I dragged a now sobbing Shelby into the office closing the door firmly behind me. The loud thumping from the sick boy had mellowed to a dull thud, followed every so often with a rattle of the door. Even so I felt much safer in the office. There was definitely something not right with that boy, he seemed positively animalistic and the blood and mucus just gushing down his chin made him look like a wild animal just after a kill. I shuddered, nice analogy Sarah. I reached again for the telephone, dialling the number of the local sheriff's office. It rang and rang, an automatic voice thanking me for my patience. After almost five minutes of holding a man answered the phone.
"Coatesville Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Buford isn't available at the moment, how can I direct your call?" I was taken aback at his commanding voice and manner; it calmed me instantly.
"I'm Sarah Marshall, teacher over at Madison Elementary School. There is a boy here preventing me from leaving the building. He seems ill, and he's bleeding quite heavily. Can you send someone to deal with him?" There was a scuffle on the end of the line and someone cleared their throat.
"Ms Marshall, did you approach the boy? Did you get any of his blood and or fluids on you? Did you touch or attempt to help him in anyway? What is he doing now?" I took a deep breath, overwhelmed with the barrage of questions.
"I...erm....I haven't been near him or touched him, I haven't tried to help him because he was being so aggressive. He didn't get any blood on me, as I'm inside the building and the door is locked. At the moment he's slamming his fist on the door trying to get inside. Who are you? What's happening?" The man sighed.
"Ms Marshall, are you feeling ill in any way? Do you have a Fever? Sore Throat? Runny Nose? Does it hurt when you urinate?" I shook my head.
"No! No! I feel fine, and it definitely doesn't hurt when I urinate!!! What a question to ask me, ask anyone! Who are you? What the hell is going on?" The man muffled the receiver with what I imagined was his hand, the line was quiet for a few seconds then he came back.
"Please stay indoors, and do not attempt to leave. I will send someone to deal with the boy right away. If the situation changes please call back." The man hung up the phone abruptly.
"What a Asshole!" I ground out between clenched teeth. Shelby giggled and I put my hand instinctively over my mouth.
"My Dad sometimes says bad words, but he told me never to say them." I nodded trying to keep the smirk off my face.
"Your Dad is right." I looked down at her and smiled. It was then that I noticed the beads of perspiration on her forehead.
"Shelby are you feeling alright?" I asked. She shook her head.
"I'm hot, and thirsty. Can I have a glass of water Miss Marshall?" I walked behind the desk to the watercooler and poured her a cup. She downed it in seconds followed by 2 further cups. I touched my hand to her forehead and it was burning hot.
"Shelby will you come with me into the Nurses office and I'll see if I can get you something to help you cool down." Shelby held out her hand and we walked into the hallway. The boy was now stood almost motionless, his back to us. I ran down the hallway pulling Shelby behind me, I didn't want to antagonise him anymore than he was.
I turned on the striplight and it hummed into life. Shelby had now turned pale and she had dark circles under her eyes. I picked her up and laid her on the bed. She let out a sigh and collapsed against the pillow. Her eyes closed. I shook her gently.
“Shelby. Shelby sweetie, are you alright?” She didn’t stir; I panicked and wet a towel under the cold faucet. I started to bathe her face, trying to bring down her fever.
Suddenly a light went on inside my head. This morning when I’d driven to work, there was a news item about the African Flu coming to the country. Perhaps this was what had happened to Shelby’s parents and what was now happening to Shelby. The man at the sheriff’s office had told me to call him if anything changed; he’d asked if I had a fever, a sore throat, and runny nose. I didn’t, but Shelby definitely had at least one of these symptoms.
I picked up the phone and rang the Sheriff’s office again. It took a while for someone to answer again; this time the same man answered the phone.
“Coatesville Sheriff’s Office, How may I direct your call?” I took a deep breath.
“This is Sarah Marshall again at Madison Elementary.” The man groaned.
“Can you please get off the line Maam, we need to keep the line clear for other people to call us.” I swore loudly.
“You don’t understand! One of my students is very ill. She’s running a very high fever and she’s unconscious. Can you send an ambulance please?” The man sighed.
“Maam Leave the infected person alone and disinfect your hands and face. We will send a team to remove the infected person and they will take you to a designated safe zone.” I swore looking at the phone in my hand angrily.
“She’s just a little girl! I can’t leave her alone. What’s going on? What the hell is happening?” The man put his hand around the receiver.
“We’ll send someone to remove the little girl immediately. There is a contagion, which has infected a large percentage of the population of Coatesville and the surrounding county. It is highly contagious; for your own safety you must leave the little girl. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but if I was you I would leave the room and find a cupboard and lock yourself in.” He put down the phone. I looked at it in horror for a moment; this was serious. I looked down at Shelby’s still form. Her breathing was shallow, her face red with fever. I slumped into the chair behind the desk. It was so much to take in. I never thought the African Flu would reach Coatesville; it was such a small town in the middle of nowhere. It had seemed like such a far away illness; I hadn’t given it much thought at all. But now it was here in glaring truth. I began to sob, succumbing finally to the tension, which had enveloped me.
I sat for a time slowly calming myself down. Shelby wasn’t moving at all now; I couldn’t bear to go near her, even though I wouldn’t leave her on her own. The man on the phone had seemed so believable.
Suddenly I heard gunshots. I got to my feet retreating to the back of the office, sliding down behind one of the filing cabinets. I could hear boots stomping down the hallway, opening and slamming doors. The handle jiggled on the office; I’d locked it for safety against the possible attack from the boy. As I watched, a size 12 boot kicked the door through. A soldier stood in front of me, dressed in a hooded camouflage suit and mask. He looked at me and then to Shelby lying on the bed.
“I have the infected in here. Maam, can you come with me please.” He held out his hand to me. I stood up my legs feeling like jelly.
“What about Shelby?” I asked walking towards him. He motioned behind him and two soldiers entered the room carrying a stretcher with a plastic cover.
“Don’t worry we’ll take care of her. Did she bite you or spit on you?” I shook my head and let him lead me down the hallway.
“No, she was fine and then she fell ill really quickly. Her parents were taken away this afternoon according to what she told me. Please where are you taking her?” The soldier bundled me through the main doors of the school. I almost slipped as I began walking down the steps. I turned and saw the body of the boy lying in a pool of blood; I had slipped in his spilled blood. His body was riddled with bullet holes, his face a scarlet pulp of brains and blood. I felt bile rising in my throat; I put my hand to my mouth to stop it rising. The soldier led me to an army truck and opened the door.
“Please get in the truck Maam, the driver will take you to the designated safe zone.” I nodded, climbing inside. As I watched the soldiers teeming around outside, I noticed them putting boxes and wires around the outside of the school.
“What are they doing?” I asked the driver as he started the engine.
“Standard procedure. The area is contaminated. Watch the fireworks.” As he drove away, I put my hand on the cool window, looking out into the darkness at Madison Elementary School. My home for the past 4 years; Watched as it burned, illuminating the dark night with bright yellow flames.
The End of Part 2