Hi All –
Guess what? I’m on the front page of the latest issue of Drops of Crimson eZine! You can find the story here… DropsofCrimson.com There’s also a great interview with Jeri-Smith Ready over there too, so be sure to stop by when you can…
Night Walker left for New York. Please think good thoughts for me! 🙂
And last but not least, this week was the final week of Blogophilia’s first year. This is a great group of wonderful people who have inspired me more than I can put into words! With new topics and crazy bonus items, I’ve written a new story every week.
Some of the tales are stories I never dreamed I would ever write about! Talk about shaking up my muse!
So, Happy Birthday Blogophilia!!! Thanks SO much for all the work you do!!!
This week the topic included using a skillet for something other than cooking and also to incorporate the Butterfly Effect. So what popped in my head?
Killing a snake with a cast iron skillet…
Anyway, I hope you have fun with the story! Thanks so much for all your comments! I love hearing from everyone!
Outbreak – By Lisa Kessler
She watched her barefooted common-law husband, raise the cast iron skillet up over his head, stalking his prey. From the porch of the rusted trailer, she waited, wondering what was taking him so long.
"It’s gonna slither away, Earl! Whack it already!"
"Shut up woman!" He barked back over his shoulder, still eyeing his quarry. "This don’t look like no gopher snake. Damn thing is bright yellow."
"The color don’t matter none, Earl. Kill it already!"
The cast iron skillet hit the earth with a resounding crunch. Earl screamed, "I got it!"
She grinned exposing a missing tooth in her smile. "Bring it up here. I got the pot all ready."
Earl carried the lifeless snake in one hand and the bloodied skillet in the other. He handed his wife the reptile. "You owe me big time for this one, Daisy. She’s a beaut."
Daisy nodded with a smile. "You done good, Earl."
Dr. Dan Greenbauer feverishly pounded at his computer keyboard. A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead as he checked back over his shoulder. He had to be careful. His experiments were top secret, and if they found out he was erasing some of the data he wasn’t sure what they’d do. His life wasn’t nearly as important as his work. No one would ever find his body if he died here. He shuddered and turned back to his computer screen.
He’d been working nearly a mile underground at the Dulce Base in New Mexico for six months now. Virus mutations were his specialty. His lab was on level six, where he recorded data on his experiments with the animals.
Simple. Or at least it used to be.
Until he lost a seven foot long Coastal Taipan snake.
One of the world’s most venomous snakes had been missing for two days. At first, he was sure Pam, as he called her, had just slithered into a corner somewhere, but after searching all of level six, he still couldn’t find her.
She was a huge yellow snake. She should’ve been easy to spot, and yet he’d found no trace of the reptile. As the days passed, he was convinced that someone had stolen her. How else could she have escaped from a bunker a mile underground? But who could have taken her? Without any proof he couldn’t accuse anyone else, and it would only be a matter of time until he was the chief suspect.
So now he was racing to erase all data that referred to the snake. They’d never know he had a Coastal Taipan. He hoped.
He’d been experimenting with venomous snakes and mutated strains of Hepatitis C. Altering the snake’s venom to contain a lethal version of the Hepatitis C virus had been successful, and in the case of the Coastal Taipan snake, she could bite and inject venom numerous times. She was the perfect vessel for the government to execute an untraceable assassination. No amount of anti-venom would save a victim of her bite. The mutated strain of Hepatitis C was so potent that it caused acute liver failure within hours instead of days.
And now the snake was gone.
Dr. Greenbauer erased the final file. There was no longer any record of the experiments with the snake. No record she had ever been in the animal lab. He was left to pray that the snake was dead. She was too dangerous to be unleashed into the world. Through his experiments, the mutation of the Hepatitis C strain that she carried wasn’t just blood-borne anymore. Dr. Greenbauer had chemically engineered the virus to be orally transferred too. Touching her skin and forgetting to wash your hands before you ate your sandwich could kill you. She was by far the most deadly snake on earth.
And for anyone who was infected, there would be no cure.
"Stew smells good, Daisy," Earl said as he walked out the screen door and onto the porch to greet Ed and Loralee.
"So where’s the kids?"
"Ely broke his toe again, so Georgia’s stayin’ home with him. We promised to bring back some vittles for ‘em."
"Daisy’s makin’ a fine snake stew."
"She need any help?" Loralee said, peeking toward the rusted screen.
"Nah," Earl said. "She’s got it."
Just then a dented old Ford pick-up backfired. Five teens jumped out of the bed of the truck, and Larry Sims turned off the engine. The truck knocked and pinged as he got out.
"Baby’s not ready to stop drivin’ yet!" He laughed.
Earl grinned, "Fords don’t run on moonshine, Joe. It’s gonna be sputterin’ all night."
Joe looked back at his truck, just as the final ping sounded. He looked up at Earl and chuckled. "Nah, she’s good now. What smells so good?"
"Snake stew," Daisy announced as she lugged a big steam pot out onto the porch. She smacked Earl’s hand off the ladle. "Not yet, we got more folks comin’."
Jade hated this part of her nursing job. She enjoyed saving lives in the ER, but seeing the aftermath when they failed was tough to handle. Doctors could deliver the bad news and walk away. It was the nurses who witnessed the pain firsthand.
"I’m so sorry Mrs. Holt."
She grasped her husband’s cool hand, unwilling to let him go. "I can’t believe he’s gone. He’s been bitten before, but…" She wiped a tear and took a shaky breath. "Why didn’t the anti-venom work?"
Jade slid his chart back into the end of the bed. "We’re not sure. He tested positive for Hepatitis C, so maybe the venom caused a drug interaction of some kind. We’ll know more after the autopsy."
Mrs. Holt frowned. "Gary didn’t have Hepatitis."
"He probably didn’t show any outward symptoms."
"No, he just had a blood work up for his physical last month. He handles a lot of exotic animals with PETA, so his doctor keeps a close watch on him," she said. "He didn’t have Hepatitis. He had a clean bill of health."
"Excuse me, Jade?"
She looked up at the orderly. "I’m busy here."
"I know, but the guy who brought in Mr. Holt is back. They need you in Trauma 2."
"Something’s wrong with Henry?" Mrs. Holt asked.
"Please excuse me," Jade said as she hustled from the room.
She yanked on a new pair of latex gloves at the door of Trauma 2, and then shoved through the door.
"He’s in hyper acute liver failure." The doctor said, calling out orders for IVs and medications. "We’re losing him."
Jade’s brow furrowed. "He was fine when he came in. No sign of jaundice."
"I’m aware of that, Jade," the doctor replied. "Need to tell me anything else I don’t already know?"
She ground her teeth together and let the insult slide. "Did he get bitten too?"
"No sign of snakebite. I’m not sure what’s going on here…"
Jade stepped back. She felt hot and light-headed all of a sudden. She just needed to rest… Then the room went black.
Daisy ladled up generous helpings of the snake stew to the sizeable group of friends and relatives from the local church, taking pride in all the compliments on her cooking.
"Earl here kilt the snake for me," she said.
"Nah, don’t be givin’ me none of the credit, Daisy. You were the one who turned the yellow thing into a feast."
"You found a yellow snake?" Gil Smith asked.
"Yeah. Never seen one like ‘er before. Daisy saw ‘er slitherin’ across the drive." He held his arms outstretched to demonstrate his point. "It was at least six or seven feet long."
Daisy set down the pot and wiped her brow. "I’m not feelin’ so good. I think I better go lay down."
Earl frowned. "But you never miss stew night."
"I know. I’ll have some later, doncha worry ‘bout me."
Daisy retreated back into the trailer. By the time she reached the bedroom, her vision was cloudy. She fell onto the bed and closed her eyes, not realizing they would never open again.
Dr. Greenbauer tossed back another shot of whiskey as he watched the television news reports. It was happening. The Jicarilla Emergency Center was quarantined with a deadly Hepatitis C outbreak, and there was another report of twenty more dead in a nearby trailer park community. Apparently one of the dead at the ER had a snakebite. No one knew how the rest of the dead contracted the disease.
But Dr. Greenbauer did.
He’d also erased all the data files that might have held the only cure for the fast-acting virus.
This was his fault.
One lost snake led to a massive outbreak. He prayed it would stay contained in Dulce, New Mexico. What if someone got on an airplane?
A sob escaped him as guilt strangled any glimmer of hope. He couldn’t help them. While covering his own ass, he’d doomed innocent people to death. He never dreamed any of this would happen.
All because of a lost snake.
Tossing back one last shot of whiskey, he raised his revolver and slid the barrel between his teeth. A tear rolled down his cheek.
One snake. One bullet.
He pulled the trigger.
~~~ The End ~~~