Eve of Destruction
Raccoon City, New York
November, 2013 –
The First Eve
Megan couldn't stay awake. The car tried, twice, to alert her to driving outside the lines of the road it could sense beneath the piles of pretty white snow. It bleeped. It alarmed. It made a valid attempt to keep her awake.
But she'd been awake for almost forty eight hours.
Her birthday was always a trying time. Besides the dreams, there was the insomnia. The insomnia was almost worse than the dreams. The dreams were convoluted. They were never something she could really grasp and keep hold of when she woke. She'd spent years and thousands of dollars trying to revisit them, recapture them, analyze and determine why she was having them.
Why only on her birthday?
Why only when her body aged another year?
Why did the dreams keep her from sleeping? She had them awake. She had them walking and talking and working. She'd broken her femur and wrist last year walking while day dreaming and tumbled into a manhole on Fifth Avenue. She couldn't get passed the dreams.
She didn't understand anything she could remember from them. It wasn't human. It felt prehistoric. It felt like something that existed before the world made any sense. The dreams were millions of years old when life was just cells and simplicity trying to evolve.
What did the doctor call it? Endosymbiotic - existence before the symbiosis between mitochondria and cells that was the precursor to all life as they knew it. She'd done some digging - finding plenty of information regarding how life began. It was a series of things that told her that the things in her dream must be mitochondria attempting to merge with chloroplasts. They may have joined the other cell by being eaten - which the books all called phagocytosis- or perhaps they were parasites of that host cell. The process of life beginning by being eaten by other life appalled her.
Why was she dreaming of cannibalism?
She had no answers.
She had more questions.
She had no sleep and the hospital wasn't helping. As a resident, she was always on call. She practically lived at the hospital. The only reason she was out in the snow now was looking for a Starbucks before she died of sleep deprivation. She needed some caffeine - S.T.A.T.
But the cells slid around her vision and blinded her. Fat ones. Small ones. Mitochondria, the important energy generators of our existence, evolved from free-living cells. They later merged and became a host of a single living organism...but what she was seeing, it wasn't a that. It was life before life. It was the dawning of creation. It was the world reduced to a single free living cell that consumed and destroyed.
She was a doctor. How was any of it possible?
Because what she was seeing wasn't possible. It was theorized, it was suggested, but it was never proven. A scientist named Lynn Margulis(*1) put all of this information together and published it in 1967. Her paper was called "On the origin of mitosing cells". She suggested that cells were once free cycling. She almost proved it. It was taken as gospel in some circles now.
But it wasn't proven. What she was seeing on the windshield of her car...that proved it. The Eukaryota cells, nucleus, Golgi apparatus, endoplasmic reticulum, lysosomes, and cytoskeleton - all of it was being...eaten by the mitochondria. The mitochondria was consuming it. But the science didn't support that. It couldn't. It was wrong.
It was right there.
Mitochondria was the source of all life.
The proof was on her windshield.
The proof was right there.
But why did it ma-
The tree. The tree. THE TREE. She tried to brake. She tried to stop. She swerved and the snow stopped her escape. No.
Her voice broke, "...wait!"
The scream of metal and the stench of sulfur. The pain. The horrible, horrible pain. Her hands grabbed for the empty, shattered, cracked and naked windshield. She'd been dreaming and driving.
Her dreams had finally finished her off.
Her hand slumped. Her purse was over turned in the seat beside her. Her things had spilled into the wreckage of glass and twisted metal. Her badge from the hospital. Her wallet - open to her license.
Her name. Her birthday. Her height and weight.
And the tiny heart at the bottom. A tiny symbol with so much meaning. A tiny thing, red and promising - she was an organ donor.
"It won't work."
"You can't know that. We have to try. Everything, all of it, it's a match."
Their faces were obscured by the flicker of light from the monitor. "...it might kill her."
"She's already dead, William. Maybe this is what brings her back."
The quiet beep of the machines. The soft whoosh of the heat kicking on. The snow beyond the window like a look into his soul. He was cold inside. Hope had died so long ago.
And so he answered, "...do it. Prepare the brain transplant."
It was the only chance his daughter had. But if she woke up...would she even be his daughter anymore?
There was only one way to find out.
10: 00 a.m.
The flashes of light signaled the pictures being taken at the press conference. In his white lab coat, William Birkin stood proud and tall beside the excited face of his wife. She spoke with authority, with purpose, with pride, "At 11 p.m. last night, we successfully completed the first ever brain transplant. Using a donor brain from an unfortunate car accident, we were able to reanimate the comatose body of our daughter Sherry. This has never been successful in the history of medicine. Using strains of my husband's brilliant invention, The Golgotha Virus, we were able to reanimate the dead tissues of Sherry's nerves and body to acclimate and accept the donated brain. This morning, her electroencephalogram revealed electrical impulses synonymous with a fully functioning brain."
The murmurs of shock and awe were everywhere.
Annette Birkin laughed, eyes sparkling with tears, "Yes. It worked. Our daughter, combined with my husband's brilliance, is alive. And we believe she will make a full recovery."
A hand raised in the crowd, "What about the rest of the organs from the deceased?"
Annette nodded, "Those have found appropriate recipients. I assisted, myself, on the transplantation of a kidney to a patient right here in this hospital. One of her corneas, as well went to a worthy recipient. Though the loss of the donor is tragic, a doctor on staff here in fact, the lives she saved are..." Her voice broke, her hand lifted and she laughed, "I'm sorry. I'm emotional. I need to be with my daughter now. Thank you, everyone, for being here with us on this monumental day."
She left the podium to the shouts of the crowd. But neither she nor William delayed. They returned to Sherry's bedside to await her awakening.
In the recovery suite, the recipient of the kidney was just waking. She shifted where she lay in the warm sheets and opened her eyes. Her gaze fell on the eager one of her sister, leaning over to grip her hand.
"Helena? Can you hear me?"
The woman in the bed groaned, "I hear you. How much did I drink?"
The smile was the same between the two women. Though they shared the same father, they had different mothers. But it had never mattered. Growing up, they were inseparable. A small gap of a year was all that stood between their ages.
Helena was dark haired. Aya, blonde. One was a Harper. One was a Brea. There was evidence in Aya's face of the mixed heritage she enjoyed. Her mother was Japanese, a woman that had tried to love Helena's father after his wife's death and was never quite enough. He'd left her, and Aya, and even Helena to disappear into the night when both girls were still toddlers.
Mariko Brea had done her best to raise them. She was a good woman, conventional, and not always warm. But her steadfast loyalty had imprinted on her daughter's to leave them both the type that felt their due diligence to serve their country.
Helena had joined the Secret Service after a stint in the military. Aya had become one of New York's finest and was a detective in the N.Y.P.D. When Helena's kidneys had failed her from exposure in Tall Oaks to a virus, they'd struggled to find a match. With little hope, Aya had watched her sister dwindle down to a skeleton as the illness stole her vitality.
Helena never talked about Tall Oaks, but Aya was aware that something awful had happened there.
The call had come just days after an ailing Helena had finally signed a DNR and offered herself peace from the struggle without end. A hard decision, an impossible one, but there had seemed no hope for a cure. And now she had a new kidney.
Her face was still sunken but she was alert. She was smiling. She pale but looked rested.
The death of a doctor had saved the life of an agent. A fair trade? None of it was fair. But Aya's hand gripped her sister's, hard. "You look like shit, bitch."
And Helena's laughter made it all seem, just a little, better.
She gripped Aya's chin in her frail hand and said, "You got it. You got the cornea. The same donor?"
Aya had lost her left eye to an unruly bullet nearly eight months before. A shooter high on meth had taken a desperate escape and made it tragic. He'd killed her partner and left her for dead before being apprehended. The bullet hadn't killed her. It hadn't even done her the courtesy of blowing off the top of her head. The wild, small caliber round had lodged in her ocular cavity and caused swelling.
She'd lost her vision to the pressure before they could remove the bullet. The corneal damage was too severe. They were able to put the eye back, but it had cost her her sight. The eye had stopped the bullet from reaching her brain. She'd worn a patch while she waited for a transplant.
The antibodies that both she and Helena shared were matched, perfectly, by the same donor. The kidney had saved her sister. The cornea had given her back her sight.
The bi-color eyes were something she could live with. Usually a corneal transplant didn't alter the color of the eye beneath it, but the doctor's had told her upon waking that hers would be. Why? There was some residual bleeding from the iris that had caused sustained color merging. Which meant she'd have one blue eye that was half purple.
She could live with that. She could live with all of it.
Her sister was alive. Her sight was restored.
Things could only get better from here on out. This...it was like her world had righted itself. It was the best birthday she'd ever had.
December 24th, 2014 -11:42 p.m.
The thump of the concerts swell prevented the conversation from getting worse. The fighting, it was nothing but madness. Helena was always angry. She was always filled with a rage that wasn't like her.
The music beat around them from the DJ that spun her web of wonderful melody like the master she was. Aya tried to shout to be heard, but Helena threw her entreating hand off her arm again.
"I don't need to slow down, Aya! I'm fine!" She slapped her sister's concerned hands away, "I'm incredible! Don't you get it? I've never been more...alive."
She shoved away into the boiling crowd. Aya shook her head, trying to give chase. On the stage, the DJ encouraged the crazy crowd to new heights of excitement. The party was a celebration, of course, it had been almost a year since the brain transplant had brought Sherry Birkin back from the dead.
She was gifted with a new purpose and she'd pumped her music around the world in a tour of survival. She spread joy like a blanket everywhere she went. When she DJ'ed, people came from all over to listen to her. Her music was infectious, like her sheer love of living was.
They'd come tonight, when she'd returned to New York for an anniversary of the transplant, to gather all the recipients together for a blow out to end all blow outs. It was like joy was a drug. The more they danced, the more they listened, the higher they became. But not Helena.
Helena was so angry.
Her rage beat like butterfly wings at the wind of happiness that blew around the crowd.
She shoved. She snarled. She grabbed men to grind on them with a determination that was frightening.
It wasn't like her. More and more since the transplant, she'd spiraled into a darkness that no one understood. Instead of relief at the renewal of her life, the transplant had depressed her. Helena drank too much. She partied too hard. She wasted her gift on trying to kill herself.
It was like she'd been taken from death's door and shoved into hell instead.
Desperate for something, anything, that could help - Aya had called the only person she could think of to help. She'd never met Leon Kennedy. She'd heard the stories, of course, he was something of an institution in their business. She'd never met him. But Helena spoke of him with such a reverence, like he was a hero. Or a saint.
She was hoping the PTSD from Tall Oaks coupled with survivor's guilt over the kidney wouldn't spell the end of Helena. She was hoping maybe Leon Kennedy would be able to get through to her where other's failed. After all, he was the only other survivor of that handful of days that Helena never spoke about.
She was hoping to find him among the masses of people, but she only had a vague recollection of what he looked like. Helena was near the edge of the stage and froze. She shoved aside the man in her grip and reached instead for another.
Later, Aya would wonder what it was that happened in the next handful of moments. Insanity? Was it a severing of consciousness? She couldn't make any sense of it.
There was nothing particularly special about the man that Helena clawed at like a tiger. Nothing. He was handsome, sure, but so were plenty of men. He was tall and blonde and wearing a burgundy peacoat in expensive wool. There was a promise of a snappy gray vest and tie beneath the jacket. He looked out of place in the rock and roll madness around them.
And yet, he fit somehow among the chaos-a contradiction in a way that made you pause and notice him.
Helena grabbed at him, shouting. Aya was too far away to hear her words. She tried to look her arms around his neck. He gripped the other woman's arms and tugged her away from him. Her hands went for his coat like she'd open it and move inside.
He shook his head and the shaggy spill of his blonde hair was tickled with snowflakes. Looking desperate, Helena tried to grab his face and bring him to her. He leaned back, looking admonishing and somehow concerned. He shook her and spoke, so softly that there wasn't a word that Aya could discern among them.
But Helena looked crushed. She shoved at his chest and slapped at his face. She grabbed at his crotch like some kind of pervert and he gripped her wrist to turn her arm out and push her away.
And Aya finally knew who he was. That was Leon Kennedy. She put two and two together and figured out, quickly, why Helena spoke so painfully about him. She was in love with him. It was all over her face and form as he rejected her.
Helena stumbled and pointed. She shouted and gave him the finger. She stuck her hand in her pants and rubbed at herself, laughed, and grabbed the man beside her to grind on him. A woman aligned to her back, making her a sandwich between them.
What was this?
Aya finally pushed close enough to hear the shouting as Helena taunted, "-your loss, you stupid bastard!"
He started to answer and turned his head, just a little, to find Aya looking at him.
It shouldn't have been anything. It was nothing. It should have been nothing. But something happened. Her belly tightened. Her heart stopped. Her body responded to him in a way she'd never felt in her life.
There was some kind of pull that made her want to touch him.
It was insanity. It made no sense. It was like nothing she'd ever felt in her life.
And her eye throbbed.
With a gasp, she tossed a hand to her head to stop the pain. The moment they broke that gaze, the throbbing eased back.
Helena shouted, on an angry laugh, "Oh, you have to be kidding me! Forget it, you bitch, you can't have him!"
A strange thing to shout. A strange thing to say. What did that even mean? Helena roared, louder, "I need him!"
Now she just sounded like a stalker. A psycho. A nutcase. Helena shoved aside the bodies cavorting on her and grabbed for Aya. They grappled, Aya trying to stop her own sister from going for her throat.
In the ensuing fight, Aya finally noticed that around them the dancing had turned darker. The people were fucking. The people were falling. The people were bleeding. An orgy of blood and madness made the world crack.
Sherry Birkin kept playing her music but she'd started to levitate above the stage. Helena sank her nails into Aya's throat and tried to rip it out. A couple behind them were in throws of an orgasm when the man split open the belly of his woman atop him and spilled her intestines down like writhing snakes.
The stench of death was as hot as the air that was suddenly hard to breathe.
Aya kicked her sister twice in the knee and elbowed her clean in the solar plexus. Helena stumbled and roared. She came again. And Leon Kennedy put her down with kick to the butt that sent Helena to her knees in the blood.
He put his hand down to Aya to pull her up. Hands grabbed for them as Sherry Birkin shouted, "Free yourself! FREE yourselves! Freedom! FREEDOM!"
The crowd began to chant it. Loud. Louder. Loudest. "Freedom! Freedom! FREEDOM! FREEDOM!"
And Helena shouted, snarling, "He doesn't understand! FREE HIM!"
On the stage, Sherry added, "He doesn't belong! Free him! So we can claim him!"
What had she invited him into!? It was her fault he was here. Aya grabbed his arm at the elbow, dragging him back from the blood that seeped toward his shoes.
Surprised, he glanced at her, "I don't run."
"Please...please..." Her eye throbbed again looking at him. But this time, it was plesant. It felt good. The fear licked around her mind as she tugged on him, "Please...just run with me. Come with me."
"We have to stop them."
Aya saw the moment the blood sparked. It lit up like a Christmas tree. It turned the sky red and orange in flickering pandemonium. Sherry Birkin threw her hands up and the stage filled with musicians caught fire. Not the stage, no...the PEOPLE. They were combusting. They were catching fire from the inside out. It wasn't possible.
But it was happening.
Horrified, Aya grabbed him to her. He let her, the curl of her hands in his coat drawing him close. She shook him, once, twice, and urged, "You'll die. You'll die here. You have to run. We have to run. Now."
She wasn't sure how she knew. But she knew. If they stayed here, Leon Kennedy would burst into flames like the madness around them.
Something on her face swayed him because he nodded and let her drag him into a run. She left her sister. She left Helena shrieking and laughing and twirling. She left her sister as bodies burst into flames like pillars of horror.
They ran. They rushed. They reached the edge of the stadium and hit the stairs, heading down toward the tunnels that would take them to the parking lot. People chased them. People shouted. Sherry Birkin's voice filled the air with her call to arms, "BRING HIM BACK! WE MUST RELEASE HIM! BRING BACK THE EYES! BRING BACK THE HEART! BRING BACK THE SEED!"
But there was no Jesus here. There was no god. There was no hope left.
And there was no time.
Aya knew they were dead. They were dead. They were finished. She hit the button to unlock her car. She shouted, "GET IN! HURRY!"
And Leon ran around the back side of the black SUV. The back raised as they moved. The fire lit the sky in tongues of furious glory. The screaming joined the pop and stench of roasting human flesh.
Aya hit the close function on her keys as they ran and the back began to lower before they'd even arrived. She was slower. She was stumbling a bit. He reached over and looped an arm over her waist.
He lifted her like she was nothing and tossed her. She slid, skidding on her side into the back of the SUV as the door descended. Leon narrowly avoided being cut in half as he dove after her.
The back closed with a beep. Aya wasn't sure how she knew it mattered, but something told her that it wasn't enough. She grabbed for him as the flaming bodies of the dying emerged into the parking lot down the tunnel where they'd come.
Like boulders bursting forth to burn them alive, the smoking stench of the doomed encroached into the nostrils and made her gag as she rolled him to his back beneath her and mounted him.
Surprised, he opened his mouth and Aya shook her head.
"The receipients. The transplantees. The people who got the parts...they didn't burn back there. They didn't catch fire."
Leon shook his head, "I don't understand."
"I won't burn."
His brows shot up, "How do you k-"
"I just know." She hunched down around him. She opened her coat and drew him into it with her. She whispered, into his ear, "I don't know if this will work. I don't know. I'm so so sorry. I should have never called you."
And he whispered, gently, "You kidding? This is just another Friday night for me."
She might have laughed - if the whole world wasn't broken around her. The fire hit the windows. The flames were hands that smacked the glass and the cries of the damned joined the crackle and pop of fire and fear.
The heat hit her back and shoulders. It spread into her belly. She made a small sound of pain and his hands slid around her lower back to tug her closer.
Quietly, he murmured, "It's ok. It's alright. I've got you."
What had Helena said? He'd never let go of her. That whole time they'd run. That whole time they'd fought - he'd never given up on her. Aya gasped, softly, "It's a parasite. Right? In me? It's a parasite."
His hands caught her face. He tucked her forehead against his and held on. And he answered, "...it always is."
As the fire burned around them. As the car turned steamy and smoky. But it never touched them. It ate around the carpet near their legs but it never touched them.
She tucked around him, a shield against the madness, and prayed whatever evil was in her - it was enough to save them both.
Post note: *1- "On the origin of mitosing cells" - Lynn Margulis