November 22nd, 1919
They’re all dying. Not just miners. Everyone. Hospital staff, town folk, everyone. I can’t stop it. They’ve given me a pistol. One bullet to the back of the head has become my only prescription. The patients are showing signs of rapid abiotic decomposition. I can’t tell what’s causing it. But it’s almost like their suffering putrefaction while still alive. Fingernails and hair fall out. Flesh turns pulpy white and cool to the touch despite the constant sweating and rapid pulse.
The floor’s been covered in blood for over a week. They’re all dying, Dot. Everyone, except the girl. Just yesterday I learned her name. Gayle. God knows why, but the process appears to have been arrested in her and only her. She doesn’t get better. She doesn’t get worse. She’s lucid, I can tell. But the twitch has taken her voice. If only she could talk. She was there, Dot, at the very beginning. I think she knows what’s happening, and I’m convinced the company knows more than they’re letting on.
What have I done? I never should have taken this job. We’re prisoners here, the healthy that is. The company has started a tent village south of town, supposedly for quarantine. But I’ve seen it. It’s a prison where the inflicted tear apart the healthy. They’re building check points around the whole area. No one in, no one out.
They knew I couldn’t cure it. They knew I would fail from the beginning, and I’ve been acting my part. But it won’t be long before it’s apparent to everyone that the hospital is a death camp. Then the players won’t be needed at all, including Isabella and Abby. At this point I wouldn’t put anything past Vezzoni and the rest of them.
Vezzoni’s been looking for my notes. He knows I’ve been keeping them. I think it’s the one loose end keeping me alive. Yesterday the idiot passed them over, dismissing them as old love letters. To think, I never wrote you one jot or tittle while you were living. Never expressed my love for you in written form until you were rotting in the ground. Now our letters are keeping us both alive.
The empty parking lot leaves an easy approach to the main gates, including the guard booth put in last week—the whole mess flanked with cyclone fence and razor wire. Trench warfare has reached Thurber, Texas. By God, if its war they want, tonight I’ll give ‘em a taste. The guards on duty notice me moments before I smash through the rail at 40mph. Flying past the booth I lean across the passenger seat and fly my middle finger to give ‘em something to remember me by. And to all a goodnight.
After a short mile I hit Highway 1 and open her up to 55mph heading northeast, taking the paved road the long way round. It feels good to be in control of something in my life, to feel the machine respond to my every command. If only people would be as cooperative, or the weather. Snowflakes, plump with water, dance in the headlights and explode on the windshield. Mesmerized, I slow to 40mph to keep my bearings. If it weren’t for the headlights behind me, I might appreciate the beauty of it.
Before I worry too much about the lights behind me, I spot more up ahead—a makeshift road block and checkpoint. I flick the switch to cut off the carbide lights, causing them to dim slowly. By the limited glow of the electrics I search the side of the road for a turn-off I know to be there—a wagon trail heading south toward Antelope Bluff. Since they paved the #1 the older route only gets used by youth looking for a place to neck.
A flash of color arrests me. I grip the wheel and give it a yank back into the roadway too late. With a jolt I bounce over the object and catch a quick glimpse of others further afield. Slamming the brakes, I hear and feel a crunching under the tires before the T slides unevenly to a stop. The whole damn road is covered. What in God’s green earth?
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