From the Blog of Dr. Cheryl Henderson:
September 30, 2309
It has been 300 years since the Great Bubonic Plague that wiped out half of the global population. No one knows the full story as that information has been lost. Many have speculated that extremists broke into a lab where it housed aggressive strains of deadly diseases, such as the Anthrax virus, yellow fever, and even the bubonic plague. The extremists then released the bubonic plague by infecting fleas and mosquitoes. Once the insects were released, they bit their victims, spreading the plague in the host's body and killing the host in a matter of minutes to almost an hour. The extremists choose the United States as a test subject. 400,000 people died almost immediately in what could be described as a "Horrific Death"
From there, the plague had spread across the United States, then into South America, then Asia by way of Alaska. Europe and Australia closed their boarders as soon as they heard of the plague. Africa grounded all flights from leaving the continent and even forbid those coming home from abroad. Somehow, the plague reached these continents. Hundreds of thousands of people died within three years.
My team and I have been going around the Great Plains of the United States. We were studying of how the survivors lived and thrived following the devastation. To our amazement, we came across a locomotive yesterday, all rusted and in disrepair. One of my colleagues said that the locomotive was a Milwaukee Road 261, a 4-8-4 Northern type steam locomotive. He was surprised that it was out in the middle of nowhere as the locomotive was said to have been decommissioned by 2045. We checked the interior of one of the cars; it was beautiful, but dusty. It appeared to be a sleeping car of some kind, so I checked one room, but it was locked. One of my colleagues checked the room next door. There was nothing except a bed and a bedside table with a lamp. On the table was a book, but when I dusted it off I realized it was a diary. It belonged to "Zoe". There were only a few pages written in it, but I begun to read.
May 23, 2029
It was my eleventh birthday yesterday, but Mama was too busy checking on the patients we picked up from the town of Louisville. Mama said she tried to come see me, but she had Ellie watch over me. Ellie baked me a little birthday cake with fresh raspberries she picked from the greenhouse car. It was a bit tart, but I loved it nonetheless. Mama is a doctor for the "Rescue Train".
Before I was born, Mama said there was a horrific incident where the plague was unleashed. Many people have died. Mama and a few of her friends, who were also doctors decided to join the "Rescue Train" operation. They band together and restored an old train. They found a man who knew a lot about trains and he agreed to help them get to the different towns across the United States. When they arrived in a town, they would pick up survivors, but Mama was under strict orders to not pick up those who were infected by the plague.
My dad also worked on the train. He made sure the cars' wheels were running smoothly and to pick off any ice from the roofs of the cars when they go through the mountains. Daddy was killed when he slipped off the roof of one car and Mama watched as he plummeted into the ravine below. I was three years old.
Since then, Mama made sure I was well taken care of. She hired Ellie, who we picked up from the town of Coleman in West Virginia. Ellie was a sweet woman. She said she lost both her husband and her son to the plague. Ellie taught me to read and write. She also taught me to read time and read maps.
When the engineer would call over the intercom, we were urged to put on long jeans, long sleeve shirts, and masks so that the plague would not infect us when we picked up survivors. Mama said that once the survivors were brought on board, they would stay in a car that served as quarantine. It was an extra precaution. When we reached a big city, we drop the survivors off at the many hospitals that were operating. There were many big cities, but we stayed long enough to drop off the survivors and retrieve supplies.
This morning, I found this diary on the table by my bed. Mama left a note saying she was sorry for not coming to celebrate. She insisted that I write down my thoughts so that she can relate to me in some way. I really miss her and I really want to be like her when I grow up.
Ellie and I checked on the greenhouse car today. It housed our crops, including raspberries and lemons. Mama grew lemons to use the juices to kill the bacteria in a survivor's open wound. I was told that it stung really bad, but it was the best way to keep much of the plague from spreading.
We even grew pumpkins and corn. Ellie said that the pumpkin tasted great and the seeds could also be eaten, but the best way to eat them was when they were dry. Ellie had a table she used to lay out the pumpkin seeds and used lamps to dry them out. When they were done, Ellie would sprinkle a bit of cinnamon. I was given a little bag of seeds to eat and Ellie would also give one to Mama.
We also had a car that housed our two milking cows. I named them Hannah and Betty. Mama would apply some lotion on them every morning. She said it was too keep the flies and other biting insects away from them.
We had to climb on top of the cars to avoid going into the quarantine car. We picked up some survivors from Edinburgh in Wisconsin. We are our way to Chicago to drop them off.
The train came to a stop in the middle of the night shortly after 1 in the morning. Mama told the engineer to stop somewhere in Nebraska. She then woke me up and took me outside. To my amazement, there were many stars up in the sky. Mama and I laid on a blanket to watch the stars go by. "Look!" she said and pointed to a star that flew by, "A shooting star!"
I saw the star fly away, but then, another flew by and then another. "It's a meteor shower!" my mama exclaimed. We watched as dozens of meteors flew by and the stars were still, again.
"Happy Belated Birthday Zoe!" my mama sang and the engineer brought out a little cake. It had a white coating, Ellie called it frosting. I took a slice, it was really sweet, nothing like the tart raspberry cake.
We then went back on the train and the engineer got it moving again. Mama gave me a bath where she applied some lotion on me. After drying off, Mama tucked me in and gave me a kiss on the forehead.
I will never forget that kiss.
We stopped in a town somewhere in South Dakota. It was quite empty for some reason. Normally, I would see troves of people at the station, but not today. Mama and one of the doctors put on their long clothes and masks and looked around the town. I wanted to go with them, but Mama insisted I stay inside the car so I would be safe from the plague.
I noticed something outside the window of the dining car. It moved a bit. I called out to Ellie. She noticed it too and put on her mask. She stepped out and looked at the thing. She looks up at me and shakes her head. She returned inside and said, "It was a snake, but it's dead now."
Then my mama and the doctor returned to the train, but they entered the quarantine car. Mama called Ellie and told her to keep me away from the quarantine car. I asked what was going on, but Ellie said Mama would tell me as "soon as the danger is over." Ellie then called the engineer to get the train going as quickly as possible. That's when I noticed the look on Ellie's face. "Sweetie, don't touch me. I'll be back soon." She ran towards the back and was gone.
Ellie and Mama returned about three hours later. I saw that the skin on their arms were red. Mama sat me down and explained what happened. They found numerous bodies in one building and the doctor checked one of them. They had the plague. Ellie told her about looking at the dead snake outside. It was a good thing they went to the chemical bath in the quarantine car, otherwise they would've gotten infected.
Mama said that biting insects like fleas and mosquitoes were responsible for spreading the plague. She said that the reason we could not pick up people infected by the plague was mostly because we were afraid that the infected could spread the disease in the quarantine car. She wants us to be safe.
I can't seem to sleep now. I am a bit worried about what will happen in the next town.
The train came to a stop in Fargo. This city was kinda small, but it had many operating hospitals. Mama took me outside, but we had to wear long clothes and masks. It was unbearable as the hot sun was bearing down on us. I was sweating a lot.
Mama brought inside a hospital where we met with a head doctor. Mama told him about the town in South Dakota. The doctor nodded and rubbed his bare chin. "You will find many towns like that," he said. He noticed me and gave me some candy. I thanked him and he lead us to the hospital's cafeteria. We ate bread, salmon, and sweet potato. We drank some orange juice, it was tart.
Mama and I returned to the train where the engineer was stocking up on wood. I never knew his name, so I approached him and asked. "My name's Jacob," he replied. He was sweating a lot from wearing his long clothes and mask. I gave him a bottle of water from the supply car. He thanked me and then insisted I get back on the train.
Ellie pointed on the map to the state of Wyoming. "We will be heading there and then on to Denver in Colorado," she said and the train began to move.
I never saw Mama so angry before. Ellie said she was furious with one of the doctors on the train.
We had stopped in a town called Yellowstone, which was in Wyoming and Idaho. There was a trove of survivors at the station. Mama urged me to stay in the dining car and not move.
I looked out the window to see the survivors pleading with Mama and the doctors to let them on board. There were soldiers in heavy uniforms and masks trying to keep the people away.
Mama and the doctors checked on a few of the survivors and allowed them in the quarantine car.
Then a woman came running up to Mama. She pleaded with Mama to save her baby, who she was holding in her arms. The infant was crying hysterically and Mama looked the baby over. The baby had blemishes, a sign of the plague. Mama apologized, saying that the infant was infected and could not be brought on board.
The woman pleaded with Mama, begging her to save her baby's life. One of the doctors went over and said there was nothing they could do to save the infant. The woman became hysterically and cried with her baby. She tried to hand over her baby to Mama, but the doctor pushed her away. The woman went after Mama, again, and this time, the doctor punched her in the jaw. The woman collapsed to the ground, the infant fell out of her hands and hit the ground.
Mama and the doctor ran back inside the quarantine car and slammed the door shut. Jacob then got the train moving. We were leaving the survivors behind.
Mama had a yelling match with the doctor. She was furious with him as he punched a woman who had a baby in her arms. "That baby was already dead," the doctor said, "Do you want to infect us? Do you want to infect your daughter?" he asked her.
Mama then went to work on those who we were able to pick up from Yellowstone. There were only a few this time.
We stayed in Denver much longer then we anticipated. The train had to go through a thorough washing to make sure no fleas or other biting insects were on board. Ellie said that fleas can hide in the carpeting and lash onto a host without them noticing.
Mama and I stayed in a nice hotel room not far from the station. Jacob spoke to another engineer, he insisted that the doctors on that train head to Yellowstone. The other engineer, however, told him that Yellowstone has been completely cut off. I wasn't sure if I should be upset or angry. There were other people that were not infected, but no one was allowed to go to rescue them.
We had some delicious meals prepared by the hotel cooks. I wasn't hungry. I thought about the baby and his mother. They were probably suffering from the final stages of the plague. I had not seen the final stages of the plague, but I was told that the pain would be too intense to go through.
It felt good to be back on the train. Mama and the doctors want to head to Nevada.
Today is Independence Day. Jacob stopped the train in Reno. There were barely any towns in Nevada as it was mostly desert.
The people of Reno had a parade although not much people came out to see. We were told that flies were abundant in this place.
We were welcomed and someone invited us to a bar-b-que. I barely remembered having beef, mostly because it was scarce. Cows were often bitten by flies and farmers and butchers had to double test the meat for the plague. A large quantity of the meat had been infected. It was rare to find beef that was not infected.
I was treated to some soda that tasted like oranges. When I took a long swallow, I burped. Ellie insisted I show some manners.
We had a feast that evening, although we had to wear long sleeves and jeans. The heat from the desert made it unbearable. The people had set up some "mosquito lanterns", which prevented the mosquitoes from flying near us.
We then had caramel ice cream and watched the sun set. Mama, Ellie, and I went back to the train. The doctors also came back and they were walking strangely. I thought it was a sign of the plague, but Ellie said they were drunk. Jacob came back a bit later. He said he went to the indoor community pool. He said he was once a competitive swimmer. He said it felt good to do laps, again.
We came to a town near the Sierra Nevadas. These mountains were quite beautiful. There were a few people this time and they were wearing long clothes and masks. I asked Mama if I could step out to look at the mountains. Mama agreed as long as Ellie was close by.
We walked up a hill and gazed at the mountains. I stared at the mountains for a long time. They were beautiful. I took off the mask to breathe in the air. It smelled fresh and almost cold.
Ellie demanded that I put my mask back on. I only wanted to smell the mountain air. She then pointed to a creek. A body of water meant mosquitoes.
We went back to the train.
When I was taking off my clothes, I felt a bump on my neck. I looked into the mirror and saw a red spot at the base of my neck. It did itch and I scratched at it. The redness spread.
I put some of Mama's lotion on the spot, wondering if it would relieve the itchiness.
I woke up yesterday with chills and muscle aches. I called to Mama and she saw me. She went off and a doctor came in wearing an unusual suit. It covered his entire body.
He took me to the quarantine car. There were these tubes in the car. The doctor placed me one and shut the door to the tube. Mama came later and gave me my diary and a pen.
I could barely write yesterday, but I am trying to stay awake to write this down.
I can't.....remember..........what day is it?
Ma....ma....where is....my mama.....?
there is....some....one th....ere
From the blog of Dr. Cheryl Henderson:
I couldn't put this girl's diary down. Here I am in this girl's room on this train. This poor girl must've gone through terrible agony.
I held Zoe's diary in my hand. I really want to let the world know about this brave young girl.
From the pages of The New York Tribunal---May 20th, 2310
Dr. Cheryl Henderson and her team discovered one of many abandoned "Rescue Trains" on September 30, 2309 outside of Omaha, Nebraska. It was run by Dr. Elizabeth Thomas and her team of experts. Dr. Thomas also had her daughter, Zoe on board the train.
Dr. Thomas and her team were to pick up survivors of the plague that affected much of the United States and the entire globe from 2015 to 2053. No one knows for sure how the plague came to be, but researchers discovered the aggressive strain found in fleas and flies that Dr. Thomas and other experts kept in preserved jars.
Zoe Thomas' diary was discovered by Dr. Henderson in one of the rooms on the Rescue Train. Zoe was born on May 22, 2018, her exact birthplace is unknown as the plague had began three years before. Many had speculated she was born on the train her mother worked in.
Zoe's mother presented her daughter with the diary for her eleventh birthday. She recorded her journey from the Great Plains of Nebraska to her final day on the train just outside the Sierra Nevadas. Her mother was overcome with grief and had the train return to the Nebraska where she buried Zoe's body somewhere in the Great Plains.
Dr. Thomas continued her work, but many biographers said that she was deeply affected by her daughter's death. Two years later, she retired from the Rescue Train service and lived a somewhat peaceful life working in a hospital in Reno, Nevada.
The Great Bubonic Plague came to an end in the winter of 2053 when doctors and researchers were able to create an antibody that destroyed the strain within the host. Half of the global population had been wiped out by the plague.