Carl and Abby Grant
Carl Grant grabbed his wife's last suitcase from the luggage carousel and carried it to the nearby airport cafe where his wife, Abby, was sitting and listening to something on her cell phone with a worried expression. She put the cell phone back in her jacket pocket when she saw him approaching.
"What was that about?" Carl asked, already guessing. It had to be the same thing Abby had been worrying about the entire vacation. He set the suitcase down next to her and took the chair next to her.
"It was a message from Peter," Abby answered her husband, oblivious to his resigned sigh. "He went white water rafting and his canoe capsized! He had to be rescued!" Abby shook her head and took her cell phone out of her pocket again to scan the screen for anything new. Her son's battle with cancer the previous year had left her a perpetually worried mess.
"What are you doing?" Carl asked when she started to type in a number.
"Calling him." She said briefly, it should be obvious by now that all she worried about was her son's well-being.
Carl sighed again. Dealing with Abby's paranoia of the cancer returning to wreak havok on their young son's body was stressful, to say the least. "Well, he's alright, isn't he?"
"Well...yeah, he said he was fine." Abby admitted. "But what if he's cut himself on a rock or something? It could get infected!"
"Abby, you promised you wouldn't make a fuss." Carl pleaded with her, rubbing her forehead. This vacation had not gone as he had planned. "We'll call him this evening like we said, okay?"
Abby sighed and closed the cell phone with a snap. She looked at it for a moment, as if half-expecting it to ring the moment she took her eye of it, and finally put it back in her pocket. She supposed it wouldn't hurt to wait a few hours before calling to make sure he was really alright. Besides, there were people at camp that knew how to care for an injured child. She hoped.
Carl grabbed her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Everything's fine, Ab. I promise."
"A flu virus is sweeping across Britain, leaving medical services struggling to meet demands for vaccinations. The government has made no..." Abby turned down the volume of the small kitchen tv set. The news was never anything pleasant lately. She'd invited her neighbor, Cathy, over for a little 'welcome back' drink.
"So how was the trip?" Cathy asked, wiggling her eyebrows. "Was it very romantic?"
Carl entered the room with the drinks and laughed. "You have no idea. It was so beautiful there." He turned and gave Abby a look. "And Abby spent most of the trip in the hotel room talking to Peter on the phone."
Abby laughed dismissively and took two drinks from her husband. She handed one to Cathy. "I was worried about him. It's only been a few months." A frown settled over Abby's face.
Cathy put a hand on Abby's shoulder. "He's alright now, though. I mean, he looks really well." She gave Abby a reassuring smile. Cathy remembered all to well the hardships this family had to face. Visiting Peter in the hospital and seeing the sweet boy hooked up to all those machines was awful for her, she knew it was even more hard on her friend.
"He's in total remission. 100% well." Carl said firmly. "He is a normal, healthy little boy." Carl looked pointedly at Abby, who skillfully avoided his gaze.
"Yes," Abby agreed. "But we'll always have to be careful."
"That doesn't mean we have to treat him like an invalid." Carl said sharply. He sighed. "I'm sick of talking about cancer." The conversation between the three lulled for a moment, letting the background noise of the newscasters, still reporting, take over.
"...drink plently of fluids and avoid contacting a health professional unless in an actual emergency."
"It's mad, this bloody flu business." Cathy said after a moment, breaking the tension in the air. "Nearly half the country's off sick." Her husband Mike had stayed home from work that day due to the flu.
"We should've taken Peter in for a check up before he went..." Abby worried aloud.
"He'll be fine where he is. Miles away from anywhere, best place to be." Carl reassured her. Abby smiled at his attempts to make her less worried and pulled her husband close to kiss his cheek. "I love you."
Carl put his arms around her and hugged her tightly. "I love you, too."
Martha sat very still while the small girl in front of her struggled to tie the flower bracelet around her wrist. Amy had been quiet all day, as lost in thought as a child of 7 could be. "Mommy's ill." Amy told Martha with a serious expression, giving up on the bracelet.
Martha took the bracelet from the small girl's hand. "A lot of people are ill." Martha told the girl, tieing the flower bracelet around Amy's small wrist.
"You're not." Amy looked up at her through soft blonde hair.
"Neither are you." Martha smiled, trying to cheer her up. "We're lucky, aren't we." Amy looked up from her bracelet and tried to smile at Martha. The flu had already taken most of the children out of school, leaving only about %40 of the children untouched. Martha had never seen such a strong virus, in all her 4 years teaching at the school.
Looking past her, Amy saw the person they'd been waiting for. "Daddy!" Amy jumped up from the grass and ran to her father, who picked her up and hugged her tight.
"Ah, there's my sweet girl! Have you been good for Miss Martha?" He asked, looking to Martha, who stood and gathered Amy's backpack and jacket.
Martha handed them to Amy's father. "She was great. Very well behaved." She smiled.
"Daddy," Amy cupped her dad's face in her small hands, her little face worried. "You're hot."
"I've been running, sweetheart." Amy's father told her, breathing dramatically. Martha gave Amy's father a look over and decided he must have come down with the same flu illness that so many other's had come down with. He was pale and sweaty and he looked tired.
"Well, we've got to get back. Her mum's in bed." Amy's father nodded a goodbye to Martha.
Martha gave a nod back. "There's no school tomorrow. We think it's best if the children stay at home for a few days."
Martha returned to her classroom to gather her belongings and head home. She ran into another teacher on the way out of school, Mrs. Jennings, who also looked tired and pale. "Are you alright, Mrs. Jennings?"
"Oh, yes, I'm fine. i just haven't eaten anything all day." Mrs. Jennings ran a hand across her forehead and rubbed a lump on her arm. Martha subconciously took a step back.
"Well, I better get home. My roommate wasn't feeling too bright this morning." Martha's roommate had left at least 6 messages for her on her cell phone since that morning.
"Yes," Mrs. Jennings said distractedly. "Oh! There'll be an email from the office as soon as we're able to start teaching again."
"Okay, you should get home and get some rest, too." Martha said sympathetically. She considered helping Mrs. Jennings to her car, but thought better of it and turned to leave.
Tom Price walked down the prison hallway, hands uncuffed and a guard by his side. How easy it would be to attack and kill his would-be escort. But Tom did not entertain such ideas, knowing that his remaining 20 years could still be cut back for good behavior and killing this guard would destroy all chances of getting out early.
There were rumors that the lockdown would be permanant, that the people with the flu were all dying and soon no one would be left alive to keep them imprisoned and they would all be left to rot in their cells. Tom and his guard passed by a few men who had madly tried to escape confinement. The remaining guards beat the inmates into submission and threw them into their cells.
As they got closer to Tom's cell, he decided to strike up a conversation. "You can't just lock us all up like this, it's a breach of our human rights."
"So?" His guard, known by the inmates at The Bull, remained expressionless. "Call a lawyer." They reached Tom's cell and stopped in front of it. Tom's cellmate, Lane, was already inside, sitting on his cot like a good little inmate. Tom glared at The Bull for a moment before entering his cell. The Bull closed the cell door and locked it. Tom stared at his through the small window. The Bull held his gaze for a moment and then slammed the hatch down to cover the window.
"You alright, Tom?" Lane asked. "Weird stuff, this, 'innit?"
Tom turned away from the closed window to smirk at Lane. He shook his head and lay down on his cot. "Locked up for God knows 'ow long alone in a cell with you? Yeah, it's a nightmare." He closed his eyes and hoped his nuisance of a cellmate would get the message and leave him alone.
"Most of the guards are off sick." Lane stupidly continued the conversation.
"It's the flu epidemic." Tom said, already bored. "Don't you read the papers?"
"They're saying that inmates with less than 2 years are being released early. Not enough guards to look after all of us." Lane still went on. Lane only had 19 months left to serve. His crime of armed robbery had been given a mild 7 year sentence because of his age. He'd spent the first 2 years in a juvenile detention center. He was 21 now, still young. Still stupid. He'd been Tom's cellmate for almost 6 months now, and he hadn't quite learned when to shut up.
Luckily for Lane, Tom wasn't in the mood to make him shut up. "Who's saying this? 'They'? Don't be stupid. No one's getting out early. You're embarrassing yourself." Tom sighed, and wondered how this flu epidemic would play out. Hopefully to his advantage.
Jane Smarts was used to dealing with high priority crisis situations on a daily basis. Her position as a government/media liason demanded it. Still, this European Flu Crisis had sprung up suddenly and violently and showed no signs of slowing down. It worried even her a little bit. Jane strode quickly from a meeting with government officials, followed by her assistant, Mark. "We need to get a press statement out as soon as possible. Tell the media that I am taking personal responsibility for the flu crisis. And don't call it a crisis. Downplay the infection rate, concentrate on the good news. Health professionals doing magnificent jobs, people pulling together to beat the bug. That kind of thing."
Mark took notes. "I'm arranging photo sessions. If we hurrry, we can get a shot of you getting a flu shot on the 6 o'clock news."
Jane nodded approvingly. "Good. The prime minister wants me to be as visible as possible. The need to show we're being proactive."
Mark lowered the notebook. "Your husband called again."
Jane sighed, but still walked with purpose. "I know...we were hoping to get away this weekend." She gave Mark a wry smile, which he returned.
"Well, that's not gonna happen. We're getting more cases by the hour." He gave her an apologetic look.
Jane shook her head. "Jack's going to be disappointed. He booked a hotel and everything."