You hadn't finished stirring the sugar into the brew that suggested coffee rather than actual coffee when your phone rang. You look at the caller ID skeptically. An unknown number came up on the screen. Pick up the phone. Start the spiel that had been drilled into you for the years of answering said phone.
"Good morning and thank you for ca--"
"Hello!? Is this Alex?"
"Thank Christ. This is Paul. From the blood bank. We need you to see a specialist immediately. There's a police escort waiting outside. Go. Now! I'll call your boss. It's Bob, isn't it?"
"Yeah, wait. What's this about?"
"Just go. Now. There is no time to lose."
You grab your badge, your bag, your keys. You slip on the coat you did not need as Winter gave up its cold dead grip on the weather. Walking out, the office gossip, Sandra, peeks over her cubicle. She tried to get you fired because...Jesus? Apparently. Fuck her. Every day you avoided her, but today seems like no time for short cuts, so you pass directly around her cube on your way out the door.
Outside, a pair of black and white cruisers have their lights on accompanying an ambulance. A man in one of those yellow radiation or haz-mat suits stood outside.
"I'm Doctor Mbongo, infectious disease specialist. I need you to get into the ambulance."
"We'll talk more about it in the ambulance."
Look into the ambulance; the driver has one of those suits on, too.
"Do you have any open wounds, any cuts, any abrasions that you know about."
"Okay. That's good. Please get in?"
Follow him and climb in. The ambulance smells like antiseptic and with fried food notes. You get in, he pulls the doors closed, and you feel the truck move immediately. No sirens.
"Can you tell me what this is about?"
"Alex. When did you get back from Africa?"
"Wait, what? I've never been."
He looked confused. "Okay. You never have been to Africa. Then the ebola had to..."
"Yes. I'm afraid that the routine blood tests we run at the blood bank flagged something unusual. We did some additional testing and found Ebola antibodies in your blood, along with the virus itself."
"That's not possible."
"I'm afraid so."
"I'm going to need a list of every person you've come into contact with for the past month. 21 days is the incubation period, but we have to find others who may have been infected," the Doctor said. "Of particular importance is anyone you may have transferred fluids with."
You thought back. There was that date a few weeks ago. They were nice, but you didn't even kiss them.
"I'll need some paper."
"That's fine. We're almost to the hospital."
The doctor sat quietly and watched you. You thought about pictures your brother made you look at on his phone. You saw those pictures of the dead and dying people on the other side of the world and hated him for making you look. But he knew you wanted to see.
"Doctor, am I going to die?"
"Treatment options are very good for you. You'll likely be fine, though we'll need to quarantine you for at least a month for the incubation period to elapse."
The work. The job. The other responsibilities. "I can't. We've got an inspection in a week. I've got to be there. I haven't prepared the documents."
"I'm sorry, but we can't let you leave now."
Before you really think it through you say, "I have rights!"
"A judge has implemented a court order to keep you sequestered for the incubation period. It's for the best. It really is."
You think about Sandra. You hope she gets ebola too.
"Sandra. At work. I walked by her desk."
You ride in silence. The dead march through your imagination, their bleeding orifices leaving trails of contamination; as you mentally detach from the images, the camera of your mind looks down and the word "Ebola" is written in cursive with leaking fluids. Bodies stacked in a pile like a period. In your mind, the words "period" with "menses" flutter up and away.
The truck stops. A knock on the door. The doctor opens it and instead of a hospital, the ambulance is parked in your driveway. Your brother stands at the door, stupid grin on his face, balloon in his hand. The mylar glints the sun and you flinch away from the light. When the light reflects away, the balloon reads, "Happy birthday."
"Oh you," you say. "You fucking asshole."
Your asshole brother stands there and laughs and laughs.