The night was still as John covered his computer and switched off the light to his small, cramped office.
It had been a busy, tiring day and all he wanted was to get home and relax with his wife, Jane and his five-year-old daughter, Sammy.
He gathered up his overcoat, opened the back door as a blast of cold hit him unkindly in the face. He walked down the stairs into the dark side street known only as Road number 3, where he had parked his car.
I should have parked in the parking lot. It is too dark.
He looked around nervously, but in the dark, saw nothing.
The sooner I get out of here the better. Tomorrow I will park in the public parking lot. What’s a five dollar.
The picture of his smiling daughter, with her arms around his neck made him hasten his step.
Just up front, to the right of a dumpster, his blue 1989 Nissan 1600 stood. He breathed a sigh of relief, and with shaking, moist hands, he delved into his pocket and pulled out his car keys. Fumbling to insert the key into the slot of the door, he managed to open the door and slide into the seat.
Even though it was a nippy night, he found droplets of water running down his face. In the distance, he heard a siren, and nearby, he heard a cat screech.
He drove off and breathed a sigh of relief.
Phew! Why am I so scared?
” I’ve got a gun to your face, mister.” a voice sounded behind him.
John looked at his rear-view mirror, the perspiration blinding his eyes, but it was too dark to make out the figure that spoke.
” If you know what’s good for you, follow my instructions, and no harm will come to you.”
“What do you want.” John stuttered.
“Just drive, I’ll ask the questions. Go against me and you will be history”
Oh, no, what have I got myself into? What’s going to happen to me? My daughter? My wife? This is all unreal.
Just as they entered the lights of the city, a police car was parked to the side, with its lights flashing.
“Take it easy, no tricks.” the hoodlum muttered, fidgeting nervously in the back seat.
John was praying that the cop would stop him, but to no avail.
The cop waved him on.
“Ok, scum bug, stop at this garage on your left, and park close to the ATM.”
John did as he was told. The man in the dark overcoat scurried out of the car, and opened John’s door, pulled him out of the car and pushed him towards the ATM.
“Draw out all your money, and give me the receipt.”
“But…. ” John stammered.
“No buts, do as I say.”
John drew the money, all $5000,00 of his life savings
The hoodlum grabbed the money and the receipt, peered at the receipt, grunted and said:
“Get in the car and drive to your home, loser.”
John pushed the accelerator with trembling legs as he saw the silhouette of the man receding in distance in rear view mirror. He drove for a mile checking repeatedly for any cars tailing him. There was no one. For them it was an ordinary robbery off an ordinary man.
But he couldn’t take any risk. For the better part of an hour, he navigated through labyrinthine streets of downtown and took random turns as a precaution.
After putting a sufficient distance behind him, John eased in his leather car seat, his shoulders relaxed and let a soft smile play on his face. The charade was over and light pressure of the glass vial in his thigh pocket was the proof that he had performed the act incredibly well.
When he stepped out of the car in the non-descript part of the town which even locals avoided, it was close to midnight. He carefully looked about for any signs of local gangs and entered a small dilapidated building – his rendezvous point.
There was a large lock at the door but that was mostly to keep looky-loos away. At any rate, common people rarely muddled in others’ affairs here…there was always a risk to involuntary witness something gory.
He carefully knocked on the locked door with a practiced rhythm. For a still moment, he wondered if he had remembered the code perfectly but the door split from the middle, dividing the latch and the lock in two halves and giving way to John.
In a sparsely furnished room, a man was pacing back and forth through the cigarette smoke that he was consuming undoubtedly by the scores. He was lighting another one when he noticed John entering the room. He put it out and tossed it aside hurriedly and looked tensely at John.
In reply, John triumphantly took out the vial from his pocket and held it high. The creases on his face smoothed and he screamed in joy, “I KNEW you could do it. Five thousand dollars for their blood sample- not a bad deal.” He grinned as he took the vial in his hands.
“Not a bad deal at all.”
“So, now the serum can be weaponized?” John asked.
“Yes.” The man smiled through his bushy mustache. “In fact, we have already prepared the equipment in the lab.”
“Let’s go!” John looked excited. “I wanna see.”
“Oh, you will see!” Aaron laughed. “Because, you will be our first test subject!”
He snapped his fingers. Three men, waiting beside the door jumped and grabbed John by his collar. Another two, all dressed in black suit and tinted glasses searched John’s attires to look for any weapon he had. They found the 9 MM caliber from the thin holster strapped to his back.
Aaron took the cigarette and lit it. He gave the vial another look and then came in front of John. He was still struggling to get the men off of him, but those men were specifically trained and stronger than him.
“Oh, poor, John!” Aaron said with a fake sadness, “Don’t worry about your wife and daughter! We will take care of them.” He said licking his lips. “Really, really good care of them! Take him away.” He waved to his men.
The men holding him took him out of the door. The other two stayed inside. John’s hands were tied behind his back, the men pushed him by his neck, towards John’s car, parked by the streets.
As soon as the door closed behind them, John stomped the man’s foot on his right as hard as he could. The man jumped in agony and the sudden attack, releasing John’s collar. The man on his left reached for his hand gun, but John head-butted the man with the agility of a cheetah.
His nose broke. Blood oozed out of his nostrils, the man fell on his back. John grunted in pain, as he dislocated his right thumb by his left one, setting himself free from the rope. The man on the right grabbed his hand gun and started shooting, John jumped on the ground on the other man and grabbed the gun from his holster.
John hammered the laying man unconscious with the gun and rolled to his right as the other one kept shooting.
He got up as fast he could and ran towards the car. The gun fires had already alerted the others, and they came out with rifles shooting randomly. The silent, abandoned industrial area came to life with the echoing sounds of guns.
John jumped inside his car, and revved his engine. The car skid his rear tires and copying the slithering movement of a snake, it accelerated to its limits vanishing in the maze of narrow, empty streets.
“Bring me his body!” Aaron screamed. The men moved hurriedly to comply.
The empty streets made way for the trees which slowly grew denser on both sides. The forest ensued. He cursed himself for taking the wrong road while trying to flee. He cursed himself for having taken the wrong path even earlier when he fell for the words of Aaron as he pitched for the advancement of humanity and lots of money. Although he wanted to believe it was the former that drove him to take up the assignment, deep down he knew it was always the latter. And now…
Now, he had been double-conned. His entire life’s savings were gone. And it was not just his own future that was at risk, but that of his wife and daughter… and who knew, maybe that of the entire human race. The specimen had fallen into Aaron’s hand – not exactly the most gracious place it could be.
John and the forest were strangers. As he pushed further into it, he had a growing feeling of his hopes receding further. How would he save his family? Was it already too late? And what would he tell his wife even if he had reached home in time? He wanted to turn around but knew Aaron’s goons must have been following his trail.
Not knowing what to do he just kept driving, hoping that the world was indeed round and he’d end up in a place known to him, at the end of the forest. Except the forest didn’t seem to have any end. The worst day of his life didn’t seem to have any end as well. But God is known to have a great sense of humor.
His car broke.
Right in the middle of the forest. And if it was indeed the middle, there was no way of knowing for him. He got down from his car. The first lights of the dawn had just started to pour in through the trees. How long had he been driving?
The engine had overheated. It seemed angrier than John was. He needed to get some water. But where would he get that? In any case, it wasn’t a good idea staying put in one place. It was an unbranching, long winding road and Aaron’s goon would catch up with him soon. He wondered if going inside the forest would be a good idea when he heard the sound in the bushes. Something moved.
He looked at the direction of the sound, and it stopped. Frightened and curious, he took a few steps towards the sound. This time there was some positive movement in the bushes and a rustling sound. He went closer, and suddenly a head rose from the bushes. A deer. It stared directly into his eyes. Not flinching. Not frightened.
They both stood staring at each other in a wild amazement for a few moments.
Some more heads pop out of bushes they seemed to be children of the deer. The deer started pampering them.
Suddenly, John’s mind gets occupied with the thought of Jane and Sammy. He started wondering, how worried Jane would be not finding him at home on time?
He took out his cellphone and found 25 missed calls from Jane. His phone is about to die with the battery remaining of 2%. He didn’t expect a good network in the jungle. But, thanks to the technology, he found strong network signal, sufficient enough to go with the call. He called Jane.
“Hi, John! Where have you been? I tried calling you. You didn’t respond. Is everything Fine with you?”
“Hey, Dear! Look. My phone is about to die. I am in a little trouble for now. So, I want you to listen to me, so carefully. ”
“Sure, John! Tell me.”
“I got stuck in a jungle saving my ass from a guy named “Aaron”. There is a file in the drawer of my study room titled “Experiment for Mankind”. You will get all necessary information about Aaron there. Just take those papers, and report it to the police station. If it is not done on earliest whole mankind would be in danger.”
“Okay, Honey! I will take care of it. Love You.”
“Love you too. Sweet heart!”
Call disconnected and John looked back into bushes. He saw deer with her children moving ahead towards a river located in between the jungle at approx. 2 miles of walking from his position. He walked hurriedly towards his blue Nissan that he didn’t leave too far. He opened the back of his car, took out the gallon that he uses to keep in his car for emergency cases and started moving towards the river.
“Don’t you dare take a step further,” a sound boomed from the woods.
John stopped as his eyes widened. The place was dark due to the dense vegetation. The milky moon light peeped down as the wind moved through the branches. The mesmerizing aura of the deer was pulling him towards the river; deep into the woods.
‘I have heard this voice before. Wait! It’s the same as the hoodie who mugged me!’ With raised eyebrows and trembling legs, John asked with a quivering voice, “Wh… Who is it?”
A figure came into of the dark into the moonlight. John gaped at the deer that was now standing up on two legs. He had the head of a deer and the rest of the body of a human. Humanoid. Biped. He felt a chill run down his spine. The person, who had his gun pointed at him, was actually a deer-man? Aaron told him about such creatures. No one had ever seen ‘them’.
“Wh-What do you want?”
“Your life… Human. Once I have you, I don’t have to run from the rest of the meatbags.”
The deer-man lunged in his direction. John scrambled backward and fell down after a couple of steps. He shielded his face with his hand and closed his eyes shut. ‘Probably, this is how it feels to enter the dark jaws of death.’
There was a swooshing sound followed by a big thud. John opened his eyes thinking he was already dead. The deer-man was caught in a net. The animal tried in vain to rescue himself. John looked around to see five-six light beams surrounding them. They came from the guns that were pointed at the deer-man. John stood up, still shaky, with his hands up.
“Follow us, Sir,” said their leader.
John followed them as the men dragged the animal; fidgeting in the net. They took him to their truck and tied him to the carrier. John sat in the front seat. The convoy of four trucks started its journey towards the city. As the trees started to get sparse, John thought there were some minutes before death meets him again. He thought of Jane and Sammy and tears rolled down his weary eyes.
The trucks stopped. He was at the same spot he ran from.
‘These are Aaron’s men!’ John thought feeling his ice-cold hands.
The men took the animal and escorted John back to the room where he had met Aaron.
“John… Thank God you are OK,” Aaron said holding John’s shoulders with both hands. “I thought I lost you. Big Gamble!”
Aaron hugged John tight. John’s hands stuck out in air refusing to hug him. He remembered Aaron’s words. Deceit. Dishonesty.
“Here is the body as you asked, Sir,” said one of the men holding the gun. “We could catch him alive.” Aaron gave him a thumbs-up.
“I know you are in shock, John,” Aaron said as he saw John still staring with a wide mouth. “Sit. I will explain.”
“Scoundrel! You put me through hell.”
“Calm down,” Aaron said with a wave of his hand. “This is a major victory. We have him.” Aaron pointed at the creature in the net.
“They are the emo-sensory aliens. Only a person with emotions can see them. They stripped the entire human race of emotions so that we don’t track them and hunt them down. We can’t feel fear, happiness, sorrow or surprise. The Homo-sapiens turned into Homo-Roboius. The only way to beat them is to study them and get an antidote.”
“But I was scared… terrified”
“You are one of the last of the Homo-sapiens, John. You felt fear. That’s why he found you. You were a threat to him.”
“You were not particularly friendly earlier,” John said knitting his brows.
“Because I wanted you to feel the fear. If you were not scared, you wouldn’t have attracted him. And we wouldn’t have caught him. Now we are going to study his DNA. We have to find what chemical has been induced in us that are curbing emotions in our brains.”
“Hmm… Jane? Sammy?” John looked up at the ceiling giving a quick nod.
“Jane and Sammy were already under police protection when you called them. It was always for the human race, John. All the promises I made to you were true.”
This is the first-time John smiled today. “I wonder why the deer-man who mugged me did not kill me.”
“We will never know.”