Warning Signs

Drake and Charley walked towards the two corpses in the clearing. Sweat already drenched Drake’s back, and he could only imagine how miserable Charley felt in the Biohazard suits. A series of black and blue veins ran the lengths of exposed skin of the fallen couple. I mean, I don’t know if they were together for sure. While Drake scanned for rings or tattoos on the ring fingers, he noticed that some of the plants near the man and woman appeared charred black, though not completely damaged. A dandelion remained half intact though Drake thought he could see the yellow give way to black. Instinct warned Drake, and he shot his arm out to stop Charley.

“What the hell, Drake?” Charley said. “I thought you said we wanted to identify these people. Don’t you want to know how they found us?”

Charley panted slightly, masking her dislike for the protective suits no better than Drake. The white of the bio-suits would make them stand out in the forest. A few hours of walking should dirty up the suits well enough to hide us better. Drake ground his teeth and took a controlled breath before he answered. How can I explain to her why I know we need to stop? There’s no apparent threat in front of us, but. In an attempt to control his tone, Drake unset his jaw.

“We don’t know for sure if the chemical weapon used is still lingering in the area,” Drake said. “Do you remember an explosion before everything went to shit?”

“No, we were at the store, grocery shopping, remember?” Charley said. “You made us leave our cart.”

Drake nodded and kept his eyes on the blackened dandelion. An outline of darkened grass outlined the bodies. In Drake’s time overseas, the constant threat of chemical warfare created an overt sense of paranoia. Any news reports of chemical spills or other happenings involving chemicals sent Drake into the rabbit hole. When the power first went out at the shopping center, and madness ensued, Drake’s instincts took over. Though it didn’t show any indications of chemical warfare and no direct attack on the local community, Drake pulled Charley away from the cart full of food and to their truck.

“I remember,” Drake said. “So you didn’t hear an explosion, and they might have released a nerve agent into the community after cutting the power. For all I know, we got out of the grocery store just in time to avoid contamination.”

“I can’t say you’re wrong,” Charley said, “but who exactly is the ‘they’ that you’re referring to?”

“Any foreign country that would gain from a systematic failure of the United States,” Drake answered.

“So every other major political power in the world?” Charley asked.

Drake chuckled.

“Then I bet our next best guess is some alien life force trying to cleanse our planet,” Drake said.

Drake turned to see if Charley found his joke funny but saw a shocked expression instead. Charley stumbled backward a few steps before she started to pull on Drake’s arm.

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