[Author’s note: Here it is, folks, the first chapter of the sequel to Oasis. It feels good to finally get this show on the road.]
Chapter 1 – Down By The Bay
“Man fights with his mind. His hands and his weapons are simply extensions of his will, and one of the fallacies of our era is the notion that equipment is the equivalent of force.”
I ran to the crumpled vehicle and threw open the door.
A trickle of oily black smoke puffed out. The car’s interior was cramped and now crumpled from the front. It was hard to see where anything had landed in the crash. The increasing smoke didn’t help. Just a few tongues of flame licked up from under the dashboard. The driver hadn’t worn a seat belt and his head had somehow taken a chunk from the custom steering wheel. His broken body shifted and half fell from the car.
My first impulse was to take a kick at his bloodied head. I gritted my teeth, fought back the urge, and checked his pulse.
Nothing. He was already gone.
A tiny part of me wished he had suffered rather than die instantly in a wreck. After all, it would only seem right after everything he’d done.
I grabbed for his seat latch and pushed his seat toward the front.
His lifeless body blocked things just enough so I couldn’t see if what I wanted was on the back floor.
I hooked my hands under his armpits and pulled.
He was definitely heavy for such a skinny guy.
The flames inside grew.
I twisted and braced a foot against the car.
His body tumbled out all at once into a heap next to the burning car.
It was a little unceremonious, but it didn’t matter. He was dead, and I only had a few seconds. After that the flames would engulf the whole interior and then our only chance would be lost forever.
I stepped on or over his body, I can’t remember which, and pushed again on the latch and seat. This time it all slid forward. I jammed my head in the opening.
The thickening smoke burned my lungs and the rising heat clawed at the skin of my face.
My heart skipped a beat. Through the mess, I saw it. I reached across and snatched the little cooler from the passenger side floor.
From the corner of my eye I saw the fire wrapping around the dash and racing across the floor mats.
I jerked my head and shoulders out, then swung the little red cooler free of the swelling inferno.
Fire shot up the driver’s seat, and then the passenger’s.
I coughed and backed up to where the heat wasn’t so painful.
Within moments, the interior of the car was engulfed in flame. The oily smoke billowed out the open door.
A few days ago, this much smoke would have brought onlookers by the dozen. Emergency crews would have arrived within minutes. It would have made the local news. Somebody would have eventually put up one of those little white crosses used to mark the spot of a fatal accident.
How the world can change in the course of a few days.
No busybody onlookers would be arriving. Perhaps when the smoke died down, the police or national guard might chance sending someone out this way to see what had burned. You never know.
The fire continued to roar. The dead man’s clothes soon caught, and the scent of burning flesh joined the heavy rubber and plastic smoke of the car. The heat finally shattered the already cracked windshield.
I didn’t feel like waiting around to watch the grisly scene, so I walked back to the Jeep.
London was still in the passenger’s seat. She looked a little green around the gills, like she might vomit at any moment. A tear ran down her face. Her eyes were wide and pleading. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out.
Michael had climbed up on her lap and she was covering his eyes.
I felt horrible for having put them through this. Did I believe it needed to be done? Yes. That didn’t make things any more pleasant for them, or for me. And just tossing the corpse on the ground then leaving it to burn didn’t sit right with me, either. After all, I was still a nurse, wasn’t I? I was supposed to be saving lives in an emergency room, not causing fatal accidents. I tried reminding myself that the recovery of that cooler was necessary, and that I did what had to be done. It didn’t help much. I reached over the side of the Jeep and put the cooler behind my seat.
Michael squirmed. “Let go of me, I wanna see.”
London held her iron grip on the boy and shook her head.
I reached for the door handle and met her gaze. The sadness and fear in her eyes bit even deeper into my conscience.
“I’m sorry.” Was all I could croak out, and I’m not even sure that was understandable.
I climbed in the Jeep and drove back to the waterfront. The road followed the shoreline for a couple of miles, and I put a little distance between us and the wreck before pulling over. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to see how well the stuff inside the cooler survived.
The cooler itself wasn’t scraped up much at all. It had picked up a little color from the oily smoke, but at least it wasn’t melted or broken in half. Still, it had been in a wreck.
I hopped out of the Jeep, pulled out the cooler, and set it on the ground.
London finally let Michael off her lap. He climbed into the back seat of the Jeep and leaned over to see what I was doing.
I stared at the cooler. I was relieved to have found it, but a little afraid of what it might look like inside.
London slid out her door and walked around.
I squatted and pushed in the locking buttons that kept the lid straight.
The lid rotated out of the way. Inside the cooler was a mess. It was full of dry ice vapor, but I could see splashes of brown on the inside walls.
I blew a little stream of air and the vapor moved aside.
The bottom of the cooler had a small block of dry ice. Tipped over on the ice was a plastic honeycomb-looking container that had been holding several glass vials, most of which had shattered. Bits of broken glass mixed with a brownish liquid were spread around the box. The brownish liquid had frozen where it touched the ice. I had no way of recovering the spilled liquid, and I had no way of knowing whether the frozen samples would still be viable, anyway.
My heart almost leaped when I noticed the two unbroken vials still sitting in the plastic holder. They would contain more than enough of the virus to get the job done.
But this little scene down by a bay whose name I never learned wasn’t where my journey began. Not by a long shot.
I’d better start over, this time from the beginning.
Keep Reading! Chapter 2 – Hit The Road, Jack