Chapter 1: Prologue

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 1142
Comments: 1

Prologue

 

July 2078

 

Thomas Ezekiel Wellington let out a soft groan as he stirred. He was lying in a bed somewhere in a dark room. A monitor near him cast a faint glow. His stiff muscles told him he’d been there a while, but he couldn’t say how long. Where was he? Zeke traced his thoughts back to the last thing he remembered, but the exercise increased the pounding in his head. Trying to move his legs, he found that he couldn’t.

Am I paralyzed?

No, the pain reached his toes, so he wasn’t paralyzed, but he couldn’t move either. With great effort, he lifted his head to survey his body. When he did, his head throbbed. He lay back on the pillow and touched his forehead. It hurt and felt swollen as if someone had pounded a nail through it. 

He took two breaths and lifted his head again to see the condition of his body. Nothing was strapping him down, but he could swear he had a forty-pound blanket lying across him. His quick survey showed an IV line running from a bag, hanging above the bed, to his arm. 

I hurt myself — a fall. The details crept back into his conscious mind. Zeke could remember falling from someplace high, as in a dream, but he had no memory of hitting the ground. He didn’t need the memory; he had the pain. 

As his senses awoke, he realized something was wrong with his right arm. He turned his head to see what, but unlike his left arm, the sheet hid it. Whatever was wrong, it appeared to be much larger than his left arm. That’s too big for a cast.

He inched his left hand to his chest and pinched the sheet, pulling it back. He sucked in a breath, and a tear rolled down his cheek at the sight of his arm. Wires and rods weaved their way in and out of his skin. They were attached to something that looked like a metal cage that ran the length of his arm. The skin was a grotesque purple color, and it was nearly twice its normal size. 

Zeke shifted his gaze to his legs. Two large mounds rose under the sheets where his legs were. He left the sheet in place, not wanting to see what he suspected lay beneath it. He laid his head back, a slow panic rising in his chest. What happened to me? Zeke’s heart began to pound, and his breathing became rapid. He thought he might hyperventilate when an alarm sounded on a monitor next to his bed. 

A large wooden door on the far side of the room opened and a nurse wearing blue scrubs entered. The light from the hall beyond the door chased away the darkness and drew Zeke’s attention to the rest of his surroundings. The ornate decor was unmistakable. He was in his father’s house, in one of the downstairs sitting rooms, and he lay in a hospital bed. 

“Well, look who’s awake,” the nurse said with an Irish brogue. Zeke guessed she was in her fifties, grey sprinkling her hair, but fit, like a runner. Her name tag identified her as Colleen. She silenced the alarm and eyed the monitor. “Got yourself all excited, did you?” Collen started to pull the sheet to cover his injured arm but stopped. “Would you look at that? I’ve never seen anyone show so much progress in such a short time.”

Zeke had a hard time believing that what he saw was progress. “What happened,” Zeke said just above a whisper. His throat felt as if he’d swallowed sandpaper. 

“They tell me you had a nasty fall at rehearsal.” 

Rehearsal? Zeke’s head felt like the inside of a fishbowl, his thoughts sloshing back and forth. Then one particular thought sloshed to the surface — his concert tour. “I need to talk to my manager. Please, can you get him for me? It’s important.”

“Is it about your tour?”

“Yes.”

“Is he a good manager?”

“Yeah. He’s the best.”

“Then let him do his job,” she said. “I’m sure he’s taking care of everything. Besides, you’re in no shape to be talking business right now.” 

Zeke didn’t like someone managing his career without him, but she was right. He was in no condition to talk business. “Can you tell me when this happened?” 

“This morning, love. They say you’re lucky to be alive.”

“Why am I here? I mean, why am I not in a hospital?” Zeke hadn’t been to any of his dad’s houses for months. By choice. Most eighteen-year-olds didn’t have that choice, but Zeke Wellington wasn’t like most eighteen-year-olds. 

“You’ll have to ask your father about that,” Colleen said, and then added in a hushed tone, “but I think you will probably get better care here than at any hospital.” With that, she picked up a syringe she’d laid on a bedside table and injected it into his IV port. 

“What’s that?” Zeke asked. 

“It’s supposed to help with the pain.” 

Supposed to? Shouldn’t a nurse know what the medication does? 

She must have read Zeke’s expression because she added, “It’s not on the market yet. It’s one of WellPharm’s newest drugs. I’m guessing that’s one reason you’re here. But I’ll deny I said anything if someone asks.” She winked and turned to leave the room. 

Zeke had a thousand more questions, flitting in and out of his mind like fireflies, but he couldn’t catch any of them long enough to turn them into actual words. He wanted to ask Nurse Colleen not to go, but the closer she got to the door, the more she seemed to be an apparition floating across the room. Her image blurred into a mass of blue and then faded into black. 

 

The sunlight streaming into the room bled through his eyelids before Zeke opened his eyes. When he did, his father stood by his bed along with the nurse from the night before and a man whom Zeke gathered was a doctor. 

Zeke’s father was a tall man with broad shoulders and thick hair. To most people who were strangers, and to some who weren’t, Micah Wellington was larger than life. Like most boys, Zeke had looked up to his father once, but that was a long time ago. Micah stood with his arms crossed, one hand on his chin, talking to the other man. 

“How can you explain this, doc?”

“Well, I can’t. Not with science anyway,” the doctor said. 

“You’re saying this is a miracle?”

“No.  I’m saying I can’t explain it. I’ve never seen anyone heal at the rate your son has. I’ve never even heard of anybody healing from these kinds of injuries so fast.” The doctor looked at his watch. “It’s been a little more than 24 hours, and he’s made the progress you’d expect to see take months.”

Zeke tilted his head to check out his right arm. It didn’t hurt as bad as it had before. He put a finger to it; the swelling was better. To his relief, someone had removed the apparatus surrounding his arm. The color hadn’t returned to normal yet, and the swelling wasn’t all gone, but the doctor was right, it wasn’t the same as it had been last night. He balled his hand into a fist feeling his muscles flex and then bent his arm at the elbow. The motion caught the doctor’s attention. 

“Ah, Mr. Wellington. How are you feeling?”

Zeke considered the question for a minute, and that simple act wore him out. Why am I so tired? he thought. But there was something more — electricity surging beneath his skin, like an army of energized ants crawling up and down his skeleton. Fatigue and effervescence mingled, one feeding the other. This must be what butterflies experience before emerging from their cocoon. He said, “I’m fine,” but he was better than fine. Even lying in a hospital bed, recovering from serious injuries, he was more alive than he’d ever been. 

“Young man,” the doctor said with a broad smile, “you are lucky to be alive, much less to have a shot at walking again. But what I’ve seen over the past day tells me you’ll be on your feet soon. Very soon.”

Zeke lifted his head to peer down at his exposed legs. Like his arm, the color wasn’t right, and they were still a little swollen, but also like his arm, with no rods or wires attached to them. He raised his left leg, bending at the knee.

“Okay, now, you’re gonna have to take it easy. You’ve got some amazing healing ability, but you’re not a superhero.” The doctor, who was short and thin with large round glasses, put his hands on the bed rail. “After you’ve recovered, I’d like to run some tests. See if we can’t figure out what’s going on in your body.”

Nurse Colleen, who had been flitting around taking care of things, picked up a small bottle from the bedside table and slipped it into her pocket. 

Micah Wellington said, “Well, look there, son, you’ve finally done something noteworthy.”

Micah and the doctor laughed as if he were joking. The doctor would, no doubt, think Micah was joking. Zeke was one of the most recognizable faces in the entertainment world. What father would demean a son who had reached the level of success Zeke had, and all by the age of eighteen? Anger flashed hot under Zeke’s skin. That’s exactly what his father had done — demeaned him. His comment was a jab at Zeke’s success, fool's gold he called it. His father liked money as much as the next guy, but status was his favorite currency. And if Zeke were right, his father’s insult wasn’t just a jab; he meant it to be ironic. After all, Zeke had a good idea who would take credit for his miraculous healing.

“I’ll be back this afternoon to check on you,” the doctor said. “I think by tomorrow morning, you may be ready to take a few steps.”

Micah shook the doctor’s hand as he left and then turned his attention to Zeke once they were alone. “What the hell were you doing swinging from the top of the arena?”

“Oh, stop, I’m getting all choked up.” 

“Don’t get smart,” Micah said. “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t have your so-called career.”

“Well, I’m eighteen now, so you won’t have to worry about me anymore.”

“What were you doing when you fell?” his father insisted. 

“I was rehearsing for a show.”

“At the top of the arena?” 

“Have you ever been to a concert?” Zeke said, not trying to hide the disgust he felt. 

“Yes, but not the circus. You’re lucky to be alive.” Micah walked to a cabinet and retrieved a glass and a bottle of bourbon. He poured a drink. 

“I am lucky to be alive, and if I’m guessing right, you’re lucky I’m healing so fast.” 

Micah’s lips turned up at the ends in the hint of a smile. He tilted his head toward his son, a twinkle in his eye. Nothing made Micah Wellington happier than being in pursuit of the latest pharmaceutical breakthrough, and the financial windfall that would follow. “We planned to release the drug you received yesterday in a couple of months as a pain reliever.”

“I can say from personal experience that it works. But you knew that.”

“Yes,” Micah replied, “but when we started developing this drug, it wasn’t for pain. We wanted to enhance the body’s ability to heal itself, to shorten recovery time after surgery or injuries like yours. After we spent more money than we’d budgeted on the project, my researchers discovered that it was effective for treating pain.” He took another sip of the amber liquid from his glass. “It was an easy decision. They couldn’t promise me the drug would shorten recovery time, but it would kill pain, and killing pain is big business.” 

“But healing people is a bigger business,” Zeke said as he tested his arm, pushing himself up in the bed. 

“Yeah, and if we’d had these results in our initial testing . . . well, let’s just say that instead of buying a house in Tuscany, your mother could have bought Tuscany.”

“So, what went wrong?” Zeke asked, his curiosity overcoming his desire to end the conversation.

“We don’t know, but thanks to you and your acrobatic career, we have the chance to find out. Our scientists will be here this evening to begin testing.” 

“Really,” Zeke said. “Thanks for asking if I’m willing to be a part of the study.”

Micah put his empty glass on the table and his hands in his pockets. Striking a casual pose of superiority that made Zeke want to do anything but what his father asked. “I had envisioned grooming you to take over the company the way I took it over from my father, but you were never my son, were you? I treated you like my own, but you always did your own thing.”

“You didn’t need me to run your company; a hundred guys can do that. But I needed you to back me up.” Zeke eased his legs over the side of the bed and put his feet on the floor. At first, they were uncertain, threatening to fail him, but the electricity running through his body strengthened them. 

As he pushed himself away from the bed, a shot of pain raced through his temple. It was so sudden and extreme, he almost fell. Catching the bed, he steadied himself and prayed the pain would go away. It did, some, leaving him dizzy for another moment.

Micah watched his son stand, disbelief and fascination mingling in his expression, but his tone didn’t change. “I did support you. So how about a little gratitude? When the team comes to check you out, I expect you to cooperate with them.”

The sensation running through Zeke’s body was something between pleasure and nausea. The longer he stood, the stronger he felt. A pulsating fire ran through his injured arm and legs and somewhere inside his abdomen. He took two steps away from the bed toward his father, who, despite his size, seemed smaller. “You couldn’t stop my mother from financing my first record deal. I wouldn’t call that support. And everything I’ve done since then has been on my own, despite your constant criticism. You never even came to one of my shows.” Zeke’s steps became a confident stride. Something like fear flashed in his father’s eyes, but only for a moment. 

“Do you know why I’ve never come to any of your shows? I don’t have time to watch you prance around on stage while I’m trying to make a difference in—”

Before Micah could finish his sentence, Zeke closed the distance between them and grabbed him around the neck with his left hand. With a single effort, he lifted his father off the floor. A current ran through every muscle, every nerve in Zeke’s body. The longer he held his father, the stronger he felt. Micah clawed at Zeke’s hand, trying to break his grip, but he could not. Zeke held him until his father began to lose consciousness, and then he dropped him on the floor. 

Micah coughed and gulped in air, but he didn’t try to stand. His eyes showed fear with no attempt at masking it. 

“I will meet with your scientist, so I can get the formula for the medicine you’ve created. If you try to stop me, I will finish what I’ve started here.”

Micah said nothing, and Zeke knew that was the closest thing he’d get to consent. As he crossed the room, Zeke stopped at the hospital bed. Grabbing it with both hands, he flipped it onto its side. He smiled over his shoulder at his father and walked out the door


Submitted: April 12, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Doug Felton. All rights reserved.

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Rob73

A gripping book.
It is well written.

Sat, May 2nd, 2020 5:16am

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