Welcome Home, Part III

The Afflicted

Chuck did a first lines thing again, but I still wanted to do another chapter for Welcome Home. I’ve done some world building with some of my pals and it’s funny: so much world building for a story that encompasses such a small slice of that world. Once Welcome Home becomes a complete draft, I know I’ll need to rewrite the first two chapters to bring them in line with where the story is going. I’m not sure how long or deep the story will be – I hadn’t planned on writing it in the first place. Paradox was the same way – it started out as a flash fiction piece for Chuck’s weekly challenge and grew into a novelette. Anyway, here is a very rough chapter three at a little over 500 words:

* * *

We all wear masks, but why did it have to wear a mask that looked like my wife? I knew my wife wasn’t in the room looking down at me or holding my hand. It pushed my hair out from my eyes. It  paused, only for a moment, but it was long enough for me to smell a faint whiff of vanilla. They were trying their damnedest to try to convince me I was in a sanitarium. The facsimile of my wife wasn’t the worst attempt. If I closed my eyes, only for a moment, I could imagine she was still here.

My eyes snapped open at the sound of a door opening. It was behind my head and i could look up to see everything, but up-side-down. My “wife” looked in the direction of the sound and I saw the staples behind her ear keeping her mask on. While the face was nicely done with makeup and it wore it’s hair in the style I preferred, those staples gave them away. The flesh it wore was stretching and the lightest hint of blood was visible at each staple.

“Misses Johnston, I wish I had better news to report.”

It looked down at me and spoke so softly, I had to strain to hear. “What did he do now?”

“He attacked two members of my staff in two separate incidents. The injuries thus far are a broken humorous and a rather severe head wound. The staffer with the head wound will likely loose the hearing in her right ear.”

“What can we do?”

“Misses Johnston, I only allowed your husband to be transferred here due to his prominence in the personal fitness industry. I’d hoped we would be able to help him in his recovery, but we’re simply unable to do so.”

My “wife” squeezed my hand tightly at this revelation. It continued, “In the morning we’re transferring him to another facility where I hope he’ll receive the help he needs.” It placed its hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry,” it spoke to her before leaving the room. She placed her head on my chest and stared at me. I could hear the door open again and it spoke to someone out of sight. “Duane, stay with misses Johnston. She may stay as long as she wants. How’re you on hours?”

“I’ll be fine, doctor. I’m really interested in this case. Do I have your permission to assist with the transfer?”

“That’d be fine Duane.”

The door closed and I could see Duane’s eyes through the glass window. They seemed to see everything at once. My “wife” whispered to me. “that Duane guy is creeping me out.”

It didn’t speak for the rest of the visit. It rubbed my chest the way my wife did before the outbreak. I closed my eyes and imagined I was with her. I had so many wonderful memories of our life together. I almost wished this thing was my wife. It would be so easy to get lost in the illusion, but those memories would only betray me now. I smiled as I drifted off to sleep. Those memories of a happier time comforted me in my time if need.

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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