The Virus (Conclusion)

(Casey and Dean just finished shooting up in the bathroom of the Kaliedoscope Eye Bar and went out to rejoin their friends.)

Casey held up a bundle of bags and a few dollars.

“We’re good.” Said Casey.

“Yeah,” said Dean and they walked back out into the bar. Sky was still sitting at the table with the young men.

“None of these statements are facts,” said Sky. “We can only assume what is true.” The young men bobbed their heads as he talked. One of them said, “We believe everything.”

Casey and Dean sat down and ordered drinks from the waitress.

“Did you hear about the virus?” asked Sky.

“Something came on the radio about it as we were driving in. I really didn’t pay attention to it because I was looking for some good tunes.” Casey turned to Dean. “Yeah, just when I started to pay attention, that asshole changed the station.”

“You could have told me to go back to it,” said Dean.

Sky tapped on the table to get their attention. He leaned forward and spoke softly. Their heads all leaned in over the table like the petals of a flower closing over the button in the middle.

“This might be the best thing that ever happened to the city. Soon we may be the only people left. Junk is the only cure.”

“But I thought junk only held the virus in stasis,” said Dean.

Casey was watching as someone walked into the bathroom. He smiled when they came out quickly and went over to the bartender. He saw the bartender lean his head toward the man and nod a few times as if he was listening intently. Someone ordered a drink and the bartender put a shot glass on the wooden counter and spilled the amber liquid into the thick glass. There was an exchange of cash and the patron poured the shot down his throat.

The bartender turned back toward the other man and his mouth moved. The man shook his head and walked over to the pay phone. He used the phone and left, shaking his head.

The bartender went into the bathroom and came out dragging the man from the stall. Someone opened the front door of the bar and they dumped the man onto the broken cement sidewalk in front of the bar.

There was yelling on the street and everyone looked up. A woman was running down the street screaming. It seemed like saliva was spraying everywhere and she had obviously had the shits and wet herself. She fell and ripped her knees as the patrons of the bar watched. Her eyes were rolling wildly in her head.

The woman disappeared down the street. They could no longer see her but her screaming still echoed in their ears. Suddenly there was the sound of sirens. The sound seemed to come from all directions.

The bartender shut the door and walked back behind the bar. He poured himself a drink, tossed it down, grabbed something wrapped in a handkerchief from under the bar and then went into the bathroom.

Dean closed his eyes and began to dream. Someone turned on the television set. None of the channels were on, just a humming sound. Someone said it was because the whole city was shut down and no one was showing up for work.

Casey got up and put some money in the jukebox. The music came on. It was a song by a group called the Jesters named “So Strange.” Five songs later the bartender came out of the bathroom. He sat behind the bar and lit a cigarette. His head drooped down on the bar and the cigarette burned down between his fingers. He did not move for the next hour.

One of the young men asked Sky where he thought the virus came from. Sky leaned back and did not say anything for at least five minutes. Suddenly a man who was screaming burst through the door of the bar and ran about the room falling over tables and chairs and spraying saliva everywhere.

Sky jumped up and punched the guy hard and his head snapped back and blood splashed in every direction. The man fell heavily to the floor and lay there, twitching and jerking.

“My God,” someone said. “ It’s the end of the world.”

Dean picked up his head, looked around through slitted eyes for a moment and then slipped back into a junk nod. Suddenly an announcer came on the television set. He was talking frantically about the spread of the virus and the extreme shortage of drugs to combat the sickness.

“Across the city people are looting pharmacies and the hospital drug rooms. No one is safe and the official estimate is that in 23 days the virus will . . .” Then there was just static and the humming resumed.

Dean looked up and turned to Casey.

“What time is it?” Dean asked.

Casey opened his eyes and looked at his watch. He shook his head. His watch had stopped. Sky smiled at Dean and said, “That’s the best thing that ever happened!”

“What’s that?” asked Dean. “The broken watch?”

“No,” said Sky. “ The virus.”

No one spoke. The bar was quiet except for the sound of the jukebox.