Chapter 1 - Entry 1
April 15th, 2010
It’s hard to get comfortable with both ankles and one wrist handcuffed to a hospital bed while wearing nothing but an open-back hospital gown. With a Connecticut Depart of Corrections officer sitting at the foot of said bed no less.
“Enjoying the view?” I asked, frowning as I caught him peeking at my girl bits over the edge of his newspaper. Again.
“Yup,” he replied cheerfully.
I sighed and tried to bring my knees together while hoping the doctors would actually arrive for my treatment on time. My free arm spasmed, muscles tightening painfully enough to send a hiss escaping through clenched teeth.
Officer Conner chuckled, shook his head, and went back to reading the newspaper.
I flexed my arm and forced it to straighten, hand shaking while fingers clenched and unclenched into claws. The spasm passed a few minutes later and I reached for the TV remote hanging from the wall behind me.
The news came on, covering the meteor storm that was expected to pelt northwestern Wyoming. Yellow Stone was projected to be ground zero. Camera crews were set up all over the place but the view most often shone was right in front of Old Faithful.
I muted the TV and turned on the closed captioning, only partially paying attention to the screen while leaning back and trying to get comfortable.
The door opened at nine o’clock sharp as Doctor Mai and four assistants passed the other Corrections officer who waited outside.
“Good morning Miss Jaeger. How are you today?” Doctor Mai greeted with her thick Chinese accent and eternal smile.
“Not bad. Arm’s bothering me less and less.”
She nodded in reply as her team surrounded my bed.
“I expect the majority of your remaining symptoms should cease a few days after the final treatment has been administered this morning. Please sit up and lean forward.”
The stethoscope, like all such medical devices of torture, was horribly cold against my bare back as she began a thorough examination.
“Any other issues of which I should be aware, Miss Jaeger?”
“Nope, though I’ve got that not-so-fresh feeling.”
A small cart was soon wheeled into the room by an assistant.
“No reason to reschedule the procedure then.”
Said treatment consisted of a local anesthetic being applied to my lower back followed shortly thereafter by an injection into my spinal cord with an obscenely long needle. Two additional shots went into my arm. It burned every time.
“Well Miss Jaeger, I look forward to seeing you again in two weeks for your follow-up. We greatly appreciate your participation in this clinical trial. Thanks in part to you, a viable course of treatment may be available for the general public in a few short years.”
The smile she offered didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Glad to be your guinea pig, Doc,” I muttered in reply as the team was leaving.
In truth I’d been very happy about the situation. I was three years into a death sentence for multiple murders when my right arm started going numb. The diagnosis was Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in the US of A.
It was ironic really that a terminal disease saved me from lethal injection. The same mentality that required them to swab your arm with an alcohol pad before pumping a killing cocktail into your bloodstream prevented them from going through with the execution.
Then my sleazy lawyer cut a deal.
As luck or fate would have it, the University of Connecticut had recently opened their new Stem Cell Core laboratory and received substantial funding for clinical trials. In exchange for participation in their research, my death sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole. To my surprise it was actually working. After two months of bi-weekly treatments, the arm was nearly back to normal and the disease seemed to be weakening its grip on me.
Alone again with Officer Conner, I tried to get into a comfortable position without giving him the whole tour of my netherbits.
He chuckled at my efforts and shook his head. “Four hours of observation and you’re back in your hole. Can’t be over fast enough.” He sounded bored and bitter.
With a sigh I gave up on getting comfortable and leaned on one hip, un-muting the TV after tugging down the bottom of my hospital gown for the millionth time.
Connor glanced up at the screen.
“Looks like its starting.”
Sunrise was just beginning to creep over the mountains where the cameras were rolling. The meteor shower began and small streaks of light could barely be seen against the backdrop of the brightening Wyoming sky. The reporter had her gaze upwards, watching the scene unfold while she spoke into a microphone. I really wasn’t paying attention as she blathered on about the number of impacts the earth usually suffered on a yearly basis. But then her voice took on a higher pitch, wavering slightly in fear, as she pointed to a large ball of fire.
The picture grew smaller and tucked itself into the TV screen’s corner as another reporter and his camera crew took center stage. He appeared to be broadcasting from some higher vantage point, the big Wyoming sky stretching out as far as the eye could see behind him.
The big fireball was very obvious.
“Holy shit. It’s heading right for them,” Commented Officer Conner.
I nodded in agreement and watched with morbid fascination.
The meteor grew larger as it neared and the first news crew at Old Faithful could be seen panicking in the smaller picture. Then there was an explosion of dirt and fire as that camera went black.
The main camera view shook from the impact and a huge column of fire and dust could be seen some distance away behind the male reporter, presumably where the other camera crew had been. Stunned silence followed. The camera really began to shake a moment later, its view panning back to the reporter in time to catch him falling on his ass. Trees were swaying in the background and the earth seemed to ripple in devastating waves.
The screen went black for a moment before returning to the standard news room view. A pair of anchors, safe and sound in their studio, sat staring wide eyed at each other, unsure of what to do. The female of the pair started to cry. A commercial came on a heartbeat later.
“Wow. They’re so fucked,” Officer Conner announced.
Once again I agreed.
Conner called Officer Gomez in from his post outside the door and together we watched as the news came back on with stunned talking heads explaining the situation. While most of the meteors had burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere, a sizable rock of denser material had remained intact and struck the core of Yellowstone’s Caldera.
Who knew? Yellowstone wasn’t just a big ass volcano. It was a supervolcano. You learn something new every day.
A colossal eruption was underway. The TV station had managed to quickly find a geologist from California despite the early hour and had him on the phone for an interview. He blathered on about the Volcanic Explosivity Index and how he expected this one to be an 8 or higher.
“VEI 8s are colossal events that throw out at least one thousand cubic kilometers of Dense Rock Equivalent, or DRE, of ejecta and are considered to be one possible explanation for the dinosaurs...”
The expert’s phone line abruptly went dead while the news anchors threw each other worried looks. Static filled the screen a moment later.
The lights flickered on and off a few times, then died. Alarms began sounding from medical equipment down the hall as Conner rose and flicked the cover off his sidearm.
I chuckled. “Stay cool. I’m not going anywhere.”
Gomez peeked outside the door for a moment, then closed it behind him with a worried look. He had a cellphone in his hand, mashing buttons and frowning at the results. “Can’t get through. All circuits are busy. You?”
Conner checked his own cell and replied in the negative.
I chuckled again and was rewarded with a pair of angry expressions.
Lights flickered back on then but the TV remained off when I tried the remote. “What gives?” Gomez asked.
“Backup generator. They isolate non-critical circuits so the electrical load isn’t as high.” I replied with a grin.
“How do you know that?”
“Cause I installed a bunch of them in Iraq, Officer Conner. Didn’t you read my file?”
Gomez chuckled without much humor while Conner sneered. “Oh right. War hero turned mass murderer. How could I forget?”
“That’s me.” I replied cheerfully, winking at Gomez.
A knock at the door was followed by a hospital security officer’s head poking in. He ignored me and waved my guards over for a hushed conversation. None of them looked happy.
“What’s up boys?” I asked once the door closed again.
Neither guard replied for a few moments as they tried using their cell phones and the hospital’s land line.
I waited patiently, knowing my cheerful calm would grate on their nerves. If there’s one thing I loved to do, it was fuck with authority figures. My soft whistling of ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it’ by REM pushed Conner over the top after a few minutes.
“Would you shut the fuck up!”
I chuckled. “What’s going on?”
Gomez shook his head and walked over to the room’s window. “FEMA issued an alert to all medical and law enforcement agencies to prepare for a lot of casualties. We’ve been advised to shelter in place for the next twenty four hours.”
“Why? All that shit’s happening way the fuck out in Wyoming.” I asked, grinning at the thought of not returning to my cell for a full day.
“That volcano is huge. As in, Wyoming is fucking toast huge. They’re expecting tremors to hit here within the hour and a lot of dust to fall over most of North America. Sorta like fallout.” He sighed and bumped his head against the window a few times. “And I can’t get through to my wife.”
I assumed he meant that last part for Conner.
“Joy.” I answered cheerfully, then leaned back and closed my eyes.
I could feel their angry gazes burning into me.