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For the Plague Thereof Was Exceeding Great
December 1, 2010: World AIDS Day
Kathleen Murphy gripped her can of Mace tightly as she rode the Red Line to work, hands sweating inside the latex of her surgical gloves. All around her, her fellow T riders were openly clutching Mace or pepper spray as well, all glancing around the car from behind safety goggles and surgical masks. Technically, it was still illegal to carry chemical sprays without a license, but no one enforced those laws anymore. It was safer not to.
The T pulled into Harvard Station, the end of the line, and she rose to get off the train. She remembered the days when people would crowd around the doors and bustle off in a mass of closely-packed bodies. No one touched anyone anymore. They wouldn't even come close. She never thought she'd miss that.
She made her way up the escalator, not touching the handrails, crossed Mass. Ave., and headed toward the gates of Harvard Yard. At least the university was still open, even though enrollment had been dropping precipitously over the past four years. No one wanted to send their children away to school anymore. Not unless they lived in a country with even higher infection rates than the U.S. The only schools that were still doing well were Harvard Medical School and the School of Public Health. They even offered scholarship money. That was unheard-of.
At the gates, she flashed her employee ID to the armed guards, waited for them to scan it, and was let in. Still, she remained vigilant as she dashed through the Yard. The crazies had gotten into plenty of secure areas, armed guards notwithstanding. She didn't feel safe until she'd sprinted up the stairs toWidener Library, flashed her ID again, and then heard the doors close behind her. She realized her safety was illusory, but she'd take it.