Bryan chanted the Odaimoku and that was bad. Lin carried the Plague and that was worse.
The soldiers hunted them in the streets of Megiddo, once a shiny suburb of the Cordoned City but now a mass of burning hulks.
Shadows and bones of the town still stood.
Earlier that day, after a week of nary a gunshot, they decided to trek across the highway to Wally World and get food.
The only thing left in the cupboard was Alpo.
They took some juzu beads and assorted trinkets to barter. As they approached the tarmac field in front of the store a Peace Force Hummer barreled around the far side of the lot and course-corrected toward them.
The Hummer sparkled black and beautiful like the great dream of the One City. It surged to their side and stopped with a screech.
A soldier in full body condom trained the mounted machine gun on them and screamed something indecipherable through his re-breather.
Bryan and Lin stretched their hands toward the sky and dropped to the ground. Lin cried, Bryan silent and pale.
A cadre of peace keepers tumbled from the truck, kicking at the couple, pulling them erect, frisking them. Bryan got the rough treatment: a black eye swelling after the once-over was done, while Lin felt her breasts cupped and crotch rubbed. When the soldiers found the juzus they laughed, cutting the strings at the guru bead.
Enlightenment fell to the ground and tinkled woodenly.
Where Bryan struggled from the soldier’s grasp, fumbling for the beads, Lin only stood trembling. The Plague had her. Had her good.
The soldiers saw it then and realized Bryan not infected.
There were calls for their medic, a stout man with birth control glasses and a nervous demeanor who shoved a syringe into Bryan’s arm.
This was a peace zone. There would be no dissidents.
After the soldiers left, men came from the dark of Wally World. Traders in another shiny blackness of the American Dream. They beat Bryan.
The couple huddled afterward in a pool of their shared blood, sobbing.
By dusk they leaned into each other until they stood and staggered back across the highway.
“No food,” Lin said, a new mantra offered along with the bruises and tears as they stumbled home.
They both now carried the plague, defenseless.
Or as the powers-that-be termed it, liberated.