“Home at last,” announced David Wheeler’s mother, Jane, as they pulled into the driveway of their two-storey suburban home, with a white picket fence, on the outskirts of Clearfield, Pennsylvania. “How are you feeling, David?”
“Like someone microwaved my insides,” David replied plainly.
“Well, with any luck, this will be the end of it,” added David’s father, Ben. “I don’t think I have enough bone marrow in me for a second round – ever. We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that this experimental treatment pans out.”
Jane slowly drove the car into the garage and then turned off the engine. Over the past few months, her mind had been racing with so many thoughts and fears that she didn’t know what to do with herself now that everything was, hopefully, over. David had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of nine. Now, seven years later, and only through the help of Dr. Lloyd Anderson, David’s last tests came up negative for any sign of cancer.
Dr. Anderson had miraculously gotten David accepted into an experimental treatment that was only being offered to five children across the globe and, if successful, wouldn’t be available to the public for a minimum of five years. David didn’t have that long. In fact, it was a miracle in itself that he had managed to survive as long as he has. Although the treatment had taken three months of planning and procedures, followed by another three months of recovery after the surgery, it was all worth it. Within only a week after surgery, David was already showing signs of improvement.
Today, after one final treatment, which Dr. Anderson explained as a sort of ‘booster shot’ to help David’s
immune system adjust to the real world’s untreated air, David was released from Altoona’s Cancer Care Clinic and allowed to go home.
“Mom?” asked David, peering over her shoulder from the back seat. “Are you coming inside, or are you just gonna drool over your blouse all evening?”
Jane forced herself away from her thoughts and shook her head. “No, sorry, I’ll be right in,” she said and
unbuckled her seatbelt. “Why don’t you and your dad go and decide what we should have for supper?”
“Wait – we get to pick?” asked David with a grin on his face, and then turned around and ran into the house. “Dad! Mom said we can order pizza!”
As much as Jane wanted to protest, she couldn’t help but to smile instead. It wasn’t too long ago that David couldn’t even get himself out of the car, much less sprint through the garage, up the steps, and into the house. It was a miracle, and Dr. Anderson was nothing less than a Godsend for what he had done for them. Of course, there was the fact that David had just complained about his insides being microwaved…
“David! Take it easy!” shouted Jane as she climbed out of the car. “We don’t want any more trips to the hospital!”
“Mom, I’m fine!” groaned David, from inside the kitchen. “What do you want on your pizza?”
Jane rolled her eyes and sighed in half-amusement and half-frustration. “Shouldn’t we be feeding you healthy food for a while?”
“Hell no!” David said sternly. “I’ve been eating healthy food since I was nine. I want something artery-blocking and fat-inducing.”
Looking to her husband for some backup, but obviously not getting anywhere with him, Jane gave in, on the condition that the pizza has at least one vegetable on it.
“That’s easy. The sauce is made from tomato, right? One veggie down, only six high-cholesterol meats to go!”
“David, that will be really hard on your stomach. Try to take it easy for a few days at least. Let your system adjust.”
“But I’m fine, Mom. I haven’t felt this good in years. Really, I can handle it.”
“Fine,” said Jane with a sigh, “but don’t come crying to me when the diarrhea kicks in and you’re throwing up all night.”
David shrugged dismissively and picked up the phone. “What’s the number for Meaty B’s Pizzeria?”
Within the hour, the family of three was sitting around the coffee table, in the living room, chomping down the thickest, most-unhealthy Chicago style pizza that they had ever seen in their lives. Because the television had, yet again, been commandeered by the UmbrellaCorporation’s latest medical breakthrough, they had thrown in an old DVD of mindless action and impossible feats, better known as Mission Impossible.
“Hey Mom,” interrupted David, placing his pizza down on his plate. “Do you think I can have Jase over tomorrow?” he asked hopefully. “I haven’t seen him in forever.”
“I suppose so. Just no overexerting yourself. You really should be taking it easy for a while. School starts up in a few weeks, and we want you to be able to get back to a normal life.”
“Normal? Where’s the fun in that?” teased David. “Anyway, so it’s cool to call him in the morning? I wanna show him my scar.”
“That’s disgusting!” said Jane with a giggle. “I should have had a girl.”
After consuming two massive slices of pizza, David excused himself from the coffee table and went upstairs to sort out his room. It had been so long since he had been in there that it felt like he was snooping around in someone else’s room. However, before he could get much of anything done, the excitement of the day took its toll on him, and he curled up on his bed and fell asleep.
* * *
Later on that night, while everyone was in bed, David woke up in a cold sweat; his bones felt as if they were
being pressed in a series of clamps. Something was wrong, he could feel it, but he didn’t want to wake his parents and hear his mother’s ‘I told you so’ speech. He could deal with this. It was only a bit of pain, and he had definitely been through worse.
Suddenly, just as David was about to get up and go to the washroom, the room started to spin and his brain felt like he was in the middle of an electrotherapy session. Unable to move, David lied still and hoped that the feeling would soon pass. But it didn’t.
In the moments between the spinning and the zapping, strange, surreal-looking images flashed through his mind, as if he were recalling his own, distant memories. Of course, what he was seeing wasn’t real; it couldn’t be. Regardless, what he saw, he couldn’t explain.
There was room with white walls and bright fluorescent lights above. Surrounding him, or who he thought must be him, were six doctors dressed in white bio suits, holding strange instruments in their hands and talking as if he wasn’t right there listening.
“Subject has received cerebral injection. Initiating filtration and preparing T-Virus C26 for introduction to the endocrine system. Awaiting command.”
Immediately following, David saw the strangest looking syringe he had ever seen. It was in the shape of a gun, but it had a cylindrical object in the middle. In its centre were two spiralling tubes that looked almost like a DNA ladder, except it was blue with a single, red tube in the middle that went straight down toward the gun’s end.
“Crash team is standing by. Commencing phase three.”
Staring at the doctor with the gun in his hand, David felt his heart begin to race as his skin became drenched with a thick coat of cool sweat. He wanted to speak, but when he tried the words would not come out. He wanted to get away, but his body was unable to move. And just as the sting from the syringe made contact with his flesh, he opened his eyes.
The sun was rising into the sky from behind the Arklay Mountains, where Racoon City used to be. David’s
surrounding were clusters of white ash trees and evergreens, overtop a rolling terrain of hills, leading up toward the mountain. At first, David’s location didn’t register and he casually stretched and yawned, while looking up at the curious birds that were circling in the sky.
It wasn’t until David sat up and realized that he was sitting in the grass, wearing nothing but his boxers, that he realized something was wrong. The sudden dose of reality caused his chest to ache, as an unexpected amount of adrenaline surged through his body. He could feel the blood pumping through his veins, which left him feeling both nauseated and excited at the same time. And, before he could adjust to the moment, the sound of a breaking twig alerted him that he was not alone, and – on instinct – his arms spun around, pressed against the earth, and pushed him up to his feet before he could even think to turn around.
“Who’s there!?” yelled David, scanning the treeline carefully for any form of movement. “And how did I get here!?”
“I’m not here to hurt you, David,” replied a faint, unfamiliar voice, from all directions. “I’m here to help.”
“Who are you? What do you want?” David demanded to know as he spun in circles, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever he was speaking to.
“My name is Gil Iverson. I used to work with Dr. Anderson.”
“And you brought me out here to tell me that?”
“No,” Gil assured him. “You came here yourself. I merely followed. Tell me something – how do you feel right now?”
“Confused,” David replied honestly. “Where are we?”
“We’re at the foothills of the Arklay Mountains. The backdoor into the Hive, or what used to be the Hive,
“What the hell is the Hive?”
“Racoon City’s old research facility. You were probably driven here by shadow memories.”
“Memories that don’t belong to you.”
“Oh yeah? I’m not buying it. Just point me back toward the city, and I won’t call the cops on you!”
“What you’re experiencing, David, is only the beginning. I can take you home, but only if you’re willing to listen. Your life is about to become very complicated, and you need to be ready for what’s to come.”
“How am I supposed to trust someone who won’t even show himself?”
“Because if you don’t trust me, you’ll be dead by sundown.”
To be continued…?