Clay's heartbeat thudded dangerously in his throat. He continually shook his son's shoulder, attempting desperately to keep him awake as the ringer began to play.
At this point, he didn't know what his son would hear, if he would hear anything, or if The Pulse was even still being transmitted. Jordan's and Alice's words echoed frightfully in his head. They were words of hope, but he had always been slightly skeptical. "Anything's possible," he muttered to himself, disbelieving at this moment in time.
To think it hadn't been long since The Pulse swept the world was crazy. It was true, but Clay felt ages older. It had begun as a normal, even uplifting day. He could almost imagine Johnny's face as he left school and then suddenly this hit. From the letters Clay had found, he guessed Johnny had done quite a bit of growing up as well. Watching his friends and strangers kill and die before him, without the support of a mother or father. His mother had gone nuts, his father was missing. Or so he thought.
As he continued to watch Johnny with cautious eyes, he could almost feel the tears he had never let escape. He wouldn't let some unknown computer-whiz ruin his life. That's who had to have created The Pulse, after all, wasn't it? Only someone good with technology could have done this. That could have been a number of people, though. It could have been the government. Or the Japanese. Or Bill Gates. Anyone.
A hazy film passed over his son's eyes, and he feared the worst. He held him tightly to his chest, still forcing the phone to his ear.
When Johnny let out a soft groan, Clay nearly choked on his own breath and pulled back. He could see that same "System Failure" look on his face, just like the bobbed- hair girl had the first day The Pulse had hit. He almost expected to hear the dreaded, "Who are you? Who am I? Who are you?! WHO AM I?!" like he had heard then. That was nearly worse than hearing. "Go you. Mynuck."
But instead of the 'Who' spiel, his son let out the shriek of a screech-owl, his face screwed up in pain. "It hurts!" he cried. "Dad, it hurts!" The computer-jammed look in his irises still alarmed Clay. He wouldn't pull the phone away, not yet.
"Dad, make it stop! Make it stop!" Clay pushed the cell tighter to his son's ear. "STOP IT!"
Clay couldn't stand it any longer. He dropped the phone, cradling his son's head. "I'm sorry... I'm so, so sorry."
The boy burst into sobs, clinging to his father. "They got her dad. She's a crazy now... She's one of them..."
"I know," Clay mumbled. "I know." He stroked his son's hair. "Does it still hurt?"
Johnny shook his head. "I'm okay, now." He looked up, staring at his dad intently.
Clay cringed. "System Failure" still lurked in Johnny-Gee's eyes. "System Failure" had locked up the bobbed-hair girl right before she died. "System Failure" had even shown in the headmaster's eyes after the Raggedy man stole into his thoughts and forced him to write "Insane" in thirteen languages before making him kill himself. "System Failure" was in Sharon's eyes when he found her ravaged by The Pulse.
"You can't leave me now, Johnny." He grasped his son by the shoulders, holding him firmly. "You hear me? I don't care what happens. You can't leave me."
"Why would I, dad?" Johnny gave a weak smile. Blood of other phones crusted his face, and the smile looked eerie, but sincere. Clay smiled back, and suddenly Johnny's jaw fell slack once more.
Clay jumped back, the "System Failure" glowing more vividly than before. As Johnny stumbled, trying to stand, Clay swore. "No, Johnny, fight it!"
A door busted open behind him, and he drew his gun as quickly as he could. It was too late though. There was a blast, and his son dropped to his knees, clutching the hole in his throat, his mouth agape and his eyes grinning with the most vicious "System Failure" Clay had ever seen.
He slowly spun around to see the killer.
"Those are the most dangerous kind," a man grumbled. It took them this long to show up. He was rough and in full S.W.A.T gear, besides the head-coverings. "Come with us."