Publish Novellas 1 August 2021
EPISODE 7 – BROADCAST
Dennis makes a risky move for assistance while trying to evade authorities. Meanwhile, Abigail has a moment of clarity regarding their plight.
A rat… maybe a squirrel… or even a possum! Something dashes across Dennis’ feet, jarring him upright. He and Abigail are dirty, hungry, and tired from days of walking as far away as possible from their last GPS location. They have been on the streets for about ten days now.
By their side is a trash bag in which they both keep the food they have foraged—apple cores, stale bread, and leftover chicken wings. They hunt for food in dumpsters and go hungry some days. This, along with the cold and erratic sleeping is worsening their chronic health symptoms.
Dennis looks to his side and sees Abigail asleep on a pile of cartons he took from a the ally behind a grocery market. She looks peaceful, but he knows that there is no peace in her body now.
The bleeding on her wrist has stopped, but she lost much blood. She is anemic. The wrist is not healing and she must hold it with her other hand. So he hauls both their belongings on his shoulder. At this rate, Abigail is deteriorating much faster than Dennis.
Though he wants to let her sleep, there is a crowd gathering around them, along with large trucks. They should either become a part of that crowd or leave the area.
“Abby, get up. We need to go,” he says, but then turns toward the sound of someone testing a microphone at the podium.
People are setting up a large monitor and he catches a brief glimpse of a public service announcement they will run during the program. It includes photos of Abigail and him. He knows exactly what’s happening. They are about to broadcast a plea for the public to help locate them.
Dennis springs into action. “Stay here,” he says to Abigail as he pulls a baseball cap over his face and joins the workers to erect the display platform. When it is done, Dennis goes behind the stage and starts to flash some Morse code within the banner background.
He hopes Nick will see and decipher his codes. As he sends the message, he hears the announcement telling the general public that the two people on the screen are fugitives and they should not hesitate to call law enforcement if they see them.
Dennis knows that even if his message gets through, there is a high probability that either of them will not last much longer. He continues to pretend like he is a part of the crew working on the setup until he can get back to Abigail.
Nick has become obsessed with helping Abigail and Dennis. He turns on the television that evening and notices flickering in the background. Only one person would stand with a light aimed at the banner and mess with the background.
He records that broadcast and watches it over and over again. Each time, he writes down some of the hidden message, and then rewinds. Though tedious, this tells him that Dennis is alive.
After three monotonous hours deciphering the video, Nick gets the whole message, including their rendezvous location. The next morning, using a patient’s phone for cover, he contacts a medical researcher near Dennis and Abigail. Nick gives the doctor instructions for contact at a specific time and place to diagnose and treat his friends.
With a faint smile on her lips, Abigail watches Dennis approach. She is realizing for the first time the denial of her crush on him. Why are these feelings manifest during such an unfortunate event?
Looking at him now, she is convinced that she has received love, care, and attention from him in the last few weeks. Without him, she probably would be dead. She is grateful for everything that he has done. But now, it is her turn to do something for him.
Life on the run in the absence of technology takes its toll on the couple. Her chances of survival are slim. Abigail can feel her body giving out and it is a burden to him on the run. The best thing she could do is to let him go alone.
To make sure that he doesn’t waste his chance of survival on her, she needs to free him from whatever obligation he thinks he has towards her. So when he finally sits down beside her, she looks into his eyes and calls his name softly, “Dennis…”
He is tired from the Morse code exertion but answers, “Yeh?” When she pauses, he looks into her face.
“Thank you for everything,” Abigail says.
He smiles and pats her shoulder gently. “Thank you too.”
There is silence between them for awhile. Then she speaks up again. “I’m turning myself in.”
Shocked at her pronouncement, he jerks while twisting his neck and bulging his eyes at her, “No, I got the message out. Help is on the way!” As the crowd disperses, he pulls the cap further down over his eyes.
“No… listen to me,” Abigail says firmly. “I am dying. This is a fact. I’ll only slow you down. You have a chance, but not with me. I’d rather turn myself in and face the consequences than continue like this!”
As much as he wants to argue, he knows that she is right. “But, Abby…”
“It’s all going to be okay. Now get out of here,” she urges.
He leans over and gently kisses her cold and clammy forehead.
“See you on the other side,” she calls out to him as he walks away. He doesn’t respond or look back. He just keeps walking. When she can no longer see him, she stands up and trudges in the opposite direction.
Dennis continues to walk and even steal bicycles on occasion as he makes his way to the medical rendezvous location. No matter what, he does not turn around even once.
Do you agree that the couple should separate at this point?
With little energy and her face plastered across the television, the police already have her in custody, he reasons. They will extradite Abigail to the United States. She may be interrogated to reveal his whereabouts, but she doesn’t know where he is with him on the move.
Her pitiful appearance is seared into his conscience. Abigail will probably die in a matter of days, maybe weeks if well-managed. So he mourns her as he moves from place to place.
Dennis finally meets the doctor during the evening at the location transmitted in the Morse code. He receives some fresh clothes, toiletries, and medication to manage his symptoms.
The doctor tells him that Nick was arrested and interrogated because of his role in their escape. However, the government did not prosecute him because Nick is one of the best medical researchers they have.
Since the time of Covid-19, the face of the world has changed. Instead of waiting for a deadly virus to spread, the victims and carriers are now remotely immobilized. Nick’s work with the government is too important to sacrifice over one runaway citizen.
While Dennis is happy that Nick is a free man, he wishes that he himself was as valuable to society. At least enough that poor health would not be cause for his government to consider him expendable. The world is losing its humanity for the sake of technological advancements.
His beautiful wall-length theatre television is something unimaginable to the locals. As he listens to the news that evening within a dingy old house in a rural African community, he learns that on the other side of the world, Abigail’s life gives out.
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