Chapter 45 - A Study in Red
A short time later the truck turned off the road onto a dirt track. It rolled over the bumps slowly picking it’s way along a rutted dirt track. The moment we stopped, Alan hopped out of the truck and pulled back the tarp. The fresh air poured in. The tired sun streaked golden red as it dipped in the sky. He opened the tail gate with a squeak of metal, suddenly loud in the silence. But the cicadas resumed their chorus almost immediately.
“How’s he doin?” He motioned at Apoc.
Apoc roused for a moment and went back to sleep.
I stared at Apoc, worried that my warrior was going to leave me in this all alone, and I didn’t have any idea what to do for him.
“Yeah me too,” Alan said answering my unspoken worry. “I’m hoping my Biology professor will be some help.”
I glanced around and realized that we were parked behind a large two story red brick building with white trim and an educational feel, and I could see other buildings of the same style around the edges of the building. I guessed that we were on the edge of a college campus. Fields of crops on one side and various barns dotted the other side a little further up the road.
“Just hang out here for a bit with Red, I need to find my professor. I couldn’t risk calling, besides I put my phone on the ATV before I rolled it over the embankment.”
Red reattached the tarp but sat on the tailgate near me as Alan disappeared around the corner. He looked at me for a long moment. “I’m sorry I’m still having a hard time believing it. I just can’t seem to get it into my head. The ‘Why’? You know?”
“Course you do. Lord, I can only imagine what you think, or what you think about... and my guess is that your transformation was painful. I’ve had two times in my life where I had to deal with doctors... and I really didn’t enjoy either time. They took some lead out that I collected in the Marines, but that was nothing compared to the morons who hacked me apart when I had cancer...” He looked at me for another long moment. “Maybe, just maybe there are some good parts? You know life doesn’t end just because you don’t have all your parts anymore. I know you’ve had your body taken from you... and for a young woman I can only imagine what that must be like. I had a daughter.” He stopped and looked away and didn’t say anything for a long moment. He blinked a lot. “I can only imagine. I... I can tell you I would kill any one who would have hurt that little girl. I didn’t get her for very long. And I’m always sad that I didn’t get to see her grow up. I dream about it sometimes, you know, who she would have been if...”
I put a paw on his hand.
He looked down at my paw, tears glittering but not falling. “Sorry ’bout that. Don’t know where my head went. Guess I was just dreaming about who you were or who you would have become. And I don’t even know your name. I bet your daddy is worried sick about you.” He sniffed and wiped his nose, he still avoided looking at me.
“Are you afraid to tell your family? I don’t know what’s worse to imagine that your daughter disappeared or that some evil person tried to mutate her into an animal. It would be like finding you and losing you all over again. I try to imagine what your dad would want, if I was him... and I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d feel. Happy you were alive, and tortured that you’d never have the life you deserved. It would take away his fantasy that you just decided to leave home, and run away with some guy. Or that you joined the peace corps and went to Botswana or something. Right now, he can still imagine you out in the world, living your life. Or dead in a shallow grave somewhere in no more pain...” He looked at me. “Does it hurt now? All the changes?”
I looked him in the eye. Yes there was muscle pains and bone aches that I could feel now that I thought about them... and I thought of the alternative and what that would really mean. I decided that I’d rather have this half life or rather a dog’s life, than no life at all. Whatever the reason - I decided that I choose to live. No matter what.
I shook my head.
“Good,” and he looked away out into the fallow field on the other side of the fence.We were quiet and listened to the song of the cicadas.