The journal of Andy Ortega, discovered by Jason Bougger
Art by Luke Spooner
About three months ago, I quit my job in Chemical Weapon research and moved back to Denison to take care of my sick mother. By mere chance, my research had given me hope of a potential cure for her illness.
And though well-intended, I hold nothing but regret for making the decision to return to my hometown. It wasn’t that I had anything against Denison, and I certainly didn’t miss living on the base. In fact, Denison was just like I remembered–a small town populated by the kind of good, hardworking people that made me proud to have grown up here.
I even reconnected with a few of my old high school buddies. At the time my story really begins, three of these friends happened to be aiming their rifles at my head.
I dropped my gun, knowing I had no other choice.
“Get down on your knees, Andy.” It was Lyle Maxwell giving the orders. The same Lyle Maxwell that I got caught smoking cigarettes with behind the school in the seventh grade. He gestured toward the ground with his rifle. “I mean it. Let’s not make this any more difficult than it needs to be.”
“How much more difficult could it be?” I asked, dropping to my knees. I studied Lyle’s face for a few more seconds, hoping to find a trace of sympathy, but finding none.
“Andy, just keep your mouth shut,” Ronnie Waller said. I wasn’t surprised to see a tear running down Ronnie’s cheek. He always was the crier. Even stupid things, like losing a high school football game, would set him off.
“You don’t want to shoot me,” I said, glancing from Lyle, to Ronnie, then to Glenn Hitchens, who stood a few feet behind them. Glenn’s hands were shaking so much it was a miracle he hadn’t accidently pulled the trigger.
I made eye contact with Glenn. “I’m not … I’m not one of them.”
“Oh, Andy, I don’t–”
“Shut up,” Lyle said. He flipped the rifle around, gripping it by the barrel, then held it up like a baseball bat and swung.
I held out my arms to block the blow, but Glenn darted out from behind Lyle and grabbed the gun before it made contact. “Lyle, stop it. He’s right. We don’t know if he’s been infected yet.”
Lyle pulled his weapon free from Glenn’s grip. He held his position for a few seconds before backing down. “Well then where in the hell has he been all this time?”
“How should I know?” Glenn asked. “But why don’t we just lock him up for a couple of days and see how he turns out?”
A moment passed and then Lyle responded. “Fine. We’ll give him a couple of days. But if he shows any signs, Glenn, then it’ll be your ass that has to finish him off.”
I finally exhaled. At least Glenn still had a bit of sense left.
“We haven’t seen you since this shit started,” Ronnie said, talking more to the scope of his rifle than to me directly.
“I was hiding,” I pleaded. “I’m clean, ya know?”
“We’ll see about that,” Ronnie said. He set his gun on the ground and cautiously walked behind me. He then threw down his backpack and took out a rope. “Ya know, this hasn’t been easy on any of us.”
“You’re telling me,” I said, annoyed yet relieved to still be breathing. I knew that all I needed to do was stay alive for a couple of days–long enough to come up with an escape plan.
That, and make sure I didn’t start foaming at the mouth.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2014 collection.
It was never Andy Ortega’s intention to work in black op projects. His first love was science. It was his graduate research in vaccinations that caught the Pentagon’s eye. After spending four years working on confidential immunizations to chemical attacks, he declined renewing his contract and moved back to his hometown to continue his research in private, while taking care of his sick mother.
Jason Bougger is an IT professional and a lifelong fan of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. He grew up in Brainard, Nebraska and currently lives in Omaha with his wife and kids. His fiction has appeared in anthologies published by Gothic City Press and Misanthrope Press and online in The WiFiles and The Story Shack. You can visit his blog at www.jasonbougger.com.
Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.
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