Sunday, 20 May 2012
#SampleSunday 20th May 2012
This is part of the first Dancing with Darwin story. These stories (two so far) are firmly Science Fiction and all set in the same changing world; each has textures from other genres, depending on the specific story; Rapture Read, for example, has a hint of horror.
The full extent of the horror is only now becoming apparent.
Let me just interrupt you there, for a moment, Bob. Behind you there, is that a military armored car?
It is, Monica, the National Guard are here. This is just, just a small town but the amount of determined fire-power here is quite amazing. The Governor accepted that they were needed after the local police, the state police and then the SWAT team were unable to contain the situation.
This is amazing, Bob. What on earth happened here today?
It just, it just seems that the entire town went crazy.
Do we have any idea what happened? Where did it start?
Really not, but we are now clear to move through the town.
Oh my word, are those what I think..?
Essentially the whole town is under arrest, Monica. At least all the survivors are. In many ways telling the perpetrators from the victims is going to be difficult and from what I've seen so far the likelihood of a single reliable witness is fairly remote.
# Year 1: Claire
Claire often walked to school. Cars ruined the environment and seemed like an indulgence for such a short distance, in any case. It wasn't so far.
Maple Avenue was one of her favorite routes, especially on a full summer’s day like today. Someone hammering in the near distance couldn't ruin her pleasure. The warm sun on her face, even in the early morning, just made her smile. The houses were set well back from the street and it seemed everyone in the neighborhood loved flowers and green things. The scents combined as she walked toward the sun, long shadows stretching toward her, in a confusion of delights.
A shriek of laughter to her left made her turn and look but there was no one in sight between her and the distant house. Claire quirked her lips and looked away. She wasn't sure but that sounded, well she put the thought out of her mind as impure and turned the purity ring on her finger. Her mother laughed at her sometimes, but Claire was old enough to persuade her to mind her own business.
“Hunk like that, you should be enjoying it while you can,” she would sometimes say, though almost always over the phone now that she was in the Amazon somewhere.
“Mother you save the rainforests and I'll save my soul, okay?”
“So marry him already, if it matters that much.”
“Bret and I aren't ready to marry, yet.”
“We have to finish school, focus on study. We'll never make doctors if we don't focus our energies on learning.” Sometimes she thought her mother was dense but she had her degree, she must know how important it was to focus on the task at hand. “It's not so long, just a handful of years.”
“Uhuh, and you can wait.”
“Dana,” she rarely called her mother Dana, “I have to go.”
Claire often finished the conversation early when they strayed into this area. Her mother was a Christian enough soul but not what Claire would call serious about it; maybe like the English she was descended from, she only paid lip service to it. When she voiced this idea, her mother had laughed gently and said that everyone did. It had been their first real fight as mother and daughter. Claire still winced at the memory.
A car crawled past her, slower even than this sleepy street warranted. She glanced right and saw the middle-aged man looking at her, grinning, one hand on the wheel. There was something disturbing about the way he looked at her. He licked his lips and his right shoulder was moving.
The end of the street was close. She had walked almost the whole length and not noticed half the plants she loved because she'd been thinking of her mother. There were only two houses and then a park she usually crossed, but as soon as she realized with a heated blush what the man must be doing, she turned directly away into the shade of a wooded drive. She knew Mr. Valance lived there. He was a nice church-going soul of sixty or so and Claire knew she would be welcome; then she would call the police and report the man. She blushed even more fiercely as she realized that she knew him- he ran a store on the west side of Clearwater, and she'd bought underwear there.
“Thank you lord for making me buy modest underwear,” she muttered under her breath. The crunch of the gravel under her feet masked the sound of the car’s engine and she fought the urge to look back as she wondered for a moment if she had been imagining things, if maybe Mr. Paulson was simply looking for a particular house. But she knew that was ridiculous. He'd lived here probably his whole life and the town was only seven and a half thousand people. Claire's steps didn't falter as she turned the long curve toward the house, and she could just catch the odd glimpse of the bright white building through the flowering shrubs and the cherry trees that blossomed so well early in the spring.
It must be Mr. Valance with the hammer because it rang out one more time. One two three four. “Praise the Lord,” she heard him say.
“Hallelujah,” She murmured in automatic response and then turned the corner to see the whole house - and froze in horror.
# Year 2: Claire
The water ran and Claire washed her hands with great care and deliberation, focusing on the control and calm it gave her. Clean. She was clean. No need to scrub too hard with the brush, just focus on the nails and get good and sudsy.
“Claire,” the male voice was warm with humor and understanding.
She looked and saw the surgeon she would be assisting, tapping his own left wrist in the universal gesture for 'time.'
She felt a brief expression of anxiety flit across her own face before she could control it as gently she bit down on her lip. Her hands were clean. I am clean, she chanted like a prayer. I am clean. Clean clean clean.
“Yes, Mr. Simmons.” She rinsed and tapped the faucet off with her elbow. “I'm ready.”
The gloves were clean, she reminded herself as she slipped into them, and the OR is clean, and I am clean. Better than clean, sterile, but clean was the magic word that worked for her. Clean clean clean. She was one of the lucky ones, she could cope with her aberration, given time and some counseling and work; she could function. It was good, she thought for the thousandth time, that she had already begun her studies in medicine, though her training now was not what she might have envisaged - more practice than theory than it would have been had nothing changed.
She walked into the emergency ward and started work for the day.
Bound in a straitjacket and handcuffed to a bed, the blinded man sat and rocked gently and whispered over and over again, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” She shuddered; the psychotics who were religious were the worst. They bothered her the most. Maybe because there seemed to be so many of them. She touched her cross and said a brief prayer before beginning to work on what remained of the eye socket. Clean, close, stitch. Then move on to the next patient and repeat the process in one form or another, following a doctor who had already sedated and left a note about what needed to be done. Usually it was obvious. Clean, close, stitch, bandage.
Behind her, orderlies came and removed the treated men and women and children from the ward.
# Year 1: Claire
The large clapboard building was painted white, a pure clean color that suddenly contrasted with the lines of bright red that ran down from where Mr. Valance had nailed a foot and one hand to the wall. In his other hand he held a spike and a mallet. He held them out to her but didn't mention them. His pale eyes and joyous smile fixed on her.
“He has returned, sister,” he said, his voice full of confidence and joy. “Are you ready? Are you saved?”
Blood ran in thin trails down the one skinny arm that was raised high above him. A thin silver circlet of razor wire sat on his bald head. His face was sheeted with blood, both congealed and fresh.
Her own blood ran cold in her veins and pooled in her belly. She recognized the sensation for what it was, her body flooding with adrenalin, making her ready to flee or fight for her life. It was a pointless and irrational reaction but body chemistry operates by its own rules. Still, her mind worked with perfect clarity. She was a believer but also a student of medicine. She knew that Mr. Valance was suffering from some kind of delusion, that nailing yourself to a wall was not the act of a rational man. She knew that she had to phone for an ambulance and also the police so that they could assure themselves that no crime had been committed here. Her eyes flicked to the open front door. Mr. Valance had a wife, she knew. And there was enough blood on Mr. Valance to disguise any that was not his. Claire gave a simple nod of agreement with herself; she would go into the house and phone from there. If she found Mrs. Valance dead, then she would just deal with that shock as calmly as she was dealing with this one.
As she moved past him, Mr. Valance held out the mallet and spike to her. “Have a heart, sister. Don't turn your back on him, I beg you.”
Her skin prickled in goose-bumps that even stirred the hair on her head as they washed over her in waves. He must have started with one foot; then the left hand at the wrist, to give himself enough leverage to pull himself upward. And then he was stuck. He could no longer reach the right foot, nor turn his own right hand against itself. A fourth spike lay on the floor, beyond his reach.
She didn't trust herself to say anything. Everything that came to mind was ridiculous. You just wait there, Mr. Valance... like he had a choice.
As Claire entered the cool shade of the house she heard sirens in the distance and had an instinct that she might have to wait some time for the police.