An oddly placed Spanish seafood restaurant in the middle of Rio de Janeiro is where we end up. The men say nothing. We all are brought complimentary shots of tequila. I realize for the first time that I’m still in scrubs.
“Shouldn’t I change?” I ask.
“There’s a clothing store next door.” Kevin says.
They each take their shot. Mine I leave on the table.
“So, what’s your theory?” I ask.
Another long pause.
“What do you mean?” Nate asks.
“You don’t think there’s a virus. Clearly. What’s your theory?” I ask again.
Kevin sighs, “You won’t believe us.”
I look at him sideways, “I won’t believe you. Then it’s probably a really awful theory, bud.”
“Okay fine.” Nate says, “We think it was, maybe still is a social experiment.”
An uncontrollable smile crosses my face, “A social experiment?”
“Okay, but listen,” Kevin says. “At first we thought it was a resource, you know, oil or something? So we did some digging –no pun intended- and found that oil was discovered on the land in the 1940s but that it wasn’t substantial and it’s largely been plundered since its discovery.”
“So then, naturally,” Nate interjected, “we assumed it was an alien abduction.”
“Naturally.” I take the shot.
“But that doesn’t account for you.” Kevin says.
The alcohol burns down my throat and I realize that they are completely serious. And they just saved my life. Giving them an opportunity to talk this out might not be such a bad idea. They’ve had full access to all available resources for weeks. It’s possible that this conversation sounds insane because the situation is insane.
“You see,” Kevin continues, “we can’t assume that both you and Mark Hensley would have been either purposefully or not purposefully left behind if it was an alien-“
“Or even foreign country!” Nate interrupts.
“abduction.” Kevin continues. “It’s too probable that you or he might have seen something.”
“Right.” Nate says.
“We know it’s not a struggle for resources because we’ve been watching the cameras that Tyson has positioned around the perimeter and there is no mobilization into the contamination zone.” Kevin continues.
“Well, yeah. There’s a deadly virus in there.” I say.
“There can’t be.” Nate begins.
“Because they never would have left you behind. They never would have left Mark Hensley behind. If dogs are carriers, they wouldn’t have left dogs behind. And they would have burned everything.”
It dawns on me, they have a point. All signs point away from conventional reasons for this evacuation. If it is a virus, why wouldn’t they have dug a trench around the contaminated area, or built a wall? Why did they hire out a company to do what the military could arguably do just as well?
“A social experiment.” I say again.