Friday, July 22, 2005
Ultraviolet Incubator Part Three
I spent all afternoon zooming about the house looking for my scurrying love lizards. I used tongs to scoop them up, one by one. I placed them in an old terrarium my father had bought me five years before to contain abducted insects. I found six of the seven escapees in places like the kitchen sink, under the sofa, on the family room curtains, and behind the refrigerator.
I found the seventh in my mother's greenhouse. It wasn't the same pet that had escaped, however. Now its skin was oscillating between radiant gold and fluorescent magenta, and it had doubled in size. It sat upon a vine tomato in direct sunlight, and the sunbeam appeared to be causing the biochemical reaction under the creature's skin. While it glowed and grew, it nibbled on the tomato. Fast growth, fast digestion, fast defecation. From its little tapered butt it excreted a liquid silver poop that sizzled on the tomato's skin before burning a corrosive hole straight through it. As I watched, the silver defecation dripped upon the tomato's vine, severing the fruit from its hanging perch. The mauled tomato fell to the dirt with the salamander upon it. Alarmed, it squeaked a curse and scooted away.
I was smart enough to stay away from the silver poison and its maker. I enjoyed wearing skin, and therefore had no interest in risking melting mine away. I made the easy decision to kill the sun lizard and keep the others. Unfortunately, perhaps luckily, by the time I returned with a baseball bat, I could no longer find the little bastard.
One week later I learned he'd escaped the property.
By this time I had developed a tolerance to the bite of his siblings, and each time after creaming my pants and riding the buzz, I'd regain my bodily autonomy mere minutes afterwards. My fingers were damaged with constellations of tooth holes, and the wounds were closing more slowly than before. Some were beginning to infect, and I'd begun to wonder how I could get my pets to bite elsewhere on my body without letting them escape.
I'd hide my little adventures by locking my bedroom door. Mother was still distracted by grief, and she didn't pay much attention to my relative silence. When she wasn't moping around or watching soap operas, she'd be sitting at the garden window, staring into the distance, blank and empty.
I'd learned another way to hide my new addiction: I'd take my clothes off to prevent staining my shorts. Looking back, that wasn't necessary, as I was at the right age for puberty. I doubt she inspected my laundry anyways.
One night my mother and I were watching the evening news over dinner. On came a report about a mysterious affliction plaguing the wildlife in rural Virginia. Animals of all kinds were found dead, burned by a mysterious flesh melting acid. Three children had become infected upon touching a rabbit corpse in their backyard, and all were in the hospital on the brink of death. Quarantine measures had been taken, but the new disease was already spreading rapidly throughout the human population. Doctors described the highly contagious malady as a degenerative virus, a bioengineered ebola-leprosy hybrid. They claimed the new disease was man-made, not naturally evolved.
Revelation. I knew right away. Dad had been working on biological warfare for the government. My pets were a delivery system. Instead of the Black Plague, the Silver Plague. My father had been helping the government eat their enemies from the inside out, melting their kidneys and livers and intestines. Helping them wipe the face of their enemy clean off his skull.
I felt guilty. My father must have discovered the pleasure drug produced by the pre-mutation version of the little animals. He wanted to use it. Yet he hadn't been one for alcohol or tobacco. The only other reason to smuggle home the creatures would be... To reverse engineer an antidote?
As the weeks passed, people began dying all across the eastern seaboard. The contagion was spreading, and the cure was nowhere to be found. The media called it the Silver Streak.
I was in the front yard one day when the door across the street opened. Charlie, the middle aged widower who lived there, came limping out in a robe and slippers. His face was pink and red and missing important features. He was infected. He was beyond that even, he was in his final stages. He stumbled towards the street, hollering and choking.
"The gov'ment done this ta me! Bassards! I'm dyin'!"
Pancakes of sticky bleeding flesh fell from his legs and shoulders. The strain of the jerky movement loosened the weakened molecular bonds holding him together. He fell apart, chunks slipping away from bone. He finally died as a puddle in the middle of the street after tripping on his own dropped fingers. His flesh continued to liquefy, running in purple streams to the gutter. The ligaments connecting his bones lost their collective grip, and two minutes after Charlie had emerged from his front door, he was a gleaming pile of bones.
That was too much for me. I told my mother everything. She called Mr. Muller at the USNDU. He came to my home and took my pets away. (He didn't know about the fresh eggs I'd buried in an old flag.) A cure was soon announced, and although the damage could not be repaired, the virus could at least be halted in infected patients. When I went to get my immunization a few days later, I recognized the buzz right away. I came in my pants right there in the school gym.
11:25 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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