The Beast - Prologue

It was raining. Matching his mood. He drove the car onto the parking space of the company he worked for. He turned off the engine and pulled his key out of its slot in the dashboard. The radio died off, lacking the engine’s energy, and it became dead silent in the car, apart from the repetitive noise of raindrops on the car roof.

Richard Freiwald put his head onto the steering-wheel. Was he really going to do this? He didn’t have to, he knew, but where was the purpose of his plan if he just gave it up?

He looked into the rear mirror. Looking back at him was the face of a man in his mid-forties, with short light-brown hair and grey eyes behind his glasses. He hadn’t shaved this morning, so his jawbone was covered with stubbles. Would anyone notice? he wondered.

His wife had died just the day before. She had suffered from cancer for many years before. She was the power that had driven Richard. He had already worked for the company before Julia had been diagnosed, but after that he had put all his efforts into finding a cure for her, looking for a way to live with her for many, many other years. But all for naught. The last thing she had manged to whisper to him was that she loved him, while he was holding her hands tightly, whispering her name.

It hadn’t been too bad for some weeks, so she wasn’t at the hospital, but suddenly her situation had worsened and she knew she wouldn’t make it. She had begged him not to call the emergency because she wanted to spend her last hours in her life with him, and only with him.
Therefore, no one knew yet, except for him. When he was holding his phone in his hands, about to inform the authorities, he just couldn’t do it. If he had called them, it would have made it all real and he would be forsaken. Alone. Forever.

The Freiwalds didn’t have any children and no close relatives at all. After Julia had been diagnosed with cancer and told their families and friends, all they did was telling them how they were always there for them, but they just vanished afterwards. Richard was done with them. He hated them for leaving him and his wife in this mess, in which he now was all alone. In fact, he had grown to hate the entire world over the course of the past years. He hated what it had done to him. He hated all the people, living with each other, but not helping each other. He was simply done with it. The world could just as well end now.

And he would be the one to have it ending.

He lifted his head, grabbed his briefcase from passenger seat, opened the door and left his car. When he started heading towards his workplace, he pushed the button on his key, knowing that it was locked. Not that it would be for too long a time. Richard closed in to the building towering before him, walking along the massive brick building which was the company’s factory. There all the meds his company had developed and which were safe to sell were produced for the masses. This didn’t matter too much for him, since he was working at the company’s research facility, which was the steel and glass construction he was headed to. He didn’t even notice the rain pouring down on him until just before he entered the building, but at that moment he was already soaking wet. Summer in Germany, he thought.

Inside he was greeted by the receptionist Ms Jansen. “Good morning, Mr Freiwald. Oh, are you growing a beard?”

He cleared his throat. “Yeah, maybe, I’m just experimenting a little.” His voice still was hoarser than usual he noticed alarmingly, so he added: “Sorry, I’m afraid I caught a little cold this weekend.”

Ms Jansen smiled sympathetically. “Yeah, the weather is horrible. Let’s just hope it gets better soon, so you can recover quickly.”

“I’m sure I will recover anyway, really, it’s not too bad. I just need one or two nights to sleep it out.” He got rather unnerved by this small talk stopping him, so he made his best effort of a smile. “I’m sorry, I’ve got some really urgent things to do, so…”

“Oh, of course. Have a very nice day, sir.”

He nodded goodbye, turned around and took the elevator to the fifth floor. He exited it there, took out his employee’s chip and hold it against the device in the wall that now registered he was present in the company. He took a look at the clock in it. 8:27. Most of his colleagues wouldn’t come to work before 9 a.m., so that gave him some time before anyone might notice that anything was different from all the other days.

Richard went to his office. The third door on his right, which automatically unlocked after he had registered. As long as he technically was not at work, nobody could simply enter his office, as was the case for all the researchers here. He entered the rather small room. There were not many things in there. His desk, filled with tons of documents and his laptop, took up most space, the rest was occupied by filing cabinets and a small wardrobe, which he went to first. He put his still wet jacket and his briefcase into it before taking out and putting on his lab coat. Then he went to his desk, knowing he would not spend much time in his office and that he did not have too much time before his colleagues arrived. He opened the first drawer in his desk and took out the keys for the laboratory. He put them into his coat’s side pocket and left his office not much more than one minute after he had entered it. He turned right and went down the corridor, passing by all his colleagues’ offices, heading directly to the door at the end of the corridor.

The laboratory.

He had spent much time there those last years, looking for a cure for Julia. Admittedly, if he had been successful, the meds would have made him famous as well, making him the person who had finally found a cure for this dread. But he wouldn’t have cared, as long as he would have been together with the love of his life for many more years. That was no longer an option though. He had also overheard what his colleagues were developing. Some of them were also looking for cures for a number of diseases. Some were successful, others not quite. However, some were thinking ahead, for the company’s future benefits, for a potential time when the current diseases might be all defeated. But the company needed illnesses to make profit, so why not explore some and create diseases for the future, and the cures right after them?

Richard had found this train of thought extremely disturbing and had been happy he only had to do research to find cure for the already existing diseases. But right now, he was glad he had overheard some of his colleagues boasting about their accomplishments, so now he knew exactly what to look for.

A disease without any cure.

Again he pressed his chip against the device in front of the door. Of course, not all employees were granted access to the laboratory due to security standards. It would be unthinkable that, say, Ms Jansen, the receptionist, would walk around in there. Still, these security standards were anything but perfect, otherwise Richard wouldn’t be granted access today. He was far from mental health and he knew it himself, but his company didn’t.

So, after two beeps and the clicking of the door, Richard had got ten seconds to enter the laboratory before the door locked again. He got into the room in time though and put on a pair of safety goggles. He was now surrounded by a huge number of test tubes filled with liquids and Petri dishes filled with bacteria cultures, all being positioned on the desks and in the shelves. Of course there were also many microscopes and machines with which said chemicals could be investigated further. However, there was only one machine Richard was looking for, which was storing all the more or less finished chemicals that had been developed – the vessels that were on open display were only the ingredients they all needed for their daily work which couldn’t cause too many problems just on their own. But what Richard wanted was a finished product, and it could only be found via the machine at the end of the room. It granted access to all finished chemicals that were stored in the company’s basement from where they were transported by a system of pipes in the walls after entering its code in said machine. This granted a certain degree of security, as long as the researchers kept the codes of the respective chemical to themselves.

Which Schmitz hadn’t managed to do. He was the youngest of Richard’s colleagues, had just finished university a few years ago and was eager to prove his great degree from there. So he had to tell the others about his breakthrough, about the disease he had created. How no human body had any antibodies against the virus. How fast it would spread via the air. How it would change the human DNA, irreversibly as long as there was no cure for it, and until now, there wasn’t. He was boasting so much he even told them its code, convinced that his boss also was utterly pleased with his research’s outcome.

666. The number of the beast.

That was what Schmitz called his creation lovingly – the Beast.

Security standards were only of any use when everyone kept them. Schmitz had not learned that yet, and the world would pay for his carelessness and arrogance. And even so, the company rather cared about saving money instead of focusing on security. After all, there hadn’t been a precedent of anything getting out of the building yet, and before any of that happened, even the government didn’t care too much.

Richard entered 666 into the machine before him and pressed Enter. A short beep confirmed that the machine had found something with that code, and Richard could only assume that it was on its way to him. All he could do now was wait. Nervously.

After half a minute that seemed like eternity to him, the round machine started buzzing and in its centre a small, transparent plastic bag appeared. It was filled with another airtight plastic bag in which the virus was contained. It had been transported up via a pipe that led to the machine from the basement, where all products were stored. If any of them were required, they had appear in this machine.

The plastic bag had the product number of its contents on a label, and also the international symbol for biological hazard. Richard took it in his hands and opened the outer bag, taking out the inner one. He held it closer to his eyes and took a closer look at the substance inside.

On a first glance he couldn’t see much, it appeared to be just air. Then again, people weren’t actually supposed to see a virus by simply looking at it. On second glance, though, he thought to see a slightly green touch in the air inside the bag. But maybe it was just the reflexion of the light. Anyway, he just had to assume it was the beast. He nervously checked his watch. He had to fasten up before his colleagues were coming. He put the outer bag back into the machine. He pressed a few buttons and it was swallowed up, back on its way into the basement. He got to the door, took off his safety goggles and left the room, the smaller bag containing the virus in his left hand.

He hurried back to his office, looking into the other rooms on the way there, checking if any of his colleagues had appeared to work yet. Fortunately for him, all the rooms were empty. He didn’t know how he would react if he encountered anyone at this moment yet, especially if they were asking about the bag. Once in his office, Richard put it onto his desk before taking his lab coat off. He grabbed his jacket and briefcase from the wardrobe, putting the bag into it’s the latter one before putting on the jacket. He took his keys from his desk and left his office again. He hadn’t lingered there more than a minute.

He clocked out and decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator, simply because he had never seen the purpose of taking the elevator downstairs. He’d consider himself truly old as soon as he’d take an elevator to get downstairs. He was fairly amused by his trivial thoughts in that moment, but at least they kept him from thinking about the contents of his briefcase. After all, he could be glad that he didn’t meet any of his colleagues on the stairs, and so, refocusing on his intentions, he fastened his steps and rushed downstairs.

He arrived there soon, being greeted again by a surprised Ms Jansen. “Mr Freiwald? What are you doing here again?”

Richard cleared his throat. He might just hurry out, ignoring her, but that would raise suspicions and the people might find out sooner what he had done. It was better to leave them in doubt for as long as possible.

“Sorry, Ms Jansen, but… my… wife called” he replied hesitantly. “There seems to be quite a situation at home and I have to look after it. I’m sure I’ll be back in an hour at the latest.”

“Oh, all right then. Well, take care and see you later, I guess.”

Richard’s throat was too sore for another reply, so he quickly nodded and left through the door into the rain, glad that he hadn’t met anyone else yet and hurried to his car, hoping that it stayed like that. Fortunately for him, it did.

Richard got to his car undisturbed, except for the rain. Apparently all of his colleagues had a hard time getting out of bed and to work on this rainy Monday morning. He couldn’t exactly blame them for that, especially since it served his purposes all too well. He seated himself beyond his steering wheel while putting his briefcase onto the passenger seat.

The drive flew by while he realized how astonishingly calm and relaxed he was now, more than he had ever been before. He turned on the radio and chose a station playing classic music. He found that most fitting for his situation, and was very pleased to hear the introducing rhythm of Tchaikovsky’s Overture being played by his stereo while he left the industrial estate where his company was situated. The way he had to take was most obvious to him.

After ten minutes, as the song was drawing to its end, Richard reached the car park in the centre of town. It was still early morning, so he was baffled that he couldn’t find any parking space before it hit him. On Monday mornings, street traders could use the city’s market place to sell fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and many other exquisite things that couldn’t be purchased at supermarkets in that quality. Especially elderly people used this opportunity to extend their life spans. That served his purposes quite well this morning, although it wouldn’t exactly prolong anyone’s life.

He simply parked his car, blocking another one. He didn’t care anymore. While the radio was playing the Overture’s crescendo, Richard grabbed his briefcase and took out the plastic bag containing the virus. It was quite easy to open with a zipper, but then again it should be clear to any researcher not to open the bag in a room that couldn’t be decontaminated and also not when they weren’t wearing protective clothes including an oxygen mask.

After opening the car door, Richard opened the plastic bag as well.

He took a deep breath, knowing that he was most likely infected now already. He left the car without even locking it this time and motioned towards the market place, where the virus would have its biggest effect, infecting many people there.

The thought had hit Richard when he was holding his phone in his hands. Instinctively he wanted to call a doctor to confirm Julia’s death. But as he was standing there, before dialling the number, it had struck him that he was all alone now. No children, no close friends, no one left who’d care about him, no one who’d remember him when he was dead himself. He then decided to be remembered as the man who had led humanity to its downfall. Not that it was likely people would remember him for too long.

After a few minutes’ walk, passing by all the stores in town, motioning like being hypnotized, focused only on the end of it all, Richard reached the market place. He looked around, seeing a number of stalls, salespeople calling their offers to all the people willing to buy: old ladies and men, but also many women from the age of 30 onward, most likely doing the purchases for their families. It wasn’t exactly surprising that there were only few men in the same age. Equality with regard to gender hadn’t really been reached in Germany yet.

It was when he saw a young woman with two little children walking beside her that he woke up from his daze. Suddenly he realized what he had done. The virus was set free now and it was quite impossible to stop it from spreading. He had encountered too many people already, hundreds, maybe thousands, who would infect their families, friends and neighbours, children and old people alike, the rich and the poor. All of them would spread the virus as well. It will have gone global in a week’s time.

And there was no cure for anyone. The Beast was released.

What have I done?

That was Richard’s last thought before passing out.

Thanks for reading this humble chapter. It is the prologue of a story I'm writing at the moment. The next chapters will fly in very irregularly - sorry about that in advance!

Please let me know how you like it! Any kind of feedback is gold for me!

P.S. This chapter has got nothing to do with transgender - the tags are generally for the entire series, so a transgender character is coming in soon enough. Also, it is tagged as "fanfiction". I didn't know how to put it better. The story plays in the same universe as a popular TV series, but just on a different continent. Interaction with the characters from that is highly unlikely. I may give you the name of the series after the next chapter, because it's getting rather obvious there ;)

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