– 14 –

 

But this was no dream. This was real. The newsroom was in chaos, utter chaos the next morning. People in haz-mat suits were bustling all about her, lugging tools, building supplies and camera equipment. For a while Mackenzie couldn’t tell whether they were ethnics or just white guys, so she didn’t know how to talk to them or even look at them. Eventually she decided they must be ethnics. They were too confident and, even in their moon landing costumes, seemed healthy enough.

The coughing that Mackenzie noticed yesterday among the white guys was much worse today. Their numbers were down too, for the second day in a row. Mackenzie phoned the camp’s guard station but couldn’t get through to anyone who spoke much English. She did learn that the missing white guys were dead. That could be serious, if some kind of communicable disease were going around. The newsroom white women were all checking their inoculation records.

Of course, it might just be that the new guards (they seemed to be Hispanic now) weren’t particularly vigilant about suicide watch.

Even so, the newsroom women were no longer joking about the sepulchral pallor of what they had laughingly called the “pale skins.” The white guys were looking especially frail lately, downright sickly as their increasingly skinny necks and almost skeletal faces stuck out of their baggy orange coveralls, which seemed to get baggier every week.

Mackenzie wasn’t the only person starting to wonder how their diet might affect their immune systems. At an emergency meeting that very morning, she and the other women decided there was only one thing to do: Quarantine the white guys. Seal off their work area. Install plexiglass walls, separate air circulation systems and, at every possible angle, CCTV cameras with extra-sensitive audio to pick up any hint of racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia or anti-Semitism. In the meantime, the women would run the paper from the day spa up the street.

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