Saturday, February 24, 2007

He Hates Gay People - The Banality of Evil

He's honest and he hates gay people. Former NBA great, Tim Hardaway, was as blunt as one can get when interviewed 10 days ago by Dan Le Batard (hear the full audio here).

The reaction around the league and elsewhere has been interesting to follow, some of it no doubt stemming from political correctness and not so much from ethical principles. Hardaway himself, first stood by his remarks, but later apologized when it became readily apparent that he would suffer financial and personal consequences because of his remarks.

What struck me most in listening to him was the casual and direct way that he spoke of his hatred. There was nothing in the tone of his voice to indicate any moral ambiguity at all. He didn't even display any special passion when discussing his hatred. It was all banal. In fact, it was reminiscent of the anti-Semitic language of the fascists of the 1920s and 1930s. "Jews are money grubbing. Jews make me uncomfortable. Jews killed Jesus, you know..." and so on. Before the Final Solution, you would have been hard pressed to find Nazi officials who were particularly vehement and outspoken in their hatred of Jews. After all, it was official policy and every normal person just knew that Jews were inferior to the Aryans.

Is the comparison justified? I think so, or I wouldn't have made it!

After all, homosexuality is the defining moral issue of our times. More than any other issue (it even beats out abortion and evolution on the agenda of the neoconservatives), gay marriage, gay adoption, and homosexual rights are where the lines in the sand get drawn. And I'm used to passionate debate with good friends and family members about the issues. It can get very heated very quickly.

But what I can honestly say distresses me more than anything else surrounding this debate is the banality and unequivocal, matter-of-fact certitude of people like Tim Hardaway. It scares me that there is no hesitation, no second thought, no reticence. Sure, we can satirize Hardaway (as George Takei did hilariously), but he is representative of a very large percentage of the American, and possibly Canadian, public. That group of people frighten me. They do not rant and rave. They don't wave their Bibles in your face. They don't pull you to your knees asking for God's forgiveness. They merely know they're right and you're wrong. They know gays and lesbians are unworthy of equal rights and should be discriminated against. They just know it. What's wrong with you?

Friday, February 23, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 00457 - Targeting Cancer Patients

I wrote recently on my corporate blog about "spam that kills", spam email whose content tells you your brother or sister has just died. It's disgusting, demoralizing, and about as low as it gets. Then this morning, I got two more apparently targeted pieces of spam that illustrate that these bastards will stop at nothing.

One spam message was entitled Learn About Metastatic Colorectal Cancer, the other Don, Discover the Benefits of a Healthy Colon. The former pretends to offer a medical team and programs to help the individual face metastatic colorectal cancer, but get this - it comes from an an email address of Now that sounds legit, doesn't it? You cannot reply to the email directly, but it pretends to come from Genentech, one of the world's largest biotechnology companies operating out of San Francisco.

The second spam message is far more typical nonsense claiming that the average person has 5 to 25 pounds of waste in their colons where colon cancer, toxins and parasites are waiting to attack you. Yuck!

It's possible, just like I indicated in regards to the spam that kills entry, that this is purely coincidental spam. But it makes you wonder whether spam lists are getting sophisticated enough these days to find and target people diagnosed with specific diseases.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cancer, Evolution, and Information Technology

Thanks to Steve Rubel for leading me to a cool Google widget for my blog - a customized newsbar geared towards whatever news happens to feed my fancy.

In my case, the newsbar widget is situated just below my profile and just above the link sidebars. Currently, there are three topics I've chosen to highlight in the newbar: cancer, evolution, and information technology. Over time, I'll undoubtedly change the topics as different artifacts take centre stage in my life, but for now this trio will do just fine.

Follow the links and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0454 - Forever

We watched a repeat episode of House tonight in which the Hugh Laurie character uttered another memorable quip: "Nearly dying changes everything forever...for two months." (see episode 44 Forever)

One of the sidebars in this episode has Foreman returning to the team after his near-death experience in the two previous episodes. House can't stand Foreman's banal happiness and determination not to let things bother him anymore. And, sure enough, by the end of the episode, Foreman is getting back to himself, beginning to fight with House again and struggling to regain something of what he lost during his own medical battle.

Hmmm. How illuminating to someone who has thought a great deal about death, about the lessons cancer brings to us, about what it means to re-evaluate what is important in life and in relationships. And how sad it is - or is it? - to agree with House and the reluctant Foreman that life does go on and we need to get back to the everyday aspects of our character and life. Sure, we should expect to find a fresh perspective from our suffering, but we can't live in the shadow of our near-death experience. As Cameron says to Foreman at one point, "When you live your life as if every day is a blessing, you're basically saying everyone else is shallow."

As I get further along the road to recovery from rectal cancer, I'm finding both that some things have changed irrevocably and some other things are gradually, inevitably, returning to where they were before treatment. During this process, there is both a sense of loss and gain. Some days, for instance, I lament that I am losing some of the intensity of gratitude for ordinary things. "Everyday above ground is a good day" just doesn't cut it like it did when I was in hospital with pulmonary embolii. And there are other days, when I find myself back in habits I thought I had surrendered.

But I am who I am. And living in the moment and being satisfied all the time isn't really the way I want to march into the future. Like Foreman, I am beginning to recover some of the feistiness that is the real Don Spencer. I am beginning to relish fighting battles that previously seemed unimportant when I was battling for my life.

But other things have changed forever. I'm not sure what they all are. I just know that in some ways I can never revert to the man I was before the day I received my diagnosis. Some of my friends and family will find some of the changes laudable, others not so much.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0452 - The Cure for Free Thinking

Imagine my surprise when I read this excerpt from a letter sent to the editor of Freethought Today magazine:

"Satan worshipping scum . . . Please die and go to hell . . . I hope you get a painful disease like rectal cancer and die a slow painful death, so you can meet your God, SATAN . . . "

The extract goes on a length with some of the most vicious and vitriolic language imaginable, all in the name of what the author of the diatribe called "the LORD JESUS CHRIST'S omnipotent power." (Quoted in Richard Dawkins recent book The God Delusion, pp.212-3). I picked up the book last Sunday after writing my blog entry about Lazy Sunday Mornings and have since been grabbing moments to read as much as I can.

It had never occurred to me before that some might think rectal cancer was a particularly apt form of punishment to impose upon a free thinker, a skeptic, an agnostic, an atheist, or perhaps even a nontheist. It didn't seem plausible to me that there were people, perhaps in my own neighbourhood, who would secretly applaud the onset of rectal cancer as divine retribution for rejecting the dogmatic assertions of fundamentalist Christianity. But I guess that just illustrates my own naivete.

Over the course of my bout with cancer and now with my march into recovery, I have seen absolutely no correlation between faith affiliation and kindness. Those whose faith affiliation is very important to them no doubt attribute their own compassion to their love of God and God's love for us. But those without a strong affiliation with a faith community don't seem particularly perturbed that their own kindness cannot be attributed to God.

My experience has been simple and straightforward. People showed their compassion regardless of denomination or affiliation. The kind were kind, the selfish remained selfish. Yes, the language used to express sympathy and kindness differed somewhat depending on the particular faith tradition (or lack of one). There were some surprises along the way.

But now that I have some distance and some time to rethink, I'm beginning to wonder about the relationships between belief systems and compassion. Perhaps reading Richard Dawkins has brought the issue to the forefront for me. For him, we are good, or evil, because of issues closely related to natural selection and other evolutionary processes. Altruism is never very far removed from biology and genetics. But there is a cultural component too.

Religion is, for Dawkins, very much a by-product of other processes which participate in evolutionary development. One of the features of religion that sometimes surfaces in the face of a threat like free thought or skepticism is virulent hatred and animosity expressed in the language of a specific faith community, even sometimes acted upon.

It makes me wonder whether others afflicted with colorectal cancer have ever had their faith or lack of faith mentioned as a direct cause of their illness.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Lazy Sunday Mornings

Sunday is often a day for thinking about religion. Well, for some people at least. But for many people who attend church regularly on Sunday, no thinking is required - just put your bum in a pew, perhaps sing, chant or exclaim an occasional "Amen" or "Hallelujah". Or, if church isn't your thing, maybe the boob tube is the answer. After all, there's sports aplenty, lots of news, many mind-numbing commercials - all designed to help you avoid the big questions. Among the non-church-attending, there are even those who gather their sweat pants and T-shirts, iPods, and heart monitors, get in the car, and drive to their local gym to lift weights or do aerobics. Now those people truly are crazy!

But for those, like myself, that John Spong calls the Church Alumni Association, thinking about the role of religion in society, the place of the divine in one's personal life, and all the theistic and nontheistic variants - this is something often best done on a lazy Sunday morning. In my case, it is enhanced by ready access to the Internet, especially, Wikipedia, YouTube, the Google search engine, and other assorted portals, and close access to coffee, a microwave oven, and the downstairs washroom.

So, as I began my meandering through the hallowed halls of Internet portals, I came across a couple YouTube samplings that got the ball rolling. The first was Paula Zahn's excuse for journalism in which she asks the question "Are atheists really discriminated against in the United States?" Then there was the inevitable response, "Why do atheists care about religion?" At least the response made more sense than the Paula Zahn debate, something that would have been better suited for broadcast on the Fox network than CNN. Pulllleeeeease!

But overall, if you're looking for intelligent content, YouTube isn't the place to go. True, there were some good bullet points in the second video:

* atheist boys cannot be members of the Boy Scouts of America

* 7 states do not allow atheists to run for office or testify in court

* many founding fathers in the United States were not Christians (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin)

But if you want to think this Sunday and you want to watch a video, get Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth instead.

I then mosied over to Wikipedia where things are much, much better. Several noteworthy articles are well worth reading:

Weak and strong atheism
...and many, many links and references.

And then the links circled round back to YouTube at Unfortunately, most of the YouTube videos are no longer available. But the final video with Richard Dawkins, "Why Are We Here?" is available and it's a dandy. Much of it is about Charles Darwin and evolutionary science.

If there is one fact of science that all 'isms have to address, it is evolution. If your pet belief doesn't do so using evidence, then it isn't worth the, uhm, paper it's written on. Even if I don't reach all the same conclusions as Richard Dawkins, we do share some similar perspectives; namely, ask the questions, follow the evidence, make your conclusions boldly but provisionally.

Next week, on Darwin Day, I think I'll get ready for my Sunday thinking about religion by attending a Saturday evening event at the University of Waterloo all about the evolution of medicine. Donations will go to the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre. I hope to see you there. Maybe you can share with me what you do on a lazy Sunday morning.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0442 - Majority Report

It was a very good day...with a string attached.

My wife and I met with my surgical oncologist today. The first thing he mentioned was that all five biopsy samples came back from the pathologist clear. That's right! No evidence of local recurrence! Including the four samples from December, that makes nine samples in a little over two months showing only a build up of granulation tissue.

Still, the radiologist remains concerned about the build up of tissue on the outside of the anastomosis. So, we will likely schedule another CT scan in a month. With the results of that CT scan, we will be able to confirm that either the soft tissue found in the MRI but not in the earlier CT scan is now visible or that it is still not visible. If it is still invisible, that would be even more evidence that there is no local recurrence.

There are still some next steps to be considered, including a needle biopsy into the outside of the anastomosis, possibly guided by a CT scan. Or, we could do another sigmoidoscopy in another four months. Or both.

But I have no symptoms, such as abdominal pain, which would indicate that any local recurrence is underway.

We talked about a number of issues, including an explanation why local recurrence is most often associated with the anastomosis. Evidently, the cells of the two ends of the bowel are considered immunologically immature immediately after the surgery. In other words, the tissue doesn't have the natural cancer-fighting properties of normal, healthy tissue. It takes some time for that tissue to mature so that it defends itself.

Oncologists aren't likely to tell me unequivocally that I'm cancer free. But today's news is about as good as it gets.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0441 - Tomorrow

Tomorrow, around noon hour, my wife and I will be meeting with my surgical oncologist to review the pathologist's report on the five biopsy samples taken during my sigmoidoscopy last Wednesday. Tomorrow is, as you can imagine, a very important day for us both.

Over the past year and a half, not much seems have gone well medically. Apart from the surgery itself, which spared me the indignity of a colostomy, most medical test results have yielded results which have gathered near the "worst case" scenario end of the spectrum. That all changed this past December when we met with the surgical oncologist to get the pathologist's report from the colonoscopy at the end of November. Despite his worries during the procedure, the pathologist reported no evidence of recurrent cancer in the biopsy sample. The the roller coaster ride began again with another CT scan, another MRI, a meeting of the gastrointestinal tumor board, and yet another sigmoidoscopy and gathering of biopsy samples.

Tomorrow could either be one of the best days of my life or one that I would rather forget.

If I say that I'm feeling cold, it's not just because of the frigid temperatures we're experiencing in south-western Ontario these days. It's not just because the bottom of my feet feel perpetually frost bit because of the lingering side effects of last year's chemotherapy. It's because my future hinges, to some extent at least, on the news my surgical oncologist gives us tomorrow. Wiarton Willy didn't see his shadow on Groundhog Day, meaning folklore says we'll have an early spring this year. I hope that's right.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Saving Lives

How many lives have you saved?

That's one way to measure your impact. Firefighters like Captain Harold Lessard and Captain Thomas Nichols gave their lives this week fighting a fire in Winnipeg. They were searching a house looking for anyone that might have been trapped inside. Their heroism, on a daily basis, is obvious to anyone who cares to pay attention. Like those brave firefighters in New York who went inside the twin towers, Lessard and Nichols did without reservation what most of us wouldn't even consider doing even in our better moments. I salute them unreservedly and convey my condolences to their family and friends.

Another example of bravery in attempting to save lives occurred this week on Highway 401 near Cobourg during that horrific vehicle pile up. One truck driver rescued a man trapped in his car, then the two of them unsuccessfully tried to rescue another man. I can't imagine how awful they must have felt, despite the fact that at least one life was saved...watching another life being lost.

There are many around us who save lives on a daily basis that are not in the news. The nurses during the SARS crisis in Toronto who knew they were not protected adequately and yet who went into rooms and helped people with the disease. The surgeons and oncologists who save cancer and other patients on a daily basis. The police officers, fire fighters, ambulance workers, and armed forces personnel who all put their own lives on the line defending others.

But there are yet others worth noting. What about those who don't drink and drive? Or those who obey the rules of the road? Or those who take care of themselves so that they can be there for their children and other family members? What about those who participate in health and safety committees in factories? Or perhaps those who design products and equipment that can be used safely?

Or what about the rest of us? We might not be saving lives on a daily basis or even active in health and safety issues. But if we keep safety in mind, if we help improve the quality of life of those around us, are we too not saving lives?

Today I want especially to salute those who give their lives saving others, people like Captains Lessard and Nichols. But I also want to salute everyone who saves or tries to save lives every day and in many ways.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Here's something I've never done before on my blog. I am presenting a short story by my youngest son. He has just turned 18 years old, no longer a child, now a young man. I guess identity is something we all pursue throughout our lives, but probably with both more passion and less certainty when young.

I enjoyed reading his story and think others would find it interesting too.


The thick, motionless smoke that crept in front of a jagged skyline seemed to cover more and more of the city each day. The silhouettes of the lamps that lined each street led into a black abyss. Inside the crowded office buildings were monochrome portraits of boardrooms long abandoned. The broken cars still seemed to push for space, as if there was some place to go. The streets themselves were petrified. There was no movement save the occasional flail from a lifeless corpse, and a single shifting figure darting amongst them.

His feet sifted through the bloody mess. He should have heard them moving through the thick puddles of God-knows-what, but there was the deafening noise of a helicopter overhead. Without that repulsive sound his job didn’t seem so bad, the peace derived from the beating blades of the helicopter made him forget just how bad Mondays like this could be. It had been several years since the outbreak, and ever since the Health Department put him to work, any sort of peace was hard to find. His eyes dropped down and focused on the taut, misshapen figure before him, and he fell back into reality. Slipping his hand into the pocket of the misshapen man, he pulled out a wallet. The driver’s license read ‘Sam Dalton’; the name was familiar to him, but the face was unrecognizable. He copied the information from the card onto his clip board and moved on, ignoring the fact a piece of lurid skin from the corpse had stuck to his hand.

He found, as he took down more names, he had to reassure himself of his own - Allen Silvain. It was not a memorable name. People would always come up and ask him if he was in fact Mr. Silvain, even if they had met him only a day before. His slender stature and the plain, government-issued blue cargo he wore made him forgettable; after all, most public safe houses were a sea of restless, worn, blue material. This being the case, he felt it was his duty to marry the first woman who could remember his face. Fours years ago, he lucked out amidst all the madness - he married a nurse named Mary. There never was a honeymoon, or a reception. The small weathered chapel in which the ceremony took place was one of the few concrete memories of their short time together. Just months after the wedding, she was lost. There was an outbreak in sector Z8, somewhere between 8th and 15th Street, and she seized the opportunity to give a helping hand. Allen had been on duty across the city, and he came back to find his wife missing. No search parties were being assembled, her face wasn’t posted on walls, and no one spoke her name. In these times, many were lost, many were forgotten. Since then Allen has always carried a pocket-sized picture of her. Wrinkled, white lines stream across the photo, and her face, along with much else, is fading, but he still keeps it, just in case he forgets.

The next man was very much the same. It was faceless, soulless, stricken of its dignity. It’s cold, empty eyes could stare through anyone. Allen bent down to find his ID; his hand grasped a small paper in its front pocket. He froze. A form loomed over him. The figure’s shadow cast over Allen’s head - it was like the change from day to night. How did it get so close without him noticing? The sun, hidden poorly behind the thick cloud of dust and dirt, beat furiously, disguising the figure’s appearance. Allen’s free hand crept towards his holster; it might be one of them.

“Don’t do it!” the man commanded, his voice was coarse, and he breathed heavily.

“I ju-”

“Shut up!” Allen took his advice. His hand crept away from his holster up to his head. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Allen Silvain. I work for the Hea-”

“That’s enough, your name is enough, now what the hell do you think it is your doin’ with that body” demanded the man.

Allen hesitated; he leaned his head up slightly, and strained his eyes to catch a glimpse of his enemy. The man was sweating profusely, like he had just run a mile, although that scenario would have been unlikely considering his shape. He was bulbous, short, and bore a tattered yellow baseball cap. His face was covered in a thick layer of dirt and his lips were so small that one would think there was an invisible force pushing his cheeks inward. The constricting, pale green shirt he wore was drenched with something that made it several shades darker. It was refreshing for Allen to see something other than the government-issued clothing though. What Allen found most intriguing however, was the shotgun held tight against a thick shoulder and a pair of tiny squinted eyes. The man’s appearance was so unexpected, Allen forgot to answer his question.

“Well?!” He was getting impatient quickly.

“I, I… I was just looking for I.D., it’s my job, I work for the Health Department all I-” Allen was interrupted by a violent boom that echoed through the streets.

He frantically tried to cover his head, but before he could, he lost his footing and crashed into a savage scene. The boom quieted down to a whisper, Allen opened his eyes and found himself face to face with Sam Dalton. Kicking his feet furiously, he pushed himself away; the bulbous man was holding his smoking gun up in the air. It hurried back down to his shoulder.

“Give me somethin’ to prove it then.”

He took a few steps forward. The bulbous man’s walk was unique; his gimp gave the illusion of a waddle. Allen took out his papers and held his arm tight; the man’s stubby fingers tore the page from his hand. His eyes only glanced at the page before devouring it in his fist and tossing it aside. He then came closer to Allen and pulled the gun from his holster, tossing it aside just as he did with the I.D.

“Come with me, I need a doctor like you, and don’t even think of runnin’ man, or you’ll never see the light of day again.”

Shocked by the response, Allen stood up and paced nervously behind him. During the short time of standing up from the ground, Allen perceived just how desperate his situation was. Not only was he captive to a madman, but he wasn’t even a doctor and for all he knew, that was the only thing keeping him alive.

Night fell faster than usual. They had been walking for an hour now. The shortening distance between the two, and the fact the bulbous man hadn’t even cared to look back to make sure Allen hadn’t run off, created a mutual trust, but Allen wasn’t ready to honor anything. Exhausted, Allen finally spoke up, hoping the man wouldn’t react as earlier,

“Where are we going?”.

“We’re here” he said.

A transport truck materialized in the middle of the road. It was run down, rusty, and looked like it had been through a war or two. The words “Storm Transportation” were painted in massive red letters on the side. There was no question in Allen’s mind why they were stopping here. Food out here was scarcer than miracles. He had probably set up a living quarters amongst the mounds of preserved food and he could trade the food for anything else he needed in there.

The locking gears on the hold’s door were archaic. The spots and flakes of brownish orange had over taken the fresh white paint on the handles; opening the lock made a high-pitched screeching that made Allen cringe. The bulbous man pulled back the yawning doors, stuck his gimpy leg up on the floor of the truck bed, and rolled himself in. As the doors opened, Allen was hit with a blast of reeking, humid air. It was repulsive; the enclosed space of the truck made it a cesspool of rotten stenches. Allen was more than reluctant to go in. A sudden gust of wind from behind him cleared his nostrils; it made the damp shelter look a bit more hospitable. Mustering up all his courage, Allen lifted himself in. The doors closed behind him with a resounding slam, and he walked into the pitch black truck bed.

“Don’t move”.

The voice sounded like the bulbous man but Allen couldn’t be sure. There was a small click, and a generator lit a line of green Christmas lights that illuminated the metal hall. The space was tight and hot - it was like an oven, Allen instantly began to sweat. Two more people occupied the back of the truck. They sat as still as rocks. A hand grabbed Allen’s arm and led him to the rear, each step bringing the poor condition of these people into focus. One was a young man. His hair was withered and the green tint of the lights made it impossible to tell exactly what he was laying in, or even the colour of his skin. It was clear he did not have the strength to lift his head to look at Allen. The other was a young woman, curled up in a corner like she was hiding from a monster.

Pushing the barrel of his gun harshly into the back of Allen, the bulbous man said

“His foot, look at his foot.”

He talked as if he was completely unaware of his surroundings, as if he was impervious to the smell.

Allen took a white handkerchief out of his pocket and held it tightly to his face, so not to catch anything. He took one look at the foot and instantly snapped his gaze away. The foot was putrid and decayed, it was dead. A gaping hole fell right in the middle of it, only thin slices of bone in the bottom of the heel kept it together. It was evident to Allen that this man was dead, or else he would have been screaming in pain constantly. The only thing on Allen’s mind now was whether or not this man had been infected. He looked back at the bulbous man who was leaning to one side, trying to get a better view of what was going on, and gave him an unsettled look.

The bulbous man raised his voice,

“It’s O.K. John, I brought a doctor. He’ll fix you up right O.K. He’ll give you all you need to get better - Ya hear that John, a doctor.”

The corpse sat still as it ever did, leaning in the far corner of the hold.

“Well don’t just look at him now, do somethin’!”

“I si.. I ju.. I can’t do anything.” Allen pleaded.

He began to stutter not knowing how volatile the man may be.

“Maybe I can help her,”

“No! Forget her! She’s just sleepin’, just give him a shot or whatever. Do it!”

Allen turned back towards the corpse. Sweat dripped into his eyes. He didn’t know what to do. He patted himself down for something to wipe his eyes. His handkerchief was already too tainted to use. Finding nothing, he grabbed an empty syringe from his first aid pouch and falsely prepped a shot of morphine. He rested his hand on its calf, his fingers sunk into the formless skin, and he stared at the skewed head of the corpse for what seemed to be an eternity, like he was waiting for a sign to go ahead. At that instant he stopped, and locked eyes with the woman in the corner. She watched what was happening intently with wide eyes, but lay still, not ready for anything that was about to happen.

“No, it can’t be her” he thought.

The picture in his pocket itched. He wanted to pull it out.

“Go on!”the bulbous man said.

He startled Allen. Allen raised his arm, syringe in hand, making sure the bulbous man believed what he was doing was genuine. Allen prepared his nerves. The needle plunged in and rooted itself deep in the leg. His fist almost fell through the elastic surface of the skin. Allen closed his eyes as he did it, expecting a climatic finish, he sat beside his patient waiting for something to happen.

“Well?” the bulbous man said.

His tone implied he wanted immediate results. Allen didn’t answer. His hand still sat stuck in the patient’s leg, and his eyes surveyed for it for any movement. After being suspended in that moment for a few seconds, Allen faced the bulbous man readying himself for a reaction.

“Look, I don’t know what to say.” Allen paused. “He’s dead. There is nothing I can do about it.” The bulbous man didn’t seem to listen.

“No he’s not. Look! You saved him! You saved my brother!” the bulbous man cheered.

Allen turned and saw the thin, emaciated neck of the patient slowly pull up its head. It stared through Allen. Its mouth opened wide, exposing green teeth that were veiled in a fall of blood. It was infected. Allen stood up and found himself confronting his captor.

“You have to shoot him, he’ll kill us both! Shoot him!” Allen said while clasping the bulbous man’s shirt.

In the back of his head Allen didn’t know who ‘both of us’ was - the man in front of him, or the woman in the corner. It added to the confusion. The bulbous man assaulted Allen with his gun, shoving him back against the steel walls. \

“You have to kill it!” Allen screamed.

“Never!” he yelled as spit came off his lips.

The cadaver stood up and inched closer. Allen burst off the wall onto the bulbous man trying to pry the shotgun from his hands. Even pulling as hard as he could, Allen couldn’t get it to move. Taking a step back, Allen swung his elbow violently through the air and with all his weight struck the bulbous man in the head. A stripe of red sprung from his mouth and he fell so hard he shook the truck bed. Allen seized the gun, aimed the barrel at the creature limping towards him and squeezed the trigger. The creature’s head exploded creating shrapnel that stung his skin. Horrified, Allen stared at the mess in front of him. The rising ringing sound in his ear prevented him from having a clear thought. Allen’s left eye still stared down the barrel of the gun, while his right was shut so tight it seemed uneager to open because it was only logical that it would just spot another problem.

Coming to his senses, Allen began to ponder his situation while pacing back and forth in the cramped truck. The hands on his watch became far more important. Time was a factor. Helicopter pick-ups only came once a day, there were twenty-two hours until the next one, and the checkpoint was a mile away. By the time he made it back, the Health Department would have had declared him missing and hired someone in his place. The bulbous man who lay unconscious was Allen’s biggest problem next to the hordes of infected who may be lurking outside the truck. He could get up at any time. Allen had pressed the gun up to the unconscious man, but could never bring himself to fire. The string of lights began to flicker, for each part of a second they went out, he caught a glimpse of what he would have to deal with when the generator ran out of power. In that glimpse of darkness, Allen saw the same two, clean, white eyes that had stared at him earlier. He walked up to the woman. She didn’t blink. Pinching the picture of his wife in his fingers, he first took a good look at the fragile woman laying in front of him, and then then at the picture.

“No…” Allen said under his breath.

The picture was ruined. A congealed spot of blood had been smeared across the fading face of his wife. Allen’s throat closed up, and he took a deep breath. Staring once again at the woman, he knew he would never know if this was his wife. It was far too much.