Marianne always had dreams like this, dreams where she had to pack and run. It was a leftover of a situation where that was a reality, where every day she wondered if it would be the day that she had to leave, that she had the means to leave. It was not an easy conversation for a teenager to have with herself, but Marianne had had it many times. For years, she’d been perpetually packed, underwear and cash and an address book all inside of a Minnie Mouse backpack carefully covered in an old, ripped coat in the back of her closet. This was well before she’d met Henry and eventually had Jason. And then the dreams had started to come back. Then they’d disappeared again, and then Henry had gone missing after work one day and the dreams came back again. All of this to say that when the news started sharing numbers of the sick and dead overseas, she wasn’t waiting for permission.
Henry’s aunt and uncle had a lakeside cabin in the Adirondacks. She’d emailed them, asking if she could use Henry’s key and stay there. His aunt said that she didn’t think there was much to worry about, but gave her blessing. That same day, Marianne’s constant anxiety dreams became useful. She’d packed all of Jason’s necessities and as many of his favorites as possible: sippy cups and overnight diapers, books and Teddy Grahams, play instruments and puzzles. She had to take her laptop to work from home, as promised, and some clothes, but her treat was a bottle of Black Label that they’d been saving in the back of the closet for a special occasion. Marianne wouldn’t call a plague a special occasion, exactly, but she did believe that it called for Black Label. She’d stop on her way into the small Adirondack town to grab food. Cans, rice, beans, pasta. Things that would mean she could last a while without seeing a human face that wasn’t her son. She was determined to keep him safe, to protect him in a way that her own mother had never protected her.
Jason sat in the back seat, thumb in his mouth, clutching to his stuffed octopus as he watched the trees out the windows. He had no idea what was happening, where they were going or why. It wasn’t like when Henry disappeared and Jason would ask about him constantly—where he was, when he was coming home. At this point, Marianne was grateful for small blessings.
And, as she kept driving, Marianne’s stomach turned at the thought that she had no idea what might be coming next.
Audrey T. Carroll is a Best of the Net nominee, the author of Queen of Pentacles (Choose the Sword Press, 2016), and the editor of Musing the Margins: Essays on Craft (Human/Kind Press, 2020). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Prismatica Magazine, peculiar, Glass Poetry, Vagabond City, So to Speak, and others. She is a bisexual and disabled/chronically ill writer who serves as a Diversity & Inclusion Editor for the Journal of Creative Writing Studies. She can be found at http://audreytcarrollwrites.weebly.com and @AudreyTCarroll on Twitter.