THE COMET

Written by DTYarbrough

A SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY
Copyright 2010 All rights reserved

THE COMET
Written by DTYarbrough The comet had just grazed the atmosphere before continuing on its long course back to the oort cloud or wherever those things come from. But the real damage had all ready been done. For almost a month the earth had awaited its eminent destruction. The stockmarkets had crashed in the first week. Rioting was rampant in the streets of every major city. Religious groups and fanatics had commited suicide and hospitals were overwhelmed with drug overdoses and victims of mob violence. Martial law was in effect throughout most of the civilized world. Sarah had been working the night shift at Mercy General right up to the final minutes. Most of the patients had been sedated to help control the panic, while most of the nursing staff had all gathered in the chapel for a final prayer. Discovering that the worst was over, they had returned to their rounds, awakening patients to give them the good news and calling their own family members. As Sarah exited a patient's room, she was confronted by four men wearing masks. “Where do you keep the drugs?” one of the men asked. “I don't know,” she replied. “I'm just a nursing assistant. They don't let me have access to drugs, except for the patients' doses.” “She's lying,” said another of the men. “Kill her if she doesn't cooperate.” “Go ahead,” said Sarah. “Kill me and see how far that gets you.” “Take her into that room and tie her up,” said the taller of the men. “Use some of that tape she has on that tray. And hurry it up.” As the man closed the door and joined the others, Sarah tried to free her arms and legs but couldn't budge. Sarah heard the sound of a tray or bed pan being dropped onto a tile floor and the sound of footsteps running down the hall. She tried to scream but her mouth was also taped. Lying face down on the gurney, she began rubbing her face against the linen sheet that covered it, trying to rub the tape from her cheek. A few moments later she heard the sirens pull up outside. “Evacuate the building. Wait outside the lobby for further instructions,” said the voice on the intercom. “Patients that can't walk are to be left behind.” “Are we on fire?” she wondered. “That's awfully harsh leaving patients behind. It must be a bad one.” She continued to struggle with her bonds. In a short while there was only silence. “I should have tried to kick the walls,” she thought. “Why do I always think of these things when it's too late.” She lay there awaiting the worst, but nothing happened. She soon nodded off to sleep. “Wake up,” said the voice. “We've got to get out of here.” As he removed the tape from her mouth she saw his face. He was a handsome young man about her age. 1

His blue eyes were like amethysts and his long black hair like ebony. He smiled at her. “They're all gone,” he said in a voice somehow familiar. “You're the one that told them to kill me,” she said. “What are you doing? Get your hands off of me.” “Can you untie yourself,” he asked as he stepped back. “Why are you doing this?” Sarah pleaded. “What do you want?” “I'm just trying to help you,” he said. “I wouldn't have let them harm you. I was only trying to get you to cooperate before they did.” “I don't need help from a druggie,” said Sarah as she tried to swing her arms under her feet but couldn't get past her butt. “The drugs weren't for me,” he said. “They're for my sister. She was badly burned in a fire.” “Is your name Jameson?” Sarah asked. “That's why you look so familiar. Two months ago, we treated your sister here in this hospital. How is she?” “She's alive,” he said. “The last time I saw her.” “I'm Sarah. Dr. Sarah Blalock,” she said. “Okay, you can help me.” “I'm Jesse,” he said. “Aren't you awfully young to be a doctor.” “Aren't you awfully old to be a delinquent,” she replied. “How long was I in here?” “I don't know,. Rico told us to hide until the police were gone,” said Jesse, “I must have nodded off. I haven't been sleeping too good lately.” “Who has?” said Sandy. “We've got to help the patients.” “Do I look like a doctor to you?” asked Jesse. “We have to help ourselves from the sound of the person on that intercom. The police had a good reason for leaving them behind.” “Well, I'm not the police,” said Sandy. “Are you going to help me or not?” “Okay, I can't leave you behind,” said Jesse. “I feel responsible.” “No. Really,” said Sandy. “Well, let's go. There are a lot of patients on this floor alone.” “Wake up, Mr. Wilson,” she said as she entered the room. “Wake up.” “That can't be good,” said Jesse as he pointed to the flatline on the monitor. 2

“Come on,” said Sandy as she rushed into the next room. “This one is dead too. The police must have done it. What could be so bad that they are better off dead?” “Let's don't wait around to find out,” said Jesse. “Let's get out of here.” “Where are you planning to go?” asked Sarah. “My sister's,” said Jesse. “She's all alone.” “Okay, I'll help you, now,” said Sarah. “Let me get some pain pills. Hell, let me get all of the pain pills.” …............................ “Brr. It feels like a blue northern blowing in off of Lake Michigan,” said Sarah. “We need to stop by my place so I can get some warmer clothes.” “Those are some bad looking clouds,” said Jesse. “What size do you wear? We can pick up something right here.” “You can't do that,” said Sarah. “That's stealing.” “We don't have time for this,” said Jesse. “The windows already broken. The storm will just ruin them.” “Since you put it that way,” said Sarah. “Let me try one on.” “Were does your sister live?” asked Sarah. “The projects,” said Jesse. “You know the way?” “I did my internship at St. Francis,” said Sarah. “Buckle up.” “She's not answering,” said Jesse. “Do you think the land lines are still working.” “I don't know,” said Sarah. “We're almost there.” “You coming in?” asked Jesse. “I may need your help to get her to the car.” “Okay,” said Sarah. “I'm right behind you.” “She's not answering the door either,” said Jesse. “I'm going to break it down.” “Is that her on the couch?” asked Sarah as Jesse ran toward the bedroom. Then she noticed the medicine bottle and pills scattered on the carpet. “Stand back,” said Sarah. “Let me check her pulse.”

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“Why would she do this?” said Jesse. “I told her everything would be okay.” “We always tell them that,” said Sarah. “They don't always believe us.” “Help me move her to the bedroom,” said Jesse. “Are you okay,” asked Sarah. “This was her mother's bed,” said Jesse. “She'll rest easier here.” “Does she have a TV?” asked Sarah. “We need to see what's on the news?” “I think she cancelled the cable,” said Jesse. “I don't know if there's an antenna.” “Nothing but static,” said Sarah. “I hope it's just the antenna. Let's check the car radio.” …......................... “I don't think there's a sole left in the city,” said Jesse. “Have you ever seen anything like this? It's like a ghost town.” “I swear it's getting colder by the minute,” said Sarah. “The car won't start.” “You've run the battery down,” said Jesse. “Let's find a car that's unlocked. I can hotwire it.” “Where did you pick up such a useful skill,” asked Sarah. “You're really impressing the hell out of me.” “My ignition was screwed up on my car,” said Jesse. “I couldn't afford to fix it. Sis needed a fix more.” “I'm sorry, Jesse,” said Sarah. “I keep underestimating you.” “We didn't exactly get off to a good start,” said Jesse. “I can't blame you for being skeptical.” “This one is unlocked,” said Sarah, “but it's not worth stealing.” “If it will start,” said Jesse, “it'll be worth it. Hop in before it dies.” “See if the heater works,” said Sarah. “Oh, that's better.” “Try the radio,” said Jesse. “Where is it?” asked Sarah. “Damn, someone stole it,” said Jesse. “I guess we're lucky it still has tires.” 4

“It doesn't have much gas,” said Sarah. “We need to fill it up if we're going far.” “Where are we going?” asked Jesse. “What's the plan?” “How do you know where to run when you don't know what you're running from?” asked Sarah. “Oh, now that's just great. The power's off.” The entire city was dark. Snow was beginning to collect on the windshield. “We've got to do something,” said Jesse. “We can't just sit here till we run out of gas.” “We could go back to the hospital,” said Sarah. “They have those emergency generators. At least we can keep warm.” “But the police wanted everyone out of the hospital,” said Jesse. “Are you sure about this?” “I'm not sure about anything,” said Sarah, “except that I'm cold and it's getting colder.” “If it comes down to it, you know how to do it painlessly,” asked Jesse. “I'm a doctor,” said Sarah. “We help people. We don't kill them.” “But if it comes right down to it,” said Jesse. “I don't want to suffer. Not the way my sister did.” “Everything will be okay, Jesse,” said Sarah. “And I'm not just saying that.” “You're right of course,” said Jesse. “I'm just being silly.” …............................ “The snow's getting deeper,” said Sarah, “Are the roads slippery?” “I wouldn't want to drive very far,” said Jesse. “It's just a couple more blocks.” “Are the defrosters on?” asked Sarah. “I can barely see through all of the ice.” “Better watch your step going in,” said Jesse. “Park in the emergency entrance,” said Sarah. “It's covered.” “The lights are on,” said Jesse. “This was a good idea, Sarah.” “But I don't think the heat is working,” said Sarah. “It's blowing cold air.” “It's still better than being outside,” said Jesse. “At least for now.”

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“We need to find a small room, close off the vents and plug in some space heaters,” said Sarah. “These outages usually don't last very long.” “A room with a TV,” said Jesse. “We need to know what's going on out there.” “Room 204 is unoccupied,” said Sarah. “Check the utility closet for some heaters while I gather up some blankets.” “Okay, now let's go to the lunchroom and get some snacks,” said Sarah. “We don't know how long this is going to last.” “The elevator's not working,” said Jesse. “Where are the stairs?” “Over there,” said Sarah. “The lunchroom is three flights up.” “I'm getting warmer just thinking about those stairs,” said Jesse. “Grab one of those milk crates and fill it up,” said Sarah. “Do we have a microwave in the room?” asked Jesse. “No,” said Sarah. “Look for precooked packaged foods or fruits. And lots of water in case the pipes freeze.” As they headed back to the stairs, Sarah stopped. “Let's get some books and magazines to read.” “We've got our hands full,” said Jesse. “Don't they have any on the 2 nd floor?” “You're right,” said Sarah. “There's some on the first floor. Let's get this back to the room.” ….............................. “It's nice in here,” said Jesse. “Those heaters are working great.” “Don't get too comfortable,” said Sarah. “We've got to go get those magazines.” “And a deck of cards,” said Jesse. “Ever play strip poker?” “Gin Rummy's my game,” said Sarah. “or Solitaire?” “Then Gin Rummy it is,” said Jesse. ….......................... “Try the TV,” said Sarah. “Somebody has to know what's going on.” “You should have paid the cable bill,” said Jesse. “I got nothing here.” 6

“We'll try it again later,” said Sarah. “It's probably the power outage.” “There's nothing in these magazines except doom's day predictions and articles about the comet,” said Jesse. “That's all I've heard for the last two weeks.” “Well, the comet missed,” said Sarah. “So what's causing the panic now?” “I wish I knew?” said Jesse. “What ever it is can't be as bad as not knowing.” “Hey, we survived for the last month knowing we were all going to die,” said Sarah. “We'll get through this.” “I think there was always a flicker of hope in the back of my mind,” said Jesse. “I bet you miss your husband. Do you have any children?” “I'm not married,” said Sarah. “No time for that. This job takes all my time and more.” “I can't believe you worked right up to the last minute,” said Jesse. “What did you hope to accomplish?” “My patients are like family,” said Sarah. “They needed me. Especially tonight.” “And you needed them, I suspect,” said Jesse. “Just like I needed my sister as much as she needed me. I'm really going to miss her.” “You've got to have a girlfriend that you can count on when things get tough,” said Sarah. “She couldn't handle it,” said Jesse. “I haven't seen her in three weeks. I think she joined some religious fanatic's group.” “That's too bad,” said Sarah. “Hey, you any good at Gin Rummy?” “Let me take my coat off and get comfortable,” said Jesse. “Deal.” “Give me a second,” said Sarah. “I've got to get comfortable too.” “What made you decide to become a doctor?” asked Jesse. “You could have been a model.” “They do make more money,” said Sarah. “But your'e kidding of course.” “No, you're a very attractive young woman,” said Jesse. “You remind me a little of my girlfriend.” “In what way?” asked Sarah.

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“You're female,” said Jesse. “Only kidding. I don't really want to talk about her. I shouldn't have brought it up. Why did you become a doctor?” “I grew up on a farm,” said Sarah. “Watching the animals give birth and watching the vet at work first got me interested. And there was the bird with a broken wing that I nursed back to health. I'll never forget that feeling the day it flew away. A mixture of sadness and joy and a feeling of power over death.” “How did you get into geriatrics?” said Jesse. “That's a long way from delivering babies.” “I told you I did my internship at St. Francis,” said Sarah. “The futility of seeing young girls come into the hospital wanting abortions and patching up knife and gunshot wounds just so they can go back out there and die from drugs was just too much for me. The elderly cherish life and really want my help.” “You're a good person, Sarah Blalok,” said Jesse. “I wish we had met under different circumstances.” “Let's start over. Hi, I'm Sarah. You come here often?” said Sarah. “Are you kidding,” said Jesse. “They have the hottest chicks in town. You're looking pretty warm.” “You're not all that cool yourself,” said Sarah. “Just deal the cards,” said Jesse. “I'm feeling lucky.” “You know what they say,” said Sarah. “Lucky at cards, unlucky at ...” “Yeah, yeah. Deal,” said Jesse. …............................. “This water is getting warm,” said Jesse. “I'm going to stick a couple of bottles out in the hallway to cool off.” “I'm getting sleepy again,” said Sarah. “We must not have dozed for very long.” “We've only got the one bed,” said Jesse. “I'll just spread out these blankets on the floor for me to sleep on.” …............................... “What was that?” asked Sarah. “It sounded like an explosion right outside our door.” “I'll check it out,” said Jesse as he opened the door. “The water bottles. They froze and exploded.” 8

“It has to be awfully cold to do that,” said Sarah. “How many bottles do we have left.” “That was half of our supply,” said Jesse. “We're going to have to ration what we have left.” “Can't we go get some more?” asked Sarah. “There was plenty more in the lunch room.” “I don't think we'd last a minute out there,” said Jesse. “Besides, they're probably all frozen and busted by now.” “I wish I knew how long those have to last,” said Sarah. “Maybe it's best that we don't know,” said Jesse. “It doesn't look good.” “Have you ever seen the weather change so quickly?” asked Sarah. “It was in the 50's yesterday.” “It's never been this cold,” said Jesse. “Not as long as I can remember.” “That comet must have something to do with this,” said Sarah. “Or the government changed our orbit to avoid the comet.” “They wouldn't do that,” said Jesse. “They couldn't do that. Could they?” “I don't know,” said Sarah. “But something has changed and it's happened overnight.” “Oh oh,” said Jesse. “The lights went out. The heaters … everything is off.” “Put those blankets on the bed and join me,” said Sarah. “We'll have to share our body heat.” “Are you sure?” asked Jesse. “That's a pretty small bed.” “You want to freeze to death?” asked Sarah. “Doctor's orders. Get your butt over here.” “This is much better than the floor,” said Jesse. “Your feet are cold.” “Hold me closer,” said Sarah. “I don't want to die.” “Everything is going to be okay,” Jesse whispered as he kissed the back of her neck. “The power's back on,” said Sarah. “I think it the main power.”

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“That's great,” said Jesse. “I told you everything will be okay. The main heater is even working.” “Where are you going?” asked Sarah. “Didn't you hear me?” said Jesse. “The heaters working.” “Well, kick off a few blankets,” said Sarah. “You got some place you have to be?” “There's no place I'd rather be,” said Jesse. “You got any plans for the weekend?” …................................. “What did they say?” asked Sarah. “Who?” asked Jesse. “The people on TV,” said Sarah. “I think they were explaining what happened.” “I must have been distracted,” said Jesse. “They'll tell it again later. You want me to turn it off so we can concentrate on what we're doing?” “No, just deal,” said Sarah. “I think they said something about the earth passing through the tail of the comet.”

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