The following piece was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ monthly genre event–Worlds of Ruin: A Literary Celebration of Apocalyptic Science Fiction. Please enjoy.
“Holy mother of …”
Kalyn jumped off her bed the same time her German Shepard did. The mattress vibrated with such violence the pillows slid to the floor.
“Google! Bed! Off!” Kalyn shouted and the mattress stilled.
She soothed Lupa with gentle pets and loving coos.”Oh, I’m sorry, girl. I promise to get a new alarm soon. You’re a good girl.”
“Google! Coffee! Brew!”
“Come on girl, let’s let you out back.” Lupa licked Kalyn’s hand and followed her to the backdoor. She watched through the window as Lupa sniffed around the backyard. The house filled with the smell of brewing coffee and the Kalyn went to the kitchen.
“Google! Breakfast! On!”
“Yes, my queen,” Google answered in Colin Firth’s voice. “Breakfast options this morning include: oatmeal, yogurt, bagel with cream cheese or a breakfast burrito.” Kalyn smiled. The Colin Firth option was worth the extra bitcoin.
“Google! Bagel with cream cheese!”
Kalyn took her first sip of coffee and felt herself come to life.
“Google! News! On!”
Sounds and images of a live news feed filled every room.
“The GDC has started a campaign to reach out to citizens regarding homeopathic preventives. Google News consultant, Singh Patel explains. “Officials here are worried citizens are relying on measures no better than snake oil or…”
“Ugh. Google! Music! Dance Pop!”
Lourdes Ciccone crooned “Party Pretty” over looped sound bites and synthetic drums replacing the drone of talking heads. Kalyn wiggled her hips to the beat as she walked down the hall to bathroom singing along. “In the dying city / you gotta party pretty!”
She sat on the toilet for the intense morning pee, coffee still in hand; stomping her foot to the music. “Party in the moonlight / it might be your last night!”
“Google! Bidet! Google! Shower!”
Bladder empty, Kalyn waved her hand in front of the laser to heat the towels hoping it was working. It took a few tries, but the towel box lit up.
She took a absent minded look in the mirror and turned away to take off her pajamas.
She turned back to the mirror.
There was a small pink splotch on her left cheek no bigger than a Google phone home button.
The air froze in her lungs. She clenched her jaw so tight her teeth felt like they cracked.
No. It can’t be.
Kalyn moved closer to the mirror; so close her breath fogged the glass. She waited. And then it happened. The pink spot bloomed into an open sore right before her eyes. Any hope she clung too vanished.
She had the virus.
She touched the oozing sore on her cheek. Still Google home button size, but pulsing with each heartbeat. It didn’t hurt. Red Blooms don’t hurt.
Kalyn collapsed to the floor. Terror gripped her body. Her heart. Her bowels. Her throat.
She would be dead in hours.
“Good morning, Kalyn. A healthcare professional with be with you within 2 minutes. Please step in front the…”
She couldn’t report her illness. She may have hours to live, but if the National Health Guard found out she had the virus, her death would be violent. The rumor she saw on Google Hangout from her workmate Kim Su in Dallas scared her. To avoid Google Security, Kim had written on a piece of white paper in blue pen – an invisible combo for Gscans. “Saw Guard set Inflicted on fire before the acid bullet killed.”
Other rumors were written in blue and held up for webcams. Wild mayhem, on spot executions and other ungooglable things. The apartment complex in Paramus gassed and burned because one old lady succumbed at the communal mailbox. The suburban homes incinerated by drones because teenage acne had been mistaken for Red Bloom.
No. No WebMD.
Kalyn torn opened the medicine cabinet and scattered the contents. Pill bottles and bobby pins and bandaids and deodorant bounced onto the basin and on to the floor. On the second shelf she found it. She picked up the blue phial containing the Government issued cyanide. Some bureaucrat gave it the insulting name of “Good Citizen.” It was printed on the label in a cartoonish font next to the icon of the Google flag.
Keep out of reach of children
300 mg Cyanide
Place between back teeth / Bite down
Effects within 1.63 seconds
Do not operate heavy equipment while in use
Kalyn rolled the blue vial in her palm. At least it would be quick. Quicker than a Google search. Kalyn started to unscrew the cap when she heard the scratch of paw on wood.
Dogs don’t get sick.
Kalyn played out the scenario in her head. The scenario where she bares down on the cyanide pill and Lupa is left in the back yard. Or the house. Or loose in the neighborhood. All of it led to the starvation and suffering of her best friend. The Guard shot dogs and it didn’t always kill them.
No. She would get Lupa to a safe place.
Kalyn paced the hallway. Quick movement helped her think, but she stopped. One of the blue penned sheets of paper warned: Virus spreads faster if heart rate elevated.
She sat down on her bed to gather her thoughts and slow her pulse. Her eyes drifted to the hand carved angel on her nightstand she bought at a farm after the second wave. Before the third wave. Before the virus ran rampant. Back when people still left their homes.
The country. That was the answer. Whatever time she had left, it was enough to drive west to the state park and release Lupa. At least she would have a chance in the wild. Bears were less dangerous than the Guard. Lupa could drink from a stream. She could hunt. She killed a squirrel in the backyard last summer.
Kalyn let Lupa inside. The dog was full of pants, tail wags and licks. Kalyn stroked Lupa and told her the plan. “We are going to go to the country. You’re going to be ok, baby.”
Kalyn wiped her tears and then said the phrase she hadn’t said in a long time. A phrase she knew would get a happy reaction. “Girl, let’s go to the park!” The dog yelped and danced in circles.
With Lupa following her around the house, Kalyn got to work gathering supplies. She gave Lupa last doses of heartworm and flea pills. She grabbed all the dog food she could find including cookies. The last item she collected was the blue phial. She squeezed it in her hand and coughed. Her lungs were filling with fluid. The fast actions of amassing Lupa’s things had quicken her heart rate and angered the virus in her body. The Red Bloom on her cheek throbbed; she could feel it expand.
“Let’s go, girl,” she said.
She grabbed the bag and headed to the garage. Lupa followed, panting and barking with excitement.
“Google. Open. GCar door.”
Lupa bounded in and barked at Kalyn to hurry. Kalyn tossed the dog food in the back of the car and climbed into the control seat.
“Google. Car. Engage.”
The GCar purred to life and garage door opened. “Where are we going today?” Colin Firth asked.
“Stokes State Park.”
“Destination 40 miles. Travel time 1 hour and 5 minutes.”
Kalyn removed Lupa’s collar and tossed it behind her. She eased back in her seat and closed her eyes. She tried to ignore the growing sensation of drowning. She didn’t look at the new Red Bloom sprouting on her forearm. In her right hand, she clasped the blue phial tighter. With her left hand she felt the thick fur of Lupa’s neck and shoulders. The car edged forward.
“It’s ok, baby,” she said. “Dogs don’t get sick.”