Marks starts up the car. I try to picture where in the hell I am. I know I’m in Toronto, but wouldn’t people notice a giant laboratory in the middle of nowhere? I expect Marks to flip a switch or something that will have a door open and us head outside, but it clearly will not be that easy for me. He does press a button on his keyring, but it opens a door that seems to lead through a long tunnel. As we pass through that gate, I hear lots of whirring and buzzing, and notice that the sound I’m hearing is various gates opening along as we drive. As soon as I think we’re about to reach a dead end, another goddamn gate opens.
We keep going through the tunnel and a bunch of gates until finally, a gate opens and I can see daylight. The ground past the last gate is on an incline. I immediately realize we’ve been underground the whole time. Maybe the entire lab is underground as well. I decide to ask Marks a question.
“So, what else is in that lab besides the room I was in, a long hallway and a garage?”
“Oh, lots of things,” Marks says. “There’s an arcade, a catered cafeteria, a spa, a library, you name it,” I stare at him blankly. “It was a joke, Ms. Stiles. There are other quarantine chambers such as your own, a meeting room for all the lab staff, things like that. Why do you ask?”
“I think you owe me at least something for kidnapping me out of my own home,” I say. I’m still considering pressing charges against someone once I’m free from this debacle.
I am so lost in my own thoughts that I miss the key detail I planned to see- a street name. We’re already on a main street and heading northeast, from what I can see on the built-in compass on the car. I assume the compass is also another “just-in-case” tool.
I look outside my window to see what’s changed. At first, Toronto doesn’t seem to be that affected by the potential outbreak of touch plague. But then I look again.
The streets are fairly empty. A few people are out, of course (it being Toronto, after all) but all are walking strangely, looking over their shoulder. The only people who aren’t doing that are the homeless, who no doubt heard about what’s going on but don’t really have any choice in the matter, much like myself.
As we drive on, I see a group of people marching up a side road with signs and chants. They’re protesting something. I guess the treatment of the outbreak so far by Toronto’s city council? I can’t really be sure.
It’s not too long before we’re leaving the city. Police are there, creating a sort of checkpoint. They’re checking each individual car for any possible signs of the touch plague, I’m sure. We wait in line for a few minutes before a young officer walks over to the car. He motions for Marks to roll down the window, which he does.
“Good afternoon, folks. Planning on leaving the city?”
“Yes, sir,” Marks says.
“Have either you or your daughter had any contact with anyone you believe to have been infected?” I notice the officer doesn’t even mention the disease by name. It’s such common knowledge already, which is mind-boggling.
“No, sir,” Marks says. I notice he doesn’t correct the officer’s assumption that I’m his daughter. I roll my eyes.
The officer nods. “I see. Well, I’m just going to inspect your vehicle if you’ll give me a moment.” The officer puts on a rubber mask as well as gloves. I get a little nervous, because I know the officer is going to freak out when he sees what we have in the backseat.
Surely enough, he does. He doesn’t start jumping up and down or anything, but he definitely freezes in place. “Sir, can you explain these firearms, please?”
“Of course,” Marks says calmly. He takes out his wallet and produces an ID. “I’m with Cornelius Laboratories, and I’m making an important trip to Ottawa.” The officer looks at the ID suspiciously.
“Never heard of Cornelius Laboratories,” he says. I get even more nervous, thinking he’s going to arrest us both. He flips the card over. “Oh, this has the official Canadian government seal. My apologies, Mr. Marks. You’re free to go.” I breathe a huge sigh of relief.
We get onto the highway, and for a time it’s pretty smooth sailing. It’s naturally busy, as highways are, and maybe even a little busier than normal as people try and get the hell away from the plague. After a while, though, we reach a bottleneck. At first it’s hard to understand why, but as we get closer I can see exactly why. Several cars have been abandoned. There’s a single person standing in the middle of the road.
Marks stops the car for a moment and brings out a pair of binoculars. He looks at the person. “As I thought,” Marks says. “The man over there has touch plague.” I gasp.
“Let me see!” I say. He passes the binoculars to me. I finally get a good look at what the disease can do to a body. The skin is indeed completely grey, like something out of a zombie movie. The man doesn’t look agitated, but I can’t tell if that’s because he’s at peace with his death sentence or if the disease affects the mind as well as the body.
The man had been looking away from us, but now he looks straight at us. The man then looks around the area and walks over to an abandoned car. Apparently one person wasn’t taking good care of the vehicle because the plague-ridden man is able to take a tire out. He holds it with both hands and begins to walk toward our car.
“What the hell, Marks? Get us out of here!” I’m yelling now, the first time I’ve lost my cool since this began. He starts to back up the vehicle but realizes he can’t. Other vehicles have stopped behind us, most gawking at the current mess of a highway.
This leaves us trapped. The plague-man throws the tire in our direction. I cover my eyes, waiting for it to shatter our windshield. It doesn’t. It bounces off the roof, actually, making a little bit of a dent. I hear a whirring alarm.
“Oh dear,” Marks says, still sounding calm. “That hit just disabled our plague shield.”
The man continues to walk toward us.