Fauci could hear Joe moaning in the background of the call.

“He’s convulsing, Dr. Fauci,” Finnegan said.

“Give him more vaccine,” Fauci said, his voice the dry whisper of rubbing insect wings.

“More?” she asked desperately.

“And put five masks on him,” he said.

“Five? How can he breathe through five masks?”

“Masks are perfectly breathable. It’s a lie that anyone has problems breathing through a mask. If you can breathe through one mask, you can breathe through five. That’s just logic. And logic is science. You don’t want it to be known that you don’t believe in science, do you?”

“No, sir,” the young woman said quietly. Joe made another strangled cry.

“Good child,” Fauci whispered. “Now put Jen on the phone.” He waited in his palanquin as the phone was fumbled hand-to-hand.

“Dr. Fauci?” Jen said.

“He needs more of the serum,” he told her. “Up the dosage to 35 macrograms.”

“Macrograms?” she asked.

“Yes, like micrograms but much bigger! Don’t you science at all?”

“Yes, Doctor,” Jen said.

“Good, good,” he said. “I have nine more TV appearances today and then I’ll be back in Washington to check on him.”

“Hurry, back, Doctor,” Jen said breathlessly.

Fauci closed the connection without answering.

“Open it,” he said through the external speaker of his isolation pod.

“Are ya sure, Doc?” the rat-eyed maintenance worker asked.

“Of course,” Fauci answered.

“Whatcha looking for?”

“Science!” he shouted through the speaker.

The worker cracked the door of the trailer and fog and frost billowed out.

“Dees is some of tha earliest cases, you know,” the worker said. “City won’t bury dem until they get paid the bonus money.”

“Leave,” Fauci said.

Fauci had his interns open the door wider and load his isolation pod on the truck. “One hour,” he told them as they closed the door behind him.

In a spray of bleach, the isopod cracked open and Fauci unfolded himself into the mobile cold storage trailer filled with the COVID dead.

“Friends, my friends, oh how I’ve missed you,” he said, walking down the dim aisle between the bodies, running his hands over their opaque plastic storage bags.

He stopped at one, at random, and zipped open the cadaver pouch. A man, tape and glue on his face, intubation tube dangling from his mouth.

“They didn’t even clean you up before put you in the truck, did they?” Fauci asked the corpse. He lifted the tape off the eyes and peeled back an eyelid. The eye was white and sightless, innocent in death. He ran a finger across it, the cold rising into his fingertip.

He bent painfully and whispered into the man’s cold blue ear, “Who are your friends?”

He turned and opened another bag. A woman, obese and mottled black, her breasts resting in the bag on either side of her buried ribs. He brushed a nipple wide as a tea saucer and blue-black. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you,” and stooped to give the nipple a dry kiss.

The next one down was a young man, and he sighed in delight. “I told them the young ones would die,” he said, resting his hand on the dead man’s thigh. “Did you even have children, yet?” he asked, lifting the cold penis to look at the shriveled scrotum.

“I’m sorry, my friends,” he said, shuffling down the aisle, closing the bags. “I’m sorry you had to die so that I could live.”

“I feel better than I have in a hundred years,” Fauci said, turning in the spray of bleach decontaminating him in order to return to the pod.