The next day, the electricity died. He spent the day sorting through the changes this new development required. He congratulated himself for having bought non-perishables; he supposed he had expected this. The gas still worked, and the water. He went back to the cheese shop a couple of days later. When he tapped on the glass, no one came. He looked Steve up in the phone book and walked to the address. The house was dark. A few days later, the glass was broken in the front window of the shop. The cookbooks were dumped on the floor.
It was nearly two weeks before the radios quick broadcasting. Jed was hit by the flu a few days later. He was sick more than a week, an unusually long time, unless the disease had mutated since it first hit the news. He was delirious for three or four days. The ordered time of clocks and calendars still mattered then. When the fever had dissipated, he looked at his watch to discover the date. He staggered to the kitchen, light-headed with weakness and hunger. Flipping a portable radio on, he could find nothing but static. None of the stations were back. He ate a can of soup cold. He convalesced for a couple of days, then decided to see how it was outside.
He was not the only one left in Carmel. There were two men with rifles in the parking lot at the grocery. He saw a third inside. Then a fourth shape--a woman--walked down a row, only her head visible. He recognized one of the men, a tall man with wire-rimmed glasses. He'd seen him in the library a few times. The other was a Chicano with a mustache; Jed remembered where he'd seen him before, behind the counter at the tobacco shop.
"Morning," he said warily. Looking at them, he thought suddenly of the gun he had carried before he got sick. He cursed himself for forgetting it, then it came to him how useless it was to a man on a bicycle, faced with two men. What had he thought he was going to do with it? It was probably just as well he didn't have it now. He was afraid; he didn't want them scared of him.
"Good morning," the tall man replied. The other man nodded.
The man inside saw him and came briskly toward the door. He was heavy-set. He looked like a man who didn't normally wear jeans. but he was wearing them now, and a big revolver in a holster on his hip. He had a western hat, one of those pseudo-cowboy hats Lyndon Johnson made popular with western businessmen.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi." Jed was still straddling his bike.
"He's the writer," the man Jed had recognized said. "Jed Berkeley."
The man in the hat stepped forward. Jed felt a momentary panic, a need to flee. The man said, "I'm Dan Siddons. Sheriff. These men," he gestured at each in turn, "are Robert Luna and Alvin Corey." He noticed that the woman had come to the door. "This is Madeline Arthur. You're Jed?"
"Jed Berkeley."
"We haven't seen you in a while. The Reaper?" Jed nodded. "Well, Jed, every survivor is welcome. There's lots to do."
Jed noticed curls of smoke over the trees, beyond the motel behind the grocery. "What burned?"
Siddons looked over his shoulder. "A whole city block. Just above the library. We think it was vandals. Maybe Monties. We had to bulldoze a couple of stores to contain it." He took in the men with a sweeping glance. "We don't want any more of that."
"No," Jed said.
"We could use help with the census. We've got two or three people working door-to-door from the north, finding out who's sick, who's gone."
"I've been holed up sick for more than a week. I need to look around, see what's happening."
"Sure. I understand. Census is not too demanding physically. You could start day after tomorrow."
"How are you managing the store?"
"According to need. No looting, no hoarding. We're trying to enforce that everywhere, but there aren't enough of us. You eaten today?"
"I'm OK."
"Everybody runs a tally. What they bought, when."
"How many people are left?"
"About twenty-one that we know of. Counting you and a couple of sick people. And two Monties who stayed. Pregnant lady and an old man. We think there may be a half dozen more, possibly a dozen. That's one reason we're doing the census--to find people who need help. Mainly, it's to find out what we've got. I think the government will be running again in a couple of months. But it may take longer before they come looking for us, what with the dead zone so close."
"The dead zone?"
"A few days ago somebody took a geiger counter up Highway One until it started reading high. He barely made it to the south end of Seaside. They had some kind of spill at Fort Ord. Didn't you know about the Monties?"
"I heard about it, a while before I got sick."
"Well, as far as we know, there's nobody in Monterey. We sent a cycle patrol over the hill roads to Salinas, and it's being evacuated too. People were organizing to head east, up toward the San Luis Reservoir. It's a big gathering place, they say."
Jed looked again at the curls of smoke. He put one foot on a pedal. "I'll look around today."
"Don't go inside anywhere. We're getting maps ready, to let people know where they can go."
Jed looked from man to man. The woman had gone back inside.
Siddons spoke again. "We're trying to keep some order. People went wild at first, as if there weren't any rules. We even had some killings. Fights over gas, food. Somebody smashed the Saks window and took all the jewelry."
Robert Luna added, "A guy was knifed at the Texaco. Randall Jetton. He bled to death. That was before we were organized. Dan's done a lot to get things back together."
The man from the library, Corey, spoke up. "We don't like it, having to improvise law and order. But we saw after the first wave of Monties that it had to be done. We had anarchy. Suicides, houses looted, shootings in the streets."
"We've set up a headquarters at City Hall. The Cypresses is right next door, and it has kitchenettes and a restaurant, so we're encouraging people to move in, so we can communicate better. It's not required," Siddons added, reading Jed's face. "It's pretty foolish to isolate yourself, but you can if you want."
"I'm thinking I want to keep an eye on Tor House."
"Sure. But you'll be cutting yourself off from services. We have a couple of nurses, and if you'd been at the Cypresses, they could've helped you when you were sick."
"They're treating the Reaper?"
"We've been experimenting with antibiotics. Nothing works for sure. There's other things that can happen to a guy: broken leg, appendicitis."
"These nurses can operate for appendicitis?"
Siddons' lips were a thin line. He stared at Jed. Jed tried to wash his face of challenge, but he refused to drop his eyes. Siddons made a slight look of distaste.
"You do what you think best, son. Are you going to help with the census?"
"Yeah." He wanted to explain, but it seemed pointless. He was willing to help; he didn't want to be helped.
"Come to City Hall. Eight o'clock."
"I'll be there." He freewheeled down the slope toward Camino Real. When he hit the north/south street he swerved north and began to pedal. He pedaled up to the Sunset Center, then cruised the downtown area, weaving up and down the north/south streets, making his way toward the beach. There were people at the market on San Carlos. A white-haired man was sitting on the bench in front of the library. He waved. Many of the stores had smashed windows. A ruined television set lay on the sidewalk like a derelict. A couple of women passed him in a pickup truck. He heard the truck stop behind him, and looking back, saw one of them get out and gather up the television set.
He went as far north as Fourth, then turned east and climbed toward the highway. He was getting tired, and he quit a few blocks beyond Serra. Turning around, he saw a couple of men come out of a house. They watched him turn the bike. Jed was afraid. They had guns, but they made no move to use them. He looked at them, smiled, and said, "Good morning."
One of them waved. He said something to the other one, and they came off the porch, clearly coming toward him. They had guns. He stopped.
"You from Carmel?" the taller one said.
"Yeah. I've been sick."
The other one, a guy a little younger than Jed, said, "You oughta go down to City Hall. Talk to Dan Siddons and Al Corey. We'n use some help."
"I saw them. I'm going to help with the census. Starting the day after tomorrow."
The smaller one flashed a smile. "Yeah? That's us! Great! We can use the help. I'm Donnie Aguilar, and this is Leonard Meldrum."
"Jed Berkeley."
"Come on, Donnie. We got twenty more blocks."
"Right." Aguilar turned to Jed again. "Take it easy, man. We'll see you Friday."
Meldrum was headed down the stairs. Donnie followed him, waving to Jed.
Rolling away, Jed thought he heard a scatter of rifle fire, far off.
The next day, he walked the beach all morning, going down to the Carmel River and sitting in the sand to watch the birds. The avocets and sandpipers were going on with their lives. He saw a blue heron lift off and stroke majestically east, off toward the hills. The tide drove waves up against the current clear up around the bend. He crossed over to the river mouth, passing the driftwood tepees on the spit the reversal of the river made. He stood on the sand cliff and watched the waves roar in, claw at the sand, and laze back in a froth of bubbles. There was a strange curl that made its way, at the end of each collision of waters, up the east bank of the river. It must be caused by the combination of the river water flowing out, the ocean flowing in, and the ocean falling back from the sand. The result was not chaos but an almost Baroque formality of miniature surf.
There was kelp on the beach. As he made his way north, approaching the rocks below the house, he looked out at the rock that always fooled him. After six months, it still looked like an animal rising and falling in the water. It was hundreds of yards out, and the visible part probably no bigger than a car. Today he stood in the granite tumulus at the end of the shore curve and sighted along the rocks to the solitary. The line across the bay would hit Point Lobos. He wondered if a line of rock crossed the entire bay there, with the landward cavity eaten out by the Carmel River. The soil was deeper at Point Lobos; you could see the granite fifty or sixty feet down the cliffs.
In the afternoon, he slept. He woke to gunfire.
That night, at sunset, he crossed the back yard and Scenic and stood on the margin, watching the cormorants. A fleet of pelicans settled into the bay, a hundred yards from the river mouth. Seals bobbed in the water, and maybe sea otters, too far out for him to be sure. Back at the house, he threw a meal together, read by kerosene till dark, and then went to bed upstairs, by the sea window.


Friday morning, he was at City Hall by eight. He spotted the people he'd seen Wednesday. The two women with the truck were standing together. The older one nodded her head to him, once, in recognition. Leonard Meldrum was there, talking heatedly to a man Jed had never seen before, a baldheaded man dressed in a gray jumpsuit. He saw Donnie Aguilar with a man, a woman, and a teenaged boy. Aguilar didn't see him. He leaned against a tree. Luna was sitting on a truck fender; Corey and Madeline Arthur were on the steps, but the Sheriff, Siddons, was nowhere to be seen. The old man from the library arrived after Jed. He was accompanied by an elderly woman and another woman, younger and pregnant, with three children in tow.
"Good morning," the old man said. "I'm John Bulisi. Are you a new arrival?"
"No. I've been sick. Jed Berkeley."
"This is Tina Anderson. And Lavinia Ferris," he added, indicating the older woman with a polite motion of his hand. "And Tina's young charges, Master Thomas Martin Edel and Miss Jean Ann Engle."
Jed gave each a smile and a nod.
"I had hoped you were a new arrival, I confess. I would like to know how things are in Monterey."
"I understand Monterey has been evacuated."
There was a commotion at the steps. The balding man appeared to be arguing with Alvin Corey, quietly at first, then with broad, angry gestures. Leonard Meldrum was standing with Robert Luna; Luna nodded as Meldrum spoke.
Corey called the meeting to order. "Well, folks, I don't know where Dan is this morning." He had stepped backward up a couple of steps, away from the bald-headed man. Meldrum turned toward the steps when he heard Corey's voice. "Maybe somebody ought to see what's keeping him."
"I'll go," Meldrum replied, and he said something quietly to Luna then set off south at a brisk walk.
"Let's get the reports over with while we're waiting," one of the women by the truck shouted to Corey. A couple of others agreed.
"Well, all right then," Corey said hesitantly. "That's what Bill here wants to do. You want to start, Mary?"
"Sure." The woman stepped away from the truck. "Evelyn and I cleared about ten blocks yesterday. We've finished Ocean to Junipero and most of the area north. We're only about two blocks behind the ambulance crew now, I'm afraid."
The bald man was still by the stairs, but he had turned to face her. "We're working as fast as we can, Mary."
"I'm sure. But we're either going to have to take a day off cleanup, or we're going to be bumping into each other."
"I don't see how anyone can expect us to work any faster than we are. Gathering dead bodies isn't like picking up busted appliances, you know."
"Mary's just trying to say that the way we have the work allocated should be looked at," the other woman by the truck said. "Nobody's criticizing your work, Bill."
"Well, if someone else thinks they can do it better, let 'em try."
Mary watched the bald man talk. When he was done, she said, "I'm just saying, like Evelyn said, we either need more people working the body crew--"
"Ambulance crew," the bald man interjected.
"We either need more people picking up the dead--"
"We agreed that we'd call it the ambulance crew for morale reasons," the bald man said, interrupting her again.
"Ambulance crew. Or we need to halt the trash cleanup for a few days."
A stocky man near Jed spoke up then. "I don't think we can afford to shift anyone to the ambulance crew. I need Eve and Scott on the Bobcats to keep the burial trenches in order."
"Maybe we could take someone off census," Mary said.
"Maybe the census people would like to have a say in that," the bald man said to her.
"Give it a rest, Bill," the old man next to Jed muttered.
"What's going on?" Jed asked.
"Dan has the work set up as a sequence. First the census crew checks out a block, finding the bodies, checking the houses. Then the ambulance crew comes through with the maps the census crew creates, and they pick up the bodies and move them out to the trenches, over by the gold course. Then, after the bodies are cleared out, Mary and Evelyn come through to clear out the debris and set up the houses so they can air out. Trouble is--" he stopped speaking as something behind Jed caught his eye. Jed turned to look. Leonard Meldrum was coming back. Corey couldn't see him yet from where he stood on the steps; he called on the bald man to report for the ambulance crew.
The bald man climbed the steps and stood beside Alvin Corey. He glanced at Meldrum.
"The ambulance crew has cleared Carmel Woods and everything north of First. We're hoping to complete another eight city blocks today."
"Thank you, Bill."
The bald man said nothing. He didn't move.
"Bill. The gas masks," someone called.
"Oh, yeah. We could work faster if we had gas masks."
"Where would we get gas masks?" Corey replied.
There was a silence. Corey looked at the crowd, as if waiting for an answer.
"How about The Sharper Image?" Jed said. Heads turned to identify this unfamiliar voice. Jed added, "They have all sorts of odd stuff."
"He's right, Bill," Mary said. "You oughta check the store."
"If we have to waste our time finding gas masks, we'll get even farther behind," the bald man said. "It'd be better if you and Evelyn went and looked for them."
Mary sighed loud enough that Jed heard her, ten feet away. She whispered something to Evelyn. Evelyn replied, "Maybe the hardware store. Or someplace out at the Mall?" Mary nodded.
"All right. We'll see what we can do. Can we get on with the meeting?" she added, addressing Corey.
"Oh, yes. We haven't heard from the census team."
"Maybe Leonard can tell us where Dan is," Bill said. He was still standing next to Corey on the steps.
Leonard Meldrum had been talking to the stocky man. When he heard his name, he looked up.
"Linda's sick," he said.
"Dan's girl?" Corey said.
With a look of exasperation, Meldrum said, "Yes." Then he spoke to the crowd. "He doesn't think it's the flu. He says it looks like strep or something. It's in her throat. She's got a fever."
Lavinia Ferris whispered to Tina Anderson, then walked quickly away down the street, headed north.
"How bad is it?" Mary said.
"She's got a fever."
Eddies of conversation threatened to break up the meeting. Jed watched the meeting degenerate into chaos. He watched Corey's face. Corey took a breath to speak once, twice, and again. Finally, raising his voice a little, Corey said, "Folks, we better get on with the meeting." The murmur sank a bit, then rose again. Corey raised his voice again: "Don't you think we should finish our meeting and get to work?"
There was silence. Corey waited almost too long. A man crossed to talk to Mary and Evelyn. Corey said, "Leonard, you want to report for the census crew?"
"There's nothing to report. We did about ten square blocks yesterday. We're done north of Ocean. We're going to start on the next piece today, Tenth to Ocean, from the beach east." He stopped. Then he went on. "Oh. We didn't find anyone alive. And we're down one. Nobody's seen Andy for four days now. His house was in yesterday's census plot. It's empty.
"Did he take the geiger counter?" the stocky man said.
"We didn't look for it."
"That's the cleanup crew's job," Bill said.
"I know that, Bill. I thought they might've seen it."
Donnie Aguilar spoke up then. "It looked like he'd packed up and hit the road. Sure wish he'd've said something."
"If he took the geiger counter, we oughta get another one." The stocky man glanced at Jed. "Think they'd have one at The Sharper Image?"
"Maybe," Jed said. "I wouldn't know one if I saw one."
"Ed, I'n look if you like." This was a young man with a pony tail. "I can check for gas masks, too. If I don't find any, maybe I'n jury-rig something."
"We'll go out to the Mall and nose around. Maybe we can find some at the hardware store."
"If you find more than three, bring 'em all back. Eve and John and I could use 'em too."
Madeline Arthur spoke up for the first time. "Alvin, you want me to go through the inventory data and see if I can find one there?"
"Oh, yeah, that's a good idea."
"That's what they're for," the bald man said to the crowd.
"Can we get back to the reports?" This was Robert Luna.
Corey looked startled. Before he could speak, the bald man said, "Go ahead, Bob; you're the only one left."
"Except burial, administration, and medical," the stocky man said, just loud enough to be heard on the steps.
"Right, Ed," Corey replied. "You go right after Bob."
Luna scooted off the fender of his truck. Jed noticed a rifle with a scope up against the truck. Jed looked up the street. Lavinia Ferris had come out of a white building and was walking hurriedly back toward City Hall.
The bald man said to Corey, "Aren't you gonna have Tina or Lavinia look at Siddons' girl?"
Tina Anderson spoke up then. "Lavinia's taking care of it. Go ahead, Mr. Luna."
"I found a pack of about a dozen dogs yesterday. There was a pregnant bitch, but I got her."
"And loved it," a dark-haired man muttered. Luna glanced his way.
"I was only able to get three of them before they got out of sight. They're getting really cagey. I followed them about a half mile, and got a shot off, got one more. But they're keeping to the trees."
"The great white hunter," the man said, then, his face twisted with disgust. Luna faced him.
"John, I don't want to kill dogs no more than anybody else."
"I've had about enough of your shit, John. We got to kill the dogs that have packed up. It was dogs that killed Tommy Claiborne."
"You don't know that! It could have been a cougar, or coyotes."
"I know the difference between a mountain lion kill and a canine pack kill. You want me to explain it?"
"I'm sure you'd love to."
Luna stepped toward his tormentor; the stocky man stepped between them, facing Luna with a smile. "Take it easy, Bob." He turned to the other man. "He'd get a lot more done if we could stop fighting. Nobody wants to kill the dogs. But they're either going to starve or go wild. There's more dogs than people right now."
"Dogs didn't kill Tommy Claiborne."
"We don't know that. Bob says it was canines. That means dogs, coyotes, or wolves. We don't have wolves--"
"Coyotes could have done it."
"Coyotes could have," Luna said then. "But coyotes are opportunistic hunters. They wouldn't've gone after a healthy kid when...." He stopped, glancing at Tina and the three children sitting at her feet. Lavinia flashed him a returning glance as she passed Tina. She continued past the crowd, headed off in the direction Meldrum had come from. She was carrying a plastic shopping bag.
"Everybody knows that the bodies still on the streets are being eaten by the dogs," the man who had been heckling Luna said. "We should've gotten rid of the exposed bodies first. I always said so."
"John, if you think you can do a better job of cleaning up the dead bodies, why don't you just volunteer?" the bald man said.
"I didn't say I could do a better job. I said we should've cleaned up the streets before we started in on the houses."
"It's easy to have opinions when all you have to do all day is fiddle with machines."
"My fiddling with machines is keeping the meat at the grocery fresh, Bill."
The stocky man intervened again. "Bill, John, can we get this over with? We already voted on how to clean up the bodies."
"Yeah. Right, Ed. We voted to do it Dan Siddons' way," the bald man said sarcastically.
"We voted," Ed said again. "And we've done OK following the plan we voted on. If we're going to vote in a new method every morning, we'll never get anything done. I don't know about the rest of you, and I never thought I'd say this honestly, but I'd like to get to work this morning."
"Well, we sure don't want to take up too much of your precious time, Ed. Maybe you better give the burial report now," the bald man said.
"Can I finish?"
It was Luna. He had raised his hand, like a kid in school. Corey nodded at him.
"Go ahead, Bob."
"What I was getting at was, I need some help. The dogs are getting cagey. And bold. I had a weird feeling yesterday, like they were hunting me."
"Afraid you're gonna get eaten by a feral peke, Bob?"
"Christ, John, put a lid on it," the stocky man said.
John took a breath, glared at Ed, then at Luna. He didn't say anything. The woman who had been standing near the stocky man, Ed, was next to John now. She leaned toward him and murmured something.
"I don't care," he replied.
"Actually," Corey said. He stopped. Then he went on. "Actually, Dan was thinking maybe we should have two people on dog detail." He looked at Jed then, and his eyes widened as if he just seen him for the first time. "Where is my mind at," he said. "We have a new person among us. This is Jed Berkeley. The writer at Tor House? He's been down with the flu, but he's ready to help pull things together. Dan is planning to have him take Leo's place and do census with Donnie so he can kind of learn how we're doing things. I guess Leo can help Bob."
"I'm not killing dogs," Meldrum said.
"Dan said you could help there. You've got some hunting experience."
"That's different. I'm not hunting dogs."
"Well, Leo, we can't have three people working census, and we sure need some help with the dog problem."
Meldrum looked defiant. He said nothing.
The woman with the stocky man spoke up then. "I'll help Bob. Leonard can work burial detail with Ed and Scott Winston. Hey, I guess this means I get to give the burial report, since it's my last time." She looked at Corey, then went on. "We filled the fourth trench yesterday. We're going to need at least another seven or eight trenches, before we're done, at the rate we're going. Eldon is right; gas masks would be a big help." She turned to the man with the pony tail. "If you can make some, I'll trade you the best eggplant lasagna you ever ate for mine."
The man grinned. "Deal."
She turned to Tina. "You want to report on the health facilities?"
"There isn't really much to report," Tina said to the woman. "Lavinia and I are still inventorying the drugs at Mannheim's. Since the computer's down, we have to do it by hand. We haven't had a case of the flu for nearly a week, that we know of. Except for you, Mr. Berkeley. We treated Robert Evers for a burn yesterday. No charge," she added with a shy smile. The man with the pony tail smiled at her and held up his right hand. Two fingers and his palm were wrapped in gauze.
"How about administration?" Ed said to Corey.
"Yesterday, John Edgerton rigged up a generator for the clinic. We'll be able to refrigerate perishable drugs, for a while anyway. Robert Evers is researching a way to rig the phones so we can have a town-wide system, at least. Any progress there?"
"Nothing to bank," Evers said.
Corey went on. "Dan and Madeline and I discussed security yesterday. You all know what a shock Tommy Claiborne's death was. We're debating whether we should set up a patrol system."
"Wouldn't it be easier to impose a curfew?" Mary suggested.
"We talked about that."
They discussed the merits of curfew, and finally Ed called for a vote. John Bulisi said, "At least a curfew doesn't mean extra work, just a rule to enforce common sense." The vote was overwhelmingly for the curfew. After the hands were counted, Ed crossed over to where Leonard Meldrum was standing and they began to talk. The woman who had volunteered to help Luna was already standing with him, and Aguilar came to get Jed.
"You ready to start?" he said. Jed nodded. "You got a handkerchief or something for your face?"
"I usually carry two. Here." He handed Jed a bandanna.
From the steps, Corey said, "I guess there isn't any more business." The few people who hadn't moved yet began to scatter. Mary and Evelyn were pulling away. They made a U-turn and headed off north, waving to people as they drove off.
Aguilar handed Jed a clipboard and some papers. "We'n walk to our next starting point. If it goes OK, we'll end up pretty near right back at City Hall. We need to go down to Ocean at the beach; we'll be working south and east from there."
Jed looked at the form on the clipboard. It detailed the contents of a house with a lengthy checklist. At the top was a space for sketching the floorplan; a box next to the space listed twenty numbered lines. The first four were filled in: Kitchen, Living Room, Bedroom 1, Bathroom 1.
"We start by drawing the way the house is laid out, just to indicate the locations of the rooms. You put initials in the basic rooms--kitchen, living room, master bedroom. Use numbers for the other rooms. While we're mapping out the rooms, we're also looking for folks who have died. That's the worst part of this job. You'll find them everywhere. In bed, in cars, hanging in the basement or from trees in the yard. Most of the really conspicuous outdoors bodies have already been taken care of." Aguilar glanced back toward City Hall. Jed looked. Corey was arguing with the bald man about something.
"John Edgerton talks like there's bodies laying in the street. Actually, we take care of bodies as they're reported. If someone reported a body in a yard over on Ocean, the burial crew would interrupt what they're doing and go get it."
"Any idea how many people died?"
"Well, the population of Carmel was about five thousand. We're sure more than three-quarters of the missing died rather than leaving. We don't discover a new live one very often. The last one was little Janet Kingsley. She's the five-year-old with Tina--littlest kid. About a week ago. She was playing in a tree house. She'd go in to eat and sleep. She lived alone with her mother. Elaine was lying dead in her bed, neatly tucked in. It looked like she took sleeping pills."
"And just left her daughter on her own?"
Donnie didn't reply. They had reached Ocean; they turned left. Donnie shifted his day pack, shrugging one shoulder.
"So out of five thousand, we have about twenty left. And of the rest, you think maybe a thousand took off?"
"Something like that. Less."
"The rest died of the flu?"
"It's hard to tell. I mean, you can spot the suicides, usually: people who shot or hanged themselves. Bodies in garages full of car exhaust. Even the ones who took pills, sometimes, because they look so peaceful. And at first, we could sort of tell from the condition of the body, if they died recently. But we didn't start until about two weeks ago. Some of the bodies are three, four weeks old now. You can't tell much," he said, his voice flat.
Jed could see the ocean at the foot of the hill. Donnie was putting a bandanna around his nose and mouth. He started whistling. When the bandanna was fitted to his nose, he pushed it down around his neck temporarily. Jed put the other one on.
They came to the first house, a two-story white frame on the corner of Ocean and Del Mar.
"The first rule is that we try all the doors, bells, and so forth. Identify ourselves. We don't want to get shot."
Donnie laughed. "I'm not kidding. The only live ones I've found were Janet and Jean Ann Engles. But the original census team was Leonard and a guy named Anson Kimball. Kimball would just open the first unlocked door. Second day, he smashed open a locked door and somebody shot him. Dead."
"Woman in the trank ward. Frances Musik. She thought he was a burglar."
"Killed him?"
"Yep." He paused. "We started out pretty disorganized, actually. Just going door-to-door knocking and trying doors and looking for folks, not keeping track of which houses were done, things like that."
Jed looked warily at the front of the white frame house. The windows on either side of the door were dark. The garage door stood open, the garage empty.
Donnie stepped into the yard. "Hello the house!" he shouted. "Census crew!" Jed followed him. They began a circuit counterclockwise. "I'll do the inventory on this one, show you what to look for."
In the back yard, they found a mountain bike padlocked to the gas meter. Aguilar had sketched out three rough rectangles to represent the house. He tried the back door; it was unlocked. He didn't open it. As they circled the house, Donnie called out a couple more times, "Census crew! From City Hall!"
As they came around the corner into the front yard, Jed said, "What's the trank ward?"
"It's for people who need a little reorientation time. Eve's brother Ed, Edward de la Joio, takes care of it. Him, Tina, and Lavinia. He wasn't at the meeting."
"How many people there?"
"Right now? Just two. Frances, and a fella named Conrad. Conrad Beldon. The kids spend some time there. Edward has some counseling experience. He's working with Janet."
They were approaching the front door. Aguilar shouted once more before knocking. He motioned Jed to stand slightly aside; they flanked the door, one on either side. He rapped firmly on the door, once, three times, then in a long tattoo. "Census! City Census! Anybody there?"
He tried the doorknob. It was locked. "We're going around back!" he shouted. "We're required to come in and check for people who might need help!" Jed followed him down the stairs.
He pounded on the back door. Still no answer. He laughed. "I guess this is why it takes so long. But I sure as hell don'wanna get shot."
"No hurry," Jed said, laughing nervously. He glanced at the window to the left of the door.
Aguilar tried the door and it opened. "Here we go," he said, and he stepped inside. The first impression Jed had was the smell of rotten meat. Aguilar made an odd sort of backward movement. "Reach into my pack. There's bug spray." Jed pulled a big can of insecticide from the pack. While fumbling for it, he recognized the steady volume of sound, a kind of organic static, coming from inside.
"Jesus," he whispered.
"Flies," Donnie replied. "You spray 'em if they get bad."
They were both inside. It was a utility room running the length of the back wall. On a table near the window were dead potted plants. "Check that door. Might be the basement."
Jed was about to open the door when he realized someone could be in the basement. "Census!" he shouted then. He stood away from the door and pulled it slightly ajar. It was a pantry, not much bigger than a closet. "Foodstuff," he said to Aguilar. "How detailed should we be?"
"Oh, pretty general."
"Cans and jars. About five, six grocery-bags-worth."
"That's good enough. There's nothing much over here. Some garden tools."
Jed quickly became accustomed to the smell. There was a small blot of flies in some dirty dishes in the kitchen. They rose in a cloud and Jed sprayed them. They went on to the living room, waiting for the flies to die in the kitchen. The flies didn't get bad until they went upstairs. By the time they were in the upstairs hall, Jed was spraying regularly. His heart beat faster. The sound was coming from an open door in the hall. The bathroom.
They came to the door. Jed looked in. The flies were congregated upon a form huddled over the toilet. The man's head was facing the door. Jed looked away.
"You get used to it," Donnie said. "Gimme the can." He sprayed into the room and then shut the door. "I'll go back in a few minutes. Give the bastards a few minutes to die." Jed followed him to the next door. A bedroom. There were a few flies. No body. They checked the closets, the drawers. While they rifled the room, Aguilar said, "Y'know, I had a priest said flies were the Devil's invention. Y'know that movie, Lord of the Flies? I knew an old lady used to say that flies were the souls of the damned. I don't believe that. When I was in school, my biology teacher said flies get a bad rap, said our attitudes are, whatcha callit, anthrocentric. We don't appreciate flies, but they're part of the ecosystem. I guess he never had a dozen hit his face at once after walking around on a soft corpse."
They finished the upstairs. They found some medicines in the bedroom, and Donnie carried the bottles back to the bathroom. They didn't find any more dead. Jed took Aguilar's offer, waiting in the hall while Donnie inventoried the bathroom. He heard the toilet flush. He looked in and saw Aguilar putting the medicines from the bedroom in the medicine cabinet.
Going back down the stairs, Donnie said, "We inventory all the prescription names. We don't take stuff, unless we absolutely need it. Like, if we were to find a gas mask in some kid's room or some guy's basement. We can pretty much get prescription drugs from the drug store and clinic stock, but you never know what might turn up. Lavinia checks the stuff against the drug book. If it's like dope, or poison, we go back and get it."
When they stepped outside, the fresh air was a shock almost as total as the ripe smell of fermenting death had been. Jed's stomach, ironically, chose then to roll over. He sat suddenly, almost falling, on the steps. Aguilar descended the stairs, then turned, leaning against the rail, and smiled at Jed.
"You did OK, poet. I threw up the first time I saw one. I'd never seen a dead body before that, except at a funeral."
"Was it like that?"
Donnie hesitated. "It was pretty bad." He stopped. He looked out at the sea. You could just see the surf rolling onto the beach beyond the seawall. Jed watched a plane of pelicans blink on, gray to blue-white, as their synchronized turn caught the morning light. His eyes filled with tears. Aguilar was still looking at the sea, as if watching for tankers.
"It was a friend of mine. Got beat to death." He continued to look to sea. "I always wondered how they do that. I should have asked that biology teacher."
Jed realized Donnie was looking at the pelicans. They turned again. "It's called Brownian motion, I think."
"Whatever. That's just its name. How do they do it?"
"I don't know."
"You're a poet. Make something up."
"It wouldn't measure up."
Aguilar was silent. The pelicans were coming toward them. They began to resolve from a constellation of geometries into individuals.
"No," he said. "Let's get goin'."


By noon they had done seven houses. They found three more bodies. The last two were an adult and child together. From the look of it, the child had been killed. Weeks ago.
They went back to City Hall at noon, to the restaurant at The Cypresses. It was set up to function like a cafeteria. Madeline and the children were managing the food. There was a stew, and fixings for sandwiches were laid out on a counter. Over lunch, Donnie introduced Jed to the others as they came and went.
There was Edward White, from the ambulance crew. He was older than William Walters, the bald man, but White was quiet and self-effacing. He had big hands but his clothes fit rather loosely. He sat with Eve de la Joio and Bob Luna, who came in carrying rifles with scopes. Later the pony-tailed man joined them. Robert Evers. He had been a computer programmer, before the bomb. Eve had worked at the Weston Gallery. "You came in one time," she reminded Jed. "I had you sign that poem."
"Which poem?"
"'Deerskin'. The woman on the buckskin horse?"
"That's right. I remember. You showed me some Allen Feyner pictures. Out of my price range."
"Not any more," she said ruefully.
Bob Luna owned the tobacco shop. Jed had window-shopped there a few times, making small talk and, once, splurging on a dark-leaf Macanudo that Bob had recommended.
Bill Walters came in with his crew, White and a little man named Eldon Tennant. Tennant was their driver. He looked like an off-duty mortician. He sat with Walters. He huddled over his food, his right forearm and hand around the bowl and his head tilted above it, and listened to Walters while he spooned stew methodically. Jed could hear Walters' high-pitched words in bits and fragments behind the low tones of Aguilar's voice. The burial crew didn't come in.
"Ed takes a lunch out to the trenches. They eat together out there." Ed Behrens had managed a restaurant, La Patissiere. Scott Winston was a senior at Carmel High. Meldrum, Donnie added, sold real estate. So did Walters and Tennant. "Oh. And Dan."
"Is Tina the woman from Monterey?"
"Yeah. And John Bulisi. He runs the library. He's got a ticker problem, so Dan didn't want him on the work crews. The library's a real life saver some times. Medical books, engineering and technical stuff. We make a note of books in the inventory, just general, of course, unless we see something really special--Comprehensive Telephone Repair, How to Build Your Own Power Station, like. After the houses are really clear, John's supposed to go around with Linda and the kids and gather up the books."
He took a bite of his sandwich and looked around the room. "I wonder how Linda's doing," he said then.
A smallish man about Jed's age came in, escorting a man and a woman. The woman was holding the hand of a little girl in jeans and a T-shirt. From their demeanor, Jed guessed it was Ed de la Joio and his charges. A few people glanced at them nervously. They sat alone. Eve and Bob Luna got up and went over to talk to them.
"You ready?" Donnie asked.
"Yeah." Jed and Donnie took their dishes to the kitchen, where the two older children were aproned and soapy at the sink.
"Hey, Jeannie. How's your boyfriend?"
"He's not my boyfriend."
"Well, you got him washing dishes."
"It's my job," the boy said, glaring at Donnie.
"Well, you're doing it OK." He glanced at Jed. "Hey, Marty, I found something you can have." He took a paperback book out of his hip pocket. Jed glanced at the cover. An Isaac Asimov novel.
"Aw right! I never read that one!"
"I figured. It's pretty old."
"Can you stick it in my pocket?" Aguilar stuffed the book in the boy's back pocket. He put his hand on the little girl's neck, then scratched her idly. She wriggled a little, like a cat.
"You kids are doing good," he said.
On the way out, they asked about Linda Siddons. Eve had spoken to Lavinia, and the girl was very sick. Dan had stayed with her all day. Alvin Corey and Madeline Arthur had gone to his house to discuss town business. Madeline had located two gas masks in the inventory data. She asked them to go get them. They took bicycles to the house on the north side.
"Isn't that dangerous? Going over to Dan's just for a business meeting?" Jed asked as they headed down the street on the bikes. "What if it is the Reaper?"
"Alvin, Lavinia, and Madeline have had it. So's Dan. Actually, we don't talk about it publicly, but everybody's checked off as a Got or a Got-Not. You're a Got. Me too."
"So some people haven't had it?"
"Yeah. Eve and Ed, f'instance. Lavinia says some never will get it. Also, we don't know of anybody's gotten it twice, in spite of the mutations. You get immune, it looks like."
"Well, that's kind of like normal flu. Once you got it, you didn't get it again."
"Until next year."
"Yeah. I guess it takes that long for it to mutate into really something new."
"So, let's see. The Reaper wiped out.... What's the percentage if it killed four out of five? Eighty per cent?"
"I thought you said three of five thousand."
"All right. Sixty per cent. There's twenty of us. Say there gets to be twenty-five, eventually. Next winter, fifteen die."
"Could be."
"And the nine left have four kids. Next winter, ten die." They walked for a while not speaking. When they could see the Ocean, Donnie said, "We're finished. Right?"
"I dunno. It's bad."
They spent the afternoon working the blocks east of Carmelo Boulevard. Late in the day they heard shots, nearly a dozen. Jed looked at his watch. The guns were to the southeast. He and Donnie exchanged a glance. Neither spoke. By twilight they had made it back, once again, to City Hall.
"We turn in the reports to Alvin. He's got a portable computer we can recharge with a generator. He adds the houses to the database. You hope you guessed right, what was important enough to write down."
They left the filled-out forms in a box in the hallway. Corey's office was unlit. The door was locked. There were lights at The Cypresses.
"You gonna move into The Cypresses?" Donnie said at the foot of the stairs.
"There's lots of room. Some people room together, like Mary Collins and Evelyn. And a few people stayed home. Dan and Linda. William Walters. Ed Behrens."
"I like my house. I don't mind being alone."
"You got a gun?"
"Back at the house."
"Better bring it next time. Listen, I c'n ride home with you if you like. I wouldn't mind the exercise."
"That's OK. I mean, you don't need to."
"Well, you better get going. Don't forget that gun, next time. The dogs."
Jed felt a chill. He had forgotten the dogs. The light was failing. He reconsidered Aguilar's offer to ride with him. Then he realized that it would mean Aguilar coming back from his house alone, even later. Stupid.
"Yeah." He laughed. "I can outrun them on the bike."
"Don't count on it."
Jed said goodbye and bicycled home. He didn't see any dogs. He pedaled as fast as he could. He remembered the German shepherd that had once chased his bicycle and torn his pantleg, when he was at Occidental. He imagined an ambush: three dogs behind, running him down, six more blocking his way. He'd barrel through. But they'd be fresh and they'd take up the pursuit. Even if he outran them, how would he get from the bike to the house? He could return to The Cypresses. Coming around the corner, he saw five dogs in the road. Dead ones. A pickup truck was approaching the scatter of corpses from the other direction. He recognized Eve de la Joio and Robert Luna. Luna stopped the truck by the bodies, and they both got out. Jed braked to a squealing stop, and stood straddling the bike. He could see a pile of furred bodies in the back of the truck.
"You better get inside," Luna said by way of greeting.
"I'm on my way."
"Go ahead. We're almost done." He was picking up a dog, forepaws in one hand, hind feet in the other. Eve was holding a rifle and surveying the street. Her eyes stopped on something behind Jed and he turned to look. She was watching the hedge a few houses away. When he turned back, she was watching him. She was small, a little more than five feet tall, with tiny wrists and hands, and the big rifle made her look like a dangerous child.
"Bob, we should drive along with him."
"OK. You want to give me a hand?" he said to Jed, walking to the next dog.
Jed got off the bike. He picked up one of the dogs, Luna another, and they walked back to the truck. Eve was leaning against the fender, but armed and alert. Her blouse and jeans were splotched with blood. They got the other two dogs, and Luna and de la Joio got back in the truck. Luna flipped on his lights. While Jed got his bike, Luna maneuvered the truck into a driveway to reverse direction. They rolled along beside him at his pace; he pedalled beside Eve's window.
"Don't you want to move into The Cypresses?" Eve said. She had an arm resting on the window; he could see a inch of rifle barrel in front of her. Incongruously, she wore a thread-thin gold chain wrapped four or five times around her wrist. It was lighter than her skin, and more yellow.
"No. I'm not much of a socializer."
"I guess," she said wryly. She scratched the side of her nose.
He glanced at her again. She was regarding him with an ironic smile.
"This house is important to me. I want to stay with it if I can."
She glanced forward. "It's a funny old place. I read some of his poetry once. I guess he hated women."
Jed was about to protest when Tor House sprang into relief, caught in Bob Luna's lights. He pulled the truck to a stop with the headlights illuminating the door.
"Take it easy," Luna said from across Eve. Jed walked the bike to the house, shouting, "Thanks for the escort!" over his shoulder.
"Stay inside, huh?" Eve shouted.
"You got it. See you all in the morning," he said. Only when he stepped through his door, did the truck lights begin to sweep over and away.
The door shut, Jed felt for a moment the peopling of the dark with fangs, dogs who had slipped through open windows. He picked up the flashlight by the door and hastily flicked it on. Forcing himself to move deliberately, refusing to panic over nothing, he made his way to the kerosene lamp on the table and lit it. The room turned golden and safe. He passed from room to room, lighting the lamps in the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. By the golden light, he prepared a simple meal--some pasta and a can of sauce. He went to bed.
Dan Siddons was not at the crew meeting, next morning. When Jed passed Eve de la Joio, he said hello and she said, by way of greeting, "Linda died last night." He murmured something sympathetic and she said, "Dan had four kids. I'm through with crying." He looked for Donnie.
When their eyes met, Aguilar smiled and came over. He said hello to Eve, then to Jed, "You heard about Linda?"
"She's dead," Eve said. "You seen Bob yet?"
"No." He made a show of looking around, as if he could have missed the tall man in such a crowd. "I don't see John Edgerton, either."
"He's gone," Bob Evers said, joining the conversation.
"Gone?" Eve said.
"Yeah. Split. He said something about driving down to the Mission to get some circuit breakers from there for the Sunset Center. When I got up, his room was empty. I took a cycle down to the Mission. His car's not there."
"Don't you think something might have happened to him?"
"Yeah. I think he decided to split."
"Maybe not, Bob."
"I don't think the dogs got him, if that's what you're thinking. What happened to his car?"
The meeting was short. Corey announced Linda Siddons' death and took quick reports from each crew. The mystery of John Edgerton's whereabouts caused a ripple of alarm.
"How are we going to manage without his electrical expertise?" William Walters said.
"We still have Bob Evers. And Scott has some experience with wiring, at least," Corey replied.
"Al, we're slipping below critical mass here," Bob Evers said. "We can't afford to lose any more people."
"Well, we can't do anything to make them stay."
"We could pass a law." This was Walters. Bob Evers and Alvin Corey turned to listen.
"What kind of a law?" Corey said.
"A law against leaving without the consent of the community."
"What good would that do, Bill?" This was Ed Behrens, arriving late. Leonard Meldrum had been telling him quickly what had happened while Walters talked. When Ed realized what Bill was saying, he silenced Meldrum with a shake of his fingers and turned his attention to the bald man, who had moved to the first step of the building stairs.
"It would do a lot of good, if we enforced it. We all want to make it, right? We all want Carmel to be here when the authorities get back on their feet. So we have to stick together. If somebody wants to leave, we vote. If we vote yes, we tell them what they have to do before they leave. Like we might have let John go once he'd gotten the main generator restarted. If we vote no, they have to stay. At least until we can manage without their help."
"Bill, how're you gonna enforce this? You gonna ticket people who leave?"
There was a scatter of laughter, and conversations flared up in the crowd. Bill ignored everyone but Ed. The two men looked at each other across the crowd.
"There are always ways to enforce laws, Ed."
"I think Bill's right that we need a commitment to make the town work," Eldon Tennant said. Edward White nodded. "If we want Carmel to live, we have to pull together. We can't have total anarchy. What if people started taking things with them? What if John Edgerton had taken some irreplaceable tools?"
"His tools were in his truck," Bob Evers interjected. People turned to look at him. "An oscilloscope. A pretty good multimeter."
"That's stealing," Bill Walters said.
There was silence. Ed Behrens spoke at last. "We have to have agreements, that if people leave, they won't take things that belong to the community. If the oscilloscope was John's, he had a right to take it."
"The multimeter was. Maybe he didn't even think of the oscilloscope. It came from the TV repair shop."
"Agreements are just laws with a different name, Ed." This was Bill Walters. He had stepped up closer to Corey.
"That's not true. Agreements aren't enforced by fines or penalties."
"If you don't--."
Alvin Corey interrupted Bill, his voice rising in pitch to overpower him. "We can't decide something like this right now. We need to think about it, before we take a hasty action. Either way," he added.
"If we don't settle it, what's to keep somebody else from slipping out with things we need?"
Ed Behrens spoke up then. "I move we table this discussion until tomorrow morning. Today let's talk about it; tomorrow we'll decide what we want to do. I promise not to run away with my Bobcat," he concluded, addressing the last to Bill Walters.


Jed and Donnie went a little faster, now that Jed was becoming accustomed to the work. Like the day before, on the second day they found no one alive. By noon they had finished to Eighth and Monte Verde, just a few houses from The Cypresses. At lunch, they sat with Bob Luna, Eve, and John Bulisi.
"Jed, I read your book, The Breaks," Bulisi said. "I particularly like the hunting poems. A good feel for the moral ambiguities of hunting, I think. And digging up the rattlesnakes. Wonderful!"
Bulisi's remark startled him. Flustered, he acknowledged the compliment.
"Are you writing?"
"There's not much time for poetry."
"My dear boy. There's all the time in the world."
Jed regarded the old man's smiling face. The others were all looking at him. Bulisi continued.
"It's important, you know. That people write. We are going to need a record of this trial." He was speaking now to the whole table. "There has been nothing of this scale in the whole history of human kind. If Carmel is typical. Even the black death, even the Holocaust, didn't decimate humanity like this. Think of it. The San Francisco phone book is about two thousand pages thick. Take the white pages. A thousand pages of people's names and addresses and phone numbers. Rip out all but ten of those pages, and that's what you have left in San Francisco. Ten pages worth of people."
"Wait a minute, Bulisi," Bob Luna said. "We've been figuring about sixty per cent dead of the Reaper."
"I'm not talking about flu deaths; I'm talking about total attrition. We had a population of five thousand. We're down to about twenty adults and four children. Say by some miracle we add twenty-six more people by finding them or having people immigrate. That's fifty people from five thousand. One per cent left."
"You can't pretend everybody who left died," Eve said.
"He's not," Jed answered. "He's saying that the people who left here would have the same effect somewhere else that he and Tina had by coming here. He's counting net population."
"But," Jed added, "you're also assuming that Carmel is typical of the rest of the country."
"The world."
"The world? Maybe somebody found a way to contain the Reaper before it got off the continent."
"One. There is no reason to assume they did or didn't. Two. Do you suppose that we didn't retaliate, when we realized what someone had done to us?"
"The Chinese," Eve interjected.
"Someone," Bulisi said again. "We don't even know if it was the Chinese who loosed the Reaper. Hell, it could have been Iraq. Ukraine. Iran or even Israel. Canada or South Africa. Luxembourg or Sri Lanka."
"It was the Chinese who attacked us."
"Yes, and we retaliated almost immediately, so chances are there are craters in Chinese visible from the moon. And we bombed parts of Russia: the Ukraine, Azherbiajahn, Urkutsk. And Iran."
"Iran? I never heard about that," Eve said.
"We didn't print it."
"John ran a newspaper in Monterey," Donnie said to Jed.
"What I was getting at," Jed said, "was that Carmel is hardly typical of anything. We're isolated physically on all four sides. We have a dangerous nuclear barrier preventing people from migrating south or west to us, and the roads south are unpeopled for seventy miles. We have wonderful scenery, but why would practical people come here? There's very little arable land, not much fresh water, only average grazing land. If two thousand people left here, I don't believe that all but two of them died on the road."
"It's all funny math, Jed. Take only the three thousand who didn't leave, and look at the death rate among them. Say thirty of us now. That's one percent again." He looked from face to face. There was no satisfaction in his own face, just a kind of stern certainty. "I'll bet you there are fewer than three million people in the United States. Less than the entire population of Chicago. And if it isn't the whole world, where are the planes and ships of our next Columbus, the new Mayflower? Sixty million on the planet where six billion were. In the decades of world-wide flu, the virus has mutated each year, so that flu deaths remain unchanged as a percentage of the population. Assuming that we have the same medical facilities that we had before the Reaper, we would have the same percentage of attrition each year from the Reaper. And assuming the same birth rate--."
"You can't assume that," Eve said bitterly. The men looked at her. "Women are going to die in childbirth. Miscarriages. And who wants to make children? Christ!"
"I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm going on about this."
Eve faced him fiercely. The other men looked ashamed, Jed thought. He knew how they felt. Even if John was right, right about everything, what point discussing it?
"Don't stop for my sake, John," she said. Her voice was hard, a little angry. "The truth is good for you."
"Not always." He spooned stew. They ate in silence.
Eve and Bob Luna got up to go. As they were going out, Alvin Corey stopped them for a whispered conference. Donnie and Jed picked up their dishes as they stood up; John Bulisi stood up with them. Rather than "good-bye," he said to them, "Write. Paint. Don't let it all die."