the Pandora Dilemma. Chapter 4 – unedited
He didn’t have any ice in his freezer but he had a bag of century old frozen peas. He hated peas. They must have been an underhanded gift from his mother when she had one of her visits.
Nothing was ever on TV at four in the afternoon. Trial shows were fun sometimes but they really just depressed him today. He couldn’t stand soap operas. The chicks were hot but so were the dudes and that made him feel… off. He wanted to see hot chicks and ugly guys. He wanted to feel like he had a chance to steal them.
At that moment, however, he had no chance of doing much of anything. Laying on the couch with a glass of Alka-Seltzer and a bag of frozen vegetables on his face, he wasn’t feeling debonair or dashing. He’d finished that street, went back and gave Mrs. Hubert a hug as an apology for being so quick to leave. He really didn’t mind the old lady. He pitied her. After that, though, the tremors got worse. He had to call in and go home. His prick wasn’t too happy about that but what could he do? Have a wobbly delivery man carrying all those pre-season fruitcakes?
So he went home and got into the position that he’d been in for the last six and a half hours.
The headaches came and went but when they were there, they were murderous. He’d unplugged the phone and turned the volume down on the TV to just one click above mute.
Spongebob was on. It was interesting enough to stave off boredom but stupid enough to not really make him erupt in skull splitting laughter. He’d spent the last five minutes trying to figure out how there could be fire underwater. It made him feel intellectual as long as he really didn’t think too hard about the fact that he was questioning the physical validity of a cartoon with a talking sponge who worked for a crab and was friends with a squirrel and a starfish.
Damn. It was over. He picked up the remote and checked the next show. He was wary of kid’s programming. They’d been getting stranger and stranger with their live action shows and would show sixteen year old girls in revealing clothes doing particularly suggestive dances. He switched it quick before he could get a glimpse and get sucked in. It was just weird watching those things.
The news at four. Great. Whatever. It didn’t matter, just as long as he didn’t get dirty thoughts from Victoria Justice shaking her tiny ass and wrestling other chicks to the ground.
Here it comes, Dustin thought, the greatest example of advertising ever. Some well dressed, well mannered, well spoken douche stands in front of the screen and says something horrible happened and we’re all going to be affected by it but they won’t tell us until the last segment of the hour. Dicks.
What the fuck?
The reporter was standing on a street. THE street. Part of his route. She stood with a solemn expression and something of disgust in her eyes.
“Bob, I’m here with breaking news. We’ve received word from officials that there have been over fifteen deaths on this street this morning. No details yet but it seems that at least one person in each household is dead. I’ll be standing by to keep us up to date on this mysterious and horrible event.”
“Thanks, Susan. We’ll keep checking in with you when we hear word. Up next, find out just how little it takes for man’s best friend to become it’s worst nightma-”
The silence was heavy and cold. His head pounded out an erratic beat he could’ve rapped to. What happened? He plugged his phone back in and flicked his fingers across the buttons. Fighting the nausea and dizziness, he held on till he heard a voice on the other line.
“This is Detective Finley Thomas.”
“You still never check your caller id? Fin, it’s me.”
“Dusty, what’s going on? You sound like shit.”
Finley was one to talk. Dustin had known him since they were boys. They grew up next to each other. He’d always been quiet but he sounded out of breath and almost panicking. Well, about as panicky as the great, calm Detective Finley could seem.
“Fin, are you working the Fortune Drive case?”
“Shit, man. You’re still homicide aren’t you? That’s where I start my route! What the fuck happened?”
“You know I can’t tell you… hold on. Were you there this morning?”
“Yeah, I left around eight or nine. I went home, I’m sick.”
There was urgency and worry in that question. Dustin didn’t like it.
“Seems like a flu or something.”
“What? Jesus, no. Just a migraine and I’m a little dizzy.”
“Can you drive?”
“I think so.”
“Dustin, I need you to get to the precinct right now.”
“What? Why? Didn’t you hear me? I’m sick.”
“This is important. It’s worse than we told the reporters. Just get in here, alright?”
He knew Fin wouldn’t hang up until he answered. And if he dropped the call, he’d just call back. His friend was a persistent bastard but it sounded important. It sounded really important.
“Yeah, alright. I’m grabbing my keys right now.”
“Good, I’ll see you soon. Drive safe. And for god’s sake, Dusty, drive slow.”
The steering wheel felt wet and cold. Goddamn windows! Why didn’t he ever roll them up? Something in Dustin was slamming against his chest every quarter second. He kept telling himself he was imagining himself. That couldn’t be his heart beat. His damn eyes were pulsing.
It’s worse than we told the reporters.
That’s what Fin had said. How in the fuck could it be worse than fifteen deaths? Were there more? Was everyone dead? Dustin’s head was spinning as he turned the corner. He’d broken through from the offshoot streets to the hustle of downtown. It was close to rush hour and he could see the news report made more than a few people leave early. That’s what happened in a small town. That kind of shit just tore everything down.
How could it be worse than what they said on the news? Was Mrs. Hubert alright? Could he have done something to stop it? Dear christ, Finley was a homicide detective. It was murder. Who would murder fifteen people?!
Three questions later came an earsplitting screech and then everything went black. A giant Buick had the audacity to cross in front of his tiny Subaru while he was running the red light. Dustin hadn’t been watching his speed. He’d been getting further and further from the present as he came closer and closer to the definite questions and possible answers his friend might have for him.