The masses were clamoring to lift the lock-down, encouraged by a loudmouth elite. Safe in his gated community, he went as far as promoting a naked love-in on the lawns of capitol buildings across the country just to show there was nothing to fear from the bogey of the virus. Most of the naked protestors were arrested and crammed into holding cells overnight until their arraignments for indecent exposure could be processed.
Two weeks later hospital emergency rooms were packed with individuals needing to be placed in quarantined intensive care on ventilators.
Dr. James Smith was one emergency room doctor working day shifts all that week. He was meticulous about using clean protocol to avoid catching the virus from the scores of people too busy trying to stay alive to regret their selfish and impulsive following of a narcissistic madman who got a hard-on at the thought that people would follow him to their deaths at his command.
At the end of every shift, Dr. Smith went to the staff showers and scrubbed down and put on clean clothes before going home to his family of wife, Misty, son, James, Jr., age two, and Janny, his 6-month-old infant daughter.
Thursday, after another grueling shift, James fell into a deep sleep. He woke in dark of night to the sound of coughing. Jerking awake his hand instinctively felt for Misty. There was empty space. He ran to the bathroom door and found it locked. Knocking, he called out, “Misty, are you ok?”
“James, I need to go to the hospital.”
* * *
Three months later, James stood in the cemetery, staring at three gravestones. He had lost everything of value to him. He fell to his knees, then sprawled across the wet grass, welcoming the cold as it seeped into him. He’d cried every last tear he owned. There was nothing left but the cold, as God had turned a deaf ear to him. He prayed into the soil, “Show me the way.”
* * *
A year later, Dr. James Smith looked at himself in the mirror as he finished tying his bowtie. It had taken a lot of effort to get the invite to the annual conference of epidemiologists. It meant looking up old medical school connections and learning who was friends of friends. The special speaker this year was going to be none other than the megalomaniac who’d encouraged the naked love-ins. It hadn’t taken much effort to get hired as a banquet server for the event, which gave him access to the seating charts. He found out where the death dealer was going to be sitting and made sure his cutlery, cups, plates, and even his chair were dusted with the poison. He feigned illness to head of banquets and left. Fortunately it was one of those gigs where you’re paid under the table so he left as one of the many “anonymous illegals” that are exploited for peanuts. He went home and readied himself for the dinner.
* * *
Dr. Smith waited patiently as first water was poured, then wine, then salad and soup. He was seated where he could watch each sip, bite, and slurp. Dinner and dessert seemed to take forever, but at last it was time for the special speaker. The speaker patted his hair to make sure it was in place, smoothed out his suit jacket, and felt his tie to make sure it was straight. His face looked a little pale and his stomach looked a little more puffed, but up he strode to the podium. He cracked a few jokes at others’ expenses then looked down at his speech. The press were lining either side of the walkways, capturing it all on video.
As he got into the meat of his speech, thanking the room of epidemiologists for finally finding a vaccine for a killer virus that had wiped out ten million citizens, he began to cough. He coughed and he coughed – until a stream of bright red projected from his mouth and covered his speech notes. A simultaneous gasp echoed across the room as the speaker collapsed.
A fleeting thought bubbled up in James’ mind, a mind that had never been clearer than at this moment. That day at the cemetery, there was an empty canvas on the easel, his colors and tools. What would he paint? He had chosen red.
Reena Saxena is the host of Reena’s Exploration Challenge. Reena says:
I give below a situation. You may take it as a part of your piece – beginning, middle or end.
He had lost everything of value to him. There was an empty canvas on the easel, his colors and tools. What would he paint?