Writing and Reviews – Denise Pasutti
The day that Morgan and Carrie Gates died could have been just another warm April morning in the Alberta prairies, if the world hadn’t been ending. They were heading west to the BC coast, chasing rumours that the Chimera hadn’t ravaged the area as badly as they had through the prairie region. The stories that made the dangerous journey worth it said the islands dotting the Strait of Georgia, the Southern Gulf Islands, were safe from the Chimera threat. The islands were small, isolated and had small populations before the invasion and now they were relatively uninhabited as people sought refuge in the heavily militarized cities on the mainland and Vancouver Island; safety in numbers. But they missed what some had realized, that a small island with nearly no population could easily be fortified and protected against outsiders who may be infected with the virus and not yet showing signs. The need for this sanctuary, to run and hide from the creatures was different from the first time the Chimera attacked.
At 21 Serrin remembered the first appearance of the Chimera but she had been young enough to not truly understand what the beasts were and where they had come from. She had been barely 11 and the fear, the memory of nights spent with dozens of other families in the neighborhood church basement surrounded by armed men and women trying to protect the town of Estevan Saskatchewan, stuck with her always in nightmares. She had shared a small cot with one of the girls from her neighborhood while Quinn, just 4 years old slept with their Mom as Morgan stood guard. Her twin brother Galen spent those nights between tossing and turning in cot next to her, to wandering upstairs with the hope of being allowed to stand guard as well. As light-hearted as the adults tried to make the situation the air of tension always bubbled just below the surface and they wore it in their weary, fearful eyes. The grown-ups did all they could to keep the reality of the beasts from the children but kids being kids found a way to see what had put their normal lives into upheaval. During the 3 months that the town went on lockdown each night, chaos reigned when it got close to lights out. The group of about a dozen men and women would be preparing for the nocturnal watch and everyone else was trying to get the beds ready and keep the 20 children calm and in line for the massive slumber party.
Serrin, Galen and couple of their schoolmates were able to get their hands on a cell phone that worked in the basement and find a still image of one of the Chimera on the internet, desperate to see what real life monsters looked like. Serrin stared at the image, not quite understanding what she saw. It looked human but its skin had a grey, ashen hue and it had no hair whatsoever on the nearly naked body of what had been a man, it’s torn trousers kept it from appearing completely inhuman. But the really scary parts were the mouth and arms and they shattered any illusion of humanity that could possibly exist in this creature. The mouth was locked in a crude smile, lips pulled back from broken and jagged teeth that looked like they could tear away the flesh of the children beholding its visage, and a swollen purple tongue pushed against the wicked grin. The right arm was truly grotesque as Galen zoomed in on it so they could get a closer look. Flesh had been stripped away leaving nothing but blood splattered bone, appearing as hard stone but altered, mutilated into a kind of knife with a serrated edge carved out of the bone. The left arm hadn’t been as disfigured but it only had two fingers remaining on the hand and those had been similarly stripped of flesh and sharpened into deadly points, kind of like the skewers that Serrin’s Dad used when making kabobs on the barbeque.
Serrin had nightmares for 6 months after seeing the image and the fear and knowledge that the beasts had existed and could have gotten to her and her family remained for years. The threat had been eliminated shortly after she saw the image of the Chimera but there were constant reminders of the beasts’ existence as the nation rebuilt from the havoc and terror they had created. Serrin heard trickles of information about where the monsters came from but it was never clear, not even when she had gone to college and searched for information to help quell the unending nightmares. Some reports said they were aliens, others claimed they were people mutilated by a sadistic scientist, or that they were a remnant of Nazi experimentation to create super soldiers. The consensus and fear that had been fed to the populace in Serrin’s neck of the woods said that the Chimera existed because of a blood born virus created in a lab in the Pacific Northwest. The reports were muddled and nothing concrete could ever be confirmed. It should have been easy to ignore, to not worry about genetic mutants but Serrin couldn’t push away how the monsters may have come to be.
A little over a year after they had stopped hiding and the Chimera were gone, Serrin’s family welcomed Kasee to a world still trying to forget that the monsters had ever risen and been a threat to humanity. While society returned to normalcy, the Gates family started to experience strange and unexplained alterations in their children. For Serrin it started with voices in her head, people speaking and saying things, things that no one else would hear. Fear and panic struck her as she didn’t know why this happened and she worried that she might be crazy. She didn’t tell Morgan and Carrie not sure what they would do and they had their hands full with Kasee who was turning out to be a peculiar baby. She never cried and when she looked at anyone there appeared to be a clear recognition of what they were saying and often time’s people would say that they thought they heard her speaking, silently but clearly.
Serrin’s fears about her sanity were alleviated when she realized that not only Galen heard voices too but that Quinn had also been going through the same thing. They discovered that they could hear the thoughts of others and in short order that they could communicate among themselves telepathically. The biggest shock came when their 1 year old sister projected these abilities to an extent beyond any of them going beyond telepathy to telekinesis. At that point, Morgan and Carrie couldn’t deny that something had happened to them all since the discovery of the Chimera and the virus they carried. They pressed the twins and Quinn to tell the truth about what they had been experiencing but didn’t know what to do other than to support them and keep it a secret for the time being; the Chimera threat was still too fresh. The telepathy had a terrible impact on Quinn as she cried and wanted it all to stop. Over time and with the support and teachings from her family, she learned to control it but she never seemed at peace and remained unstable and disturbed by the gift.
The Gates kept the knowledge of the telepathy and telekinesis within their family, not willing to subject their children to medical experiments or the fear that being different might instill in others. Even with the denial and the attempt to treat these changes as special and not frightful, Morgan and Carrie had grave concerns about it being connected to the Chimera virus. There had been a time, after the invasion, that vaccines were administered as precautions against any other potentially airborne viruses that may exist and it was this that stayed in the backs of their minds. Time passed and the unusual abilities grew in the Gates children but they were not the only ones. Reports came to light of other children who were displaying similar abilities of telekinesis and inhuman strength and agility. What the Gates feared for their kids happened to the others, to the children in the reports. They were taken to special facilities to be monitored and tested. Every few weeks a news story would crop up to show that the children were being well cared for and were perfectly healthy and safe but there was endless mistrust and fear that came with the knowledge of the gifted children. They were pariahs, making it all the more important for Serrin, Galen, Quinn and Kasee to keep their own abilities to themselves.
In the days after the beginning of the second invasion of the Chimera, those children, some adults and teenagers, became targets of the fear that so many people had thought they would never feel again. The Chimera resurgence came from the Northwest Territories and were mild at first but with an increase of sightings came an increase of fear and fear of anyone who was not genetically normal. The Gates were uneasy as doctors started to test the entire town knowing that 3 of those children who had first been discovered as genetic mutants were from Estevan. They were doing testing for any genetic anomalies but the Gates got lucky, in a way, because they fled like most others before the kids could be found out.
It was a month after the invasion started when Morgan and Carrie made the decision to leave with Quinn and Kasee, picking up Galen and Serrin from college on way. They made the move after seeing media reports of armies being overwhelmed by the Chimera and the monsters numbers increasing, growing with each attack. The violence among the human population within the town had also escalated cementing their decision to leave. Morgan and Carrie knew that this invasion was different from the first time that the Chimera appeared. The attacks were more brutal and the authorities and media couldn’t hide the fact that the people being attacked were being infected with the virus, turning the victims into Chimera and proving that it could be transferred via bodily fluids. There was no end to the beasts as they continued to infect people and make an army of deadly, nearly unstoppable monsters. It all added to Morgan and Carries’s concerns that there was a connection between the Chimera virus and what was happening to the children.
The fear, the terror, the stigma led the Gates to the outpost in the Alberta prairies, running for their lives. The Chimera numbers continued to grow and all they could do was flee from the beasts and from the truth that Serrin, Galen, Quinn and Kasee had been infected with a variation of the virus that made them more human than human but not savage or mutilated like the Chimera. They were a hybrid and among the first of a new generation of humankind.
© 2013, Denise Pasutti