Publish Novellas 18 July 2021
EPISODE 3 – EVASION
Dennis has the task of confirming Abigail’s suspicions. To gather more information, he needs to get from beneath his boss’s oversight.
On Monday, Dennis sits in front of his work computer, staring but not recognizing anything on the display. His head is bursting open with trepidation.
Close to lunchtime, Katy walks in frowning at his lack of progress. “Hey Dennis, I am getting some reports ready for upstairs. So I am wondering if you finished updating the database.”
It takes Dennis a while to realize what she asked. But when he does, he snaps out of his thoughts and shakes his head. “No… no… I had a less than perfect weekend. I’m rather slow today.”
With disappointment, she nods. “Let me know when you’re done so I can give you another list.”
He smiles to convey his thanks and waits for her to exit. Instead, she remains in his cubical, staring at him.
After several minutes of inactivity, she advises casually, “Get yourself together Dennis. You have work to do.” Then she turns around and walks away.
Deciding that there is no need to prolong the process, he compares symptoms with the database and it doesn’t take long to confirm that Abigail has dysautonomia. His life flashes before him while is finger hovers over the delete key. Looking around to ensure no one sees him, he deletes the record from the database.
He knows that his bosses will discover the modification but it had to be done. After further contemplating the consequences, he makes another decision. Get out of the office, partly to avoid having to enter the rest of the data, including the information about Adult-Onset Still’s Disease—with which he shares the symptoms.
Symptoms, progression, and severity of Adult-Onset Still’s Disease (AOSD) vary from one person to another. Most patients manifest a spiking fever, a skin rash, muscle pain, joint pain, and arthritic inflammation. The knees, wrists, ankles, and hips are most commonly affected. More rarely, AOSD can cause inflammation of internal organs. In some patients, the thin, sac-like membrane that surrounds the heart (pericardium) or the heart muscle (myocardium) may become inflamed. —NORD
He never really thought much about losing his job until this moment when he and his friend have become would-be victims of erasure. He picks up his bag and walks to Katy’s office.
“Dennis! Did you finish the data entry already?” she asks optimistically without looking up.
“No boss. I’m sorry but I have a family emergency… I have to go home right away,” he says.
She glances up at him briefly and then focuses on her computer. After a few moments, she looks him directly in the eyes. “This family emergency of yours… It can’t wait?”
“It’s my mother,” he says, as though it’s sufficient explanation to skip work halfway through a Monday.
“Okay. I hope you realize just how much backlog you are incurring!” she replies.
He smiles and nods. “I’m sorry, I’ll make it up,” he promises while walking away, knowing exactly where he is heading.
The autonomous commuting vehicle drives at the speed limit but Dennis is in a hurry. The moment a silent car engine starts and GPS coordinates are entered, the system calculates the distance, routes, and appropriate speed limit on them. This allows every vehicle to arrive at its destination on schedule, not a moment earlier.
The car pulls to a stop outside Nick’s private tech-enabled medical practice. He leaps out of the vehicle and runs into the building after the automated voice says:
You have arrived at your destination.
Dennis doesn’t get very far, when he stops and doubles over from joint pain. Pausing, he leans against a wall. This catches the eyes of a young couple walking. They stand, gawking at him without offering assistance. People are too eager to see a firsthand erasure so they can talk about the experience with friends at parties.
“What are you staring at?” he snaps, as they both look away quickly before getting into an elevator.
Dennis walks into Nick’s office after gaining his composure. “Hey, pal,” he says while sitting down in the consulting chair and shaking hands. “Don’t squeeze too tight,” Dennis cautions.
“What is so urgent that you had to leave work this early,” Nick asks.
Dennis stands up and locks the door. Then he pulls down his pants to show Nick a red mark on his thigh.
“I can’t make a definite diagnosis based on this,” Nick says as he examines the red mark.
“You don’t need to. I have a diagnosis. It’s Adult-Onset Still’s Disease. There are other symptoms.”
Nick glares at his friend with full ramifications of the diagnosis dawning on him. “You are sure?”
“I am sure,” Dennis confirms. The two men are silent for a while and then Dennis decides to add to the bombshell. “And Abby has dysautonomia.”
The news seems too much for Dennis. He stands up and begins to pace the room. “This is crazy,” he says when he finds his voice.
“I know. We need your help,” Dennis begs.
Nick is hesitant. His reasons are obvious enough. It is nearly impossible to keep something of this nature from the government. He doesn’t want to get into trouble by getting involved.
“I know it’s a lot to process in your mind. But think about this, if you don’t help us, we will both die—or be erased,” Dennis stresses.
“If I help you, I could die along with both of you,” Nick snaps back.
Dennis knows he is right, but remains hopeful. “Okay…” while pushing the chair back, standing up, and fastening his pants.”
Nick offers a vague promise, “Give me a day or so to see what I can do.”
Dennis expresses an insincere, “Thanks” (for nothing), while leaving the room.
As he walks out of the building, there is no one in sight. But someone is watching. The silent 360° cameras surveil and upload suspicious activities to relevant authorities. In this case, the behavior links with the world health database—into which Dennis has been feeding data for over 4 years.
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