Creative Writing Club Spotlight
Senior Rebecca Chapman's Short Story is titled "Lives of the Many v. Lives of the Few."
Your computer hums monotonously on the desk, the white noise a backdrop for the argument in the background. Your laboratory’s bright LED lights have become quite a nuisance because all you want to do is sleep, but this research won’t write itself. You’d love to smell the coffee to the right of your desk, but unfortunately for you, allergies have blocked all nasal passages.
Slowly the arguing grows louder and rings in your exhausted head. The small test rat in its cage starts to run around frantically.
“You neglected to tell the commissioner about the escaped rat with the versatile F113 enzyme?”
“The more people that know we created the enzyme, the bigger the bounty on our heads, Nadia!”
“People have died, Barrowman! This isn’t just a collateral incident anymore, this is mass murder!”
“People don’t need to know! Do you want to take responsibility for their deaths? Fine by me but if you try to drag my name with you, you won’t live long enough to make a peep.”
“Are you threatening me?”
You stop typing on the keyboard to listen in. Barrowman and Nadia’s silence occupy the room, and an icy feeling creeps up the back of your spine. The silence is violent and you almost long for them to break it.
Barrowman is hushed now, daggers in his voice. “You’re not to tell anyone, Nadia.”
Barrowman storms out of the room, making an effort to slam the door behind him. You stare exasperatedly at the screen, as if the conversation itself exhausted you further.
You turn your chair around to face your friend. Nadia’s black hair falls just short of her shoulders in a clean bob, though it was messed up a bit in the heat of the argument. She straightens herself, but soon after lets out a defeated sigh. She looks over at you, face solemn, and strolls over and pulls out a rolling chair, sweeping her lab coat to the side before sitting next to you.
You turn to face her. “Do you think he’s serious?” She asks meekly. She tucks a stray hair behind her ear and looks up at you, face flat.
You lean back in the chair, and place your elbow on the armrest, and ponder this a minute. “Nah, he’s a coward,” you finally say.
“You think so?”
“Nadia, I don’t really know him well enough, but he seems like one of those types of jerks, ya know?”
She nods her head lazily. She crosses her arms and leans back.
“The outbreak we caused could be potentially catastrophic.” She whispers quietly. You can tell she feels a lot of guilt towards the situation.
“I’m not sure we should confess,” you start to say. “But I know we know the most about this enzyme, and we are the ones who have the highest chance of finding a cure.”
It was the ping of an email that woke you up. The moonlight from the surrounding forest streamed in through half-open shades. Though, you stay in bed, because the duvet is quite comfortable.
Time passes, and your cellular telephone rings, and you silently curse yourself for forgetting to turn on Do Not Disturb. You turn in bed to look at the bright screen and recognize the number as your father’s.
You slide to answer. “Listen, there’s a bounty on the heads o̷̤̿f̸̢̦͈̩̼͙̬̱̬̯̘͕̙̗̈́́ ̴̨̝͎̻͈͇͎̼̯͖̫̦͖̳̆́͘͠t̶̯͈̦̙͉̹̭̲̼̻̯̰̉́͝he scientists working a̶̧̧̰͓̦͖͓̾͒̉̈́t̸̛̥̣̥̙̾̽̂̒̋̈́̓̈́̿͛͋͠ ̵̨̘͚̙͖͇̩̗̼̥͖͎̣̰̲͆̎̏̐the Chitwan location, YOUR LOCAT̶̡̡̨̨̛̰̩̘̱̪͙̬̝̘̤̑͑̆̅͛͋́̿̐̒̚͜͝͠Ī̸̹̍͌͂͛͝Ỏ̸̧̢̧̖̲̪̘̹̝̹̫̒ͅN̷͚͈̍̆̊͊́̽̈́͘.̶̢̛̠̈́͐͒̓̐͑́̊͝ ̶̰̘͓̳͈̮̗̊̄̒̓̽̏ͅG̵̨̨̺͍͖̟̰͔̅͆͆̋̏̆͝ę̷̼͎̭͆̊͗̉͗͌̌̃̿͐̅̅̔̕͝t out of there!̸̧͍̮͕̟̒” The static is almost too much to bear and the service quickly cuts out, but you got the message. Outside your door, you hear a rushed commotion, and you slide out of bed groggily and slightly open it a crack.
Several of your coworkers, your friends, rush by in urgent conversation. You listen to a nearby broadcast.
A woman speaks over the radio. “–wan base scientists responsible fo–” You strain to hear the lady over the panicking of the base. “–public is outraged at lack of professionalism and endanger– government is calling for a–” You stop listening as a passing friend bumps into your door, forcing you back into your room. You shake it off and put some clothes on.
It takes a few moments to fully understand the depth of the situation and you start piecing events together. The epidemic had gained momentum in the last few days. Before long, it could spread across the entire continental United States. The nearby city would fall within days if not properly quarantined. Then the next, and the next. The thought begins to grip at your stomach, squeezing it as the thought of possible human extinction arises.
No, you think. It’s time to take action. After gathering some necessary survival supplies, you place them in a backpack and prepare a plan to escape the bounty you were warned about and possibly stop the breakout.
You slide the backpack onto your back and poke your head out the door once again. Once the rushing left the area, you slip out and make your way to the local communications center down the hall on the second level. Friends and acquaintances push through, once knocking you down. You shake this off too, rubbing your elbows from where they hit the floor.
The stairway is quiet, and you appreciate the simplicity of trekking it. Just beyond the stairway entrance is the door to the communications center, and you storm in where agents had left their posts. Setting your backpack down you reach a microphone where you announce over the intercom: “Everyone calm down- panicking doesn’t solve the situation and doesn’t provide solutions. I, however, offer a possible solution.” You take a moment to swallow, as you’re not quite used to speaking to crowds. “My solution is that we march to Otanwa base about 21 kilometers south of us, and take refuge there. Yeah, the Otanwa base is pretty barren, but if we take some notes there and continue research on a cure maybe we can ride this out smoother than if we abandoned ship. If you’re with me, meet me at the food court in half an hour with some supplies.”
The crowd in the food court was disappointing, to say the least. You could count 17 people. To your surprise, among the volunteers were Barrowman and Nadia. You suppose it’s fitting. Nadia discovered the enzyme, and Barrowman performed many tests with Nadia on various species. They know the most about it. It was disappointing to see their friendship take a nosedive.
A buzz of hopeful conversation arises from the group.
“Do we have a keycard to Otanwa?”
‘You brought the duplication in various environments notes, right Felix?”
“There are three cars we can take, two Jeeps and a Chevy Tahoe.”
“I found a security guard! He has a gun and a taser we can use.”
“I brought some radios.”
The hopeful chatter went silent as the lights in the facility went out, and gunshots erupted from down the hall, echoing throughout the building.
Nadia’s face contorts with terror and the rest of the group stays silent, creeping away from the view of the door. “We have to leave now.” she finally whispers. The rest of the residents silently agree and hurriedly creep through the hallways of the base, funneling out of the garage door.
Before the last three members can escape, the bullets ricochet off the wall to the right of the door. Nadia lets out a muffled scream as she grips the back of her thigh. You can see her limp, and you assist her to the nearest vehicle, one of the Jeeps. You pop in the driver’s seat and fortunately, the last driver had left the keys in the car, allowing you to press the on button and drive it to safety.
Before long, three cars drive through a dense forest, weaving down a windy dirt road. The cars are silent, and you wish the silence to stay, but a member of the car interrupts. “We need medical supplies.” You don’t answer. You’re too focused on the road, trying to forget the situation. “Hey, Nadia’s bleeding here!” The voice grows more aggravated.
Right. Nadia is bleeding out. “Uh,” you start. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been at Otanwa. Is there a medical wing there?”
“It’s likely,” they admit. “But we need some medical attention now. I’m just a technical engineer”
“Alert the others,” another voice sounds. The radio crackles.
You breathe in, letting the tropical air fill your lungs. You run the scenario through your head once again before giving instruction. “Stop the bleeding- First apply direct pressure, then elevate it, and apply a pressure bandage.”
“We don’t have a bandage.”
The road winds and a dent in the road shakes the car. Nadia groans.
“Use whatever you can. Make sure it’s clean, and change it out when it can’t hold any more blood.”
You follow the road signs to Otanwa. The road here is even worse than the one you traveled on to Chitwan. You have to jerk the wheels sometimes due to the irregular terrain, and each time it jerks at Nadia’s leg she groans, and a pang of guilt tears at you.
The ride is long and you wish time would pass at an accelerated rate, but all you can do is stare at the passing trees. Plump raindrops start to drop on the windshield. The rest of the ride is quiet.
After a while, you pass a road sign that indicates you have about 34 kilometers left till you reach the Otanwa base., the radio’s static voice sounds, and a member from two cars ahead alerts everyone behind them. “There’s a tree in the road. We’re going to have to take the rest of the way on foot, or give up.”
You silently curse. A chorus of disgruntled mumbles occupies the car. “How am I going to get there?” Nadia asks, a stressed expression flickers across her eyes.
“We’ll figure it out,” you reply.
You see the two other vehicles not far ahead and decelerate the car, stopping just short of Barrowman. Upon opening the car door, Barrowman tries to rush you out, grabbing your wrist.
“Come on,” he demands.
In the far distance, multiple gunshots are heard. Barrowman’s face falls. “They’re following close behind. Lyndsey from communications mentioned that one of the shooters took a car a few minutes after us after seeing us leave. Had to hotwire it. He shouldn’t be far, so we have to think quickly.”
“What do you mean?” You ask.
“We have to decide what to bring with us. We have a lot of equipment, so we have to pick and choose what’s most important because we can’t take the cars.”
“Notes.” You say.
The rest of the group steps out of the Jeep you drove, and Barrowman looks beyond you at them and sees Nadia’s decrepit state.
He exhales sharply through his nose. “We should also decide if it’s worth the risk to bring someone who would slow us down. We could get shot if the shooters catch up with us.”
“No! It is!” says another member. “She knows the most about the project.”
“What if we split the group in half?” says someone else.
Barrowman turns to you. “What do we do?”