The dinner party was going well. Everyone Joyce invited showed up and dressed formally, as the invitation suggested. Out of Joyce and Brad’s top floor apartment, the sunset could be seen over the lake. It was an incredible night, but it only depressed Molly. She sighed heavily as she felt a comforting arm slip around her shoulders.
“You’ve been quiet all night.” Wade said after he planted a small kiss on her cheek.
“I don’t get it, Wade. Why is this happening?”
“I don’t know. No one does, but it’s for the best.”
“Says who? The government? I don’t understand it.”
“The announcements said we would understand eventually.”
She turned on him and gave him an almost angry look. “How are we supposed to understand when we’ll all be dead by morning?”
He gave her an odd look, as if he didn’t understand her. “There’s no reason to be alarmed, Molly. They said so.”
She raised her eyebrows. She knew that people from small towns were normally a little more naive than those from a big city, but this was going too far.
“Wade? Who said so? The government? This is ridiculous. In about three hours, this town’s going to be overrun by the military who are going to release a virus into the air and kill us all. Not just the twenty of us in this apartment, but all of Lakeview. All 5,000 of us. And why? No reason. Or none that they’ll release on the news anyway.”
The faraway look he’d had on his face for the past week, since this all began, seemed to be fading. “But…”
“But what? I don’t want to die. Not without some sort of explanation, at least. Not without a medical reason. There’s been nothing, Wade. Nothing. And we’re just supposed to accept it and let it happen? I don’t think so.”
Joyce came over at that moment, holding a tray of hors d’oeuvres. “Crab cake?”
The look came back to Wade’s face as he turned languidly and started to reach for the tray. “Yes, thank you.”
She answered louder than she meant, but she hated that look on his face. As Molly turned to Joyce to apologize, she realized that Joyce had the same expression. Molly looked around the room, at all the familiar faces, and realized that everyone had that same faraway, accepting look on their faces. This made her more worried than before.
“Joyce, do you really believe that we should just give up and die? Didn’t you and Brad purchase tickets for Europe for Christmas?”
“Sure we did! And we’ll be going…” The look slowly faded from blank acceptance to confusion. “Wait, the virus…”
When the tray fell to the ground it made a loud noise, and everyone turned to them. Brad came over, worried. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
“Brad, why are they releasing the virus? Why are we going to die tonight?”
Molly watched as his face went from faraway blank, to confident, to lost. “I…but…”
Brad turned and looked at the room of people, then beckoned to his older brother. After conferring with him, and getting the same type of response, Molly brought the rest of the people gathered up to date. After the initial confusion, Molly brought everyone’s attention back into focus.
“Listen! There has to be something we can do. We don’t need to die tonight.”
“But what can we do? All the news channels said this was going to happen, no matter what.” One voice offered.
“And the police are in on it.” another added.
Molly held up her hands. “We’re inside. Let’s focus on what we can do to keep the virus out. Is there any way we can do that? Think people!”
“OH! I bought a ton of that window sealer for the winter! You know, the plastic stuff? It was on sale three weeks ago. I bought way too much. It was such a good deal! We can put that on the windows. That’ll keep the air out.”
“And we don’t have central air, and the heat is a furnace. This is an old place. That means no vents.” Brad added.
“Ok, good. Let’s start with the windows in here and any others that face the streets. The military will be here soon. We don’t want them seeing what we’re doing.” Molly said with confidence.
Molly looked to Joyce. “They’re the ones who are trying to kill us. We need to make sure they don’t know we’re resisting. If they find out, they may find another way to kill us.”
The others in the room all looked to Molly with wonder in their eyes. None had thought of that. Now that the thought was out, they all looked rather worried. Molly saw this and shook her head.
“Look, as long as we get this done before they get here, then we’ll be ok. Let’s get a move on.” She looked to Joyce. “How many hair dryers do you have?”
Joyce thought about it. “Two. One is brand new and the other doesn’t warm up all the way. Shouldn’t be a problem for sealing the plastic. You’re not supposed to use too much heat on that anyway.”
Molly clapped her hands once. “All right. Get those and the plastic. Let’s get started.”
Happily, her friends started moving, getting the place sealed up.
An hour and a half later, they had all the windows done. They even managed to seal the front and back doors. They watched carefully from the front room as tanks and trucks filled with soldiers rolled through the small town, down Main St. They tried to look complacent. Tried not to seem too worried, but it was hard.
Molly suggested they move away from the windows and into another room. Out of habit, the women went to the kitchen, while the men strayed to the living room and turned on the TV. The news channels were encouraging the men and women watching to stay indoors and even go to bed. Molly, a drink for Wade in her hand, strolled in and frowned when she realized what the men were watching.
“What channel is this?”
He shrugged. “Not sure. One of the 24 hour cable news channels.”
“That’s the same news report I saw yesterday. I remember because of that spot on her shirt. No news anchor would be allowed to go on the air with a spot on their shirt.”
The men in the room stared at Molly in disbelief.
“It’s the same thing?”
“Yeah.” She held her hand out. “Give me the remote.”
Brad did so without a word. Molly flipped the channels around to different stations until she realized something scary: all the channels were showing the same news program. They didn’t even bother changing the ticker at the bottom or the station id. She stared at the screen for a moment longer, trying to find a station that didn’t show the same thing. When she didn’t find anything, she gasped.
“We need to stop this. There are 5,000 people in this town. We can’t let this happen.”
“But what can we do?” Came several cries.
Molly looked around the room until she found Joyce and Brad. “Call your friends and family in this town. Get them to do the same thing. If they can only seal up one room, tell them to do it.”
Everyone grabbed for their cell phones and tried to call out, but realized rather quickly that no one had signal. The panicky feeling in the room became palpable. Molly realized what was going on and whistled, loudly. People looked to her.
“All right. So we can’t do that and we can’t really leave, since the military will see us. What can we do?”
“What about the other people in this building? Should we get them?”
Molly checked her watch. People often made fun of her for still having a wide up watch, but at this point, she really appreciated having it. She didn’t trust anything electronic at this point. “We have a little over an hour. How many apartments in this place?”
Joyce answered. “Ten, but three of the couples are already here, leaving six. I’m not sure who’ll answer or even if we can convince anyone.”
“We can try. Those of you who live in this building, go try and convince your neighbors. One per apartment but take someone that doesn’t live here with you. We want them to understand that we’re not lying or trying to trick them.”
“Do you think that might happen?” Brad seemed confused.
“Think about how long it took all of us to come to our senses. And I hate to say this, but if you can’t convince them quickly, come back here. Since you have six apartments to cover and there are eight of you from this building in this apartment, we should be able to do this quickly.”
“What are the rest of us going to do?”
“Brad, you stay behind and help the rest of us find anything we can fill with water. We may be here a while. As long as they didn’t lie about when they’re releasing the virus, we should be able to get drinkable water from the tap.”
“You think we’ll be stuck here a while?”
“No idea, but I’d rather be prepared. Oh, and maybe whoever is willing to come here from the other apartments, get them to bring over any perishables. Be back in 40 minutes. That should give us enough time to seal the door again.”
That got everyone moving.
“Sir? The reports you ordered.”
General Fisher looked up from the wall of monitors and nodded as he took the folder. “Thank you. Run down?”
“As you can see on the recordings, there were some that rebelled. The largest rebellion was located in 1313 Main St. Seems as if one of the people there figured out she didn’t want to die.”
“Any reason the serum didn’t work?”
“Molly Weber. Works in the city; long hours. She wasn’t as exposed as the rest, but once she decided not to listen, she was able to talk the others into rebelling as well. One of the tenets of 1313 Main is a good friend of hers. They were throwing a party to celebrate the end. There were a lot of people there and they all listened to her. They were able to convince most of the residence in that building to move into one apartment, which they were able to seal up.”
As the General continued to look at the screens and scan the report, he sighed. “What have we learned?”
“We may need to isolate the citizens next time, make sure no one leaves. Maybe tell them that they have to stay in their own homes and keep away from each other.”
“We’ll need a town that’s well away from any big cities. Maybe one we can quarantine completely.”
“We’re running those down now, sir. We should have a location within a week.”
“All right. Thank you soldier.”
The soldier saluted and left. General Fisher continued to stare at the screens. In a moment, he reached out and changed the feed, showing the aftermath of the experiment. The people of Lakeview were going about their business as if nothing has happened. Most of the citizens of the small Midwestern town would remember nothing.
Those that had rebelled were being detained and debriefed. Once they had all the information, those that rebelled would be given a shot to help them forget what happened. In a few days, Lakeview would go back to normal, and General Fisher would be able to go back to his plans with another town. Hopefully, the second town would not be as problematic.