“You’ve got to get out of the city!” my brother yelled into the phone.
“What’s the big deal? This sounds more like a bad cold than anything else. It’s not like you to pay attention to this kind of stuff,” I said, pacing around my living room. My toddler watching Lion King for the umpteenth time, and my youngest scooting himself around the room; no need to crawl when you can slide on wood floors.
“I know, I know. But I think something is really going on this time. It’s not the same as before; SARS and MERS, and all the others were bad but nothing like this. The Chinese government has gotten gun shy, and they’ve worked hard to conceal the severity of it. They wanted to ignore it and hope it went away,” he said. “But this one is the worst. There are a million different reasons why, but I’ve found reports that it affects every blood type differently. It’s gone unnoticed because it most severely affects AB-negative–the rarest blood type.”
“What went unnoticed?”
“COVID-19… it fundamentally alters… it changes the behavior of people with AB-negative blood,” he said.
“Hold on, wait. I thought it was called the Coronavirus. What is COVID-19?”
“HIV causes AIDS, Coronavirus causes COVID-19,” he said.
“When did you become an expert on viruses and blood types? Why hasn’t the CDC or WHO said anything about this yet.”
“I don’t know about the WHO, but the CDC is embarrassed. At the demand of the president, they put 14 infected passengers on a plane with 315 other people and flew them to the States from Japan. On the flight, everyone became infected despite quarantine procedures. It’s spreading like crazy here. And almost two million Americans have AB-negative blood. Our government is now doing the same thing the Chinese government is doing, controlling information to cover their own asses.”
I stopped pacing and stood, watching my kids enjoying their own little worlds.
“Look, worst-case scenario, you get to spend a little time in the mountains and get all the kids together for a few days,” he said. “If I’m totally crazy, you go back home. No harm, no foul.”
I could hear his five-month-old crying in the background.
“I can’t just skip out of work on such short notice. I don’t have the luxury of working wherever I want.”
“Don’t give me that,” he said. “You run that office now, and if one of the juniors is still in town, they can take your clients for a few days. Sis and her husband are packing up now, and they have a way harder time getting off work than you.”
He was right, and a few days in the mountains could be good for me. I could use it after the last several weeks. The stress was really starting to wear me down.
“If you wait too long, you’ll never get out of the city. The traffic will be impossible,” my brother said, snapping me out of my daze. “People are already leaving, trying to put space between themselves and everyone else.”
“OK fine, you convinced me. We’ll pack up and head your way—what the hell was that?”
“What‽ What happened‽,” my brother said.
“Hold on. Something’s going on outside,” I said as I walked to the front of my house. My kids, oblivious to the noise.
“What is it?” I could hear my brother yelling from the phone I now held down at my side.
Outside, my quiet, ideal street was anything but. My neighbor’s brand new Range Rover was laying on its side, one of the custom wheels he’d bragged about getting was still spinning, and three people were lying in the road.
The driver’s side door, the door facing the sky, slowly rose open. I could see the top of my neighbors head trying to climb out of the SUV.
“Is everything OK? What’s going on there?” my brother said frantically into the phone.
“Hold on. My neighbor just wrecked in front of my house,” I said.
“Don’t go outside! Get your family in the car and leave. It’s there, it’s made it to your street,” my brother said as I opened my front door.
“Hey, man! Are you OK?” I yelled to the street from my front door. Before he had the chance to answer, one of the people lying in the street jumped up and started to climb up the side of the car towards my neighbor. Another jumped up from the ground and ran straight at me at an impossibly fast speed.
“Whoa, hey, are you OK?” I yelled at the person running at me.
Just then, my neighbor started yelling. I saw him fighting off the person who’d climbed on top of his SUV.
“Get back in your house!” my brother yelled.
I looked back at the person running at me through my front yard. He’d gained a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
“Hey man, are you OK?” I said, but his pace never slowed, and he never answered. I backed slowly to my door, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. “Hey!” I yelled again and slammed the door shut.
He hit the door at full speed. I could feel the force of his body rattle through the entire house. I couldn’t believe the door didn’t come off the hinges. One of his hands had slammed through a window next to the door. I was thankful my wife demanded a solid wood door, my first choice would have collapsed as soon as he hit it.
“What’s going on there‽” my brother yelled into my now forgotten phone.
“Some guy just charged me from the street. He hit my front door running at full speed. I’ve never seen anything like it,” I said.
“Listen to me. Don’t pack anything, get your wife, get your kids, and get in the car now. Don’t stop for anything. I’m serious, go now,” he said.
Out of nowhere, my entire house rattled again. I looked through the broken window and saw the person backing up, preparing to ram the door for a third time. I quickly flipped the deadbolt on the door, hoping it would slow him down.
“How contagious is this?” I said to my brother, watching the person charge my door.
“You’ve watched the news, it’s incredibly contagious.”
I yelled up the stairs from the front door to my wife, “Honey! We’ve gotta get out of here now. Get the kids, put them in the truck. We’re heading to my brother’s house.”
“What? Why?” She yelled back. “And who keeps banging on the front door?”
“I’ll explain on the way. We have to go now!” I yelled at the house.
“Yeah, but what about this guy. Shit! This door…,” I panicked into the phone.
There was another massive bang on the door. It would not handle another blow.
“As far as I know, if you aren’t AB-negative, then that is not likely to happen to you. But that person will not stop coming for you,” my brother said as I pushed our dining room table in front of the door just as the person rammed it again.
“What is wrong with him? Why is he doing this?” I said to my brother.
“I have no idea, I don’t think anyone knows what’s happening.”
The frame next to the deadbolt began to crack with the most recent ramming.
” OK, on the way. Gotta go. I’ll call you when we get on the road,” I said and hung up.
“I’m serious, get in the fucking truck right now!” I yelled at the house, causing my toddler to start crying, and my wife to come down the stairs.
“We have to go now,” I said again, panicked that our front door was about to collapse.
My wife didn’t say anything. She slipped by me and the dining room table. She scooped up our youngest, grabbed the diaper bag with her free hand, and ran towards the garage.
“Don’t open the garage door until we’re all in the truck!” I yelled at her as she went around the corner.
“Hey, big man,” I said as calmly as I could, leaning against the table and door to my toddler crying on the couch. “We’re going to go for a car ride to see Uncle Bubby, OK. Can you get your iPad and get in the big car?”
He continued to cry but slid off the couch, dragging his little tablet with the Lion King playing on it.
Another hard bang on the door and the wood around the deadbolt shattered. The door slammed hard against the table and pushed me forward.
I pushed hard to get the table back against the door. The person had managed to get their bloody arm and shoulder in the door. This was the first time I got a good look at him. His face looked totally calm. He could have been a guy jogging in the park if it weren’t for the blood dripping from his arm and my front door crushing his torso.
“Is everyone in the car?” I asked my wife, hoping she could hear me from the garage.
She came around the corner and saw me straining against the door with my feet sliding out from under me. She ran and pushed with me, but there was no slowing this guy down. He never even flinched when she slammed into the table next to me.
“The boys are in the car. We’re as ready as we’re going to be. Who is this? What’s happening?” she said, pushing hard on the table next to me.
“I’m going to hold the door while you run to the truck. Honk the horn when you’re in. I’ll run then close and lock the door behind me. Whoever this is will be in our house before we can pull out,” I said, straining on the table. “I have no idea what is going on.”
I watched as she disappeared around the corner again, and a few seconds later, hit the horn of the truck. The guy was pushing hard, I wouldn’t be able to hold him much longer.
I took a deep breath and ran as hard as I possibly could towards our garage.
As I rounded the corner, the guy grabbed my shoulder, throwing me off balance. He was running so fast he flew past me, leaving several feet of space between us as we both hit the floor.
I scrambled to my feet and made it through the garage door and slammed it behind me just as he slammed into it.
I felt the force of his body in the walls.
I was terrified and focused on getting my family away but still felt pulled to protect my house, our things.
My wife was in the passenger seat with the engine running. My youngest was already asleep, oblivious to everything going on. My oldest sat in his car seat with tear-soaked cheeks, zeroed in on his movie playing on the iPad.
Crying, my wife said, “What is going on? Who was that? Why are they in our house? Oh, my God! You’re bleeding!”
I looked at my shoulder where the guy had grabbed me. My shirt was ripped, and I had a gash running from my shoulder across my upper back.
How had he gotten through the door and over the table so fast?
I reached up to hit the garage door opener, but my wife grabbed my hand. “Wait. Are there more of them outside?”
“I don’t know. But if they are, we can’t stay here. We can’t sit in the garage and hope they go away. The guy inside, whoever he is, seemed very intent on getting us. We need to get out of here. Away from everything. My brother’s place is isolated. We can get there and figure out what’s going on,” I said.
I closed my eyes and readied myself for what could be waiting in the driveway. I locked the truck doors, put it in reverse, took one more deep breath, and clicked the garage door controller. Watching the side mirrors, everything looked clear as the door slowly rose. I was expecting to see feet at the bottom of the door waiting for us to pull out, but nothing.
I glanced at the door leading to the house one last time, just as the frame exploded. The man crashed on to the hood of my wife’s car next to us. I slammed my foot on the gas pedal, the top of the truck ripped the garage door away. The mirror on the passenger side clipped someone, and I saw them fall into the yard between our house and the neighbor’s.
When we got to the street, I slammed the truck into drive and floored it north towards my brother’s house. In my rearview mirror, I could see my neighbor’s body slumped over the side of his car.
There was no way I was stopping for anything until we made it to the mountains.