Now I begin to worry a little. I am prepared to go home, with my new face mask for the journey and a lot of anti-bacteria spray, and I SkIMp my parents from the station, but no reply on the homeset. I try my mother’s and father’s handsets – no reply. I leave messages and have no reply all day. I check their socnets, nobody is posting anything for two days.
The station has many crowds of people and many ad-screens with warnings for the flu, saying to wear masks at all times and use anti-bacteria spray on hands before you enter the train. But some people have only a piece of cloth tied around their face, or only the free paper mask, and these are wet and falling away from their faces. My friend Li, who studies medicine, tells me that the mask does not stop the germs, it only stops people touching their mouth and nose. Most of all, it makes us feel safer. Still, when somebody is coughing, everybody moves away from them, and it is so crowded, this becomes very dangerous. I think one man is coughing on purpose to make a way to the train, but he stops when an old woman is taken away from the station because she cannot stop coughing. She is saying “Not flu, I had this cough 10 years, it is not the flu!” but she is forbidden to travel.
The train arrives, and I fight through the crowd but before I get to the door, the destination screen says “cancelled”. Then I get a message from my grandmother – she is telling me “Stay in Beijing, don’t try to SkIMp – afraid they will trace this handset.”
I check the newsnets, and see the breaking news that some towns in Anhui province are isolated as a precaution, to contain a minor outbreak of the bird flu in a rural region. But Xiuning is no small rural village, it is close to Huangshan and almost a city – if my family is in the isolated area, how big is this area? And what is wrong with SkIMp? I must go back to the university, to check for more reports from independent newsnets on a faster and better set, but I begin to be very afraid.