I call this story Ten Days. I was having a hard time finding something to write when I finally came up with this idea. I would consider this story fantasy/suspense, or suspense/sci-fi. It's definitely suspense that much is for sure. While there are some thrills near the end, I would not consider this a thriller per se.
Dr. Hanson’s face was grim when he entered the room. Placing the medical file on a table near Yuri, he leaned against a far wall, folded his arms and looked at his patient. His eyes were sad and wise. He looked to prefer any other place but there.
“I hope you don’t play poker,” said Yuri. “Because you’ve got bad news written all over your face.”
“The test came back positive.”
Yuri smiled, but it was a strain to do so. “So that’s it, huh?”
“There’s nothing we can do, Yuri.”
Yuri looked down into his palms like he was searching for an answer. “I don’t know what I’m going to tell my wife.”
“I wish there was more we could do.”
“Yeah. You and me both.” Yuri exhaled and looked around the doctor’s office. Typical doctor’s office with typical doctor stuff. Posters, magazines, charts, sanitary wipes. “How long do I have?”
Dr. Hanson studied a calendar on the wall. “About ten days.”
Yuri chuckled. “Ten days to live, huh? Ain’t that something. How the hell am I supposed to prepare my family for this in just ten days?”
Dr. Hanson shifted against the wall. “You may want to bring your wife in also.” He cleared his throat. “It may have spread without you knowing.”
“No. I’m not doing that. I can’t let her go through this.”
“Yuri, you don’t have a choice. Think about your children.”
“That’s why I’m not bringing her in here. Are you crazy, Doc? Do you know what I’m going through right now?”
“It’s the law. If you don’t bring her in, then I’ll be forced to report it.”
“Yeah. You would do that you prick.”
“I could lose my license if I don’t.”
Yuri stood up and put on his coat. “Do you think I give a damn about your license? You’re talking about making my kid an orphans. Breaking up my entire family. Screw you, Doc. I’m outta here.”
Within minutes, he was downstairs and starting up the car. There was not much time. Yuri needed to contact his lawyer. They needed to go over his will, get his 401k and pension transferred, and cash out some stocks. He also wanted to write a letter to each of his children. Even Irena who was only six. He loved his other two daughters, both adults and with lives of their own. But Irena that made this old man feel young again.
A red light forced Yuri to slow down and think deeper. Irena would grow up without her father and maybe without her mother. Yuri’s actions had doomed her to years of unhappiness and confusion. Did it matter if Yuri filled out a bunch of meaningless papers? Would she care? Would she appreciate the urgency of the situation? Probably not. She might not even remember Yuri.
The light turned green, and Yuri thought of his own father. The most Yuri remembered about him was that he worked all the time. He tried to remember doing something with his father, but the only thing that stood out was playing Frisbee in the backyard. His father in his work shirt, curling his hairy arm and releasing the red disc into the sky. Yuri was only six or seven at the time and he chased after the disc watching it hover and spin as if on its own axis. He remembered reaching for it and tripping over Greedy the dog. That had to be the happiest moment of Yuri’s childhood.
To hell with the lawyer and the pension. Yuri was going to spend these last ten days with his family. Maybe one day Irena would look back and remember these last few days with her father. And maybe, when she was a young woman with a husband and children named after her father, she would agree that even though they preceded a life of sadness, those ten days were indeed the happiest days of her life.
By the time he got home the sun was down and the sky was purple. His wife cooked a fantastic meal and Irena complained about everything. The meat was too tough, the rice was too salty, the potatoes were too hot, and the juice was too cold. Any other day and Yuri would have reprimanded her for such whining. But this time he let it pass. They had ice cream for dessert, and Irena played with her dolls until her mother made her go to bed.
Yuri and his wife sat in bed with the lights off, the room illuminated by the bluish glow of the television. There was no use in procrastinating any longer.
“I visited Dr. Hanson today,” Yuri said.
“Oh.” She put the remote down and studied her husband’s face.
“I told him about the blackouts, and the bad dreams, and the bruises.”
“What’d he say?”
“I have the Sickness.”
“Oh God,” she breathed, covering her mouth. Her eyes were wide and moist. “Don’t say that Yuri. Please don’t say that.”
“It’s true. I’ll probably be dead in ten days.”
She broke into hard, retching sobs. Yuri let her cry for a while before continuing. “Dr. Hanson said he wants you to come in for a test also.”
“No!” She looked fierce and determined. “I’m not doing that. I have to take care of Irena.”
“My thoughts exactly. But he’s going to call the Health Department if you don’t.”
“Damn fascists. I’ll move to Canada before I let them take me away from Irena. At least they know how to treat people with the Sickness.”
“I don’t know. In Canada they have to live in those nasty little communes.”
“Better than being dead.” She looked at Yuri, an obvious question in her eyes.
Yuri saw the question she daren’t say. “Forget it. I’m not moving to Canada.”
“Yuri think about it. I know the communes are dreadful, but maybe you can stay there until they find a cure. Who knows what might happen a year from now?”
Yuri grunted. “They’ve been trying to cure the Sickness for over a decade. I don’t think I want to live with the Sickness anyway. Some things are worse than death.”
“Don’t talk like that Yuri.” She started crying again.
“Well, it’s true. What if I’ve passed it on to you? Or what if Irena gets it?”
She was crying even harder. “Stop it, alright! Stop talking like that!”
He hated himself for doing this to her. He hated the pain in his heart and he hated the hurt he caused his wife. He wiped a tear from his eye and tried to console her.
“Get off of me!” she said shoving his arm away. “This is all your fault. If you had stayed at home where you belong, none of this would have happened.”
They both knew this wasn’t fair. But Yuri felt a ring of truth to her words. He settled under the covers, turned away from her and tried to go to sleep.
An hour later, he was still awake and she was still crying.
Day two of the rest of his life and Yuri took Irena to the zoo. They saw every animal, including the icky snakes and the boring sloth. He taught her the names of every creature and made sure she pronounced them correctly. She got them all except hippopotamus and cassowary.
Day three of the rest of his life and they visited the lake and fished. Yuri knew nothing of the sport, but Irena was a natural. She caught a small perch.
Day four of the rest of his life and they went to a hockey game. Irena paid no attention to the game itself but stuffed herself on overpriced hotdogs and popcorn.
Day five of the rest of his life and they went to the movies. He suffered two cartoon flicks with simple plots and goofy characters. She stuffed herself on overpriced cotton candy and popcorn and fell asleep halfway through the second movie.
Day six of the rest of his life and Yuri took Irena to a fancy restaurant. They rode in a limousine and she wore her best dress and he his best tuxedo. He taught her how to order and which fork to use. She preferred her fingers and Yuri did not stop her.
Day seven of the rest of his life and they visited a children’s museum. He tried to explain every exhibit and the science behind it. All Irena cared about was playing in the water wheel.
Day eight of the rest of his life and Yuri stayed home with Irena and they watched a bunch of her favorite DVD’s together. Irena prepared a dinner for him and he pretended to chew on the plastic food. She wanted to pretend they were at a fancy restaurant and he was the waiter. He felt silly serving Barbie and Ken, but Irena loved it.
Day nine and Yuri had to tell his wife he could not go through with it. He could not leave his family behind. She agreed with him and in the quiet of the night they packed their bags and loaded the car. Irena sat in the back asking dozens of questions and reminding her parents she had school the next day.
“How do you feel?” Yuri asked his wife hours later as they drove towards the border. Irena was asleep and the road was empty. The sun crept towards morning and the sky brightened accordingly. “No blackouts or anything?”
“No I feel fine.”
“That’s good. Maybe you don’t have the Sickness after all.” Hope bloomed in Yuri’s deepness. Perhaps there was something to look forward to.
“What about you?” she asked him.
“First we gotta get you guys into a hotel. Then I’m gonna find one of those communes and ask for amnesty.”
“And that’s it?” She looked down at her hands folded in her lap.
“We may never see you again.”
“At least I’ll be alive. Let’s pray they find a cure soon. I heard some of these communes allow visitors. But the residents can’t leave.”
She sighed and looked out her window at the rising sun. With that sigh, Yuri understood that she had accepted her fate and would continue on as best she could.
Later that evening, just before sundown, Inspector Carlisle was looking over Yuri’s file. Two armed guards stood behind him, solemn and statuesque.
“He has two older daughters also, right?” he asked Dr. Hanson.
“Yes, but they both live in Seattle. He hasn’t been in contact with them since contracting the Sickness.”
“Come on Doctor. You’re a professional, so speak like one. It’s Lunar Degenerative Animalistic Syndrome. Or LUDAS. You sound like a layman when you call it The Sickness.”
Dr. Hanson gave the Inspector a sour look. “Anyway, if you haven’t heard from him by now, then he must’ve gone on the run. His wife might have LUDAS also.”
“If he headed for Canada, he’s probably already across the border. We’ll put APB’s out for him but…” Inspector Carlisle trailed off.
“What’s wrong Inspector?”
Inspector Carlisle walked towards Dr. Hanson and peered into his face. “Your eyes look a little yellowish, Doctor.”
Dr. Hanson started stammering like a scratched record. “Ah-ah-ah-I’ve just been working late. It’s normal.”
Inspector Carlisle glanced out the window and into the purpling sky. A full moon hung like a bulb over the city. He looked back at the doctor. Where the doctor only had stubble before, a full beard was sprouting. The doctor’s hands were elongating and his fingernails were turning into claws.
“He has LUDAS!” screamed the inspector. “Grab him!”
Dr. Hanson lunged for the exit, but the guards were ready for him. There was a brief scuffle before the guards could wrestle him to the ground. One twisted the doctor’s hairy arm behind his back. The other stepped on Dr. Hanson’s neck and loaded his weapon.
“Quickly,” urged Inspector Carlisle. “Before he fully transforms.”
With expert dexterity, the guard removed the leaden bullets from the clip, and popped in several shiny, silver ones.
“How long have you had LUDAS, doctor?” demanded Inspector Carlisle. “How many people have you infected?”
The doctor could not give an intelligible answer. His vocal cords could only emit angry barks and growls.
“Kill him,” said the inspector. “Kill this monster before he causes more damage.”
The guard shot Dr. Hanson in the head. Twice, just to be certain. They checked his pulse and confirmed the obvious.
Inspector Carlisle placed a call to his bosses at the Health Department. He thought about the coming days and weeks. There was going to be a big investigation and lots of media coverage. The building would have to be quarantined. Many people would lose their jobs because of this fiasco. Inspector Carlisle knew he would be put in charge of tracking down all of Dr. Hanson’s patients.
“I need a smoke,” said Inspector Carlisle. He instructed the two guards to clean up the mess and wait for the police and EMT’s to arrive.
As he stood in the little alley between the building and the adjoining café smoking a Marlboro, he took out his cell phone and placed a long distance call.
His daughter-in-law picked up. “Hello?”
“Hey Mindy. It’s Frank.”
“Hi Frank. How’s it going?”
“Not too good. I’m going to be busy down here for a while. How’s Canada?”
“Cold.” They both laughed.
“How’s Terry?” he asked.
“He’s doing okay. I saw him a couple of days ago. He was kinda depressed though. He misses home.”
“I understand. But he can’t come back here.”
“He knows. Are you still coming up? You know, after the moon changes?”
“I don’t think so. I’ll probably be busy for the next ten days or so.”
“Alright. I’ll let him know we can expect you in about ten days.”
“Yeah. Ten days should do it. Look, I gotta run.”
He put the phone away and stamped out the cigarette. Then he walked to the front of the building and started barking orders to the police and EMT’s milling about.