Friday, Simtember 9, 2416 | Silverton Family Estate | Bay City, Califorsimia
Morning came quickly. I didn’t sleep well, tossing and turning most of the remaining hours of the night. As soon as the sky started turning lighter, I walked around the stairwell and across the hallway to Shameka’s room. She was awake, and Dr. Bachelor welcomed me in and told me to take a seat.
“Hey, how are you doing?” I asked.
“You mean other than my insides feeling like they’re on fire?” Shameka said weakly, pressing her hand to her chest area. “That medicine Dr. B gave me sure burns all the way down.”
“Oh,” was all I could think to say as I took my seat. “Do you remember me?”
“Yes, Kass, right?” she replied.
“And you’re Shameka…”
“Yessum, that’s me. Or at least it’s me when I’m not acting like a rabid deer or something.”
I frowned. “Is she okay?” I looked at Dr. Bachelor.
“I want to be hopeful,” Dr. Bachelor said tentatively. “Shameka is a strong girl. She might pull through just fine, but she’s also very weak. She’ll need to eat more than just vegetables to keep her strength up.”
“Sorry Doc,” Shameka chuckled half-heartedly. “I just keep getting rabid cravings for lettuce and rutabaga.”
“That’s what the medicine is for… to help suppress the cravings,” Dr. Bachelor explained.
“How did… this happen?” I asked. “Last time I saw you… you were fine. I had no idea.”
Shameka closed her eyes and bit her lower lip. She was trying hard not to cry. I felt bad as I leaned back in my chair. Dr. Bachelor cleared her throat.
“You know as well as anyone that symptoms can have a sudden onset,” she said. “We don’t understand EXCES very well. Shameka is in late stage. Sometimes a person starts slow and develops symptoms over time. Sometimes it skips a stage. Sometimes it’s very rapid and we don’t understand why. We may never understand. We really only understand the symptoms, not how to stop it or treat it.”
Shameka’s eyes flew open and tears streamed down her face. “I think I can explain… some… the pieces I remember at least.”
I winced. “You don’t have to.”
“No, I want to,” Shameka straightened on the bed. “Maybe my… case…” she looked down at her hands. “…can help some others in the future.”
“Only if you’re feeling up to it,” I said.
“I have a son,” Shameka blurted out.
I blinked hard three times. Shameka was a mom?
“I have a son and two daughters, triplets actually,” Shameka smiled weakly. “Beautiful babies. I’d do…anything…for them…” her voice broke.
Dr. Bachelor handed her a tissue. I sat in stunned silence. Shameka was a mother of triplets? I wondered if Gage knew.
“Gage knows,” she explained, reading my mind as she blew her nose. “I gave ’em the name of a shelter in Simcago I stayed at when I first had the babies. Normally it’s just for moms and their kids but they were sympathetic toward him because he has a newborn daughter.”
I didn’t know what to say so I just nodded for her to continue.
“I ran away from foster care when I was fourteen and went to Bridgeport. I showed up at every hotel in town beggin’ for a job. I was covered in bruises from my last home. The owner of the Hotel Prosper took pity on me and gave me a job bussing tables after hours at and working as a the Prosper Hotel. That’s where I met Nezzie. His family called him Eby, and he went by Ebenezer when he played in the club, but he was… my… Nezzie,” Shameka looked down shyly and smiled as a teardrop rolled down her cheek.
“They own a llama ranch in the Plains, his family, and he was the oldest son so he was supposed to take it over one day, but he didn’t want to. So he ran away to Bridgeport just like me and pursued his music…”
“He was so talented. Made hundreds of dollars of tips a night playing on the old grand at the Prosper Room. Sweetest guy. He had a stutter, but man! He could sing. He never messed up once when he was singin’ only when he was talkin’. He was good to me. Treated me kind and all. Like I was a human bein’ not like those guys before him…” she shuddered as if trying to forget a memory.
“We used to go back behind the stadium and pretend we were sittin’ in the box seats. His apartment sat on part of the old stadium for the Buccaneers. I have a lot of happy memories of that place…” Shameka looked down at her stomach instinctively.
“When I found out I was pregnant, he asked me to move in with him. He was only seventeen at the time but he was making more money than me and I didn’t want to be a single mom. We were going to get married. But his family found out. They were outraged. They called me all sorts of… terrible names… and they disowned their own son. We went to court and they got custody of the babies… my babies… Nezzie’s and my’s flesh and blood,” Shameka cried. “The courts said until I turned eighteen and Nezzie proved to be a stable father, we couldn’t keep our own kids and the Claviers would have custody of the babies til then.”
Hot tears pricked my eyelids. Why hadn’t I been kinder to Shameka before?
“Nezzie and I…we made this plan to get the babies back. He would keep working in Bridgeport and saving money for a decent apartment and maybe get himself an education. I would come to Sunset Valley and see if Gage could help me. I knew about my brother because my mom had given me his contact information.”
Wait! Shameka’s mom… Gage’s mom… knew where he lived? Gage had looked for years to find his real parents and all along Brigit Briody knew where her son was?
“I got a job at the Grand Admiral Hotel as a maid. I contacted Gage…”
“Did he know about the babies then?” I interrupted, leaning forward.
“Uh… no…” Shameka looked down again. “I didn’t tell him right away. After he left Sunset Valley, I didn’t want to stay. I got myself transferred up here to Bay City to work at the La Costa Hotel and Resort.”
“How did…this…uh…” I felt awkward asking about her condition so I leaned forward and just took her hand and squeezed it.
“Why are you being so nice to me?” Shameka cried. “I don’t deserve it. I’m a horrible mother. I abandoned my kids to work in Califorsimia.”
“You didn’t have a choice, sugar,” Dr. Bachelor interjected. “Their father’s parents took them away with court permission. Doesn’t mean it isn’t awful, but it isn’t your fault.”
“I was a teen mom. I am a teen mom. I mean, I can’t get my act together and get my kiddos back and be with Nezzie again. He wrote me a month ago. He gone enlisted hisself in the military. He’s been at Oasis Landing for training and he’s been shipped off to the moon colony. The front lines of this…” she sniffled hard. “…cold war. I may never see him again. I know he’s doing what he thinks is best. But he’s… maybe… he’s in danger… I hear reports of alien bombings and random attacks and abductings…”
“I’m sure he’ll be okay. He’s a fine young man serving his country and his world,” Dr. Bachelor reassured.
“I hope so,” Shameka bit her lower lip. “I don’t think I’d ever forgive myself if he…” she trailed off and let out a few shuddering sobs. “I did something stupid… I heard about a blood drive. Some of the guests at the hotel mentioned it and I overheard. I thought it would be a great way to make some Simos. So I took myself to RRS Labs two Saturdays ago.”
“Wait, RRS?” I interrupted. “Like Raven Research Syndicate?”
“More like vultures than ravens!” Shameka cried out. “They ruined me. I went to donate some blood for 500 Simos. I gave my blood and they asked me to wait a half hour to make sure I didn’t feel nauseous or dizzy. While I was waiting, I was approached by a representative who said I fit a certain profile and I was an ideal candidate for an experimental drug program. She promised me 5000 Simos. I could make ten times the amount I made just donating blood. So I thought sure. If I took four doses of this drug, I could make enough money to come back to Bridgeport, get my babies, and Nezzie could come home, right?”
I frowned and decided it was best not to add that her boyfriend would need to fulfill his commitment to the military before being discharged.
“They said to come back Sunday morning. When I arrived, they transported me in an ambulance to another secure location. The procedure was supposed to be easy. I got undressed and put the hospital gown on and I was told to lie down and wait on a table. When the doctor came in, he was wearing a mask and he brought several others with him, all in scrubs and masks. He told me to relax and he interjected something in my arm. The last thing I remember was feeling very hot and they were all staring over me and there was a very bright light.”
“When I awoke, I felt funny. I tried to sit up but I was restrained on the table. I was no longer wearing the gown and a sheet was only half draped over me. I panicked. I leaned forward and realized I had a weird small incision on my stomach,” Shameka lifted her shirt to show us the ugly scar.
Suddenly I felt queasy. Raven Research Syndicate, the company who stopped researching EXCES, was experimenting on other Sims. The thought made me sick.
“It wasn’t an experimental drug program. It was an experimental surgery program. I started screaming. A nurse came walking in all calm like and she unfastened my restraints and told me I could get redressed. I demanded to know what happened and she said she couldn’t tell me. I decked her. Blood was spurting out her nose and I grabbed my clothes and ran. I’ve never hit anyone before in my life. I was terrified. I went to the front desk and demanded to speak with the representative I had spoken to on Saturday. The ladies at the desk were different than the day before. They were both very confused and one of them called security.”
“I demanded that I be paid and they told me because my body ‘rejected’ the drug, I wouldn’t receive any compensation and this was in the fine print of the paperwork I’d signed. When I demanded to see the paperwork, I realized that it was a different stack of papers than the single sheet I’d been asked to sign before. It was my signature on the bottom but it wasn’t the paperwork I had read before. How can they do that? What happened to me? Can you imagine that? The bastards were definitely covering something up!”
“I eventually found out that the ‘representative’ was a temp worker for the day. I was escorted from the building and within minutes, I was picked up by the police. I tried to tell them everything that happened, but they shoved me in the back of a squad car and called me crazy. I mean, I must’ve looked like a madwoman. They gave me a sedative at the local holding cell.”
“So I was sitting in jail and a detective came and took my statement and said he’d be right back. He didn’t come back for three days. I was going crazy. When he did come back, he told me that I was free to go but they wouldn’t be pursuing a case unless I could provide substantial proof. I don’t even know if he was a real detective. I can’t afford a lawyer. I’d need one to go after RRS. I went to the ER and they told me there was nothing they could do. I got an infection from my drug overdose. An infection? An infection? Nothing they can do? I’m eighteen. I have three babies out there and my man and… they can’t do nothing?”
Shameka straightened her pajama top and rested her hands on her stomach. “For all I know, I have a little alien growing inside me.”
Dr. Bachelor’s mouth dropped open. “We suspected… I mean… I suspected things like this were happening… but I didn’t think a respected company like RRS would be involved.”
“What do you mean?” I looked at her.
“Shameka, I believe they are using RRS and the ‘experimental drug trials’ as a front,” Dr. Bachelor admitted slowly.
“Who is?” Shameka asked, bewildered.
“What are you talking about, Dr. B.?” I asked.
Suddenly Shameka jerked forward and began crying hysterically. “Why? Why me? Why? Why?” she beat her fists on the bed.
I crawled up on the bed next to her and gave her a hug. Shameka sobbed into my arms, heaving and beating her fists until she didn’t have an energy left. When she finally calmed down, she fell asleep within minutes. Dr. Bachlor motioned for me to step out into the hallway.
“Dr. Bachelor, what were you talking about in there?” I asked quietly.
“I didn’t want to upset Shameka anymore, but ever since the first Xeno War, there have been rumors of aliens living among us. The government has always covered it up, but those of us in the medical field have seen some pretty strange things over the past fifty years, things that don’t add up, unless these ‘patients’ were not-of-this-world.”
“What are you saying? Aliens are experimenting on Sims at RRS?” I puzzled.
“I don’t know if it’s quite that simple. EXCES has only really shown up in the last thirty years or so and we still don’t know much about it. There are a handful of us in the medical and scientific research field who believe that alien-hybrids live among us, but the result of alien-Sim births is devastating. We believe 1 in every 1000 Sim-alien hybrid births is affected by EXCES, but the cases have exploded over the past decade. The more we find, the more the government wants it covered up, and most respected doctors in the field believe it’s a hoax.”
“What is?” I asked.
“Aliens are here on Simterra experimenting on Sims, and somehow are infusing our blood with theirs. These infusions, though not every case, are having a catastrophic effect on our body chemistry. This is why in the last decade we’ve seen increasing rates of ‘supernaturals’ living among us. This is a side effect of the ‘experiments.'”
“You mean, like werewolvism and vampirism?”
“But why? And how? I mean RRS isn’t just going to let aliens walk in and take over their labs.”
“That I don’t know, but Shameka isn’t the first case I’ve seen where this is the result of a blood test or blood transfusion or experimental drug trial gone wrong.”
“There’s got to be something we can do,” I whispered angrily. “This is horrific. Indecent. Inhumane. How can they get away with something like this?”
“I don’t know,” Dr. Bachelor rubbed her head.
“Tell me what you think, Doc,” I begged. “What’s the worst case scenario?”
“She will continue to have bouts of rabid hunger, memory loss, dementia, insanity, destructive tendencies, violent outbursts, and eventually total cognitive wipe where she will revert to a childlike or even vegetable state,” Dr. Bachelor said laboriously.
“But the medicine you gave her? Will it help?” I asked.
“For awhile. They call it the ZOMBIE disease unofficially because of the symptoms. Zoomimetic symptoms, organ failure, mental disturbance, breakdown of cellular structure, internal hemorrhaging, and excessive sweating. Those who do acknowledge it’s an actual disease call it the Sim Zombie Virus or SZV. It’s the final stage of EXCES and it’s incurable. Fatal even,” Dr. Bachelor replied bleakly.
“But we have to do something! She can’t die. You heard her,” I waved my arms passionately. “She’s got three little kids and a man who loves her and she has to get back to them.”
“I’ll try everything I can to make her comfortable. I’m going to discreetly have her sent to a facility in Alasimka. A colleague of mine started a home for victims of late-stage EXCES. It’s outside the prying eyes of the government,” Dr. Bachelor said softly.
“Thank you,” I sighed. “Thank you for coming and doing what you can.”
“I’m going to head home now,” Dr. Bachelor let out a long tired sigh. “I need a hot shower and I want to contact my colleague. You should take it easy too, Kass. You aren’t fully healed from your accident ordeal either.”
“Yes, I know,” I said, my shoulders slumping. The last thing I wanted to think about was myself. “Goodbye Dr. B.”
“Take care. I’ll see myself out,” Dr. Bachelor gave me a hug and then walked down the stairs.
I was angry. Boiling hot angry. How could aliens come to my planet and hurt Sims like this? How could Raven Research Syndicate do such terrible things to their patients? How could they let aliens to come into their facilities? I didn’t have the answers, but I did know I was going to find them…
if it was the last thing I did…
But first, I was going to call Gage.
2.11 Coming Soon
- What will Kass do now that she’s discovered Shameka’s secrets?
- Will Shameka recover?
- How will Kass’ conversation with Gage go?
- The Prosper Room is an exclusive lounge in Bridgeport. The Prosper Hotel is supposedly on the floors below the lounge.
- Ebenezer ‘Eby’ ‘Nezzie’ Clavier lives in Bridgeport, Pennsimvania. His family owns a successful llama ranch in Appaloosa Plains. For purposes of my story, he came to Bridgeport to pursue his music and plays in various night clubs, particularly the Prosper Room. He was the boyfriend of Shameka Briody and got her pregnant. When his family found out, they took the children back to Appaloosa Plains to raise them after gaining legal custody of the children, writing Shameka and their son off.
- The Bridgeport Buccaneers is a play off the baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates since Bridgeport is located in Pennsimvania. The Bridgeport Arms, the apartments Ebenezer lives in, are located in part of the old stadium. The Buccaneers now play at LlamaCo. Stadium.
- To learn more about EXCES, click here.