Hi. My name is Miguel Morales, but Timmy called me Mikey in kindergarten and now everybody does. I’m Terri Morales’ son. Mom and I used to live in Raccoon City… till it went away. When I think back, I realize it was just dumb luck that I survived the holocaust; I was on a German Club trip to Munich, Germany when Raccoon City ceased to exist… along with Mom.
Timmy, my best friend, is in the same boat as I am. We were in Munich when we got the news. I’m glad that Timmy was there with me… I couldn’t take losing my Mom and my best friend all at once. Timmy lost his entire family; his parents, his grandmother and his older brother and sister. I only had Mom. Dad (Tomas) was a soldier and died in Iraq four years ago when I was 11. I never knew my grandparents on Mom’s side. They died before she met Dad. Dad’s folks died of old age, Grandpa when he was 84 (I was 4 at the time) and Grandma when she was almost 90 (when I was 9). They were well into their 40s when they had Dad. Rumor has it that Dad wasn’t planned. Poor Dad.
Thank goodness that Mom had a brother or we’d have ended up in an orphanage. Uncle Pete visited Raccoon City often and, since he was always over, he treated
Timmy like family, too. I was going to ask Uncle Pete if he could adopt Timmy, but I never got the chance – he was way ahead of me on that one. As soon as he learned that Timmy had lost his family, he changed our return reservations. We flew into O’Hare in Chicago and Uncle Pete met us. I expected the drive to his place in Lombard to be somber and mournful, but Uncle Pete wouldn’t hear of it.
“You guys have lost a lot, but you didn’t lose your lives. Be sad that your families are gone, but be thankful that you still have each other. While I drive us to your new home, I want each of you to tell me some good things that you remember about your families.”
And so it went for the next 45 minutes as Uncle Pete brought us home. If we slowed down or paused, Uncle Pete would prompt us to continue. By the time we arrived, we were crying, but only because we were laughing so hard at our mutual memories.
We couldn’t believe the room Uncle Pete had set up for us. The room is big enough for us, but there’s only one double bed. Timmy and I have had sleepovers, so that’s not a problem. It’ll be good having someone to talk with all the time. We each have a dresser and a wardrobe. I guess the wardrobe is because the closet is kind of small for two people. We even have a TV and a Stereo in our room. Timmy and I had our PSPs with us, as well as our laptops, our iPods and our phones. Uncle Pete has WiFi in the house and we can pick up a good signal. We had the electronics set up in no time. Uncle Pete had the access codes ready for us to use. That was cool.
We have some clothes with us because of our trip to Munich, but Uncle Pete is going to take us shopping this weekend. The first thing we had to do was wash the clothes we had with us. We ended up with a couple of loads. That should last us for a week.
After we finished our laundry and got it hung up or folded and put away, Timmy and I took turns taking showers. Once we were done, we put on our boxers and got in bed for the night. I think this was the first time Timmy and I were alone since we found out what happened to our families. As we lay there talking, we started sobbing. For the first time that I could remember, we didn’t tease each other about being babies or anything. Soon enough, we drifted off to sleep. I don’t know if it was a minute or an hour later, but I awoke and started to think about Mom and began to quietly weep. I turned away from Timmy so I wouldn’t wake him, but I think he was awake already. I felt him put his arm around me and give me a hug. We fell asleep like that. I’m glad Timmy was there. I miss my mom.
* * *
Uncle Pete had started the wheels in motion for the adoption process and, with the tragedy in Raccoon City, all adoptions of survivors were given priority. Having Uncle Pete adopt me was no problem since he was my only living relative, but Timmy was a different story. Timmy, Uncle Pete and I were interviewed a thousand times it seemed. I guess it was good that they were so thorough, but it still kinda sucked.
In a matter of a few hours, Uncle Pete was now my dad and he was Timmy’s legal guardian. When Timmy asked why Uncle Pete wasn’t his dad, Uncle Pete joked that,
“I might want to trade you in for a newer model, but that’s OK… I still have an option to buy.” Then he told us the legal reasons and said that in a few months he expected to have two sons.
And so began our new lives. I started calling Uncle Pete “New Dad” and Timmy called him “Not Dad”. Uncle Pete cracked up the first time he heard our names for him.
* * *
Although no bodies were recovered, and Raccoon City was a restricted area because of the radioactivity, Uncle Pete insisted that we have a memorial ceremony. We were awestruck when he took us on board one of the tour boats on the Chicago River and gave each of us an urn of ashes to empty into the water. Uncle Pete had one, too.
“You guys know that these are not the ashes of your families, but the act of putting them to rest in the Chicago River will help to give you closure. This is a personal and private time, so you don’t have to say anything out loud if you don’t want to.” And with that he silently and slowly poured the ashes from his urn. When he was finished, tears were streaming down his cheeks.
Timmy and I did the same… and with the same results. It ended with a group hug.
“I love you, New Dad.”
“I love you, Not Dad.”
“I love you too, Sons.”
By the time we docked, our eyes were dry and Uncle Pete took us out to eat. This time Uncle Pete told us of the great times that he had over the years with Mom and Dad and with Timmy’s Mom and Dad. I couldn’t believe the things he told us. They should have been arrested for most of them. Finally, the night was over and Uncle Pete took us home. Home… it’s so great to be able to say that again.
Once we were home, we watched TV with Uncle Pete for a while. Finally it was time for showers and bed.
Tonight Timmy and I didn’t weep as much, but we woke up hugging each other. I was surprised… neither of us was creeped out.
* * *
In trying to get us back on an almost normal schedule, Uncle Pete enrolled us in Lombard High School the next morning. Once we had our class assignments and books, we started classes.
But before we had our first class, Timmy took hold of my shoulders, stared into my eyes and said, “If you call me ‘Timmy’ in this school, I’ll cut your balls off while you sleep. My. Name. Is. ‘Tim’. Agreed?”
“Not so fast, TIM. The same thing goes the first time you call me ‘Mikey’. From now on I’m Mike. Agreed?”
We did a fist bump to seal the deal.
As it turned out, Tim and I were taking the same subjects, but we only had four classes out of six together, English Composition, History, German and Gym. We both had Biology and Geometry at the same time, but in different classrooms. Thankfully, we had lunch at the same time. The first day of classes was pretty hectic. I was never good with names and forgot every one of them as the final bell rang. Tim, on the other hand, remembered everything. I’m gonna have to find out how he does that.
* * *
Uncle Pete was still at work when we got home, so we got on the Internet and Googled Raccoon City. Mom was a reporter for Raccoon 7 TV and I usually ignored the news, but now I had a reason to pay attention. I wanted to see if I could find out what caused the disaster. I didn’t know how I could… or what I’d do if I found anything, but I had to at least try.
Like most kids, we have about a half a dozen email addresses, FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, DailyBooth and a few others, so we cycled through them looking for other survivors. We were in Germany with about twenty kids and two teachers, so I started with them. We had most of their FaceBook pages and left messages.
I also had Mom’s gmail password (Tomas wasn’t hard to figure out), so I checked her email, too. I found an email from a guy named Gil Iverson. When I started reading it, my heart almost stopped! Gil was saying that the demise of Raccoon City was not an accident! I copied the email and pasted it in a new message to Tim from my Yahoo account. We both fell silent as we tried to comprehend what we just read.
Tim spoke first.
“Mike, do you know what any of these terms mean?”
“No, but we have Google and we’re both taking Biology. How difficult could it be?”
“Dude, how many 15 year olds do you know who work with stuff that needs a Biohazard Countermeasure Service? This is some heavy shit!”
“Tim, we can’t do nothing. That would be dissing my mom and your family. We have to do something. Any Ideas?”
“Let’s start by looking up these terms and see if we can make any sense out of this mess. From what his email said, it looks like Gil Iverson is in hiding, not that I blame him, but we have to see if we can find him.”
“I think we should be cautious. If Umbrella Corporation has the money to do all this, they might be filtering search activities as well.”
“Good point. Let’s do the searches from school.”
“Nah, they’d be able to narrow us down to a single building that way. If we have to search for terms, let’s do it with the big honkin’ dictionary at the library first. If we have to go online, we can do it from a free hotspot and make them random. Never the same one twice.”
“In a row?”
“Ever,” I said. “It has to look random… without a pattern. If they’re not watching for us, it’s a lot of work, but if they are, we can hide easily enough. They won’t know where to look… if they even think about looking in the first place.”
“You sound a bit paranoid, bro.”
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people ain’t out to get you.”
* * *
That night we had dinner with Uncle Pete and the bum made us do our homework. He wasn’t falling for the “I don’t have any” story that we tried to give him. Once that was done, we checked our contacts and found that nine of the 20 kids in Munich with us had checked in. Like us, they had been taken in by relatives or family friends. We were a bit worried about the others. I was afraid that they might have been in orphanages or worse… on the streets. With the nine we contacted, we agreed to keep in touch and let the others know if we heard from any of the others. After our showers, Tim and I fell asleep hugging each other again. It didn’t seem strange to us, we just needed to show that we cared, that we had each other for comfort.
For the next few days, Tim and I spent our afternoons in the school library, which was amazing for a couple of guys who weren’t geeks in the slightest. It could have given us a bad rep, if not for both of us making friends easily… and being killer in Dodge Ball.
But for all the work we were doing, it didn’t seem to be doing much towards proving or disproving a plot that destroyed Raccoon City. We read and reread Gil Iverson’s email so many time that the words started to blur. Finally, we wrote down a few of the main parts and brought them to our Biology teachers. I had Mr. Lisowski and Tim had Mrs. Williams.
The next afternoon in our respective Biology classes we showed our teachers the terms that were baffling us. We couldn’t believe the answers we got. Mr. Lisowski laughed and said it was a cute joke, but not worth the time I spent putting it together. I was confused. When he saw my expression, he said, “Mr. Morales, do you really not understand the terms being used? If a virus like this exists, it would create Zombies. Have you heard of any Zombie outbreaks lately? … Me neither. I think we’re safe. Now go sit down.”
Tim had similar results with Mrs. Williams, only she wasn’t as amused as Mr. Lisowski was.
“Mr. Bennett, take your Zombie tomfoolery and get back to your seat, I’m trying to teach a class here.”
And that was it. We were laughed at and accused of tomfoolery. At least we got an answer, in fact, the same one twice… and we didn’t get detention for it. Sheesh!
* * *
OK, so now we knew what Gil was talking about, but we were no further along than when we first read his email. Was it a hoax… or a sick joke? I didn’t think so. I remember Mom talking with a guy named Gil on the phone.
Tim and I decided to go to a hotspot to Google “Gil Iverson”. Thousands of responses came back. We each had a laptop, so we started looking for more specific responses, like “Gil Iverson Raccoon City”. We got one hit, but as Tim clicked on the link, he was redirected to a Raccoon City memorial site. We knew we were getting closer because we both saw the name ‘Gil Iverson’ and the Umbrella Corp logo before we were redirected. We tried to get back to it, but the link gave an Error 404. We decided to get off the hotspot and shut down our laptops. We didn’t think anyone was closing in on us, but we didn’t want to take any chances.
Later that night we told Uncle Pete about what we found so far. I pretty much expected him to laugh at us too. He didn’t. What he told us made us take notice.
“Boys, I know that if I tell you to forget about this it will only encourage you more. Instead, I want you to
continue looking into it, but don’t tell anyone else, don’t even mention it to anyone else. If this is true, you could be in serious danger if the wrong person finds out. Bring me up to date every day and, if you need to have me to meet you, call me on my cell. Don’t speak in the open, but instead, say something like ‘the dog was in the flowers again’. I’ll find a way to get away and meet you.”
“New Dad, is it really that serious? Who is Gil Iverson? Is he a good guy or a bad guy?”
“Mike, your mom told me a few things over the last couple of weeks. One of them was that she was working with Gil Iverson, but she wasn’t sure if he was one of the good guys or bad guys. Since Terri died, I received the same email that she did. I didn’t know if it was from Gil or someone looking for him. Till we find out whose side Gil is on, we have to assume he’s a bad guy.”
“Wow! We never thought about that,” said Tim. “Mike, you were right when you said to only use hotspots. Now I’m getting paranoid.”
“You were right to be suspect, Mike. If you err, do it on the side of caution. Your mother was getting ready to release an exposé. She said Gil was her source, but she still wasn’t sure if he was the real thing or if he was trolling to see how much she really knew. If outsiders know about the Zombies, they might be in danger too.”
“Whoa! What about Mrs. Williams and Mr. Lisowski?” Tim asked.
“Don’t say any more to them. If they ask, tell them you ran into a dead end and gave up… that it was probably a hoax anyway,” Uncle Pete answered.
“Yeah, that sounds like something I’d say,” Tim responded.
“So boys, tell me about school. Are you settling in OK? How are your classes? Are they about the same as the ones you were taking in Raccoon City? Have you made any friends yet?”
“Yes, OK, yeah and no,” Tim answered.
“Tim, it’s not too late to trade you in for a newer model.”
“Haha… sorry, Not Dad,” Tim replied and we gave a rundown of our day at school.
* * *
On his way to work the next morning when he was on his commuter train, Uncle Pete took a cell phone out of his briefcase, powered it up and sent a text…
“they pulled your website again.”
And then immediately powered it down and put it back in his briefcase.