Every Friday Kurt is posting a new flash fiction story. This week...
Destroyer of Worlds
Word Count: 582
The red light caught Bennet’s attention; people were coming. He’d want to make sure to have clothes on in the next five minutes. Bennet put his book down and moved to the edge of the plastic bubble that had become his home. The wall gave when he pressed his hand to it, almost like the inside of a balloon—which was what it was, really. With a sigh, Bennet went to tidy up his bed before the tour arrived.
After a few minutes twenty-odd people of varying ages and races filed into the room outside his bubble. They wouldn’t know each other, but they would share this pain: each of them had lost someone to the SpiderPox. They’d all seen the grid of splotches on the face of a loved one and known that death would follow in a few hours. And they’d all come to see the man responsible. Bennet could feel the hate in their eyes, but he sat resolutely in his chair.
He’d never heard the guide’s speeches, but he could guess what they said. “Behold Bennet Markison, the Carrier, the Destroyer of Worlds.” 8 million people had died because of him—8 million unfortunate souls that he’d met in the course of the two-and-a-half years it took to trace the illness to its source. To him.
It was amazing to think that he could have interacted with so many people. And yet there they were—vacuum sealed, autopsied, burned. Their organs had turned to rubber, their faces to contorted masks of pain and ruptured blood vessels. All because of him. The tour group glowered. No one expected to lose their shit when the saw Bennet behind his plastic bubble, but they all did. They all wanted him dead.
Bennet refused to collapse under the weight of their stares. It wasn’t his fault, not really. He hadn’t known he carried the disease, and it took weeks to fester in a victim before symptoms appeared, and then only a few hours to destroy them utterly. No wonder the CDC needed so long to track him down.
And in the meantime, everyone had died who had shaken his hand, made change at the local deli, served him a drink, took his ticket stub, nudged him on the subway platform, tapped his shoulder to return a dropped wallet, bagged his groceries, or picked up his mail. In a city like New York, those tiny transactions added up to 8 million people pretty quickly, even after they quarantine.
No wonder they were angry. They’d been afraid for so long. But now that he was wrapped in plastic and on display, they’d forgotten how to be afraid. Bennet rose, picking his book up from the table beside his chair. He didn’t mind being a tourist attracting, but he couldn’t stand the idea that the masses had forgotten how to fear their hermetically-sealed devil. He hurled the book towards the group.
The plastic stopped it, but the sound carried into the tour room. The tourists jumped back. Some fled the room. Some cried. One woman fainted. The guide was breathing quickly and gesturing frantically, probably apologizing.
No one was angry anymore.
A green light came on. Someone was suiting up to enter the room. Bennet chuckled to himself. He’d get a reprimand for this, but no real punishment. They needed him too badly—needed his antigens. They had a world to inoculate.
He would remain their devil a while longer.