The Pulse: Ch. 1 Destruction

Just to be perfectly clear at the start this isn’t a diaper oriented story, but falls decidedly on the AB side of things, though of course there is diaper use. Unlike the previous story I posted here, there is no physical AR in this one, it is all mental AR/AB material. It is a lengthy story so I’m posting it here split into it’s four chapters. The first chapter has very important set-up but most of the AB stuff starts in chapter 2.

This story is based on an idea from a Stephen King novel, “Cell” where people are turned into murderous zombies when their brains are wiped by a cell-phone virus. The characters and the plot are all my own, the setting is the same because, like King, I spent half my life in Boston and know it well.

Craig Anderson was on top of the world. After months of slaving away in a room lit only by the flickering light of a computer screen, he had at last completed the final edits to his first novel. Well, it wasn’t really his first novel, but it was the first he had ever convinced someone to publish. He hoped that it would not be the last, but even if it was, it didn’t matter, because for the rest of his life Craig would be able to say he was a published author. Not only that, he could now throw the book in the face of his ex-wife, Jessica. All those years she had held him back, had told him he was being irresponsible with his late nights writing drafts in his study. Towards the end of the marriage he spent more time in that little room in the finished basement than he did with his family. Just the memory of those days was enough to briefly depress Craig’s exuberant mood. Craig pushed the thought from his head. Today was not a day to dwell on the past; it was a day to exalt in his increasingly bright future.

Craig rolled up the sleeves of his shirt as the warm July sun brought him back to reality. He didn’t often come to the Financial District of Boston, so he took a moment to get his bearings. He had just left his publisher’s office on Congress Street and he needed to get to the T station at Government Center, so he’d have to climb the long stairs up from Quincy Market, there was no other way. Craig sighed, he was only 36, and to the untrained eye he still looked quite thin and fit. He knew better, Craig was starting to feel the weight of years as a result of far too little exercise in recent years.

His left knee, arthritic from a college soccer injury, pained him as he climbed the steps to the wide red brick plaza in front of New City Hall, but he did his best to mask the pain, not wanting to draw odd looks from passersby as he climbed. The plaza was filled with people in business attire rushing about in typical Boston fashion, all of them in a hurry to get where they were going faster than anyone else. Families of tourists, gawking at the centuries old buildings below the plaza, acted as obstacles to the flow of native Bostonians making their way quickly across the cobblestoned landscape. As Craig made his way towards the subway entrance by Tremont Street, limping slightly as his knee recovered, he was stopped in his tracks by a wonderful smell emanating from the Starbucks on the edge of the plaza. Craig decided that a Frapuccino would really hit the spot on this hot summer afternoon so he made his way to the café, entering under the giant old cast-iron tea kettle that had marked the entryway to the many different coffee-shops which had inhabited this building since over a century ago.

The Starbucks was crowded with customers and Craig was sure he’d be in line for half an hour, but the baristas worked fast and the line moved along smoothly. No one in line talked to each other, Boston had never been known as a friendly city. Several customers were busily gabbing away on their cell phones, barely pausing to give their orders. A quick swipe of the debit card and they were done, Craig sometimes marveled at the modern bank system, who even needed to carry cash anymore? Craig tried to make out the elevator music playing softly in the background, drowned out by the din of voices in the crammed café. A woman screamed somewhere in the distance, Craig glanced out the window, people seemed to be rushing about a little faster than normal, he shrugged and returned to his thoughts.

“What can I get you?”

Craig was shaken out of his thoughts by the female voice. He realized suddenly that he had reached the front of the line.

“What can I get you, sir?” the college-aged blonde girl behind the counter asked him again.

“Oh, um, a caramel frappucino, please.”

“What size?”

“Oh, medium I supposed.” Craig could never remember what they called their sized here anyway.

“Grande Caramel Frap” the girl called down to the barista, as she swiped Craig’s Citizen’s Bank card through the debit terminal.

Craig relaxed and moved down to the end of the bar, waiting for his drink to be ready. There seemed to be some commotion outside now, but Craig was focused on listening for his drink to be called. Other customers argued over whose tall decaf double soy caramel latte had been called. Craig was a bit worried that he wouldn’t be back in time to see Brooke, his girlfriend, before she went out to her book club meeting. He checked his watch impatiently as the minutes without his drink presenting itself ticked by. It was 3:35.

The din of voices was interrupted by the sound of tires squealing somewhere on Tremont Street, followed quickly by the loud crunch of metal on metal. Everyone in the shop looked around, but the car wreck wasn’t visible from their vantage point, so they returned to their business. But then came the sound of more tires screeching like banshees and more metallic thuds, this time more distant. Craig saw looks of concern beginning to dawn on people’s faces, but he figured it must be a chain-reaction crash, nothing more.

“Caramel Frap!” the barista bellowed, and finally Craig reached up and grabbed his cool, sweet treat off the bar.

No sooner had he done so than the whole building seemed to vibrate and the glass windows wobble as the sound of a jet engine, much too low, filled the café. Now everyone stopped what they were doing and looked back and forth at one another. Those close enough to the windows peered up at the sky. The sound diminished as quickly as it began and everyone seemed to take a collective breath. Then they heard something else, something completely different, but much more bone-chilling. It was the sound of dozens of car alarms and building alarms going off at once, mixed with the sound of screaming. Craig, along with everyone else in that Starbucks, looked out the window at the plaza. Even the baristas had stopped their work, letting the steaming milk boil over. At that moment a yellow taxi going an amazing speed, slammed into a parked car on Tremont Street and was launched airborne. It landed with tremendous force, upside-down and rolling repeatedly across the plaza. It barreled over tourists and workers, killing them where they stood. The café was completely silent for a moment as people realized that something horrible was happening. Then, all at once, they pulled out their cell phones and started to dial.

Craig yanked the iPhone Brooke had given him for Christmas out of his pocket. The little gadget had been a Godsend, he wasn’t sure how he’d lived without it. But to his horror, Craig discovered he’d let the battery die, he felt naked without his cell phone. There weren’t any public phones anymore, they had started to disappear years ago. He had no way to get in touch with Brooke. The sounds of a police siren filled the air and Craig looked up hopefully, few others gave any notice, too busy on their phones. The siren got closer and closer and then there it was, a police cruiser barreling down Cambridge Street towards the plaza. Only it wasn’t slowing down. Too his horror, Craig watched as the cruiser slammed into a light pole, knocking it over, crashed over a fire-hydrant, and then rolled over, sending a shower of sparks as it skidded over the plaza and stopped with a crunch as it collided with the destroyed taxi. Water sprayed high into the air from the broken hydrant, while the crashed cruiser began to burn, clouding the plaza in smoke.

Craig looked away from the carnage and it was then that he became aware of what was happening in the Starbucks. The first thing he noticed was that everyone was sitting on the floor. He thought perhaps they had dived to the ground as the police car crashed so nearby. Only he then noticed that the woman nearest to him, a 20-something blonde, dressed in business attire, had kicked of her high heel shoes and was laying on her back, her pretty blouse getting dirty on the grimy floor, while she sucked on her fingers. Her hair was all messed up and strands fell across her face, obscuring his view of it but clearly something in her mind had snapped under the stress. Craig was distracted by a slapping sound. A college-aged girl who was sitting at a table by the window was now drumming her hands on the table, smiling broadly and giggling to herself, she was swinging her legs back and forth under the table, looking completely carefree. Craig didn’t know what to think now. He tried to see what her companion seated across from her thought of the odd behavior, but this girl was busy chewing on the pearls of her necklace, which she had jammed in her mouth, a line of drool dripping from her chin. Craig soon realized that nearly everyone in the café was behaving like a child, many like infants.

But not everyone was off in la-la land. Two others in the café looked as astonished and disturbed by the situation as he was. They were both older women, past middle-age, and dressed in business attire. One rushed through the café, around the drooling gurgling adults littering the floor and addressed him. “I don’t know how it happened, they were all on their phones and then they were like this,” she gestured to the floor where one young man was tugging weakly at her dress and babbling baby-talk up at her. Craig looked down at the man and noticed something else, the cell phones that lay scattered on the floor, many broken apart as if dropped.

“It was the phones!” Craig exclaimed. “It had to be the cell phones, they were all fine until they got on them weren’t they. If it was something else we’d all have been affected.”

The woman nodded in understanding. “Thank God, I never remember to bring that thing with me!”

A loud blast cut the woman off, the large glass windows shattered, sending thousands or shards flying inward at them. Craig grabbed the woman and threw her to the floor as the sharp glass bit into his exposed skin and shredded his shirt. Craig rose from the floor coughing, the café had filled with dark sooty smoke, he could barely see the floor in the bombed out shop. The older woman was laying limp beside him, he grabbed her and began to drag her out of the café. Though his ears were ringing he could still hear the wailing and crying of the infantized adults in the café, but he could not see them, or save them all. Emerging from the ruined building he saw the source of the blast, the cop car and the taxi had exploded when the fire reached their gas tanks. Craig took deep breaths of clean air as he carried the unconscious woman away from the smoke. He lay her down on the sidewalk, but saw from the deep gash on her head that it was useless, Craig regretted never learning CPR, now would have been a good time to know first aid.

Craig briefly considered going back in the café to get others, but the flaming debris shot into it had now turned the Starbucks into a flaming inferno in its own right. He surveyed the wasteland that had been Government Center Plaza. Bodies littered the red bricks and smoke was pouring not just from the wrecked cars, but also from the subway entrance. If he had gotten on the Green Line rather than go to Starbucks… it was best not to consider such things. The only thing to do now was get to Brooke and then check on Jessica and his twelve-year old son Brian. They lived up in Maine now, well away from Boston thank God, but still he needed to know they were all right.
Craig made his way down Tremont Street towards Boston Common, he tried to keep up a fast pace, he had a long walk in front of him. He needed to reach his apartment on Dartmouth Street in the Back Bay, Brooke would be there waiting for him he was sure. He made his way past dozens of traffic pile-ups and places where cars had careened into the fronts of buildings. Smoke was pouring out of some of the upper floors of these apartment buildings. Craig assumed the owners had been cooking when they lost their adult minds. These fires would spread soon enough and then the whole city would be ablaze since clearly the fire department was somewhere else, if it still existed. The image of the police cruiser crashing flitted through Craig’s mind.

The people he saw on the street were of two types. There were many like himself, rushing along trying to get home or to some safe place, mostly older people, those who didn’t have cell phones or hadn’t had them with them today. Then there were the affected. Many seemed to have regressed into little children. They were the hardest to look at because they looked so scared. Imagine being only 4 or 5 years old, not knowing where your parents were and surrounded by carnage. He passed one middle-aged man wearing a full business suit but crying his eyes out, his cheeks stained red from tears, calling “Mommy, I wan’ my mommy!” There were others though who had regressed much further and they seemed perfectly happy, totally ignorant of the horrors going on around them, unaware of what they had already lost. As he neared the Common, Craig passed a teen girl in her Catholic school uniform crawling on her hands and knees on the sidewalk. She’d lost her shoes her knee-socks were getting all cut up from dragging along the cement, her little tartan skirt was half off, revealing her most immodestly, but she didn’t mind one bit. She was crawling along with a sunny smile, drool dripping from her wet lips as she chewed on her long hair, oblivious to her plight. Craig considered stopping to help her, but then realized he’d have no idea what to do with her. Besides why should she be more deserving of help than the older man he’d just passed, just because she was a hot teen girl? Craig passed her by and tried not to look back.

When he reached The Common, Craig saw that this was actually worse than he thought. The whole park was ablaze. The tail section of a commercial jet had crushed the century old entrance to Park Street T-station and the historic Park Street Church had been crushed, its wooden steeple turned to matchsticks by the crashing jet. Yet no fire-engines were here either. Craig realized then that it was likely not just cell phones affected by whatever this was, but radio too. Craig looked at the sky; there was nothing there, no jets, no helicopters, nothing. It was like the days following 9/11 when the skies were empty.

The initial shock that had blunted out all his emotion, allowed him to focus only on his goal of getting home, was now washed away. In its place Craig felt terror gripping him. This was much bigger than he had realized, he was suddenly aware that Brooke might not be okay, might not be patiently waiting for him to come home. She may be wandering these dangerous streets trying to find him right now, or perhaps she had tried to call him on her cell phone, she could be trapped in a burning apartment right now without the intelligence to look for a way out. With that thought in his mind Craig began to run. He ran as fast as his arthritic knee would let him, sprinting down Tremont Street towards his home. He passed burned out taxis, mangled wrecks, abandoned police cars and dozens of crying or babbling people. It all became a blur as he made his way around burning debris and past all the other obstacles standing in his way. Only a few sights stood out; a young girl trying to get her thumb-sucking father to stand up, two teen boys in gansta style clothes, leading a third teen boy by the hand as he gazed curiously around with blank innocent eyes, looking like a five year-old playing dress-up, and a man pushing a thirty-something woman down the street seated in a grocery cart, buck naked, cheerfully sucking on her toes while she wet herself.

Craig reached his block on Dartmouth Street at just before 5 o’clock. He was glad to see that it seemed perfectly quiet and normal, nothing seemed to have happened here. There were cars parked peacefully on either side of the street and no smoke or wrecks at all. The air was still tainted with the smell of smoke and death but otherwise nothing might have been amiss. The lights were on in the lobby of his five-story brownstone building. The air here was cleaner and it still had the feeling of being a grand old place. Craig rushed up the stairs to his third-floor apartment and after some frantic fumbling he found the keys to let himself in. He couldn’t just ring the doorbell, because if she didn’t answer right away he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to go inside for fear of what he’d find. Finally he put the key in the hole and turned the door-knob, stepping into the apartment.

To Be Continued…

The Pulse: Ch. 1 Destruction

That was pretty good. I’m a fan of Steven King so i can enjoy this and i can see where you borrowed from his ideas but you did something not many writers who borrow so heavily from a license can do and that is making the story youre own