I know I said I would try to have it back in March, but I've been balancing work, married life, father time, and health issues for the past few months, so didn't have much time to write. But I finally finished a chapter. Here goes.
John walked through the Golden Tunnel, leading to the garden oasis, saying to himself, "How the hell am I'm going to survive in a place with seventeen other people? People who were all infected and unpredictable. He only hoped Vanessa could find a cure soon. The sooner the better.
John, you're not here to dwell, he thought. You're here to relax and rid your mind of aggravating thoughts.
Even though John had hated Death Valley all of his life, the only thing he liked about it was the beautiful oasis that surrounded the inn. He had come to it many a times to get away from his parents. They were always fighting. He couldn't tolerate it. He would walk amongst the oasis for hours. The most calming thing about the oasis was the small pond, which was filled with water lilies to which John would just stare, entranced.
He stood between two palm trees and stared at the pond. He didn't notice someone standing behind him.
"Just like old times," said the voice.
John turned around. Little Thunder was standing there.
"Yeah, just reminiscing a little," said John. "How's Big Thunder?"
"Unfortunately, he passed away two years ago." said Little Thunder. "His prostate went bad."
"So sorry to hear," said John. "You're chief now?"
Little Thunder nodded.
"So, what have you been doing since you left here many years ago?" he asked.
"Well, I moved to a place called Rid City," said John, "I went to college there. That's where I met my wife. We've been married for fifteen years."
"What did you do in Rid City?" Little Thunder asked?
"Well after college, I started out as an intern for Harper Industries, a shipping company. Gary Harper took me under his wing and taught me about the business. Eventually, I worked my way up to CEO. When Harper died, I took his job. My company was the one of the only few thriving companies in Rid City. The city was destroyed by political corruption, crime, taxes, and what not.
"Then I got ill with this damned virus. It's literally driven my wife away from me. I had to stay in a hotel for months. There was a time when we were inseperable."
"And now I'm back here, the last place I want to be."
"Yes, I can remember the days when you vowed to leave Death Valley and never step foot in here again," said Little Thunder. "But we must learn to never say never. Perhaps fate has bought you here, John."
"You're probably right." said John. He looked at his watch.
"Almost time for dinner," he said. "I better get going."
"Nice talking to you, John." said Little Thunder. "If you have a chance, I would like you to meet my wife and children."
"Sure," said John. "Tell you what, let's do it tomorrow night. Mesquite Springs."
"The old campgrounds," said Little Thunder. "I have been avoiding that place, but nonetheless, I will go."
"Why have you been avoiding it?" John asked.
"The coyotes have been acting strange for months," said Little Thunder. "The wildlife in Death Valley are usually calm and peaceful."
"Wow," said John, "that sounds weird."
"Yes," said Little Thunder. "Let's get back to the inn."
John followed Little Thunder back to the inn. He then went into the dining room. Everyone was there, waiting to be served. John found Vanessa by the window. He sat across from her.
"How was the garden?" she asked.
"Wonderful," John said. "How do you find the place?"
"It's very nice," said Vanessa. "You know, John, I don't understand how you can hate this place. It's like paradise."
"Yeah, well, you haven't lived here for the first seventeen years of your life," said John. "With crazy parents and working here, dealing with snobby, ill-tempered tourists."
"I saw you walking with your old friend." said Vanessa.
"Oh, Little Thunder? John said. "Yes, he caught up with me in the garden. We were just catching up on old times. He invited us to meet his family. At the old camground I used to go to. Mesquite Springs."
"Wonderful," said Vanessa, "I miss the days you and I went camping every Saturday."
"So do I," said John. "I miss doing things together, period."
"Well, hopefully, we'll be able to do those things again," said Vanessa.
Dinner finally came, a delicious rib roast with potatoes and carrots and Merlot. Dinner went without incident. It wasn't until dessert did something happen. A guy fell out of his chair and started jerking uncontrollably. A few people rushed to his aid. He was foaming at the mouth and choking. This went on for a few more seconds before the guy stopped jerking and laid motionless. Vanessa kneeled down beside him and felt his head.
"He has a high fever," she said. "And he has gone into cardiac arrest."
Vanessa administered CPR to the man. The man was still unresponsive. She administered CPR a few more times, but to no avail.
"Call an ambulance someone," she said.
Little Thunder and Wahchi went into action. Little Thunder told everyone to go to their rooms until the situation was handled. John went to his room, while Vanessa stayed with Little Thunder and Wahchi.
"It was a half hour later when Vanessa returned to the room.
"He died in the ambulance," said Vanessa, "his name was Warren Lane. I contacted his immediate family. He had no history of seizures. I guess I will have to add to the notes."
She got out her lap top and turned it on. John left her alone for a while as she typed up her notes. But he couldn't hold it in any longer.
"Vanessa, you know, next time that might be me." he said.
Vanessa looked up at him. For a moment, just a moment, John thought he saw fear in her eyes. But it was gone before he could confirm it.
"Well, let's hope not, John," said Vanessa, "I'm doing all I can to figure out this virus."
"I hope so," said John, "Because I don't want to go out like Julius or that Warren guy. I want us to grow old together."
Vanessa smiled. She hadn't done so for ages, she was always so serious nowadays. John had forgotten how the effect made her even more beautiful than she already was.
"You always know the right words to make me smile." said Vanessa. "I needed that, thank you."
She walked over to where John was and kissed him.
"God, I needed that," said John, his eyes closed. "You barely even tough me these days."
"I know," said Vanessa. "It's getting late, maybe you should get some rest."
"Alright," said John. "Good night."
He got in the bed. It took him a while, but he eventually fell asleep. As he slept, Vanessa observed him. He started to sweat profusely. Vanessa went over to where he lay and felt his forehead.He was burning up. Vanessa watched him for a while before finishing up her notes. At one in the morning, she finally fell asleep.
Around seven in the morning, Vanessa woke up to sounds of groaning and retching. She got out of her bed and went into the bathroom. John was on his knees, hovered over the toilet. He was very pale and sweaty.
"John?" Vanessa said.
John shook his head and continued to vomit into the toilet. This went on for two minutes. After he was done, he fell against the wall, shaking.
"I'm going to see if they have any Gatorade in the kitchens," said Vanessa. "Stay in here and wash the sweat off of you with a cool rag."
Vanessa headed to the kitchens. The door was looked. She knocked on the door. There was no answer. Vanessa was about to head back to her room when Wahchi entered. When Vanessa saw him yesterday he was wearing a rawhide vest, jeans and moccasins. He was now wearing a tracksuit with headphones.
"Hello, Vanessa," said Wachi. "Just got back from my morning jog."
"I used to jog every morning,' said Vanessa, "but I've been busy for the past few months."
"I see you're trying to get into the kitchen," said Wahchi.
"Yes, my husband is very sick right now," said Vanessa, "I need something to revitalize him."
Wahchi said nothing. He just got out a key and unlocked the door to the kitchen.
"Do you have Gatorade?" Vanessa asked.
"Yes," said Wahchi. He took a large bottle of lemon-lime Gatorade and gave it to Vanessa.
"I hope your husband feels better," said Wahchi. He smiled back, to which Vanessa returned.
"Thank you, Wahchi," said Vanessa.
She went back into her room and into the bathroom. John was leaning against the wall, his eyes half closed, the sweat just pouring down his body.
"John, drink this," she said.
John took the bottle, opened it and took three large gulps. He drank it until it was gone.
"John," Vanessa started, "how do you feel?"
"Like crap," John said. His voice was hoarse as if he'd smoked a whole carton of cigarettes.
"Can you stand?" Vanessa asked.
John stood up, though his knees were shaking.
"Take a cool shower," said Vanessa. "I'll put your clothes on the bed."
John nodded. Vanessa walked out of the bathroom. She opened John's suitcase and got out a white t-shirt, dark gray jeans, and a pair of red boxers.
John emerged from the shower, twenty minutes later. He was no longer sweating, but he still looked very pale.
"How do you feel now?" Vanessa asked?
"Somewhat better," said John, the hoarseness in his voice gone. "Thank you."
He puts his clothes on and sprayed cologne on him. Vanessa inhaled deeply. She'd always loved that cologne. Before she could stop herself, she went over to him and buried her head in his chest and inhaled again.
"Ness, this is the closest you've been to me for ages," John said.
"I know," said Vanessa. "I didn't mean to distance myself from you, John, I thought it was for the best. I should have been there with you the night you killed that cop."
"Ness, it's not your fault," said John. "Not your fault I have this damned virus and not your fault I killed that cop. You were right to distance yourself from me, I was becoming unbearable."
"But it wasn't you," said Vanessa. "It was the virus. You didn't know what you were doing."
"John kept quiet for a while. So long, that it worried Vanessa.
"John?" she said.
"Yes, dear?" he said.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," John said. "Was just thinking."
"About?" Vanessa asked.
"About when this is over," John said. "When you find a cure for this Org Virus and if I survive, I want us to have a baby. I know we've been too busy to have one in the past, but this virus has made me realize how short life is and how we humans take it for granted. What do you say?"
Vanessa looked John into those pale green eyes. Those eyes were the reason she fell in love with him.
"You will survive," said Vanessa, "I'm going to find a cure for this virus. And yes, I have always wanted to be a mother."
John gave a grin. Vanessa always loved the way this skin around his eyes crinkled when he did.
"I love you, 'Ness," he said.
"I love you too, Johnny," said Vanessa.
"Johnny?" John repeated. "You haven't called me that since college."
A little in the evening, John and Vanessa packed up their things and got into the jeep that Wahchi had provided for them. John took the wheel.
The sun lowered, giving the sky a magnificent orange red color..
The Jeep pulled up into the Mesquite Springs. There was another Jeep there. John and Vanessa got out. Little Thunder was there with a woman, a boy and a girl. The woman was petite with long hair plaited into a single braid. The boy looked like his was in his mid teens. He resembled Little Thunder in every way possible. He was nearly the same height as him. The girl looked more like her mother and was small and thin with intense dark eyes.
"Hello, John," said Little Thunder, shaking John's hand. "It's good to see that you made it."
"Thank you," said John. "This is my wife, Vanessa."
"Hello, Vanessa, it's nice to meet you," said Little Thunder, "this is my wife, Ailen, my son, Tangakwunu, and my daughter Huyana."
"Hi," said both of the kids. They shook John and Vanessa's hands.
After they all finished greeting each other, John and Little Thunder started a fire. Everyone sat around it.
"John, I have something for you," said Little Thunder. He gave John a battered guitar case.
"Christ," John said. "Is this my father's steel string acoustic guitar?"
"Yes," said Little Thunder. "Before your father died, he gave the guitar to me. He told me to give it to you, once you returned to Death Valley."
"My God, Little Thunder," John said, opening the case. The guitar was in pristine condition. "Thanks alot."
"You're very welcome, John," said Little Thunder. "Perhaps you could sing some songs after dinner?"
"Sure thing," said John. "But what's on the menu tonight?"
"I bought some buffalo steaks." Little Thunder said. "And some other things. You will have to wait until they are cooked. That will be a while."
"To kill time, why don't you tell us some of the stories your father used to tell us?" John asked. "I enjoyed them as a child."
Little Thunder smiled, a thing rare in itself.
"Very well," he said.
He told stories about the Rainbow Crow, Coyote and The Columbia, and Fire. All the focus was on Little Thunder. Tangakwunu and Huyana's eyes were wide as their father told these stories.
Finally, the steaks were done. Little Thunder served the steaks. Ailen presented wild rice with cranberries. Everyone ate heartily and washed the food down with sassafras tea. For dessert was blueberry wajapai, which they put on fry bread.
After everyone was good and full, John picked up the guitar and started playing and singing America's 'Horse With No Name'. Vanessa thought John looked so happy and at peace, like he used to just before he became infected with the Org Virus. She smiled to herself as she listened to John's rich baritone voice.
After John finished singing, everyoone settled down in their tents. After John put out the sleeping bags, Vanessa put hers closer to John's. John looked at her and said, "You sure you want to be that close to me?"
"Positive," said Vanessa. She climbed into the sleeping bag as John got into his. They grabbed each other's hands and fell soundly asleep.
It was in the wee hours of the morning. Vanessa was awake. She turned on her side and tried to go back to sleep, but she became restless, so she got from out of the sleeping bag and got out of the tent. She walked along the cotton top cacti, admiring their beauty. She then looked up at the indigo sky, the stars shining brightly. She remembered when she and John were dating, they would drive to the lake and sit at the edge and look up at the stars. John would try to count all of them in vain. Those were good times.
Footsteps told Vanessa she wasn't the only one present. She looked around. Standing a few feet away from her was a coyote. Vanessa saw that it's eyes were red, its lip pulled back into a snarl. It was about to attack. Vanessa knew she couldn't run; Coyotes had alot of stamina and would chase her for hours.
Sure enough, the coyote charged. Vanessa panicked. There were nowhere to go, she was done for.
Before the coyote could sink it's teeth into Vanessa, it froze in its tracks before falling over. Vanessa wheeled around. Little Thunder was standing behind her, a tranquilizer gun in his hand.
"You saved my life," she said. "Thank you."
"It's no problem." said Little Thunder. "As I told John, the coyotes have been behaving very strangely. They usually run at the sight of a human. And their eyes are not normally red. It's as if they're possessed.
A sudden thought came to Vanessa.
"Little Thunder, do you think it would be okay if I take a sample from this coyote?" she asked.
"Sure," said Little Thunder," I don't see why not, but hurry up before the coyote comes to."
It was a good thing Vanessa had brought along her tools. She got out a Vacutainer neddle and a blood collection tube. She walked over to the coyote, crouched down and set up the neddle. She then stuck the neddle into the coyote's vein. She attatched the collection tube to the neddle.
"What're you going to do with that?" Little Thunder asked.
"I'm going to take a blood sample from John and others, and take this to the nearest lab," said Vanessa. "I think I may have a breakthrough in this Org Virus."
"Well, the nearest lab is the Clinical Pathology Lab," said Little Thunder. "I will get Wahchi to take you."
"Thank you," said Vanessa. The sooner, the better."
"People are like slinkies: Not good for anything, but will still bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs" A to the mother fucking K, home boy I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride, I'm wanted dead or alive!Warriorrrrrsssss! Come out and playyyyy-ayyyyyy!
"This is your fault, homie! You've got to get me to that party in L.A. or I'm gonna smoke your ass!" Biggie Smalls to Butters on South ParkI hate stupid people Stewie: You people understand any other language except English. Yo quiero pancakes, dennez moi pancakes, click click bloody click Pancakes!