“Save your speech, ladies, I already know,” the anatomy professor told Gwynivara and Bernadette.
“You do?” His claim really stunned Gwynivara. She didn’t think he could possibly have learned about Rafeneita’s scheme or the Rebellion against the corrupt regime she created with their government! José and Niqun were out canvassing too, but they established boundaries so that they didn’t overlap and pitch to the same people. Regardless of how he found out, she thought this knowledge had motivated him to intervene in their run-in with Abigor, but now she needed to qualm her curiosity about how he knew about this and just how much exactly he discovered about their efforts.
The anatomy professor nodded. “Oh yes, I’m well aware of who’s the best candidate out there! Ford isn’t trustworthy, and Rialowe is a joke! Don’t worry, I’m fixin’ to vote for Carter!”
His statement made Gwynivara’s mind stop racing, and she inwardly chided herself for jumping to conclusions without considering the most simple explanation. Bernadette spoke up, “That’s great! What do you think of Carter’s plan to defeat Venenatus Sanguis?”
“Love it!” the anatomy professor reacted fervently. “Rialowe’s plan is to pretend that the pandemic doesn’t exist, which is absolutely insane, and Ford’s method has been flawed from the beginning! How are you supposed to track and trace people when so many of the afflicted don’t know they have it? The best thing for us to do is to act like we all have it. If we wear protective gear…” He held up his hands to indicate that he was wearing gloves. “… and maintain a responsible distance from one another, we can beat this thing within a month or so! That’s how you defeat a contagious disease! That’s what Carter is aiming to do, and I’m voting for him for that reason! Normally, I try to stay out of politics, but Venenatus Sanguis is too serious to ignore!” He paused and added, “I test myself on a regular basis, by the way! I wouldn’t wanna infect my students or anyone else I come into contact with, so I make sure I’m safe to be around people! I promise, I won’t get you sick by hanging around y’all today!”
“Oh, we weren’t worried about that happening!” Bernadette thought about the words that had come out of her mouth, and then she amended what she said to him, “I mean, we assumed as much since you’re an expert on the subject!”
The anatomy professor indicated to the gloves that the two women donned. “I see Carter has his people wearing gloves, naturally! Are y’all tested regularly too?”
The two women hesitated for a moment. Gwynivara felt so flattered that he had such consideration for their health, so it made her feel guilty to have to lie to him about that! She detested the idea of having to deceive a kind person who trusted them, but she obviously couldn’t be honest about their condition! They had trained themselves to control their Venenatus Sanguis enough to not create any beasts that would infect anyone though, so it wasn’t as though they presented a threat to anyone! They made sure to do this responsibly! By all means, they couldn’t tell him any of that, but she could divulge a portion of the truth, “We take extra precautions to not spread the virus! The whole point of our operation is to save lives!”
“Good job, ladies!” the anatomy professor complimented the actions she described. He then more seriously regarded them, “Listen, don’t worry about all of the people out there who ignore logic! That kind of stubbornness is just human nature, unfortunately. I come from a small town in Kentucky that still thinks they can win the Civil War! Over a hundred years later, they still can’t accept the south lost! Some of them actually quite talking to me after I went off to teach in Yankee territory! But just ’cause most people stick to their comfort zones like that doesn’t mean there aren’t any open minded folks out there! You’ll get ’em! Don’t give up!” He stood up and showed signs of intending to leave.
“You’re going?” Gwynivara blurted out upon this realization. She hadn’t meant to convey any sort of neediness, but she got a huge rush of disappointment when he abruptly decided to cut off their conversation! They had barely begun to scratch the surface of what she needed to tell him, and it distressed her to have him head out at such a critical moment! She desperately wanted to bring up Rafeneita and the cure, after all, it was the main point of their canvassing- to find an ally that could assist them with their efforts! She didn’t want to lose out on such an optimal opportunity, so it bothered her to think it may end there!
“I enjoyed talking to you too, darlin’!” the anatomy professor chuckled. “I hate to cut you off, but I got a class to teach!” After he put out his cigarette, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. “If that boy gives you anymore trouble, give my office a call!” He handed them a business card that featured his name, Professor Ezra Chadron, as well as his contact information.
Bernadette and Gwynivara’s nerves got soothed by having a way to reach out to him again, and Bernadette gratefully addressed him, “Thank you very much, Professor Chadron!”
Professor Chadron gave them a courteous nod before saying, “Much obliged to meet your acquaintance, ladies! Stay safe out there!”
“You too!” Bernadette and Gwynivara replied in unison. Professor Chadron smiled warmly at them and then dashed off into the building in front of them.
“Do you think he’ll come out to smoke again after class?” Bernadette inquired to Gwynivara.
Gwynivara shrugged. “Either that or he’ll go to his office. Whatever he does, we definitely have to…” She trailed off when she saw Abigor in the distance, and then she suggested, “We should keep moving!”
Bernadette agreed, “Yeah!” They briskly walked away from the area with their heads craned to look behind them, keeping a close eye on Abigor.
A couple of girls sat at their desks doing homework in their dorm room when the soft music they had playing in the background came to a finish. The girl on the right volunteered, “I’ll get it!” Her roommate continued working as she went over to a portable record player by their bunk beds, and as the first girl rummaged through their music selection, she queried, “What do you feel like listening to now?”
“Oh, I don’t care! As long as it-.” Her sentence got cut off when the other girl let out a high pitched scream! When she glanced over to see what happened, her eyes grew wide when she beheld the source of her roommate’s horror…
A long, rat-like beast had crawled in through their window! It slowly crept up to them, and they very cautiously walked backwards out of their room. Before they could get closer to the hallway, it suddenly lunged towards them! They screamed as it pinned them to the ground! It salivated over them as it lowered its jaws towards their bodies…
Gwynivara swooped in and pushed it off of them, and Bernadette brandished a knife and stabbed it! It let out a piercing shriek and then became motionless. Everyone in the room stood still and watched it for a few seconds, just making sure the danger had truly been averted, and when it was clear that the beast had died, they all let out a sigh of relief! The two girls got up, but they seemed too shaken and shocked by the scare to articulate any words. Gwynivara could tell they felt grateful for the rescue, but they appeared to have a lot of questions too. Gwynivara spared them from the difficulty of having to query anything after such a harrowing event by simply explaining, “It was a manifestation from Venenatus Sanguis.”
“Good lord, that’s a real thing?” one of the girls gasped.
“So, we almost got…?” the other girl reacted incredulously.
Gwynivara and Bernadette nodded, and before they could reveal any other pertinent facts to them, Abigor burst into the room! “What’s going on? I heard screaming!” He saw the deceased creature on the floor, and Gwynivara could tell he was play acting as he gazed at in an orchestrated surprise. “A manifestation! Oh no! How did that get here?” Gwynivara really wanted to glare at him for this pageantry of innocence he was trying to display, she felt quite certain that he had planted it there just as he had done in Great Dismal Falls, but she and Bernadette had to keep their heads low so that Abigor wouldn’t recognize them. When Abigor acted as though he noticed the two of them for the first time, he exclaimed, “You two! I thougth I warned you about soliciting on this campus!” Gwynivara and Bernadette didn’t say anything, and while they both hoped that he would just require that they leave and nothing more came out of this exchange, they didn’t count on that panning out and started to think of ways to get out of there with Abigor blocking the only way out of the room. Abigor admonished them, “See! This is exactly why we have this rule! Look what almost happened!”
Without thinking about anything about the incense that flared up from his jibe, Gwyinvara refuted that absurd notion, “You’re trying to pin this on us? We weren’t even-!” Gwynivara knew that she had erred when she saw the look of recognition on his face. She had no doubt that he had figured out who they were, and she wracked her brain trying to find a way to escape from there immediately!
Before Gwynivara could arrive at anything concrete, Abigor uttered, “You!” He posed as if he planned on using an incantation against them, and right as he was about to strike, a framed poster of a rock star fell off of the wall and hit him on the head! It knocked him to the floor, and glass shattered everywhere! The two girls who lived in that room shrilly cried out to see this, and as they checked on him, Gwynivara and Bernadette bolted out the door!
“Good thinking back there!” Gwynivara commended Bernadette when they got to a safe enough distance from the girls’ dormitory.
“Thanks!” Bernadette accepted the praise, but then she probed, “What do we do now? Should we leave in case he recovers from his injuries really quickly?”
Gwynivara replied, “We can’t leave without talking to Professor Chadron! If we can hand the cure over to him, we can stop Abigor from hurting anymore of these students!” Bernadette concurred with that idea, and they both hurried towards his office.
When they arrived at the classroom complex, Gwynivara had hoped that they would see him outside smoking again, but they didn’t have that sort of luck this time. Just as they were about to enter into the building, a couple of campus policemen stood in their way! One of them let Bernadette and Gwynivara know, “There’s a school-wide alert about you two! We’re gonna have to take you in! Come with us, and don’t try any funny stuff!”
“Where’s your gloves?” Bernadette challenged them as she held her ungloved hand behind her back.
“Don’t change the subject!” the campus policeman pulled out his gun, and the other guy followed suit. “Don’t make us hurt you!”
Gwynivara brought up, “You don’t need to do that! We don’t have any weapons!”
The campus policeman scoffed, “Yeah, right! Now, put your hands up!”
Gwynivara calmly retorted, “If you say so!” She put her hands in the air, and she pushed past the resistance that her gloves gave her to produce an incantation that made the bricks about the two men come tumbling down! The campus policemen managed to jump out of the way just in time, but the disturbance created a cloud of dust. Using the concealment that her incantation created, Bernadette and Gwynivara rushed out of there!
José compulsively checked his watch as he sat at a bus stop, and Niqun assured him, “Don’t worry, they’re fine!”
“Then why aren’t they here yet?” José visually scanned his surroundings in hopes of spotting them in the distance.
“I’m not sure, but I would know if something serious happened to them!” Niqun asserted.
José responded sarcastically, “Oh, right! I forgot about your all knowing granny powers!”
Niqun softly hit his arm with the back of her hand. “It’s called intuition, you nimrod!” As she waved off an approaching bus, she reminded him, “Don’t get yourself too worked up! The last thing we need is to deal with anymore beasts!”
“I won’t produce anything!” José countered. “I’m wearing gloves!”
“Those don’t always work!” Gwynivara remarked as she and Bernadette popped up from behind them.
José jumped up from the abruptness of their arrival. “Me asustaste! Don’t do that again!”
Niqun reprimanded him, “You’re mad at them? A few seconds ago, you were worried sick about them!”
José ignored that, and he asked them, “Did you find anyone?”
“Yeah, we…” Bernadette cut herself off when she saw more people arriving at the bus stop. The four of them walked away from the area, but Bernadette didn’t give out too many details out of an abundance of caution, “Well, we found someone promising, but we got caught by the Disease Safety Unit, so we probably can’t go back there…”
“The Disease Safety Unit?” Niqun echoed her. “Isn’t that the group run by-?”
Gwynivara interrupted her as some passerbys walked past them, “Yes, they’re back!”
As the four of them reached a manhole in front of an apartment complex, José wondered, “So, now what?” As the coast became clear and they entered into the sewer system, Gwynivara had to seriously contemplate this…