The VH Report
I found her, the one that got away. I saw her drive by while I was getting gas in some small Louisiana town. Maiveil I think it’s called. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I found her, and she won’t be escaping this time.
I would think after escaping she would change her appearance. Maybe she thought I would never find her again. She’s goes by Allison Stevenson now and she works 2 to 10 at Murphy’s Gym. Her home residence is 1171 County Rd 314, which is about twenty minutes outside of Maiveil. She lives there with a man. I don’t know much about him. He looks like a lumberjack, big and bearded. I wonder if he knows the truth about her. Probably not. If he did, I doubt he’d be with her. If he does know the truth yet he continues to stay with her, then he’s even worse than her.
Today was ‘Allison’, Subject 3E’s day off. She never left her house, not even once. I don’t know what she’s planning but it can’t be good. I know that man must be helping her. Maybe he’s delivering the bodies or burying them. I must stop them. My shoulder hurt all day today. The wound was probably reacting to her presence. I’ll make sure to pay her back for it.
I don’t understand Subject 3E’s pattern. She goes to work, goes home, sometimes they will go grocery shopping. Whenever they have guests over, they leave, seemingly unharmed. Is she replacing them? That’s a possibility. I don’t know what kind of sick witchcraft they are doing. I think tomorrow I will investigate her further.
I spent the day at the library, combing through old newspaper. Somehow, no one in town seems to be aware of what she is doing. This is just like the last town she was in, back in Florida. I couldn’t find any reports of her vile deeds back there either. No reports, no speculations, no rumors. Once again, the police are letting everyone down. I shouldn’t blame them. Until I was fourteen, I thought this other world was just in books. People go their entire lives without knowing the truth. Without knowing about the monsters that live among us. Her home is in the woods, her closest neighbor is at least five miles up the road. That’s a lot of ground for her to dispose of her bodies. Maybe there is some link between the gym and her house. I’ll have to investigate that further.
Damnit! She spotted me today. I blew my entire plan and I couldn’t find anything at the gym. If that troublesome guy would have stopped talking about the machines and trying to show me everything, I probably could have discovered something. And why was she there to begin with? She was supposed to be off. Could she have been covering for someone? It doesn’t matter. She saw my face, she had to have recognized me. I need to act fast before I turn into one of her victims or before she skips town.
I don’t believe it. She didn’t skip town and most surprisingly, she didn’t even seem bothered by my presence. She must be planning something; her kind can be tricky. I can’t let my guard down now, but I need to act fast. I’ve almost maxed out one of my cards.
I did it. I grabbed her shortly after she left work. I was lucky I still had some of that paralyzing potion left and those tranquilizers. Letting a tranquilizer soak in the potion overnight and it could take down even a giant. I can’t imagine the damage they could cause. Right now, she’s in my trunk and I’m parked outside the perfect place to end this, her home
Paul was the name of the man she was staying with. He put up a hell of a fight, especially for a human. His punches were almost as powerful as an Orcs. I tore the house apart but I couldn’t find her workshop. She insists she doesn’t have one but I know she is lying. She is a killer, a murderer. Her entire species are nothing but murderers. I’m going to make her talk. One way or another.
Subject 3E, known as Judith Stewart and Allison Stevenson, is dead. Before she died, I was able to see her true form. Writers say elves are beautiful but there is nothing beautiful about that monster. Her pointed ears are an abomination, her blonde hair was thin, and her emerald green eyes couldn’t hide her true nature. I had always thought these monsters hid with spells but today I discovered they use enchanted items to blend in with us. Her’s was an earring. I put it on, but it did nothing. It probably only works on their unique genetics or something. This revelation is huge. I can save more lives this way. If I can improve my scanner to detect camouflaged monsters, it will greatly cut down on my time. She also revealed a nearby monster town, Sleekburrow, about an hour north of here. I have never been to one of these invisible towns. I can’t imagine the atrocities they must be committing even as I write this. I’ll make my way up there at dawn’s first light. As for Subject 3E, I left her exactly where I killed her, at her home. When those monsters and traitors in cloaks discover her, they will see my mark. They will know that VH is watching them, fighting for humanity.
“Ugh…my head,” Gersalek Boccano complained as he sat up. His head was pounding, almost as if a blacksmith were hammering away on it. His sunken black eyes looked exhausted. His thick black beard and mustache covered up his various scars and his shoulder-length black hair was pulled back into a ponytail. He looked around but didn’t recognize anything. He was in a small clearing with trees all around him. He clearly wasn’t at his tent or even close to it. He continued to rub his head before noticing a broken bottle of ale. Another bottle was next to him.
“Last thing I remember…” He closed his eyes, hoping that would help jog his memory. It didn’t. He stood up and searched his body for any wounds. Luckily, he was okay. His brown boots were muddy, more so than usual but that seemed to be the only thing wrong.
“Did I come out here without a weapon?” He asked as he looked for either his bow or his sword. “I must have been really crazy. Ugh…” His hand latched back onto his head. “I need to stop drinking.”
He took a few steps forward before noticing footprints in the dirt. Figuring they must be his, Gersalek began to follow them. The footprints were not in a straight line and at one point, he circled around a tree a couple of times. The sounds of nature were all around him; birds chirping, small critters scurrying among the leaves and along the trees. He kept feeling like something or someone was watching him, but he couldn’t figure out from where. He took a couple more steps and heard a noise come from behind him. It was loud and cut between the trees. The noise frightened the birds and the little animals, who all flew or scurried away. It was the sound of a fallen branch breaking.
Gersalek spun around but saw nothing. His keen eyes searched the area again and again but all he could see were the trees, the bushes, and the weeds. He looked again, this time at a slower pace, and this time, he spotted it. Standing several feet away from him, slowly approaching him, was a jaghoul. A jaghoul was an enormous cat with brown fur and green spots, long, sharp teeth, and the ability to camouflage. A single jaghoul could easily rip a person in half. This one looked different. Instead of brown and green, this jaghoul was black and white with a noticeable scar on its cheek.
Gersalek reached for his sword before remembering that he doesn’t have it. Unsure of what to do, he held out his hand and began to back up. “It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.” His low whisper had no effect on the jaghoul. He could hear it breathing; it was a raspy, hoarse sound. It leaped into the air and slashed at him but barely missed. The claws easily tore into a tree. Gersalek took off running as fast as he could. He ran in a zig-zag pattern because he knew the jaghoul would easily overtake him if he ran straight. He could hear the animal jumping between trees and lunging at him. He didn’t look behind him from fear of slowing down.
Up ahead, besides some rocks, was the skeleton remains of a person. Stocking out of their skull was a dagger. Gersalek has no idea what condition it was in but even a blunt, dull dagger is better than his fists. He broke from his zig-zag pattern and raced towards the skeleton. He could hear the jaghoul gaining on him. Its raspy breathing getting louder and louder. He heard its paws lift off from the ground. He dropped as fast as he could and felt the large cat sail over him. He scurried on all fours to the skeleton and with a single pull, removed the dagger from its victim. Now on his knees but armed, Gersalek was ready to fight the animal. However, the jaghoul was nowhere to be found. Figuring it was camouflaging itself again, Gersalek kept his guard up as he got to his feet. He looked around, quickly reacting to any noise he heard but he couldn’t find the animal. He dashed over to a tree and pressed his back against it. He stayed there, in that heighten alerted state but the jaghoul remained hidden. After waiting there for several minutes, Gersalek began to believe the animal must have just…left.
There once was a child, who like all children, wanted to have friends and to play games. However, this child suffered from what some called a disability.
”Hey, can I play?” The child would ask.
“Ew no. We don’t want Elmer Fudd playing with us,” They would tease.
”C’mon, I weally want to play.”
The children would joke and laugh, sayings things like, “You should ‘weally’ go hunt some ‘wabbits’,” and “We don’t want a freak playing with us!” They would tease and mock them and if they didn’t want to play along with these spiteful games, the children would punch and hit the child.
So the child learned to play alone. The child wasn’t a freak. If you saw this child walking down the street, why, you would see only a perfectly normal child. You would never know that the skin under their tongue was 1/16th too large, creating the unique voice.
“Children are just mean,” The adults would say. “Ignore them. As you get older, it will get better. Adults don’t care about those things.” The adults would say outloud but in the shadows they would whisper, “Maybe the child is brain damaged. Maybe they need a special school.“
It wasn’t all bad for the child. Their school offered a speech class and for a time it was good. They would learn how to pronounce words, how to talk to others and most importantly, they got to play with play-doh. This was good, for awhile. One day, their parent decided to withdraw the child from speech class. “I’m done paying for that garbage. You don’t need it,” They would say. The child disagreed.
Time passed and the child grew into a teenager. Their speech impairment did not improve and neither did the bullying. “I’m sorry you have to go through this,” and “It will get better,” was said to them almost as often as the name calling. This teenage would lie awake and wonder, “Why did this happen to me? Was this a curse from God? From Satan? I would do anything for a normal voice.”
The teenager slipped deeper and deeper down this dark ocean, the relentless pressure crushing them until they decided to make the final decision. The final escape. The blade, a regular, sharp kitchen knife, quickly and smoothly cut across the flesh. The teenager watched as the crimson life flowed out from his body. They stumbled back, their shirt stained from the blood. They stared at their reflection and could only think of one thing. “I don’t want to die.”
This decision served not as an end but as a beginning. The teenager survived, picked themselves up and declared they would no longer be defined by this impairment. That no one shall use it against them any more!
The Path Out Of The City
“Hurry! Luther, Hurry!” Breechelle and Ricardo shouted at me. I ran as fast and as hard as I could. If I could make it between that rumble...please don’t spot me...please don’t spot me...
I dived towards the gap, barely making it. I scrambled to my feet and we pressed ourselves against the wall. I held my breath. I could hear the rumbling of the Anti-Virus Vehicle as it got closer and closer. The ground began to stir under us. I watched a piece of rubble dance on the ground then I saw it; The converted APV, flanked by soldiers. Each soldier was wearing a gas mask and protective gear. The sight of the glossed over eyes and the hose running to the oxygen tank on their back haunted my nightmares. Even seeing them pass by frightened me. Breechelle grabbed my hand and gently shushed me. The AVV was almost gone when we suddenly heard someone shout, “Liberation!” followed by an explosion.
The AVV stopped as gunfire ricocheted off its armor. We could hear the soldiers give out commands as they returned fire. Ricardo motioned for us to go and we did. No need to stick around, we know how it’s going to end.
“This is awful,” said Breechelle as we could still hear the gunfire.
“All because of the damn Chinese. Our country is falling apart yet they are business as usual,” growled Ricardo. I just rolled my eyes at his racist tantrum. The worst the situation got, the worst he got. Breechelle on the other hand, always argued with him.
“This is not the Chinese fault. They didn’t make this virus and they suffered from it too.”
“That’s just what they want you to believe.”
“Hold it!” I shouted, cutting their argument short. “I heard something...” I wasn’t sure what it was but it was something. As we waited, motionless in an alley, we heard the noise grow louder. It was a man’s voice, and judging by how grainy it sounded, it must have been playing from a loudspeaker.
“Attention all citizens: COVID-19 may be gone but you are still at risk. Please continue to stay in your homes and observe social distancing. Please do not attack our brave doctors, nurses, workers, and soldiers as they work to clean the city. Also, please be aware that as of July 7th, 2021, checkpoints will be established at all roads leading out of the city. I thank you for your understanding and patience as we continue to fight the greatest threat to our country. Message repeat.”
As the man spoke, I recognized who he was; President Allen Roth.
“I hate that man,” Ricardo whispered. “That speaker is probably attached to an AVV. We have to find some way around it.”
“What about Casey and Elle-Rose?” I had no idea who that was. Honestly, I had no idea who Ricardo and Breechelle were until a couple of months ago.
“No!” Ricardo declared almost loud enough to draw attention. After we shushed him, he returned to a whisper. “You know I don’t like those two. Plus we don’t even know if they are alive. They probably started this uprising.”
“We know their last location. Brandenburg Stories isn’t far from here. What are we on, 231st? It’s only two-three blocks away.”
“Excuse me, who are these people?” At the way Ricardo reacted, they sounded like revolutionaries or anarchists. I was just trying to escape, not get myself involved in a war.
“Your friends,” Ricardo corrected before pushing the hair out of his eyes. “Alright fine. Let’s see if they are there.”
Like in some kind of twisted, urban poem, we traveled over the roads and through the back alleys to arrive at a boarded-up bookstore. I never knew this place even existed.
Ricardo was quick to dismiss the store. “It’s boarded up. They aren’t here. Let’s find another way to get off the island.”
Breechelle approached the store and placed her hand on one of the boards covering the door. She gave it a push and to our surprise, it slides up. She looked back at us with a victorious smile. “Let’s go.”
The inside of the abandoned bookstore looked like a tornado swept through it. Books were on the floor, light bulbs were missing, and someone even stole the cash register.
“So where are they?” Ricardo asked as he threw his arms up in frustration. Breechelle said nothing. “I knew this was a waste of time. The more time we waste, the harder it’ll be to sneak out.” He waited for Breechelle to say something, anything but she remained silent. She wandered around, eyeing the empty shelves.
“C’mon, let’s go,” Ricardo said. When we turned around, we saw something that sent fear through my body. Standing between us and the door were three people. I don’t know where they came from or how they got behind us. One has his face covered by his undershirt while the other two were wearing masks. They were pointing their guns; two pistols and a shotgun, at us. I could only see their eyes but they looked scary. Our arms shot up into the air.
“Who are you?” The one in the middle asked. Judging by her voice, it was a woman.
“We are friends of Casey and Elle-Rose,” I heard Breechelle shout from behind us. “Tell them, Bree is here.”
The three of them exchanged looks before the middle one asked, “Where are your masks?”
“In our pockets,” I replied. She motioned towards my pocket with her shotgun. I reached in to grab it but struggled to get it out. Having three guns pointed at me made me incredibly nervous. I finally got it free and put it over my mouth. The others covered their face so as well.
“Keep them on and follow us.”
The trio led us to the back of the store. While two of them kept their guns on us, the third stepped up to an empty bookshelf. In an amazing display of strength, they lifted the bookshelf straight up. Was it abnormal strength or was the bookshelf made out of styrofoam or something? They moved the one next to it, revealing a flight of stairs leading down.
“How did you guys build this so fast?” I asked as we descended.
“We didn’t. This was originally a bomb shelter built during the Cold War. Hey! Keep those masks on!” He shouted at Breechelle, who was adjusting her mask.
At the bottom of the stairs was a heavy, metal door with a rotating vault handle in the middle. After giving it a few turns, they pushed it open. It made a horrible scraping sound as they opened it. There were people inside the shelter but they didn’t seem tough or scary like the trio. Quite the opposite, they seemed frightened. One mother grabbed her daughter and held her close as we entered. Every one of them were wearing masks and gloves.
From the crowd, a mountain of a man approached them. He had that same scary, take-no-shit attitude as the trio. “Kallie, who are these people?”
“They said they know Casey and Elle-Rose.”
He stared directly at me. Just from his stare I felt like I was being crushed. “How do we know they aren’t infected?”
“We aren’t sick!” Ricardo bravely shouted. I was not that brave. The man turned his powerful glare from me over to Ricardo. However, before he could say anything, a woman’s voice shouted, “Stop!” The man stepped aside and I knew the woman who approached us must have been Elle-Rose. She looked like she belonged on the West Coast, smoking weed on some beach. She was wearing a loose, light green maxi dress and parts of her blonde hair was braided. Her ears had gauges in them, with one having a moon emblem and the other was a sun. What was odd, besides the mask and the gloves, was the rifle strapped to her back.
“Who knows me?” She asked us.
“I do. It’s me, Bree.”
“Bree? Oh my god! I’m so happy you survived!” Instead of hugging her, she stuck out her
elbow. It took Bree a moment to realize what she wanted. “What brings you to our little shelter? Have you reconsidered my offer to join us?”
“No El. We are here because we need your help.” Bree quickly introduced us before asking her favor. “Can you help us escape New York?”
“Escape? Honey we aren’t the Mafia. We don’t have those kinds of connections.”
“I knew this was a waste of time,” Ricardo whispered to me.
“You might not but you must know the routes the AVVs take. We just need a map.”
Elle-Rose stared at us. Her hand was over her mouth as she pondered. “I’ll have to talk to Casey. That information is valuable.”
“I know and I’m sorry but we have nothing to offer. Please help us.”
I felt uneasy in the shelter. Everyone kept looking at us like we had the plague, which we probably did. I felt my heart begin to race as I thought about what life in the shelter must be. Trapped underground, the only way out is through that big metal door. What would these people do if the door couldn’t open? I saw the walls begin to close in around me, the room full of people became smaller and smaller. My breathing changed; it became sharp and rapid. My heartfelt like it was ready to burst out of my chest. Everyone felt too close to me, even though they weren’t. I closed my eyes in an attempt to calm down. The room isn’t closing in on me, I told myself. I also told myself I’m not trapped down here. I began to get my breathing under control when I felt someone shove me. It was Ricardo.
“Hey, don’t fall asleep,” He obnoxiously said before adding, “Let’s go.”
Elle-Rose and Bree were ahead of us and was leading us walking towards a hallway. I must not have heard them talking or come to some kind of agreement. We swift caught up to them. I didn’t know what they were talking about but I listened anyway.
...and freedom. We have managed to save at least two hundred people.”
“Is the government killing the infected?”
“No. They are allowing those without the virus to leave but if they detect it, they will ship you off to be studied at NYU. The government still don’t know what caused the virus to mutate like it did but one thing is certain, President Roth is far deadlier than the virus.”
“Think about it. We are still in lockdown even though the World Health Organization has stated the virus is no longer lethal. He is only interested in consolidating more power. The virus weakened us and Roth will be the end of us.” At the end of the hall, was a door and it was here that Elle-Rose stopped. “Give me a sec. I’ll go get Casey.”
After she disappeared beyond the door, Ricardo whispered, “I knew this was a bad idea.”
“Will you stop it?” Bree growled through clenched teeth. “This makes me nervous too but the faster we get the information the faster we can leave.”
“If they will even give us the information.”
I couldn’t handle it when they argued. I never was good at conflict. I stepped away from them and turned down a side path. I could hear music playing but I didn’t know where it was coming from. It was country music, and the male vocalist was singing about a woman who left him. The music grew louder as I got further down the hall until I was able to locate where it was coming from. In a room that resembled a bedroom sat a radio. Somehow it’s antenna was strong enough to pick up a signal. I didn’t want to proceed, since it wasn’t my room so I stayed out in the hall. At the time I thought that was the best option. The song finished and a news chime began to play.
“In today’s news, the President gave a speech today, honoring those we lost to the mutated COVID-19.”
“Though they are gone, they are not forgotten. This virus did not care about nationality, race, gender, or belief. This horrible, horrible virus that claimed the lives of 368 million people around the world should not be forgotten. The road ahead of us is not smooth, it is not easy. We must continue to make sacrifices as we fight off what remains of the virus. My critics say I am too harsh. They say the continual lockdown is draconian and fascist. I say to them, remember when the world believed the virus was beaten? How it changed, evolved, and came back stronger? How 150,000 deaths turned into 368 million over the course of a year? We have all lost loved ones, family and friends. No, I will not allow that to happen again.”
I knew the numbers. I watched and listened in horror as the numbers grew, lowered, and suddenly spiked again. I saw the destruction and chaos brought about by the rioting and looting that followed. However, in that moment, something about that moment, hit me. I don’t know if it was the President’s words, the fact that I had a gun pointed at my face a few minutes ago or the claustrophobic bunker, but something inside of my snapped. I began to cry. I tried to hide it, I tried to fight them back, after all it wasn’t masculine or manly to cry, yet there I was; crying. I fell back against the wall and slid down to the floor. I buried my face into my knees and there I remained until I heard Bree’s voice.
“Luther? What’s the matter?”
I felt her hand touch my shoulder. “I don’t understand,” I mumbled as my saliva formed a bubble in my mouth. “How did this happen? How did any of this happen?”
“I can tell you,” A woman’s voice answered. It wasn’t Bree but a different woman.
Standing a few feet behind Bree was someone I could only assume was Casey. While Elle-Rose fit the idea of a hippy, Casey resembled more of a biker. She had a shaved hair and a nasty looking scar above her lip. She was wearing a leather jacket with the sleeves cut off, a tank top, combat boots, and jeans. Her face matched her voice; cold and aggressive.
“This is the price humans must pay for their arrogance and their ignorance. For far too long humans have destroyed the Earth’s environment, hunted her animals into extinction, and stripped her of her resources. All why growing fat and breeding without warning. Eventually Mother Nature was going to get fed up with us and that time is now. This virus, this COVID-19, is the Earth fighting back.”
None of us said anything. Ricardo rolled his eyes but that’s only because Casey and Elle-Rose couldn’t see him.
“Elle tells me you need information. You need the routes of the AVVs?”
Casey thought for a moment as she stared Bree down. “Normally I wouldn’t give this kind of intel out but since we cool and all, I’ll help you out.” With a pointed finger, she was quick to add, “Just this once.”
After giving them our thanks, we departed. Our departure from the abandoned bookstore was slow as we studied the printout. Someone had drawn lines down the city’s roads with a red marker but not down all of them.
“So I think if we follow this path, we can make it to the checkpoint,” Bree explained as she traced a path with her finger. Without another word, we took off running. We ran down the abandoned streets, sometimes having to climb over destroyed or damaged cars. We ducked down a filthy alleyway and even had to burst through an abandoned restaurant. The rats and the bugs did not seem to care that we were in their kingdoms.
We were about halfway there when Bree slid to a stop. “Do you hear that?” We listened but heard nothing. She continued to stand, rooted to the spot. Suddenly, we heard a noise. It sounded like a high powered hose was spraying something. We exchanged looks before Ricardo gathered up the courage to look. He walked down the alleyway and peeked around the corner. He motioned for us to join him.
Parked on the road was an AVV and it was hosing down a line of naked people. All I could think of was thank goodness it wasn’t a cold day. Once the AVV finished spraying them, the soldiers moved in. Equipped with what looked like small push brooms, the soldiers began to scrub the people. We could hear their cries and gasps of pain as the wire brushes scrapped across their skin. It was a sound we were all too familiar with. Once the soldiers finished scrubbing them, they provided them with hospital gowns before ordering them into the AVV.
“They are going to one of those ‘recovery’ camps,” Ricardo said as if none of us have seen the news reports. Makeshift hospitals set up with a fenced perimeter where the infected are kept like animals. Their purpose is to ‘build herd immunity’ according to the government.
As the people filed into the back of the vehicle, one of them decided to make a run for it. He ran as hard as he could and we silently cheered him on from the shadows between the buildings. The soldiers shouted and pointed before two of them took off after him. Their gear protected them but made them much slower than the man.
The sound of a gunshot rang down the cracked street. The running man collapsed, and began to bleed out on the ground. The gunshot came from another hazmat wearing soldier inside the vehicle. This soldier must have been in charge because they began to criticize the other soldiers. We couldn’t hear what they were saying, just muffled voices. They shouted and pointed for a few more minutes before the line began to move again. Once everyone was on board, they closed the door and drove off.
“Let’s go,” Ricardo whispered once the AVV was far enough away. He led the way across the cracked road and around the body. Once I reached the other side I looked back and saw Bree kneeling over the body. She had her hand on his exposed back.
“Bree!” I said through my lips. I could see her mouth moving, she was no doubt saying a prayer. Once she finished, she caught up to me.
“He could have been infected,” I whispered as we jogged to reach Ricardo.
“He was scrubbed clean, remember?”
“But how good? We have to be more careful.” Bree just brushed my concern aside, like she always does.
We finished traveling through the city and finally arrived at one of the checkpoints. The line was long, even longer than it was when the panic buying sat in. Everyone stood six feet apart, making the line even longer. Soldiers patrolled up and down the slow-moving line. We filled in the back and did the only thing we could do; wait.
The line moved at a decent pace but every time I heard screams and shouts from the front of the line, my heart would drop. Were the screams coming from those they were denying? Was it because of the virus or were there other restrictions? As I pondered those questions, I was about to receive my answer.
Further up the line, I could see the soldiers were escorting a pair of people in hazmat gear. They must have been doctors, judging by the clipboards they held in one hand and a handheld thermometer they held in the other. They were taking people’s temperature and writing it down. That was until they got to a family. The family was about eleven people ahead of us. They took his temperature, like they have but then took it again. They took it one more time before stepping back. The doctor called a group of soldiers with his two fingers. The family became hysterical as the soldiers approached. The doctor said something to the soldiers and they jerked the family out of line. The family was a man, a woman, and their two young children. The woman screamed and cried while the man tried to fight back against the soldiers. He received a blow to the head from the butt of a rifle. They dragged the family away to a nearby building. What they did to there...I don’t want to imagine. I’d like to believe they were sent to a hospital but they probably were sent to one of the herd camps. The soldiers instructed the line to move forward and the doctor resumed their work. Finally, they reached me.
The doctor held the device up and took my temperature. I held my breath. I could feel sweat starting to form on my forehead. They were going to assume that I had a fever and were going to send me away. Instead, they said nothing as they scribbled on their clipboard and moved on to Bree. They scanned her temperature, wrote it down, and moved on. Two down, one to go. They scanned Ricardo’s temperature...then scanned it again.
“Have you been around anyone with the disease?” I heard the doctor asked.
“No, just these two.”
The doctor took Ricardo’s temperature for a third time before calling for the soldiers again. My heart dropped into my stomach.
“I don’t understand, I feel fine.”
The doctor replied with, “Right,” in a brushed off manner. “This man has a temperature of 99.3, he has also been traveling with these two.”
What were we to do? 99 isn’t even considered a fever yet they are willing to lock us up. If we resisted, they would hit us, maybe even shoot us.
I heard a shot ran out followed by another one. I was dead, they had shot me. I was still standing though. I felt my chest and there were no wounds. The soldiers fell to the floor, Ricardo had shot them.
The moment the gun went off, the crowd panicked. They pushed, screamed, and ran in every direction. The doctor took off running, yelling “We are under attack!” The social distancing line became a moss pit, everyone pushing and shoving. I tried to stay with Bree and Ricardo but the crowd separated us. I fought back and that got me elbowed in the face a couple of times. I nearly lost my balance and knew if I fell, that was it. The wave I couldn’t break free from was heading towards the checkpoint. The soldiers were going to open fire, I remember thinking. It was only a matter of time before they started firing. To my surprise, they didn’t. The crowd slammed through the barricades as the two AVVs started spraying the crowd. The high-powered hose was not enough to stop the stampeding crowd. Then we heard it.
Another gunshot but I don’t know who fired it. The crowd began to panic even more. Some broke off and began to fight the soldiers. I just knew I needed to get out of the crowd. I pushed and elbowed my way to the edge and leapt out. I nearly got stepped on, but I managed to scramble away in time. I stopped at an overturned bus and watched the crowd continue to charge. I was so scared; I did not know what to do. A hand grabbed me, and I screamed. It was Bree.
“C’mon,” She said before leading me away.
“Where is Ricardo?”
“I don’t know but we got to get out of here.”
“We can’t leave him!”
“Those soldiers are going to start shooting and we need to get out of here.” We stopped when we heard people struggling nearby and saw a group of people swarming an army truck. We ran towards them, our arms waving in the air.
“Wait for us!” We shouted and surprisingly, they did.
A middle-aged man and a young woman pulled us onto the back of the truck. There must have been at least thirteen, fourteen people in the truck. The driver honked and shouted as he slammed through cars and tried to avoid the thinning crowd. Back by the flattened barricade, I spotted what looked like Ricardo, struggling with a soldier. The man was struck across the face with the rifle before I saw the flash of the rifle firing. I said nothing to Bree as the sound of gunfire began.
We were deeper in the city when I finally felt I could breathe. I knew we had other checkpoints to passed through before we got off the island and I had hoped they would go much smoother. I could hear the other people talking, introducing themselves but Bree and I kept to ourselves. After all, we just lost a friend. As I thought about what could be waiting for, I heard a sound. A sound that made my blood run cold; Bree began to cough.
Sci-Fi Story Preview
The Hydro View Apartments; it takes a special kind of person to boldly lie on the front of a building. The only view you would be getting is concrete slabs, abandoned buildings and tweakers. Even the website boldly stated, ‘Come for the wonderful view of seasonal New Delphia!’ right on the front page. The NDPD is always down here but I have never heard of them needing a Runner.
I stared at the front office, my cigarette dangling from my lips. Two police cruisers were around, their sirens silently flashing. I took one final hit off the cigarette before letting it fall to the ground. I smothered it with the tip of my shoe before heading inside.
The door dinged as I opened it. Sitting at the desk was a young woman, early twenties. Standing beside her was a middle-aged man in a suit. He was shouting an officer.
“…I want you to take the body and clear out!” He jerked his head towards me. “We are closed right now!” I felt sorry for the woman. If he talked to his potential renters that way, he must be horrible to her.
He returned to shouting at the officer, who somehow remained calm throughout the entire ordeal. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my holobadge emitter. I clicked the top of it and showed it to the woman.
“I’m Runner Asugot. I’m here to investigate the homicide in I9.”
“Are you here to remove the body?!” The suit shouted at me.
“Then are you in charge?”
The man scuffed at my answer. He stepped closer, his finger in my face. “I’m a taxpaying citizen and I do not appreciate the way the NDPD has been treating me! The longer that body stinks up my apartment, the more my business suffers! What does the police intend to do when I have to shut down my business and kick these people to the street!”
As he prattled on, I pulled up virtual file we have on the apartment. “That body isn’t stinking up your business, your attitude is. Officers are called out here at least twice a week. Maybe we should be investigating how you run this establishment.” I leaned forward to add, “Then we would see how much taxes you really pay.”
The manager stepped back, a look of embarrassment and anger was on his face. “Your supervisor will hear about this!”
“Go for it. He’ll just put it in my folder.” I turned to the other officer. I could see he was fighting the urge to snicker. “Take me to the crime scene.”
The officer led me outside to a decent sized common area. If the grass wasn’t dead and the trash was picked up, it might have been halfway decent. It appeared to be a popular area for the homeless too.
“You don’t seem worried about him reporting you.”
“Cause I’m not. My supervisor will just cuss and howler, but he won’t do anything to me.” I could feel his eyes staring into me. “What?”
“I’m sorry but I got to know. Are you the Runner with the Red Eyes?”
I glanced over at him, but I didn’t say anything. The apartment was in the back, judging by where he was taking me. I noticed a homeless man began to stir. This caused the officer to freak out.
“Woah!” He shouted as he reached for his gun.
I held my arm out and we waited. The man got up, mumbled to himself and walked past us. He didn’t even acknowledge us.
“I thought he was going to attack us,” The Officer said as if I had some kind of future sight.
“You aren’t from around here, are you?”
“No sir. I’m from Missouri but I…I know what the other officers call this place.”
“And what is that?”
I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. “That incident was over twenty years ago. I live a few blocks up the way and nothing happens. This area isn’t any more run down then the rest of the poor sections.”
“Are you from New Delphia?”
I nodded as we climbed a flight of metal stairs. They shook as we walked, and a step was missing. “I have lived here most of my life. I remember when the cities used to be separate and this was called Philadelphia.”
“Wow!” He proclaimed before adding, “You must be like over a hundred years old.”
Now I know I’m rough looking but I’m not THAT rough looking. “I’m not that old!” I sternly replied before picking up my pace. I didn’t need a rookie to find I9.
The apartment was even easier to find then I thought. It was the only one with the door open and a crew of police inside. Another officer approached me and asked for my ID. I showed him my holobadge before asking, “Who is in charge?”
“That would be me,” A burly, mustachioed man loudly declared. Unlike the officers, he was in street clothes. Street clothes that looked like they were ready to burst.
All because of some hair ties
I stood there, mouth opened, eyes wide at what I just witnessed. A genie, a real life genie, full of magic and capable of anything was in front of us. The universe, God, luck, whatever, had blessed us with this opportunity. An opportunity to change our lives, to change the world. Within seconds, Heather wasted that opportunity by wishing for a new pair of sneakers, an iPhone and...hair ties.
The irony, the sheer stupidity of those wishes were clearly lost on Heather. She happily tied up her long, brown hair into a ponytail and turned her attention to her black iPhone. Watching her just made me angrier.
”What is wrong with you?!”
”What’s wrong with YOU?” She countered.
”We had a genie, A GENIE, who could have granted us any wish and you wish for...for...hair ties?!?”
”I needed hair ties,” Heather replied as if that was the most important thing in the world.
”They are a dollar! You could have wished for a hundred hair ties!”
She laughed, for some reason. “I don’t need a hundred Rebecca.“
I threw my hands up in the air. “You could have asked for a million dollars! You could have asked for all of the money in the world!”
”I thought that but when he came out he said he couldn’t create anything. It had to already exist in the world. If I asked for a million dollars, I’d be taking that money from someone else.”
“That doesn’t make any sense! He’s a genie!” Heather shrugged her shoulders. “That means you took those sneakers, that iPhone and those hair ties from someone.”
”No silly,” She said as she dismissed my statement with her hand. “He got these from the store.”
”How do you know that?”
”Because why would he take these from someone when they are in stores? Duh.”
I could punch her right now. I love Heather, we have been best friends since the third grade but her smug attitude is really irritating me. I collapsed onto the couch and took a deep breath. “You could have given me a wish though.”
”Why? It was my genie.”
”Why? Because we were together when we found the lamp at Reggie’s Pawn Shop.”
”Yes, but I brought it. So it’s wasmy genie. Besides, what would you have wished for? For Stephen Groder to be your boyfriend,” She teased.
My face grew hotter at the mention of Stephen Groder. “No!” I shouted but it was no use. My blushing cheeks gave me away. “Eh, it doesn’t matter what I would have wished for! It would have been something better then hair ties!”
She looked up at me from her phone. “Fine,“ She placed the phone on the coffee table before bending over and picking up the shoe box. “Here. Have these sneakers.”
”I don’t want your sneakers! I want my wish!”
”Then go find another genie.”
”I will!” I declared as I stood up. I stormed out of the room, unaware at the time that was the end of our friendship.
”Did you find another genie Granny?” Hector, my freckled face grandson asked me.
”No I didn’t. I searched for years but I never found another genie.“ I scooted towards the end of my chair and grabbed his little hands. “Learn from me. The greatest magic in this world does not come from a genie or a witch. It comes from your friends. Those memories you create, that’s the magic of the world.” He stared up at me with those big, brown eyes, full of innocence. “Go on now. Go play outdoors.”
”Okay!” He bounced to his feet with youthful energy and ran outside.
I leaned back in my chair and looked out the window. Memories started coming back to me of Heather and myself. Back before our friendship ended, all because of some hair ties.
2019 - A Year in Review
2019, the end of a decade. The year began with a promise. A promise to a magnificent woman that I would end the grueling, yearlong distance between us. That against all odds, and all the doubters, we would be together. In the spring of the year, we exchanged our vows. After decades of looking for a family, I finally found them. I finally came home.
I learned the depth of human cruelty goes deeper then I could imagine. I witnessed my coworkers mock and ridicule a war veteran without any remorse or feeling.
In the summer, our little family a little bigger when we rescued a pair of kittens.
I watched the war for the Iron Throne come to a fiery end. I endured the Longest Night.
I embraced who I am, my successes & faults.
I continued down the winding & bumpy road in my pursuit of becoming an author.
A little blue bird, who could only speak 140 characters at a time, guided me to join its flock.
I registered to vote so that my voice, no matter how little, could be heard.
2019 was a year of triumphs and defeats but it will forever be remembered for me as the year when I married my soulmate. The year I found what I have spent my whole life looking for.
My Favorite Color
You see it when you look up, as the puffy clouds float by
You see it when you stand on a beach and look out at the vast and deep world before you
You see it when you look at the flags of the peacekeepers of the world
You see it when you look upon a cold & sad face, even though this color is strong and confident
You see it when you find harmony.
What color is it?