Jason Lawrence Bell
Search single story

02-23-20 Quarantine


Sharon peered around the corner and made certain that the street was clear and she could move safely. Her neighborhood had been on police lock down for seven days. Somehow her neighborhood was decided to be ground zero of a dangerous flu epidemic and all residence were ordered to stay at home. The flu had already killed 11 people and 213 are hospitalized and quarantined. It was declared a state emergency, and the authorities had determined that, somehow somewhere, all cases led back to Sharon’s neighborhood.

Sharon was worried like everyone and followed the quarantine orders strictly. With one small exception, Queenie, Sharon’s tiny mutt dog that Sharon saved from an animal shelter. Queenie was a house dog but needed a walk every day. Without a walk Queenie became reiterated and started eating shoes and furniture. Sharon knew the deal, walk or else. So, to avoid detection during the quarantine, she walked Queenie before dawn and was careful not to be seen or be near any people. The only ones they came in contact with were other dogs. Queenie was popular with the other dogs and they often came out of their yards to visit. But today was different. Queenie and Sharon walked alone. The other dogs stayed home. After a week where dogs vied for Queenie’s attention, they now just ignored her. Sharon could see them, laying in their yards. This made the walks shorter and Sharon liked that part.

Back at home Sharon watched morning TV to find the latest news on the quarantine. Another outbreak of the flu in another city that was linked back to Sharon’s neighborhood. Sharon felt so fortunate that she hadn’t been inflected. Each time a neighbor became infected or linked to transmitting an infection, their homes were completely quarantined with yellow tape surrounding the house and warning signs displayed in bright red. During Sharon’s morning walks she saw the quarantined houses. Almost every other house was covered in yellow. The authorities were baffled. It looked so eerie and dangerous; Sharon hurried by.

One afternoon an investigator knocked on Sharon’s door and had a few questions. They had been reviewing neighborhood street cameras and discovered Sharon’s predawn dog walks. They showed her on their laptop screens. Day after day Sharon and Queenie. Sharon immediately began apologizing and said she was careful not to contact any people. She explained Queenie’s daily need to walk and apologized some more. The investigator had one more question, ‘we can see the others dogs drawn to Queenie everyday but then they stopped. Do you know why?’ Sharon was confused and could not explain it. The investigator noticed Sharon holding Queenie and asked if he could hold Queenie. Sharon handed Queenie to the investigator, but warned Queenie, ‘Queenie no kissing, no kissing.’ The investigator asked, ‘why no kissing?’ Sharon answered, ‘that grosses me out, I don’t like animals licking my face and mouth. It’s gross.’ The investigator took out a q-tip and took a sample from Queenie’s mouth. Then he thanked Sharon for telling him the truth, and left. The next morning Sharon’s world would change completely.

Sharon awoke with crews in hazmat suits wrapping yellow tape around her house and Queenie taken away. The investigator told her very little except she was ordered to remain in her home until further notification. On the evening news Sharon learned the full story.

The news began with a picture of Queenie and the caption ‘Ground Zero’. Sharon was shocked and overwhelmed. Then a picture of her walking Queenie secretly thru the neighborhood and the dogs following Queenie. The announcer began, ‘this dog owner lives in the heart of the quarantined neighbors, unknowing that her dog was a carrier of the deadly virus. Animals don’t get sick from the virus, only humans. As we can see from the images other dogs were attracted to Queenie. The owner didn’t realize that Queenie was in heat, and the other dogs were drawn to her. When they made contact with Queenie, the other dogs became infected. The dogs then transmitted the virus to their owners, who then became transmitters.’

Sharon was humiliated. What would people think of her? Would she lose her job and her friends? Then she wondered, ‘if Queenie is the source, then why didn’t I get infected.’ The news announcer continued, ‘the investigation has also discovered the way the virus was transmitted from the dogs to the owners. Owners who allowed their dogs to lick their faces and mouth were infected. Owners who didn’t allow were not infected. The investigators believe the worst was over and no more transmissions should occur.’

Sharon never saw Queenie again and had all her dog items burned. She also changed her hair, and first name and moved to a different town. She was hoping that people’s memories were short. Peace***