The tension is building in Wessex Falls as more news comes about the ‘zombie flu’. Michael and Julianne refuse to believe their child could be affected. The rest of this story appears in the collaborative fiction novel FLESH at Panhistoria.com.
Jeff Fields stood up to the podium. The level on the mike screamed and momentarily silenced the buzz in the room, but just as soon as the scream stopped the voices started again. Jeff adjusted his papers, tapped the mike, and generally looked nervous and uncomfortable. Michael was standing at the back of the room, his arms folded over his chest. The town manager looked like he was sweating. Normally Michael would have been enjoying watching him come under fire from the town, but not this afternoon. The fact that he and that the five members of the Selectboard all looked harried, pale, and nervous was making the whole room sweat. Just what was happening?
“I’m going to call this meeting to order…”
Jeff was prevented from proceeding in an orderly fashion as the room erupted into bedlam. Everyone was shouting. Michael watched as his neighbors shouted over one another to be heard, each one yelling about the ‘zombie flu’ that they had heard reports of on the news, and others about the school closing, while others mentioned the case of the boy who’s parents had been found in a gruesome homicide suicide.
“Didn’t Jason Lawler bite another boy at school?”
The voice was booming and Michael heard it loudly over the Tower of Babel that the Town Meeting had quickly degenerated into with Jeff, the Town Manager, totally unable to control. There was a rise in decibels and then it seemed as if no direction was going to be taken and so Michael pushed himself forward from the wall and shouted above the crowd.
“Everyone shut the hell up and let’s have one person speak at a time. I’ll start. Is it true that the Lawlers were found dead at their home?”
There was a general hubbub of assent.
“And the symptoms of this flu we’ve been hearing on the media include madness and biting?”
“Yes, Mr. Valentine, it’s true, and this is why we called this meeting today.”
The voice that now spoke was clear, calm, and female. It belonged to the most recent member of the Selectboard Eleanor Croft.
“And now that Mr. Valentine has so adroitly gotten your attention can I please call this meeting to order and get down to business? We have received official word from Montpelier and from Burlington that this thing is real, it’s happening, and it’s nationwide. Already the Government’s resources are over-extended dealing with the big cities like New York and Boston. We’re last on the list for vaccines or aid.”
A hand went up in the audience.
“So there is a vaccine?”
“One of our memos from Montpelier said that there was one in the works but Jeff has been on the phone all day and no one seems to have any – or if they do they’re not sharing it.”
An old farmer that Michael knew stood up, patiently waiting for the latest clamor to die down.
“Why don’t we quarantine the town, ayup?”
Any other time Michael would have smiled at the severity of the man’s old time Vermont accent and colloquialism, a vestige of a passing era, but today he was just concerned with the health of his son and the safety of his wife.
“That’s a damned fine idea.”
Michael’s support of old Mr. Winthrop’s suggestion was greeted with a swell of yeas, and then a call to order again. The Selectboard was quickly silenced when it tried to proceed in a ‘business as usual’ fashion.
“Frankly Mrs. Croft, members of the Selectboard, we don’t have bloody time for by the book. Judging by what is happening around the country so let’s make sure we keep the rest of the populace safe and strangers out of town.”
“I have to bring it to your attention, Mr. Valentine, and could you please use the mike and stop shouting from the back of the room, that the flu is quite possibly already here and it might not be in the best interests of your son to quarantine the town.”
“My son has the common flu, not this thing, this whatever it’s called.”
A number of people turned to Michael in surprise and shock, many voices murmuring about the Lawlers.
“The Lawlers were redneck woodchucks with a history of violence. There is no hard evidence any one was sick and their kid was acting out more of the same.”
Paul Albert, a librarian in a corduroy jacket, flew up out of his seat and shoved Michael in the chest.
“You’re an asshole, Michael Valentine.”
Michael looked at Paul, affronted by the usually mild-mannered librarian’s liberal outrage at Michael voicing what everyone in town actually felt, and brushed him aside.
“Or I can believe my son is doomed and the whole town is already infected.”
It was like the sound of metal tray dropping in a silent church. Michael could almost feel the collective intake of breath. After that business went very quickly as person after person volunteered for phone trees, road block crews to help the Sheriff’s department, and any number of measures required to lock down Wessex Falls from the outside world.