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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #365838
A traveler makes a startling discovery in a rural Georgia town

THE ROSENGBERG FACTOR
“A lone traveler makes a startling discovery in a rural Georgia town”

By: Stephen Carver Byrd


* * * * * * Prologue* * * * * *


The Rosenberg Factor

By: Stephen Carver Byrd


The slim, gray headed gentleman glanced casually in the direction of the couch. “Would you feel more comfortable lying down?”

“I’m fine,” Jake replied, softly patting the arms of the large wingback chair which sat directly across from the doctor’s spacious walnut desk.

Doctor Roberts rolled out a light smile then pulled a cigar from his desk. “Can you believe I gave up these damn things more than twenty years ago, but I still feel the urge to dangle one around occasionally. Now, Mr. Brockton, how may I help you?”

“I came to you because I heard you were one of the best psychiatrists in America,” Jake complimented. “I would like to tell you a story of something incredible that occurred to me just recently. I was hoping you could possibly shed some light on it.”

“I see,” Dr. Roberts said, looking down at Jake’s thirty minute appointment schedule. “So you don’t actually have a problem in itself, it’s just that you need to get something off your chest.”

“Oh no, it’s more than getting something off my chest,” Jake corrected. “Actually it’s something that’s stuck in my mind like a sharp dagger, growing deeper every day. I must have an answer doctor. I need help. I can‘t go on without knowing the truth.”

Dr. Roberts rubbed his hands together, then pulled a small notepad up close to his body. “Go on Mr. Brockton, please tell me about this incredible story of yours.”

__________


As Jake Brockton’s restored 1964 Ford Mustang sped down interstate I-95, he fumbled in frustration with the radio dial. Sunday morning and every station in rural Georgia had the same likeness. Either hayseed country-western or screaming Southern Baptist preachers. He pushed a small red button and all the annoyance went refreshingly quiet.

For the next several miles he drove in total silence listening only to the monotonous whine of the engine. Checking his watch, it was already ten O‘clock. Seven hours out of Washington and his stomach was churning for something other than coffee and cheese crackers. He quickly checked his road map The next exit would be roughly twenty-five miles further south, State Road 576, a sixty three-mile shortcut that ran directly to I-75. From there, it would be clear sailing into Atlanta. Then home.

State road 576 was a miserable contrast to the smooth dynamics of the super interstate and Jake tried to dismiss the upcoming chore of evading potholes for the next sixty miles.

An ancient road sign swirled past.

Glenville
7 miles

Entering the small town, he noticed that state road 576 had been temporarily altered to Maple Avenue, and Jake could clearly see why. The huge maple trees that lined the street were overwhelming in in their ardent splendor. Laces of large silver moss hung from every branch giving the town a familiar nostalgia of a Deep South, long since forgotten.

Jake flipped off the air conditioner and rolled down the windows. Breathing deeply, he absorbed the sweet smell of jasmine and magnolias that flowed vibrantly through the warm morning air. In amazement, the large restored homes of the early and middle19th century caught his attention in every direction.

The further west that Jake drove, the small city seemed to loose most of its luster. The homes and business looked worn and somewhat tattered. Ahead, a small sign read:

Glenville Diner
1 mile ahead

Church services were now in progress and the little diner was virtually empty. As Jake entered the diner, the first thing he noticed was the decrepitated booths and the long, aging counter. The lighting was dim, despite a bright morning sun. Taking a seat at the worn counter he reached for a menu and begin carefully studying it.

“What can I get for you, Terry?” spoke a rough Georgian accent, causing Jake to jump in his seat.

Jake looked up into the face of a large, unshaven man with bizarre tattoos running across both sides of his neck. “I’m sorry, you must have mistaken me for someone else, I’m Jake Brockton, from Atlanta.” He held out a slight hand but the cook just stared back with apprehensive eyes.

Slowly pointing to an item on the menu, Jake tapped a single finger.

As he sat, gazing around the shabby diner, Jake noticed several men, all wearing plaid farming shirts and faded ball caps staring suspiciously in his direction. Soon, the big cook returned with his breakfast and coffee.

“Anything else, Terry?” the brawny man asked. Jake started to correct him again but decided not to make any further issue.

“No thank you,” he replied, while staring into his plate of greasy eggs and ham. He slowly began to eat, feeling the eyes of the other costumers intimately studying him.

Finishing his breakfast and studying the $4.95 tab, he pulled a five-dollar bill from his pocket. Balling it up, he tossed it into the dirty, grease-filled plate. The five-cent tip was satisfying.

Outside, he slipped into the soft comfortable seat of the Mustang and fired up the engine. Backing out, something caught his eye. Four men, including the large cook, had gathered at the window and were staring in his direction. One man pointed a finger while the others shook their heads. Jake had to fight the urge to roll down the window and shoot them a deliberate “Stick it up your ass” middle finger.

Out on the highway, Jake stretched his shoulders for the long drive ahead. He looked into the rear-view mirror and watched as the little town grew smaller and smaller into a soft misty haze.

Traffic on 576 was light, and the Mustang passed only occasional traffic. The road was not paved with potholes as he had feared but it was cracked and uneven, causing the older car to sway and pitch.

He glanced to the back seat and smiled at the new Spalding football that he’d picked up for Hunter, his future five-year old stepson. He’d promised to buy the little guy the ball if the boy agreed to be helpful to his mother while he was away. Hunter had finalized the deal with eager enthusiasm.

Jake opened the glove box and pulled out the beautifully satin wrapped box that held a special treasure. It was for his fiancée, Melissa. Jake remembered back, a year earlier, when Melissa, Hunter and himself were all introduced in a rather uncanny way...by means of a car accident.

Thankfully there was only minor damage. Melissa stepped from her car holding Hunter securely in her arms. They were both crying and miserably upset, but thankfully sound in limb.

With his gifted sense of humor he soon had Melissa’s eyes dry and Hunter laughing long before the police arrived.

While accessing the damage, he learned that Melissa was a struggling single mother with little resources for a car repair. Jake, being an passionate antique car restorer, agreed to repair the car’s crinkled front end at no charge. From that point, the relationship between the three grew had blossomed into a wonderful close bond.

Inside the lovely wrapped box sat a beautiful marquis diamond ring that he planned as a surprise. The serious discussion of marriage had already been tossed about for several months, but the ring, he knew, would be the final clincher.

Jake glanced one last time to his rear-view mirror and noticed a tiny blue twinkle. At first, he thought it was his imagination, but he quickly observed a second, then a third. By now the little twinkle had changed into steady blue light, a light that was gaining at an alarming rate of speed.

The green and white police curser pulled swiftly up to Jake’s rear bumper, siren in full action. Jake pulled the Mustang safely off to the side of the road and watched as two Austin County sheriff deputies emerged from the vehicle.

“Terry, just where do you think you were going,” asked the smaller and older of the two deputies.

“Terry, Terry,” Jake called, his voice swimming in irritation. “Why does everyone in this god-forsaken little town insist on calling me Terry?”

“Come on, step out of the car,” instructed the small deputy, who undoubtedly seemed to be in charge. “Alright, you’re not Terry, so just tell me who you are.”

“Jake Brockton, from Atlanta. I’ve been on a business trip to Washington for the last several days and I’m sort of anxious to get home if you don’t mind.”

The two deputies glanced at one another with heavy skepticism. “Alright, Jake, do you have any ID that can prove that’s who you really are?” asked the tall deputy, his voice, young, inexperienced and full of vigor.

Jake felt overwhelmed knowing that he had lost his wallet and all of his Identification before leaving Washington. There was not even a registration for the car. Melissa, on his instructions, had wired him $300 for the return trip.

“I’m really sorry, officers, I lost my wallet while in Washington and my fiancée wired me some cash to at least get home. I was planning to replace everything just as soon as I got to Atlanta.”

The two deputies looked at each other again then retreated to their patrol car. Jake watched as they gathered in hushed whispers. After a few minutes of discussion, they slowly returned.

“Tell you what we’re going to do, Terry...huh...Jake,” the smaller deputy began.
“You have two choices here, either you’re going to let us take you home to your wife or else you’re going to spend some time in our jail, of course for you own safety.”

“My own safety?“ Jake retorted. “First of all, my home is Atlanta, and second of all, I’m not even married, at least not yet.”

“That’s total bullshit. You’re Terry Coffer and you know goddamn well that you live in Glenville!” snapped the tall, young deputy.

The smaller deputy passed a strong glimpse of annoyance to his tall counterpart then took Jake by the arm. “Come on,” he said, “you can ride up front with me, Ted here will take the Mustang.”

“Nobody drives that car except me!” yelled Jake, quickly jerking his arm free of the officer.

Startled, both deputies fell back, their hands impulsively lowering to large holstered weapons.

Ted called to his partner, “He ain’t listening, Cal, just like they said he wouldn’t, he ain’t listening.”

Ted pulled a large nightstick from his waist. “I say we give him a little plumping over the head. Maybe that‘ll help jar a few things back.”

“Just shut the hell up,” Cal yelled, grabbing a set of handcuffs from his belt. He looked Jake straight in the eyes. “Now you’re gonna come along nice and easy or either you can come along nice and hard.”

Ted was already warming up his thick nightstick, popping it rapidly into an opened palm. Judging from the inexperienced look on the tall deputy’s face, Jake knew the young deputy would use the solid stick the moment he resisted.

In defeat, Jake held out both hands and Cal quickly slapped the cold cuffs around his wrists.

“Into the back seat,” he instructed, carefully helping him into the cruiser.

“Where you taking me?” Jake asked.

“Officer Cal Bailey, a lifelong friend of Terry Coffer, solemnly closed the back door of the police cruiser. “Just where you need to be Terry, were taking you home.”

__________________

Ted opened the big garage door and pulled the Mustang inside. In the front yard stood Jake and Cal both noticing a drapery move in a window. The front door opened slowly.

A young woman in her early thirties stepped forward from the house. She was attired neatly, almost too stylish for such a quiet and uneventful Sunday in rural Georgia. Her light brown hair hung low, passing her shoulders and dancing down to her upper back. Her face, through pretty, had the tired and worn features of someone who had been fighting a long inner struggle.

Returning, Ted handed Cal the car keys. “Do you need some help getting him up to the house, putting a strong grip around the back of Jake’s neck.

Cal angrily knocked his partner’s hand away then motioned him firmly to the patrol car. “Wait in the car, Ted,” he scolded. “This’ll only take a few minutes.”

The big Georgia deputy started for the parked cruiser, tapping his nightstick, genuinely disappointed that he never gained the opportunity to use it over Jake’s head.

As Jake and Cal walked onto the spacious front porch, Annie tenderly took hold of Jake’s arm and led him through the front door. The house was decorated in fine Early American decor that seemed to have been coordinated by a professional decorator.

To the right was a sizeable living room that highlighted a breathtaking open fireplace as well as a large screen TV. A beautiful spiral stairway rose majestically to the upstairs area and to the right was a small hallway that obviously intertwined to other parts of the home. Jake looked down, admiring the beautiful hardwood floors. The home was gorgeous in every aspect but the most single interesting feature that Jake had noticed was only a few feet away----a telephone.


____________


“I would really like to speak with Cal for a moment, she told Jake. I have a fresh cup of coffee waiting for you in the kitchen, and the morning newspaper finally arrived.”

Cal gave him a stern glare and Jake wandered down the hallway admiring the elegant paintings hanging from the walls, only halfheartedly in search of his new kitchen.

As speculated, the kitchen was located in the back potion of the house. Jake looked down to his coffee and newspaper then suddenly froze.

In the saucer that held his coffee lay a fine slice of lemon. Black coffee and lemon, just the way he had drank it for the last twenty years. Beside the coffee lay open the sport section of the Atlanta Tribune, folded neatly to last night’s Brave’s baseball highlights.

Jake thought of all the mornings Melissa had prepared him a wonderful, home-style breakfast. This was the precise way that she had carefully arranged his coffee and paper.

He sat down and pushed them both to the far side of the table. Pressing both hands hard against his face, Jake wondered if perhaps he really had gone insane. Had his other life with his future wife and son all just been an hallucination? Were they real or just a phantasm of his mental illness?

_____________


“How long has it been now,“ Cal asked as they both seated themselves on the front veranda.

“Too long,” Annie replied, “It seems like a lifetime.” Annie paused for a long time studying the floor as well as her inmost thoughts and memories. “But actually, it’s only been two years now. The first symptoms were just about the time he’d finished restoring the Mustang. At first I thought it was just a slight forgetfulness, you know, from the stress of the business. Then things became steadily worse. He’d often stare straight through me. I often wondered if he even knew who I was. The first time I realized there was a real problem was the morning he started out the door for work, the morning he turned around and asked, “Where am I going?”
Oh God, Cal, he’d been going to work at the service center for seventeen years.

Cal, shook his head. “Yes, he was the best damn mechanic in this part of Georgia.

“I know Cal, and most of all he was so passionately in love with what he did. When he wasn’t working on someone else's car, he was tinkering with his own. Bob has been a real darling running the business for us, but I’m not sure how much longer I can keep managing the bookwork. There’s a real chance that I may have to sell the business. I can’t leave Terry alone anymore, not even for a minute.”

“And the doctors?” Cal asked, “they’re still in the dark?”

“Yes, they’re just as baffled as ever. In fact, practically every known neurological disease has been ruled out. You wouldn’t believe how much time and money we’ve spent on all the examinations, especially the Alzheimer's testing. All we have to show for it, is what he doesn't have.

“Have there been any drastic changes in him lately?” Cal inquired.

Annie gazed into the bright sun-filled yard with no expression. “Yes,“ she finally answered. “And it’s something that’s beginning to scare me.” She took a tissue and lightly dabbed her eyes. “Oh Cal, I can see it everyday, he’s becoming more and more aggressive. I’m afraid if it gets any worse, I may not be able to handle him,” cried Annie, her tears now flowing freely down her cheeks. “God, what am I going to do if they take him away from me?”

Cal reassuringly patted her hand. “He became real upset when we tried to bring him in today. It was all I could do to keep that idiot, Ted, from beating him with a nightstick.”

“Thank you,” she said earnestly as Cal stood up and squeezed her hand. “You don’t realize how much your help means to me,” sobbed Annie.”

Cal looked deep into Annie’s sad eyes. “I remember one summer when we were just eight years-old, we made a personal promise. We agreed that we would always remain best friends, no matter what hardships we faced in our adult lives. Out on that highway today, I could tell that he actually had no idea who I was. All I wanted to do was get into the patrol car, lay my head onto the steering wheel and cry and cry like a baby.”


____________


Presently, Annie walked into the kitchen and found Jake sitting at the table, his hands still clutched tightly over his face. “You haven’t even touched your coffee, would you like for me to warm it up?” she asked.

“No,” Jake said in a muffled voice.

“Well, is there anything else I can get for you?”

Sitting silently for a few moments, he finally reached across the table and pulled the lukewarm coffee to his placemat. “Why does everyone in this town think I’m someone who I'm not? What in the name of living hell is going on around here?”

Annie turned away, holding a hand over her eyes to suppress a tear. “If you want our life to be normal again, you must…somehow find a way to remember who we are.”

“Let me prove myself. You have a telephone out front, let me call Melissa. That’s the only way that we can straighten everything out,” Jake pleaded.

“Oh, all those phone calls to people that you think you know!. It’s all just lies in your mind! Can’t you remember that I’m your wife for just for one moment...that’s all I want…just remember me one last time…and that I love you dearly.”

Jake stood from the table and hurried toward the telephone, “Sorry, Annie girl, but if I’ve made all those calls before, one more isn’t going to matter, is it?”

He quickly picked the receiver up and punched in Melissa’s area code and phone number. Annie stood beside him, still in tears, her eyes, downcast to the floor. On the tenth and final ring Jake softly laid the receiver down, remembering that Melissa had planned to take Hunter to see “Saving Nemo.” “I’m going for a walk,“ he told Annie.

“Where to?“ she asked, patting the car keys in her pocket.

“Just to check on my car,” Jake replied.

“That’s fine, but just don’t go wondering off someplace, I can’t keep Cal and Ted busy tracking you down all day.”

“I’ll only go straight to the garage and back,” Jake promised, feeling like a child.

The large, heavy garage door gave adamant resistance, but after a few attempts of zestful struggle, Jake managed to open it. He shuffled around in the semi darkness finally finding a light switch. Jake gave a quick squinted inspection to the large rows of florescent lighting that had been placed advantageously in order to prevent annoying shadows. In amazement. this was the exact type of lighting he had used in his own garage.

He vigilantly took note of the large red boxes filled with tools. They were all “Craftsman tools,” his own preferred brand. Many of the tools were arranged in compartments matching the exact way that he himself had stored his own.

The car door opened smoothly, as if it were sitting on a showroom floor. Jake reached in the glove box and took out his road map. Sitting at a large workbench he carefully unfolded it then noted the pencil marks that indicated the two areas where he had refueled during the morning. One was several miles north of Raleigh, the other was in a rural area in mid South Carolina. Jake began to wonder how Terry Coffer could had possibly made those marks only hours ago. He sat quietly, rationalizing every detail. The most perplexing question was where was this Terry Coffer, right now at this very point in time?

Jake stood up and paced back and forth like an caged animal, allowing his hand to run freely over the smooth and cool texture of the Mustang’s new paint. Then, like a bolt from the blue, a flash of memory jolted him almost off his feet. Jake ran to the front of the Mustang and quickly opened the hood then studied the left side of the engine compartment. There, carefully written, in his own handiwork, was the deep engraving:

YEAR OF MANUFACTURE: 1964
OFF FRAME RESTORATION: 10 - 04 -1999
MAKE: FORD
MODEL: MUSTANG - TWO - DOOR
VEHICLE ID NO: JB1196748736534982744C
PROPERTY OF: JAKE L. BROCKTON

A hundred pounds of burden and ambiguity washed away as he gazed into that beautiful inscription. He dashed from the garage, almost in full gallop, calling to Annie. As he raced through the front door he froze in his steps. Annie was just hanging up the phone. The horrifying look in her face made him promptly realize that she was now looking into the eyes of a total stranger.

“That was Cal,” she said, in a slight utter. “They just picked Terry up. They found him sitting in his Mustang, all alone, just looking out over Lake Welding, about 10 miles north of here.”

“Who found him?” Jake asked.

“An Austin County sheriff deputy. He ran a check on the car tag…they are bringing him home right now. Oh God, I think there’s been a horrible mistake.....huh....Mr. Brockton,” Annie said, her words flowing in small stages, lined with astonishment, bewilderment and fear.

Jake placed a comforting arm around her shaking shoulder. “Is that coffee and lemon still salvageable?” Jake whispered, “I think it’s time we had a long talk.”




------------------





“So tell, me Mr. Brockton, what was your initial reaction when you first saw this Mr. Terry Coffer?” the doctor asked.

“Shock, disbelief, and....fear.”

“Fear?”

“That's right doctor, for some reason I was afraid to get anywhere near the man. I just stood away from him, starring in amazement.”

“You mentioned that he had a condition that closely resembled Alzheimer’s disease. Did you notice if Mr. Coffer seemed to recognize the similarity between the two of you?”

“No, not at all, in fact he couldn’t even recognize his own wife or his closest friend, Cal Bailey, so how would he have recognize even his own self?”

“Sometimes with Alzheimer’s that can vary. And the car, you motioned that he’d restored a car exactly like your own.”

“That’s correct, right down to the exact year, model and colors. He even used the precise custom interior design. Looking at the two cars sitting side by side, it was impossible to tell one from the other.

“Amazing,” said the doctor. “Is there any possibility that you may have been a twin? Sometimes this phenomenon occurs when twins are separated at birth.”

“Absolutely not,” Jake vigorously answered. My family has always been very close and our mother was unquestionably straightforward with us. She would have surly told me of something of that importance.”

Dr. Roberts rose from his chair and walked to the door that peered into a small secretarial office. “I’m going to need an additional hour here and please no interruptions.” he whispered to one of the office girls.

____________



Almost thirty minutes had passed when the doctor finally laid his clipboard down and removed his reading glasses. “I think we’re all finished,” Dr. Roberts finally said, giving Jake a heavy-hearted look.” From what I can gather, your personality profile tells me that you’re a rather stable and secure individual, so I'm going to proceed with my explanation.

“Fine,” Jake said, “please tell me about this imposter of mine.”

“Oh, he's no imposter as you probably saw for yourself. You two are just as real as you and me, but there’s a slight difference. It’s my conclusion that you and Terry Coffer are related through the Rosenberg factor.”

“Come again, doctor?” Jake asked, totally bewildered.

The Rosenberg factor is only known within the tight circles of psychiatric specialists. In fact, many modern doctors don’t believe in it at all, but I do, and now your story seems to confirm it. The name, “The Rosenberg factor” was taken from Alex Rosenberg, a famous German physiatrist who studies around 1905 indicated that approximately one out of every one hundred thousand people have a precise double, not someone who merely looks similar, but rather someone that is a precise match, a complete natural clone, so to speak.”

Jake sat quietly, listening with both a sense of excitement and fear. “So you’re saying that this Terry Coffer and I are somehow related?”

“Only in a rough sense of the word. According to Rosenberg, a super gene, know as “dominate metatricle,“ is deposited into the general gene pool at some past point by a male carrier. At the beginning of deposit, the gene will divide only once following into the next generation. From there, it leads off into two separate directions, both genes lying dormant, waiting like an egg to hatch. Theoretically it takes fourteen generations or roughly four hundred years for the gene to emerge.

“Are you telling me that Terry Coffer and I are somehow related to a male ancestor who lived four-hundred years ago, around 1600?”

“If your story is accurate, then I’d say that’s absolutely true.”

Jake watched Dr. Roberts pluck the cigar from the ashtray and began flipping it in his fingers again. “Terry is only two years older that I am. How could the gene be so accurate with the timing of two separate births?”

“The metatricle gene tends to have its own built-in waking mechanism and almost seems to be in some sort of communication with it‘s counter-part. From the very few cases that were observed, it was noted that the two “Twiners,” as Rosenberg called them, were all found to be no more than five years apart in age. Quite remarkable for something that has lived in hibernation for over four hundred years.”

Jake slowly shook his head in agreement. “Have they done any recent studies on this Rosenberg factor?”

Dr. Roberts slowly rose from his chair then walked to the back of his office, a place that reminded Jake of a small library. He removed a single large book, thumbed through it for a few moments then returned to his desk. “Look at this picture, he instructed Jake. “This photo was taken by Dr. Rosenberg himself in 1904. “These Twiners are the only subjects ever to be photographed.”

Jake looked deeply into the photograph and saw what appeared to be two Native Americans in their mid-twenties, greatly resembling identical twins. “Where was the photo taken?” he asked.

On the Cherokee Indian Reservation, near their capital city of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. They look just like twins yet they're not. Nowhere close in being related. Neither of them could speak the slightest of English but through an interpreter, Dr. Rosenberg confirmed all the information that he had compiled on them. In fact, the Cherokee Nation’s Chief, William Rogers, allowed Rosenberg permission to spend months on the reservation to carry out his studies.”

“Why haven’t they preformed more modern research on all of this?” Jake asked out of curiosity.

The Doctor leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms and sighed. “Finding just one person out of one hundred-thousand people who actually possesses the metatricle gene would be on the verge of a miracle, don’t you agree, Mr. Brockton? Even if we were able to locate this one person, we would need to search the entire planet for the other Twiner.” Do you see my point? Now, as for the two Indians, there circumstances were slightly different, that is, they were both restricted to the confines of the reservation.

“Yes, I see what you mean, doctor.”

Dr. Roberts studied Jake with deep probing eyes. “Mr. Brockton, by any chance do you realize the enormous significance of finding your Twiner?”

“I do now,“ Jake replied, already knowing where Dr. Roberts was leading. “I’m sorry doctor, but Terry is a very sick man and I don’t plan to have him disturbed by sticking him under a microscope.“

The element of excitement quickly left the doctors face. “I just thought that...”

“I can’t help you,” Jake interrupted, a speck of irritation growing in his voice. He stood and began gathering a few items that he’d brought. “Doctor if you’re interested in writing an article on this matter, I have no objections, as long as all the identities are left anonymous.”

The doctor looked at Jake with much gratification. “Thank you Mr. Brockton, I would be very interested in writing an article regarding this. Perhaps it could stir more interest into its lost research. And as far as being anonymous, being your doctor, I’m sworn to privacy. As for Terry, you never reveled his last name or whereabouts, so there’s no chance of ever finding him.”

“Thank you,” Jake said earnestly. Terry is very ill, mentally, in fact his wife told me she could see him deteriorating by the week.”

“Mr. Brockton, there is something else regarding the metatricle gene that you need to be alerted to.” As Dr. Roberts nodded to the chair, Jake sat back down. “Now I’m not the one to beat around the bush with my patients so I’ll be straightforward with you on this matter. According to the Rosenberg factor, the few subjects who were actually studied, all had one common denominator.....permanent mental insanity.”

“What?” Jake asked in alarm.

“The two Twiners who lived on the Cherokee Nation were both affected only a few years after Dr. Rosenberg’s studies. The affliction began shortly after their thirty-fifth birthday. It began slowly at first, sort of with the symptoms that you described with Terry. But within three years of the onset, the insanity deepens to the point where the subject needs to be restrained by a straightjacket for the rest of their life. The two Indian Twiners were treated by several medicine men, of course with no success, then eventually taken to Oklahoma City for treatment. There was little the doctors could do, other than use sedation. Their teeth were pulled in order to prevent the ripping of their tongues and lips. They were kept in separate padded rooms and feed intravenously. They spent the rest of the lives in the Oklahoma State Mental Institution. They both died the exact same year in 1985. One was 105, the other was 103.”

“Oh my God,” Jake whispered. “They lived for seventy years in a straightjacket and feed intravenously?”

“That’s correct, if you could actually call it living,” Dr. Roberts replied sadly. “It seems as if the metatricle gene has a strong tendency to provide the body with exceptional physical health, all at the deadly cost of the mind.”

Jake looked at the doctor with damp eyes. Please be honest with me, is...is this going to happen to me?”

“Mr. Brockton, you came to me for an answer to your story. I explained to you all that I know about the Rosenberg factor and I’m afraid that’s all that I can help you with. There just hasn’t been enough modern research to give you a concrete prognosis. I’m sorry.”

“I’m planning to be married in the next few weeks,” Jake said more to himself than to the doctor. “I have everything to live for, a sensational job, a nice home, a loving fiancé and a wonderful little boy whom I plan to adopt. I can’t just throw everything away on some damn foolish story or theory.”

The doctor sat forward in his chair, silently analyzing Jake. You are only thirty-five and at that age, life is just starting to unfold. You are in the warm springtime of your life, a whole world is out there just waiting to be experienced. But nothing in this world is certain. We need to make our decisions with confidence and go about life the best that we can. Perhaps you will become inflicted by next year or perhaps you’ll never see any symptoms at all. You could also be killed in a car accident before you get home. Go forward with your life, Mr. Brockton and forget the hazards that face every human being. It‘s all a part of living and living is oftentimes very dangerous..”

Jake wiped away some light tears then rose from the chair and held out a hand. “Thank you kindly for your explanation, Dr. Roberts

The two men shook hands one last time and Jake walked from the building into a beautiful late summer day. On the sidewalk he inhaled slowly. For the first time ever, his very life was terribly threatened. Jake inhaled again. Through deep bus fumes and smog, nothing in his memory had ever smelled so sweet. The pure sweet smell of life itself.




--------------------



Melissa stepped through door and onto the back porch carrying two glasses of lemonade. “C’mon guys, time for a break,” she yelled to her favorite two men. She sat the glasses onto a large wrought-iron table. Hunter scuttled up and grabbed a glass, drinking half of it without taking a single breath. Large crimson leaves fell from the October sky and a cool northern breeze signaled the final end to a long Georgia summer. The boy hurried back into the yard just as Jake sailed him the football; a strike that was high and slightly off target. Somehow Hunter managed to leap high and backward bringing the ball in like a professional.

The boy proudly pulled himself off the ground and dusted his pants. “Pretty good catch, huh, Dad?”

Jake listened to Hunter’s words while feeling his heart sink. It was the first time that the boy had ever call him “Dad.”

“Gonna get you a job with the Falcons next year, he called back.”

“Why do you have to go away tomorrow?” the small boy asked Jake.

“Because it’s my job, I have to go to Washington a few times a year.”

“Why?” Hunter protested.

“That’s where the people I work for live. They need to talk to me every now and then.”

“Oh,” the boy simply muttered, knowing he couldn’t drive the question any further.

“Listen at you, Hunter,” Melissa called from the porch, “You’re talking like he’ll never be back.

A very serious look grew across the boy’s face. He threw the football down and ran straight to Jake. “You will be back won’t you, Dad?”

Jake smiled a big convincing “yes” to the boy.

“Don’t worry,” Melissa called out again, “He’ll always be around .for us.”

Hunter tugged at Jake’s waist, his big brown eyes looking up in dire concern. “Will you always be around for us, Dad?....will you....will you?

Jake picked the boy up and squeezed him with a loving bear hug. He thought of Terry Coffer and realized just how lucky he was not to have a son or a daughter.

“You bet, son, “ Jake replied with a voice of wholesome confidence. “I will always be around...for both of you. And that’s a promise.”



******The End******

Thanks for reading,
Stephen









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