(11:26 a.m. 14th Sunday)
They had just been here, wrote Nikolaos as he sat in his bedroom. She was just in the bed, reading, two weeks ago. His son had just been pulled out of school ten days ago for a fever. Now this.
Nikolaos had been alone in his family's home two days ago; their personal articles were scattered around like his wife was just about to turn the corner and scold him for leaving his socks on the floor, or his son for tearing through the halls with a racecar. He didn't have the heart to clean the messes or put away clothes. He couldn't come to terms with truth just yet: they had become statistics. The repercussions of their drug had taken many turns for the worse and this new disease swept through unsuspecting households like God's seven plagues through Egypt. Before this, it had been bad. The public, the media, death tolls climbing with each month's close. But notthis.
Nikolaos had put down his journal and turned to examine the photo of his family on the dresser. Next to it stood a picture of Alexander, Nikolaos, and their father, Kostos. The men were serious, but smiles could be found at the corners of their sun-worn faces. The tough guy act! Kostos had bellowed with a grin. Their father held young Nikolaos on his shoulder, and wound his arm around Alexander. Alexander, the golden, eldest son. Alex had convinced Nikolaos that there was more money in the scientific career, not like the "working-class" contractor job that Nikolaos had made a living on. By making a name for himself when Nikolaos was still in school for architecture, Alex and the rest of the family finally bullied Nikolaos into following his elder brother's footsteps. He joined what became the family business and, lo and behold, his and Alexander's miraculous discovery and months of intricate work had resulted in what the media determined to be "a revolutionary landmark in medicine", a "preventative miracle". An apocalypse in pill form.
Nikolaos had gone into the closet and pulled down a small briefcase from the top shelf. He took a .32 Tomcat out of its case and stuck inside his jacket, changed his shoes, washed his hands, and went downstairs. He had grabbed his wallet, pocketed his journal and went over to his desk drawer, where he pulled out a small box. Inside was a key and a note, bearing him good wishes and granting him access to a house he had helped to construct at any time. Without taking another look at the house that held the past, Nikolaos had leapt in his car and driven away.
He killed the ignition and looked at Corynn's body slumped against the car's window. He left her in there for the time being and went around to the trunk, rifling through her belongings to determine the reason she was leaving. The suitcases were packed neatly and were full of clothes, cosmetics, her bank account information- he'd been right, this trip, wherever she was going, was supposed to have been her last, at least for a while. This was hardly the time for vacations. He shut the trunk loudly, trying to wake her so he wouldn't have to carry her. He watched from outside of the passenger car door as her eyes flickered open.
Corynn shuddered when she recognized her surroundings and recollected the events that had occurred in the last few hours. It was dusk and she was alone in the car, and she began working swiftly to unbuckle herself from the seat and open the door. As she went for the handle, the car's lock was triggered. Looking up, she saw Nikolaos sliding the car's lock and keys into his pocket, accidentally (was it?) showing the gun to her again from inside his jacket. His stone eyes were trained on her hand, still holding the handle. She took her palm off of it and moved away from the door, and he nodded, making eye contact with her now, directing her. He unlocked his own door and sat back in the driver's seat, and she began to take notice of their surroundings. They were parked at the foot of a hill outside of someone's house, and it looked presently uninhabited. He faced her, resting the barrel of the gun on her shoulder.
"We are going inside. You are not going to make noise, because there is no one to hear you. You aren't going to run, because you don't know where we are, and you have no one to run to." He stated these things the way someone would say the sky is blue; the sun rises in the east; clocks go clockwise. He got out and came around to unlock her door. Slowly, she got out of the car and stood, closing the door behind her. He motioned for her to walk, and she led the way up to the house at the top of the hill, counting things to calm herself. Counting the steps and counting her breaths, she tried to avoid wondering whether she should be counting down instead of up.
(Monday, September 15)
Alex sank into the window seat of the plane and gazed out the window, watching families boarding flights headed north, overseas, or simply escaping the troubled coastline for a while. For an area usually sought by tourists, the Mediterranean was becoming spartan, Alex thought. Then he laughed and thought that it was good for the country to be getting back to its historical roots. But safety in numbers was how the old adage went, and the people who were actually remaining in the country had been flocking towards Northern Italy, where brisk and frequent breezes and dry air kept many from needing cold medicine. No cold meant there was no need for medication, and therefore the disease caused by Respirax hadn't taken hold. Alex couldn't help but recognize the bittersweet triumph he had achieved: so many people had taken part in his testing, and so many had later locked on to the promises he had doled out. And now they were dead, or dying. What he had built over the course of three years, took stock in, patented and distributed over months had mutated in days. My life's work was genocide, accidental or not, he thought. Alex pulled the shade down over the window and shifted in his seat. Across the aisle were a mother and her son, who looked nervous, as if he had never flown before. He was playing with a small toy airplane, a tiny model similar to the one they had boarded, and Alex wondered if they knew who he was.
In any case, when the flight landed in Varese, they un-boarded the plane and no one attacked him. No mob came to rip him from his seat, no crowd tore his carry-on from his hands and shirt from his back. Just as he had both hoped and feared, no one looked at him once he hit the asphalt. None of the staff at the rental car company looked at him suspiciously or muttered under their breath when he asked for a car, and as he made the half hour trip to Besozzo, no one followed