Cassie paced back and forth, sick to her stomach. The phones were down, and though she still had electricity and Internet, she had not been able to reach any family or friends in days. The news sites were overrun with stories and videos of attacks. No city had been spared, as people tried to run and only succeeded infecting the innocent for hundreds of miles.
She had left campus when she heard the first reports that made it sound like an infection was taking place. She still remembered calling home, and talking to her mother about what to do. The conversation was burned into her mind, it was the last time they spoke.
"Don't come here," she had told Cassie in a quiet voice. "Your dad is worried sick about you, but they already have police and army driving up and down the streets, enforcing a curfew and shooting anyone who doesn't obey. You're safer where you are, I promise." Cassie heard her choke back as sob, and felt her eyes prickle with tears.
"Are you guys okay? What about Sammy?" Her little brother had just finished another round of chemotherapy, and she knew how much it wiped him out. Sammy was only ten years old, but he had known nothing but hospitals and sickness. She often felt guilty about going away to college, but her relief at growing and moving on was intoxicating, it had kept her loving her family but learning to be her own person. Now though, as everything seemed to be crumbling around them, she felt no stronger or wiser than her little brother.
Her mother said the usual, that Sammy was fine. Cassie knew she said this no matter what to satisfy her conscience. This time, she let it go. They talked for a few more minutes, and made arrangements to keep in touch should the phones fail.
The problem was, there were no email replies or text messages. Her family had dropped off the radar, and Cassie was worried. Sammy was so little, what if they had been forced to try to leave with him? Cassie knew the answer. They couldn't, and they wouldn't. For better or worse, her parents would stay at their house, where they had some medicine and supplies for their critically ill son.
As Cassie walked to and from, holding her stomach and afraid for her life, she came to a realization. All bets were off. There was no safety, no knight in shining armor, and nobody to depend on but herself. She was alone, and she didn't want to be. She wanted her parents, her brother, her home. And then it was suddenly so clear, that was where she wanted to be. It was only a ninety minute drive, most of it on rural highways. She could be there well before dark if she took off now.
Feeling better just for having a plan, she packed a quick bag and said a prayer. She still had a full tank of gas and plenty of daylight.