Shin and Julia woke up.
They gasped for air, surfacing, tearing the Panaceas off their heads and dropping them on the floor.
With bleary, blinking eyes, they scanned the room. Philip and Rosette lay on the floor in a pool of blood. Jeffrey lay on the couch beside them, lifeless, his expression calm.
"How did …" Julia breathed.
Shin got up slowly, crouching down at the corpses of the married couple. He held his fingertips to their throats. No pulse. A large kitchen knife was still clutched in Rosette's stiff, slender fingers.
"She attacked him, I think," Shin said softly. "Then killed herself. Pandemic."
"But … look." Julia stood, on shaky legs, and walked toward the wall of muted TV screens.
The newsreporters from around the world were all chattering away rapidly, earnestly. With big smiles on their faces.
The newsfeeds in English read: 'BREAKING NEWS – PANDEMIC HAS STOPPED …'
'SINCE 23:02:55 NO MORE PANDEMIC VICTIMS REPORTED ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD …'
'… PANDEMIA HAS STOPPED WORKING …'
'… PANACEAS EVERYWHERE NO LONGER WORKING …'
'… SAY THERE IS 'A PLAUSIBLE CONNECTION BETWEEN PANDEMIA AND THE PANDEMIC' …'
"We did it," Julia said tonelessly. "It's over." She turned her head to meet Shin's gaze. She gave a timid smile of disbelief. "We stopped the Pandemic. We stopped Pandemia."
"We have to go; we have to get out of here," was all that Shin could muster in reply.
Together, they walked up the amphitheatre steps, out of the pristine, white, silent hall, out of that cold, quiet house. They did not look back at the corpses of Philip, Rosette and Jeffrey. The bodies would be found. This would be cleaned up. There was no point in lingering.
The front door opened as they approached. They walked down the marble steps, down the gravel path through the front garden. They glanced at the Greco-Roman statues, the peacocks, the olive trees. It had stopped raining, and the night air was fresh and moist.
The wide aluminium gate opened automatically as well. They stepped out onto the broad sidewalk. They walked down the hillside, out of the rich neighbourhood, down toward the city.
There were celebrations. Fireworks. Fireworks everywhere, as if this were New Years Eve, an important one, too; the start of a new millenium. Lights and colours glittered everywhere, connected.
They stopped walking for a moment, at a deserted intersection, waiting for the light to turn green. No cars were coming.
"I guess people are mostly happy," Julia said. "People are happy that there are no more victims."
"Yeah," said Shin. "So what if they don't have Pandemia anymore?"
"Do you think they'll ever realize that Pandemia was causing the Pandemic?"
"I don't know. Maybe there's already a consensus on it now. Or maybe it'll just be a crackpot theory forever."
"Well … I think things will be pretty good from now on."
Shin nodded. He wasn't sure whether she was referring to the human race at large, or to their own lives.
The fireworks over San José were only getting bigger and more beautiful and elaborate by the minute.
The light in the intersection turned green.
Shinya Nakamura wanted to go for a run.
Julia took his hand. She smiled at him and said: "Let's go running."
He returned the smile, tired, happy, confused, in love.
They ran down the hillside, toward the city, toward the lights and the celebration.