Jacob Lanway sat rather dourly on the examination table. His mom was of course with him, she insisted naturally. His dad and younger brother had not bothered to come; after all, it shouldn't be anything serious. The waiting room was much like any other, white walls, a cabinet with various utensils, a transparent box with the word biohazard written across it and hypodermic needles nestled inside was affixed to the wall directly across from the door. It was kept at a room temperature much like anyone would expect. However, Jacob was hot, almost hot enough to start sweating.
They had performed several tests on him already, though Jacob really didn't know what the purpose of any of them were. They had tested his weight, his eyes, taken a blood sample; they had even asked him for a urine sample, which had taken Jacob a good ten minutes to complete. Now it was simply a matter of waiting, and that it many cases was really the worst part.
The doctor had confirmed their speculations at first when he asked Jacob what his symptoms were. He had all the classic symptoms of heat stroke, a massive headache, profuse sweating, and a relieving of these when he was immersed in a colder environment, but there was one significant difference; Jacob was suffering these symptoms at a much lower mean temperature than normal. That was what spurred on the latter tests, this had Doctor Ryan confused.
Doctor Ryan had been the Lanway family doctor since Jacob had been born seventeen years ago. Nothing in Jacob's record suggested this, nothing even remotely related to his suffering heat stroke at seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit. When Ryan had left to go put the samples through his computers for analysis, he had left with a perplexed expression. So it was when he came back in.
"Well," Ryan began scratching absent-mindedly at the base of his neck with one hand, the clipboard carrying Jacob's medical information for the last seventeen years in his other, "it seems that Jacob is suffering from some malady I've never encountered before. I sent the analysis of the samples I took to the NIH for clarification. Otherwise, I can find nothing wrong with him."
Jacob hated the feeling he got when he was referred to in the third person while in the room. However, Ryan was talking to his mom, not to him, just like he had always done over the past seventeen years. Of course Ryan was a pediatrician, and even though Jacob really wasn't a kid anymore, he wasn't quite an adult either. So Jacob sat and listened, trying to catch some hint of what might have occurred to him.
"When will you hear from the NIH?" his mom asked.
"Hopefully by tomorrow. I'll give you a call as soon as I know what they think." Ryan replied.
"So what do we do until then?" his mom asked again, making a quick glance at Jacob, taking in his sour expression.
"I suggest keeping him comfortable; keep him cool, and don't ask him to go outside more than absolutely necessary." Ryan replied. "Okay?"
Jacob sighed, looking forward to the ride home, as he intended to have his window down all the way. In that moment, he then understood why dogs liked to stick their heads out of car windows.
Feodor Arensky stumbled into the clearing amidst which sat the lone house next to the lake. It was midday, and he had run all night through snow banks and biting wind. Unlike his first exposure to the wintry air, which he found quite desirable, the arctic temperatures of the night were chilling, and he had to run the whole night just to keep warm.
However, his running had exhausted him, so when he made it through the trees and into the clearing where sat the house and frozen lake, he collapsed. He lay on the ground sighing, breathing in and out, deeply, then more slowly, until even the snow around him seemed to go dark, and he slept.
Michael Hall stepped off the plane in Yellowknife and immediately felt the bitter cold wind whip at his cheeks. Morgenstern had told him to dress warmly, and at the moment he was very glad he had listened to the man. He carried his two suitcases, one in each hand, down the ramp and towards the sole vehicle near the runway. It had been a passable flight, most certainly not the most enjoyable he had ever been in, but certainly not something he couldn't do a second or a third time if necessary.
The sole vehicle to which he quickly jogged was a large van, with very large tires. The back was opened up for him, and he dumped his two bags, shutting the back afterward. He then moved over to the front door, and climbed in, using the tire as a stepping stone. The driver was stone-faced at Michael's entrance, and Michael surmised he'd be stone-faced upon his exit at wherever it was they were taking him.
"Is your luggage secure?" the man asked, his hand already on the ignition.
"Yes." Michael replied. "My names Michael Hall. What's yours?" Michael proffered a hand, hoping to jar the man out of his seeming emotionlessness.
The man glanced at the hand for a brief moment, and then turned the ignition on. The van roared to life, and soon they were off at a decent pace along a passable road. The scenery was that of patches of coniferous forests with long stretches of dry grasslands between them. Michael had never before seen tundra, and he wondered whether this would qualify.
"Is this tundra?" Michael asked, having retracted his hand long ago.
The man drove silently for nearly a minute before he answered. "This is taiga. The tundra is further north." He then grew silent again, his eyes focusing on the road ahead of them.
Michael sighed, and sat back in his seat. He could only sit for a few moments before he came up with another question, "How long is it to this place we're going?"
The man again was silent for a moment before answering, "Three days." He then shifted gears as the road turned into a patch of trees, avoiding a small lake that had small chunks of ice floating in it. Almost as an afterthought he added, "Be glad you're coming in the summer. Any other time and we would have to bring you in on dogsled."
Michael considered that and turned to look out the window. The countryside looked strangely desolate to him, no sign other than the road ahead that there was any human inhabitation of the area. There were no traces of humanity anywhere in sight. Then off in the distance, while watching a particular stretch of firs, he noticed a herd of elk running through it. He then chided himself; it was not desolate, but instead teeming with life. He only thought it desolate because there was little human habitation.
He saw the elk then emerge from the grove of firs, and glance at the passing car in what to them must be curiosity. Michael pointed at them, and looked to the driver, "Check it out, I think I see Rudolph."
The driver ignored him; he did not even turn his head, or glance with one eye at Michael.
Michael Hall leaned back in his seat, and then stared at the man. This was very frustrating, the airport had long since disappeared form view, and everything he knew about the world had gone with it. This was no world of traffic signs, and exhaust fumes; this was a world where nature was harsh and cold, sparse and obviously interconnected. It was a world Michael Hall knew nothing about.
He then turned once more and looked the driver right in the face. It was a hard lean face, one that seemed just as cold as the wind outside had been. "When will I get to talk with Mr. Morgenstern again?"
The driver did not reply, he just wordlessly continued driving. Michael gave up then, and sat glumly looking out at a world he did not understand, and a world that did not understand him.
Feodor Arensky awoke to a burning sensation. He tried to get up, but he was obviously restrained, what else could it be. He tried to scream, and he could hear voices too. Voices! They found him! He might as well die now.
Feodor looked about, and he saw before him the face of a woman; the years had not been kind to her at all. She was holding his arms, and she was uttering words, he couldn't understand them. Obviously she must be a simple person, never been to a city in her life. Probably raised right here in this cabin. Yes, that was what he was in. He looked about himself, and he saw the location of his consternation, a firepit. He had been lain directly across from it, and by now he felt like he was boiling. The woman was holding him down.
It made sense now. They had found him in the snow, with only pants to wear, and thought that he must be freezing. He tried to speak to her then, "Where am I?"
She looked confused, and then a look of understanding crossed her face. He expected to hear his native tongue back to him, but no instead more of that gibberish she spoke in came out, this time directed back towards the other end of the cabin. It was a small building, only one room, and he could see a table off near the door, and the beds on which he was sleeping were on the other. It was hardly what he would, as he thought about it, consider even a good bed. It was shoddily constructed, and obviously did not use springs, probably a rope lattice underneath the frame. The table itself was of better make, but it looked to be several generations old. The inside walls were patched in many places with clay against the wood siding. Even so, they had a fire continuously burning to keep the cold air out. He saw a large pile of wood sitting aside the burning embers. He wondered how they kept themselves supplied in wood considering the cold surrounding. In retrospect, he really didn't even know what season this was, in Siberia, in hardly mattered.
The person to which the woman called was a short man, he looked to be Slavic in origin though. The two talked for a time in that gibberish they used, and then the man turned to face him, "You speak Russian?"
"Yes." Feodor answered his breath hoarse. "I'm so hot. Please let me go."
The man said a few words to what obviously must be his wife, and she let him up. They had dressed him in a makeshift shirt; probably one of the man's for they looked to be of similar height. Other than the shirt, he still had on his pants, and he looked no different from the day before. He immediately went outside, and sat down in the snow, and felt the cool embrace of the air about him soothe him into a state of relaxation. He sighed.
He turned back around, and saw the man and woman looking at him curiously. Around several sides of the house he saw others, children of several ages, more than five at least, looking at him curiously. They themselves were bundled up for the cold whether.
Feodor ignored their stares; "May I have something to eat?"
The man barked an order to one of the children, who promptly disappeared. The child returned a moment later with a piece of uncooked fish, almost certainly from the lake just a few paces from the hut. Feodor had never liked raw fish, but he ate the meal happily. He had not fed so well in ages. It only took him a few moments before he was pulling loose bones free from his teeth.
The family was still watching him, all from a respectable distance. Feodor glanced back at the father, "Is there a town nearby?"
"Anadyr is to the southeast. A good two days travel."
"Am I in the mountains then?" Feodor asked.
Feodor nodded. He knew about where he was then. The Khamtchatka Peninsula should be directly to the south of him. He could probably catch a boat at Anadyr, or steal one and sail to the Aluetians or Alaska. They wouldn't be able to do anything to him once he got there.
"Thank you kind sir." Feodor nodded politely to him. He then saw that one of the children; a little girl was approaching him with a broad smile on her face. Feodor smiled back, and then jumped slightly at her, playfully though. The little girl ran away giggling.
"Do you need anything?" the father asked.
"A couple more fish for food, and something to carry them in." Feodor said.
He barked another order behind him, and two of his children scurried off. The came back with a bag he could drape over his shoulder with three or four fish packed neatly inside.
"I can't take this much." Feodor protested.
"Take it, you'll need it." the man pointed out.
"Which was is Anadyr?" Feodor asked.
The man pointed, and with a short goodbye, he gathered his family back inside the house. Feodor lifted the bag over his shoulder, felt its uncumbersome weight, and set off in the direction the man pointed. He had to make Anadyr as soon as possible; there was no other option except to die like a wounded beast.
Dr. Ryan checked his email that night, just before he left for home as he always did. He wasn't at all surprised, given his previous message that morning, to find a reply from the National Institute of Health. However, what he read there scared him more than he realized.
Alert Family Immediately
Subject Jacob Lanway has been diagnosed with the Yaounde virus.
A CDC team is on its way. Tell no one other than the Lanway's of this. Keep them as well as you and your assistants isolated from the rest of the population.
Await further instructions.
Dr. Ryan fumbled with the phone as he picked it up. He had never heard of the Yaounde virus, but from the urgency of the message, he suspected that it was quite rare, and quite deadly; also, he had been exposed to it as well.
How was he going to tell the Lanway's this? How could he tell them this?
Sergei Vyatka thought nothing more of the man who they had found that morning after he had left. He took his pole, and fished the rest of the afternoon. He caught more than enough to make up for what they had given to the man. It was a pleasant afternoon in the Siberian summer. Of course pleasant in Siberia meant that it wasn't snowing and the wind wasn't blowing. It was days like this that made him glad he had made the decision to live here with his wife. His parents back in Minsk thought it a stupid idea to move out into the middle of nowhere and live like his ancestors did in the northern steppes. However, love has no respect for geography.
It was while they were sitting down for supper that evening that they were interrupted. The storm that had passed the day before had begun to pick up again, and they were thus surprised when the large men dressed in furs burst through the door, pointing weapons at them all. His children screamed, and his wife nearly fainted in fright. Sergei tried to move to stop them, but was thrown to the floor, and then picked up by two of the men, and forced to sit down. The rest of his family was herded over by the beds, with several of the intruders keeping their rifles leveled at them. His daughter began to cry.
Sergei looked at the one unarmed figure step into the house. He pulled off his hat, and Sergei could see that the man was no regular inhabitant of Siberia, but obviously a man from the West like he was. The falling snow had caught in his goatee, making what would otherwise be black hair white.
He sat across from Sergei, and looked him in the eye. "I am Mily Vasilyevich Balakhna. I understand there was a man who came to your house early this morning."
"He was exhausted, we took him in, we thought him a traveler who had become lost." Sergei explained.
"Of course you did." Balakhna nodded. "Was there anything unusual about the man?"
"He liked the cold." Sergei replied. He then noticed that the man was talking in Russian, so none of his family would understand him. He was in a way glad for that. He didn't want them to know that he was betraying the man who had come here earlier. However, his family was more important to him than was one lone wayfarer.
"That is what I thought." Balakhna said, idly tasting the uneaten fish that was still on the table. He then looked at Sergei with a piercing gaze. "Do you know where he is now?"
Sergei looked stunned for a moment, searching for an answer. Before he could say anything, Balakhna pulled a gun from his fur coat, and shot his daughter who had been then still crying. Sergei tried to leap at the man, but two of the soldiers behind him grabbed him from behind. There were simultaneous shouts of horror and sorrow from the rest of his family as they looked upon the now lifeless body of their sister and daughter.
"Now, where is he." Balakhna was glancing over the barrel of his pistol, and back at the dead girl, and then to Sergei himself.
"Anadyr. He was heading to Anadyr." Sergei replied between choked cries of agony. His only daughter dead and he could have stopped it if he hadn't stumbled over his own tongue.
"Ah, well, I guess that is all you know. No need to burden you with any further sorrow then." Balakhna then got up from where he sat, and took another bite of the fish, "Nice fish. Cooked just right. My compliments to the chef." He then left the house, and the soldiers started to follow him out.
The two soldiers that had restrained him threw Sergei to the floor. He rose to his feet to shout some defiance after them, when those same two soldiers turned back around; their rifles leveled at him. Sergei looked at the rifles and then to the steely eyes of the soldiers, and he knew that his life was at an end.
Balakhna waited outside for the screams to stop. After the last of the gunfire, the two other soldiers came back out, the barrels of their rifles smoking. Balakhna looked at them, and at the house. "Burn it." he ordered. He then sat down on the dog sled that had brought him here, and watched the tiny conflagration amidst the mountains and the forest, and through the now raging snowstorm. The only thing that went through his mind was a single word: Anadyr.
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