Taylorville is situated in a low valley along the southeast border of Missouri, almost in the state of Arkansas. All-n-all, Taylorville is a nice place to live—quiet, sleepy and friendly. Odd thing though, three days ago a light fog settled into the valley. What’s odd about it is that it won’t go away—even the morning sun can’t burn it away. It permeates everywhere—outside and inside; in the cabs of farmers’ pickup trucks; in the general store; in the school; in the church; everywhere. The whole town is talking about it. It’s weird. But life goes on.
The town itself is only on the west side of an old asphalt road—the east side being adjacent to farmers’ property or to a few of the old homes of the town’s people. Almost everybody in Taylorville has electric, but nobody has running water supplied by a water company: all water is furnished by digging a well. In the center of town is the general store run by old Mr. and Mrs. Peterson. To the south of their store is the post office, a modest, little, wooden building, painted white and run by Miss Wilson, but who everybody calls Jenny: She’s such a sweet person. Say if Tom Johnston, a farmer here, forgot to place a stamp on a letter, Jenny will place one on it and write Tom a note and stick it in his box, stating: 'Tom, placed stamp on letter. Pay me the next time youns in town.'
The feed store is next to the post office. Now to the north of Mr. and Mrs. Peterson’s store, is old Doc Parker’s old office. To the north of his office is Antonio’s Flower/Antique/Coffee shop: Antonio, whose birth name is Tony, is rumored to be a little “flowery” himself. At the far north end of town, next to the cemetery, is The First Baptist Church, run by the Reverend James Butler and his wife, Ruth.
It’s fall in Taylorville, and that’s the best time to live here, when the trees are in their full autumnal glory—reds, yellows, orange; red-yellows, yellow-orange. When the air is crisp and the leaves are turning, it’s paradise.
It’s a Tuesday morning, ten o’clock, and the town is going about its daily routines. Old Mr. and Mrs. Peterson are working at the store; Jenny is working at the post office;--skinny-as-a-rail, kind- hearted, plain-looking Jenny: she never married, never even had a man; lived on her parent’s farm until they died, then she moved into town and began running the post office when old man Moore died fifteen years ago. She spends her evenings watching TV: loves a good love story filled with heated passion.
The Reverend Butler is working on his sermon for this week’s service, eating another big slice of chocolate cake and drinking another large glass of milk to support his almost two-hundred-and-fifty-pound frame: Some of the kids, behind his large back, call him Humpty-Dumpty; say that if he fell, he wouldn’t get hurt, he’d just roll and roll and roll. Old Doc Parker is examining Tom Johnston in his office.
Now old Doc Parker is an enigma. He was born and raised in Taylorville, and the only time he ever left it for any extended period of time was when he went to college and to medical school in St. Louis, which is about three hundred miles north of Taylorville. He graduated from school at the top of his class and could have had his pick at any of the elite hospitals there, or partnered with other doctors there in private practice. But after eight years of living in St. Louis, he had had his fill of big city life. He had done all of the partying, drinking and whoring that he had ever wanted to do. When he finished his residence, he came straight home to Taylorville. He married his high school sweetheart, Mary, and began practicing medicine here. Although they never had children, and they had wanted children, they had a good life together. They were married for fifty-six years. Mary died seven years ago from colon cancer, and her death still tears at Doc’s heart.
Doc never made much money from being a country doctor—hell, some of his patients here pay for his services in crops that they grow, like corn and beans and such. But Doc was never in it for the money. He’s a doctor. That’s who and what he is. Doc can be seen in his modest, little, two-room office from ten in the morning until five in the afternoon, Mondays through Fridays, like clock-work. He’s always there, unless there’s an emergency. Some people say that Doc looks like that old actor Spencer Tracy, except that Doc always wears a clip-on bowtie. It’s his trademark. He has ten of them—a blue one, a red one, a yellow one and so on.
“What do you think it is, Doc?” Tom Johnston said as he sat on top of the worn, black-cushioned examination table with his tattered plaid shirt open: The light, white fog permeating the room.
“To be honest with you, Tom,” Doc replied after examining the small red blisters on Tom’s chest, “I don’t know. In the past two days, I’ve seen six other people with the same thing. How long have you had this?”
“It’s comin’ on three days now, Doc,” Tom replied. “It don’t hurt much, Doc, but today I feel all sweaty.”
“Well,” Doc replied, scratching his salt-and-peppered, crew-cut head, “I don’t think that it’s anything to—“
“Hey, Doc,” the voice of Fred Manning could be heard saying from the outer room. “You here, Doc?”
“In here, Fred,” Doc said.
The door opened and in stepped Fred, dressed in full hunting wear, holding a burlap sack in his left hand.
“Oh, hey, Tom,” Fred said. “Well, Doc, you should’ve come with me this mornin’. The huntin’ was good. I got ten squirrels,” he said, holding up the burlap sack. “You should’ve come. I said that I’d give you half of what I got, so here she is, Doc. Five squirrels for you. I skinned them and gutted them, too, for you.”
“Thanks, Fred,” Doc said. Turning back to Tom, Doc stated: “I’ll get you some salve for those blisters.”
Tom nodded thanks, but moved on the examination table as if uncomfortable. Doc turned and walked a few steps to the white, metal medicine cabinet that was to the left of the door.
“Doc, Fred said, “you want me to put these squirrels in the—“
“Doc!” Tom screamed. “Doc, I’m hot! … I’m burnin’ up! Doc!”
Doc turned around, and both he and Fred stared, as if hypnotized, at Tom. Tom’s face and arms and hands were beet-red, and they were turning a darker red by the minute.
“Doc, help me!” Tom screamed, his red body squirming and contorting in place. “Help me! Hhhhelp me!”
Doc started to move towards Tom, but what happened next stopped Doc. In fact, what happened next made both Doc and Fred take unconscious steps backwards until they were both up against the wall, staring at what was happening in sheer horror.
Tom burst into flames. First, Tom and the flames turned black; then Tom and the flames turned white—a white so white that it was almost too beautiful, too pure, to look upon. Then Tom disintegrated right before their eyes. All that was left of Tom was a small pile of white ash upon the now scorched black cushion where he had sat.
Moments passed before they could find their voices.
“Doc,” Fred finally said, in shock, “what just happened? I saw some pretty strange things happen when I was in Vietnam, but nothin’ like this.”
“I-I don’t know, Fred,” Doc replied, his mind racing, his mouth and throat dry. “Listen, run next door for me, will you, and get me some bleach while I call the sheriff.”
“Why are you callin’ Paul for, Doc?” Fred asked. “It ain’t like Tom was killed.”
“This has to be reported,” Doc replied. “Go on now, get me that bleach.”
Fred left, but he was back within seconds, shouting in a panic: “Doc, you better get out here! It’s happenin’ all over town, Doc! People are catchin’ a-fire!”
Sheriff Paul Stouts didn’t believe old Doc Parker when he called him and told him what was happening to the people of Taylorville. But he had never known Doc to be a practical joker, so he drove into town to see what was going on for himself. Sheriff Stouts is a no-nonsense type of guy—some people call him “just plain mean.” He does have a reputation, though, of giving young ladies and pretty women a free pass on their respective offenses out of the goodness of his heart; that is if they “pleasure him” first.
When Sheriff Stouts pulled his patrol vehicle off the road and parallel with Old Mr. and Mrs. Peterson’s store, he saw Doc Parker, Fred, Mr. and Mrs. Peterson,--Antonio was scared and wouldn’t come out of his shop—Jenny and Albert, all milling nervously around in front of the store, standing under the extended roof and on the wooden planks that serve as a sidewalk: the light, white fog making them all look like heavy smokers to Sheriff Stouts, who’s a heavy smoker himself.
Tall, lean, except for his beer belly, and casting a foreboding presence that demanded respect, Sheriff Stouts stepped out of his patrol vehicle and removed his sunglass with a lazily arrogance. He was wearing his usual highly-ironed, light-brown uniform, with smoky-bear hat, badge and .38 revolver slung in a black, leather holster against his right hip and held there by his wide, black leather belt.
As he walked to the front of his patrol vehicle with the same lazily arrogance that he had taken off his sunglass, Doc stepped off the sidewalk to meet him.
“Now, what’s this all about again, Doc?” Stouts said as he passed around the front of his vehicle.
Before Doc could speak, Albert shouted excitedly: “I seen it, sheriff! I seen it! … People like matches! People like matches!”
“No one is talkin’ to you, you idiot.” Sheriff Stouts barked back at Albert. “Shut up.”
Usually, Doc won’t permit people to call Albert such words as idiot. When they do, Doc stops them immediately and corrects them, sharply stating that Albert is not such-and-such, but “mentally challenged.” But under the circumstances, Doc didn’t have the stomach to correct Sheriff Stouts, at least not this time. Albert, Albert Scrum, is something of the town’s mascot, or pet. He’s twenty-years-old, and is always dressed in clothes that are as dirty, and smelly, as is his body, face and long, light-brown hair. He’s a good kid, though, and that’s why the whole town permits him to roam freely and eat their food and even stay with them overnight. When Doc’s wife was alive, Albert would sometimes stay with them for weeks at a time before he’d go back home—if you can call where Albert lives “home.”
Albert is the second youngest sibling---Sarah being the youngest—of the eight children born to Margret and Walter Scrum. Walter owns and runs the town dump ten miles south of town. He not only runs it,--when he’s not stinking drunk, that is, which is mostly never, sober, that is—he lives there as well in two old trailers connected to each other. All of the other six kids left there and town as soon as they could. Margret died of a heart attack four years ago, and ever since her death, no one has truly taken care of Albert except for the good people of Taylorville.
Doc was about to speak when repeated honking was heard coming from the south end of town. They all looked in that direction and saw a rusted-out, beat-up, old pickup truck racing towards them. It was Walter Scrum. He brought the pickup truck to a screeching halt in the middle of the road in front of the store. He threw open the squeaking door of the pickup truck and staggered out of it. He stood unsteadily before them in his dirty bib-overhauls and dirty, white T-shirt, which were drenched in sweat, as was his face and matted, dirty, brown hair. He looked drunk—and wild.
“Get that vehicle off of the road!” Sheriff Stouts demanded, pointing an index-finger at him as if it were a gun.
“Help me, sheriff,” Walter pleaded. “My little girl’s gone. Help me find her, sheriff. Sarah’s gone.”
“Sarah gone?!” Albert cried.
“I told you to get that vehicle off of the road,” Sheriff Stouts demanded again, stepping to Walter.
“Help me find her, sheriff,” Walter repeated, still pleading, and now crying. “She got striked by lighten, in the kitchen. She’s gone. She’s gone!”
“You’re drunk,” Sheriff Stouts stated. “There’s not a cloud in the sky. How could she have been—“
Walter then grabbed Sheriff Stouts by his clean, pressed shirt, and through his tears, cried: “I shouldn’t be mean to her … I get drunk and-and need—“
“Take your filthy, drunken paws off of me,” Sheriff Stouts demanded.
He shoved Walter back and then punched him hard in the face, knocking Walter down to the asphalt road. After a few second had passed, Walter struggled to sit up. When he did, he raised his arms and hands back up to Sheriff Stouts as if he was going to begin pleading with him again, but then he began screaming wildly, in pain, and began turning beet red.
“Pa!” Albert cried. “Pa!”
Doc turned around and shouted: “Fred, grab him. Don’t let him go to him … Cover his eyes, Fred. Don’t let him see this.” Fred did as he was told, grabbing Albert in a bear hug and shielding his view as best he could with a struggling Albert. By the time Doc turned back around, Walter, like Sarah, was gone.
No, Sheriff Stouts hadn’t believed Doc when Doc had called him and told him what was happening, but he sure did now. When he got back to the small house twelve miles north of town that serves as the police station, the first thing Sheriff Stouts did was call the two radio stations in Huntsville—which is a much larger town than Taylorville is, and about fifty miles northeast of Taylorville—and the television station there. He had them to announce that an undetermined plague has struck Taylorville and that no one should come to Taylorville until further notice, and that the people of Taylorville should stay at home. He then called the governor’s office in Jefferson City and had him informed of the situation in Taylorville.
By the next day, Taylorville was sealed off from the outside world by units of the Missouri National Guard and by units of the National Guard from two neighboring states. By the day following that one, teams of doctors and scientists from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing what Doc called “space suits,” came to Taylorville to determine what was truly happening in Taylorville. They needed a place to set-up their “Command Center,” for their equipment, computers, and such, and Doc told them that the best place to do that would probably be the school’s gymnasium.
The governor, and then even the president of the United States himself, wanted to keep what was happening in Taylorville from the public, but in today’s world—even many of the teenagers from Taylorville have cell phones—that was impossible. Both the governor and the president held a news conference, stating that, yes, there is indeed a disease of unknown origins in Taylorville, but that the general population was in no immediate danger. When asked if it was true that the people of Taylorville were suddenly bursting into flames, both the governor and the president would neither confirm nor deny it. Suddenly, small, rural, insufficient Taylorville was known to not only the people of Missouri, the people of the United States of America, but to the people of the world.
The CDC ran every conceivable test. They conducted tests on the people of Taylorville; they conducted tests on the food of Taylorville; on the water; on the ground; on the livestock and on and on they tested. They conducted tests of the air of Taylorville and on the mysterious light, white fog that permeates everywhere in Taylorville. But all of their testing was in vain. All of it revealed nothing. There were no abnormalities in the blood of the people of Taylorville, and as for the mysterious light, white fog, it was simply that—fog.
The CDC did form a general hypothesis as to the disease striking the people of Taylorville, though. In their report they stated that the disease seems to have a three-day incubation period, and that it seems to be contracted by only those who are of an age to engage in, or by those who are capable of engaging in, sexual activity.
The CDC left Taylorville at the end of the fourth day, but said that they would continue to analyze the data they had acquired. This news from them was of no comfort to the people of Taylorville. The plague persisted. The people of Taylorville kept dying; kept bursting into flames.
By the seventh day, Monday morning at ten after ten o’clock, as old Doc Parker sat at his desk in the outer room of his empty office, he figured that there couldn’t be more than eighty people still alive in Taylorville. Whole families committed suicide; parents murdered their own children with shotguns and then themselves; babies and young children died from hunger or thirst; parentless teenagers formed gangs and began robbing and raping and terrorizing people;--Sheriff Stouts hasn’t been seen since Thursday—everybody now carried firearms, and whereas before the people of Taylorville use to greet you with a friendly “Hey,” they now greet you with a firearm pointing at you and suspiciously say: “Are you clean?”
As Doc sat at his desk, contemplating all of this, he thought of Jenny—skinny, kindhearted, maidenly Jenny. Yes, he thought of her, and of her death. It had become a custom, or ritual, with them to have Sunday supper together at Jenny’s little house that sits about thirty yards back on the east side of the road, directly oppose to the post office.
Doc loved her cooking and Jenny loved Doc’s company. So, every Sunday about three o’clock, Doc would leave his home, which is also on the east side of the road and about the same distance from the road as Jenny’s is, and opposite to The First Baptist Church, and walk to Jenny’s. After supper they would sit on the swinging bench under the front porch and talk, or they would play checkers, or watch TV. Doc would always leave Jenny’s at exactly nine o’clock, and he was always very proper with Jenny: For years, Doc had always suspected that if he had wanted to take their relationship to a higher level, Jenny would have readily agreed to it. Although Doc liked Jenny a lot,--and, yes, he did fantasize at times about having sex with her—he would never do that. Jenny was only in her mid-forties, and Doc was a seventy-year-old man. But he sure loved her cooking, and he loved her company.
Jenny always kept the inside of that small house of hers immaculately clean—that was the first thing that had tipped Doc that something was terribly a-miss. The front door to the house had been ripped completely off of its hinges and thrown to the now turning fall brown grass, and when Doc entered the house, he just couldn’t believe what he saw: The entire inside of the house had been torn apart. Furniture had been overturned and broken; lamps and other things had been thrown up against the walls, producing both small and large holes in the walls; the curtains had been ripped from the windows; the refrigerator was empty and had been thrown down to the tiled floor with the door left open, making it look like a dead white whale; all of the cabinet doors in the kitchen had been flung open and the inside of the cabinets were empty, and that was where Doc found Jenny’s body, in the kitchen.
She was sitting at the kitchen table; the upper half of her body was slumped across it. Upon the table, just out of the reach of her out-stretched right arm and hand, was an empty box of rat poison.
Doc gently carried her body into her small bedroom and laid her on the bed there: Why who had done all of this hadn’t destroyed the bed had at first puzzled Doc. He then did a summary examination of her. Jenny had been raped multiple times. As heinous as being raped is, Doc couldn’t help but wonder if there had been a moment—a single moment—when Jenny may have found pleasure in it, or at least, a feeling of being finally complete. Doc was certain that Jenny had not been murdered; that she had of her own free will eaten the rat poison and committed suicide—but why? Why did she feel she had to kill herself, he kept asking himself. Was she frightened of contracting the disease? … Was it because of the shame of having been raped? Why? Why? Why? Doc would never know the answer to that question.
On top of Doc’s old wooden desk was something new; something that Doc had thought he would never own or use: a laptop computer. Before the CDC had left Taylorville, they had unofficially appointed Doc their “Pointman”—the man whom they would have contact with in Taylorville. They gave the computer to him so that they and he could communicate with each other and with other officials. Doc was quite impressed with that laptop computer: You can even see and talk with each other on the damn contraption.
Doc had a conference with the governor later in the day on that laptop computer. Doc wanted to inform the people of Taylorville of what the governor had informed him of, so he called Fred and told him to call as many people as he could and tell them that he was having a meeting in the school gymnasium at six o’clock tonight. He himself spent the rest of the day phoning the people of Taylorville. More times than Doc wants to remember, though, he either got an answering machine or the phone on the other end just kept ringing.
The CDC had set-up the school’s wooden folding chairs in the spacious gymnasium—several rows of them—and a line of the school’s cafeteria tables in front of the raised stage at the back of the gymnasium when it had been their “Command Center.” When they left, they hadn’t removed any of it. Doc was grateful for that, because the people of Taylorville could sit in the chairs and he would sit behind one of the tables and face them.
Doc was very disappointed with the small number of people who showed-up for the meeting. Besides Fred, Mr. and Mrs. Peterson, Antonio, the Reverend Butler and Albert, there couldn’t have been more than thirty other people there.
Most of them there were the elderly people of Taylorville. Albert was the second youngest person there. The youngest person there was Mr. and Mrs. James Crown’s four-year-old boy, Gary. Jim and his wife, Patty, are in their early thirties. Jim’s tractor overturned on him three years ago, and he’s been paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheel chair ever since. Except for Albert and Gary, they all looked like they had been to hell and back.
Scared, suspicious, physically and mentally,--and spiritually, especially spiritually—exhausted, they all desperately searched Doc’s face for a sign of hope. If Doc couldn’t give them hope—well, the men were still carrying their rifles and shotguns.
Under the blurring bright lights of the cavernous gymnasium, and standing behind one of the tables on the highly-polished wooden floor, and with the light, white fog wafting throughout the room, Doc began to speak.
“Thank you all for coming tonight,” he began, his voice cracking from being nervous, and his throat dry. “The governor informed me today that in three days strong winds from the west will reach Taylorville. The fear-the-fear is that the winds will carry the fog out of the valley, and the government isn’t going to permit that to happen.”
The people were stone-silent, but you could feel their rising fear.
“Now,” Doc continued, “the governor has authorized the Missouri National Guard to transport all of us to a facility outside of St. Louis where we will be housed and fed, and isolated, until the cause of this disease is known and a cure for it is found. I think we—“
“This isn’t a disease!” the Reverend Butler shouted angrily, standing up. He was sitting in the front row and he looked horrible. He looked like he hadn’t bathed or changed his clothes in days, and he even looked like he had lost some of his gluttonous weight. “This is the act of God,” he continued, raising high in the air the dogged-ear, loose-leafed Bible that he held in his right hand. He had lost his two sons and his wife, Ruth, to the plague. “Sin! … Fornication! … God is punishing us because of our sins!”
“Oh, sit down, Jim,” Doc barked at him. “It’s not God. It’s a disease.”
“Are you blind,” the reverend said to Doc. “Look around you. Look whose left of the town,” he continued, and he turned around and faced the people there. “The Lord has—you!” he then screamed at someone sitting in the back of the room. “What are you doing here?!” he stated, pointing at him with the hand that held the bible.
All of the people in the room turned their heads in that direction to see who this person was. It was Antonio. He was sitting nervously in the last row of chairs in an aisle chair that separated the two sides.
“No, please,” he said. “I haven’t done anything.” Then he started to cry.
“The Lord hates you and your kind most of all,” the reverend stated. “’Man shall not lie down with—‘why aren’t you dead? … Are you clean or unclean?!” the reverend screamed at him.
“Stop this, Jim,” Doc shouted at him.
“Stand up!” the reverend demanded of Antonio. “Stand up!”
“Someone hold him and someone else open his shirt,” the reverend ordered.
“Stop this,” Doc repeated.
“No, please,” Antonio pleaded through his tears as two men held him and another person ripped open his shirt. “Please, I haven’t done anything.”
“He’s unclean!” the man who had ripped open Antonio’s shirt shouted. “He’s unclean!” Everybody moved quickly away from Antonio.
“Get out of here, you abomination!” the reverend ordered. “Get out of here before I have someone shoot you!”
Still crying, Antonio stepped into the aisle and said: “I’m not evil. I’m not. I’m just-just different. You all know me. … Doc, you know me. You’ve known me my whole life. I’m not evil. I’m-I’m just different.”
“You better leave, Tony,” Doc said to him.
Visibly broken, and shaking, and still crying, Antonio turned and started walking towards the entrance of the gymnasium at the far end of the room. “I’m not evil,” he kept saying. “I’m not. I’m-I’m just different. I’m not evil … Please, I don’t want to die! Please, I’m not…………….”
“Are there any others in here who are unclean?” Reverend Butler then demanded to know. He looked about the room. “You, Fred,” he continued, looking directly at Fred. “I never see you with any women. Why is that?”
Fred, who was sitting in the front row, but on the opposite side of the aisle from Reverend Butler, stood up and raised his shotgun up.
“Don’t you think that you’re gonna pull that crap on me that you pulled on Antonio,” Fred said, steely, and raised the shotgun higher. “If it’s any of your goddamn business, which it ain’t, it hasn’t gone up in years. Why do you think my wife ran off with that truck driver years ago? … And who are you to point fingers at us. Your boys are dead and your wife is dead. Who was your wife screwing around with? ‘cause she sure wasn’t gettin’ dicked from a fatass like you.”
“That’s enough!” Doc screamed, pounding on the top of the table with the palms of his clenched fists. “Fred,” he then said, “sit down. You, too, reverend. Sit down.”
After wiping the perspiration from his forehead with a handkerchief and replacing it back in his back pants pocket, he began speaking again. “We have to make decisions here. The governor told me that if this fog begins to move out of the valley, the president has authorized the air force to strike Taylorville with a nuclear missile.”
“What?!” someone yelled. ... “When is the Guard gonna gets us out of here?!” someone else yelled. … “They can’t do that with us still….” On and on the people in the room shot angry questions at Doc out of fear, yelling over each other’s questions.
“Listen to me!” Doc yelled at them. “Listen to me! … The National Guard will transport us out of here before they bomb Taylorville. But maybe we won’t have to go—maybe this fog won’t move. Then we can stay.”
“Stay?!” someone from the back of the room yelled. “Why would we stay here?”
“The town’s dead, Doc,” Fred said.
“Those savages robbed my store; tore it all apart,” old Mr. Peterson added. “Why would we stay?”
“To take back our town,” Doc replied. “Taylorville is our home. We can rebuild it. We can try to get back to normalcy again.”
“I’m not spending another day in this Godless town,” Reverend Butler stated.
“Doc, there isn’t any law in Taylorville anymore,” Mrs Susan Ochs said. “I’m old, Doc. I’m a widower. I’m scared of the teenagers. They’ve turned into animals.”
“They’re not animals, Sue,” Doc replied. “Sue, you taught school here for over thirty years. You know how the minds of young people work better than anyone else here. They’re scared. They’ve lost parents; brothers and sisters; people that they cared for. We’ll round them up. We’ll help them get through this. We’ll give them homes. We’ll care for them. We’ll-we’ll be a town again.”
“The town’s dead, Doc,” Fred repeated. “Why would you want to stay?”
“To live the rest of my life in a box in some facility—where’s the living in that?—where’s the passion?—where’s the humanity? I’d rather be dead. … Well, you all decide,” Doc then said. “We’ll meet again here tomorrow at the same time.”
By the time Doc got back home, he was so physically exhausted that he barely made it up the two wooden steps of his wooden front porch. Once inside of the house, he picked up the golden-framed picture of his wife and him that sat on top of the wooden-framed, old, colored television set that was to the left of the entrance. The large, wooden-framed mirror was above the TV. They had had that picture taken of them on their 50th wedding anniversary. Doc touched the glass face of it lovingly. They looked so happy, not a care in the world.
Doc set the picture back down and went to lie down on his old easy-chair that faces the TV: the light, white fog almost engulfing him, like a blanket. No sooner than his head touched the back of the chair, he fell asleep. He had a dream.
In this dream he was young again, and his wife, Mary, was alive and young again, too. It was their wedding night, and Doc was in bed with her having sex with her for the first time. He was enjoying himself immensely. He loved the look of her young, beautiful face, and the feel of her tight, shapely body against his. He loved smelling the scent of her perfume and the warmth of her moist lips as he repeatedly kissed her. He loved hearing her hushed moans and cries of being pleasured. He loved feeling her erratic breathing upon the side of his face. He loved the hard thrust of his up and down movements upon her. He loved the feel of her tight, wet vagina enveloping his hard, throbbing penis. He felt happy and complete.
Suddenly, Doc woke up in a cold sweat. His face and body and clothes were drenched in sweat, and he felt this slight stinging and burning on his chest. Then, a thought struck Doc. No, he told himself. That’s impossible. He shot-up from the chair as quickly as his aged body would permit him. When he got to the mirror, he ripped off his clipped bowtie and feverishly, nervously, unbuttoned his shirt and opened it. He was shocked. There on his chest were—maybe six or seven of them--small red blisters. He looked at them hard in the reflection of the mirror, as if studying them. Then, he looked up at the reflection of his face in the mirror. He stared deeply at his wrinkled, aged face. He didn’t know this person anymore, but he could almost see the face of that young man whom he had been. That person was still within him. And then Doc smiled.
written by Alan Zacher