I remember them, my mom and dad. The sun rose and the stars danced on me. I remember how everything I did brought this sparkle into their eyes.
Everything was remarkable until one day when I was four. We went on a picnic, something we did regularly. My dad took my hands and spun me through the air. My mother laughed as she watched from the worn blanket under the giant maple. I squealed with delight, spinning through the air, like always, until my dad’s laughter-filled face suddenly changed.
It transitioned quickly from joy to shock and then to horror as the hands that held mine turned to stone and disintegrated before our eyes. The breath was knocked out of me when I belly-flopped onto the hard ground. The last I saw of my dad, his stone face frozen in shocked horror, he turned to dust and blew away in the wind.
My mother screamed and reached for me, instinctively. It didn’t even cross her mind that something was wrong with me. She cried and then she felt it, too, and her face travelled the same road my dad’s had. Pain tore through her. She knew, in that split-second before she turned, that something in me had done this to her. She knew that she was gone and I was alone. Together, we watched her hands harden and disintegrate before our eyes. She crumbled and her dust scattered with the next breeze. Only her scream was left ringing in my ears.
I was four years old and I had killed my parents.
People came running to help and one-by-one they reached for the innocent little girl screaming before them, and one-by-one they were dust in the wind until finally they stopped reaching for me. The police were called in and eventually the military. No one seemed to know what to do with me.
That’s when I ended up in a military facility in Omaha, of all places, the day I entered my bubble. It was like a tiny studio apartment, in a plastic fishbowl, not designed to protect them but to remind me just how dangerous I was.
Dr. Parks was the scientist who studied me for the military, that was his official job, but through the years, he came to love me like a daughter. His self-imposed mission in life had been to find my cure, always perplexed by the fact that I had been fine before that day. He hypothesized that growth hormones in my body had somehow triggered the change. Dr. Parks was the only family I’d known since that horrid day when my parents had died. I loved him.
I had accepted my fate and found joy in the little things as children do; my bubble became my home.
Unfortunately, there was more to the curse than disintegrating people with only my hands. Dr. Parks believed that the same gene mutation that had caused my ability also made me indestructible. He had never found a single compound that could damage me. No matter what he tried, my body miraculously healed.
For the government, indestructibility made me an invaluable asset, a killing machine.
If I’d known then what I know now, I would’ve grabbed Dr. Parks, dusted anyone who got in our way, and ran for the hills.
If only I had known.
I was laughing over some ridiculous show, content in my bubble, while Dr. Parks worked on his newest inspiration to save me. He was hopeful. He got like that… every time, an endless spirit of hope.
And then, a detail of soldiers slammed in, papers in hand.
Dr. Parks tried to stop them, but I knew it was no use. The military had decided it was time for me to be useful. I told him how much I loved him, at least I had that. I couldn’t hug him goodbye but I could love; nothing could take that away from me.
The Government took me, promising I’d be returned once my mission was completed, hanging that promise in front of me like a cartoon carrot. I was so naïve, a brainwashed child. I believed what they’d told me when they ordered me to disintegrate an evil man… for the good of all. I’d done what they said while he begged for his life, fully expecting to go home afterward. But they had lied.
If only I had known what was coming, I would’ve saved Dr. Parks, but the end came too quickly.
News of the assassination spread rapidly, inevitably panicking other world leaders into desperate action. I was seen as a weapon of mass destruction, one which required obliteration. Scientists around the world were paid exorbitantly for their creativity. Attacks came from every direction.
Unfortunately, in their desperation to destroy me, they destroyed everything else.
Only the humans hit directly by the final bio-toxin got sick. Their brains died, slowly, as they devolved to pure animal instinct. They became hungry, rabid, carnivorous humans, too stupid to die.
There are millions of them out there and I suspect not too many healthy humans left. I’ve found evidence of survivors in hiding, but haven’t met one yet.
I go town-to-town, yell and wait. Predictably, the savage creatures lumber toward me like bugs flying ignorantly into a bug zapper. They never get it, their hunger is too great. One-by-one, they reach for me and crumble themselves. I don’t even have to work hard.
I spray-paint a message in every town for survivors to go back the way I came and meet in Omaha. I’m leaving a trail of creature-free cities for them to travel through and I hope I will return to a city full of humans one day.
Maybe there will never be a cure for me. Maybe I’ll never find another living soul. But, maybe the humans can rebound from this and I’ll have a place with them. I just have to find the survivors and let them know they are safe with me.
Dee Streiner pushes through the multitudes of distractions in her Michigan home, thumping with children playing and televisions blaring, because she is on an endless quest to satiate some unnamed hunger to write something exceptional that receives only approval… from everybody. And she loves sarcasm.