The next day, Peter, still without a protective suit, went over to his parents’ office in MedicinaTech. As he walked through the halls, passed the other offices, and went up the elevator on the way there, he frowned and sneered at the sight of everyone else who, without exception, not only wore the protective clothing, but had that passive, almost trance-like look on their faces, because of the vaccines they’d taken.
This is so pathetic, he thought.
On the top floor where his parents’ office was, however, he eyes widened to see the few employees working on that floor not wearing the protective suits. They were no longer wearing the old surgical masks to prevent getting any of the earlier viruses, either.
“Membership in the upper echelons has its privileges,” he whispered as he approached the office door. Funny how the older diseases have suddenly been forgotten about now that ‘The Splits’ is here, he thought.
He went in and sat in a chair by his father’s desk as his parents were reading emails on their desktops.
“What brings you in here, Peter?” his mother asked.
“Oh, nothing much, just hanging out,” he said.
“We’re very busy today,” his father said. “Don’t distract us from our work with any of your petty problems.”
“I was just wondering,” Peter said. “How come everybody downstairs has to suit up, but nobody here on the top floor has to? The staff up here aren’t even wearing the old surgical masks anymore.”
“Every morning when we come in, Dr. Teague gives us a medical check first thing to determine if we’re carriers, of The Splits or of any other viruses,” his mother said. “He can get quick test results, too, within just a few hours. Since we’re all cleared of all of the viruses, and the employees downstairs are all suited up, we don’t have to be.”
“How convenient that the rulers of the city don’t have to live by the same rules as everyone else,” Peter said.
“You enjoy the same privileges,” his father said. “And you’d be crying like a baby if they were taken from you.”
“The point is that none of those people downstairs should be in those stupid suits, either,” Peter said. “Why doesn’t the doctor test them, too, to see if they have The Splits?”
“Because there are too many employees for him to test every morning,” his father said.
“On this floor, there are only about a dozen of them to test, then himself and the two of us,” Peter’s mother said.
“Besides, Dr. Teague is working on a vaccine and making some progress,” his father said.
“Well, I’d say the real reason everyone down there has to wear suits, but we up here don’t have to, is because Teague and both of you know that ‘The Splits’ is nothing but a goddamn hoax.”
“If he knows it’s a hoax, why is he working tirelessly to make a vaccine?” his father asked.
“For the same reason as with all the other vaccines MedicinaTech makes,” Peter said with rising anger. “To profit off of everyone’s fears. This hypochondriac hysteria is good business!”
“Oh, not this again,” his father said.
“It was Dr. Teague’s idea to do the tests for us, not our idea,” his mother said. “He knows that we up here do all the hard brain work, and if we’re in those uncomfortable suits all day and night, it will be harder for us to do our jobs well. It’s only a dozen or so of us up here, so we should be safe.”
“As I said before,” Peter said with a sneer. “How convenient.”
“Can you quit belly-aching?” his father said. “We have a lot of work to do today.”
“Fine,” he said with a sigh.
Just then, Dr. Teague came in the office, without a protective suit, of course.
Speak of the Devil, and he appears, Peter thought.
“Here’s a report of the test results from this morning,” the doctor said, handing a folder to Peter’s father.
“Thank you, Paul,” his father said, taking the folder and feeling his thumb brush against the doctor’s finger.
White dots of light flew out of Dr. Teague’s hand and into Peter’s father’s arm.
“Uhh!” his father moaned, then fell off his chair.
“Ray?” his mother said after turning her head away from her computer monitor. She got up from her desk and ran over to him. “Ray!” Those red cracks were all over his hands and head.
Peter jumped up from his chair and backed up to the glass wall to the left of the office door.
She held Ray by the arms, and some of the glowing white dots flew into her chest. “Aah!” she screamed, and fell on the floor beside him. Now the red cracks were visible on her skin, too, and both of them were shaking and groaning on the floor.
“Holy fuck!” Peter said, then went out of the office and closed the door. He watched his parents through the glass wall. This isn’t happening, he thought. This can’t be happening!
His parents’ body parts started ripping open, making tears in their clothes. Other office staff were looking through the glass wall on either side of Peter. One of them got out a cellphone to call 9-1-1. Another was shouting about getting protective suits up to their floor.
Peter was shaking as much as his parents were. He tried to disbelieve what he saw, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t the hallucinating kind, and what he saw couldn’t have been the fakery of movie special effects.
He saw their shirts and chests rip open. He saw their exposed hearts, stomachs, and intestines.
No blood sprayed anywhere.
There’s no way this is really happening, he thought. I must be dreaming. He pinched himself–no waking up.
His parents’ heads split open. He saw their brains, then remembered Michelle saying she’d seen her mom’s brain.
“I am such an asshole,” he whispered among the screams of the staff around him. She’s going to say, ‘I told you so,’ big time, he thought.
His parents’ pants ripped open. Now Peter could see the torn muscle and sinew on their legs…and their bones.
Finally, the body parts ripped apart into several dozens of pieces and flew in all directions, a few pieces hitting and cracking the glass wall. The left half of his father’s bare right foot struck the glass right by Peter’s face.
“No!” he yelled.
Screams of the staff pierced his eardrums.
His mom’s and dad’s torsos lay there, each in halves beside each other, rocking side to side, limbless, and split open, on the floor by his dad’s desk. Moving holes formed in their lacerated hearts, lungs, stomachs, and intestines. Some of the holes flapped open and shut like mouths. Holes to the top left and right of the flapping holes seemed like eyes; it was as if faces were being formed in his parents’ innards.
“I must be going nuts,” Peter said among the shrieks and gasps of disbelief among the horrified staff.
Those ‘mouths’ were now grunting, over and over again, what sounded like, “I don’t want it.”
My kingdom for a protective suit, Peter thought.
…and amid all the confusion, no one noticed how unruffled Dr. Teague was as he walked out of the office.