• Japan, December 3019
    “…and have made threats against thirteen countries involved with the United States in the revived ‘War Against Terror’ to attack with bio-nuclear weapons. Japan is number five on that list. How they came by such weapons of mass destruction is yet to be determined.”
    “Can you please turn off the news?” I asked, since the same story had been on for over a week.
    “Osana, you’re the only reporter I’ve ever met who doesn’t constantly watch the news while not on a story,” Jerry, my Japanese-American husband, said, reaching for the remote.
    “ Yeah, well, that’s that. Oh, I’ve got a patient coming in at four,” I reminded, “so please don’t mess up the place.”
    “Another person looking for your Healing? Y’know, being a military doctor, I’ve seen a lot of patients, and I’ve never seen a condition just reverse like whatever happens when you do…whatever you do.”
    “And how many times have you said that?”
    “I don’t know. How many people have been here since we’ve been married?”
    “Let’s see, one every two or three days, so about a hundred twenty,” I calculated, smiling.
    Then the television interrupted: “Breaking news!”
    “Ugh, turn it off, please!”
    My stomach growled, and my hand went to it immediately to see if it were me or the growing bulge within. Kick. Kick. Kick. It was restless.
    “Whose hungry?” Jerry asked proudly as he marched into the kitchen, gingerly touching my shoulder as he passed.
    My stomach growled again, and through a quick chuckle, I replied, “I think we both are!”
    “Well,” he replied, “I think I can cook up something that—”
    A moment of silence passed.
    “I thought you said the man was coming at four.”
    “I did.” Ding-dong! “He’s half an hour early, I guess,” I said, standing. Something felt wrong about it, though. The man himself, when I had talked to him over the phone, seemed overly nervous, even for someone sick with cancer. Not that I would know such nervousness, but it just seemed so.
    Just in case, I embraced the Source, the infinite resource from which I and all like me drew our power. This weave of magic that I prepared, however, was not of the simple designs of White Magic like Healing, but of the darker craft, a beautifully elegant, dangerously complex lacing of Black Magic. Truly, it was the most basic of the Black to create: a disc of air, sharper than any razor, invisible to all eyes but to those who can utilize magic. All this was necessary sometimes for some people who I cure are self-proclaimed witch-hunters, and claim me to be a witch. Many times they come in with crosses and splash me with “holy water,” trying to warn me to stop my “wicked” ways, to which I can only laugh. Other times they enter with blasting violence. Since once a patient was injured by one such misguided person, I always am prepared for the worst.
    I cautiously reached for the doorknob, twisting, pulling, releasing, opening the disc wide in front of me, which would halt any bullets or weapon or water they throw at me.
    In the hallway was an American, which had become increasingly common in the last twenty years since English became required globally as a language to be studied at the same time as the native language, and in some countries before. Not that there was any problem with that. Only there were way too many of them coming for help instead of going to the hospital, which always made me suspicious of how their wounds came to be, and how this one seemed to hunch over with his head between his shoulders.
    “Are you…” he paused for a moment, thinking, “Doctor Min-Li?”
    “No, that’s my husband, but I’m the one you want to talk to if you want Healing. You are Mr. Stevenson, correct?”
    He nodded vigorously. His eyes were near yellow, his veins showed terribly, and I began to wonder if this was something other than cancer. No, it was definitely something other than cancer, but as to what, I wasn’t certain. Maybe something to do with North Tokyo being barricaded, no one in or out?
    My suspicions flew away as he fell limply to the floor.
    Just minutes later we had him laying down, a warm damp towel on his forehead and a blanket over him. Yet still he was shivering profusely, almost his entire body twitching. Every few seconds he would mutter something, often “bomb,” or “explosion,” or “gas,” but the most disturbing was “blood.” It wasn’t the word that was disturbing, but the way he said it, as if it were something he craved. Suddenly, he groaned, “Oh, my head! Oh, God, I have a headache! Hunger!”
    I shook my head, wondering if this was an actual affliction or just an exaggerated hoax, a mockery…I held in a growl.
    Reaching out to the Source to prepare a probing weave to determine where exactly the ailment was mostly located, I carefully constructed the weaves, in and out, in and out, out and in, around one another, until it finally resembled the probe in the shape of a mask. Placing that over my face, my vision immediately shifted into an unseen spectrum, one of another dimension in which solid barriers meant nothing, where heat and movement were the only tangible substances. What I saw was horrific: something unknown, something I had never seen before, was eating away at his body, thousands upon thousands of millions of tiny things spread out within him, many concentrated in the head.
    Jumping back, I completely dropped the Source, and the sight fell away. “Don’t touch him!” I screamed. “Don’t touch him!”
    His twitching became more violent, his groans turned to screams. A tiny stream of blood crawled out of his mouth. Black blood. Sluggish blood. Unnatural blood. His veins were huge, and clearly defined on the canvas of pale skin. Hard shut eyes suddenly sprang open, yellow, bloodshot, empty. A sigh. His body relaxed. It was over.
    Panicking, I quickly replaced the mask after hastily recreating it, heedless of the possible consequences of just getting one strand out of sequence. I glared hard at my hands, turning them over and over, scrutinizing every inch over and over. Did I pick up the pathogen when I touched him? Could it be breathed in?
    In the corner of my eye, I saw the movement of Jerry approaching, to which I screamed, “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” I hadn’t found any evidence that it had transferred to me yet, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t appear…
    Moaning in fret, I hastily walked towards the kitchen sink, asking Jerry to turn the water on hot and back away before I got there. Vigorously I scrubbed my hands together under the boiling water without soap, not daring to touch anything to possibly spread the infection. “Go call Disease Control!” I ordered, and Jerry instantly complied, running to the other room where his cell phone was kept.
    Relentlessly I rubbed my hands together, hissing as the water’s heat became almost cruelly unbearable. My skin stung in protest, but I would not stop. I could not. A voice from the adjoining room informed of Jerry telling the situation to the Disease Control Agency, and I grew worried as the voice raised.
    Suddenly he burst into the kitchen. “We’ve gotta go, now,” he declared.
    “What? Why?” I asked his back as he hurried into our room, soon reappearing with two winter coats and stuffing clothes for both him and me into a travel bag. “Jerry, what’s going on?” I demanded, again dropping my grip on the Source.
    “At the moment, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
    “Jerry,” I said, stopping my scrubbing to defiantly put my hand on my hip, “I use magic—what could be so out of the ordinary that I wouldn’t believe?” Then I added, laughingly despite the situation, “What: a zombie infestation?”
    Suddenly he stopped packing, looking right at me with such intensity that I gasped. When his face slowly melted into disbelief then outright fear, I froze, trying to see behind me where the man had seemed to have died. In the reflection of a glass I could see him sitting upright, not moving. Slowly, I turned, never taking my eye off the reflection until I could clearly see him when I shifted my gaze. Mustering up more courage than I thought I had, more than reason said was necessary, I called out, “Mr. Stevenson? Are you…alright?”
    His head turned strangely to look at me, shoulders not moving at all, although it was more than any human could consider close to comfortable.
    “I’ll get the gun,” Jerry whispered hoarsely, slowly walking sideways into the other room.
    Gun? I thought. No, there must be another way. We can’t…kill a man! I took a cautious step forward, and seeing how the person did not react, I took another, more confident. “Mr. Stevenson, it’s…” I trailed off. The blood trudging down his cheek… Clearing my throat, I began again; “It’s going to be alright.” He cocked his head. “The Disease Control is on their way. They’ll have a way to cure you.” Then I mentally added, because I sure no longer want to touch you to give you Healing.
    A low growl emitted from his throat, gurgling from the blood. The growl turned to a snarl. I froze. Then it leapt.
    With impossible speed it launched from the sofa to me, and before I even realized it had happened, it was choking me on the floor. I screamed. Or tried to, as the tightening hands held back my cry. Was this really how it was going to end. My vision doubled, blurred. Relief flooded in my body with air as Jerry kicked the thing away from me, the motion followed by a loud bang as he fired his old-fashioned eight-shot revolver at the creature point-blank. It began to push itself up, and two more slugs pounded its torso. Still, it began to rise.
    “Die!” I shrieked, and, on an impulse that frightened me beyond comprehension, I snatched at the Source, and, before the weave of fire was even complete, launched constant flame at it, until the putrid smell of burning flesh nearly overcame me.
    Blinking, I stared at what I had just done. Diseased or not, I had just killed a man.
    Jerry took hold of my arms, bringing me up until I was standing, but he had to tear my eyes away from my deed. “C’mon, let’s go. We don’t want to be here when Disease Control shows up.”
    Three minutes later we were in a cab headed for the airport. “Jerry, will you please tell me what’s going on?”
    Jerry hesitated, but my pleading eyes won him over. “The woman on the phone from Disease Control, she told me that a…canister had been opened in North Tokyo three days ago. People began to go mad. Within hours, most of the people exposed were actually eating other people, and anyone scratched or bitten by them were in turn infected, but it didn’t just spread to the living. Police tried to contain it, accidentally shooting an uninfected person. An infected walks just feet away from him, and the dead person starts twitching. That’s why North Tokyo has been totally blocked off.”
    “Wait, Mr. Stevenson called yesterday, and you said that it affected the exposed people within hours…?”
    “Maybe those indirectly infected take longer to turn or something, or maybe it just depends on the person. She hinted at one person being bit and scratched several times, but the infection hadn’t affected him. There are two things that matter now: our faces will be posted at every security checkpoint now, and if we are seen, we are to be isolated…”
    “Which I can take care of that,” I assured.
    “…and they’re expecting the terrorists to make true to their threats, but the media said it was many countries because of relations to the United States; no: almost every non-Islamic country is being virtually held hostage, but they’re planning to use Japan as an example.”
    “Bomb Japan…with….” I stopped.
    At the airport, we entered through the busiest terminal we could find. Maine was our targeted destination, since Jerry’s widowed mother lived there, and it was far enough from any capital or major city that it should be safe enough, but in honesty I didn’t care where we went. We were able to get two tickets for an 800 strict coach, one of the monster aircraft that towed several hundred people and several thousand pounds of cargo across continents and oceans. And it was bound for Vermont. Close enough to Maine that we didn’t care for the relatively short drive.
    The Security checkpoints were up next, one for metal, one for any questionable material, and another just to scare people, as was well known. Yet we knew our pictures were at all three.
    Leading Jerry to a corner, I ordered, “Come close and hold my hand.” Once he did so, I immediately began the same weave as for the mask, yet this time placing it over both of our entire bodies. Heat and movement were now walls, but anything else we could walk right through, invisible, undetected, safe from Security checkpoints.
    Once we were in a far away enough place with few enough people that we would not cause too much an outcry if spotted appearing from thin air, I released the Source. No one spotted us. Relief.
    “Now all we have to do is get on that damn plane,” Jerry said.
    A ten minute walk later found us at the loading pad at just the right time, as they were just letting the last of the passengers on. Relief once more flooded over me. We were now officially safe.
    Our seats were in the very back, as we had grabbed two of the last three available. That was fine with me. At the moment, anything was fine with me. It was only a two hour flight, after all, and two hours of putting up with that was better than what we would undoubtedly be facing now on the ground.
    About half an hour into the flight, a flight attendant—a young Japanese girl—asked us what we wanted for a drink. I replied with water, and Jerry followed suit. She nodded, gave us the tiny cups of liquid and turned away, her duty done for the moment.
    Then she stopped.
    For the longest moment she didn’t move, then slowly turned to look at us. Seeing how we were watching—ever so intently!—she hastily spun around, almost running down the aisle, splashing water and other beverages on the cart she tugged behind her.
    “Do you think they know our faces too?” I whispered.
    No reply.
    Minutes later, a well dressed man with the airline company’s logo sewed onto his suit approached with two burly guards. With guns.
    The man asked us to kindly come with him. The guns demanded not so kindly.
    With little choice, we agreed. We knew exactly where we were going when they led us to a segmented part of the aircraft, where access to the cargo storage was. Where the holding cells were kept among the cargo.
    The guard who held me almost shoved me into the plastic container, and I managed to hit my head on the wall. The door slammed shut behind us, and I heard a key locking it. Letting out a sigh, I turned and let out a deep breath while sliding down to sit with my back leaning on the wall.
    This was going to be a long plane ride.
    An hour passed with no events, followed by a second. By the time the captain announced we were over North America, I was almost asleep, which surprised me because the engines were so loud I thought I’d go insane before I could ever possibly go to sleep. It was then that the plane jerked.
    “Ladies and gentlemen, we seem to be experiencing a bit of turbulence, so if you would please take…seats and fasten…belts. I will make an…safe to…” Static. Silence.
    “Jerry, what’s happening?” I asked.
    “I don’t know,” he answered.
    Just then, the constant loud whir of the engines faded into a high pitched whine, and soon began choking.
    “Jerry, what’s that?” I asked more urgently.
    Before he could answer, the door suddenly burst open. “We’ve been hit with an EMP! Power’s out, and we’re going down.” At that moment, the plane jostled again, this time more violently, sending him to smash into a crate with his knee. Snap! He cried out.
    Without thinking, I grabbed Jerry and formed the mask, rushing through the wall over to where the man had fallen. Looking through the mask, I saw his bone was fractured in several places and cleanly broken twice.
    “Is this what you always see?” Jerry asked in amazement, but I ignored him; I was already forming the weaves for Healing. Placing my hands over his legs, I closed my eyes, imagining the bone to be normal. Crackle! The small popping was familiar, signifying the bone moving back into place and sealing itself. As fragments that had blown out into the muscle of his leg began slowly moving, I did not imagine the pain to be anything less than tremendous, but this guy somehow held in the screams.
    A moment later, I opened my eyes and removed the mask. He was staring in amazement as he painlessly moved his leg. Myself, I was drained. I had used much more magic than I should have already today, twice as much with just the rush through the airport, and the Healing didn’t help me any.
    Wordlessly, Jerry supported me as we stood and followed the slightly stunned man out into the cabin.
    It was complete darkness.
    “What happened?” I asked. Dumb question.
    “EMP. Power’s out for good. All we can hope is that the captain can pilot this well enough to get us down wherever we land.”
    “Without landing gear?” Jerry questioned. “That’s suicide! And what if we land in water?”
    The man had no answers, only a hopeless stare. He knew we were all dead.
    But he didn’t know what I could do.
    “Jerry,” I said weakly. “Take me to wherever the power is needed; I’ll do it.”
    “You can hardly stand,” he argued, “much less—”
    “I could hardly live if we crash,” I countered. In truth, with what I had planned, I might not live through it even if we landed safely in my condition, but I had to try. If not, all these people would die.
    Without another word, he led me down a set of stairs, with the man protesting behind us. Seconds later, we reached the engine room, which was deadly silent.
    I reached out, touching an engine and grasping the Source yet again. This may be suicide, but I had to give it a go. Making the weave I needed, I sent what energy I could into the machine.
    Slowly, it came to life.
    Reaching for the other, I did the same. There was no way we’d reach the destination, but at least we could land. “Tell the pilot to go down,” I groaned to the man, and, nodding in amazement, he ran out.
    I wasn’t sure how long I stayed with my arms to either side, letting the machines suck out my energy, but we hadn’t landed yet when I suddenly collapsed.
    Screams. Lights flashing. Crash.
    My eyes opened to find that Jerry had taken me out of the plane. I was laying on the ground of…somewhere.
    We had made it.
    As long as we could find where we were, we were safe, for now.
    Or so I thought.