By Dwayne MacInnes
Brady West was trying to relax at the family summer cabin deep in the Cascades. The sun was shining for a change, a nice change from Washington's usual rainfall. He often came here to get away from the busy and hectic life in Seattle. This cabin has always been a place of comfort in Brady's life and now was a time when he really needed some comfort. Especially when he would have to tell his parents that he had just flunked out of college.
Three years of aimless academic pursuit finally culminating in failure. "Yeah, the old man is going to flip over this one," Brady thought to himself.
His parents always wanted Brady to be more responsible and make something of his life. Finally, his father proposed that either he go to the University of Washington or join the military. Brady chose U of W over the military. He wasn't too anxious to be sent to the Middle East to either kill or be killed in some remote desert town. "Hell, the old man even promised to pay for everything if I would just get a degree in anything," Brady mused.
Nevertheless, after borrowing over a hundred thousand dollars for school, Brady failed. This failure meant more than just another lecture from his successful surgeon of a father, but also the entire cost accrued during those three years. There was no way his father was going to pay for his failure once again.
Well, it would be another couple of months before his parents would even notice that he was no longer at school. They seldom kept in touch save for the occasional email. In the meantime, he could stay at the family summer cabin. It was more than the usual summer retreat that most well to do families had in this area. In fact, this cabin was built by his great grandfather as a year round residence. There was an old water pump in the rear and deeper in the woods was the old outhouse. The trail occasionally had to be cut back because of the rapidly encroaching foliage. Fortunately, the cabin had been upgraded with modern conveniences such as electricity and indoor plumbing. The old wood burning stove was still the only source of heat though. The cabin offered a great deal of seclusion being off a rarely used gravel road on thirty acres of land.
Brady's grandfather had added a lot onto the original cabin after he retired from the railroad and had decided to spend the rest of his life up here away from the sprawling city. As a lonely widower Brady's grandfather found the seclusion welcoming. The cabin sported two stories. On the ground floor was the living room in front of the kitchen/dining room. Windows lined the wooden walls letting in a lot of natural sunlight. There were a set of stairs that ran up to the second story balcony. The balcony itself led to the two bedrooms and the bathroom on the upper stories. Across from the balcony high on the wall over the living room were the mounted animal heads from the various animals that Brady's grandfather loved to hunt.
This cabin had many amenities; there was a well-stocked pantry, a radio, television, and even a telephone. If he wanted to access the internet, he could use the dial-up modem for his computer. His father never believed in getting Wi-Fi or a cable modem for the cabin when one was supposed to be getting away from it all. It was quite a big deal when the television was brought into the cabin. Of course, there was no cable or satellite; there were just some local stations that he could tune in with the old aerial. It was far from the lifestyle Brady was used to but it was far better than living on the streets, which may very well be his future after he was disowned by his father. So until the time when everything came crashing down around his ears, he would enjoy one last summer as a hermit.
Being alone wasn't something new to Brady. He was an only child to a father who was always at the hospital and a mother who ran her own flower shop. Brady's mother used to bring him to the shop to watch over him before he entered kindergarten. He would always play in the back of the shop with his toys. Rarely was he able to play with the few friends he had as a youth. From grade school through high school, he tended to stay to himself. Of course, being one who tended to spend his free time reading outside or in the school library studying there was a lot of teasing and being bullied. College was better because it was very easy to get lost in the crowd. It was seldom that he would have more than one class with the same person.
The college courses weren't hard for Brady. He was actually a very bright young man. However, finishing anything wasn't something he did. The simple task of just turning in homework was beyond him. This would infuriate his professors to no end. It was obvious that Brady was intelligent from the very high test scores he received, but the lack of turned in work assignments would force the professors to give him marginal at best grades. This finally ended up with Brady winding up on academic probation and finally in flunking out of the university.
The cool breeze flowed in through the open window bringing with it scents of green leaves, budding flowers, and the sounds of chirping birds. "This is a life I could get used to," thought Brady.
Once again, he remembered the letter informing him of his being kicked out of college and he suddenly felt sick to his stomach. It was too late now to go back and turn in his homework. "If only I would have just turned in those stupid assignments," Brady thought angrily.
He shook his head and sat down on the couch. He needed something to take his mind off his problems if only it was for a few hours. Kicking his feet up on the coffee table, something that would get him a disapproving look from his mother, and grabbing the remote he flicked on the TV. There was some old sitcom on. Usually he didn't care for these shows but it was better than getting an ulcer worrying about his fate. After a few minutes, Brady found himself chuckling to himself over the antics of the unfortunate castaways on some deserted island. Brady had totally forgotten his troubles when a breaking news report disrupted the broadcast.
The reporter was an attractive middle aged woman sitting behind a desk with the image of a flame with the word "fire" superimposed on the background blue screen. She began, "Sorry, to interrupt your scheduled programming but a terrible fire is burning at the ColTech pharmaceuticals plant. We have Terry Lang on site to bring you more information."
"Thank you, Miranda," a young man in white shirt and red tie standing in front of burning complex surrounded by rescue vehicles replied. "I am now in front of the ColTech pharmaceuticals plant. Authorities have reported that the fire started in one of the test labs at around 6:00 this morning. This fire then spread quickly throughout the building and has been burning through much of the morning. Firefighters are trying desperately to get the blaze under control. Authorities haven't released any names, but they believe there were only a few people inside the building when the fire broke out. I have no information as to whether anyone has gotten out. The firefighters will try to determine the cause of the fire after it is under control. Back to you, Miranda."
The newsroom once again filled the screen. "Terry we at the news desk have heard that this lab was the target of the Animal Liberation Army. Is there any evidence that the A.L.A. may be involved?"
"There was an initial report of a possible break in before the building caught fire, but so far the police and the spokespeople from ColTech are denying this. We know that there had been many protests over ColTech using test animals in the past couple of weeks. Though ColTech denies..." suddenly behind the reporter, a small group of firefighters are seen bringing out a struggling and screaming girl in her twenties. "Just a minute Miranda, there appears to be a young woman being brought out by the firefighters. She looks to be in a lot of pain by the way she is screaming and struggling."
A police officer approaches the reporter and his crew. "I'm sorry, but you'll have to move back."
"Officer, can you tell us what is going on?"
"I'm sorry, but you'll have to move immediately."
Behind the reporter and the police officer, a fireman jumps back holding his arm. "Damn bitch just bit me!"
"Restrain her!" yelled another firefighter.
A paramedic runs over to the firefighter and starts looking at his arm. Another paramedic starts working on the restrained and still struggling and screaming woman. "Get another monitor over here," yells the paramedic bent over the woman, "this one isn't working."
The momentarily distracted police officer turns back to the reporter, "I'm sorry, but you will have to move back now!"
"Miranda, as you can see from the drama unfolding behind us, we'll have to relocate. We'll reestablish contact at our new site."
"Thank you Terry Lang," responds the newscaster back in the newsroom. "Let us recap the facts as we have them. Around 6:00 this morning a fire broke out and quickly spread throughout the ColTech pharmaceuticals plant. There may or may not have been a break in by the A.L.A at the plant at the onset of the fire. There were a few people working at the plant, but it is uncertain as to if any are now still in the building. We have just seen one individual brought out and she is now receiving first aid. She has been badly burned... what's that?" Miranda is holding a hand to her ear to help her hear the tiny earphone that is in it. "We will now take you back to the scene with Terry Lang."
The scene returns to Terry standing now much further forward of the rescue vehicles. "Well, Miranda, there is much going on now. We have been asked to move further away from the scene. But as you can see, we can still see the paramedics working on the young woman. She has just been strapped down onto the gurney. She appears to be trying to bite the paramedics and firefighters." The paramedics are seen lifting the gurney to its fully extended position and begin quickly wheeling it to an ambulance.
"Get her to the hospital immediately, these signs have to be wrong!" yells a paramedic, "Her signs are all screwy. She has no pulse and the equipment says that she is DEAD!"