Deadlocked by A. R. Wise

Book: Deadlocked by A. R. Wise Read Free Book Online
Authors: A. R. Wise
    The apocalypse began with people being stabbed by tiny needles in crowded subways. Victims reported a stinging sensation on their thigh, as if someone in the crowd had jabbed them. They returned home to discover a swelling, purple lesion where the sting had occurred. Most people didn't pay much attention to it the first day, but the infection spreads quick and soon people crowded ER rooms around the world.
    Rumors of other causes of the disease started as well. People got cut by razors taped to the handles of gas pumps, water supplies were tainted, cafeteria food was infected; there was a never-ending stream of new theories on how it had been spread. I assumed it was paranoia, but I was wrong. This was far worse than anyone's worst fears.
    The moment the paranoia turnad.ed to panic was caught on film, but I'd been panicked all morning. Not because conspiracy theorists swore the world was ending, but because mine had fallen apart around me.
    I planned to leave work early that day. My wife, Laura, was going to drop off our daughters at a neighbor’s house and pick me up at noon. I found a lump on my left testicle a week ago and Laura insisted I get it checked out. After a physical, the doctor said he wanted me to get an ultrasound. That test came back with concerning results and I had to follow up with a serum tumor marker test.
    They got the results back from the lab yesterday and asked me to come in as soon as possible. We knew it was bad news. If the test came back negative they would have told us over the phone.
    Everyone else in the office was focused on the terrorist attacks. The burgeoning panic allowed my disease, and the concern it caused, a level of anonymity I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I was able to slip into the office, my face drained of color and my palms wet with sweat, and duck into my cubicle.
    My best friend, a short, tubby man named Barry, had started working here around the same time as me. He sat in the cubicle next to mine and always had someone in there, usually chatting about the latest episode of a new, favorite reality show or some other exercise in wasting time. He'd been written up more than once for watching shows on his computer during work. I could hear his computer now, blaring the local news. The difference today was that the sales managers were in there with him.
      “What hospital are they at?” asked Jerry. He was supposed to be managing the floor, but he had no interest in telling people to get back to work on a day like this.
    “Saint Peter’s,” said Barry.
    “A bus full of kids just showed up." Gloria clasped her hand over her mouth. “This is horrible.”
    “Has anyone died?” asked Jerry.
    “Not yet,” said Alan, one of the company’s accountants.
    “How many kids are sick?” Jerry pushed his way past the others to get a better view of Barry's screen.
    “They didn’t say. They’re taking the camera over to the bus now,” said Barry.
    Everyone silenced and I could hear the reporter telling the viewers he was going to get on the bus. After a few moments of rustling, which I assumed was the reporter’s microphone rubbing against his coat, he asked, “What happened here? Are these kids okay?”
    “Oh my God,” said Gloria. “How terrible. Look at them, the poor babies.”
    Then the screaming started. Everyone in Barry’s cubicle jumped and caused the walls to shake as people pressed against them. Barry’s speakers crackled with the shrieks of children.
    My daughters are three and five, so I was studied in the various screeches a child can make, and these werrope a mix of pain and terror. The pained screams weren’t the sort that came from a stubbed toe or skinned knee. These were a violent expulsion of every ounce of breath and energy the child could muster. I can still remember the sound that came from that speaker as if it were happening now. It was horrific.
    I couldn’t ignore this event anymore. I got up and peered

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