It was going to be a long night.The world had changed dramatically and he was being chased by a monster. Life kept throwing him strange curveballs. His mind could not rationalize any of it. He did not even want to try. As he raced down the altered road, he wondered if anyone would hear his scream. A fall would not likely kill him, but pain was guaranteed. The chase seemed to last forever, the end he could not see, he paused a moment to catch his breath, but heard the thing close behind him.
Emanuel Locksley glanced over his shoulder. The thing was getting closer by the second. He had been chased since sunset. He was approaching a big rock that might serve as a good hiding spot. He had a stitch in his side and was running out of breath quickly. He knew he would have to rest soon or collapse from exhaustion. He put the last of his energy into putting some ground between him and that thing. When he glanced back and saw the thing falling behind, he felt a sense of relief. He hoped by the time he got to the hiding spot he would be out of its line of sight.
He dove behind the rock and listened for the thing. He heard it drawing close to him. He prayed it had not seen him go behind the rock. He heard it pass by without pausing and almost burst out laughing.
He waited until he could no longer hear the thing. He paused before looking, praying that it was not a trick. He peeked over the rock and did not see it. He surveyed the woods and still didn’t see it. When he was sure that it was nowhere around, he got up and started running back the way he had came.
The ground shifted beneath him as he ran. He lost his footing and fell face first into sand. He got up; looked around. The landscape had changed again. His heart, pounding in his chest, struggled to grasp what was happening. He hoped Emmit would know.
He ran again, not knowing if his house would be in the same place. He could be going in the wrong direction. He ran for a few more blocks. He laughed when his house came into view. Apparently the only thing that was changing was the landscape and atmosphere; anything other than that stayed in its relative location.
He went inside his house and tried the phone. It worked. He called his colleague at the university. He waited as the phone rang and rang. He didn’t know what he would do if Salinger was out of his office. Salinger was the only person he knew who might have an inkling of what was going on outside.
“Hello?” Dr. Emmit Salinger answered.
“Emmit,” Emanuel exclaimed, “I am so glad you are in your office! Have you any idea what’s going on?”
“What are you talking about, Manny?” replied Emmit.
Manny’s breath caught. “Have you not been outside? I looked outside after dinner and saw my backyard looking like a jungle. A strange beast was there. It chased me until I was able to hide.”
Manny heard Emmit chuckling. “Are you sure you aren’t tripping on acid?” Emmit laughed. “That is the craziest thing I have ever heard!”
“Go look outside!”
There was a pause as Emmit set the phone down to look outside. Manny tapped his foot impatiently.
“Oh my God, I will be at your house in a couple of minutes.”
“No,” Manny said. “It might be better if I meet you at the university. We have better resources there that might help us figure out what is going on. Plus, it might be safer. I’ve already been out in this, so I am better prepared for the changes.”
“Alright, I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
They both hung up the phones. Manny raced upstairs to his bedroom closet. He had a gun hidden on the top shelf. After he checked to make sure it was fully loaded, he grabbed his box of shells. He did not know what he might run into out there and he wanted to be prepared. He ran back downstairs and grabbed the keys to his four wheel drive.
As he opened the door to the garage, he assumed a policemen’s stance as he had seen on movies. He peeked into the garage, gun first. When he was satisfied that nothing lurked in the shadows ready to eat him, he got into his truck and headed to the university.
It only took him five minutes to get there. He was surprised to see that no one else was on the road. He was also surprised that the landscape was still a desert. He was glad that it didn’t change while he was driving. Manny saw Emmit waiting at the doors as he got out of his truck. He rushed up to meet him. He saw that Emmit had a strange look on his face.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
Emmit shook his head. “Oh, nothing. I was just thinking that this seemed like something out of a movie. It doesn’t feel real.”
“Snap out of it, Emmit. It has to be real. Do you really think we would be sharing the same delusion?”
Emmit considered that for a moment. “It’s possible, I suppose, if we had come into contact with the same toxin. Certain toxins can cause mass delusions.”
Manny sighed. “Let’s assume that isn’t the situation and figure this thing out. On the drive over here, I didn’t see anyone on the streets. I don’t know where everyone is.”
“You know,” Emmit said. “No one was here when I got here this morning. This place should be full of people.”
Manny shook his head and looked outside. While they had been talking, the landscape had changed back to normal. The only difference was that there were still no people milling around.
“Let’s go to your office and see what we can come up with.”
The two men walked down the hall, each lost in their own thoughts. Emmit was starting to formulate an idea, but it was too radical to postulate right now. He wanted to be sure before he ran the idea by Manny.
The changes began to pick up speed as the two men walked to the office. They were getting more aggressive and seemed to be spiraling out of control. If you could see the changes from above, you would be amazed by what you saw. One moment you would see normal streets, a second later you would see a rain forest. Then you would see it change into a desert, then an ocean. The changes were taking place so fast that if you blinked your eyes, you would miss one.
If you traveled five miles from the university, you would find a lab. The name of the lab is GEN-Corp. Inside the lab, in an office on the second floor, you see a man sitting at his desk with a gun in his hand. This man’s name is Dr. Jeremy Levy. He is the head of GEN-Corp’s Transformation Study. You would see him lift the gun and put it in his mouth. As you are trying to yell at him to stop, he pulls the trigger and ends his life. You have no idea why he committed such a drastic act. Looking at this grizzly scene, you see that his desk is littered with papers that seem to pertain to the events taking place outside. Before you have a chance to look at them and figure out the cause of the chaos, you are drawn back to Dr. Salinger’s office at the university. They have a discussion well under way.
“So what are you saying?” Manny asked. “You think that someone introduced a toxin into the ecosystem? And we are immune to that toxin? I don’t understand.”
Emmit sighed. “Not just a toxin, Manny. A toxin that contains foreign DNA. This DNA apparently attached itself to the cells that are in our plants, our ground, trees, everything. That is what is causing the changes. This DNA must be attacking human cells, too, causing humans to die. For some reason, we are immune. If we are immune, you can bet that other people are, too.”
“Wait just a minute! Is any of that even possible? What are you talking about? That is so far advanced; it’s hard to believe that anyone has the technology or the brains to apply it.”
“It’s not that far advanced. You’ve heard of ‘transformation theory’, haven’t you? It’s recombination of DNA into plants or animals. Scientists have been performing tests for years. This is just someone taking it to the extreme, and it going horribly wrong.”
“Who has such abilities?”
Emmit shook his head. “I can think of one person and one lab. They try the most aggressive and unnatural experiments known to the scientific community.”
Manny’s eyes widened as he understood. “GEN-Corp.”
“Yep. Dr. Levy. He’s been trying for years to convince others that you can change a landscape or atmosphere by changing the individual DNA of its cells. No one would listen to him. It was too drastic. I bet this is his work. He’s so full of himself that he would perform an experiment without going through the proper channels first.”
“Alright, let’s go talk to him and see what we can do.”
They had a bad feeling as they drove to GEN-Corp. Neither of them said a word as they drove. They reached the lab in record time. They walked up to the lab doors with dread. They felt something was out of place here, but they could not yet tell what it was. They walked into the lab and immediately went up to Dr. Levy’s office. That is where they found him, in a pool of his own blood.
Holding his hand to his mouth, Manny whispered, “We have to see what those papers are on his desk.”
“Don’t you think we should call the police?” Emmit replied.
“Are you crazy? Where have you been this morning? Look around, Emmit! There’s no one here except us! There are no police! We are going to have to figure this out by ourselves and hope to God that we can reverse it. Otherwise, the world ends. Do you want that to happen?”
“Even if we do reverse it, the world will end anyway. If we are the only two left, there is no way we can repopulate the world.”
“There has to be others. There has to be! You can’t possibly think that we are the only ones that survived. Besides, we don’t even know if this madness has spread out of our town. As far as we know, he only did the experiment here.”
“Well, there’s one way to find out. I have family in Georgia. I can call them and see if anything is going on. Assuming the phones still work.”
Emmit walked over to the doctor’s phone, being careful not to step in any of his blood. Picking up the phone, he dialed his sister’s number in Athens, Georgia. It picked up after the first ring.
“Hey Katherine! It’s Emmit. I was just calling to check on you. We have some weird stuff going on here and I wanted to make sure that everyone there was okay.”
“Everyone’s fine. Nothing weird here. How are you doing? You sound frazzled.”
“Oh, I’m fine. Just fine. I guess I’ll let you go. I have a lot of stuff that I need to do.”
“Wait, Emmit! What’s going on?”
Emmit sighed. “Nothing important, Sis. Everything is going to be okay. I’ll talk to you later. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Bye.”
Emmit turned to Manny with a look of relief on his face. “Everything seems fine there. I bet he just started this process here. We will need to hurry to contain it. I think we should call Washington.”
“No. Let’s get a handle on this situation before we call any of the big guns in. We don’t need a national panic. Especially when we aren’t sure how serious this is.”
Emmit nodded his head in agreement. He looked at Dr. Levy. “We have to assume the worst. Levy decided to kill himself over it. The man was pompous. He would have never taken his own life.”
Manny walked over to Levy’s desk. He was trying to find a way to move his body with the least amount of effort. He didn’t want to come in contact with the body for more than a few seconds. He also didn’t want to make it look like he was trying to cover up anything. If the men from Washington were called in, he did not want to be a suspect in a murder that never happened.
“You didn’t happen to bring your camera did you?” Manny asked Emmit.
“Yes, I did. I figured we might need it for something. I didn’t expect to find Levy like this. I thought we would have to sneak in and take pictures of files or something.”
“Let me see it.”
Emmit got the digital camera out of his briefcase and handed it to Manny. “What are you going to do?”
“I am going to cover our rear ends. I don’t want anyone thinking we were trying to conceal evidence when we move Levy. I am going to take pictures of how everything is before we move him. That way, we can’t be accused of anything.”
“I never would have thought of that.”
“Then I bet you’re glad I’m here.”
Emmit laughed as Manny took pictures of the scene. It only took a few minutes. To Emmit, it seemed like forever. He didn’t like having to look at Dr. Levy with half of his head blown off. It was very macabre; again like a scene from a movie.
“Okay, Emmit, I want you to help me move him. It shouldn’t take very long if the both of us do it.”
Emmit grimaced. “Where should we put him?”
Manny looked around the office. “We’ll put him on that couch, and use that throw to cover him up with. That way, he can have a little dignity and no one else will have to see him like we did.”
The two men struggled briefly as they moved Levy to the couch. Manny covered him up and exhaled heavily.
“Thank God that’s done.”
Emmit clapped his hands together, startling Manny. “Sorry, man. Go ahead and take pictures of everything again. Then we’ll start searching through his documents.”
Emmit waited as his friend took the pictures. When he handed the camera back to Emmit, Manny laughed.
“I didn’t think I would be doing this when I woke up this morning.”
“I didn’t, either. Let’s get it over with.”
Both men stared at the desk. They figured that whatever Levy had been looking at would be the key to this mess. They read over the material briefly before shaking their heads in disgust.
“This is just field data on the experiment. It seems to have been going on for months now. None of this is relevant to stopping it or how they even put it into motion.”
“I know,” Manny replied. “Maybe there’s something in the computer.”
“He’s going to have it encrypted, Manny. Unless you’ve been hiding some hacking abilities, there’s no way we’re going to get to those files.”
Manny threw up his hands. “There has to be some way. Have you looked outside lately? It’s spiraling out of control. There is no telling when it is going to spread to other towns. Do you want to just stay here and do nothing? Do you want to let the world implode because of some narcissistic scientist?”
Emmit sat on the edge of the desk. He could not stand to think of what would happen if they could not stop the transformation. He had family out there he was worried about. He didn’t want them to suffer because he gave up.
“Alright,” Emmit said. “Let’s see if there is anything in the computer.”
Manny got a clean chair and sat down at the desk. He started to look through Levy’s desk drawers. He found something promising in the bottom drawer.
“Hey! I found several zip drives down here. They might be important.”
“Load them up and see if we can get anything off of them.”
The men waited as one of the zip drives loaded. When they viewed the files on the drive, they saw that none of them seemed to pertain to their situation. Being suspicious and following his instincts, Manny opened a file named “2006 lab reports”. As he suspected, the file was about the experiment. It seemed to be part of Levy’s personal journal about what was going on. They became increasingly uneasy as they read the file.
“January 2, 2006: Today we started the Transformation Study. It is a revolutionary way to change things we thought would have to always stay the same. If it succeeds, I wouldn’t be surprised if I received the Nobel Prize. The pompous men from Washington finally approved the study after months of us telling them it would save the world, not destroy it. They believed us.
Ignorant men, really. We don’t know what the study will do in the end. That’s why it is called a study! We want to see what effects it will have on the world.
We have managed to isolate cells from several different types of plant life, water, etc. We have found a way to combine them and introduce them into the atmosphere. Since it is foreign to the atmosphere we introduce it into, it should cause the landscape to change into what we want it to….”
The men looked at each other. They couldn’t believe what they were reading. The government had approved the study.They skipped ahead to the heading of May 8, which was last week.
“May 8, 2006: We have succeeded in transformation here in the lab! We have managed to change sand into ocean! This is such an amazing breakthrough! I think that we are finally ready to embark on Operation Transformation! This is the most significant finding of the twenty-first century. I have contacted Washington. They are trying to hold off on a big scale experiment. They say that since the lab is a controlled environment, we really don’t know how the DNA will react with the real environment. They don’t want to introduce something that could wipe out our planet.
I have talked it over with the head of the lab, Dr. Reinhardt, and he agrees that we should ignore Washington. They are just trying to hold us back until they can figure out a way to patent our breakthrough for themselves. Tomorrow morning we are going to introduce the foreign DNA into the water system. In that way, it can get to all living things here in town. We are confident it will not affect any humans. We are going to apply it into a benign toxin that has been proven not to affect humans. It seems to be the safest way to introduce it into our environment. We have decided to do this and will not let those elitists in Washington hold us back.”
Emmit threw up his hands in disgust. “I can’t believe that arrogant man! He may very well have doomed us all to hell and for what? Because of his ego? Oh poor me! Washington wants to play it safe!”
“Calm down. Let’s read today’s passage and see what it says.”
“May 12, 2006: What have we done? God please forgive us. We introduced the toxin with the DNA into the water system yesterday morning. Since then the most disastrous things have happened. Starting around nine o’clock last night, we heard reports of people going to the doctor in masses. They reported massive headaches, stomach problems, and weakness in their joints. By midnight, no one was left except for me and Dr. Reinhardt. I am guessing that our continued exposure to the foreign DNA made us immune to its effects once it was introduced into the toxin. To make matters worse, the landscape has changed into some kind of alien planet. There are strange animals roaming around, and even stranger plants. The only thing that hasn’t changed is where buildings and houses are. They have all stayed in their relative locations.
Reinhardt left early this morning. He said that he couldn’t stand the thought of what we had done. He said that we have doomed all of humanity to a horrible death. He said he was going to Washington to tell them everything. I am not going to stay here and take the fall for this disaster. I am not going to have my life destroyed because Washington thinks we screwed up.
Oh, but we did screw up! I can see no way to stop the transformation, and I don’t know when it will end or what it will end up as. I just looked out of my window and saw the landscape changing every few seconds. What have we done?
I will leave this world with as much dignity as possible, but I must leave. I am sorry for what we have done. I wish we could take it back, but we can’t. Goodbye.”
Manny put his head in his hands. How were they going to fix this? If what Levy said was true, then Washington should be here any minute. What if Reinhardt never went to Washington, or what if he never made it?
They apparently did not have anything to worry about. They heard a helicopter outside. When they looked, they saw three helicopters and several army vehicles. It looked like they were ready for war.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” Emmit said.
“Why? We have done nothing wrong. What’s the worst they could do to us?”
“What if this is one of those situations where they want a major cover up?”
“Don’t be ridiculous! They are just coming in to fix a disaster before it spreads. We are just here to help. You are head of the science department. Surely they will see you as an asset.”
“I see your logic, but what about you? You would be considered a liability for sure. You are head of the political science department. You are nothing if not controversial.”
Manny shook his head. “Let’s quit panicking and just wait for them. We have nothing to worry about. Let me see your camera so that I can show them the pictures and let them know we are trying to help keep this situation under wraps.”
Emmit handed the camera to Manny. He still had a feeling in the pit of his stomach that this was going to turn out bad. He only hoped they were not killed because of their involvement.
Outside of the lab, the army vehicles were just pulling up. The men inside the vehicles were looking around in amazement. The changes were still happening every few seconds. Everyone had been lucky since the ocean had not come back. The changes were starting to look more and more like unknown worlds.
As the helicopters landed, the men started to file out of their vehicles. They were all loaded down with guns and ammunition. They had expected to find a riot situation, but what Dr. Reinhardt had said was true. There was no one left.
Colonel James Whinsengard walked up and stood in front of all the vehicles. He was a man known for his no-nonsense style.
“You all know that we have a situation here that needs to be contained. We, as of yet, don’t know how to stop it. We have brought our head scientist, Dr. Lillian Mack, to help. She is going to be considered my second-in-command. She is probably the only one here who has any idea of what the hell is going on. If there is anyone who is left and causes trouble, do not hesitate to execute them.” The men looked at each other in amazement. They were going to have to shoot U.S. Citizens? “I see you all looking at each other. This city is under martial law as of 0900 hours. That means I am in command. Whatever I say goes. Anyone who does not follow my orders will be considered a traitor and shot. Do I make myself clear?”
There were murmurs of agitated agreement throughout the crowd.
“Alright, we are taking over this lab. No one outside of this city needs to find out what is going on. The President doesn’t want nationwide panic. Let’s get going.”
The soldiers started to file into the lab. Dr. Mack was wondering what she had gotten into.
On the second floor, Manny and Emmit were starting to panic.
“Did you hear him?” Emmit asked. “I told you we needed to get out of here. They are going to shoot us!”
“You’re probably right. Come on, let’s go.”
Manny grabbed the camera and zip drives. He wanted to look through the rest of them to see if he could find anything useful.
“I hear the elevator,” Emmit whispered.
Manny motioned for Emmit to follow him. He led Emmit through the side door of the office. It led to a conference room, with no way out except through Levy’s office. The men looked around. They had to find a way out of here.
“We’re going to have to go out the window,” Manny whispered.
“But what if there are still men outside?”
“We’ll just have to deal with that if it comes.”
Emmit nodded his agreement. As Manny was opening the window, they heard someone entering the office next door.
Manny led the way out the window. “Be careful. There is hardly any ledge.”
Emmit followed suit, safely making it onto the ledge. He closed the window behind him and looked down. It didn’t seem to be too bad of a jump.
“I’ll go first,” Manny said. “When you are about to hit the ground, be sure to roll.”
Manny jumped, hearing someone shout as he was falling. “Hurry!” He yelled at Emmit. He saw Emmit jump at the same time that gunfire sounded.
“No!” Manny screamed as he saw Emmit get hit in the chest.
Manny reached the ground and started to roll. He was stopped by a soldier with a gun to his ribs. “Move and I’ll blow your fucking head off.”
Manny held up his hands. “You shot my friend.”
“No, our wonderful Colonel did that. We have orders to shoot anyone causing trouble.”
Manny shook his head in disgust. “I suppose jumping out of a second story window to get away from lunatic army men is causing trouble.”
“I suppose so. What are you doing here? I thought no one was left?”
“I guess you thought wrong. I have nothing to say to you murderers.”
The soldier kicked him in the ribs. “I suggest you hold the attitude, civilian. If you haven’t noticed, we’re a little trigger happy.”
“Screw you, Captain America.”
The soldier kicked him in the ribs again. He then proceeded to kick his head like it was a football. When he pulled back his leg to kick again, he heard the Colonel’s bark.
“Stand down, soldier!”
Whinsengard pulled Manny up by his collar. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
Manny looked at the Colonel for a moment, and then spit in his face. “I don’t answer to murderers.”
Whinsengard pulled out his gun and took aim at Manny’s head.
“No!” Screamed Dr. Mack. “You will not kill another innocent man.”
“You don’t know that he’s innocent. He could be a serial killer.”
“You don’t know that, either. Let him go. He has done no harm here. He is just trying to survive.”
Whinsengard turned on Dr. Mack. “Who are you to tell me what to do?”
“Last I checked I was your second in command. I am pretty sure that means I can keep you from making another mistake.”
Whinsengard walked off in disgust. “Let him go.”
Dr. Mack bent down to help Manny to his feet. “Thank you, “Manny whispered.
“You’re welcome. Now get out of here before he changes his mind.”
Manny ran off toward his truck. He didn’t know why the doctor had saved him, but he was glad that she had. He climbed into his truck with one last look at Emmit. They had just left him lying there.
“I am so sorry, man.” A single tear rolled down his cheek.
Manny put the truck into gear and sped off to his house.
* * *
“I cannot believe you shot that man!” Dr. Mack yelled at Whinsengard. “What kind of monster are you?”
“Shut up, you sniveling little twit. I don’t have time for your theatrics. In case you haven’t noticed, we have a situation here. It needs to be controlled.”
Dr. Mack looked as if she’d been slapped.
“Get that wounded look off your face, doctor.” Whinsengard said. “You are here for one reason and one reason only; to stop this catastrophe from spreading. Now I suggest you get to work before I decide you are the one causing trouble.”
Dr. Mack nodded as she went to work. She was scared out of her mind, but what could she do? She did not want to die. She hoped she could figure this thing out before it was too late.
She watched as Whinsengard walked off to patrol the lab. She hoped he tripped on something and bashed his head in. She could not believe the nerve of that man. She began to look through Levy’s drawers. She could not find anything pertaining to the project. She shook her head, that did not make any sense. She sat up in disgust. There might be something in the computer.
After searching through files for several minutes, she sighed. She didn’t want to be the one to tell Whinsengard that none of the files were here. She had one place left to look; the lab. She prayed that something was there.
She walked slowly to the lab, hoping she did not meet Whinsengard on the way. She looked everywhere. There were still no files on the Transformation Study. That was impossible. She had to tell Whinsengard she had found nothing. She walked out of the lab to find him. She stopped a soldier in the hallway.
“He’s in the conference room.”
“No problem, ma’am.”
Dr. Mack went to the conference room, fidgeting the entire way. She dreaded talking to that maniac.
“Whinsengard, sir?” Dr. Mack mumbled.
“What is it? I am on an important call to Washington.”
“There are no files here pertaining to the study.”
“What do you mean there are no files here?” Whinsengard roared. “There has to be! It’s only common sense! This is where they did the damn study!”
Dr. Mack flinched. “I looked everywhere, sir. I looked in Levy’s computer, all through his office, and in the lab itself. There is nothing here.”
Whinsengard covered his face with his hand. “Alright, let’s not panic here. I will just have someone in Washington talk to Reinhardt to see where the files are. You’re dismissed.”
Whinsengard waved her off with his other hand. Dr. Mack turned on her heel, infuriated. His god complex was annoying her. She walked back to Levy’s desk and sat down to wait for “his majesty” to finish talking to Washington.
* * *
Manny made it back to his house in record time. The landscape kept changing. He wondered if it would ever stabilize. He had seen a few alien creatures on his drive home, but none that compared to the monstrosity that had chased him earlier that morning.
He parked his truck in the garage and ran inside. He heard a sound from his bedroom as he closed and locked the connecting garage door.
He jumped, almost screaming. The day’s events had really put him on edge. He pulled the gun from his waistband, and checked it again to make sure it was loaded. It was. He edged towards the dining room. He peeked in and saw it was empty. He ran towards the living room, stopping at the threshold. It was empty, also.
He heard a crash from upstairs. He stood there a moment, getting up his nerve. He started to creep upstairs, minding the steps he knew would creak. When he got to the landing, he paused, listening for any noise that might give the intruder away. He heard slight noises coming from his bedroom. He did not know what was behind that door, but he hoped to God that he would kill it before it killed him.
His bedroom door was slightly ajar. He used this advantage to look into the room. The only thing he could see was that his room was in shambles. He was hoping the intruder would show itself. He was in luck. The thing showed itself. He drew back quickly. He looked again when nothing came barreling towards him. He wanted to get an idea of what he was up against.
The thing was different from what had chased him that morning. It was hard to describe but it resembled a wolf. It had long, sharp teeth projecting from its mouth. Its eyes were glowing red. He could hear its labored breathing from across the room. As he was studying the creature, its head turned and looked directly at Manny. Manny immediately backed away from his post. He heard the creature jump onto his bedroom floor. He backed up and raised his gun, ready to fire when the thing came through the door.
He waited for what seemed an eternity. He saw the creature’s nose protrude out and nudge the door open. Manny almost lost his cool right then. He had never dealt with anything like this before today and it was getting to be too much to handle.
Finally, he saw the creature in all of its glory. It was crouched at the doorway, ready to pounce. Its flaming red eyes penetrated Manny. He did not know if he could do this. It was as if the creature were trying to hypnotize him with its eyes. Manny shook his head to clear it and saw the creature crouch down further. He cocked the hammer of his gun as he saw the creature leap. He took steps backward, firing three blind shots, hoping against hope that he had fatally shot the abomination. The creature fell onto him with a thud. Manny scrambled to get the creature off of him. He scooted as far back from it as he could. He poked it gently with his foot, making sure it was dead. He sighed his relief when it did not move.
He turned it over and saw that all three of his shots hit the creature’s throat. He sat there and gathered his thoughts. He did not understand how it had gotten into his house. He got up and walked into his bedroom. His window was busted wide open; there was glass everywhere, but still did not explain anything. There were no trees for the creature to climb.
He went back to the creature. He saw a thin membrane concealed beneath the fur on the creature’s back. It had wings. He did not think the day could get any stranger, but apparently he was in for a world of surprises. At least it looked as though the environmental changes were equalizing out.
Manny sat down and put his face in his hands. He needed a moment to rationalize everything that had gone on today. He had lost a trusted colleague; he had been chased by a monster, had been attacked by another monster, and had been threatened by a maniac. He wished it was all a dream, knowing it was not.
* * *
“Reinhardt said that there should be zip drives in the bottom drawer that have all of the information about the experiment,” Whinsengard said to Dr. Mack.
“They aren’t there,” she replied.
Dr. Mack bent down with a huff. She yanked opened the drawer and pointed. “They aren’t there,” she stressed.
“Watch your attitude, little lady. Maybe we should check the pockets of our little troublemaker. Maybe that is why he and his friend were here. I’ll tell my men.”
Whinsengard walked down the hall to the elevator. As the doors opened, a soldier stumbled out with a look of angst on his face.
“Colonel,” the soldier said frantically. “We have a situation on our hands.”
“What is it now?”
“The man we shot, he’s gone.”
Whinsengard got in the soldier’s face. “Excuse me, soldier? What do you mean? Did someone move him? What the hell is going on? Did his friend make off with him?”
“No, sir, none of those things happened. I swear.”
“You swear, you swear?” Whinsengard screamed. “I don’t care if you swear on the Holy Bible, soldier. You find out what happened and you do it now!”
The soldier scrambled back into the elevator. Whinsengard stomped down the hall to the office. He looked at Dr. Mack.
“The body’s gone.”
“What? How can that be?”
“I don’t know, but when I find out, you’ll be the first person I tell,” Whinsengard said sarcastically.
“You pompous ass. What have I ever done to you? I am just here to help. Did you stop to think that maybe, just maybe, this super toxin that these morons introduced into the system might affect dead people, too?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Look outside, Colonel. Do you not see how drastic the changes are? This man you killed has been out in the environment all day. Don’t you think that the toxin could have been changing him and he not know it? It might have made him invincible. It might be changing him into some sort of super creature.”
“That’s utter nonsense,” Whinsengard whispered.
“Is it? Before four months ago, we thought that changing the land and environment was utter nonsense. This egomaniac Levy changed our perceptions on that. Otherwise, why would we be here trying to stop it?”
Whinsengard smoothed the front of his uniform. “Well if that’s the case then we need to find out how to stop this.”
“I would think so,” Dr. Mack agreed. “Maybe the man I made you let go has the drives. It’s not improbable.”
Whinsengard nodded his head. “Let’s find out who he is so that we can get this under wraps. I’ll get someone in here to look for fingerprints. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll be in the system.”
Whinsengard got on his walkie talkie and called for one of the forensic guys to come to Levy’s office. In a matter of minutes, a man was up there and dusting for prints. He dusted the bottom drawer first.
“Can you tell me exactly where you touched the drawer so I know which prints are yours?” The man asked Dr. Mack.
She showed him and he lifted the other prints. He scanned them into his computer and they watched anxiously as the system searched for a match.
“Here it is, sir.”
Whinsengard nodded his head. “Emanuel Locksley. Do we have his address?”
“Let me see.” The man searched for a few seconds. “Here it is, sir.”
“Thank you. You’re dismissed.”
Whinsengard looked at Dr. Mack. “Come on, let’s go.”
* * *
Manny was still sitting on the landing when he heard his doorbell ring. He looked up, confused. He got up to go downstairs and fell down. The doorbell rang again.
“Hold your horses! I’ll be right there!”
He slowly got up again, being careful to keep his balance. He held the railing as he walked down the stairs. He looked out the peephole and was frightened by what he saw. Emmit was standing on his front stoop, only it really wasn’t Emmit. He saw the bullet wound in his chest and his clothes were the same, but the rest of him was transformed. His eyes were a burning crimson. His mouth had fangs trying to jut from beneath his lips. His arms were growing long, fine hairs. His breath was ragged, coming in short puffs. He rang the doorbell again, becoming increasingly agitated.
Manny backed up from the door.
“I know you’re in there,” a guttural voice said from outside. “Let your pal in. I promise I won’t hurt you.”
Manny began to run as he saw Emmit’s hand burst through the door.
“There’s no where to run, Manny.”
The laugh that issued forth from his friend drove a spike through Manny’s head. It did not sound like Emmit anymore. This thing was not his friend. Manny skidded through his kitchen, trying to get to his truck before Emmit caught up with him. Manny made it to the door when he felt claws tear into his back. Excruciating pain tore through him as he fell to the floor. He rolled onto his side panting for breath.
“Please don’t kill me. I need to live.”
Emmit laughed his cruel laugh. “You don’t deserve to live. Have you not learned anything in the past few hours? The old world is ending. A new era where we rule the earth is beginning. Good bye old friend. Sorry about your luck.”
Manny’s life faded away as Emmit tore open his abdomen. His last glimpse of the changing world was of his old friend laughing madly.
Emmit’s maniacal laughter stopped when he heard a shout coming from the front of the house. “Mr. Locksley, are you alright?”
Emmit got down on all fours. That position was beginning to feel more natural to him. He found that he could move faster that way. He crept towards the living room, trying to make sure that the guests did not hear him.
“Mr. Locksley?” Dr. Mack called again. “Are you okay? We just want to talk to you for a minute.”
Dr. Mack looked at Whinsengard and shook her head. “He’s not answering.”
Whinsengard pulled out his gun and pointed it at the door. “There’s something going on in there. I can feel it. Stand back. I don’t want you to be in the line of fire.”
Dr. Mack backed off of the front stoop and stood to the side. She figured that she might be able to surprise the intruder if it got the best of Whinsengard.
“Emmanuel Locksley,” Whinsengard called. “I am coming in the front door. I fear that you need my assistance. If you are okay, please let me know now.”
He waited patiently for a response and received none. He walked through the broken door, being as quiet as possible. He did not know where the threat was and he did not want to give it an advantage by letting it know where he was. He saw a glimpse of a shadow on the dining room floor.
“Hold it right there,” he said.
He saw the threat move forward into the full light. It straightened up and he saw that it was a deformed version of the man he had shot earlier. Its flaming red eyes frightened Whinsengard . He began to back up as the creature moved forward.
“What’s wrong,” the creature smiled. “Scared?”
“Let’s be rational about this,” Whisengard stammered.
“Rational? I think I will choose irrational, but thanks.”
Whinsengard fired a shot. It hit the creature in the arm. It never stopped advancing. It only smiled and laughed.
“Do you honestly believe your little gun can stop me? It didn’t stop me the first time, and it’s not going to stop me now.”
Whinsengard threw down the gun and ran out of the front door. He glanced to his side and saw that Dr. Mack had gotten the flame thrower from his vehicle. He nodded his head at her and pretended to fall down.
Dr. Mack fired the flame thrower as the creature stepped outside. Flames engulfed it. They heard its screams as it tried to beat the flames off its body. It continued to scream for several minutes until it finally collapsed. Dr. Mack and Colonel Whinsengard looked at it until the fire died.
“How can we be sure it’s dead?” Whinsengard asked.
“I don’t know. I guess we just have to hope for the best.”
Whinsengard’s walkie talkie squawked. “Colonel, we have some important information.”
“We just got reports from Dallas that people there are going to the hospitals in masses. They are experiencing joint weakness, stomach problems, and migraines.”
Whinsengard sighed. “Thank you, soldier. Over and out.”
“Over and out.”
“It’s starting to spread,” Dr. Mack said.
Whinsengard nodded his head. “Let’s get in here and see if those drives are here.”
They stepped over the charred remains of Emmit and entered the house. Whinsengard led the way. He went the way he saw the creature come from. They encountered the disemboweled remains of Emmanuel Locksley. Dr. Mack turned her head and lost her lunch.
“I’m sorry, Whinsengard, but that was too nasty.”
“It’s alright. You go check on our other body. I want you to make sure that he hasn’t resurrected himself again.”
Whinsengard waited until Dr. Mack was out of the room to do his dirty work. He needed to check Manny’s pockets to see if he had those drives. He checked the left pocket and found nothing. The right front pocket was where he hit pay dirt. He pulled out the zip drives and a small digital camera. He looked at the pictures and saw they seemed to be photos of the men in Levy’s office. He tossed the camera aside and stood up with the zip drives.
“I’ve got them!” He called out to Dr. Mack.
“Good, I think our guy’s dead for sure.”
Whinsengard walked up behind her. “Now we know how to kill them if the need arises again. Do you think you can stomach helping me to load him up?”
“I guess. Why do we need him?”
“I want to make sure he doesn’t spring to life again. A autopsy may be in order as well.”
They loaded Emmit’s charred remains and drove back to the lab. What they saw when they arrived shocked them. The soldiers were writhing on the ground in different stages of transformation.
“How long do you think we have until we start to change?” Whinsengard asked.
When Dr. Mack didn’t answer, he looked over at her with concern.
“Are you alright?”
Dr. Mack looked at Whinsengard.
“No,” came the guttural reply. “And neither are you.”
She attacked him from where she sat, taking the shine of life from his eyes. She got out of the vehicle and walked to the lab. She placed a call to Washington.
“This message is to all the imbeciles who think that their way of life is superior. There is a new race coming, a race like no other known to man. A new era of supreme power is beginning. Any who try to resist us will be killed with prejudice. You cannot stop us. Do not dare to try. Pledge your allegiance to us or die. Soon you will become one with us, and my words will not matter. Until then, be careful.”
She hung up the phone and looked outside. She was going to enjoy ruling the world.