Review: “Patient Zero” by Tananarive Due

Patient ZeroPatient Zero by Tananarive Due
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a compelling mix of naivete and knowing, 10 y.o. Jay has both been protected from and thrust upon the harsh realities of truth in this short tale of pandemic apocalypse.

At 6, Jay saw his Dad come home sick to Georgia from Alaska’s oil wells. In short order, Jay’s parents and only brother died of the disease and Jay both sickened and recovered. Now incorrectly dubbed “Patient Zero,” Jay has lived in a large observation, reverse-isolation room at the CDC for 4 years. Innumerable blood draws have been taken from him, but between his fun nurse, Veronica, and optimistic tutor, Ms. Manigat, he keeps his spirits up.

He is denied windows to the outside world, television and all news. Blackouts start to push into his world. Food shortages. Staffers start to disappear. Others scream terrible things at him in their frustration.

His tutor starts to secretly teach Jay survival skills and the codes to get out of the building just in case a day comes when nobody comes to give him food . . .

Appearing in the anthology, Ghost Summer, this short story first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 2000.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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