Lotto’s ears are ringing. She can hear the sink running in the kitchen. Dishes are being put in the dishwasher. Annoyed with all the loud sounds and ready to let somebody know, Lotto opens her eyes and instantly regrets it. She turns her head to the right and feels like she is on a tilt-a-whirl. “What is going on?” Lotto feels sick to her stomach. When she feels the bile rise to the top, she has no choice but to stumble to the bathroom and vomit. Lotto feels her head. She is sweaty. Fear grips her. She can not be sick.
When Lotto was a baby, a virus broke out. The virus started out like the common cold, with symptoms such as a sore throat and a stuffy nose. Two days in and its victim would be feverish, throwing up, and having seizures. On the fifth day they would go into a coma, never to regain consciousness. Hospitals and doctors couldn’t keep up with the symptoms at the pace that they occurred. If you were lucky enough to get to a doctor and get medication, it could easily be cured. That was not the case for the majority of the infected. It was declared an epidemic after one month and pandemonium ensued. A lot of people died as a result. It was eventually contained but the impact was severe. This caused such devastation that the public started pointing fingers at insurance companies, doctors, and the government. They wanted to know why they weren’t able to help in time? Why wasn’t there enough medication to go around when it was needed? Instead of getting answers, insurance companies increased their premiums. Generic drugs were pulled off the market. Doctors started refusing more insurance policies than accepting them. If you wanted to stay healthy, you would have to pay. Cash could get you a fast checkup and prescriptions. Some expressed their outrage. These people banded together, passing around petitions and picketing. When that didn’t work, they turned to violence and looting. Protestors, in time, disappeared. And without the luxury of doctors and medicine, few left their house other than for necessities. The risk was too high. Rubber gloves and face masks at places of business became the norm. You either wore them or you weren’t allowed entry.
Today the rich consume 95% of the drugs that are on the market. They live in gated communities, limiting their contact with those below their income status. The rest live in model homes that were built before the division of the sick and the healthy. They look fine from the outside but indoors reflect wear and tear. Worn down carpet, peeling paint, and yellowed tiles. Nobody can afford to do the upkeep.
Lotto has never known a world where she wasn’t fearful of getting sick. Her mom nagged her and her sister when she was younger to never forget to wash her hands, take her vitamins, and to stuff the whole family full of fruits and vegetables. Lotto hated it but she was glad that she had never gotten sick. Until now.
Lotto didn’t know how long she was laying on the bathroom floor when she heard a knock on her door. Her mom called out, “Lotto?”. When Lotto didn’t respond, she heard her mom open the door. After a minute she pushed the bathroom door open and peered around it. When she saw Lotto on the floor, she said, “Oh honey.” Lotto’s mom helped her up, splashed some water on her face, and walked her to her bed.
When she pulled the comforter up to her neck, Lotto asked, “What’s wrong with me Mom?”
As she gazed over Lotto’s head, she replied, “I don’t know honey.” She kissed her on the forehead and said, “Get some rest.” Just as Lotto closed her eyes, she heard the click of the door lock.
When Lotto woke up mid afternoon, there was a bowl of soup, some saltine crackers, and a glass of apple juice on her desk. She tried to sit up and was successful. Nausea still lingered but after a few minutes it subsided. Lotto stuck her finger in her soup and feeling the coldness, decided to eat the crackers. She was still hungry after she finished the crackers and got up to get something else to eat out of the kitchen. But when she turned the door knob, it didn’t move. She tried one more time. Nothing. “What the hell?!”, Lotto wondered out loud. “Mom! Dad! Can somebody please open the door? I’m hungry!” Lotto stood and banged on the door until she heard footsteps coming down the hall. She moved away from the door as the knob twisted down. Her dad closed the door behind him and sat down on the bed.
“What’s going on Dad? Why is my bedroom door locked?” Her dad pinched his nose and scratched his head. His reaction made Lotto nervous. Was she sicker than she thought? Was she ever going to be let out of her room again?
“Lotto, I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well. The reason you are not leaving your bedroom is because we can’t risk you getting the rest of us sick.” Lotto didn’t know if it was the dip in his voice when he talked or that he wouldn’t look at her, just like her mom. Or maybe because he was sitting on her bed, soaking up all the germs that he didn’t want to get. It didn’t matter. Lotto wasn’t buying it.
“Come on dad. What’s really going on?”
“Lotto, you are sick. And we don’t know how sick. So for a few days you will need to stay in your room. We will bring you your meals and your schoolwork when it arrives. Hopefully you will get well sooner rather than later.”
Lotto gave in to the hysteria that had been at the brink. She cried out, “You can’t do this to me! I can’t stay cooped up in my room. I promise to be good. I will wear rubber gloves and a mask if you want me to, just please don’t make me stay in here!” He didn’t say a word, got up, hugged Lotto, and walked towards the door. When Lotto tried to grab his arm, he removed it with care and locked the door as he closed it behind him. Lotto crumbled onto the floor and gave into the tears. What was she going to do?