Chapter 1: Jeremy.
Tick, tick, tick.
All that was audible from my office cubicle was the hum-drumming sound of fingers tip-tapping on keyboards and that vexatious; oh god that repetitive, ticking of a clock sounding from behind me on the wall, as if trying to remind me that all my aspirations and goals had long fizzled from this lifetime, the moment I sold my soul to become a “Valiant member of one of Leeds'... No, no, one of England's finest recruitment companies C.A.P Corp!” What a load of bull-spunk, more like an underpaid, overworked keyboard slave jumping through endless hoops of fire only to have gallons of purely metaphorical shit gracefully dolloped all over your head by your gangly-ass boss, with the only inch of satisfaction knowing that on the fateful night you finally break your tether you could rip apart with ease, but in the end that only made you feel worse that you're a puppet in his undoubtedly miserable life.
“Jezzy! Jezzy!” Brilliant. The night was coming close to an end and if I had thought for once I'd have gotten through the day without Geoffrey attacking me with the barrage of shit that seems to endlessly fall out of his mouth, I was wrong. I quickly searched the room to make sure no one caught me talking to this genetic throwback, It was just the two of us – I hadn't noticed in my trance-like rant earlier that everyone had gone, I checked back to the demon clock behind me and was struck with confusion when it relayed to me that we had yet another hour to pass before our release from the grasps of this hellish limbo realised.“Jezzy!” He screeched once more, spitting at me every time he opened that foghorn of his.
“What do you want?” I sighed, making a conscious effort to keep my trembling food from rising off the floor and placing itself upon his rear.
“Have you heard the news!?” ...Eager beaver.
“Yes.” I hadn't. Unfortunately for me, dead-pan delivery wasn't enough to cool Geoffrey's jets, he was usually energetic but this time he seemed different, perhaps panicked. “What is it G-man, it's the last thing on a busy Friday night; do you not have a League of Legends clan-war to get to?”
“The servers are down for patching, they're getting rid of the bug that randomly disconnects pla-” I sighed heavily to interrupt his sentence. What? You didn't want him thinking I actually cared about his alter-ego PenisEater69 and his band of brothers did you? He looked at me concerned and ran back to his office cubicle further up the room from me.
“Dude come on, I didn't mean it!” He bent down on his desk and picked something up. Great, this is it, all this time I've spent ridiculing him has come back to bite me in the arse, I wonder what it is a gun? A knife? Was he capable of murder? No, surely not... I mean, at least I talked to him right? Perhaps I could salvage the situation by telling him his tie-dye socks brought out his ankles. He came running back towards me, just before my life had the chance to flash before my eyes I glanced upon his weapon of choice. Maybe it was a ninja star? In an unexpected turn of events he was holding up a radio, not unlike the way Link holds up his sword every now and then. After his moment of – whatever the hell it was – he ran back to my cubicle and placed the radio on the desk, switched it on. “What do you think you're doing?” I snapped.
“Oh, you really don't know?” His voice seemed to take an unnatural turn to seriousness, I exchanged a pissed off look. “Were you sleeping when everyone left?” I explained to him that I must have zoned out whilst looking into the monitor of my computer, I didn't like this serious evolution of G-Man, not one bit. “Just... Listen.” He turned the radio up.
Chapter 2: The 'Super Flu'.
Of course, like anyone who wasn't clinically insane, I couldn't quite believe what the radio was telling me – The same message played over and over again, spoken in a monotonous professionalism, the woman's voice had a cold tinge, I had figured that the message had been recorded and was playing on a loop. The first thought that occurred was that perhaps I was, unknowingly, the protagonist of an elaborate mass-prank; the second was reassuring myself that everyone on my office floor was either socially handicapped or just too darn stupid. I looked across to Geoffrey with an eyebrow raised and I remained silent, he seemed distressed and panicked, I held my gaze at him until he noticed.
We had been standing there for almost seven seconds as my eyes softly penetrated his, our noses practically touching as he stood stiff like he'd just engaged in a staring competition with Medusa. I waited whilst Geoff became visibly more uncomfortable by the second, through his eyes I could see my reflection, the worn out face of thirty-year-old man and the five o' clock shadow accompanying it, the 'average Joe' short back and sides hairstyle in a dull shade of brown, the frayed fringe which was no doubt caused by the stress that churned inside me permanently, but god-damn I was handsome.
I took a deep breath and furrowed my brows, “Boo.” Geoff's skeleton almost made a run for it as he jumped back against my office cubicle wall to the right of me, his broken-voiced shriek had me in stitches. I managed to regain my composure after feeding on his pain, I shook my head and looked back at the radio which had been playing the same message over and over throughout my antics, I reached out and turned a knob in search of a different channel. Yup, every channel was broadcasting the same message from the same voice. I wondered briefly how much moolah this woman had earned spewing out just this very one message, in all it's obscurities.
“Attention: Citizens of the Yorkshire area, we interrupt all broadcasts to give a very important message. There has been signs of a contagious infection within York, the infection is spreading at an alarming rate of pace and is heading towards areas such as Leeds, Wetherby and Harrogate. The source of this virus is unknown, all we know is that the infected individuals are showing symptoms of a 'Super Flu' of sorts, our main cause for concern is the extremely aggressive nature this infection is giving the infected individuals. It is highly recommended everyone return to their homes and await further news. Thank you.” An eerie five second tone, and the messaged looped again.
I turned the radio down and looked towards Geoff who was still breathing heavily after his big shock, he was sat up against the office cubicle wall. “Sorry, G-bomb. That was probably in bad taste.” I gave him an awkward, forced smile as I curled up the left corner of my mouth, my cheeks twitched which made me feel like a fool, smiling wasn't featuring on my limited list of talents any time soon. I extended a hand out and pulled the stick-insect-like man-boy up to his feet. Sure, he was irritating enough, but I needed someone to share this confusion with. He took a big breath of bravery and opened them naïve voice-flaps of his.
“You.. You... Y-” He gulped and hung his head. I squinted my eyes impatiently, and scratched underneath my chin with my thumb. I loved the sound of stubble being scratched. He piped up again, “You live alone right!?”
I dropped my hand from under my chin back to my sides, “What's it to you, Sheldon?” I said with my head slightly tilted. My mocking reference obviously struck unbeknownst to him. He nervously adjusted his glasses, I didn't like where this was going. Had he got the wrong message with my eye contact earlier? Was he going to ask if he can stay at my house, cuddle up in pyjamas and watch E.T with him whilst we eat marshmallows dipped in chocolate sauce?
“Well... You heard the message on the radio.” he started to wiggle his feet uncomfortably, I prepared myself to punch him in the jaw. “I don't feel safe walking the streets, and you have a car. No offence, but you don't really have anywhere to go. Can you take me home?” he sighed a breath of relief after the monumental task of structuring a whole sentence was over. Bastard! He didn't even want to watch E.T, he was just planning on using me for my car!
About a million and two insulting rejections sprung to mind, floating around in my head shouting 'Pick me, pick me!' My brain must have short-circuited and I just burst into uncontrollable laughter. I turned around to pick up my coat. “Can I take you home?” I managed to ask rhetorically, through bursts of laughter. I threw the coat on and met Geoffrey's gaze once more, his shoulders had slumped and he looked as if he was about to burst into tears. “G-man. I would rather spend the night in the middle of an all-male human centipede** than take your back to your mum and dad's basement.” At this I head towards the exit, chuckling to myself I left the building.
As I walked down the stairs of the multi-story car park I couldn't hear a thing. There was an eerie silence in the wind. It was far too quiet for a late Friday night, this made me think to the message on the radio. It has to be a big deal if this place isn't crawling with drunkards and chavs. The clip-clopping of my worn out shoes were the only thing accompanying me on the harrowing journey to my car, which fortunately for me lasted as long as the flavour in fresh chewing gum. I fumbled for my keys in my coat pocket and got into my car when I saw a shadowy object flash in my rear-view mirror. Deciding to ignore it I turned on the engine, which immediately triggered the radio.
“Attention: Citizens of the Yorkshire area, we interrupt all broadcasts to give a very important message. There has been signs of a contagious infection within York, the infection is spreading at an alarming rate of pace and is heading towards areas such as Leeds, Wetherby and Harrogate. The source of this virus is unknown, all we know is that the infected individuals are showing symptoms of a 'Super Flu' of sorts, our main cause for concern is the extremely aggressive nature this infection is giving the infected individuals. It is highly recommended everyone return to their homes and await further news. Thank you.”
“God damn-it.” I turned the radio off and stepped out of my car, I knew exactly who that shadowy figure was, but was mystified me was why I was turning back to approach him. “Geoff. Come on – I'll take you home.” Geoffrey emerged from the shadow, with the nerdiest smile you will ever see, I knew I normally would have regretted this adventure with Spock. Only the big man in the sky knows why I'd do such a thing, he was right about one thing though, I had no-one to go to and nothing to better to do.
Chapter 3: Meeting the Parents.
So here we are, I’m driving through the town as Geoffrey is talking me through his vast collection of hats on Team Fortress 2 and I realise two things: Geoff is the only person who would benefit
socially by having his vocal chords ripped out violently, thrown in the thrash and accompanied with two or three hand grenades; and that the usual busy Friday night scene is devoid of any
life-forms at all – it’s a creepy atmosphere to say the least. I scrunch up my face as I attempt to make normal conversation with Geoff.
“It’s Jeremy, by the way.” I said calmly, taking him by surprise as I cut off his relentless rant about shit nobody has time for. He takes his time with a response; surely this is a record for the longest time another human being has cared to exchange small talk with him for.
“W-What?” Came the feeble response as he looked at me and adjusted his bulky, thick-rimmed black glasses. That was quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine. It’s up there with people saying literally without actually saying something considered literal. Oh yes, she literally had me on the floor crying! No, she didn’t, you use that term in the wrong way one more time and I will literally carve out your intestine.
“You called me ‘Jezzy’ earlier” I made sure I added emphasis on ‘Jezzy’ so he knew not to go there – ever – again. “The name’s Jeremy. You call me ‘Jezzy’ ever again and I will pick you up by your scrotum and eat you, so help me god.” The words came out like casual, beautiful poetry as I tapped my hand in an off-beat rhythm against the steering wheel. He looked at me and nodded, he turned his head to look out of the passenger seat window.
“It’s the next right,” he whimpered, resembling a puppy that’s just been scolded for shitting in your suitcase. “Thank you for this, Jeremy. As a token of my appreciation you could stay for a spot of dinner courtesy of my mother… I mean, if you like.” Food. I was bloody starving so I figured I could take him up on his offer before I got the hell out of his cavern, hell, if this radio warning was correct it could be my last warm meal. I swerved the car right until we reached an estate of houses. Banoi Boulevard. “Number 15.”
“My last supper with the G-man and his folks, sounds like bliss. Sure, I’m in. Don’t go telling anyone you took me home to meet your parents though” I looked at him and smiled and I was met by a
surprised look, I liked him a lot better when he wasn’t talking about Final Fantasy or whatever it was.
I locked up the car and we headed out, I undid the top button of my shirt and slackened my tie as Geoff stood in his blazer. He rang the doorbell and I turned to him “You don’t have a key?”
“No, they haven’t trusted me with one yet – they say I can have one when I bring a girlfriend home ya’know,” I shook my head in disbelief, poor guy. I’m about to meet the only woman that has ever made contact with him. A few seconds passed, I checked out the neighbourhood, this place was a lot more decent then mine. There was even a garden across the road that had the hedges trimmed to resemble animals like giant dinosaurs and platypuses. I laughed to myself. Impressive.
The door swung open and a shivering voice followed “Hello pumpkin we’ve been ever so worried… Who’s this handsome young man?” She said as she looked toward me, I took her hand and planted a kiss on it. She had the face of a wrinkled old muffin with little crab eyes, her hair was beginning to grey ever so slightly and strands of hair flopped over her blue eyes.
“Hello honey, the name is Jeremy Cooper,” I said in my smoothest voice, as I brought her hand up and kissed it again – I licked her wrinkly hand a little and she let out a soft ‘oop’ noise.
Completely oblivious to me romancing his mother, Geoff cleared his throat “He drove me home after we heard the warning messages of the Super Flu on the radio, I invited him to stay for dinner if
that’s ok?” His mother obliged and welcomed us in; I followed Geoff into the hallway of his house. The hallway walls had various paintings of the city throughout the ages and the wallpaper was an
old fashioned brown and white, horizontally striped and visibly aged with slight draining of colour. I could smell a welcoming scent coming from the kitchen, the type only a mother could conjure
“Where’s dad?” Geoff asked.
“He’s in the bedroom, he isn’t feeling well – it’s a shame really, I was looking forward to – “
Geoff quickly butted in. “Mum, don’t even finish that sentence!” His mother giggles. What a backward family, and yet I’m not surprised at all.
“Dinner will be ready soon boys, how about you take a seat at the table?” She smiled at us. We took our seats in the dining room – It looked very old fashioned, again filled with paintings on the
wall, complete with a muted looking colour scheme to the walls and floor, and tons of books in a royal looking bookcase. Old damask fabric coats the dining seats; it felt as if I’d been time warped
to the forties. Time passed and small talk was exchanged until the strangest dinner I have ever seen in my life comes flaunting in the room in the hands of Geoff’s mum. We had what can only be
described as a barbeque cheese salad, a devilled chicken and some sweet-sour carrots. Needless to say my picky nature hated this queer menu, but I pressed on and ate it for the greater good. We
were halfway through eating when Geoff asked what was wrong with his dad. “Oh Geoffrey, it really is quite horrendous, I think it may be linked to this Super Flu they’ve been talking about on the
news. He’s got dreadful discolouring in his skin and his veins are a quite unique purple colour, you can almost see them throbbing out of his body, I think the root of the problems was a horrid
looking bite wound he told me got from a hunting trip. He came back with it bandaged up, I had a look as I was changing the bandages it was horrifying and he wouldn’t stop moaning. I called up a
doctor but they were dreadfully busy – They advised me to strap him down!”
I tried to lighten up the atmosphere “Kinky.” Tough crowd, I went back to eating the monstrosity in front of me.
“I didn’t quite have the heart to do that, I thought it couldn’t be so serious I had to strap him down, that’s ridiculous!” Her hands started to tremble as she picked up a bottle of Shiraz and poured a glass of wine; she took a sip and let out a sigh. “Jolly good wine this; did you know the grapes used to make this wine are from Iran?” Very cultured, Geoff’s mum.
“Mother, if he’s showing symptoms of the Super Flu shown on the news then you should probably strap him down, they say the infected turn very hostile and start attacking others.” I looked up from my dinner at the sound of these words; I thought I could hear a banging in my head until it got louder and louder. There was a loud cracking noise of a door being bust open coming from upstairs, almost on cue with Geoff’s words. All three of us shot up from out seats instantaneously, and I grabbed a fork in case we needed the firepower. I looked over to Geoff, a lanky man with skinny limbs, he doesn’t look like he’s ever done a bit of exercise in his life, that kid who always fakes shitting himself just to get out of Physical Education lessons. Brilliant – one of these infected blokes is probably going to attack us and on my side is a stick insect and Dora the Explorer’s grandmother.
The man got down the staircase in almost super-human speed, turning the corner to the opening of the dining room, he stood and looked straight at us – it was almost as if he was calculating a battle plan. Whatever this infection was had badly distorted his shirtless body, you could see the blood soaked through the bandage just below the shoulder of his left arm, there was dirty coloured blood seeping from his mouth. His pupils were the most disturbing feature, bright red; he looked crazed and ready to strike with his veins throbbing violently.
“Dad…?” Geoff gasped as he sized up his father, whom was roughly the same frame as his son. I was fairly muscular so I knew I could take him if it came down to, but for now I wanted to see how this would all play out. This shit was getting serious far too quickly, I suddenly missed eating my horrific meal and I sure as hell didn’t want to die in this horrid throw-back-to-the-forties house. Geoff’s mum approached her husband slowly, cautiously, ignoring Geoff’s calls for her to stay back.
“Graham, honey… Let’s get you back to bed now…”
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