Peter and Michelle exchanged text messages over the following week. Each exchange was a variation on this:
Peter: When am I going to see you again?
Michelle: Are you wearing protective clothing?
Peter: No way!
Michelle: You’re not seeing me until you are.
In her living room, she looked down at the messages on her phone, having just sent that last text. Please, God, if You exist, she thought, make Peter see the light.
Her father came in, wearing a yellow protective suit, but with the head covering in his hands. “Are you ready to go?” he asked.
“Yeah, I guess so,” she said, putting her phone in her purse. “Is Mom really better?”
“That’s what the doctors said,” he said. “They say there hasn’t been any splitting of her skin for the past three days. Your mom doesn’t even have those red crack lines on her body anymore. She is a carrier, though, so suit up.”
“OK.” Michelle put on her suit, they both put on their head coverings, and they left the house.
As they went in the car to the hospital, she looked out the window to see all the pedestrians and people in neighbouring cars, in protective clothing from head to toe, all those essential workers who didn’t need to stay home. She could see through the plastic, transparent face coverings of those close enough to the car to see the blank expressions on their faces.
“MedicinaTech’s vaccines sure have taken the life out of everybody,” she said with a sigh. “They’re all just a bunch of passive automatons. So easy to control. What the hell has happened to the world over the past ten years, Daddy? How did the 2020s turn everything into, well, Nineteen Eighty-Four?”
“Just be glad you’re exempt from taking any of those vaccines, Michelle,” he said. “We didn’t want you to be a zombie like them, and our money and influence ensured you wouldn’t be, so be grateful for that.”
“Yeah, but it isn’t fair to all of those other people.”
“Life isn’t fair.”
“That’s an easy evasion of responsibility, Dad.”
“Look, if you want to blame someone, blame the company the parents of your boyfriend is running, not me. Our newspaper constantly criticizes MedicinaTech for not doing anything about the bad side effects of their vaccines.”
“But your employees, especially the lower level ones, all take the vaccines, too.”
“We have to vaccinate them, honey. No choice.”
“But they all have that same half-asleep look on their faces. I wonder how your reporters can be sharp enough to get the facts of their stories straight.”
“We give them a stimulant to counteract the lulling effects of the vaccines,” her dad said.
“Yeah, everyone’s on drugs,” Michelle said with a frown and a touch of anger in her voice. “How wonderful. As long as you and Mom are profiting from all of this, though, right?”
“Oh, here we go again,” he sighed. “You haven’t forgotten that you, as our daughter, benefit from those profits, too, have you?”
“No, I haven’t, and that’s part of why I feel bad for all those Mississaugans out there that our newspaper business-slash-government is ruling over. We enjoy all those benefits–wealth, exemption from lockdowns, influence–that those zombified people don’t have.”
“Governing a city is no picnic, Michelle.”
“Then give up on the governing! Put it back in the hands of the public; then we can create some social programs to help the poor, and we can have an unbiased media that doesn’t twist the facts of current events to reinforce and justify this family’s rule over the city.”
“Social programs for the poor,” he scoffed. “That’s Peter’s commie influence on you, isn’t it?”
“That’s my own, independent thinking, and you don’t have to be a ‘commie’ to believe that! Peter just happens to agree with me on that one point. You’re just mad because I’m not under your influence!”
They arrived in the hospital parking lot.
“Look, let’s just drop it, OK, Michelle? Let’s try to be in a good mood when we see your mother. I’m so grateful she didn’t die on us; this is going to be an emotional moment for me, and I don’t need your arguing to make it even harder.”
They got out of the car and went into the hospital. They were in a waiting room flooded with visitors, nurses, orderlies, and doctors all in those protective suits, some yellow like Michelle’s and her father’s, and others in blue, pink, red, and orange. In fifteen minutes, they were allowed to go into Siobhan’s quarantine room.
Lying on her bed and also in a protective suit (purple) with the head covering on, she had a blank expression, though one not so passive as those vaccinated workers Michelle had seen outside.
Michelle and her dad approached her bed.
“Mom?” she said, troubled by Siobhan’s emotionlessness. “You look far too peaceful to be believed.”
“Hi, sweetie,” she said with a smile that seemed almost forced. “Don’t worry, I’m fine. The struggle is over.”
Tears ran down not only Michelle’s cheeks, but also her father’s. He would find it harder and harder to resist the temptation to take off his head covering, so much did he hate feeling any separation from the wife he almost lost.
“Don, I’m OK,” Siobhan said softly. “I’ve also been thinking about all Michelle has said about what’s wrong with the newspaper. We should make some changes…”
“Well, let’s not get carried away, Siobhan,” he said.
“Yeah, as glad as I am to hear you say that, Mom, I think that for the moment, we should just focus on you getting better.”
“I am better, honey,” Siobhan said, removing her head covering. “Ah, that feels better. I can breathe now.”
“Mom, I don’t think you should do that.”
“I’m 100%, sweetie,” Siobhan said with a grin for her daughter.
“But you’re still a carrier,” Michelle said. “You might infect somebody. People could die.”
“Only if they resist, Michelle,” Siobhan said.
“Resist? Resist what, Mom?”
Tears of relief were soaking Don’s face. An urge to hug and kiss his wife was overwhelming him. “I don’t think I can resist any more.”
He took off his head covering and reached forward to kiss Siobhan.
“No, Daddy!” Michelle screamed.
Siobhan accepted his kiss on her left cheek and his arms around her with a serene smile.
Then the little white dots flew out of her and into him.
“Ungh!” he groaned, then fell to the floor.
“Dad!” Michelle screamed, bending down to help him, but already the red crack marks appeared all over his face. He was shaking and grunting. “Help! Somebody out there! Any doctors? Nurses?!”
Within seconds, a doctor, a nurse, and two orderlies ran into the room.
Now, Michelle could see her father’s brain through the opening cracks.
They would open wide, but close only slightly between even wider openings. His protective suit would show fidgeting bulges where the rest of his body was cracking open.
The medical staff just stood there in a daze of astonishment, not knowing what to do. The doctor was on the verge of tears, hating herself for her helplessness at watching a man die and doing nothing about it.
“Daddy, don’t die on me!” Michelle sobbed.
But the inevitable happened. Don’s body parts ripped apart so violently that they tore out of his clothes and protective suit, flying in all directions in an explosion, and causing an explosion of screams.
Body parts smacked into Michelle and the medical staff, knocking them all back onto the floor. They all looked on with wide eyes and mouths at the fidgeting pieces of the separated four quarters of Don’s head, his bifurcated neck, pieces of his arms, chest, stomach, groin, legs, and feet, all torn into halves, thirds, and even more, smaller fragments.
There still was no blood. The pieces shuffled and wobbled back and forth on the floor, as if alive. Holes formed in the exposed inner anatomy, opening and closing like mouths talking. In fact, Michelle, Siobhan, and the hospital staff could hear something being said through all those ‘mouths.’
Over and over again, grunts of the word, “No.”
“Oh, my God!” the nurse said.
After a minute or so of the fidgeting body parts repeating, “No, no, no, no…,” they all lost colour, stopped moving, and lay there, dead. White dots of light flew out of the body parts and out of the room. Blood poured out in lakes all over the floor.
“Was I hearing things, or were they speaking?” one of the orderlies asked.
“We all saw and heard it,” the doctor said, wiping tears off her cheeks. “And we don’t believe our eyes or ears any more than you do.”
“Let’s clean up this mess,” the shaking nurse said, then he looked at Michelle and said, “I’m so sorry, Miss.”
The doctor went over to weeping Michelle and put her arms around her. She sobbed, “I’m sorry, too. I’ve seen this happen so many times, and I just can’t do anything! I can never sleep.”
“I don’t blame any of you, Doctor,” Michelle said between sobs. “This whole thing is getting so crazy.”
They left the room together while the nurse and orderlies began picking up Don’s pieces.
In all of the confusion and shock, no one paid any attention to Siobhan or her reaction to her husband’s death…a rather calm reaction.