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Olena's Journal: August 15th

It looks like I’m not going back to UBC to start medical school next week. I wonder if they gave my spot to someone on a waiting list already, thinking I was dead? I wonder what I’ll have to do to get another spot once this is all over?

Not that there’s any sign of it ending. The military is still manning the roadblocks. They’re now made of concrete. Nobody from the community centre has checked to see if we can get through the fields, because the nearest town in those directions is several days’ walk, and we really can’t spare anyone. And nobody wants to get shot.

The situation is starting to get desperate. The reporter – I suppose I should start using his name – Monty Mittel, then – found a ham radio on a farm, and the operator was still alive. For a while we were getting outside information that way. It seems the pandemic is mostly contained to towns like ours around the globe. Mexico has fallen off the radar entirely, and it’s being blamed on the lack of quarantine measures. The situation in the Midwestern States is dire – martial law, vigilantes making sure nobody leaves the quarantined towns, bloodbaths when people get desperate enough to try. Meanwhile, people are being told that everyone in these towns is dead or dying, and they’re scared enough to believe it. They’re also being told that supplies are being airlifted in on a regular basis. We got our first shipment two nights ago, and it was enough for maybe a third of the people still alive in the town. Since they didn’t bother to check with us to find out how many people are alive, they’ve underestimated to a degree that might kill healthy people via starvation. And we can’t tell them, because shortly after we found out all that information, the radio towers were taken down. The ham radio operator now has a range of less than forty miles – not enough to get to the next big town or to reach any of his usual contacts. The shortwave radio messages have changed, too – instead of reporting real news, now they’ve switched to everything-is-fine-we’re-taking-care-of-it crap.

The constable was unwilling to secure all the pallets of dropped supplies for the community centre – he said the holdouts had as much right to them as we did. Mittel was really upset at that. Sarah (Ms. Schiller) pointed out that we weren’t sure at the moment if there was hoarding going on, since we’d accessed less than half the pallets that were dropped before they were gone. I volunteered to find out.

They wouldn’t let me go alone – the sounds of gunshots in the streets has gotten more frequent with each passing night, and people look at my hundred-pound frame and assume “fainting flower” for some reason – so I took Mittel with me. We planted a pallet in a side street and watched from a deserted house.

Four guys in a pickup truck, two armed with assault rifles, drove up, grabbed the pallet, and drove off. Mittel had his camera and telephoto lens recording the whole thing, and Rath confirmed it: they’re members of the biker gang that’s been plaguing Regina for years. They never cause trouble here – what’s that phrase? Never foul your own nest? – but they’re organized crime for sure, and they’re armed with weapons that are really difficult to get in Canada. Those two assault rifles could take out most of the hunting weapons we’ve got at the police station.

What we don’t know is whether their need is as desperate as ours, or whether they’re stockpiling. We suspect the latter, but the community centre only has about a quarter of the people we estimate are alive in the town, so it’s possible they need it as much as we do.

Mittel painted a billboard out near the road blockade, asking for three times the supplies that were dropped. Meanwhile, the harvests are starting to rot in the fields. There’s no one to bring them in. The supplies of canned goods and staples to make bread are dwindling. We have enough medical supplies to keep our weakest patients hydrated for a few more days at most, and several have already died for lack of clean sharps. Dr. Glover vetoed the idea of sterilizing old ones – the risk of secondary infections will go up dramatically if we do that – but it may be the lesser of two evils. A few healthy people have started raiding weedy vegetable gardens, but they haven’t been tended for the last month and the local deer population is looking very well-fed. A few of the hunters have been out taking care of that. Mmm, venison. But it won’t keep us going for long, and Rath is understandably reluctant to release ammunition for hunting when we’ve got a gang sitting on an arsenal of unknown size just across town. (I’ve learned that fifty healthy people and twice that many recovering people can get through an entire deer in one meal.)

I have to go. Rath put me in charge of figuring out who among the healthy can be trusted with a gun. Obviously the hunters can, but there must be others, and we need to start training them.

Hopefully I’ll be able to update again soon. My life has turned into an apocalyptic adventure movie, but there’s no walking away from a burning town on the arm of my newfound love at the end of my version. With any luck, Dr. Glover and I will someday write a world-renowned medical treatise on our experiences during the pandemic. But that seems a long way away somehow.

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