William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Thirty-Seven

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Billy St. Clair turned the knob that lit the gas fire in the study while Rocky clipped the edge off an Upman Petit.

Julia frowned.  “You haven’t even touched the cigars I got you for our anniversary.”

Rocky lit up.  He drew the smoke into his lungs and held it a moment to clear his head.  “Those are for special occasions.”

She told them what she knew, and she piled blankets on the sofa where Karen Sorros rested, a new IV in her arm.

“I lit up the fence just in case.”  Billy sat in front of the security monitor where he had keyed in the codes to turn on the electric fence.  “We’re safe here.  Timmy is in the basement checking on the guns.  They’re going to come after her, you know.”

Rocky nodded.

“What if they call the police?” Julia asked.

“They won’t,” both men answered at once.

“This isn’t the sort of situation that calls for police,” Rocky said.  “But they will come for her.  So let’s review, why is it we’ve kidnapped her again?”

Julia sighed.  “I couldn’t leave her there.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think she would have been safe.”

“Why?”  Rocky asked again.  “They’ve been protecting her.  Why would they hurt her now?”

“I don’t think they would try to hurt her.”  Julia paced nervously around the room.

“Pickup truck just passed by,” Billy said, staring at the monitor.  “Second truck in about five minutes.  Could be I’m paranoid.”

“I don’t think they would hurt her,” Julia continued, “but I think if she got sick enough, they might let her die before they would go for help.”

“I thought you said she was already dead,” Rocky told her.

“I don’t know what she is.  I have to figure that out.  Maybe it was also for selfish reasons.  This girl could have all the answers to everything.  I can’t walk away from her, and now I’ve put us all in danger.”

Billy reached into the humidor for a cigar without taking eyes from the monitor.  “We’re actually pretty safe here unless they have tanks.  The perimeter fence could stop a Humvee.”

“They could have a helicopter,” Julia suggested.

“How about you figure out the girl,” Rocky said.  “And let us sit here and plot.”

 

By early evening, Alice Yee had transformed one of the guest bedrooms into a functional intensive care ward.  Most of the equipment came from Carson’s apartment.  The heart monitor and crash cart from when he was younger and sicker had been summoned from his basement storage locker.  The ventilator, the IV supplies, and the computer were Rocky’s, brought up from the emergency shelter behind the wall.  And they had Carson’s portable dialysis machine

At the far end of the room, away from the windows, Karen Sorrows looked tiny on the Queensize bed under two comforters and a Charlie Brown electric blanket that Carson found in his closet.

“How is she?” Julia asked.

Alice looked up from the monitor.  “This is the most fucked-up thing I’ve ever seen.”

“I know.”

“Do you smell something?”

“Like what?”  Julia leaned in and inhaled.  “Like cinnamon.”

“I was thinking cloves.”

“Some spice.  Maybe they rubbed her down with something.”

Alice stared.  “She’s warming up.  A minute ago she hit ninety-seven degrees.  She’s breathing without a ventilator.  Heartbeat is good.  Pulse is 54; she could eat nothing but Big Macs until the day she died again and not have to worry about high blood pressure.”

“That was pretty funny,” said Julia.

“The part where I said, ‘until they day she died again?’”

“Yeah, that part.”  Julia inspected the tubes that ran into each arm.  Saline drip and plasma in one, dialysis tubes in the other.  “She’s a mess.”

“She’s a mess,” Alice agreed.  “This is one for the textbooks.  Hey, you don’t have an MRI lying around here do you?”

“I wish.”  Julia opened the girl’s eyes.  Her irises were fully dilated but constricted instantly when turned on her penlight.  She flicked the light to the right and Karen’s pupils followed.  “That’s a good sign.”

“Not that good.  You can be brain dead and your eyes will still dart to follow stimuli.  It’s your cerebellum peeking around for possible food sources.  She could be brain dead, Julia.”

“No.  She said something when we were back there at the compound.  She said I should help her.”

Alice looked up at her.  “All you said was that she gasped.”

Julia frowned.  “Yes, she just gasped.  That’s all, yet I have this vague memory that something was communicated.”

“Telepathy?”

“No.”

“Why not?  Once you start believing in zombies, it’s really not that much of a stretch.  The neurons in your brain communicate with each other.  What’s wrong with them communicating with someone else’s neurons?”

Julia held Karen’s hand, surprised again at how cold and light it was.  “You’re going to be OK, sweetheart.”  She stared at the heart monitor which registered a tight strong heartbeat.  “Neurons communicate by firing electrochemical charges over minute distances.  They can’t reach outside to other brains.”

“What about pheromones?”

“Not in primates.  Our sense of smell has atrophied too much over the last sixty-five million years.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Alice.  “I read the same books you do.”

“I know.  I assigned them to you.”

“What I mean is that we need to start expanding our thinking a little bit.  What are we going to do with this girl if she doesn’t get better soon.”

“She’s getting better.”

“She’ll need to go back,” Alice said.  “She said she needs to drink the tea to get better.  It’s some special tea that they brew there.”

Julia turned slowly.  “What did you say?”

“The tea.”  Alice froze.  “Oh my God.  She’s communicating with us, isn’t she?”

Julia felt the adrenaline spike through her system.  She hadn’t been this afraid in hours.  “I don’t know.”

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Written by williamdoonan

May 30, 2013 at 9:06 pm

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