The morning of the second day has come.
Infected in the past 24 hours: 24 ppl.
Died in the past 24 hours: 17 ppl.
Gone missing: 5 ppl.
Number of dead at the moment: 34
Number of infected: 23 ppl.
Less than eleven days remain.
Nobody wants to admit the Sand Plague might return--that it has already returned, that it's on their doorsteps. Children whisper about houses smeared with blood--silent houses out of which nobody returns. I have to convince Alexander Saburov, difficult man that he is, of the presence of the plague.
The Town of __________
At the same time, I've been hunting down evidence of the Sand Plague. A handy tip points me to the Northeastern edge of town, where Isidor Burakh used to live. At around 2pm I find the house, tall and silent, covered in angry, scabrous blotches. Exactly what the children have been whispering about. Breathless, I walk inside to find the walls covered in filth--stained rags have been hung up, and the floor is in disarray. I walk to the back of the house to find a worried-looking woman, who tells me yes, this is the house, and yes it's as we've feared. The Sand Plague has come. I take the key to the house, evidence for Saburov, and turn to leave.
Russian interior decorating at its finest.
Blocking my exit are the woman's three sisters, pale and sick. They reach out to me, moaning, hoping for a cure. I feint to the left, then rush past the first one, straight into the arms of the second sister. She barely grazes me--just a light touch, but enough to infect. Sickened, I run out of the house, a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yes, the unused infection bar in the upper right hand corner has been activated--a smidgen of bacterium, nothing more. I pop a few pills, hoping that'll eradicate the disease, but to no avail.
I traipse back to the Saburov manor and thrust the key into the noble's hands. As the revelation dawns on him that yes this is the dreaded Sand Plague, he hurriedly stuffs a revolver in my hand and puts me in charge of sectioning off the town, of managing the plague myself. I'm the best qualified--the objective outsider, the middle-man. The townsfolk will look to me for guidance.
This dude is so scary he doesn't even need guidance.
Back to the House of the Living. By now it's 4pm and I've collected the requisite rations, so I tramp back to Lara's house. She's set up a large mansion west of the Clot (where Fat Olgimskiy lives) which will function as the "House of the Living" and, as a final favor, has asked me to deliver the foodstuffs for storage.
I don't want to think about how all those blood smears got there.
I arrive at the mansion to find it, too, covered in the same scabs. Inside an executor waits to taunt me. Yes, I just spent hours running errands all over town, pleading with nobles for money, and what lies at the end of it all? A "House of the Living" overrun with pestilence and disease. The executor laughs me out with a cackle as plague mist floods the room, and I run out of the house cursing.
I'm unsure what I ought to do for the rest of the day. Discouraged, I run home to find Eve, my friends-with-benefits roommate, wringing her hands about the plague rumours. She wants to get out of town before all hell breaks loose, and she knows who can help us: the sexually-ambiguous Andrey at the tavern. Andrey and I happen to be old friends from college, though neither of us can properly recollect how we met, or what our relationship was. He says he'd love to help us escape, but can't leave without his brother Peter, who happens to be a renowned architect (responsible for constructing the massive Polyhedron at the southwest corner of town).
By now it's 7pm. I'm tired, exhausted, and it's started to rain. I buy coffee beans from the tavern to keep exhaustion at bay; I keep popping pills to maintain proper immunity. I finally track down Peter's house and am greeted with this pleasant image as soon as I reach the top of the stairs:
Not only does this sculpture make me sweat blood: it also describes Peter's alcoholic personality perfectly. The guy is batshit crazy. He also has no desire to leave town. After some word games and interviews (prompting me to tramp back and forth across the town) I convince him to leave, then take a visit to the black market in the southern warehouses on my way to the train's departure at 10pm. I get a special discount, a free revolver and some bullets, then head to the train station. I knew it wouldn't be so easy of course. I mean, with only ten days remaining, there has to be some hitch, some catch, that will keep me from leaving this soon-to-be-hellhole. At the train cars are several guards and yet another gloating executioner, hovering behind them like death.
Naturally I can't leave. Of course I can't leave. One look at the executor behind the guard tells me any resistance would be futile. So what do I do? "Okay, you win. I will cancel my departure."
On my way home I stop in by the theatre. They're saying something about players, about choices, and I'm reminded this is only a game, that it's an "epidemic simulation"--and that in the end I wanted to reach the train station to find it empty, because leaving wouldn't be interesting. I'm here for the show, and I'm pretty sure I get my price of admission's worth tomorrow.