Viral Desire

Part 1, Day 0

The fluffy white sheep's eyes stare at her while its mouth is frozen in an eternally happy grin. As she blinks away tears, her vision blurs, obscuring the sheep. As it clears again she can see the threads in the weaving of the cotton pillow case. The sheep turns into just a collection of lines and printed colours on the fabric.

Meril closes her eyes for a moment. She is lying on her left side, curled up with her knees against her chest while her head is buried into the fluffy pillow. Looking down her body, she can see her left arm which is lying outside the blanket on the mattress, up to where Nick is sitting on the side of the bed. He's holding her hand. And probably staring worryingly at me, Meril thinks to herself.

The softness of the bed she's lying in and the familiar, comforting shapes of the contents of her room form a sharp contrast with the memories of the events earlier today. Yet again she finds part of herself wondering why she still feels so terribly upset at what happened. In the end everything worked out, the bad guy got what he deserved, and besides such things happen a lot. And still... again and again the way the attacker moved and how he had this weird gleam in his eyes surges to the front in her memories. Even from the distance where she was standing she felt sickened just being that close to him.

He wasn't human...” Meril says, ever so softly.

Nick startles at the sound of her voice. He must have been far away with his thoughts as well.

What's that? Did you say something?”

Meril merely shakes her head.

It was nothing. I'm thirsty, is there something to drink?”

As Nick reaches over to fetch a glass on the table next to her bed, Meril looks at Nick. Painful pangs of affection and dread explode in her chest upon doing so. His strong, muscular body, moving so fluently and with natural grace. For a moment she imagines him behaving in a way similar to that attacker earlier today. As the images, real and remembered, overlap she suddenly feels overwhelmed by a feeling of dread. Trembling in emotional pain she curls up into a ball while tears force their way out.

As strong arms suddenly envelop her and pull her into a gentle embrace she sinks back against Nick's chest and surrenders to the emotional flood.

Afterwards she keeps lying like that, against Nick's chest. She feels worn out and gratefully accepts a few sips of water from the glass he holds against her lips.

I... I felt like a coward, just standing like that. I was so afraid. I can't get that... person out of my head.” Meril says, softly. The practical side of her mind tells her that she must be looking pretty awful right now, with messed up hair, puffy, red eyes, and a runny, red nose. Another part of her mind responds by sniffling again and snuggling deeper into Nick's embrace.

Stroking her dark hair, Nick doesn't say anything at first. Then, speaking in a way she has not heard him talk before, he says: “You were no coward. There was little you could have done, and I am so sorry you had to witness that.”

Sighing for a moment before continuing, Nick adds: “To be frank, I felt completely terrified, but I ignored that. When I heard that scream... well, I wasn't the only one who jumped into the fray.

What upset you so much about this guy, by the way? He was clearly out of his mind, true, but I have never before seen you so upset. Can you tell me what it is?”

I'll try.” Meril says.

First taking a deep breath, she tells him about her impressions of that person, the way his gaze and body language affected her. How everything about him basically radiated something... unnatural and evil.

After she finishes talking, Nick at first doesn't respond. After a few moments she looks up at his face with a worried expression. He seems to be thinking about something disturbing. Then he speaks: “You know... when I pulled him away from that woman and when I was wrestling him to the ground with help from others I noticed that his body felt like it was... burning. His skin felt very hot. And the strength he displayed... it was like wrestling with a bear. Even with the six of us we barely managed it. It was as though he was possessed.”

Neither speak for a while, each occupied with their own thoughts. Then Meril suddenly thinks of something.

I really like you being here, comforting me and such. How did you convince my parents to leave you alone with me like this, though? I know they can be quite protective. I don't seem to remember how I got home either.”

Nick grimaces. “After I found you in the crowd at the cinema and you started crying in my arms you suddenly collapsed. So after informing the others I drove you back to your place and carried you inside. Considering the situation I think your parents were quite impressed with how I handled matters. After your mother undressed you and put you into your nightgown I was allowed to keep an eye on you.”

Meril now notices that she is wearing just her nightgown with her underwear underneath. As crimson flowers blossom on her cheeks Nick grins at her.

No worries, you're completely safe with me. I'd never do anything without your permission. Written and signed, in duplicate.”

Meril laughs and shifts her position so that she can hug him. It feels good to laugh again, even if it seems to tear at many fresh wounds inside.

* * *

In an exceedingly violent display a local woman today was brutally assaulted at the cinema near Brooklyn Avenue. The suspect – not further identified by the police – is rumoured to be an escaped mental patient from a nearby psychiatric hospital. During the assault the victim suffered many superficial injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment and trauma care. In a police statement released a few hours ago it was revealed that a full investigation will be launched into how such a brutal assault could take place in our city, an assault witnessed by countless bystanders, some of whom prevented the suspect from further harming the victim by pulling him off her and subduing him.

We will now see some video recordings made earlier today of eye witnesses, recorded earlier at the scene.”

As the television's image shifts to display the face of a nervous-looking woman, the image suddenly turns black. The blue power light of the television switches to an amber standby colour and combined with the sudden silence it's as though everything just mentioned and witnessed was just a movie. A fancy production made in some film studio over in Hollywood or some such place.

Sarah sighs as she puts the television's remote down on the coffee table in front of the couch. Leaning back, she closes her eyes for a moment. The mere thought of continuing to watch television and seeing that area in front of the cinema again makes her feel like she's going to be sick. She fervently hopes that this will be the very last time she'll hear about this case beyond a few snippets now and then as the investigation proceeds.

It's hard to imagine that she really was there, only a number of hours earlier, holding that poor woman against her. The whole scene with all those people standing or crouching nearby or further away, and the muffled sounds and swearing coming from where that... man was being subdued, it doesn't seem to have any bearing on her current situation. Definitely surreal.

Looking around the sitting room she greedily takes in every single one of the familiar shapes. Her parents and baby sister have long since gone to bed but she felt too restless to sleep just yet. This news report on the local television station didn't help much with distracting herself, though.

Suddenly tears fill her eyes as she pulls her knees up against her chest and tightly hugs her legs. She closes her eyes while feeling profoundly aware of the dead silence around her and a terrifying sense of emptiness. She wishes she had someone around to curl up against right now. A fellow human being.

The memory of Kathlyn's soft arms folding around her back and the warm softness of her chest surfaces. The immense comfort she felt at that moment suddenly returns, accompanied with an intense pain which threatens to choke her with its intensity. Gulping for air, Sarah notes the choked, sobbing sounds she's making with the now distant, rational part of her brain. The rest of her being simply surrenders to the waves of loneliness, uncertainty and fear.

* * *

Why do you think it happened, Tom?” Jake asks, speaking softly. He and Tom are leaning on the railing of the pedestrian bridge they're standing on. Underneath them on the road an occasional car passes by, its headlights illuminating the road in front of them. The road's lighting turned on a while ago, forming a chain of orange pearls snaking off into the distance. Dusk has long since passed and with it temperatures have dropped. Jake shivers a bit as he rubs his bare arms and glances at Tom who is standing to the side of him.

I honestly do not know.” Tom says. “I'd like to think that it was just a freak occurrence, but a person who is that far gone as to assault someone in a public place without any regard for what happens next to him doesn't seem like the type who would break out of a psychiatric ward. Unless they're very incapable, of course. It doesn't really add up.”

Well, at any rate I hope that this was just a one-off thing. I'm sure the police will figure out what went wrong.” Jake responds, sounding uncertain.

Neither of them speak for a while as they just stare at the lights of the darkening city in front of them. It isn't until a somewhat chilly breeze starts picking up that Tom indicates that he'll be heading home. Together they make their way to their respective homes, with both lost in their own thoughts. Neither is sure what to say or think about the events earlier today.

With their footsteps echoing between the buildings of the deserted streets they walk through, it almost feels like they are left all alone in the city. Just the occasional sounds in the distance from barking dogs, traffic and such shatters this illusion. The city itself smells dry and dusty after so many days of warm summer weather. When they pass by a park or the occasional garden the smell of blooming flowers is almost overwhelming.

Halting at the corner of one block they say their goodbyes and split up to walk the last part to their houses. Without the other's presence and sounds of their footsteps the sense of being all alone gets even stronger. It almost feels as though without others being nearby one's sense of being human slowly starts seeping away to leave just an empty shell.

For Tom the silence leaves lots of room to play back the events of earlier that day, his talk with Nick shortly before he headed off with Meril after she fainted. Above all the attacker's face and gaze don't seem to want to leave his thoughts. He was quite sure he had seen many things like it in his life before, whether on television, in stories and the like. Yet this occurrence was unlike any of these stories. Not a lone woman attacked in a dark alley or at her own place, but in bright daylight in a public place. The explanation of a mental patient makes sense in some ways, yet in other ways it doesn't. How someone who is so rabid and uncaring about his own safety, and without any signs of planning or intelligence would be able to escape a psychiatric ward, for one. As he said to Jake earlier, it doesn't add up.

Distracted, he nearly trips over the bicycle left by his baby brother in the front garden of his parent's house as he makes his way to the front door. Opening and closing it behind him he first stands there for a moment with his eyes closed, allowing the silence inside the house to trickle into him. For some reason the silence here feels different from that outside. One feels... closed, the other warm and inviting. After a moment he makes his way into the living room and greets his parents who have seen the news already and have many questions for him. Before long he is detailing the events while sipping from a cup of hot coffee.

For Jake the silence mostly feeds the many doubts he's now harbouring inside. Today's events have really shattered the many certainties he used to have. Always considered to be the carefree and playful type by others, he now feels like he's looking back at a stranger. This turmoil is something he is not familiar with. Against the events of today a carefree attitude seems jarring and... wrong. Yet to suddenly start acting all serious doesn't feel right either. In the end he just doesn't know.

Hoping that a good night's sleep and a normal school day tomorrow will help him find his balance again he makes his way to the front door of his parent's house where he figures he'll get much the same reception as Tom is likely to receive. The lights in the living room are still on meaning that his parents have to be waiting for him to return. As he opens and closes the front door behind him he already feels a bit better.

* * *

The street lights surrounding and on the square in front of the cinema on Brooklyn Street cast their orange light on the pavement, benches and plants, turning everything into a greyish shape. No traces of today's events remain beyond a lingering emotional charge in the air, and lying on top of one of the paving stones the only physical reminder in the form of a single white button such as would be found on a woman's blouse.

The city itself gradually goes to sleep. One house after another turns dark as its inhabitants go to bed. Midnight comes and passes. Tomorrow will be just another day.

Viral Desire – Part 1, Day 0 Revision: 0

Author: Maya Posch Draft version Date: 2012/07/05 Page: 5 of 5