Jennifer Rich | Joey To
Kevin’s third floor apartment sat at the top of a long twisting staircase. There was no elevator, which was fine, because the city power went during his weeklong smack binge. The images of panic, rioting, emergency warnings then eventually static on every channel could have been dreams while he was on the nod. He wasn’t sure.
He shivered and brushed his shirt sleeve at his running nose. His heart pounded at the unfamiliar creaking of a body winding up the staircase. The doorknob clacked as it twisted. The door shoved open.
“Christ, Howie! You scared me.” His voice was weak from disuse. Struggling, he sat up on the couch to reach for his wallet. “I got your twenty here. Thanks for fronting me that last bag-“
“Yeah, whatever. Give me what’s left.” Howie was sweating, too. His eyes darted around the room.
Kevin’s fist closed around his last gram on the table.
“Hand it over.” A small revolver pointed directly at his head. It clicked when he cocked it with his thumb.
Kevin loosened his grip on the bag and gave a weak toss toward his dealer. He picked it up then bolted out the door and down the stairwell, rattling the thin walls.
Then Kevin remembered the outbreaks. The dead and dying in the streets. It was some medical warfare disaster. Snatches of teleprompted announcers glazed through his memory. There was plenty of blame to go around, but no cure.
His chest constricted. He just needed a small dose, a hit to clear the air, to think, to stave off the sweats.
Then there, underneath a greasy paper plate, was the brochure his sister left him during her last visit. Bangor Methadone Clinic. Now Seeing New Patients. Get Your Life Back. It was about two miles away, an easy stroll back when it was safe to walk the streets. There wouldn’t be any heroin there. He was after Suboxone. Howie sold him those pills when withdrawal fever laid him out. Had the clinic been raided yet? Probably. But they kept that shit under lockdown. The harder it was to break in, the more protected the stash.
The spiral stairs made him queasy but the open morning air cooled him. Overturned trash cans mingled with cars parked at odd angles. He was the only thing that moved.
Downtown, the storefronts were dark and broken glass crunched beneath his feet. He traveled downhill, uphill, then down again, his bowels twisted. When he came upon a bench, he reclined for a moment until his legs lurched him back toward the clinic.
Gunfire echoed over the silence of the usually bustling city center. He dropped to the ground and scrambled behind a dumpster, peering towards the waterfront but saw nothing. After a relieved sigh, he rounded the corner and his foot caught on something heavy and landed him face to face with a grinning, rotting corpse. He screeched and flung himself away, bile rising in his throat. He wanted to stop. To run away and hide, but need drove him on. After that, he darted behind parking stops and kept to the back alleys, careful not to look too closely at any bodies hunched on the pavement.
It took longer than he expected, but he made it to the brick building. The windows there were broken too. He paused by a fence in the parking lot and wiped his forehead. He checked around the building twice then entered through the only unlocked door. It creaked when he nudged it open.
There was a small waiting area inside. He felt hotter then, and moisture dripped from the tip of his nose. The sight of a bathroom door reminded him that he needed to go. Like, now. Fucking A, he needed a hit. Just one hit to settle his gut.
It was dark inside, but small high windows let in enough light to illuminate the dust lounging in the air. He saw a sign labeled “Lab” and “In-Patient Services.” Then there it was, a soft tinkle inside the lab room.
Now there was only silence from the other side. He noticed a hole where the doorknob should have been so he pushed at the door and it easily swung open.
A doughy, balding man in a white lab coat stood in front of a table full of tall bubbling beakers. Homemade heroin. Jackpot. A small portable generator hummed in the corner. In his hand was a metal pipe the size of his forearm.
“You shouldn’t be in here, kid. I’m busy.”
“Hey, uh, my name’s Kevin. You okay in here?”
The doctor laughed a little too loud and a tad too long. “I’m fine. Now back out the way you came and don’t come back.”
Kevin looked at the corridor behind him and back to the doctor. He stuck a shaking hand out to the doc. “We gotta be like, two of the last people left in town. I sure could use a friend.” His eyes darted to the grown up chemistry set, then to the doc’s hand fiddling in his pocket.
“I don’t need any friends, especially a junkie. Why the virus doesn’t affect you druggies is beyond me. Now get the FUCK out!”
He swung at Kevin with the pipe, but Kevin ducked and punched him in the chest. The doctor groaned and turned red, clutching his arm as he laid on the floor, then was still.
Kevin searched his pocket and found just enough powder for a quick hit.
“I tried to be nice,” he said as he plundered a needle kit from a cabinet. Trembling, he inserted the long hard tip into his skin. It gave him the same thrill as an off-limits fuck.
Searching through the rest of the building turned up nothing.
He found no powder, no pills. The building was clean.
Returning to the lab table, he stared at the beakers.
He kicked the doctor’s corpse.
He’d flunked high school chemistry.