this thing.”
An anorexic hippy woman had overheard her. “What the hell kinda message is that?” she cried. “Couldn’t you be more supportive? Don’t you know we’ve gotta think positive?”
Tam muttered, “I think the radio only works one way.” The woman scrunched up her face. Luckily she didn’t get it. Ollie laughed politely.
“Don’t anybody say Jehovah,” he said. The reference bypassed Tam but he seemed to be on her side. They fell back to somewhere quiet.
Egg Girl’s brother died at three in the morning. “Aw, fuck,” said Tam. Ollie patted her on the back and made sympathetic noises but didn’t offer to go with her.
The display was manned by three guys. A Steward was being fed the ticket numbers of the newly-dead. He updated the digital display. A second Steward wrote those numbers on the whiteboard before the display changed. He rubbed them off as they were claimed. A METMA shirt was delivering the news and taking questions. It all looked heavy on personnel but this had to run smoothly and quickly.
Tam showed the Steward her ticket and he waved her towards the shirt. She was surrounded by people grieving insanely.
“Relative?” he said.
“Actually, I was just watching for someone else,” said Tam. “She’s asleep.”
“Oh. Well, I’m afraid it’s bad news. The disease is always fatal. There was nothing they could do. Here’s a pamphlet. You wanna break it to her?”
Tamara looked at the piece of paper she had been given. It was folded in three and filled with FAQ-style bullet points about why the victim had not survived, why METMA were not responsible and what the bereaved should not do.