Love can even transcend the end of humanity
I awoke with the cold sweats again. Which makes the twelfth night in a row now. The wisps of the dream I had, fading away in the vapor of the morning, even as I rub the rheum from my eyes. My head feels like a vise crushing in from all sides. My joints all ache with the changes I feel occurring within me. My body feels like it was pitched from the open door of a boxcar and rolled along the tracks for half a mile. My skin has rashes and boils on it and my teeth have begun to loosen and all out. I know now that I am doomed. Like my friends and my wife, the love of my life, I have become infected.
They came in the night while we watched the sea. At first, we thought it was a just comet or a meteorite, falling from the sky. How naïve we were, my love and I. We were entertaining our friends from the top of the tower on the old, abandoned lighthouse we had purchased two years ago, and poured all of our life-savings into to refurbish. It was an expensive project, and we hired some help where necessary, but we did most of the work ourselves. And so would reap the reward of our efforts, living out our dream in a lighthouse, by the sea, growing old together, Lani and me.
So we had invited Luke and Farrah over for dinner by the moonlight and a little star-gazing to celebrate. A little cheap bubbly, some taquitos and egg rolls, you know, the usual fare. We had a little designer wrought-iron fire-pit up on the "Lido" deck, which was the name we had given our little lookout at the top of the light, and we had a tiny fire cheerily burning on it for ambience. The Moon rose slowly in the northeast over Gitchi Gumi and gave a gibbous glow to our point off of Great Sand Bay in the UP--"You pee," Lani would repeat, giggling hysterically. Though it was a far cry from my old home in downtown Minneapolis, on the south side, a block off of Cedar Ave and 40th, never-the-less, the peace and tranquility it brought us, made the move to this part of the Great Lakes, so worthwhile. And that magnificent view, simply couldn't be beat anywhere.
We had met in college, at the U of M -- go gophers! -- while I was there studying Economics and Computer Technology and she was there to study Art, with a minor in Philosophy. She was fro a little town on the outskirts of Des Moines and had grown up on a farm. I had only ever known the city life in Minneapolis, on the south side near Lake Nokomis. Standing there, mouth agape, I saw her across the commons sitting on a stool, easel before her, painting the building across the way and I knew I had to make her mine. There was a light inside her that rose to the surface in her speech, and her giggle and the glint of her hazel eyes. She was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen and when we wed, her light became a part of me. My life was whole and I knew joy like I had only ever dreamed of before.
After college, I enjoyed a little success for my part in helping start an internet CPA business which took off like gang-busters. We specialized in restaurant and real estate flipping businesses and outdid our long term goals by more than four-hundred percent. So when the folks over at that online book and money management company, you know the one, do I really have to use their name? Anyway, when they came sniffing around with their offer, my partners and I had to seriously consider it. Lani and I had been talking recently about settling down and starting a family. And she really wanted a location that could infuse her artistic muse.
So, we sold the business and, once I collected my share, Lani and I, after a bit of online research bought this place. It took us most of our savings--except for what I had put away for our early retirement--and all of our time to get it fixed up, and we made fast and fine friends of our neighbors, down the road who ran the local Bed and Breakfast. Lani and I had spent many days there while we worked on the lighthouse. Luke and Farrah were roughly our age and kindred spirits in their desire for the peaceful life. They too were trying to have children and not having much success. Come to think of it, I think we did see on CNN online that there was an epidemic going around of failed pregnancies, miscarriages or simply the inability to conceive. We were so happy in our new life, I guess I never put two and two together, until now.
Anyway, Luke's folks were from the south, descendants of slaves who had thrown off their chains, entered business and made names for themselves. He was s third or fourth-generation son from money as a result and while his inheritance wasn't great, is was enough to buy their lovely little B&B and move to the Lakes region to settle down. Farrah was second-generation Ukrainian and along with a perfect bob-cut of rust-colored hair, still had the thick accent. They had met at the grocery store in Eagle Harbor and almost instantly fallen in love. The cool thing is, nobody in this neighborhood even bothered to blink at a multi-racial couple opening a Bed and Breakfast on the south shore of Superior, in Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Another great reason for our satisfaction in the choice of this place for our home.
So, back to our dinner party. As we were waiting for our dear friends to arrive, Lani was finishing up on her "horse dovers," as she liked to call them and I was setting up the new telescope that had only just arrived that morning by UPS. Then, as if on cue, the meteor-shower we had been promised, by nearly every news agency on the 'Net, began to occur. When Luke and Farrah arrived, I watched them drive up from my perch in the top of the tower. I waved to them from the "Lido Deck" and called to them to come on up. Lani came through the upper hatch, which served as our "door" to the deck, with a cart containing the hors d'oeuvres and sparkling wine, along with flutes, plates and napkins. When our friends joined us on the deck, we toasted our success and the beautiful night, full of bright, falling stars.
Two bottles into the juice, and we had it figured we were just a little tipsy, for the previously placid lake appeared to boil, before our very eyes. By the end of the third bottle, we were surely convinced that what we were seeing was, in fact the product of the wine. Oh, how wrong we were! From the roiling waves, came strange looking octopus-like creatures. As they crawled up the rocks toward our location, our inebriation turned to alarm. Luke suggested we go to their B&B, to warn their boarders and call the authorities. So, we dropped our flutes and left the deck for our cars.
When we got to the parking lot, one of the creatures flew from the shadows and latched onto Farrah, snapping its tentacles across her back, just below her head. Her screams split the night like a siren and she fell to her knees. Luke reached over and tore the creature from her back, flinging it into the grass. Grabbing her up in his arms, he ran for his car yelling to us that he was taking her into Eagles Harbor and the clinic there. We agreed to go on to the Bed and Breakfast to warn the boarders and then contact the authorities.
The gravel flew as the tires of our cars bit into the road. Grinding gears on my little SUV, I spun out down the driveway and out onto the Shore Road. I could hear the popping sound of creatures dying beneath the wheels of my car as we practically flew toward the Inn. But, deep in my mind, I knew we would be late. There were far too many creatures on the road, and the B&B was just off the shore on a bluff over-looking the lake. There's just no way they wouldn't be overrun by now.
The engine of my car screamed the whole way until at length, we began to see the lights of the Inn from our advancing position a mile and a half away. But, even from our car, careering down the Shore road like a rocket off its rails, we could see that something just wasn't right. As we made our approach, up the lane to the Inn, we could see all of the boarders out on the lawn writhing in agony from creatures covering their bodies like huge, tentacled leaches.
I threw the car into second, hit the emergency brake for a second and then slammed on the pedal causing a shitty that sprayed gravel all over the area and we were off again, back north, toward Eagle Harbor and our friends. How could I know? How could I even suspect? Why didn't I realize sooner that the wind on my neck was from Lani's open window? Or that the silence coming from the other side of the car wasn't due to shock over what we were witnessing this very night. In fact, it wasn't until we reached the outskirts of town that I even bothered to glance in her direction. And in my horror, I nearly killed us then and there, slamming on the brakes and sliding out on the Shore Road.
There was my beautiful Lani, the dearest thing in my whole life, eyes rolled up in her head, mouth agape, neck throbbing with sores popping out all over her delicate skin, being sucked alive by one of those things, perched across her perfect breasts! She began to convulse, violently and then she just gasped and expired. My whole world imploded, right then and there. Screaming at the monster that took the life of my beloved, I reached over and ripped it from her body. I never even felt the tiny little needle-like prick it left in my finger. I flung the creature from the car, jammed it back into gear and drove on into town. Right up to the hospital, already knowing, there was no hope.
I ran around to the other side of the car, gathered Lani up in my arms and ran, as best I could with my burden, down the hospital halls. I didn't even notice all of the bodies lying motionless or in the last throes of their writhing deaths as I ran to the Emergency room. There I found Luke and Farrah. Both dead on stretchers, ready to be transported to the morgue. As I looked around the room for someplace to lay Lani down, three people in HAZMAT suits approached me. One of them reached out and gently took her from me while another led me over to a waiting stool.
While I was being checked out by the doctor, who was very thorough with her examination, the third person filled me in on the goings on. Apparently, this was happening all over the region and many folks have died as a result. The contact with these alien creatures is so toxic, it is nearly always fatal. A few people, however have somehow built up a resistance to the toxin. Unfortunately, the changes their bodies go through are so severe and so extensive, many either take their own lives, or go mad as a result.
Alarms going off somewhere in the building, pulled the three away. I got up and walked over to where my Lani lay. I caressed her hair and kissed her blistered lips. Then after a brief farewell to my friends, I slipped out the door and made my way out of the hospital. No one stopped me. No one alive even cared one tittle about me. I got to my car, fired up the engine and drove off, back down the Shore Road. By now, the night was eerily quiet. The creatures had all either died or disappeared. What used to be bliss, had become dismal and miserable. Lani! My love was gone! How could I possibly continue?
I drove on autopilot. Before I even knew it, I was back at the lighthouse. I climbed the stairs that wound up alongside the outside of the keep and stepped onto the "Lido Deck". Two and a half bottles of wine remained in the chiller and I downed them all before collapsing into unconsciousness. I milled about in the place for over a week, drinking my despair into oblivion, writing my woes on the walls of our sanctuary. Then I noticed the changes in me. That little prick. That little jag of a thorny needle. It must have deposited the toxin in me without my notice. Such a small amount would obviously take a while to actually fester inside of me.
The changes took their time as they worked their way throughout my body. It wouldn't take long before I became unable to move. And so I laid there, until now. I have written this down for posterity. I do not know who will remain to read it. But the change will consume me, I feel, before this night is through. I can feel it coursing through me now, like fire in my veins. Like lava in my soul. The light in me burning brighter than the sun as I am consumed. As I become pure energy. As I dissolve, at the top of this tower, on the edge of an ancient inland sea, into pure light.
Lani! I'm coming…