Catching Fever

Robert Fever awoke on cold cement, feeling as if he had been run over by a car. He winced as he sat up. By the shifting light of the naked bulb that swayed above him, Robert saw that he was down in his own basement. Dusty, uninviting workout machines provided the room’s only furniture. Several campaign posters that read “CATCH THE FEVER!” in red white and blue were stacked in a corner. The tiny windows near the ceiling were whited out by recent snow fall.

Robert got to his feet and rubbed his hands together, steam escaping his nose whenever he exhaled. He heard footsteps above him, and then a fit of coughing. The sound of the news on his television murmured through the ceiling. Robert tied his bathrobe around him tight and walked cautiously up the wooden stairs to the door.

“Hey! Unlock this door!” Robert said as pounded on the door.  He heard the television turn off.

Silence.

“Look, take whatever you want, but let me out. I’ll freeze down here.”

“You are…” said a shaky voice, surprisingly close to the door, “Hereby…”

“What? Speak up, please.”

“You are…” The voice was timid at first, but then gained courage: “You are hereby under arrest.”

“Under arrest! For what?!”

“For the murder for 12 million people, you piece of scum!” The voice was now vicious.

Prisoner to a mad man, thought Robert. His blood went cold.

The voice continued, now more casual: “I know all about you, Bobby. Bobby the boob. I know about your fake grades, your rigged elections, your–” the voice then spat into another fit of coughing.

“I haven’t killed anyone!” said Robert, attempting to inject some sanity.

“Oh, but you do–you will. Seven years from now, you begin to strip away the rights of the American people. Over the next three-to-five years you order the death of over 12 million of your own Americans. America’s one and only evil tyrant.”

“It’s not true! How could any of that be true?!”

“Oh, so you didn’t lie about your schooling, your elections, everything–”

“I demand to know who I’m speaking to.”

“My name’s Tyler Fuss. I work for the government of the United States of America. I was sent here to clean up an awful stain in US history–that’d be you.”

“What do you want with me?”

“I told you. I’m placing you under arrest. Just as soon as the machine warms up, you’ll get the privilege of seeing the inside of a jail cell from the year 2112.”

*          *          *

In the living room, Tyler paced around. He looked out the window. The snow was coming down in white sheets. His head was swimming. I’ve got him, he thought, The infamous Robert Fever! I, Tyler Fuss, will be a household-goddamn-name! He suppressed a hearty laugh, which turned into a deep coughing fit until he hacked up a sizable glob of mucus, which he spat onto the floor. Focus now. The mission is only half over…

Tyler then heard a low rumble that gradually increased in volume and pitch. He turned from the window to face the machine. In the middle of the room sat a startling 6’x6’x6′ silver, metallic cube. Tyler walked to the cellar door. “It’s time, Bobby boy.” He unlocked the door and out came Robert, shivering in his relaxed attire. Tyler couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of him. “Get in the box, you old fool.”

Frightened, Robert slowly made his way toward the metal cube. It was now sustaining loud high-pitched hum. Tyler pointed a small black gun at him. “Now press your hand against that side and push up.” Robert did as Tyler said and the entire side of the cube slid up revealing two white, cushioned seats inside a white interior. Both seats were facing toward the window.

“You take the back one,” said Tyler.

They climbed into their seats and Tyler closed the panel after them. The inside remained well lit, glowing white. A digital counter on the front wall began counting down from 30 seconds. Tyler suddenly realized that this would be the last time he would be this close with the legendary dictator. He racked he brain to try and say something significant as the numbers counted down. “Well…” he stumbled, “I guess it’s never too late… for justice.” At ten seconds remaining, Tyler fell into another violent coughing fit and leaned his head into his knees. During this fit, Tyler thought he heard a strange clicking noise.

One second later, the cube vanished and the air in Robert’s cabin swirled as it rushed to fill the sudden void.

* * *

Tyler hesitated to open the panel. What kind of new world was he about to enter? Would they remember the mission they had sent him on? Would the name Robert Fever even mean anything to these people? It didn’t matter. He had just carried out a successful mission planned by countless individuals, and had saved the lives of over 12 million people.

He gathered his courage and opened the panel. To his surprise, Tyler found that he was surrounded by a small army of soldiers, all of them pointing their guns right at him. Tyler got up from the chair, and tried to move away from the line of fire. “Stay where you are.” a soldier barked at him. Another soldier came up from behind and cuffed him. In unison, the soldiers lowered their rifles and a military general stood before Tyler. The general spoke: “Tyler Fuss. You are under arrest for biological terrorism.”

“Sir, no sir–you’ve got the wrong pers–” But when Tyler looked behind him he saw that the back seat was empty. He suddenly realized that the clicking noise he heard had been Robert escaping.

“You faked your health exam.” The general continued, “You went back in time and delivered a virus that the past had no resistnece to.”

“No!” cried Tyler.

“Did you, or did you not, come into contact with a living person or a place of dwelling without a protective suit?”

“I-I-,” Tyler stammered.

“You are responsible for causing the epidemic that killed 12 million Americans.”

Tyler was then taken away to a chamber. His coughing echoed in the halls.