Before she signs herself out for the final time, Dr. Erhardt injects herself with 20cc of the latest, most virulent strain. She has a sudden, overpowering vision of a giant clock, the hands wound around nearly to midnight. Her whole body shakes with the movement of a vast pendulum. When the vision fades she is white and sweating and lying on the floor near the security desk. The guard is leaning over her anxiously. His face clears when she stirs.
“Here,” he says. “Drink this.” It’s a glass of water. She takes it, swallows with difficulty. She lets her fingers trail across his wrist when she hands the glass back. Another vector.
“Thank you,” she rasps. “I’m fine now.”
“Do you want me to call a car for you, Dr. Erhardt?”
“That won’t be necessary. My blood sugar’s just low. If you’ve got something to eat… candy or fruit…”
“I’ve got some raisins.”
“That would be fine. Thank you.” After twenty minutes she’s strong enough to drive out of the lot. It’s a deceptive strength: inside she is already shutting down, filling with toxins and rapidly decaying tissue. She has twelve hours, maybe more, maybe less; certainly less than a day. She drives into the city and takes in a movie, coughing wetly throughout, not bothering to cover her mouth. So many more vectors. She goes to a baseball game, her first, and moves smoothly from section to section, touching an arm here, brushing against a back there, infecting and reinfecting. She screams herself hoarse. I should have done this sooner, she thinks, only a little sadly.
She wanders the streets of the city until three or four in the morning, slipping in and out of bars, dance clubs, all-night restaurants. She gets picked up by a salesman in a seedy little bar near the convention center and goes home with him. Why not? He’s very tender and cries a little bit into her hair afterwards. “There, there,” she tells him. “It’ll be fine. Everything will be fine.”
Towards dawn she gets back into her car and drives out into the hills to watch the sunrise. It’s all she can do to keep the car on the road. When she parks she isn’t strong enough to open the door. She blinks through the fogged windshield at the city, spread out below her like a tablecloth. “Goodbye,” she tells it, and dies, the first death of very many.