This is part 2 of a 3-part original story that I’m posting here in serial form. So, far the response from my readers has been overwhelmingly positive. I value your comments, so please keep them coming. This is ultimately an experiment to see if this blog is a good platform for sharing my stories and connecting them with readers.
If you missed part 1, click HERE to read it first.
Enough talk, let’s get back to the story!
PART 2 OF “END OF THE ROPE” by Scott Cahan ….
Five minutes passed before Erin lifted her head slowly. She wiped her eyes with the sleeve on her pajamas so she could see how the rope was doing. It was motionless. She gasped.
“Wait.” Arthur said with a grin.
Then the rope jumped forward a few feet and stopped again. It caused Erin’s face to brighten as she watched. The rope jerked forward some more and Erin smiled. “That’s my boy.” She whispered.
A few minutes later, still watching the rope move and stop again and again unevenly, Erin asked Arthur, “What will it do to him?”
“What the serum?”
“Yes … if he survives, will it change him?”
Arthur thought for a moment then said, “Other than the obvious internal changes, I really don’t know?”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“Well, my sole concentration for the past 3 years has been on finding a solution that will keep four rats alive, and now it’s a dog. When the rats survived, I had every intention of studying them to see what the serum had done to them, but I never got the chance. The war came and … that was it.”
“But you saw them. They lived through it and you saw that they were all right, they were fine, right?”
Arthur looked hesitant to answer the question, then he began, “They were fine, but there was something about them.”
“What do you mean?” Erin asked.
“I’m not sure. The last day that I was in my lab, I was gathering some of my things to leave for a few days. The team and I felt we all needed a break after working so hard for so long. But, as I was moving around the room, putting things into my briefcase, the rats seemed to be … watching me. They sat silent and still in their glass cage, lined up in a row, and no matter where I walked in my laboratory they’d be facing me with their eyes glued to me.”
“But, that’s not that big of a deal is it?”
“Well, it’s a little strange for creatures that are normally more concerned about chewing on scraps of whatever they can find on the bottom of their cage, then what the human in the room is doing. I looked back several times at them from different parts of the lab, and they were still watching me. Right up until I walked out the door.”
Erin said, “That is strange, I guess.”
Arthur’s tone lightened, “It was probably nothing. Maybe I even imagined it. It’s not important. They’re all dead by now I’m sure.”
Twenty minutes passed and the movements of the rope were getting shorter and shorter with longer gaps in between the movements. Erin was still in her spot on the floor watching the rope. Arthur had gotten up five minutes earlier to fix himself some coffee and look for something to eat for breakfast. He re-entered the room with a cracker in his hand. “This is the last of the crackers.” He said.
She ignored him, keeping all of her attention on the rope. “He hasn’t moved since you left the room.”
Arthur stepped up next to her and said, “That doesn’t mean anything. He might be resting in the grass. Or maybe he’s doing that annoying thing he does where he licks his feet over and over.”
“I just wish I could see him. What if he’s sick, from the air? What if he needs me?”
Arthur said, “There’s nothing you can do. But, don’t give up yet. Dogs don’t move all the time. They rest more than they walk. You know that.”
“I know.” She exhaled nervously. “Can I look out the window?” Erin was referring to the only window on the building, the tiny square window on the front door of the air chamber.
Reluctantly, Arthur said, “Go ahead.”
Erin jumped up and went to the door. She turned the dead bolt and stepped inside the chamber. The window on the front door was only 10 x 10 inches of cloudy plexi-glass. Erin pressed her nose against the glass and was disappointed in how little she could see of the outside world. She saw mostly sky and the back half of her yard. Try as she may, she was unable to see anything that was near the house.
Disappointed, Erin left the air chamber and went back inside where Arthur was waiting. With a sigh, she plopped down in the same spot on the floor next to the rope. “Couldn’t you have put some real windows in this place?”
Arthur replied, “Windows are weak spots. I had to make this shelter as air tight as possible. If even the smallest crack formed around a window …”
“I don’t care Uncle Arthur.” Erin said in frustration. She leaned forward and placed her hands on the floor on either side of the rope. Talking to the rope, she said, “Move rope, move!”
Ten long minutes passed with no movement. Both were silent as they waited.
Three more excruciating minutes passed and Erin reached out to do something that she’d seen her Uncle do at the end of every previous experiment with the other dogs. She put her hands firmly on the rope and slowly pulled it back towards her. As she did, she felt the thing she had dreaded the most; the dead weight of the dog, dragging with the rope.
Erin dropped the rope as her emotions erupted, “You killed him! Are you happy? Prince was all I had, all I cared about and you killed him!”
Arthur’s face was flush with anger as he shouted back, “He’s just a stupid dog Erin. Get that straight, a stupid dog!”
“How can you say that?”
Arthur shouted, “You and me, we’re the ones that matter. Not him!”
Erin shouted back, “He matters to me!”
Arthur’s voice became more desperate, “Don’t you see? As long as you and I are still alive, we can have a future. For all I know, we might be the last man and woman left on earth. We might be the last hope for the human race!”
Erin stepped back, looking at Arthur as if she was in shock, “What are you saying? You’re sick!” She turned and rushed through the kitchen and to her bedroom door. She turned back toward Arthur and shouted, “I hate you!” then went into her room, slamming the door behind her.
It was a matter of seconds, after Erin found herself alone in her bedroom, before she knew what she had to do. She waited an hour before she ventured to open her door and move quietly into the hall. She had changed into her only pair of tennis shoes and blue jeans and put on a long-sleeved red t-shirt and a royal blue sweatshirt hoodie. In her left hand was a nylon bag that contained a change of clothes and a few other personal items.
In the hallway she was relieved to see the door to her uncle’s room closed. She stood still for a moment listening and was glad to hear the muffled sound of music coming from inside. Playing music from his personal song collection was the only thing his old cell phone was good for these days. He’d told her that the music calmed his nerves and helped him to think better. There was no way for her to know, but she prayed that he had fallen asleep listening to it. Either way, the music was good for covering any accidental sounds that she made.
She moved slowly, silently through the kitchen, and then to the front door. Just as she’d hoped, the sealed glass container with the leftover serum was still on a table near the door. The needle and syringe that her Uncle had used on Prince were also on the table, on a paper towel next to the container. She’d watched the serum being drawn into the syringe enough times that she was confident she could do it too.
Erin picked up the syringe and pulled the end of the syringe back sucking the serum up into the tube. It took every ounce of remaining serum to fill the syringe.
She took off her hoodie and pushed up the sleeve on her left arm. She positioned the needle so that it was perpendicular to the muscle of her shoulder. She hesitated for a moment, but then pushed the needle into her flesh. A minute later, Erin put the empty syringe back on the table. Her arm felt cold from the serum coursing through her veins.
She knew she had to move quickly for fear of her uncle catching her. Without hesitation she picked up her nylon bag, pulled her hoodie back on, and exited through the first door. She closed it securely and found herself alone in the air chamber. She took a deep breath, exhaled and then breathed in again, this time holding it. She turned the knob to the outer door, opened it and stepped outside.
(End of part 2. Watch for the thrilling conclusion on Friday, August 12th)