What little sleep I did get, I dreamed of the man I had killed, of Crystal, and of Doctor Grant.
He brought in my son in his arms. He was dead. He then dragged in Josh and Chad. He laid Connor down, but it wasn’t Connor. It was a fake. I knew that. And soon they started waking up. Moaning and groaning. Crystal was suddenly there too, and that man. They started moving towards me and all I could do was apologize. I kept saying, ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me,’ but it didn’t matter. They were hungry.
When I wake up there are technicians, all wearing masks holding me down. “Where is my son!” I scream, but there is no answer. Soon Doctor Grant comes in and pulls the syringe from his right lab coat pocket and puts the needle into my IV. I feel sleepy but still fight clumsily. My words are slurring and I mumble and within a few seconds I am still and asleep.
The next time I wake I am alone. There is a patch on my right arm, just above the cast they had placed there because of my broken fingers. I don’t know what it is from. I still have my IV drip and the bag looks full. Someone must have recently changed it. I walk over to the toilet and relieve myself, finishing up just as Doctor Grant walks in with the same guard who scowls at me.
“You’re doing well,” he says, but is all to aware that I don’t know what I am doing well at. “So is your son and brothers. There are more tests to run, of course, but I just thought I’d let you know that this immunity is quite the powerful thing.”
“When can we go?”
“Go?” He seems genuinely surprised. “Why . . . I don’t think I know. Not for some time.”
“Not for some . . . time?” I say each word slowly, emphasizing the last. “No!” I lose it. ” We will be released today! You’ve done tests on us, easily waving our rights away. No. I think you’re done today.”
“You’ve already told us your feelings on this country,” the guard says suddenly, “and so as far as I can see, you’re not even a citizen, and if I decide that you are to stay here until we are done. You will stay here until we are done.”
I get up but he hits me hard in the stomach with his rifles butt. I sit down holding my stomach. Doctor Grant raises his hand and shakes his head at the guard who reluctantly backs off.
“This is very important, Aaron.” Your family are the only ones we know of who are immune to this disease. We need to—” he pauses briefly, “we need to test the immune responses.” He pulls out another injection and screws it to the IV connection injecting me with something else.
“Lay down and relax,” he says. “Just remember, this is for a greater good.”
It is twenty minutes after the injection when I start to feel the burning. It starts in my legs—my thighs—and moves up my body. It grows until my body is shaking and burning. My hands are clinched tightly at the sides of the bed. It is growing and becoming more and more unbearable but all I can think about is Connor, likely going through the same thing. I could kill them, and if they came in, I think I would. I start screaming from the pain and from my anguish at the thought of them torturing Connor.
The door opens and the guard walks in, followed by Doctor Grant.
“I have something to help,” he says, “It should dull the pain, but we need you awake.”
I act fast. Faster than I thought possible. I swing off of the bed and kick the guard hard in the face. I hold the hand containing the syringe with the pain killer and reach into Doctor Grants right lab pocket, grab the needle and throw him back. The guard is getting up as I uncap the tranquilizer they had been using on me and I jab the needle into his neck, squeezing the liquid quickly into his neck. He gasps and falls instantly to the floor. I grab the syringe that the doctor had been holding, which had fallen to the bed and place it in a large pocket in the pants they’d given me.
I am shaking, but I see Doctor grant move towards the door. I grab him and throw him on the bed. A vial of blood falls to his side, onto the mattress. I grab it and look at it. It has Josh’s name on it.
“You are so eager to study this disease,” I say, looking from the vial to him. I smash the glass against his arm and it breaks, the blood running over his arm. There are some glass shards sticking from his skin. “Now you have the chance.” His eyes are wide with terror and unbelief which conform my theory. We are immune, but we are still carriers.
I grab the rifle the guard had and take off his belt as well, which has a pistol and taser. The doctor seems to be in shock and is not moving on the bed. I leave him. I look out the small window and am not able to see a guard near my door. I am shaking violently still, and I ignore the pain from whatever they had given me. I grab both the doctors and guards key cards and I open the door a crack and look one way. Nothing. I look the other and there is still nothing. I can hear commotion down the hall and realize it is coming from Connors room. I pull out the taser and run down the hallway until I get to the first door with a light on.
I can hear him. Connor is crying uncontrollably. I at first had thought that someone was in there with him, but I do not hear anyone. Doctor Grant was probably going to go to him next. I swipe the key card and the door opens. There, on the floor is Connor. He is crying loudly. It is obvious that he is in pain. I go to the IV connect, stab in the syringe I’d grabbed from the doctor and push in the liquid. But only half of it. Seconds later Connor relaxes.
“Buddy!” I say, getting on my knees and scooping him up. “Are you OK?” He shakes his head. His eyes still closed. I hold him tight. “It’s all over. I am going to get you out of here.” The taser is put away and, holding Connor with one arm—my right arm—I swing the rifle around on its strap and hold it up with my left. “Alright buddy, I got ya. Be very quiet, OK?” He nods and I leave the room, awkwardly swiping the card to get out.
There is still no one in the halls and I assume no one, as of this moment, is watching the cameras. It must have been just that guard if it’s late. I have no idea where Chad and Josh are and so I continue down the hall. Listening for them. The hall turns to the left. I stop before the turn and peak around. There is one guard walking down the hallway.
“Connor,” I whisper, “I need to leave you hear for just a sec. I need to make it safe down there.
“No, Daddy. I want to stay with you!” he says loudly, and I am sure the guard heard him. I can hear footsteps moving our was quickly. I hold Connor close to me and pull out the taser.
I watch for the first sign of the guard. Checking over the taser gun making sure it is unlocked and will fire. The moment I see his gun barrel I turn the corner, pulling the trigger. It hits him in the head and he convulses violently before dropping. Connor had been looking the other way which I was glad of. I Move the guards body towards the wall and run down the hallway and silently as I can. There is another door with a light on and I can hear the bed shaking. I swipe the card and go in.
Josh is in the fetal position, panting as though he’d ran for miles. Upon seeing me and Connor he slowly sits up and hugs us.
“Thank you,” he says, crying and I hug him back. I give him the rifle after he is able to stand. He’s still shaky like I am.
“Listen,” he says, “I’ll go find Chad. You stay here with Connor and we’ll come back for you. ” I agree and give him a key card. He leaves and I sit holding Connor. I don’t ever want to let him go. I can feel him crying softly and I rub his back, under his shirt just like he use to have me do when I sang to him at night. I start singing his favorite song, New Slang, by the Shins. He’d sing some of the words with me in another life. I then sing the “rainbow song”, or Somewhere, Over the Rainbow. I cry a bit when I start, but regain myself. I am starting to shake badly again and I can feel the pain that the adrenaline had suppressed coming back. I try to put on a brave face for Connor, but it difficult. He holds me tighter.
Josh comes back with Chad twenty minutes later. I was surprised it took so long, but after their explanation I understood. Josh had gotten Chad out, and they decided to scout the way out. The facility was not officially governmental. The Hummer was parked in a parking lot just out side of the building. It is night, and so a skeleton crew is working which they said they “took care of.” I don’t care what that means anymore.
“So, this isn’t government run?”
“No, not at all. I think the building was some sort of low level laboratory. They have minimal surveillance and crew. I get the impression that they’ve quarantined this city on their own and do only some of their tests . . . experiments . . . here.” Josh looks at Chad who is still shaking from pain. “We found our clothes in some lockers a little ways down, and then we can grab the Hummer. No one should get in our way.”
“Well,” Chad says, in response, “now that you said that . . .” I try to laugh, but can’t.
Chad walks out of the room and is shot through the head. His body crumples to the ground. Dead and lifeless. I can hear Josh screaming, running out with the rifle and firing down the hall. He is screaming at someone. A murderer, who killed our brother. I pull out my pistol and run out of the room. I see him standing at the end of the hall, a hole through his head—the guard who I had drugged—falling down dead. Killed by Josh. I turn and look at Chad. There is a pool of blood around his head that is spreading. Connor tries to turn and look but I hold him so he is facing the other way.
“Don’t look, Connor. There’s nothing there.” I fall on my knees as Josh runs over, going to his knees as well and bringing him up to his chest, sobbing. I am too, and I fight to not let Connor see the bloody mess.
“What . . .” Josh says through sobs, “what do we do with the body?” I look around desperately and shouting comes from around the corner behind us.
“We need to go,” I say, getting Connor over my shoulders.
“No, we need to stay!” Josh spins around and points the gun.
“Think about this Josh! Think about what you’re doing. I need you to help get us out. Please! I need to get Connor out.” He lowers the rifle for a brief second before putting it back up. Finally he stands and turns towards us. He bends down and pulls Chad’s wedding ring off of his finger.
“I love you,” he says and he walks off.
Before I follow I bend down and say the same, adding, “be with your family. You were the best big brother I could of had.” I then run after Josh, following him out, forgetting about our clothes they’d stripped from us. He gets in the drivers seat of the Hummer and finds the keys in the center tray. He starts the car and speeds off. There is a shot from behind us and I hear it hit the rear of the car, but no one is hurt. The sky is dark and wet and we are alone, driving through a silent city, running from death and pain and memories. Each of us still in pain, and still silently crying for our lost brother.