Word Count 500
By Anne Nassar
She knew that anyone caught “violating quarantine” was shot on sight. But there were matters to attend
to. She had never met her birth father. She had never told her birth mother that she was forgiven. She had
never told her adopted mother why she had run away. And, she had never reported her adoptive father.
It occurred to her that, given the circumstances, she could kill her adoptive father without much difficulty.
That is, if he were still alive. The idea filled her with satisfaction. She pictured his ugly face contorted in
fear. It was something she wanted to see. She decided that she would try and escape. She texted her
professor: Fingers crossed.
She put on her long underwear, her wool socks, her jeans, her thick flannel shirt, her work boots, her
gloves. She pulled her hair back. She went to the bathroom and brushed her teeth. When she opened her
apartment door, the stench of decaying flesh made her retch. There was a woman’s body lying the
hallway. She had huge buboes protruding from her neck, and her lolling tongue was black. Marta had to
step over the body, there was no other way around it. She covered her mouth and held her breath.
Did I just contract the plague? she thought, is it brewing inside me? But it didn’t matter, after all. She
could accomplish her objectives before the disease incapacitated her. The fireplace was located in the
lobby of the building. She crawled inside the firebox and looked up the flue. She could see light shining,
way up, three stories up.
She rested her back against the bricks. She drew up her legs and found footholds for both her feet. Then,
leaning forward, she pressed her palms against the bricks, and, steadying herself with her arms and legs,
she dragged her back up until her butt was higher than her feet. The bricks tore through her shirts and
scraped away the skin of her back. Her abdominals and hamstrings and pecs ached. Her progress was
tortuously slow. But eventually, she made it to the top. By then, it was twilight.
The sky was full of racing dark clouds, the air smelled like there was the prospect of rain. There was a
warm wind blowing, rustling the leaves of the trees. From her vantage point, the city below looked so
beautiful, that tears came to her eyes. But it was unnaturally quiet. There was no one walking down the
street, no cars or busses on the road. She laid on the roof until dark, and then she climbed down the fire
The professor lived only a few blocks to the north. Keeping to the back yards as much as possible, she got
there without seeing another soul. Heart pounding, she rang the doorbell. The curtain in the front
window moved. In a few minutes, the door opened a crack. She pushed the door open just enough to slide
in. Marta, the professor whispered, you’ve been followed.