It was when he was just a toddler, he remembered his dad cutting the hole in the floor. He thought it was funny seeing his dad’s head pop up with buckets of dirt. His parents fought a lot back then.
His mom hated hauling the dirt out of the house by the bucket. When he was barely in double digits, tweens they used to call it, he heard his parents retell the tale of building the ‘pocket’. He called it the dungeon.
The pocket/dungeon was dark and dank, not as big as a root cellar, but something similar. They stored food, ammo, any sort of emergency supplies really. Dad called it by the proper name he gave it, The Protection Pocket.
He was born when the social upheaval was just beginning. There had been people like his dad before. They were called Survivalists. His dad wasn’t really one of those, but did get the ‘willies’ when all the shootings became the norm and the zombie apocalypse was predicted.
He had heard stories from his elders about how unkind people used to be. This thing they called road rage. He heard the stories, but had never seen anyone with it. Maybe it was one of those diseases they had cured.
The stories he heard sounded like a dream. What had caused the change from those tales to what he knew, he hadn’t yet discovered. Sometimes after visiting his grandparents he would try to imagine a world their stories described.
His mom’s parents were his favorites. Well, his granddad on that side was, not so much his grandmother. She had the sickness. She lived in a containment room. Now a days, pretty much everyone had at least one family member like her. The really sick or cold hearted didn’t. They either got rid of them or sent their family members with the sickness away to be cared for elsewhere. Most people just kept them indefinitely in a containment place. Choosing to build a new room until that too became a permanent home for another family member. Of course, if the particular family member was a stinker, it was really up to the family whether or not they were kept.
There were tales of members ‘disappearing,’ generally their history as a human was distinctively bad. Some time ago there was a debate on a law about feeding those held in suspension, living with the sickness, as they were called. Whether or not being feed with the bodies from those criminals who had contracted the sickness was morally right. He was really young then, so he didn’t know when it occurred. Whatever the outcome of the vote, it was never publicized. The government felt that the average citizen had enough to deal with surviving day to day without being troubled by moral issues.
In this world, the young man studied, grew and became an adult. He, like many before him, fell in love and married. He raised children, saw those children grow and become adults. In his later years, he began to question whether there was really an effort, still on going, to cure or prevent the disease. He started to research all those stories he had heard as a child.
His beloved wife begged and pleaded with him to stop his query. He refused. Not long before he too was striken with the disease, he began to show and explain his theories to his own grandson. The young man, not yet an adult, but no longer a child listened, cautiously. There were more rumors now than ever about the theories.
A few years after he had been secured in the containment room, his wife had had enough. She called the grandson to say goodbye, then hung up. His grandson was one of the first to come upon the scene.
The grandson saw something was wrong. In a hiding place he found a few pieces of research in a packet. It seemed prepared for him. He took and hid the packet on him. Then he gathered the rest of the research and took it outside to burn. He stood crumpling the papers and set them afire.
Silent cars pulled beside the house and men got out. The grandson continued to crumple and burn the papers, melting the disks and drives. The lead officer approached him.
“Son, what are you doing?”
The young man looked up, tears in his eyes, from the smoke and emotion. He was shaking.
“Burning this crazy stuff, I don’t want my dad to know. It would kill him.”
“What do you mean, son? Know what? Burn what?”
“My granddad, he had this crazy idea. It started just before he became that zombie monster thing. The early stage now is of not being right? They talk about it all the time in the news, the progress.”
“This happens more often than people realize.”
The young man looked directly in the eye of the officer. Searching the officer’s eyes for truth or suspicion. Did the officer buy his story? Was he falling for the deception?”
Breaking the silence between them the grandson asked, “What are you doing here?”
“There was a report of gunshots, we were just coming to check them out. When did you get here?”
“I got a call from Granma. She sounded odd.”
“She said she called to say goodbye. She hung up and never would answer. I got over here as fast as I could. I heard the shots on my way up the drive.”
“So, she trusted you?”
“I suppose. She talked to me, if that what you mean. I tried to help with Granddad before it went full blown, but . . . ”
“When they go, you just can’t stop it.”
“Yeah, I know. But, no matter how much you read, or know better, you still hope it isn’t so.”
“I am not supposed to do this, but here, let me help you with that.”
The officers in the house had already begun the cleanup, searching and destroying evidence of the research. The lead officer stood out with the young man, helping him crumple and burn the box of papers and destroy the knowledge; trying to discern whether or not the young man believed any of the truth.