Sunday, March 7, 2010

Robotic Dreams

....The first five days after the accident, the Incident, his unintended death,
Gerard was aware of nothing beyond the white of his hospital room, so unbroken
that staring into gave him a glimpse of infinity, and the jigsaw puzzles he
spent hours constructing on the floor. This state of detachment was for the
best; to expose him to the healing process would have been gruesome and cruel.
....To put him back together, they had to start from the inside. The damage was so great, they removed flesh until the muscle and metal below were visible. The body was then cut methodically with needles filled with Substance P to make this body stronger, more durable than the last when faced with his penchant for self-destruction. The cuts, running from his skull to his feet, intersected, forming squares an inch long and an inch wide. While he surely saw his reflection in the window of his room, Gerard did not react to the sight of himself, skin slowly growing back, tendons stretching, the cuts pulling open whenever he moved to reveal gleaming pink tissue. Instead, his eyes fixated on the large luminescent face on Seidhr, the clock tower.
He was allowed to leave the hospital after a full week. Dazed, head fuzzy and unsure of what's happened or why he's been there, Gerard was glad to leave the over sanitized building. ....Substance P had kicked in, further speeding his recovery so that there was no trace of the cuts, his body grown back in full. He left in the evening, after the sun had gone down and followed the map he was given to the zeppelin station, which would take him home. Or, he was told it would take him home by a man who wore sunglasses in doors. Gerard took the sunglasses as a symbol of authority and desperately hoped he wouldn't wind up lost in some alleyway.
....As he was walking the first block, Seidhr caught his eye, a golden, warm glow. He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, staring up, until someone stopped beside him.
...."Beautiful, isn't it?"
....Gerard turned to see a head of tousled auburn hair a few inches below his own. As the figure dropped her eyes from the clock, she reached out to touch Gerard's wrist.
...."You're leaving the hospital, too?" She asked, holding up her own wrist, where a hospital bracelet hung. She gave him a small smile. "When I was in there, the clock looked so close from my room, like I could climb onto the hands and ride time out." Turning to face Gerard, she held out a hand. "I'm Ashton, former self-destructer."
....Gerard ducked his head, smiling at her introduction. "Gerard. Not a former anything, I think."
....Ashton nodded, a sly smile playing on her lips. "Being mysterious, are we? That's okay. What were you in the hospital for?"
...."I was in an accident. I don't really remember much about it. What were you there for?"
...."Suicide watch. Pretty much the dullest week of my life," Ashton snorted.
...."That's no good."
...."No," Ashton sighed,"Anyway, where are you headed?"
...."To my apartment, I suppose."
...."Those," pointing to Gerard's hand," are directions to it?" Ashton asked.
....Smiling sheepishly, Gerard nodded. "Like I said, I don't remember much from the accident. Or before."
...."Alright. Looks like we're headed in the same direction. Care to walk together?"
...."Sure. That would be nice. Thank you."
....Gerard couldn't name the warming rush of emotion he felt at seeing her, or identify the tug of familiarity he felt as he watched her figure walk across the street. When she turned to look back at him over her shoulder, Gerard dismissed the thoughts, hurrying to catch up.

....The ramp at the entrance of the zeppelin creaked as they mounted it. It was a smaller version than those used for international trips, for it was really just used to pick up and drop patients off. As all the passengers settled into their red velvet seats, Gerard stared intently out the window. He had no recollection of the machines and was in awe of the metallic wings he could see slowly beginning to pump. His attention was kept when the zeppelin took off, rising from it's platform on the Hospital's cloud. The city below was obscured by fog, save for the bright lights of the many street lamps, which shined up at Gerard as if welcoming him home. While he watched the ground grow closer, Ashton studied him. Wearing a worn black leather jacket, his dark hair disheveled, eyes gleaming and full lips parted, he looked for all the world like the most innocent debauchee she had ever seen.

....A week later, Gerard slouched in Ashton's old relic of a car, a Lotus Exige Sport 240, she had said, twice as old as Gerard himself. They glided into downtown Williamsburg that evening to grab dinner at China Sun. An absolutely fundamental part of the Williamsburg life, Ashton had said to Gerard when she arrived at his apartment. He jumped at the chance to get away from the place that was filled with things he pointedly could not remember. Amnesia, the doctors had told him to expect. He just hadn't expected this vast feeling of not belonging, as well. Before they entered Williamsburg proper, Ashton pulled into a parking garage.

...."We'll have to walk from here," she told Gerard as she slid out from behind the wheel, "They don't let cars into the city."

....Stretching once he was out of the vehicle, Gerard was never more happy to be on the rather short side of average. He was able to keep a nice pace with Ashton while they walked down the cobblestone streets without having to worry about slowing down or taking smaller steps.
The night was foggy, as every night had been since Gerard returned to ground level life, and the weather damp but never raining. The rouge red bricks of the buildings seemed to gleam in the light from the street lamps. In the alleys between buildings, Gerard could glimpse small fires and huddled forms. In one alleyway, he made out a pristine old woman in pearls and heels standing next to a tarted up young teen. The teen, androgynous from a distance, held a long pipe to her mouth. The old woman's hand was curled around it, as if waiting to take her turn. When a blue lighted cop car, the only kind of car allowed within the city, rolled slowly down the street, the two moved farther back into the shadows. They were lost to Gerard when even the pulsing beats of blue light illuminated nothing but a dying fire and metal trashcans.
....It wasn't until Ashton stumbled and he reached out to catch her, that Gerard realized anything was wrong. A fine tremor was growing in his body, and thin lines were visible on his skin. Ashton was staring almost as if in horror at his hand, where between his splayed fingers the lines were bigger. Gerard could see that they weren't lines, but cuts, splitting in a pattern of small squares. Frozen and dumbfounded, Gerard remotely noted the blood slowly leaking from his nose. Ashton had pulled away from his hand, run across the street to the Caller on the corner. Time seemed not to move at all, as Gerard watched, mesmerized, as the lines in his skin became more pronounced. He was shaken out of his reverie by Ashton, her hand on his arm, face pale. She was saying something, but her voice was dim and far away, overpowered by a rhythmic rushing sound. Gerard let himself be propelled onto the zeppelin that was suddenly in front of him, surprisingly empty for so early in the night. Gerard's world faded to black as the mechanical bird ascended to the sky.

....Sitting hunched forward in the hard chair of the waiting room, Ashton kept an eye on the door leading to the hallway which she had been refused access to.
...."It was just sensory overload, Ms. Gardener. We knew to expect this. I'm surprised you took him out at all. Now, please, don't waste your night here," the Suit had told her. Two more men, dressed just like the first down to the pointless black sunglasses they kept perched upon their noses, guarded Gerard's door and the door to the hallway. Under the drone's watchful gaze, Ashton grew tired and cramped and frustrated from lack of information. Finally, she relented to their idea, shrugging into her purple coat, and left the hospital for the night.

....Following the dinner that almost was with Ashton, Gerard was introduced to the Suits. More accurately, he was kept very busy by the Suits. They spent hours talking at him, about things, experiments and tests and government regulations, that he didn't understand. They called on him often in the morning, taking him out and keeping him through the day, and always one rode home with him, in a car much more rarely than a zeppelin. Gerard learned their names, but never remembered them. They were obviously interchangeable, and he found their faces indistinguishable from one another.
....One night, after a week of Suits and constant activity that he didn't understand, Gerard feigned illness in the middle of a meeting. All the Suits there, nearly twenty of them, turned to look at him as he groaned, hand to his mouth. Their blank faces were mirror images, as if reflected from the same shadowed, uncaring soul. When he groaned again, curling forward over the hand he placed on his stomach, two of the nearest Suits stood. Without question, they escorted him home, leaving him with strict instructions to get better.
....Settling on the worn couch in his living room, Gerard picked up the phone to call Ashton. When she answered, he asked if she would grant him the honor of escorting a lady to the theater. She seemed incredulous to hear his voice, listening shocked as he told her he had faked sick.
...."And that worked?" she asked.
...."Surprisingly well. They treat me like a glass baby kitten that will break at the smallest provocation."
....Ashton directed Gerard to meet her at the theater, giving him directions unbidden. Though he had asked her to a play, he didn't have the faintest idea how to get to it. The smile he had heard as she hung up the phone was a sharp contrast to the distant girl who met him outside the theater. The golden lights of the marque lit up her face, but her eyes remained fixed anywhere but on him. Through the play, Gerard could feel her arm tensed next to his on the armrest. ....When Intermission came down on the stage, Gerard and Ashton stepped into the lobby of the theater. Stopping her from walking to the table set up along the wall that was piled with food, Gerard asked,"What's wrong?"
....Ashton's face froze, her lips pinched together. "Nothing,"she said.
...."Did I do something? Do you not like the play?”
....Ashton pressed her lips together, unanswering.
....“Ashton, talk to me."
....Cutting her eyes to his face, an emotion he couldn't name flashed across her features. Still stiff, but eyes fixed to his, Ashton said,"I can't do this again. I can't watch them take you apart and away from me again."
....Brow furrowed, Gerard leaned in. "Who's taking me away? I'm not going anywhere."
...."Not yet, but you will. They'll keep you busy and give you work that will break you down. They'll use you up just like they always do, and I can't ever stop them."
...."Are you talking about the Suits? What are they doing? What do you mean?"
....Face closing off suddenly, Ashton shook her head. "It's nothing. Don't worry about it. Can't we just go home?"
....Gerard felt a rush of familiarity at the question. "Home?" he asked.
....Seeming to realize she'd slipped, Ashton hastily back peddled. "Yeah, home. You go to your apartment. I got my house. Maybe I get some sleep."
....Staring hard at her face, Gerard pulled forward the feelings he had felt when they first met. She was familiar, but he didn't know why. She talked as if she had been with him before. Her eyes were always soft and knowing when she watched him stumble with the unexpected world around him.
...."Did we know each other," Gerard asked,"before I had my accident?"
....Ashton looked away from him then, and understanding began to dawn on Gerard.
...."You knew me," he accused. "Tell me where you knew me from."
...."No, Gerard. I want to go home."
..."Ashton, plea-"
...."I'll catch the next bus back. You stay for the play."
....Before he could object, Ashton hurried from the theater, her purple jacket quickly swallowed up in the crowd. Dejected and confused, Gerard slowly exited the building, deciding to walk home.
....Once within the relatively familiar walls of his bedroom, Gerard logged onto his computer. Quickly typing a description of the Suits into the search engine, Gerard hoped to find answers. Instead, he was met with absolutely zero articles regarding the mysterious men who had invaded his life. Backtracking, Gerard began to type in phrases he had heard repeated enough times over the course of the week to drill them into his memory. When he was overwhelmed with results, Gerard added his name to the search. As the new results filtered onto the page, Gerard froze. The page was littered with his name and face.

Doctor Gerard Visson's Ghost in the Machine
Visson Plays God
Swedish Academy Debates Nomination of Gerard Visson
Visson's Tragic Death
Gerard Visson: Memorial

....Gerard began clicking through articles, skimming them for his name. The information overwhelmed him, and he felt dwarfed by the blue light of the screen. When his eyes lighted on Ashton's name, nestled next to his in the last article he read, Gerard stopped reading. Mechanically, he stood up, walked to his phone, and called the woman in question.
...."Ashton, I need you to come here right now. We need to talk," he said, his voice recorded by her answering machine.
....Numbly, Gerard walked to his couch, ignoring his computer. He sat down heavily, staring into the void of space in front of him.

...."Gerard. Gerard! Wake up!"
....Gerard opened his eyes to see Ashton standing over him, tousled hair falling into her face.
...."I died," he croaked.
....Ashton's eyes widened, shocked. "Ger-"
...."I died, and so did you," he said. "I told the world how to put human souls into machines, and then I died in a plane crash. And so did you, Ashton. What's going on?"
....Wearily, Ashton lowered herself to the couch beside him. "Gerard, you don't need to worry about it."
...."Worry? I died. I think I need to worry."
...."You're here now, so what does it matter?"
....Gerard choked, eyes wide. "What does it matter? What did they do to me, Ashton? Did they put me in a machine?"
...."That's ridiculous, Gerard."
...."Tell me what happened, then. What else could have happened?"
...."Nothing, okay? Calm down. You're just as human as I am."
....Gerard felt his anger disappear in a flash. "Just as human as you. You died, too. Are you a ghost in a machine, Ashton?"
....Looking over at her, Gerard saw a deep sadness cross Ashton's face. "You are. God, Ashton. I'm so sorry."
...."It's not your fault," she replied, eyes locked on the floor.
...."I made it possible for them to do this. You died, and they brought you back. Why?"
....Sighing, Ashton looked at him. "Because they brought you back. They brought you back, but you didn't want to live. So they brought me back, too, to convince you we could be normal. But you were so guilty over it all, when you tore that second body apart-"
...."Tore it apart?"
...."Never seen anyone drink they way you did, Gee. When you poisoned that body, they decided when they brought you back again, they would wipe your memory."
...."Is this the second time?"
....A dark look passed over Ashton's face, warring with the unexplainable loss that rested there.
...."Third time? Fourth? More?"
...."It's the third time, Gee."
...."God, Ashton, I'm so sorry."
...."It's not your fault. I told you."
...."But you look so sad. I did that."
...."It's not because of you," she assured him, hand on his knee.
...."Then what is it?"
....Looking down again, Ashton shivered. Raising her head, she looked into his eyes, her own shining. "Last time, you told me something. You said, you want me to be happy. You said, you didn't want me to be trapped by those awful Suits anymore. You-," Ashton broke off, voice cracking. "You told me what to do to make sure they couldn't bring me back after this. And I did. And you said, you said, 'Once I remember everything, unplug yourself. Please.'"
...."Ashton, what does that mean?"
...."It means I'm going away now, Gerard. I can die, and try, at least, to go on to whatever happiness is waiting outside this smokey town. Unless you don't want me to."
....Gerard swallowed past the lump quickly rising in his throat. "Of course. You should never have been caught up in this. I want you to be happy."
...."You could come, you know. You could fix it so they couldn't bring you back anymore, too."
....Gerard shook his head. "I can't. Now that I know, I have to figure out how to stop this. No one should be pulled back here after their gone. It's unforgivable."
....Crying now, Ashton nodded. "That's what you said last time, too. I'm going to miss you."
...."I'll miss you, too, Ashton. What's going to happen?"
...."I'll just- I'll die. It won't hurt, but. That's what's going to happen."
....Gerard pulled her into a hug, pressing his wet cheek against her shoulder.
...."Oh,"Ashton whispered, pulling back. "You gave me a chip, before. You said to give it to you when you realized what was going on." In her hand, Ashton held a small green computer chip.
...."What do I do with it?"
....Showing him how to put it into his port that rested in the hollow of his collarbone, Ashton said,"You wouldn't tell me what's on it, but I think it's important you watch it, now."
....Eyes lingering on Ashton's face, Gerard tightened his hand on hers. "I will."
...."I'll be gone when you're done."
....The pit of his stomach dropped out, again. "Okay. I'll really, really miss you, Ash." Wiping his eyes, Gerard pulled Ashton into another fierce hug. "Be safe."
...."I will," she replied, giving him a watery smile. "Take care of yourself."

....Holding her hand, Gerard pushed the chip fully into his port. The world in front of him suddenly flickered, black. Then, as if watching a movie, Gerard saw his apartment in front of him. Instead of the decor he knew, it was covered in rich reds and golds, warm and inviting. His own figure suddenly entered the room, face tight. Ashton followed, lips moving. Slowly, the sound returned.
...."Why can't you just say no, Gerard? They can't make you do anything."
...."Ashton, I'm not going to risk it. They're pretty damn serious about this project. They want them brought back, and they want me to do it."
...."Well, what did you think would happen? You gave them step-by-step instructions on how to bring people back to life. You showed them how to put those souls into nearly indestructible bodies! What else were they going to do?"
...."I don't know, okay? But, not this. This isn't right."
...."That's what I'm saying. Just tell them no."
...."I can't. You're too important. What if they hurt you?"
...."Don't do that, Gerard. Don't make me the reason for your revolting science projects."
....Gerard watched as his own face closed off, a broken look flashing through his other self's eyes.
Ashton moved to rest her hand on his arm. "I didn't mean that, Gerard. Look, I told the Suits to unplug me today. They said they had to file the paperwork, but. You won't have to worry about me anymore."
...."What? You did what? Without telling me?"
...."It's for your own good! If I'm not here, they can't make you do anything, and you can follow me. We both know you can."
...."They'll just bring me back, Ash."
...."Not if you keep unplugging."
...."Not if I keep killing myself. No, they'll find a way to trap me and take away all my options. I need to find a way to stop this Ashton. God, I regret ever looking into the Ghost theory. We need to go down to the office and stop your papers."
...."No, Gerard. It's for the best."
...."Oh- I. If you want to go, I- I understand."
....Gerard watched his own movements grow jerky and stilted as he moved towards the door.
...."It's not like that. I-"
...."I'll go fix this, Ash. I'll fix your papers and then I'll fix both of our plugs. Okay?", Gerard said to her, his voice desperate and low.
...."You don't have to-," Ashton's voice was cut off by the soft click of the door.
....Gerard's view was suddenly shifted to himself again, now descending a spiraled staircase. It was night out, and the large glass windows showed the city outside. The blue lights of the police swarmed higher up the street. Gerard's attention turned to himself, where he was descending the stairs faster and faster, running when he hit the ground floor. Behind him, Gerard heard other footsteps, but he couldn't move to see who they were. As he exited the highrise, Gerard was visibly shaking. As he saw himself run down the sidewalk, Gerard could hear someone following him. Ashton, he realized, when she called his name. She shouted his name twice more, but he didn't seem the hear until he weas in the street. Stopping, he turned to look at her. Ashton caught up to him, arms encircling his neck.
...."I'm sorry," she whispers against his throat. “I won't go away.”
....Suddenly, watching the two, Gerard tried to yell. Bearing down on the couple in front of him was a large truck, the driver distracted, then blaring his horn. With the impact, everything again dissolved to black.
....In the darkness, a sudden flame was ignited, and it grew and grew. Gerard must have programmed the chip to feed his new body data, because he knows now how he unplugged Ashton, and how to make it so no one can ever be plugged into this hell again.

3 Months Later

....Gerard walked down the gray street, the fire raging behind him. Lighting a cigarette, Gerard heard the fire engines coming. They've been delayed, and the Suit's building will be ash and rubble before they can put the blaze out. Satisfied and exhausted, Gerard stood on the corner, humming softly to himself, hands in his pocket. As the first firetruck rounds the corner, coming towards him, Gerard stepped off the curb. The impact was sudden and welcome, sending him into a sweet bliss. As the fire engine screeched to a halt, a small picture fluttered to the ground next to Gerard's still frame. On the back, words were written in a spikey hand.

"Even at our swiftest speeds, we could not break free from the concrete."

Lyrics from Death Cab For Cutie, Plans 'Brothers On A Hotel Bed' Copyright 2005

I Was A Teenage Leifenstein


(FADE IN, midday. High school campus, open on THE QUAD. Green, bright, almost dreamy. Students milling about, wearing sweater sets, pressed khakis, denim jeans, 50's fashions. CUT to LEIF walking across THE QUAD. Walking with head hunched, thick-rimmed black glasses, books clutched to his chest.)
MIKE: Hey, Leif! A famous Viking explorer returned home from a voyage and found his name missing from the town register. His wife insisted on complaining to the local civic official who apologized profusely saying, "I must have taken Leif of my census."
JOCK2: I bet he thought that was funny. He's such a dork.

(MIKE and friends laugh loudly, pointing at LEIF.)

(LEIF walks away and approaches SARAH, small, blonde, carrying flute case, pinkest sweater set in the frame. LEIF looks nervous.)

LEIF: Hey, Sarah, how's it going?
SARAH: Um, it's going okay. I'm really enjoying that research paper we're doing in Manner's class. I could just live in the library. (dazed smile on face)
LEIF: That's cool. (laughs nervously) I, uh, I was wondering if you might want to go out with me sometime? Maybe this afternoon? We could go by the diner.
SARAH: (smile fades off face, uncomfortable) That sounds nice, Leif.

(CUT to LEIF's hopeful face.)

SARAH: But, I don't really go out with, um, vikings, you know. Wouldn't want to get raped and plundered. (laughs nervously at bad joke)

(Smile drops off LEIF's face. LEIF nods hurriedly, rolls lips into mouth.)

LEIF: Yeah, oaky. (walks dejectedly away)


(LEIF is in class, taking notes. Bell rings. Students leave.)


(Hallways, students walking through frame.)


(LEIF stands in cafeteria, standing in line for lunch, hands in pockets, staring off into space, unfocused. Sarah approaches, taps LEIF's shoulder.)

SARAH: Hey Leif. I was thinking. I'm sorry about earlier. Maybe we could, um, go out after school?

LEIF: (face lights up, smiling) That would be great! Where do you want to go?

SARAH: How about you meet me by the pond in town? We can decide where to go from there.

LEIF: Sure, that's great! Do you want to get in line with me?

SARAH: Oh, no, Thanks. I'll see you later, Leif.

LEIF: Right, later. Bye Sarah.


(LEIF walking forward, down small hill to POND, carrying violin case. Lush grass, bushes flowering, lily pads in water. Ducks. SARAH is standing next to the pond, white wooden veranda at her back. SARAH is picking apart a flower, dropping pieces in water, singing softly to self.)

LEIF: Hey, Sarah. (LEIF smiles and waves)

SARAH: Hey, Leif. (turns to face him, lets flower fall from hand) Any ideas on what you want to do?

LEIF: We could go get a shake at Sam's? Or we could hang out in the library? (LEIF chuckles) Or we could get bread and--

(LEIF is cut off by SARAH kissing him.)

(SARAH stands on toes, hands clutching LEIF's shoulders. CLOSE-UP on LEIF's eyes, wide, surprised. SARAH pulls back.)

LEIF: Uh, that was, uh (flustered)

MIKE (O.S.): Well, what have we got here? Trying to pick up a girl, Viking?

(CUT to MIKE coming out from behind veranda. Two other jocks appear as well. All wearing letter jackets)

LEIF: What's going on? Sarah?

(SARAH flounces over to MIKE, wraps an arm around his waist.)
MIKE: What, you thought you were the first to discover this continent? (scoffs, motions to SARAH) Who do you think you are, Leif Erikson?
(JOCK2 knocks LEIF's violin case, books out of his arms. All laugh at LEIF.)

JOCK2: God, you're so pathetic. (picks up violin case, hands it to MIKE)

MIKE: Why don't we have a viking funeral for your little violin? (mocking)

(MIKE takes violin out of case, while JOCK2 throws LEIF's papers into the pond.)
LEIF: No! (LEIF scrambles to get papers, books out of pond. Turns back around after wading in to pond to grab them. MIKE is holding open lighter against violin.
LEIF tries to get the violin from MIKE, but JOCK2 pulls him back, punches him in the stomach.
LEIF falls to ground.
MIKE throws violin, now lit on fire, into bushes.
Laughing, MIKE kicks LEIF in the side, pulls him up by his shirtfront, and smacks him across the face.)

MIKE: Don't come near Sarah again, loser.

(MIKE, JOCK2, and JOCK3 leave, jostling each other and sneering at LEIF. SARAH folows, ignoring LEIF. LEIF lies on the ground, hands to face, blood seen around fingers. Gets up, crawls to violin, but it is a burnt shell. LEIF cradles violin to body, hunched shoulders. FADE OUT.)

(OPEN on LEIF OUTSIDE, walking up sidwalk, enters moderate sized brick house.)

(LEIF enters FOYER, dark woods and maroon rug in the walk way, walks through.)


(LEIF enters KITCHEN, avocado accents. FATHER is at table, reading newspaper. MOTHER is washing dishes by hand in the sink.)

FATHER: (sets down paper, sighs) What happened to you, son?

MOTHER:(turns, looks distressed) Leif! Are you okay? (grabs a rag, wets it, hands it to LEIF)

LEIF: (wipes at face with rag, snorts) I'm fine. I ran into those bullies again, down by Oleander Pond.

FATHER: Didn't you fight back? You can't just let them walk all over you.
LEIF: I didn't let them walk all over me, dad. There were three guys, and they were all bigger than me. Was I supposed to throw a punch and end up even bloodier?
(MOTHER looks upset at the argument, leaves room)
FATHER: If you fought back, they would know you aren't just some pansy. It might have made them respect you a little.
LEIF: Respect? They burnt my violin, dad. They're never going to respect me.
FATHER: Well, maybe you'll actually act like a man now that that damn instrument is gone.
(LEIF storms out of the house.)


(LEIF runs down the road, begins to cross the street, when FATHER opens the front door of the house and calls his name.
LEIF looks back. Horn blares, and a pickup truck runs into LEIF, knocking him out of the frame. Camera pans over scene from birds-eye POV, rising. Cue scream as scene fades to black.)


(FADE IN at CEMETARY, funeral. PRIEST is talking softly by head of grave. MOTHER and FATHER stand on the grass, MOTHER crying, leaning against FATHER. Four other black-clad figures are in the background. Two men approach grave, wheeling a two foot violin statue on a dolly. The end of the violin's neck is mounted with a large, ornate metal cross. It gleams despite the cloudy sky.)

MOTHER: (whispers, sad) He always loved that violin. It was his only friend in the world.

(End scene on over-the-shoulder shot of MOTHER and FATHER staring at the grave marker.)


(OPEN on a stormy night at the CEMETARY. Birds-eye POV.
Lightening bolt strikes LEIF's grave marker, briefly illuminating the ground. From birds-eye POV, the silhouette of the coffi
n is shown, jerking from the electricity. The ground goes dark, the storm rages on. Lightening strikes the grave marker again, illuminating the coffin jerking again. A crack is heard, and in the silhouette the side is seen breaking.
Lightening strikes a third time. The tip of the violin is glowing. An arm is seen falling out of the side of the coffin in the silhouette. The storm lets up, only leaving rain. CUT to ground and grave at eye level. Grass buckles, hand shoots up from the dirt. FADE OUT on hand.)


(OPEN scene in LEIF's KITCHEN. MOTHER is tidying up, humming idly to self. Daytime, but kitchen is dim. MOTHER walks to kitchen doorway, calls out.)

MOTHER: I'm going to run to the store. I need a few ingredients for dinner. Make sure you don't eat anything before I get back.

(FATHER grunts reply, off camera.)


(MOTHER puts on overcoat, grabs purse, walks out door.)


(FATHER in STUDY. Maroon walls, dark wood desk. Head bent over papers. There is a benign creak in the background.)

FATHER: Margaret, are you still here? Why don't we have pork roast for dinner?

FATHER: Margaret?

(Father goes back to papers.)


(Silhouetted figure shambling down HALLWAY towards study door.)


(STUDY, FATHER working at desk, unaware of surroundings. Shadow comes across papers from behind FATHER. Maggot drops onto papers, squirms. FATHER notices it, turns to look over right shoulder, sees LEIF. FATHER screams.)

(FATHER pushes out of chair, runs to fireplace, pulls out brass fireplace poker from tool set.
LEIF lumbers towards FATHER. LEIF's burial clothes are worn. His black pleated pants are stained with dirt across the knee, torn, wrinkled. His black jacket is unbuttoned, ripped across the left side. His white dress shirt is wrinkled, dirty stained, but unripped. LEIF's skin is pallid and sunken, lips cracked, hair in disarray. His fingers are bloody and torn from clawing his way from the coffin. There is a cut high up his right cheek, the bridge of his nose is bruised purple. LEIF's mouth is uselessly open, and his eyes are shining and focused on FATHER.)

FATHER: Get away. Get away, you beast! (swings fire poker. Eyes widen in surprise when it rips into LEIF's torso with a wet sound)

(LEIF looks down at poker sticking out of abdomen, where there is no blood. A maggot squirms out of the gash. While he is distracted, FATHER turns and runs out of the study.)


(FATHER runs down the HALL, looks behind him, trips, and falls into the doorway of the LIVING ROOM.)


(CUT to STUDY, LEIF pulls the fire poker out of his abdomen, tossing it carelessly to the side. Leaves STUDY)


(FATHER scrambles to get up, runs through LIVING ROOM. His face is cut, bleeding sluggishly.)

FATHER stands with his back against the wall next to the entrance to the kitchen. LEIF looms over him, his arms coming up to wrap around FATHER, backs FATHER into KITCHEN.
LEIF stands for a moment, as if hugging FATHER, while FATHER is clawing uselessly at LEIF's arms, muttering to himself.)

FATHER: Get- Get off. {panting, shrieks} Get off!

(LEIF begins to pull back.
Jerky movements cause his face to brush FATHER's.
LEIF notices the blood, stares at it.
LEIF seems transfixed, then slowly leans forward and sniffs the blood.
LEIF's eyes lose focus, his mouth opens.
LEIF tears into the skin of FATHER's face.
CUT on FATHER's scream.)


(MOTHER, OUTSIDE, walking up to the house with a grocery bag in her arms. She unlocks the door, enters the FOYER.)


(MOTHER walks through FOYER. MOTHER stops in entrance to KITCHEN, simultaneously dropping her bag, where something is heard breaking, and screaming. Beyond her figure, blood smears are visible. FADE OUT)


(FADE IN to the GYM, where MIKE, JOCK2 and JOCK3 are playing basketball. They are wearing white shorts that end just above the knee and school t-shirts, red with the words Holloway High School printed across the chest in white. The gym coach, pacing in the back of the shot, blows his whistle, and the students- all male- head towards the locker room. MIKE is delayed by the coach, who pulls him aside to talk with him, inaudible. JOCK2 and JOCK3 wait around for him by the locker room doors.)


(MIKE enters the LCOKER ROOM after everyone else, with JOCK2 and JOCK3 flanking him. He is joking with them over his shoulder as he walks to his locker. The other students have left or are out of the frame. Showers can be heard running in the background. As he is removing something from his locker, the outside door near MIKE shudders. JOCK2 and JOCK3 look over at the noise.)

JOCK2: What was that?

(MIKE looks back at them, brow furrowed, and holds up a hand. He walks to the door, which is shaken with another impact as his hand finds the handle. Slowly, he pulls the door open. LEIF is standing on the other side of the door. Blood is smeared across his face and the chest of his white button up shirt. He opens his mouth, and blood is seen staining his teeth.)

MIKE: Leif? Where the hell have you been? (suprised, incredulous)

JOCK2: Is that blood?

JOCK3: (in the background) Can you smell him? I think I'm going to be sick. (JOCK3 is heard running away from the door, then throwing up.)

MIKE: Hey. (pushes LEIF's chest.) What's wrong with you, man? Say something.

(MIKE goes to push LEIF again. MIKE's features are tense, showing his building panic. LEIF catches MIKE's arm, shoves him away. MIKE stumbles back, falls against a wall. JOCK2 moves to MIKE's side.)

JOCK2: You okay, man?

MIKE: Yeah, I'm fine. Back off.

JOCK2: Looks like Leif grew a pair.

MIKE: (laughs derisively) We'll have to teach him a lesson, then.

(MIKE is now standing, JOCK2 at his side, JOCK3 hovering in the background. LEIF has begun to enter the locker room, still moving in a jerky, stilted manner.)

MIKE: Where do you think you're going, Viking? Didn't you learn not to mess with us? Guess we'll have to burn something else this time.

(JOCK2 laughs.)

(MIKE is closing in on LEIF, getting in his face. He shoves LEIF, making LEIF fall back against the metal cage holding the sports equipment. Trying to right himself, LEIF knocks the cage backwards, where it falls on top of JOCK3.)

MIKE: (looks at fallen JOCK3, turns to yell at LEIF) Look what you did!

(MIKE is in LEIF's face again. LEIF groans, grabs MIKE's arm and bites into his forearm.
MIKE screams, jerks his arm frantically.
JOCK2 appears with a textbook, to the side of MIKE, and hits LEIF in the back of the head.
LEIF lets go of MIKE and turns to JOCK2.
LEIF grabs the arm holding the textbook and breaks it.
LEIF bites into JOCK2's neck, causing a spray of blood.
MIKE is holding his forearm to his abdomen, hunched over it. On the floor, JOCK3 is screaming.)

JOCK3: Help! God, someone! Help!


(THE QUAD, SARAH is laughing with group of girls. SARAH is holding her flute case, hair in a ponytail.)

SARAH: I'll meet you all at Sam's, okay? I've got to put my flute in the band room, and then I've got to find Mike. (laughs) He's always holding me up.

(The girls laugh, shooing SARAH and walking away. Camera pans across the girls as they leave.)


(SARAH hums happily to herself, walking down a deserted HALLWAY. SARAH is stopped in the hallway by another teen, TOM. He is dressed in the schools letter jacket, carrying papers under one arm.)

TOM: Hey, Sarah. Have you seen Mike?

SARAH: I was just looking for him, actually. We've got a date, and he's off making us late. {laughs} Why?

TOM: Could you give him these notes?

(TOM hands SARAH a sheaf of papers.)

SARAH: Sure thing. I'll see you at Sam's later?

TOM: You bet. Check in the locker room, too. I didn't see him come in after gym.

SARAH: Okay. See ya.

(SARAH smiles at TOM, then continues down the hall.)


(SARAH opens double doors, enters GYM. Still smiling happily to herself, she walks towards the boy's locker room. She knocks on the door.)

SARAH: Hello? Everyone decent?


(SARAH enters the LOCKER ROOM, obviously looking around for MIKE. She begins to walk past the second row of lockers when she hears a noise.)

JOCK3: (hoarse, tired) Is someone there? Help me!

(SARAH hurries around the lockers, but freezes. In front of her is JOCK3, still pinned under the metal cage. JOCK2 is slumped on the ground, his torso covered in blood, a gaping hole in his neck, dead.)

SARAH: Oh God!

(SARAH sees MIKE lying face down on the ground, the left, bitten arm pinned under him.)

SARAH: Mike! Are you okay?

(SARAH runs to MIKE's side, dropping flute case, and kneels next to him.} Mike? {SARAH reaches out to turn MIKE over, holding him up by the shoulders,and screams. There is a vivid bite mark on MIKE's right cheek. His eyes are glazed.)

SARAH: Mike!

(SARAH shakes MIKE, but gets no response. SARAH looks down at her knees, where a pool of blood is seeping through the gray skirt pulled over her knees. MIKE's stomach is gouged, the blood already forming a circle on his red gym shirt and the floor under him. SARAH's breathing is now audible and frantic.)

SARAH: Oh, God! Oh, God! (whispered)

(SARAH lets go of MIKE and runs out of the locker room, her flute case forgotten.)


(SARAH runs down the hallway, shouting.)

SARAH: Help!

(SARAH hears noises from the BAND ROOM, enters.)


(SARAH looks around cautiously, creeping towards the noise. LEIF is seen from behind, standing next to a large wooden shelf, where instruments are lined up in their cases.)

SARAH: Oh, help! I've been looking for someone. Please come help. My friend's are hurt.

(LEIF turns around to face SARAH. His shirt has the browning stain of dried blood across the chest. His right arm is bloody to the elbow. His mouth is smeared with blood. SARAH shrieks. CUT to LEIF turning back to the instruments, methodically opening cases on the shelf and looking inside them. Suddenly, he is hit from behind, falling into the instruments. Instrument cases fall to the floor. Some cases open, instruments visible. With a yell, he turns to look behind him. SARAH is holding a music stand out in front of her.)

SARAH: Stay away from me! Stay away! You killed my friends!

(LEIF reaches down to pick up the instruments that have fallen.
SARAH shrieks, smacks his hand with the end of the music stand, ripping skin but drawing no blood.
LEIF yells again, grabs the music stand, yanks it out of SARAH's hands and throws it away.
SARAH cowers back. LEIF again reaches for the instruments on the floor. A violin is visible.
LEIF picks up the violin, runs hand over strings, and stares at it adoringly. LEIF fishes the bow out from the case, then begins playing a fast-paced, happy song. As he is playing, shouts can be heard from outside, both students and arriving police.)

SARAH: Help! In here!

(LEIF is lost in his music, not paying attention to SARAH's yelling. The door of the band room flies open, and three cops enter.)

COP: Ma'am, I need you to get behind me.

(SARAH scrambles to get behind the police officer.)

COP: Son, I need you to put the violin down slowly. Son!

(LEIF is still unaware of what is going on around him.)

COP: (shaking head) I don't want to shoot this kid.

SARAH: But he killed my friends! Oh, God, he's a monster!

COP: (turns to look at SARAH) That boy killed those kids? (incredulous) That was the most gruesome murder I've ever laid eyes on. That changes everything. (turns back to face LEIF) Son, I need you to set that violin down, or I'll have to shoot!

(CLOSE UP on LEIF's face.
LEIF opens his eyes, slowly stops playing.
LEIF begins to set down the violin.
Suddenly, a shot is fired.
LEIF's head jerks back as the bullet enters his forehead.
The violin is seen hitting the floor.
Music swells as SARAH is rushed away by one police officer, and the other two slowly approach LEIF's body. The scene fades out as COP checks LEIF's pulse and speaks into radio.)


(OPEN on the words "There is no death until I declare it so." They are carved into the violin grave marker at LEIF's grave. The grave is filled in, grass beginning to grow over the dirt, and the sun is shining. MOTHER is sitting on a blanket in front of the headstone, and she is seen lovingly running her fingers over the words. The camera pulls back until the sun catches the camera, causing a blinding white light to fill the screen. END.)

Viral Misconceptions

Holloway High School, an average public high school, has the unfortunate honor of resonating in the same vein as Columbine. Both were unexpected tragedies, real life horror stories, cutting people down before their lives even began.
For years, Holloway has been the subject of increasingly outrageous rumors and tall tales. The most persistent of which is the story of a zombie outbreak. Were the victims of Holloway the shambling, rotting corpses of Hollywood horror films? Did they deserve the fate they got? Was it such a supernatural event? Or is there a more scientific explanation for the tragedy?
Here we aim to find the truth behind the years of exaggerations. We will uncover the real story behind that fateful day at Holloway High School, and we will do our very best to finally give the victims a voice.

Donnely, Andrew. (2008). Holloway High School: Origin of the Hanged Man Virus.

The outbreak first occurred at Holloway High School, located in Hiram County, a suburb off Atlanta, Georgia. It was a clear September morning when local police were flooded with calls from the school. Built with a capacity of 1,800 students and holding just over 2,000, the incident at Holloway was the biggest catastrophe the county has ever dealt with. When police arrived, the scene was reportedly empty, with the majority of the staff and student body remaining inside the school. It was just after 7:30 a.m. when the first calls went out to 9-1-1, and the entire ordeal was over by noon. In that four and a half hour stretch of time, two-hundred thirty-five students died. Students and families are currently coping with this loss. You may send your condolences to Keeping you up to date with all the breaking news, this is Linda Montenegro...

Nimes, Isabel. (2007, November 14.) WPBR News. Atlanta, GA: Richardson Broadcasting Corporation.

Scientifically speaking, it is called the Strick-Hotchner Virus...
Originally, scientists thought it was a strain of the necrotizing fasciitis due to the rapid muscle decay...
Research was halted for nearly a year after the outbreak of the virus due to ignorance fueled vandalism, often perpetrated by a group our readers might have heard of, called the Executioners. They take their name from the virus' layman name, the Hanged Man's Virus. Mindful of the risk of another outbreak, the government warned that the persons of this group would be held solely accountable for any more lives lost, but luckily for them, there had not been- and there has yet to be- another outbreak.

Carrol, Lee. (2008, December, 9.) Hanged Man Virus and You. Retrieved from

We'd like to thank Sandra Dearing for coming in to speak with us today. Ms. Dearing was a senior at Holloway High School when the outbreak of the Strick-Hotchner virus occurred.

Andrew Donnely: What do you remember from the morning of the outbreak?

Sandra Dearing: I was in the bathroom when it happened. I was going through my bag looking for my eyeshadow when I heard shouting from the commons. I thought there was a fight, you know? People get really excited when there's a fight, but it kind of makes me sick, so I didn't want to go look.

AD: When did you realize it wasn't a fight?

SD: Someone screamed. A girl, I guess, but she screamed like she was freaked out, scared, or whatever. Not how people do when it's just a fight. So I grabbed my bag and went to go see what was happening.
Out in the commons, out there everyone was freaking out. It took me a second to realize what was happening. At first everyone looked normal, save for the screaming. Then, I saw the blood and- Oh, God.

AD: You can take a moment, if you'd like.

SD: No, no. It was like half the people looked normal but terrified, and the other half were messed up. They were bloody and stiff. Their mouths were open, and they were moaning, like something from Dawn of the Dead. I tried to ask someone what was happening, but everyone was running. I just followed people down a hallway, got carried into a classroom. People kept pushing in, and it felt like no one else could fit when two guys managed to shut the door. The doors lock automatically when they close, but the guys still stood there, pressing on it.
The room was like a furnace. I was so close to people, I could feel their body heat. Everyone was on their phones, calling the police. I kept trying to call my mom, but I couldn't get service. That's what I get for using Verizon.
People were still coming down the hall, banging on the door, but the guys wouldn't let them in. Or, we all wouldn't let them in. I don't know if we could have overpowered the two guys at the door. They looked like football players. People would come to the door, kick it, hit it, yell at us, and then take off for another classroom when we didn't open up.
Eventually, the flow of people let up. I guess everyone was locked up tight in a classroom. We were all relaxing in the shocked kind of way your body does when it just can't keep up with the panic and adrenaline anymore. I remember I was leaning against the person standing next to me, I was so tired, just exhausted, when something banged into the door again. Someone screamed. I looked at the door, and he had his face pressed against the little rectangular window. I was so close, I could hear him breathing these loud, strained breaths. His face was pale, and there were these awful black circles under his eyes. Blood was smeared across his chin. That's probably what made someone scream something about him being a zombie. It was the first I'd heard anyone say it. But his eyes were wide and desperate, his mouth was open. I could see blood in the cracks between his teeth, and he was groaning. Nothing intelligible, just these awful pained sounds, for the most part. But after it felt like he'd looked at all of us, I swear to God, I think I heard him say 'Help.' I don't know if one of the football players heard it too, but one of them kicked the door, yelled at the kid, and he fell back from the door, layed on the ground for a while, crawled away eventually. It all felt like it took years, but I couldn't take my eyes off him. It wasn't until he was gone that I remembered we'd had the same Algebra teacher. That poor kid.
Eventually, the police came. I don't know how long it took them to get there or to get inside. From what I heard, they didn't know what was going on when they got there. Thought someone might have had a bomb or something. I guess it's more plausible than zombies. They came to the door carrying guns and took us out of the school. We were all quarantined after that. I still can't forget how the commons looked as we were leaving. All those bodies...

(A. Donnely, personal communication, October, 2008)

Kripke: Welcome to Daily Life With Kripke. Today, we're talking about the Hanged Man's Virus. While the government has said any more outbreaks are virtually impossible, well- we all know how reliable the government is, right? So, we're going to be discussing the signs and symptoms of what is formally known as the Strick-Hotchner Virus. Our guests will include Doctor Eileen Grand, a specialist on Strick-Hotchner, and a surprise guest you won't want to miss. Please, welcome Doctor Grand!

(Doctor Grand enters stage right.)

Kripke: It's good to have you on the show Doctor.

Grand: It's great to be here! Really, I do enjoy giving people the most reliable information about this disease.

Kripke: You're area of expertise is completely centered around the Strick-Hotchner Virus, is it not?

Grand: It is, yes. I began working on Strick-Hotchner not long after I was out of grad school, and I've never looked back.

Kripke: Are there many specialists in your area?

Grand: Not, really, no. Right after the virus broke out, there was a huge need for us to figure out what it was and where it might strike next, but once we figured that out and had the virus contained, the majority of people, at least those in my department, were no longer needed.

Kripke: But, you stayed on?

Grand: I did. I find it fascinating, the way this virus works. We're currently running spontaneous outbreak scenarios in our lab.

Kripke: Why don't you tell us about the virus?

Grand: Of course. The Strick-Hotchner Virus has only been seen active once-

Kripke: This was the infection at Holloway.

Grand: Yes. It broke out within the school, seemingly indiscriminately.

Kripke: Seemingly?

Grand: At the time, the virus appeared to attack randomly. For months after the outbreak, we were unable to get a living sample from the school. All we had to go on were the observations of a couple hundred terrified teenagers and rather grainy security camera footage. It wasn't until we actually exhumed bodies that we were able to find a testable sample. After these tests, we learned that the virus does not attack randomly at all. In fact, the reason it broke out within a high school is due to the high concentration of teenagers. It is a survival mechanism of the virus to attack young, strong bodies. They decompose at a slower rate.

Kripke: Decompose, now that's just awful. But, before we get into that, why don't you tell the audience what the signs of Strick-Hotchner are, and what exactly those signs mean?

Grand: Well, the first sign is a nausea said to engulf the sufferer, which is usually felt in the head and the stomach. It is followed by dizziness or a light headed feeling as the blood drains from the surface of the skin, and, subsequently, from the brain.

Kripke: Is there any way to tell between a stomach ache or a passing faint spell and the beginning stages of Strick-Hotchner?

Grand: In this case, the devil is in the details. What makes the nausea of Strick-Hotchner unique is the fact that it really is encompassing. Someone who is suffering through it will feel nauseous in their stomach, head, and chest, as if they may throw up or faint within seconds. It is not just a small stomach ache.

Kripke: So most people would notice if they were feeling nauseous at the Strick-Hotchner level?

Grand: Oh, yes. But, to be frank, if one were that nauseous, and it was Strick-Hotchner, there really would be no use in knowing that. The other symptoms come on so fast that there is no way to help someone once they have become infected.

Kripke: That's encouraging. Now, you said the blood drains from the surface of the skin. Why is this?

Grand: The blood drains from the surface of the skin so the white blood cells can fight the invading virus. However, the virus is much stronger than a healthy body can fight, and it loses the battle. When this happens, the blood pools in the extremities, causing the fingers, feet, and tongue, most noticeably, to swell, as well as causing the veins to bulge against the skin. This is highly visible. The fingers, for instance, will appear bruised, purple or red. The fingernails will be deeply discolored, and often times blood manages to sluggishly squeeze out from beneath them. The veins will be a dark purple color and will press out against the skin, often as they do after strenuous activity. Finally, the tongue will swell with the blood. This is one of the most debilitating symptoms of Strick-Hotchner because the tongue's size increases so much, past what the human mouth can accommodate. All of these occurrences are going to be rather painful for the infected person, not to mention very stressful and frightening, especially when the tongue swells, making it harder, but not impossible, for the infected to breathe. As one would expect, the infected is going to try to talk to get help. This isn't possible due to their swollen tongue, but they will undoubtedly try, and during this attempt, they will bite their tongue. Because their tongue is so full of blood, the wound, regardless how small, will bleed profusely, and this lends itself to the monster image of the infected that was held by many of the students at Holloway High School.

Kripke: Let me just stop you there for a moment. We have to go to a commercial break, but we'll be right back with Doctor Grand.

(Commercial Break)

Kripke: We're back here at Daily Life With Kripke. Right now, we are sitting down with Doctor Eileen Grand, a specialist on the Strick-Hotchner Virus. Before we went to break, we were discussing signs and symptoms of Strick-Hotchner. Would you like to continue, Doctor Grand?

Grand: Of course. As I was saying, the virus causes the blood to swell in the extremities. As this is happening, the face will change. We found two common types of color changes happened to Strick-Hotchner victims. The face will become very pale, with either a blue or green tinge to the skin and will often be marked by red blotches of busted capillaries under the skin. This symptom is not consequential in the long run, but it is highly visible. As all of this is happening, the muscles are rapidly deteriorating, cauisng the infected to be stiff and pained when they excercise their limited range of movement. The final symptom, which, like all the symptoms save nausea, happens almost simultaneously with the others, is that of a bruised ring forming around the front of the neck. This is caused by the internal body pressure, as well as the blood rushing from the surface of the skin to distend the veins. It is this symptom, which is seen as a dark purple, black, or red ring around the throat of the infected's neck that gives the virus it's layman name, the Hanged Man's Virus.

Kripke: That's quite awful. Now, I noticed earlier you said you had to exhume bodies to retrieve a sample of the virus.

Grand: Yes.

Kripke: Were people not upset by this? Furthermore, were you not risking the chance that the virus might get into the air and cause another outbreak?

Grand: Let me say, I was not actually a part of these proceedings. I merely worked on the bodies once they were on the table. People were, understandably, upset and scared at this development for the exact reason you noted. The government felt, however, that this was too important to let that interfere. Also, and I'm not sure how public this has been made, those infected with Strick-Hotchner were buried in a quarantined graveyard. The bodies were thoroughly radiated and sanitized before being buried, and the coffins are buried 12 feet below the surface, surrounded by three feet of concrete on all sides which ensures the local water table will never even chance being infected by their remains. The highest precautions have been taken.

Kripke: Is it true, that the location of the coffins is a secret?

Grand: Only known to loved ones listed on a registry somewhere in the bowels of the Center for Disease Control.

Kripke: Almost makes one think of cover ups.

Grand: Lets not make this out to be more than it is. This was an unknown disease apparently capable of decimating hundreds of people in a few hours. To start spouting conspiracy theories would honestly be a little ridiculous in my book.

Kripke: I don't mean to give you a hard time. These are the things the public wants to know.

Grand: I understand.

Kripke: Okay, on that note we will break for commercial. When we return, we'll be discussing one of the biggest secrets in relation to Strick-Hotchner. Stay tuned.

(Commercial Break)

Kripke: Welcome back to Daily Life With Kripke. I'm here with Doctor
Grand, discussing Strick-Hotchner. Now, Doctor Grand, earlier you said that you had to exhume bodies to get a sample of the virus, yes?

Grand: That's correct.

Kripke: You said the only accounts you had of the virus and its effects came from the students and staff of Holloway High School and security footage extracted from the school's cameras, is that right?

Grand: Yes, it is.

But, wasn't there a student who would have been a viable source to retrieve a sample from?

Grand: I'm not sure-

Kripke: Was there not a student who was infected with the Strick-Hotchner Virus and lived?

Grand: There was, yes.

Kripke: His name is Neil Avery. He was infected during the outbreak at Holloway High School, and he is the only one to survive the virus. In fact. he was the only infected to survive that day. Please, welcome Neil Avery!

(Neil Avery enters stage left.)

Kripke: Neil, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with us today.

Avery: It's no problem, really. Happy to be here. My mom is at home taping this, so. Couldn't miss my opportunity to shine.

Kripke: Now, tell us who you are. Very few people actually know.

Avery: Sure, I love to be repetitious. I'm Neil Avery. I was a junior at Holloway High School when the Hanged Man's Virus infected the school in the fall of 2007. I am the only person who was infected with the virus and survived.

Kripke: What is that like, being the only infected to survive?

Avery: Most days, it's like nothing. Most days I don't think about it. But, every once and a while I come on talk shows. On those days, it's devestatingly lonesome, like no one will ever understand me again. The American public eats that up, right?

Kripke: You do have a tongue on you.

Avery: That's what my mother says. She says some day it'll just cut its self right out of my mouth, it'll get so sharp.

Kripke: Seriously, though, how do you feel being the only survivor?

Avery: When I think about it? When I stop to think, I feel awful. I don't know why I lived, and I don't know why others didn't. I'm sure you've heard those conspiracy theories about how the government actually sent out some secret poison to kill the infected kids. In that scenario, I'm just a lucky fool with a price on his head.

Kripke: Do those stories bother you?

Avery: No. What bothers me is the parents that call me and demand answers or justice or whatever. I don't have the answers. I don't know any more than they do. I'm really no help, but to sit on the phone and listen to them plead for their child like I can bring them back.

Kripke: They say the other students were murdered.

Avery: Yes, that is what they say. I don't honestly think it's true, but it must be awful to believe that happened to your child, and you couldn't do anything to save them.

Kripke: Do you have any words for the parents of former Holloway students that may be watching?

Avery: Besides what I just said? No matter what you believe, you're kid isn't coming back. They loved you, and they wouldn't want you losing everything to mourn or avenge them. And, I get that an idea like that is too hard to stomach if you're the kind of parent who is watching this show, so let me try again. Stop what you're doing. You need to stop having the only thing you remember about your kid be his death. They had lives before they died. They were happy. Watch a movie they loved, look at their clothes. Open up those dusty rooms you closed off two years ago, open a window, and sit inside. It hurts, but it's better than having the only memory of them being one of anger and regret. Just try that, please. If it doesn't work, you can always call me. I'm happy to listen to stories of your kid's first loose tooth any time. But try this first. For them.

Kripke: That is very insightful. We're going to a commercial break, but when we get back, we'll being talking more with Neil Avery.

(Commercial Break)

Kripke: Welcome back to Daily Life With Kripke. We're here with Neil Avery, discussing his life after Holloway. Neil, I'd like to ask you, could you tell us about your rescue from Holloway?

Avery: I could tell you, but I'd be telling you second-hand stories. I don't remember leaving Holloway.

Kripke: What were you told happened?

Avery: From what I was told, by, uh, doctors, cops, and my parents, the virus broke out right before the bell rang in the morning. Police were unsure what was happening inside. They pieced the situation together more through phone calls with people inside than through what they could see through the windows.

Kripke: Why was that?

Avery: Come on, a bunch of teenagers staggering around? It must have looked like a drunken ho-down to them. Anyway, once they understood the situation, the building and a good bit of land surrounding it was quarantined. The boys in blue donned hazmat suits, and managed to open a few windows in empty halls and such and set up infrared cameras.

Kripke: Infrared cameras do, what, exactly?

Avery: They sense heat emitting off an object or person and project it as an image.

Kripke: Okay, I wanted to clarify.

Avery: So, after they set up these cameras and sensors, they monitored the school. All the students put off heat images, including the infected kids. But, around 9:00, the temperatures of the infected students dropped sharply, causing their infrared images to change. While the cops watched, I guess the bodies got colder and colder, and they weren't moving anymore. At some point, someone had the bright idea to enter the school and check the situation out.

Kripke: Let me interrupt you. When you say the temperatures dropped, what do you mean?

Avery: Just that. The body temperatures of the students dropped so low it would have been impossible for them to be alive.

Kripke: So the police went in?

Avery: Yeah. I'm told they were very careful about it, methodical. They searched the school, evacuated the students, and descended on the dead bodies. They say they checked to see if every body that appeared dead was before they were removed, but I'm guessing after so many bodies, they got a little frustrated. Apparently, an officer picked up a body, and, instead of being stiff and dead like he expected, it screamed and kicked him.

Kripke: And that was you?

Avery: So I'm told. He must not have been gentle enough, because I was yelling and kicking all over. Only, I was dehydrated to all get out, so it was more like wheezing loudly and twitching with a purpose.

Kripke: Did your body appear at normal temperature on the infrared camera?

Avery: Yes. I'm told I must have been buried under the others to be missed like that.

Kripke: Do you remember being sick?

Avery: Not- No. Not like I think you mean. What I remember is very confusing and blurry. It'd make for an awful narrative.

Kripke: Would you like to tell us?

Avery: Sure, uh. I guess I slipped in and out of consciousness a lot. I remember flashes of the school, when I was inside. I remember the other students, everyone freaking out, and being terrified and feeling so cold it hurt in my bones. I remember it felt like my fingernails were going to rip off, and whenever anyone ran into me, it ached beyond belief. Any pressure hurt, really. I remember crawling through the halls when they were empty, and being in the commons, with the other infected students around me. I was on the ground, and the room was warm. Everything was getting fuzzy at the edges, and it felt like I wouldn't ever move again. I think I remember someone crying. Um. Then I remember what felt like iron chains digging into my arms and legs. They were so tight it felt like they were cutting into my bones, but that might have been one of the officers carrying me. I remember flashes of doctors in quarantine, my parents faces, snippets of conversation.

Kripke: Were you lucid when you were conscious, once they'd taken you out of the school?

Avery: I guess. Mostly, I was asleep. I had the idea that I was awake, though, and wandering around some desolate place. Or- that was probably a hallucination, huh? Guess I wasn't too lucid after all.

Kripke: Now, not many people know an infected from Holloway survived. Why is this?

Avery: I guess the government has been keeping me on the down low. You know, very hush hush, at least while I was sick. Since I've gotten better, it's just that no one has thought to ask. I mean, obviously people know now, what with this being national television.

Kripke: International, actually. We're broadcast in China and most of Europe.

Avery: International, even better.

Kripke: What would you say the lasting effects of the Strick-Hotchner Virus would be?

Avery: Well, it still hurts like a bitch when I get my blood drawn, and that happens every week. I probably won't risk getting a tongue ring. I'm terrified if I get a hang nail, it'll get snagged on something, and the whole nail will just rip right off. I found out I look really nice in blue, though. Blue and red are just completely my colors.

Kripke: And what were the lasting effects of being at Holloway?

Avery: I, uh. I learned not to take life for granted and not to take myself too seriously. I learned that there are bad things good people will do, and that doesn't make those people bad. I learned what it feels like to be alone and utterly lost. And, I guess I got a second chance at life. So, that's cool. Going to be famous, this time around. Going to really appreciate what I have, too.

Kripke: Words to take to heart. We've been glad to have you here, Neil, Doctor Grand. This has been Daily Like With Kripke. Tune in next week to see an exclusive with Shaun White.

Kim, Ashley. Walstern, Sean. ( September 5, 2009). Strick-Hotchner: The Facts. In L. Ansley, Daily Life With Kripke. Los Angeles, CA: Lugosi Studios.

Everyone is Moving On...
and I am, too. Next month I'll be starting classes at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. It will be the third year anniversary of Holloway, and I'm saying my piece early. Holloway was a tragedy. My friends, familiar faces, teachers I loved and hated, they died that day. I don't know why. No answer I've heard makes it hurt any less or diminishes the shock and guilt. For months after I got better, I couldn't look at myself in the mirror without my stomach dropping out. My chest would freeze, like I couldn't breathe at all, and I would be hit with what happened and how we could never go back. I'm getting past that now, but I need to make my stance clear.
For a long time, I regretted surviving because I had the memories from inside Holloway. I had the images and sounds from all these kids' last moments of life. I need to make it clear that they weren't, we weren't, monsters. We weren't at fault for getting infected anymore than anyone is when they come down with the common cold. They weren't zombies. No one dined on flesh. They were scared kids who were suddenly sick and in horrible pain, left alone by their friends who were terrified of them. They didn't know what was happening anymore than the students in the classrooms or the frantic parents outside.
For the record, their last moments were horrible and beautiful and sickeningly real.
For the record, I could see people praying even when blood ran down their chins.
For the record, some of the best people I have ever met died that day. And they died together, holding each other because we were the same. We were in our own private hell, crawling on the ground, terrified, but we atleast we were there for each other.
For the record, the best thing I can think of most days is being back in that school, right before everything gets blurry. It was warm, and I was so tired, but I felt amazing, laying on the cold floor, the pain barely on my periphery, surrounded by this infinite calm.
Someone said to me, it must be awful to feel so connected to people who are all dead and gone. But, I feel like I have to be here. If I wasn't here, if it was only the students who didn't get sick, no one would know what really happened. I'm not trying to be a martyr or a cliche. I'm not rising above anything or giving anyone their voice.
I'm just saying, these were normal kids, and they don't deserve your lashing tongues.
God, I'm going to watch I Was A Teenage Werewolf before I drown in my own silly angst. If you'll be in Savannah soon, look me up. We can hang out and studiously not talk about any of this. It'll be great.

Catch you later!

Avery, Neil. (August 7, 2010). Neil's at SCAD. Retrieved from

Friday, August 7, 2009

These days I miss home so much it's a physical feeling.
It settles heavy against my back, making my skin crawl.
Thick with nostalgia and depression, it masks me from myself.
I spent last night snapping a rubber band against my wrist,
sending ripples of feeling down, down, down to the real me.

I miss you so much it's making me sick.
My stomach knots and twists, empty or full.
My head buzzes all day and all night.
I can barely get out of bed before 1 PM,
knowing I won't see you.

The silliest part is all the things I associate with you.
I can't move without running into a memory who's protagonist is missing from my life.
Someone coughs down the hall, and for a moment I think it's you.
My ears blend voices into yours, and my heart speeds up with hope and panic,
until I realize you're not here, and even if you were,
even if I emerged from the back room to find you sitting at the kitchen table,
I know you would still be missing.

There is no conclusion for this one;
I will be repetitive until you are here again.
I will be nostalgic until the voice passing through your mouth is your own.
I will hope until the weight of it crushes us all.
You will always have a home in me;
I'll see that promise stand the test of time and lonely nights.

You will always be waited for and welcome,
and you have no need to worry.

Copyright Abby Almon 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

It is 5:00 AM on a Thursday morning in late July.
I am typing this from the toilet seat, trying my damnedest to ignore that fact.
Even though I grew up with a brother who is all too ready to share things like this,
and I really don't care if I can hear other people doing it-
which I can, with the walls in this house-
because it's natural,
I'd still like to pretend the toilet is just a white, shiny novelty to me.

I woke up in the dark, with the fan off, and the TV playing a brightly colored infomercial.
What I first feel is my stomach burning, and I clamber out of bed to unplug the laptop cord
and plug in the lamp.
It's too complicated though, and I realize I can turn the overhead light on with a flick of the switch.
Then I grab the laptop and dash down the hall and into the bathroom.

I can see some people grabbing the laptop in a planned way, with business or entertainment to occupy their time in the commode.
Mostly, I grabbed the laptop anxiously.
I set it on the counter and feel a wave of anxiety sweep over me as my bowels do rather unmentionable things-
at least in polite company.
The wave breaks over my skin in a rush of heat and sweat.
It settles in my head, setting into cartwheels perfectly stationary things.

After a few minutes, I'm leaving again, too stressed to stay in a rather nice bathroom.
I go back to my bed, take two Imodium, and look around on the laptop.
Not ten minutes later, I'm taking another Imodium and a Xanax, a cup of water, and the laptop with me into the bathroom.
This time it feels a little more planned.
Sitting down, I chug water and the pills.
Yet again, instead of occupying myself with the laptop,
it sits on the sinks edge while I play around with a string inside my pyjama pants.
I admonish myself for eating ice cream last night, and thank whatever divine being that it's not worse.

This is the part I wouldn't tell a therapist if they asked.
The part where I get panic attacks in the bathroom, let alone actually facing the world.
But at five in the morning, my anxiety is what I'm afraid of.
It feels like a wild beast that might tear me apart if I'm not careful.
And I try, but it's temperamental, and foreign to me,
so it goes off sometimes without warning,
and I am stuck along for the ride, just a little bit terrified,
aware this thing is inside of me and that I am it's home.
If you can't escape yourself, you certainly can't escape whats inside you, either.

I leave the bathroom to the gurgling sounds of my stomach,
hoping I won't be making a third trip to the bathroom tonight.
I can only handle one epiphany a day, so another trip would really be a waste of my time.
I hope my colon gets the message.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's an awful, ever present sense of despair.
It manifests in the throat and the chest,
feels like drowning.
Lends itself to shuddering breath,
like the wind has just been knocked out of you.
Keeps eyes open late into the night,
minds endlessly reeling with regrets and apologies
and self-deluding, self-sustaining hopes.
And in the one moment when it's all taken as it as,
as a constant burden and {a hundred, thousand} flights of fancy,
the static settled in the temples increases;
jaws lock and eyes well,
and it is so honestly not a way of life to ever be wished on anyone.

© Copyright 2009 Abby Almon

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Downfalls of Red Flash Drives

I started writing something the 26th. I was really excited about it, and I saved it on my flash drive. I opened it a couple days later on my cousin's lap top, and everything was fine. But, I tried opening it yesterday, twice on the computer, and once on the laptop, and it's gone. The first time I opened it on the computer, it came up as crazy symbol letters; then, I tried the laptop, and it came up blank. I went back to the computer, and opened it, and it shows as a row of squares. I'm a little bit devastated because I've no idea how to get it back, and I was kind of in love with what I had written. The first part had been based on a dream I had just woken up from, so I fear I won't be able to write it so nicely again. I am still hoping for someone to come up with a way for me to recover my writing. I just figured I'd make a post, as I feel bad about neglecting Blogger so. Cross your fingers for me.