The Package : Dear Trusted Ally,
If you receive this, you have a duty to fulfill. You know about our predicament by now, and you’re alone, with nothing to do but be scared, so forge ahead and read. Read the whole thing. The WHOLE thing. Please.
I sat in one of the black leather chairs provided at the gate, shivering in my threadbare coat. I looked at my watch, noting the time (5:27 PM), and tapped my foot nervously. My seat would be called to board in approximately three minutes.
I’d spent almost all of the money I’d had left after purchasing my small apartment in Hastings, TX on this flight there. I needed a new life. The one I had here in New Orleans was not safe. And it held memories I wanted to forget.
A shifty looking woman walked in front of me and took her seat three down to my left. I pulled my small, worn carry-on closer to me.
In this weathered bag rested my only possessions in the world, save whatever came with the tiny apartment I’d purchased.
A Bible, more worn than the bag it lay in. It had been given to me years ago by my father. It was my only memory of him, as he’d died three years ago. Cancer. It was his love for cigarettes that did him in, in the end.
A small photo album, half full of pictures depicting a happy, smiling family. I barely recognized myself in them anymore.
Two pairs of pants- jeans and khakis. The khakis were for a job interview, if I could secure one.
Two shirts- a T-shirt and a polo.
I could buy more once I got there. Depending on the price of food.
That was it. All that I owned fit in this tiny bag. All that defined me, all that was left of the life I’d had before. I didn’t want to forget the good parts. Only the bad. That’s why I was leaving, after all. Right?
I watched closely as the lady behind the booth walked up to the intercom and called my zone to board.
I stood up, shaky from having missed breakfast and lunch today to compensate for the price of gas it would take to get here. I turned in my ticket and walked down the hallway to board the tiny, cheap plane, wary of anyone who came too close or looked too suspicious.
Nothing could ruin this now.
Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder and I cursed myself, mentally reviewing every move I had made that might have led someone here after me. I’d done everything, everything to shake anyone off my trail, yet-
“Sir? Can you hear me? Sir I really need your help.”
The voice was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it.
I shook my head. Not everyone was after me, I realized. There were nice people too. But I couldn’t help anyone right now. I couldn’t even help myself.
“Sir, please,” the voice pleaded with me. I turned sharply, my eyes darting around for any stragglers who might serve as witnesses. Then they landed on the man. He was shorter than me, and bald. He looked foreign, and extremely wealthy, which made me hate him almost off the bat, then I chided myself and decided to give him a chance.
“What do you want?” I demanded rudely, anxious to get on my plane. The man seemed unfazed by my harsh tone of voice and proceeded to place a small, brown, paper package into my hands. He started hurriedly giving me instructions, his eyes flicking back and forth even more nervously than mine had been a few moments ago.
“I just need you to bring this on the plane. Hide it in your carry-on, they won’t suspect a thing. Once you get on the plane you’ll need to-”
“Wait man, hold on,” I interrupted, “What the hell is in this package?”
A sudden though occurred to me, and I hissed at him angrily, shoving the package back into his arms.
“Is this a bomb?!”
His eyes widened frighteningly large, to the point where I began to feel concerned he would pass out right here, and he shook his head vigorously.
“Nothing of the sort, my friend!”
His voice had become suddenly high and squeaky, and he started talking again, even faster than I’d ever thought possible.
“Sometime before you arrive at your destination, leave the package in the plane bathroom, somewhere hidden. Do NOT open the package. You can leave the plane and forget that any of this ever happened. Unless you open the package. Do not open it under any circumstances.”
“And why the hell would I do this for you? I don’t even know you. What if you’re lying to me and it is a bomb? What if it kills me? Man, I’m not that crazy, what in the hell is your pr-”
“It is obviously not a bomb, or anything else illegal, as it has already been through customs,” he pointed out.
“When you arrive at your residence in Hastings, you will find that a substantial sum of money has been added to your account.”
This made me pause, and I stared at the man, my eyes wide as I contemplated his offer.
I needed this money so badly. The funeral costs had just about wiped out my savings, not to mention the airplane, the gas to get here, and the apartment I was heading for. I needed food. Clothes. I needed this money. But money did not come free. Everything had a price, but leaving this package, parcel, whatever, leaving it on the plane.. What could it hurt? He had a good point, it was totally legal. I could leave it all behind and not experience any of the repercussions that hiding whatever was wrapped in this paper may entail.
It seemed like a dream come true.
“How substantial are we talking?”
“There will no longer be the need for you to go without meals in order to pay for gas ever again.”
The man grinned weaselly, knowing he had me.
The call for the zone after mine came, and I knew that soon, people would be coming this way. I had to make my decision, fast.
“Okay,” I whispered, barely audible.
I took the package. I shoved it into my carry-on. And I boarded the plane.
I did not look back, so I didn’t see the man grinning widely, turning, and walking confidently away from me, muttering something into the collar of his expensive looking coat.
I had the aisle seat, and the lady next to me was sleeping. Her fair hair and freckled complexion reminded me of my daughter, not a reminder i would like to have to experience in an enclosed aircraft, as i was prone to tears when this subject came up, but what could i do?
This was only an hour and a half long flight. But already a lifetime’s worth of doubts and regrets had piled up in my head, causing me to sweat profusely and rethink my entire life.
Two details of this whole package thing kept nagging at me. First, how had this stranger known my story? It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I was lacking in the money department, speaking euphemistically, but he knew where I was going. My exact destination. And my exact destination was about fifty miles off from the airport this plane was headed to. This kind of information was not open to the public. Though this man was obviously not the public.
It bothered me. He’d obviously chosen me for some reason.
Second, about five minutes after takeoff, I’d realized that I recognized this man. He’d come to my house on that day, the day my life had changed, four months ago.
It had started normally on a morning like any other, me heading off to work in this very coat, but back then it was newer, fashionable, sharp.
I’d been frustrated because I’d thought it was my day off but they had called me in anyway. Said the machines weren’t working. Said I was the only one who could fix them. I couldn’t believe I was the only engineer in the whole plant that knew how to get the machines working again. So I’d grudgingly cancelled my family day and tried to cheer myself up on the way to work.
I fixed the machines in about five seconds. The damn things were only unplugged. I had been going to go straight back home, but then my boss had found some paperwork that apparently could not have waited until the next day, and I had to stay and fill it out.
By the time I’d finished, it was around three in the afternoon. I’d gone home, anxious to see my wife and daughter again and apologize to them that I’d had to leave.
But I never did get to.
By the time I’d gotten there, the place, or what was left of it, was crawling with police officers.
My house had been reduced to nothing but smoking rubble, and my wife and daughter had been shot.
The official statement was given to me by the man, the same man who had given me this package. The face just hadn’t immediately surfaced because of the blur of that day. What stuck the most in my head about it was the statement, not the man giving it to me.
These are the memories that haunt me, the ones I must escape from. And if whatever is in this package helps, all the better.
The plane had landed about three hours ago. I’d followed the man’s instructions, and he’d come through. According to the ATM outside my apartment, I was about two million dollars richer than before I got on the plane.
What was so important that it was worth TWO MILLION DOLLARS? Hopefully, I never found out.
It was two weeks later when I did find out, and I was watching the news for the first time in about a week from my armchair, considerably better dressed than I’d been at the time of the flight, but still in the same apartment, as I was searching for a job.
The anchorman came on looking flustered and frightened.
“It seems that we have located the origin of the virus.”
Virus? I thought, What virus?
“For those of you who have just joined us, or who have been completely out of touch with society for the last few days, here is a quick review.
“Approximately two weeks ago, it came to our attention that a virus had infected a few people, a virus that medical professionals have never seen before. The effects of the virus include loss of all verbal functions, decaying skin, bloodshot eyes, hairlessness, and a complete loss of human ethics. Killing, eating raw meat and human flesh, and maiming for pleasure are the only effects known to occur in every victim. The final outcome of every case is death.
“This virus has spread at an alarming rate, and people are now being asked to stay in their homes. All flights have been cancelled, as well as school and any other large social gatherings.
“Now, back to the current story, the exact origin of this disease has been pinpointed to New Orleans. On a flight from here to Dallas, Texas, an aerosol was released, containing this virus. We do not know the identity of the perpetrator as of yet, but every effort is being made to do so. If you have any information, please call the number on the screen. Remember to wash your hands, and we will be back shortly.”
I stared dumbfounded at the screen.
The man they were talking about was me.
I’d effectively secured the fate of surely over half of America.
I’d released a virus that was turning people into zombies.
What was worse was that I’d done all this for money.
That was all last month. Now, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in this town still unaffected by the virus. Maybe I’m immune or something. I don’t know. But being alone is worse than I could ever imagine contracting the virus would be.
It’s about to get dark, and I’ll have to lockdown my house again soon. They’ve started to attack recently, but only under cover of night. They obviously know I’m here. I’m thinking of letting them take me soon. I don’t have anything left. There’s nothing I can do. But you, if you find this, then read carefully, and do what you can.
There is a cure. It appeared on my windowsill this morning and I’m going to put it in this giant Gatorade bottle with this message.
Please, only you can save us now. I will be infected or dead, hopefully, by the time you start curing people on a massive scale. I can’t take knowing that this whole thing is my fault.
Do your best.
The man scratched his belly and came away with a hand covered in hair. Another side effect. He knew that the virus would take him soon, so that’s why he was not concerned to be strolling past the river in the middle of the night. Another few steps and the man stumbled over something. He leaned down and picked up an old Gatorade bottle with something in it. Intrigued, he took the bottle back to his home and emptied it out. A medicine bottle and a sheath of papers fell out. He read the papers first, by candle light, then turned excitedly to the bottle full of liquid. It was really small, about the size of his thumb, and ready to be drunk.
Perhaps, the man thought, if I survive this, I could rule the remains of America.
And with this greedy thought, the man downed the liquid in two gulps. Nothing remained in the bottle when he set it back down.
And, a year later, nothing remained of the human race on earth except for metal structures, and even those were beginning to slowly rust away to nothing..