There was something strange about the dead bodies.
October 13, 2013
A VG Serial: Dark Continent Continental
“Where the heck are you going?” Skeeter asked.
Angus was doing a slow troll down Guadalupe—his eyes were panning left and right. He looked up at the clock on the UT Tower. He was only four when Charles Joseph Whitman had wreaked deadly havoc on the UT campus from the tower. He didn’t remember it, of course, but he had read every account he could get his hands on. He had watched old newsreels of the event. He watched the TV movie, The Deadly Tower. All of it was chilling—the people running, panicked, not knowing exactly what was going on, some injured and bleeding, limping, being carried. “I thought I would check out the vibe on campus, after the incident.”
“Not many people walking about at all, Angus—one tenth normal, or less. There is a pall over everything.”
Angus couldn’t help thinking that the campus had the same feeling that it did after the events in 1966. “Yeah, the few people walking around look older—like they are graduate students or professors. Let’s drive by the death house and see what’s going on there.” Angus maneuvered the vehicle for a quick turn. As he pulled up to the rent house on a side street, off of a side street, of Guadalupe, they noticed yellow crime scene tape still stretched out all around the perimeter, on trees.
“Is that who I think it is?” Skeeter was pointing to an old dark car with a man sitting in the driver’s seat writing on a tablet.
“Yep, it’s him. It’s our old friend Blackie Sparks!” Angus exclaimed when he saw the newsman.
Angus and Skeeter got out of the car. Blackie looked up when a shadow appeared across his notebook.
“What are you up to?” Angus asked when Blackie made eye contact.
“Whatever it is, you can bet I am gonna put my own spin on it.” Blackie answered, then he got out of the car.
“I’m just warning you ahead of time—we probably can’t give you any information, so don’t ask.” Angus chuckled.
“Do you know anything about this letter?” Blackie handed a piece of paper to Angus. Angus held it down low enough for Skeeter to read along with him.
This letter is to inform you and to keep you apprised of a situation
on campus. Three students have died this semester. That is not
unusual for a campus our size—pretty much the norm. One death
was a cerebrovascular accident, one was a traffic fatality. We
do not know, nor can medical science tell us at this time, the
cause of the third death. There is no reason for panic, but we
do understand if you have concern. If your child’s tuition is
paid in full, and you would feel better removing them from
campus until we have more answers, we understand. We plan
to make accommodations. Department heads will be sending
out letters with information on how students can complete
most of the semester online. As we approach the time for
final exams, you will receive the schedules for those and where
they will be held. Term papers may be dropped off in a manila
envelope at the instructors’ offices or sent to the instructor directly
through the mail.
If you paid for dormitory space and don’t use it, adjustments will
be made on your bill, next semester. We appreciate your cooperation
in these matters and do not expect a long delay in return to normalcy.
It was signed by the president of the University of Texas.
“No, we didn’t know anything about this, Blackie.” Angus answered. Blackie could tell by the expressions on their faces that they were probably telling the truth. “That is why we swung by,” Angus added, “we wanted to gage the mood on campus.”
Blackie started to pry. “Is it a disease? What is it? This letter hints that
It is a disease.”
“We truthfully don’t know.” Skeeter tried to be tactful.
“Well, I have been able to root out that similar deaths have happened in other cities. I never could find out what. The public has the right to know.”
“Did you go ask the medical examiner?” Angus asked.
“I camped out on his doorstep for three days—didn’t do any good. Everyone is so secretive, it is a big creep factor.”
“Blackie, you are an award-winning journalist for a reason,” Skeeter started. “You are damn good. Nothing can stop you. But you know what can happen if the wrong news gets out to the wrong people—or the right news prematurely. Remember the War of the Worlds broadcast? People who tuned in late thought it was really happening. Some of them went off the deep end. The country was ripe for it.”
“Yeah. I wrestle with that option every day. Do I play it safe, or do I get the story? There is something very strange about these dead bodies, and I want to know what it is.”
“Have you tried any of the other places besides Austin, where you think this is happening?” Skeeter asked.
“Of course! No one is talking. It is a conspiracy.”
Angus interrupted. “We have got to get on down the road. Take it easy, Blackie. And since no one knows what we are dealing with, I would be careful about hanging around here too long on this property.”
“And don’t even think about trying to sneak into that house!” Skeeter was firm, but had a smile on her face. Believe it or not, we do kind of like you. It wouldn’t be a good idea to hang around here too long, at all.”
Blackie Sparks just stared at them.
Chapters of Dark Continental by Sara Marie Hogg will be published on Saturday and Sunday.