by Ben the Kid
Jared is caught up in a perfect storm.
Jared Abbott is trapped.
He’s trapped in his small windowless bathroom, pressed up against the far tiled wall. His steel gray eyes are wide with fear and alarm at the realization that he was going to die today.
He spotted his wife’s vanity chair and quickly pushed it’s high back against the door knob, terror was at his throat when he saw it turn slowly. His heart was racing as the gentle knocking persisted and his wife’s soft voice on the other side.
“Jared, sweetie. Come on out and let’s talk.” she said so lovingly, he almost fell for it. Instead he backed toward the wall again in disbelief of how his once happy life turned into a nightmare.
New York City was nearly decimated by a horrific hurricane that created surges almost twenty feet high. The wall of water crashed into the bridges and swelled into the streets. It flooded into the river, subways and tunnels with vicious speed as black clouds circled above. Extreme winds and ice shattered the windows in the stately skyscrapers, cutting down everything and everyone in its path. Including Jared.
The torrential rain hit his car like bullets until it crescendo into a furious thundering coming toward him. His car lifted up against the surge that threw him about until the windows burst and let in the icy water. He took big gulps of air as he struggled with his seatbelt and his panic. For a few moments, he was able to look around him at the bodies floating nearby, the street signs and everything else that once made the city so great. Now filled with water, the car hit something hard and the terrific impact pressed his chest against the steering wheel. Bubbles of precious breath got away from him while he tried to relieve the pressure and in the last moments before passing out, Jared prayed to live.
He woke up in a dimly lit area weeks later. His head pounded with sharp quick hits until he surrendered to unconsciousness. It was several days before he learned that he was in a school and that the gymnasium was set up as a makeshift hospital to help the survivors . Many had died and in here were just a handful, the barely functional and fighting to take another breath.
Where there were once excited students cheering on their basketball team, now stout
lanterns with sturdy canisters brought bright light for surgeries and cots were lined up the way he used to see in the movies. The injured and the healing joined together in the fight to life.
He needed that commonness around him, especially when he woke up one morning to find that he was missing a right arm and a right leg. It was a comfort to know that he wasn’t the only one mourning for a part that he took for granted and the loss left a bitterness in his mouth.
One night, a young woman came to him with her stethoscope around her slender neck and gently took his wrist in her cool hand. She studied her watched intently and didn’t know that he was awake. When she seemed satisfied, she carefully adjusted his blanket.
“Can you tell me what the outside looks like?”
She wasn’t scared out of her skin, she merely raised her eyes at him in slight surprise.
Her hair was in a pony tail and it skipped back and forth with her movement as she straightened.
“It’s not safe outside. You can get all the help you need right here.” she said calmly.
“What does it look like and why isn’t it safe?” he asked.
She was about to walk away when he took her hand. He looked at the shadowed face that stared down on him.
“Please, I have to know.”
She was silent for a moment then she pulled up a chair next to him.
“Alright. What do you want to know?” her words told of impatience but her tone spoke of her sympathy.
“From the beginning.”
The hurricane hit the island of Manhattan head on and the destruction was vast. Many parts of the city were underwater and uninhabitable. Hungry animals picked off the weak and soon starving survivors were fighting each other for food and clean water. Transportation was impossible since the bridges were down and the subways and tunnels filled, so help from the outside was not expected for quite some time.
Nurses and doctors that could reach the school came to loook for any survivors and bring them here for attention.
A few months later, he was fitted with a special prosthesis that would be the spark of the inferno that would soon engulf his life.
Kane Santino was a scientist that had spearheaded a team to create a prosthesis that would mend with the bone, muscle and skin. It was made of a special material that worked naturally with the body and within a short healing time, it became a perfect functional replacement leg and arm.
It was during his healing time when he met Rachel. Rescuers found her in a dumpster half dead and missing both arms and legs. Fortunately, she survived and they placed her right next to me. We were soon encouraging each other during the rehabilitation and fell in love. She had the face of angel with almond shaped eyes that looked at him with so much trust and love, it was hard to breathe. The night before they were released, she told him what happened to her. She half hid in her bed like a child as she told him that she broke up with her ex boyfriend, Syd right before the chaos and he went crazy. He beat her savagely then went to his samurai sword collection and selected one. She wept in Jared’s arms and he vowed to always be there to protect her.
Rebuilding the city took time and in between there was the discovery of Kane Santino’s prosthesis by the government. He was whisked away and from then on seen mostly on television. This time he was raving about the new enzyme that he developed to take the prosthesis to the next level in tissue growth. He was a hero who was no longer a meek scientist. Now, he had the power and position to do what should be done with the magnificent enzyme.
Jared and Rachel were living proof of his genius.
They got married and lived just outside of the city in a modest house. He found a job in repairing computers and traveling all over the city wasn’t easy. Sometimes he would be stuck many miles away from home because of the frequent construction block offs. She made a home for them and became a kindergarten teacher.
They lived the perfect life until he was stuck overnight away from home in a tiny hotel room. The crank radio he was listening to scratched with breaking news about Kane and the enzyme. Patients were experiencing deadly side effects, homicides and suicides ran rampant through the communities and he was to blame. Kane had knowledge of the dangers and sent the enzyme to the underground facilities for a price. There was no more a perfect candidate for testing it than the survivors that were still arriving daily. The medical team that trusted Kane and his vision of the future, began to implement the enzyme into the blood transfusions. Hundreds are now infected roaming around the city. No longer did Kane flash his winning grin at the camera, now he tried to hide behind his hand and mumble “No comment.”
They showed aerial footage of a giant mob of people clamoring into Kane’s fancy facility, presumably to rip him apart for destroying their lives. He took us right back to where we started, fighting another war for a right to live.
The news anchor is sweating and pale from watching it.
He tried not to stutter when reporting the warning signs of those infected such as a color change in the iris of the eyes, turning them into a deep blue. They will start to experience headaches that will gradually get worse. Hallucinations and paranoia and aggressive behavior that turns violent as the level of pain from the headaches increases.
He tried not be hurt and more disappointed, but the betrayal was too sharp. It did hurt to know how happy he was when he got his arm and leg back and how Kane shared in that joy. How he took the thanks and acted as humbly as he could for saving lives. Jared felt stupid for not seeing it hidden away somewhere in his comforting smile and encouraging words.
He started home with a heavy heart and thought about how Rachel was handling the news. He walked through the door and stood there for a moment.
How could have known that something happened to Rachel while he was gone? How could he have known that a day at the park with the class would end with his gentle wife coming face to face with a vengeful Syd? He wondered how angry Syd was in finding out that Rachel was still alive, that he had failed. So he must have tried again, failing yet again because her soft knocking was getting more abrupt.
“Jared, this is getting ridiculous. My head hurts too much and this is making it worse.”
It’s starting, he thought.
He chuckled as he thought of how he walked into the house feeling as if he were safe. He dropped his things at the door, knowing they would be taken care of and started to sift through the mail.
“Ray, I’m home.” he called out.
His eyes scanned the junk mail until he came to a serious looking envelope and ripped it open. It was an invoice for prosthesis that had to be ordered. Jared closed his eyes at the memory of his confusion and how piece by piece it all started to fall into place to create a terrible picture.
“Welcome home, honey.” she said from behind him. He was almost too afraid to turn around and when he did, he was staring into striking blue eyes. He knew then that his beautiful wife was gone and there would be nothing that he could save from it.
She was wincing and squinting from the pain in her head. She tip toed to his cheek and planted a kiss.
“Do you mind cooking dinner? I’ve got this pain in my head that just won’t go away.”
He stepped away from her and toward the front door, making sure not to take his eyes off of hers. The blue circle told him his fate and now he needed to get away.
“Where are you going?” she asked him. His mind zipped around trying to find an excuse to escape.
“I forgot to buy some milk, so I’m going to do that now and get it over with.” he lied, inching away slowly. She looked at him then in a curious way, somewhere between offended and hurt and angry.
“Forget the milk, Jared.”
“But then I’ll have to get it in the morning,”
He reasoned, but he only made her suspicious.
“Forget it.” she said with more force. So the first chance he got, he excused himself into the bathroom and he was still here.
Only now, the gentle, knocking has become a sharp hard banging. Rachel was nearly snarling to get at him, it was the last thought in her mind and in this demented state, she would stop at nothing to get to him. The last feeling he had was sadness for having to hurt her before she came bursting through the wooden shards and straight to him.