I woke up to the sound of clucking chickens.
It was morning. My head was still so foggy from the sedatives I could hardly lift it to get a good look around.
I was in the chicken stall at the fair grounds. The rows of cages were still filled with birds that had been entered into the now-abandoned fair. They were starving, and molting. Some were dead. I was covered in loose hay and feathers.
Somehow, I was still holding on to half of Morgan's flannel shirt and Jason's wallet. I forced myself to sit up.
I had no memory of making it as far as the fairgrounds before passing out. I was still naked. My bare feet were cut and covered in dried blood.
I opened Jason's wallet. I threw out a debit card and some kind of Home Guard mess hall card. And then there it was. A simple white card with a magnetic strip, the words "Pharmaceutical Access," and a warning that finding it and not returning it to the Home Guard was a crime punishable by indefinite detention.
I kept the card and tossed Jason's wallet into one of the chicken cages.
I felt inside the breast pocket of what was left of Morgan's flannel. The single quarter I'd saved was still inside.
I crept from the chicken stall out into the sun. The morning was surprisingly warm after a cold night. The fair grounds were totally abandoned, and for a moment I just let the sunlight fall onto my naked body. I was still feeling pretty woozy, but I could feel some of my energy start to return.
I looked out toward the fields stretching away from the chicken stall. As far as I could see, Jason's SUV was gone.
The fair grounds, luckily, were filled with pay phones. The nearest was just across the roadway beside the horse stables.
I'd torn up Chris's letter after memorizing his number, but I was able to clear the cobwebs from my head just enough to remember the digits as I deposited the quarter.
Chris picked up right away.
"Please tell me this is Ashley," he said. He must not have recognized the incoming number and hoped it was a pay phone. "Is this Ashley?"
"I got it," I said. I told him where I was and asked him to pick me up. "Bring me some clothes, will you?" I added. "Don't ask. It's a long story."
While I waited for Chris, I found a relatively concealed place in the sun behind a wooden barrel that had been converted into a flower pot. I listened to the horses in their stalls, whinnying loudly. Poor things. They probably hadn't a heard a human voice for days, and they were probably starving.
I car approached.
I ducked down behind the flower pot and peered over its arrangement of dead pansies.
A hearse, covered in dust, pulled up in front of the stables. It came to a stop by the pay phone. Its engine cut.
Chris stepped out. He was in a white Home Guard uniform and a lab coat with two armbands, one with a black HG logo and the other with a red cross.
"Don't ask about the car and I won't ask about the clothes," he said, tossing a small duffel bag behind the flower pot. It landed by my bloodied foot. I unzipped it.