My husband wrote a longer short story to celebrate Halloween, and I am very happy to share it here! It’s a longer story, so I will be putting it up in parts over the next few days. I hope you enjoy!
The Matriarch – Part 1
Ursula finished cataloging the contents of the box, closed the lid, and placed it back on the dusty shelf where it had sat for who-knows-how-many years before she’d opened it.
“12 specimens of Taenia solium, common tapeworm, each preserved individually in glass jars of formaldehyde. Labels faded but legible,” she dutifully recorded her notes in the museum archives inventory.
Popular exhibits like dinosaurs and mummies brought the public into the museum and hopefully, to help the museum make ends meet, the gift shop as well. A special exhibit on Parasitology? You don’t help anyone’s budget crunch by driving off the public with disgust.
But Halloween was approaching and the Director, thinking to play on the fascination some people had with “creepy crawly” or “gross” things, had decided to try something other than the safe option of promoting the mummies again.
The Curator had delegated the task to of putting together the special exhibit, and Ursula had drawn the short straw.
Now tapeworms that had been floating in preservative for twenty-plus years were going to get their day in the spotlight. Along with a plethora of other horrifying creatures in jars that she’d come across in inventory.
To the accompaniment of the sub-basement archives’ flicking fluorescent lighting, Ursula took a sip from the now-cold mocha cappuccino that she really shouldn’t have splurged on and questioned her life choices.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT, PREVIOUS
Greg’s body felt tired and achy, but his hands continued to grip the cold metal tire iron, slippery from the night’s rain, as he struggled to loosen the lug nuts of the blown-out rear passenger-side tire of his grey sedan.
He looked up at the approaching sound of a running engine and tires on wet highway pavement, then held up his hand, trying to shield against the headlights. The other driver had their high-beams on.
A black limousine. The high-beams dropped to regular headlights and it slowed to a stop next to his sedan. The sound of splattering raindrops was punctuated by the opening of a car door. Across the roof of the limousine, Greg watched as a thickset, bald man in a dark suit rose and fixed eyes like steel on him.
“Mr. Greg Allen.” It wasn’t a question. Greg’s heart quickened. The wet tire-iron in his hand was an option, but the bald man was likely carrying far-less-polite hardware.
“My employer would like to speak with you.” The bald man’s voice was like a slab of granite. You couldn’t argue with it.
In the back of the limousine, the sound of rain splattering on pavement was replaced with drops muffled by the luxurious upholstery. Greg was seated next to the bald man who continued to look as though he was trying to crush Greg’s skull with the power of scowling. Across from them sat a grey-haired woman in sensible shoes that matched her tight bun, and a sandy-haired boy who looked about ten-years-old wearing a perfectly tailored Armani suit.
The boy’s smile reminded Greg of a shark.
“Nasty rain,” the boy said. “Isn’t it lucky for you we came along to give you a ride, Mr. Allen?”
Greg’s tongue gingerly flicked against his upper-right bicuspid as the rainy countryside passed the heavily tinted windows. The weaponized strain of enterovirus inside the hollow tooth had been engineered to have a limited duration once the seal was broken. If he bit down and exhaled, it was likely that the deadly pathogen would be inert by the time anyone found the bodies.
Still, Greg was hesitant to field test his own enhanced immune system against this particular strain. Things weren’t that desperate yet.
“Thank you,” Greg said, trying to keep sarcasm out of his voice. “I don’t suppose there’s some way I might repay you?”