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|Twin universes are bridged when a scientist discovers a portal to the dead.||
By Keith Trimm
Edited by Greg Trimm
The Ambulance came to an abrupt halt just behind the deputy’s car in a blaze of flashing lights and wailing sirens. With the flick of a switch, the sirens fell silent and the paramedics scurried to the back of the vehicle. The two large doors swung open and in an instant a gurney stood ready, it’s narrow wheels sinking into the muddy ground.
“Over here!” the deputy shouted. “You’re going to need a backboard, you’ll never get that thing where we need it.”
In the dark of night, it was difficult to see the terrain beyond the headlights. The spinning blue and reds from the emergency vehicles illuminated the scene with an eerie strobbing effect. The woods were thick and the river was a quarter mile away down a sloping hill and uneven ground. Only the embers of a dying campfire sputtered and glowed in the dark of the pasture. A trail of smoke drifted into the night sky carrying the unmistakable odor of burned wood.
The paramedics abandoned the gurney and pulled a backboard from the ambulance. They caught up with the deputy who appeared anxious to move out.
“We have two, maybe three sick or dead down by the river,” the deputy said. “Is there another ambulance coming?”
“You’ll have to call dispatch, I don’t know.”
The deputy pulled his radio to his mouth and depressed the call button, “Dispatch, this is Penner, do we have another ambulance in route?”
“Negative on ambulance,” the dispatcher replied, her voice stopping with a crackle.
“Let me know when the other one is in route Mary Sue,” letting his thumb briefly from the call switch, “And tell them to get their behindses down here ASAP!”
“What’s your name?” the deputy asked the taller paramedic.
“Easton,” he replied.
The deputy again spoke into his microphone. “Mary Sue, where’s my backup?”
“The sheriff and Deputy Stutzman are at the scene,” she replied.
“10-4, Penner out.”
The clean cut rookie deputy turned his attention to the paramedics and he confidently said, “Easton, when that other ambulance shows up, we need someone to show them where we are.”
Easton turned to his partner, “If this is what I think it is we won’t be needing another squad, we’ll need the Feds but anyhow, Carl can you stay behind?”
Carl nodded in agreement as Easton turned quickly back to the deputy.
“Penner is it? You carry the medical kit. I’ll get the backboard and the biochemical suits,” said Easton.
“Fine, let’s go,” the deputy replied.
The deputy took the medical kit from Carl and took off towards the woods followed by Easton with the backboard tucked under his arm and a pair of yellow coverall type hazardous material suits draped over his shoulder. Deputy Penner led Easton into the woods, ducking and darting low hanging branches, his flashlight beam darting back and forth, up and down as it pierced the misty night air. Bubbling sounds from the river filtered in from the other side of the woods as they moved closer to the flat sandy bank. The flashlight danced around shooting harsh dark shadows in all directions. It was hard for Easton to see where he was going.
Suddenly, with a crash he was face down in the mud and leaves, his boot wedged in a downed limb.
“Hold up!” Easton yelled. The deputy stopped and turned around, he shined the flashlight on Easton. He was struggling to standing up, holding his arm in pain. He had a long scratch running the length of his forearm.
“Get that damn light out of my eyes,” Easton uttered in embarrassed frustration.
“You OK?” the deputy asked.
“Son of a gun!” Easton said wincing and gritting his teeth. He dangled his injured arm trying to work the pain out of it. “I’m fine, let’s go,” he said picking up the backboard with his good hand. “Just take it a little slower.”
At the edge of the woods the men emerged onto the sandy bank of the river. The deputy spied the beam of light from the sheriff’s flashlight downstream and the two men took off towards it. The wet sand under their feet made running difficult, especially in the dark.
It was sixty feet across the rock-strewn terrain and wet sand. Stopping about 30 feet short of where the sheriff and Stutzman stood they dropped everything but the suits.
“You know the drill,” Easton said, handing one of the shiny suits to Penner.
After securing the drawstrings around their faces and wrists, they both pulled on rubber gloves and airtight helmets with breathing filters. They slowly approached the sheriff and deputy, already outfitted in yellow suits, being careful not to rupture the plastic foot protectors on the rocks. The sheriff, short and overweight stood along side deputy Stutzman who was squatting down examining two bodies.
“What’s going on Mark?” Deputy Penner asked.
The sheriff turned and faced his young officer. “These two have been dead at least two hours by the looks of them.”
Easton came around and kneeled next to Stutzman. Together, they examined the body. “These men have shotgun wounds,” Easton said.
“I’d say so,” Stutzman said. “The one over there looks self inflicted,” he said pointing to the edge of the river. “They look like they’ve been exposed.”
Easton stood and held his hand out for Penner’s flashlight. After propping the backboard on an old waterlogged stump, he walked over to the third body and shined the light down starting from the feet and working his way up. Fresh blood trickled into the river from his nose and left ear. His eyes were swollen shut and his face was covered with open sores. The sight sickened even the seasoned paramedic, who had become accustomed to seeing such horrific sights over the past months. “This one must have put the other two out of their misery. Where’s the weapon?” Easton asked.
“It’s over there,” pointing at a tangle of weeds on the edge of the beach with the flashlight beam,” the sheriff replied.
“He must had shot himself and stumbled over here,” Stutzman chimed in suddenly. “We don’t have time to figure out went on here, let’s take care of this mess and get back to town.”
“Right,” confirmed the sheriff. “They’re all infected, burn ‘em.”
Stutzman carefully walked over to the johnboat he and the Sheriff had arrived in and pulled out a two-gallon container of gasoline. He proceeded to douse the two bodies that were lying beside each other with at least a gallon of gas. Dumping the rest on the badly infected body by the river he let every last drip fall from the spout before placing the empty jug in the boat.
“You want to do the honors?” the sheriff said to the paramedic, lightly elbowing him in the ribs.
“Jesus Christ,” Easton said under his breath. “How many times do I have to say this. My job is to save lives, infection control, that’s your gig.”
“You know you ambulance jockeys are pathetic. We’ve been tracking down infected corpses for months now. Always it’s the same, us cops end up tossing the match,” the sheriff said with a snicker.
“Well maybe this is the last of them. It’s been at least two weeks since the last call,” Stutzman said while pulling a box of stick matches from the zippered breast pocket of his suit.
Stutzman slid the box open exposing a row of wooden matches. He had the usual difficulty getting a grip on one with his gloved fingers. So as usual he dumped part of them into his free hand. Penner shined his flashlight at Stutzman’s palm while he pinched a single match. He discarded the rest except one, which he saved for the other body.
“I better do these two first,” Stutzman said, “They’ll be downwind that way.”
“Good idea,” the sheriff replied.
Stutzman, without fanfare or any real thought, lit the match and flicked it onto the two gas soaked bodies. Immediately they burst into flames lighting up a large circle on the beach and river casting long dancing shadows across the river onto the opposite bank. Quickly he struck the other match and tossed it at the remaining corpse. The match struck the man’s face where it caught fire and quickly spread to the feet.
“Penner,” the sheriff said, “Radio dispatch and cancel that second squad and call the feds, we’ll need these bodies transported for burial in the morning.”
“Yes sir,” Penner replied, responding to the sheriff’s order.
“Have they covered that mass grave south of town yet?” Stutzman asked.
“Nah, it’s still open,” Easton interjected.
“Are there any others?” Stutzman asked.
The sheriff turned upstream and looked at an old wood and steel bridge about two hundred yards upstream, which had now become illuminated.
“Well it’s been two weeks since the last report. We did all we could to keep it contained locally. If there are no further cases the government should lift the quarantine in about six weeks - well now with these three it’ll be more like eight weeks,” the sheriff replied shaking his head.
Easton squinted and looked to the bridge. Only the light from the two fires reflecting off the steel structure cut through the darkness. “It could have been a lot worse I guess. Last I heard we had just under 50 fatalities.”
.”It would have been a lot worse if it weren’t for Noah Black. I don’t know how he knew about the Ebola but he saved millions of lives. No doubt about it.”
“Damn right,” replied Stutzman, “ I guarantee we’d all been maggot bait if it weren’t for Black.”
|Morning Star chapter 12||Morning Star chapter 21|
|Alignment chapter 6||Morning Star chapter 23|
|Morning Star chapter 20||Morning Star chapter 24|