Chapter 28

Despite everything people heard on the news, Utah was actually one of the least affected areas in the nation. Dragon’s failure to complete his mission—combined with the fact that people had been warned against traveling there—had kept the Black Flu to a minimum in the state. However, that didn’t stop the rumor mill from operating at full strength.

In the days following the bioterror attack, the citizens of Utah endured a flurry of half-truths and misinformation. One rumor said everyone needed to go to the closest government building and take a pill that would help fight off the disease. Soon there were long lines forming around post offices and city halls, but no such announcement had ever been made.

Then came the word that the military was going to use helicopters to spray down the streets with a sanitizer. This prompted most people to stay inside for a day until it was clear that this was just another false story.

Church members who hadn’t gone to the camps were particularly vulnerable to such stories. One rumor said the government was rounding up any remaining Mormons to hold them as ransom until the prophet turned himself in as a fugitive. That caused quite a stir, but no word came from Church officials about whether it was true. That was the most agonizing part for the Mormons still in the valleys—they were accustomed to at least hearing something from their leaders, but now the Church was silent.

Under these circumstances, the maintenance missionaries found many opportunities to assist people who were struggling to cope with how the world had changed. In Nathan’s case, he had felt guided to walk to the Provo Temple. As he approached the area he saw dozens of families milling around on the lawn between the temple grounds and the Missionary Training Center. The temple was surrounded by fencing—just like all of the others—and the guards had been instructed to not let anyone inside.

There was an armed guard standing near the temple’s west gate, and Nathan motioned for him to speak with him. As the man approached, Nathan quietly repeated the password to him. After Nathan said “Amen” the guard nodded and started to open the gate, but dozens of people in the crowd had been watching him and began moving toward them.

“It’s okay,” Nathan told the guard. “Leave it shut. I just felt prompted to come here. Who are all of these people?”

The guard shrugged. “They’re members of the Church, but they’re the ones who ignored the prophet’s invitation. Now they’re unemployed, hungry, out of money, and feeling desperate. There’s not a lot I can do for them.”

A lady tapped Nathan on the shoulder. “Excuse me, you seem to have connections with the guard. Can you convince him to let us in? There’s food stored in the temple, right?”

Nathan looked at her swollen eyes. It was clear she had been sobbing heavily. It broke his heart, but he said, “Sorry, we can’t let you in.”

The lady dropped her head. “It’s just that our world has fallen apart, and we know we made a mistake. Things just keep getting worse around here. Can’t you please tell us where the rest of the members are?”

Nathan shook his head. “I really wish I could, but those camps are sealed off anyway. But maybe I can still help. Just a minute.”

Nathan walked away from the group and offered a prayer in his heart about whether he should lead these families to a “blue camp.” He knew one had been established in the Wallsburg Valley near Deer Creek Reservoir.

The Spirit confirmed his suggestion, and he returned to the woman’s side. “I know a safe place you can go. It’s up Provo Canyon, and I’ll lead you there.”

The woman’s face lit up, and she gave him a hug. “That would be wonderful!”

Word quickly spread that Nathan would lead a group to a camp, and by the end of the day they had walked a few miles before stopping along the Provo River near the Riverwoods shopping complex. They spent the night inside an abandoned store before beginning the hike through the canyon. It took the group three more days to reach the camp, which didn’t compare at all to the “white camps” where the faithful Saints were, but the people were happy to be there. There were a few hundred people already at the camp, and they didn’t look thrilled to add any newcomers, but at least Nathan had followed his prompting.

“Hopefully they’ll find ways to get along,” Nathan told himself as he hiked back down the canyon. He reached Orem two days later, and although he wanted to just curl up and go to sleep, the Spirit screamed at him to go to his father’s house. When he arrived there, Garrett’s car wasn’t in the driveway and the house was dark. He knocked loudly, but there wasn’t an answer.

“Vanessa! Denise!”

He peered through the windows, then finally gave up, unsure why he’d been prompted so strongly. Then as he was walking away, he heard a window open behind him.

“Nathan!”

It was Denise. She looked terrified. Nathan ran back to the house, and she opened the door and rushed into his arms.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what to do.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think Mom and Dad are dead!”

The words literally jolted Nathan, and he peered past her into the house. “Where are they? In their bedroom?”

“No, not here. They went to Los Angeles the day before the bioterror attack to help my aunt move here after the earthquake. But Dad must’ve caught that new disease, because Mom said she had taken him to the hospital after he got those dark spots people get. The next day she called to say he wasn’t doing very good and that she wasn’t feeling well. Plus, she was worried with the new travel restrictions they wouldn’t be able to come back anyway.”

“When did you last talk to her?” Nathan asked.

“Three days ago. I’ve called and texted her lots of times since then, but she doesn’t answer.”

Nathan was still reeling from the news. “How come you didn’t go with them?”

“I had all of my school finals that I couldn’t miss, so I stayed home. They were only going to be gone a few days.”

“This is terrible,” Nathan said. “So you’ve been living here alone all this time?”

“Yes. I’ve just hidden away.”

“I’ve got some friends who can help you,” Nathan said. “Let’s go see if they’re home.”