"Our people are moving very fast. They've set up relocation sites for triage in all major metropolitan areas. We're gonna contain this thing and we're gonna take care of it. The CDC is recommending quarantines, and we'll quarantine people as necessary. Right now the National Guard is out giving people rides to the sites where they can be injec -- that is -- inoculated. And if you've got a car you can go to these places yourself, they're listed on your screen or you can go to Cee-Dee-Cee-dot-org, and line up and take the shot, for free, courtesy of the American Government."
Director of Health and Human Services; September 10th,
2008; 2 PM PST.
It isn't easy, but Chaz manages to wangle a room for $500 a night from the blonde-streaked checkin ditz at the Luxor. After all, he and Hazel are officially on their honeymoon now. He has to explain this honeymoon thing to the girl a few times before she'll let him have the room.
"But you know it's not a honeymoon suite."
"Yeah, I get it."
He collects the little wife, who's apathetically pulling the handle of a nearby slot machine. They cross the enormous lobby which opens all the way to the top of the pyramid. Chaz surveys possible routes to an elevator. They meander sans luggage, looking a little lost.
He stops by a roulette wheel, slips his thumbs under his snakeskin belt and peers around through his big black sunglasses.
"I think they're at the corners," Hazel offers, "They're called inclinators."
"Oh reaaaally," Chaz arches an eyebrow.
Once they're safely in their room he remembers he was supposed to carry her over the threshold. He takes her hand to lead her outside.
"What," says Hazel, who's already got her shirt unbuttoned, "I need to take a shower."
"Just come outside for a minute. Come on."
She looks at him with a degree of skepticism. "Is this a gambling thing?"
"No no no, just trust me, come outside for a sec -- for a second."
He props the door open for her and she steps out. Then he reaches down and grabs her under the knees, lifting her with both arms into the air.
"Wheep!" she shrieks with surprise, thrashing a bit. He has to move his foot to regain his balance. The door slams itself shut behind them as he adjusts to keep from pitching her over the railing into the lobby below.
"Shit," he mutters, turning around.
"What?" she's looking at the closed door.
"Don't you have the key?" Chaz asks tentatively.
She gives him a look like, you're joking.
"Awww man," he frowns.
"Chaz," she says, looking up at him.
"You're a big dope, but I love you."
"Aww," he smiles, still cradling her in his arms. They kiss.
Then there's a scream as automatic gunfire goes echoing and careening crazily around the pyramidal lobby.
"Fuck," Chaz sets her on her feet, "What the hell is that now?"
"I don't know, but I wish we had the key," Hazel's buttoning up her shirt.
Doors open on all floors as people peek out to see what's going on. Many of them have been sitting and watching TV all morning and are scared half out of their wits already.
Chaz sees the inclinator climb to their level, sees the doors open. Half a dozen LVPD riot cops wearing full-faced gas masks are spreading out down the corridors, knocking on every door.
"What do we do?" Hazel asks.
"It doesn't matter now, I guess. Fuck, wish I hadn't blown that five hundred bucks."
"You paid five hundred bucks for this room?"
"It's our honeymoon!"
"We can't afford that!"
"Look, let's just talk about it later."
It's just a short, lovely eight mile walk under a blazing desert sun from the Luxor Hotel to Sam Boyd Stadium on the other side of town. The motivation here is that there are police vans full of crazy-looking cops in gas masks, cruising by pointing guns at you and blasting messages through their speakers, telling you to keep moving. Occasionally they throw bottles of water out into the
crowd. Chaz manages to catch one, half-jerking it out of the hands of a greasy-looking older Italian man with dice cufflinks and tassled loafers.
"You rat," the older guy sneers, "if dis shit wasn't goin' on right now..."
But if the Mafia had had any foresight they'd have overthrown the government back when Nixon came in. Instead they made strange bedfellows, tried to walk a thin line, and now they're fucked -- beaten by the Skull and Bones gang just like everybody else.
The boulevard peters out pretty quickly once you're off the strip, not much to look at, just a lot of rancid apartment complexes, gas stations and mini malls. People pour out of all of them, joining the throng heading East. Some are being brought by force -- you can see the Man going here and there rousting people -- but many seem to be joining the march by choice. Chaz and Hazel understand by now that the cops were just trying to get their attention by firing guns into the air. They're not under arrest or anything. It's just become important that the entire population be inoculated immediately against smallpox. And rather than having a lot of doctors go around and try to make sure they get everyone, the government's just bringing everyone to the stadium out there. To streamline the process.
There's what sounds like a rolling explosion, thunder echoing up the wide boulevard, seeming to come from all directions at once. A series of tanks and bradleys barrel up the street, moving in the same direction as the crowd. People scatter left and right. The tanks throw off fat plumes of diesel exhaust and blowing litter that sticks in their eyes. Chaz wonders how the Army got here so quickly. He remembers once renting a video from Mondo, just a compilation of government footage showing nuclear tests out here in the Nevada desert. Stuff shot back in the '50s. Some of the bomb tests took place so close to Las Vegas that the film was actually shot from the Strip, incredible images of giant Nagasaki-style mushroom clouds billowing at the end of Las Vegas Boulevard between the glittering marquees and swaying palms of the swanky swinger's paradise, as said swingers made their way back and forth between the hotels, occasionally stopping to admire the magnificent view of nuclear destruction in the background. Then afterwards it would snow warm and white; pretty rare in Las Vegas. The kids would go out and play in it. Of course, no one knew that the lovely frosting of radioactive ash was dangerous. Only the government. They knew. They knew what they were doing in other parts of the film too, like when they had 10,000 teenaged GIs ducking in a ditch with sunglasses to avoid the blinding light and the shockwave, then running en masse, a terrifying drill, right into the center of the hot zone as soon as the A-bomb had gone off. Radiation what? But the government knew. They'd seen the results in Hiroshima. You didn't see the generals running in there. The generals were just hanging around with the government doctors, curious to see what would happen to 10,000 kids as a result of running into the middle of a mushroom cloud.
As they trudge past the Thomas & Mack center off to their right, Chaz wonders vaguely why they don't just do the vaccinations there. It would be air conditioned, too. But it's not really a coherent thought that he has; anyway, it's so fucking hot under this pouring sun that it's hard to keep anything in your head for more than a few seconds. Hard enough to put one foot in front of the other. Vacant white thoughts under a red-hot, blank blue sky. The soles of their Converses seem to melt into the pavement with each step. Their eyes burn and stick shut with dryness whenever they close. Sweat runs faster than the desert evaporation, dripping over their faces. He hears someone saying, only seven more miles to go.
At the intersection with Maryland Parkway, several hundred people have sat down or collapsed in the center of a Safeway parking lot among the shattered plate glass and the miscellaneous bottles and cans dropped by the morning's looters. Elderly men and women are baking to death on the hundred-and-fifty degree blacktop. They're being surrounded by masked soldiers who are helping them up and into trucks. Some are virtually immobile; these the soldiers apparently aren't considering anyone lost yet; they carry the heat casualties into makeshift ambulances.
The crowd walks in the middle of the street, filling all eight lanes as tributaries of marchers trickle in to join them from each passing side-street. Most of the men are by now shirtless; many of the women are showing off their bras. Soldiers march through the crowd, urging people forward. Occasionally a black limousine comes snaking through the mayhem, invisible observers hidden behind the bulletproof windows. It's bad to walk near the limos because they keep drawing pot-shots from people here and there in the crowd. Most of the population of Las Vegas is armed, after all; not for nothing have they been defending their Second Amendment rights all these years. But as terrible as this semi-forced march is, most seem to realize that the alternative -- dying a blistering death of smallpox -- would be worse. The main school of thought here is that this march is exemplary of a mismanaged, big-government bureaucracy trying to handle a disaster it wasn't really prepared for. It's ironic that this is the assumption of a lot of libertarian gun owners at this very moment, because this school of thought chooses blythely and in spite of all prior paranoia to assume that, at this very moment, the government is still nominally on their side.
Because to even countenance the alternative -- that in this time of crisis the government might not be on their side -- would just be too horrible for words. Few of the bare-chested marksmen in the throng have yet paused to consider what little good the NRA and all those guns did for them in the end. They understand that taking the vaccine now is no longer optional. But they haven't seemed to realize that they'll be forced to check their weapons at the stadium entrance.