July 15, 2013
June 12, 2013
December 1, 2012
TEASER of THE EVOLUTION:
The two women hadn’t said a thing. The older woman in the driver’s seat focused on centering her rig on the scale at the same time her scared young passenger focused on calming down. The driver handed her papers to a Canadian highway official and rolled up her window. She turned to talk to the passenger just in time to see a vehicle rapidly approaching through the window.
“Is that friend or foe?” she said in a substantial Canadian accent.
Brynn peered out the window to her right. The vehicle in question bounced along the dirt road and Brynn caught a quick glimpse of the side of it. She knew it was the van she had been riding in just minutes earlier.
“Foe,” she said and she started to breath heavy again.
“Climb in the back. There’s a compartment underneath the bed where I store my dirty clothes. Roll into it, then pull the clothes in after you,” The woman said without turning to Brynn.
Brynn did what the woman said to do. Lying in the dark, stuffy compartment, she closed her eyes. The compartment smelled of musty cigarette smoke and stale beer, and she covered her face with her shirt and started to count to keep her mind from deteriorating into mush.
She had counted to 162 when she heard the loud banging on the truck door.
“What do you want?” the driver barked.
“We’re looking for my sister. She’s run away from our group,” the man’s voice said. Brynn thought it sounded like Andy and she pinched her eyes together as tightly as she could.
“I haven’t seen her.”
“Did you see a young girl wandering around? Please, ma’am, she suffers from mental illness.”
“Nope. I haven’t seen any women around her all night except for that window clerk,” the driver said, pointing at the woman working behind the large glass window inside the weigh station.
The man turned to look at the building. The same worker that had taken the papers from the driver rig briskly advanced the cab. “Sir, you can’t be out here on foot.”
“But my sister. We’re looking for my sister.”
“I don’t care if you've lost the Queen of Sheba. You’re not permitted to be on or near the scales on foot. Return to your vehicle immediately,” the worker said.
Brynn exhaled carefully, but to her ears, it sounded like a foghorn. Before the worker could escort him away from the truck, Andy climbed up and looked into the cab. Seeing nothing but an unmade bed, he glanced at the older woman before jumping to the ground and running to the van.
The truck pulled off the scales, and Brynn didn't move until the heat from the vibration of the truck below her became unbearable. She climbed out from underneath the bed and slowly peered into the cab of the truck. The woman looked at her through the rear-view mirror and pointed at the passenger seat. Brynn climbed to the seat and fastened her seat-belt before turning to the woman.
“Thank you for the ride, and for hiding me.”
“Was that the creep that’s been hurtin’ you?” the older woman asked. Sitting in a dirty sweater, frayed, fingerless gloves and a crooked beanie cap, the woman had to be in her early sixties. Brynn could see a small piece of gray hair sticking out from the cap as her eyes traveled down from the hair to her wrinkled, pale face.
“No, that was his friend. The creep was probably looking elsewhere.”
“Was he abusing you?”
“Yes,” she said. “My name is Brynn.”
“I'm Penner,” she said and she glanced at Brynn before quickly refocusing on the road.
“I'm Penner,” she said and she glanced at Brynn before quickly refocusing on the road.
TEASER of THE NATION:
“For the initial 48 hours, there will be a one-to-one point five vaccinated individual per caregiver ratio. After that, we’ll start taking shifts. The ratios will jump to one of us for every four or five of them for at least eight weeks,” Dallin said.
“Along the far right wall is a defibrillator, three blood pressure cuffs, the thermometers, and the oxygen tanks,” Beth explained, pointing at the wall. Brynn glanced at Beth then at Silus. Silus and Brynn shared a brief, tense stare until Creed interrupted it.
“Si, will you give us an update?” Creed asked.
“There’s complete security around the total perimeter of the property, including the driveway. There are four secured phone lines down here, as well as in the duplex we’ve rented for the families. Nothing can get in or out of here that we don’t want to.”
“Dallin, what are the potential problems we need to be aware of?” Creed asked. He didn’t look at Dallin, but instead focused on the bulletin board in front of him.
“We have two older recipients, one who’s almost 50 and the other, 56. Both are male. We also have a minor who will be turning 18 in 28 days, but still isn’t legally able to make a decision like this without the approval of a guardian. Luckily, Sally’s mother is very accepting and supporting, but she’s also overly involved. For the privacy and protection of each individual recipient, no one besides this group is permitted in this room … ever. Sally’s mother is going to struggle with that.”
“She’s going to be staying in the north side of the duplex, right?” Creed asked.
“Yes. Again, she’ll want to come down here, but she isn’t permitted to. The Harrison twins are massive boys. Both are built like linebackers so it’s going to be a chore if we have to lift or move either of them. Out of the ten recipients, five are between 20 and 30 years of age, which is a good thing, three are teenagers, and then the two older men that have already been discussed.”
“All ten recipients are in excellent health. Nancy examined them one-by-one and she couldn’t be happier with their pre-inoculation statuses,” Creed stated as if Nancy had been a part of the process all along. Brynn had to physically restrain herself from rolling her eyes and turned away from Creed when Dallin cleared his throat.
“I have a personal concern about your dad, Creed.”
“And I have a personal concern about Nancy,” Brynn said, quickly making her statement before Dallin could continue on with his. “I know she’s signed confidentiality forms and stuff, but I—I have reservations about her.”
“I know you do. We all know you do. That’s why she’s on a need-to-know basis only. She doesn’t have full access here. She doesn’t know everything, hell, she hardly knows anything,” Creed replied.
“I don’t want her alone in the house without one of us here to supervise her,” Brynn demanded.
Creed studied Brynn to see if she was being serious. “Brynn, love, you know that isn’t possible.”
Brynn began to retort when Silus loudly cleared his throat. “I agree with Brynn.”
“Done,” Dallin said, desperate to keep the conversation from becoming uncomfortably hijacked.
“What’s done?” Nancy asked. She entered the basement as if she lived there.
“We’re going over our final checklist. Please, have a seat,” Creed said to Nancy.
Brynn tried to pull her hand away from Creed’s grasp, only for him to gently squeeze her fingers in between his.
Dallin didn’t like the building tension, or the amount of time being spent at the expensive of Nancy, the newest member of Creed’s team. “Like I was saying about your dad, he’s the oldest recipient and it’d just … well, it would kill me if anything happened to him,” Dallin cautiously said.
“He’ll be fine,” Beth replied. She gazed intently on Creed. Silus wrapped his arm around his mother Beth and she turned from Creed to her youngest son and smiled. She was confident, at least she put on an air that she was. She didn’t agree with Kalen’s strong desire to receive the EA-7, but she’d support him with almost anything he requested of her after a bit of coaxing and even more explanation.
“Okay. The syringes are locked and loaded. One by one, starting with Sadollah, we’re going to bring an individual recipient down to receive an injection. One injection per hour on the hour, unless a medical emergency occurs,” Creed instructed.
“Don’t forget to chart absolutely everything—a one degree temperature change, if their pee looks too yellow, if you have to flush an IV. Are the consents and waivers all signed?” Dallin asked.
“Yes,” Brynn answered.
“All right, Operation Enhancement is officially underway,” Creed said. He looked at Nancy and pointed at the stairs.
Nancy quietly exited the lab to get Sadollah. Sitting in the family room of Creed’s house were the first five recipients. The other five, which included Kalen, were waiting at Brynn’s house to receive their own vial of the thick, blue EA-7.
24 hours later, 10 very sick individuals were lying in twin beds scattered throughout the basement of Creed’s home.
TEASER of THE PROMISE:
Creed slept for eight weeks straight after giving himself the injection, the toll on his body from the vaccine brutal. He was lethargic, often times unresponsive, and his body’s inability to keep a consistent temperature was disheartening to both Brynn and Dallin.
“Dallin,” Brynn said, walking into the bedroom where Creed was sleeping.
Dallin, sitting in a chair next to Creed’s bed, looked up. He nodded at Brynn before refocusing on Creed. He stood and leaned over Creed, slowly, methodically touching Creed’s face and neck to check his external temperature. Dallin took Creed’s pulse and logged the reading on a notepad dedicated to Creed’s vital statistics. “He seems to be stabilizing a bit.”
Brynn sat down on the bed next to the one occupied by Creed and sighed, “It’s been a long road.”
“It has, but I assure you, it will be worth it,” Dallin offered in a calm, almost eerie tone. Dallin cleared his throat, the noise prompting Brynn to look at him. Her head started to spin as she and Dallin shared an intense stare. As if she had been drinking, Brynn was consumed with dizziness. Panic encased her and her face showed her displeasure.
“Stop it!” she snapped, her hands covering her eyes, but her cries went unheard. Her mind took her out of the bedroom and to place she had never been before. She felt as if she was moving toward a bright light. Brynn tried to divert her thoughts, but her efforts were futile. Her mind was out of her control.
It was as if she was watching a motion picture of herself, but slower, quieter, and less colorful than real life. Brynn looked at her feet as she walked through granules of moist, blonde sand. Her white sundress gently swayed with the breeze, and the smell of saltwater engulfed her. She could feel herself sigh. Ocean waves crashed against the beach next to her and Brynn shivered from a cool breeze coming off the water.
Someone called her name and she turned around. Creed, dressed in a white shirt and tan rolled up slacks, slowly approached her and embraced her. She could smell him and hear him profess his love for her. He walked with her to the large white gazebo placed randomly amongst a horizon of sand. Standing inside the gazebo was a faceless man dressed in a white suit and holding a white book. Brynn could feel herself turn to Creed and smile. In slow motion, he said, “I do,” before Brynn’s mind violently snapped back to the present. She took many deep breaths before slowly opening her eyes.
“You controlled my mind. It was like I was having an out of body experience,” she said as she glared at Dallin, not knowing if she had enjoyed the hallucinative experience or not.
“My trait—it’s different now. I can control how you feel, what you see in your mind. I can control what endorphins I put out and what endorphins you put out. I can alleviate physical pain. … That’s the best thing I can do. I can only imagine what Creed is going to be able to do,” Dallin whispered as he stood and walked to the door. Just before he passed through the doorway, he said, “I can kiss Aspen, Brynn. I can kiss her without knocking her out or making her high. I can hold her while she sleeps. It’s worth it. It will be worth it for you and Creed, too. … I promise.”
TEASER of THE TRAIT:
In nothing but his boxers, in a field of dead grass and patches of grainy snow, Creed Alexander stood in undeniable agony. The sweat covering his pale torso gleamed in the mid-morning sun. He held his arms up, inviting the sunlight to penetrate him as his eyes closed against the blinding rays. He slowly tipped his face directly at the sky. For Creed alone, his decision to stand unclothed in the sun could be lethal.
A fugitive from the sun, Creed was often imprisoned and physically tortured when captured, then held in regret-filled custody for months after exposure to sunlight. But for her, for the girl of his dreams who he had met, courted, and fallen in love with only by night, Creed would risk the imprisonment. He’d willingly serve the sentence handed down from his trait—intense and relentless physical pain and emotional hell—for her.
Creed held his position until the pain became intolerable. Stumbling to his knees, he screamed out in anguish as he clutched his abdomen. White foam and the contents of his stomach spewed from his mouth as his side slammed against the ground and he recoiled from the heat into a fetal position. “Oh, God help me!” he choked. Out of control and hurting like never before, Creed cried as sunlight continued to beat on his body.