Chapter Two

Jo growled as she went upstairs. She pulled two suitcases out of the closet and started tossing clothes into them. She hummed to herself while she flitted around the room.

" called Super Flu. Authorities are still trying to feed us this cockamamie story! There are people dying left and right out in California! Hell, there's even a town in BFE Texas that has been quarantined by the Army!" a news reporter said, snapping Jo out of her reverie.

Jo looked at the TV. She shook her head and finished packing her belongings. She carried the suitcases downstairs and tossed them into her car. She waved to her neighbor who was mowing his lawn. He pulled the headphones off his ears and cut the mower's engine. Walking up to her, he smiled.

"Going somewhere?" he asked, cheerfully.

"No. Actually I'm leaving my boyfriend. I've finally had enough of his bullshit. What ya listening to?" she asked.

"That new guy, Larry Underwood. Me and the missus got into a fight, and it's like 'Baby! Can you dig your man?" he siad, laughing. His laugh turned to a cough. He spit a large glob of mucas into the lawn beside him. He then pulled a handkerchief out and wiped his mouth. "Sorry about that."

"Are you coming down with a cold?" she asked, concerned.

"Yeah. Hey, maybe I'm coming down with that Captain Tripps!" he said, jokingly.

He laughed at his joke as Jo smiled bleakly. She looked up and down the street. It was vacant of the usual summer crowd: children running around playing, teenagers sunbathing and families having barbecues and picnics. Maybe there was more to this Captain Tripps than she thought. Without another word, she turned from her neighbor and headed back into the house. Picking up the phone, she called her aunt who lived in southern California. A dozen rings and no answer. She checked her watch. It was only noon in California. Her aunt is usually up and working around her house by then.

Jo bit her lip as she sat in front of the TV. A live report with the reporter and his cameraman walking through the woods. Loud noises came from a clearing just ahead of the person. Suddenly a large billow of smoke engulfed them. The camera moved and as the smoke cleared, there was a clearing in the woods. A large hole was dug into the ground. The smoke was drifting up from it. Several men in army uniforms with machine guns stood on both sides of a large dump truck, looking around them in the secluded woods.

One soldier lifted his hand and waved to the driver of the truck. With a jerk, the bed of the dump truck lifted slowly. Dozens of body bags fell out of the truck and into the hole. After the truck was empty, two soldiers grabbed cans of gasoline and poured them into the hole. A third soldier lit a match and toss it onto the bodies, engulfing them in flames.

"They're burning bodies! The plague is real! We're all dead!" the reporter screamed.

The soldiers turned their guns and without warning started shooting towards the pair. The camera wobbled and fell to the ground. The reporters bloody body laid within view. A second round of gunfire echoed around the woods before the camera went black. Jo clapped a hand over her mouth and ran for the bathroom. Bent over the toilet, her stomach heaved as tears spilled down her cheeks. After her stomach was empty and the heaving slowed, she sat on the floor and sobbed.

That innocent reporter and cameraman! Gunned down by armed soldiers who were burning dead bodies! The reporters last words echoed in Jo's head. Both he and the cameraman were completely innocent! And the people who are sworn to protect the innocent slayed them like animals! Jo cried herself to sleep right there on the bathroom floor.

She screamed herself awake awhile later. The reporter and cameraman's screams echoed in the bathroom as she threw herself over the toilet, bile rising in her throat. After she was done, she struggled to her feet. Leaning heavily on the sink, she rinsed her mouth out with water. Her reflection in the mirror was a ghostly pale. Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot.

Jo staggered from the bathroom and collapsed onto the couch. The TV was still on, but the screen was snowy. She just stared into the snow. She eventually slipped into a light doze, but was jerked out of it, as the TV's snow was replaced by a children's show. She sat up gingerly and looked at her watch: 4 am.

She ran her hands through her sweaty hair. Her forehead was cold and clammy. Her throat burned with the strain of the dry heaving she endured. Picking up the remote, she changed the channel. Finally finding a news program, she sighed. The thought of watching another innocent person die in front of her eyes, scared her, but she needed to know what was going on.

"Civilian reports have begun to come in of soldiers burning bodies, innocent people being slain. The government is retaining their 'it's just a hoax' story. If anyone believes that, I'm a monkey's uncle," the reporter said.

Jo stared unseeing at the screen. Something flickered through her mind. Suddenly, she sat up. She knew what she had to do.