The Great Unravelling
(See Table of Contents for previous installments)
As has been the case so many times in recent memory, the world spinning around me shifts in and out of focus. It’s impossible to know quite what is truly going on. Like the man in a rollercoaster of the world before this one, I’m strapped in and along for the ride. The twists and turns, the sudden dips and loops come rapidly and without warning, as though they are intentionally designed to make me ill at ease.
Except, unlike the thrill seeker of another time, I am very much in danger. The chills of the amusement park were engineered to trick the passengers into thinking their lives were at risk, all the while being safer than crossing the street. But me? My life is very much in jeopardy here. But I’m still just a passenger.
The Skeleton Man and Darlene waste little time in laying out their intent. I’m going to be a distraction. They’re going to march me right up to Vincent Conroy and drop the mother of all fuck yous right onto his lap. I’m not exactly filled with confidence that Conroy isn’t the “shoot the messenger” type. In fact, there’s a good chance he’ll shoot me outright the moment he recognizes me.
Any doubts I have about exactly how they plan on pulling this off quickly evaporate as they lead me from one secret tunnel to another, at every turn, Conroy’s private armed forces stepping aside the moment they see the sight of The Skeleton Man. Polite, if fearful, nods are the only exchange the guards have for him and the man-mountain flanking me.
If this were any other day I would wonder if the guards had any idea who I was, but today my ego is simply too deflated to actively participate in that particular train of thought.
Finally we make our way into the elevator that runs up the insides of Vincent’s tower. The ride itself happens in silence. I open my mouth a moment but a look from Darlene is enough to shut me up. I’m sick and tired of everything, and I don’t want to give that mammoth a reason to reacquaint those fists with my skull.
Right before the elevator stops The Skeleton Man’s fingers wrap around my shoulder, the effect is chilling. His other hand wraps around my wrist in a none too subtle threat.
That cold raspy whisper rattles into my skull, “do you have it?”
Always. I always have it. My hand instinctively moves to the decrepit flash drive attached to a chain around my neck. My greatest story. The story that consumed me for years.
“You make him watch it. Then your work is done.”
There’s no point in protesting. I know what this is. Soon Conroy will know what I know. Then it will be a miracle if I make it to see another day.
The ding of the elevator signals our arrival, and the doors open up directly into the tacky lavishness of Vincent Conroy’s “office”. The Skeleton Man steps passed me and gives Vincent the toothy smile of the Grim Reaper himself.
“We found St-Brigid as you wished Mr. Conroy, wants to show you something.”
Darlene gives me a shove and I meekly raise the flash drive up to show Conroy.
This moment is nothing like I had planned. In my head I had played out my triumphant face to face with Conroy a million times before. The final thing he was to see before those he had wronged took their vengeance would be me, and he would know that it was I who had orchestrated every moment leading up to his downfall.
This was not that moment. Surrounded by Darlene, The Skeleton Man and Conroy himself. People dying within the burning city for little to know reason. Not only did I not have an ace up my sleeve, but I wasn’t even dealt a hand. These men all likely wanted me dead. I honestly couldn’t figure out a reason any of them would keep me alive. I still couldn’t even work out whether The Skeleton Man was some sort of double agent, or if he was truly Conroy’s man the whole time.
Some fucking journalist I am.
Conroy, naturally, hasn’t aged a day. In his former life, he was a scientist. A wizard with genetics. Believe it or not he was born well before the Collapse. Before The Bomb. Before the dead walked the Earth. The bastard had cracked the code on immortality, but as far as I know he only ever used it on himself.
Wearing a pristine white suit that would have been expensive before the Collapse, and now would be literally priceless, the thin frame of Vincent Conroy approaches me. I’m ashamed to admit that I tremble.
Everything about him is nearly perfect, dark hair, blue eyes, chiseled jaw and well kempt moustache. His body is in peak physical health, which of itself is a rarity in this world. I’ve never quite put it together conclusively but I feel that his little immortality concoction also keeps his body in check as a thoroughbred human specimen.
“Is this what I think it is St-Brigid?”
“Why don’t you watch it and find out?” My voice wavers more than I would have liked. My nemesis chuckles. The confident laugh of a man who has his opponent dead to rights and from where I’m standing I can’t blame him.
He plugs the drive into his computer and after several clicks of his mouse, the screen is replicated on a projector on the far wall of his office. A video begins to play.
“I had thought these had been destroyed.”
“You thought wrong Vincent.” I can’t help but smirk slightly, no matter what happens, watching him see the contents of this video ought to be at least somewhat satisfying.
The date in the corner of the screen is surreal: 02/18/2104. Over 50 years ago. And there he is. The man of the hour. Vincent Conroy himself dressed in the white lab coat of his occupation at the time.
“This is Vincent Conroy, performing lab test HT-571 of the Reanimated Human Weaponization Project. After successfully applying the formula to lesser species, so begins our first experiment on a living human.”
Behind Conroy, there is man strapped down to an operating table, he is unconscious, but is visibly breathing.
“The subject is alive, all vitals normal. No history of any genetic abnormalities…”
He proceeds to recite the man’s medical history, height, weight, and the like. Finally, after more medical mumbo jumbo, he injects the man with some sort of serum. The camera holds on the body for minutes that seem like eternity. The breathing slows. Then stops. Then, his eyes open. The telltale groan of the undead pours from his lips.
Vincent Conroy is the man who made the dead walk the Earth.
Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.