• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 04
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The huge isolation marquee with fitted airlocks tinted the pale pink of the Beaux-Art architecture with a sort of cyan opalescence. He stepped through the first seal and nodded to the camera, itself encased in protective plastic incorporating electromagnetic and radiation filters. They were taking no chances with this one: biological or emission-based, this could not be allowed to become and epidemic.

Anthony Zale, PsyD, looked around at the decontamination array and took a deep breath, something he had been schooled not to do. He had to fight off the momentary dizziness.

“You did it didn’t you?” his ex-wife’s voice on the communicator accused. He chose not to respond and stepped through the second lock, careful to seal all behind him.

The protective suit was just off the rail so the visor did not impair Zale’s view of the inside of the Art Institute of Chicago Building. He had to tear his eyes away from the Dali exhibit and the African art. He’d always had a penchant for the exotic and surreal …or vice versa. He made a note to come back for the Van Gogh exhibit in February …if it was clear by then.

He went through section by section, looking for clues of the dispersal device of whatever agent had caused a teenage couple to sink into a mumbling fugue and left eight regular patrons in a coma. The teenagers had been lucky they had been escorted out for making an exhibition of themselves: kissing in quiet corners was not frowned upon, but there were standards. Those in a coma were not looking good.



“You still there?”

He was approaching the Wood collection. A crowd of people were frozen like unpainted manikins. He raised the adapted Geiger counter, and followed its increasing agitation.


“Anthony?” Only she called him Anthony.

He gingerly moved two art students aside, balancing them carefully against a bare patch of wall, and scanned Wood’s ‘American Gothic’, noting the areas which elicited a continuous screech from the device.


“It’s the Wood again, Haley,” he responded. The varnish is worn in five areas. The Depression has seeped out. We need a nutrient and saline drips for…” He counted. “...fourteen; a new layer of treated varnish; and a feel-good decontamination emanation. Get an mp3 player in here. Ten hours of Beach Boys tracks should do the trick.”