Monday, November 9, 2009

The Blessing - A Short Story

Here's a quick short story I wrote.  Enjoy. 

Evan glanced down both ends of the street before crossing.  It was deserted.  Completely.  Small traces of dust danced around in the air—unearthly beings from another place and time, another universe.
    They had told him the house was unnumbered, but was identifiable by its red roof and faded gray door.
    He cursed mildly to himself.  Every single house on this street had a red roof with a faded gray door.  Poor intel, as usual.  Heaven forbid that the higher-ups should spend any time helping common pediatricians like him when they had a lead. 
    He was to inspect a recent blessing.  But not just any blessing—they had told him this one was special.  Highly responsive nanomotors and an incredibly complex and coordinated mind.  He glanced at his infopad.  So they did have reliable location intel, after all.  It was the second house to the left.  It looked like it hadn’t seen a broom or a dustpan for millennia.
    He knocked lightly on the door.  No response.  He knocked again.  There was a slight rustle.  A small cry.
    The door opened and a frail, thin servant girl stepped out.  She looked at him in a tired, almost drunken stupor.
    “Huh,” she drawled stupidly, “you mus’ be the doctor.  Yeah?
    He nodded curtly and she led him in.
    Very dirty.  Filthy.  Like most other homes in the downtown outskirts, except worse.  He could hear muffled cries coming from one of the far rooms.
    “Right this way.” The girl yawned.
    She guided him to a small doorway in the back of the house.  A half-broken door that looked like an elephant had stepped on it was hanging open in a crazy manner.
    Evan motioned for the girl to leave.  She left with a dull nod.  He took a deep breath.
    He stepped inside.
    An old woman with gnarled features was kneeling by a bed on the floor.  She brushed her dusty curls aside and glanced up at Evan, as if in a dream.  He decided he didn’t like her.
    Better get to the blessing, he told himself.  Medical case in hand, he walked over to the bed and knelt, ignoring the old woman’s constant gaze.
    This was a blessing for sure, and a great one.  Evan could already see the government officials being very, very pleased.  Perhaps this would mean a promotion, or at least a raise, he thought. 
    He checked all of the major limbs and bones to make sure there were no fractures or strains from premature growth.  It appeared as if the only problem was some stressed metacarpals.  Some advanced wiring and mircrofibers seemed to be extending from the joint areas.  Other than that, however, Evan could find nothing wrong.  This was excellent.  Unusual blessings often got extremely messy and complicated.  This one was clearly an exception.  He felt the pulse.  It was a little weak.  That was fine.  Let the electronics handle the biological patterns.  In no time at all this blessing would be running as smooth as a cat.
    He sat up.  The old crone at the other side of the bed still stared at him.  He avoided her gaze and dialed base camp.  They answered immediately.
    “Code in please.”
    “Fowler 14.”
    “One moment….”
    Evan twiddled his thumbs absentmindedly and wiped some dust off of the infopad’s screen.
    “Hey Evan.”
    “Thompson, I just looked at our latest find.”
    “Very promising.  Spectacular, actually.  Should be a stud.”
    “I always told you, Evan, that you’re biggest fault was your optimism.”
    “Yes, Thompson, but I really think we have some potential here.  Matches all of the latest demands and requirements.”
    “I would love for you to describe it to me, but unfortunately I have to go.  How long until maturation?”
    “Very soon.  Possibly in the next hour.  I’ll need some technicians for sure.”
    “Sit tight.  All of our assets are tied up at the moment, but they should be free in about 45 minutes.  Can you wait?”
    “Well…I think…”
    “I take that as a yes.  See you later.”
    The infopad beeped and momentarily flashed red.  His call had ended.
    Evan casually slipped the infopad back into his coat pocket and turned to look at the bed. 
    The last thing he saw was a cold, spider-like limb reaching out to grab him.  A hot, burning sensation shot into his cheeks and through his skull.  Then everything faded into a milky whiteness.

                                                         *  *  *  *

    Johnny walked down his home street in a carefree manner, humming softly to himself.  It was late afternoon.  The sun was slowly setting in the west.  His mother would probably be making dinner, and his younger sister would most likely be playing in the yard.  It would just be another quiet, lazy evening.
    A muffled thud from across the street startled him.  It had come from one of the dirtier houses, he was sure of that.  Probably nothing.  But it had been a bit of an odd thud.  He couldn’t quite decide what had made it so strange.  Perhaps it was the fact that the ground had seemed to shake a little.  He sighed.  His mind must be playing tricks on him.
    Then he heard it again.  This time it was not so muffled.  This time the ground definitely did shake a little.  He halted in his tracks.  The orange sun cast an eerie glow in the street.
    Another thud.  Even louder now.  Johnny breathed deeply and began to edge closer to the side of the street from which the noise had come.  Maybe someone was having construction done…
    His thoughts were interrupted as one of the houses on the left exploded in a red ball of flames.  Debris and white hot metal flew at hundreds of miles an hour through the air.  Johnny dove onto the ground.  He covered his face.  He could hear nothing.  Nothing but a low throb.
    He was deaf.  He had gone deaf.  It was the noise, the explosion. He wimpered softly and tried to reason through the smoke and the flames.  Maybe he hadn’t seen the signs marking a blasting zone—
    Then he saw it.  Standing right above him.  Outlined against the fire.  He couldn’t swallow.  He couldn’t yell.  He was helpless…

*  *  *  *

        Captain Joseph Green held his pistol level, aiming it at the charred remains of the house.  His men were lined up against the wall, waiting for his orders. 
     The occupants of the house were unknown—no one ever paid attention to the lowly beings who dwelt on the edge of the city.  But there had been a doctor in there.  He hadn’t been told why—he had just been told to examine the house for possible survivors and scare off any looters until the officials arrived.  Why in the world the city officials actually cared about a tiny little hovel that had just blown up he had no idea.  It was probably this doctor they cared about, not the house. 
    “Ok,” he said, “let’s move in.  Remember, a doctor was supposedly somewhere around here.  Check for any survivors.”
    After a quick search, nothing significant was discovered.  If there had been anyone in the house at the time, they were gone now.  The house was leveled.  It was nothing but ashes and dust now.
    Green radioed in to his superiors.  “We’ve examined the house.  There doesn’t seem to be anything left—no bodies, that’s for sure.  We’re still looking, though.”
    A moment’s pause.  Then a voice came online.
    “Standby.  Just keep people away from the wreckage.  The officials should be there soon.”
    Five more minutes went by.  A few wanderers came to see what happened, but didn’t stay long.
    Five more minutes elapsed.  Still no officials.  Green sighed and made another call.
    “Officials still have not arrived.  We’re standing by.”
    No answer.
    Green checked his equipment to make sure it was working.  Everything seemed to be fine.
    He was just about to turn around and ask his Lieutenant if he could borrow his radio when one of his men yelled and aimed his rifle down the street.
    Green turned instantly and looked in the direction the soldier had looked.  His heart skipped a beat.  It was coming down the street.  It.  What was it?  It was large.  It…
    Green tried to raise his pistol, but all strength seemed to have left him.  He dropped it, and continued to stare.  Continued to stare at the monstrous apparition that was walking towards him.  It was…it was…it was what?  Green found he couldn’t think straight, couldn’t reason.  No logic.  I am in a dream, he thought. Yes, a dream.  A dream…

*  *  *  *
    The sun was setting as a group of about a dozen soldiers walked in a trance towards the end of the street.  Their weapons lay abandoned on the ground.  They walked closer, closer towards certain oblivion, certain death, towards the object of their attention…
    This was no blessing.  This was a curse.



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