Chapter 10

As soon as the beam hit the mesh thing at the other side of the room, Chuck realized that Neil was right. He had no business screwing with those knobs.

Instead of being absorbed into the mesh, the beam fired back at the cannon, sending sparks and metal in every direction. Chunks of shrapnel forced Chuck to take refuge behind the control panel. He watched as the entire outer ring of barrels exploded in every direction. He looked at the center barrel where Neil was. He could swear he saw a glowing skeleton inside the barrel, right before it exploded. Electricity surged everywhere. Every light bulb in the room exploded and the room darkened. Huddled behind the control panel, Chuck felt a sense of dread.

He looked at his body, checked his arms and legs for shrapnel damage, and did a quick inventory of his torso to make sure he hadn’t been hit. He peered up over the control panel to see a purple light by what was left of the barrel.

Chuck heard coughing. He gasped. Neil had survived. This was not how it was supposed to go. Chuck reached into his boot and pulled out a small pistol. He was pretty sure that he saw a small flashlight near the floor near the control panel. He grasped around for it and found it. He got up to his feet slowly and clicked the flashlight on. It flickered on for a second and died. He smacked it a few times and it lit up again. He would have to move quickly.

Neil’s coughing and hacking continued. He did not sound good at all. Chuck figured that Neil would not be long for this world. He wondered if he’d even need the gun. As he approached Neil, he heard the labored breathing. He looked down at him with the flashlight. His stomach turned.

Chuck had seen a lot in his life, but when he looked down at Neil, he was not prepared for what he saw. Some of his muscle and bones were exposed. Vital organs were exposed. The wrench he was holding in his hand was partially liquid - almost like mercury - and partially fused to his skin. He could actually see his lungs moving his ribs move up and down with every straining breath.

“This is how someone would look if they were cooked in a microwave.” Chuck thought to himself. Besides the queasy feeling in his stomach and his weak legs, he felt an intense sense of guilt and dread.

Neil coughed a few times. He looked up at Chuck and managed a few words. Hoarsely, he declared. “I told you not to do that.”

Chuck raised his flashlight to Neil’s eyes. His face was horrifying. His skin hung from his face, exposing his jaw and teeth. Skull was visible. One of his eyes was completely exposed with no skin or muscle around it. He had been rendered completely unrecognizable.

Chuck felt a deep sense of pity. “For what it’s worth, Neil, I had hoped for this to be quick and painless. I’m a professional and there’s no honor in making a man suffer like this unless it’s part of the job. I’m sorry to have left you like this. I promise – I’ll stay here with you until you die. I don’t know if you want this to end, but I have a gun here. If you want me to end this, just say the word.”

Neil coughed again. “No gun. Flashlight. Off. Eyes.”

Chuck nodded. “Yeah, I’ll turn it off.” He realized that Neil didn’t have eyelids anymore. That flashlight probably burned like a bitch. He turned off the flashlight. All things considered, he really didn’t want to see Neil like that anymore anyway. He already knew that what he saw today would haunt him for the rest of his life.

As soon as Chuck turned off the flashlight, he noticed that the purple tinge he noticed before was actually radiating from Neil. That made him nervous about his own health. Was Neil radioactive or something? They were working with electricity, there was nothing hazardous that he was briefed about. As he tucked his gun back in his boot, his concern started to weigh on him more and more.

“Hey, Neil. You’re um, you’re glowing. You’re not turning radioactive or something? I’m not going to die from sitting next to you, am I?”

Neil replied mournfully. “Probably not. Not nuclear. Ion charge” He immediately started on a coughing fit. The rattling sounded so horrible. Chuck’s stomach turned again.

Chuck thought about Neil’s words and felt a little relieved. After all, Neil had no reason to lie at this point. And since they didn’t wear protective equipment during the tests, he figured that there wasn’t really anything he should worry about in terms of exposure.

He felt relieved – after all, he did promise to sit with Neil until he was gone. He owed him that much. This was a mess, a moment in his life that he knew he’d never get past. Chuck had killed people before, he had even tortured people for profit, and although he was never proud of those moments in his life, they never got to him quite as deeply as this had. Accidentally or not, this was a level of cruelty he didn’t feel comfortable administering.

Chuck wondered if his eyes were getting accustomed to the glow, or it was getting dimmer. Neil’s breathing was getting less labored and it was slowing down. He figured it wouldn’t be too much longer before Neil breathed his last. He hadn’t spoken in a while. Everything started to get quiet. Chuck started to get up.

Gasping, Neil spoke again. “Wait. Still alive.”

“Okay, okay, Neil. I’m here. I’m waiting. Just relax. It sounds like it will be over soon.”

“Just stay.”

“It’s okay Neil. I’m still here.”

“Dying. Not alone.”

“It’s fine. Just relax. It’ll all be over soon. I’m so sorry.”

Chuck looked down at the ground. When this was all over, he decided he would just leave and never look back.

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1 comment:

Richard Belzile said...

Again, chapter predates blog.

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I am Sinewave: Spark

Written by Richard Belzile

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