I hear everything: the soft cry of my mother, the beep of the heart monitor, the whispers of the nurses, and the subtle hum of the air conditioner. I feel the rough texture of my hospital gown against my skin, the cold hand of the doctor every morning when he visits, and the warm hand of my mother every time she touches my cheek. I am awake. Wide awake.
It’s all greed, really. People want what they don’t have, what they think they can’t have, what other people have told them they can’t have, because they themselves think they can’t have it, and so on. Do you follow? Do you get it? No you don’t. If you got it I could have stayed in Paradise instead of spending all of this wasted time on Earth.
Bang! It went. Bang! Bang! Bang! A whole series of bangs, like gunshots at a shooting range, echoes coming atop one another, full of alarm and the awful promise of consequence. Eleven-year old George Pearl, twelve before you’d know it, his birthday but an hour or so away, ducked his head as he walked down the dark center road of Riverside Cemetery. Shadows of stones moved around him, angular blocks of darkness set upon darkness, the ground and the shadows giving up other noises steeped with night and night things. Sounds swelled like thermals, unseen but known, catching up what was loose in the air, broadcasting strange messages that he could identify in a split second … fear, catastrophe, disaster, strange hands reaching to touch his backside, strange sounds at his ears. All around were strange things that boomed or blasted or bellowed in the night.
Are you taping this?
Do you know what it’s like to raise a monster? No, no, you don’t. I see you looking at me like I’m trash. I see it, missy.
Did he kill all those girls?
Well, I’ll get to that.
Aeryn Baker climbed into the back of his limousine and read the letter from his late husband, Van Philip Harris, for perhaps the hundredth time.
Dearest Mother and Beloved Husband,
You each have been a comfort and loving support to me in your unique ways, though the feud between you has been a source of consternation to me. It is my earnest wish that the two of you find a deeper understanding of one another. Toward that end, I wish the two of you to spend an evening together on my yacht, the Floating Edge. Should either party decline to participate, the declining party shall be awarded the sum of one dollar. The remainder of their inheritance shall be forfeit.
You’ll surely think me mad at the story I’m about to tell. But believe me friends, this is no story.
It began with them getting Rachel. I don’t know how they did it – or who or what they are – but they did. She’s gone now, to god only knows where. My beloved, sweet, innocent Rachel. The love of my life. Stolen, taken from me, and replaced.
I realised something unusual had happened as soon as I entered the lab: dead cotton rats littered the floors of many of the cages. I hadn’t expected fatalities so early. The team had only given them the flu virus the day before and we thought it would be a few days before they developed symptoms. The powers that be had told us the virus came from South East Asia but that could mean a lot of things. It might be a natural mutation, or it might be of Chinese Government manufacture. It made little difference to us, our job was to assess it not trace it, and epidemiologists use cotton rats because they’re a good model for studying human influenza.