Nap Lapkin doesn’t get sympathy pains (Part 1 of 2)
A young man develops stomach pains. As the evening progresses they get worse. His family gathers around him and soon they too are developing the same symptoms. Concerned, they call the EMTs who arrive on site and before they can even load the unfortunate young man into their ambulance they too are writhing in pain. Upon hearing this, the hospital is worried that they might be looking at some of infectious pandemic event.
Then they get even more concerned when everyone at the hospital who had been involved with receiving the initial call from the medics and those who reached out to the CDC for advice begin to come down with the same symptoms.
It seemed impossible.
Later that evening someone told the local news about the situation and they broke into the regularly scheduled program to tell the public about what was going on at the hospital.
Soon the station was flooded with calls because every viewer that had watched the News Flash was now showing the same debilitating signs of stomach distress.
Not long afterwards the national media picked up on the story and within only a few hours fully half the people in the United States were lying on their side in agony.
No medicine seemed to help. No reason for the malady could be found.
And no international news outlet could resist making it their top story.
A week later the entire world was in the grip of this mysterious ailment. Most developed countries were in midst of chaos as fully 95% of their population was out of commission. Cities began to burn as there were no firemen to put out even the simplest blaze. Power started to go out and there were no technicians to put things right. Just going to the grocery store seemed beyond the abilities of most people and eventually those who hadn’t contracted the bug were told what was going on… and that was all it took.
The fate of the world hung in the balance.
And that’s the world that Nap Lapkin returned to after his delightful two week camping trip in Prince William Forest Park. He sensed something was amiss as the road back to Langley was completely and utterly deserted. Were it not that tumbleweeds are not indigenous to Virginia, one of them would not have looked entirely out of place tumbling along. There were a few cars abandoned on the way, their drivers having heard the news via the radio and therefore were unable to make it home or to their place of work before the pains became too intense to operate a motor vehicle, but other than that it was nothing but open highway and blue skies. He enjoyed it but knew there would be a price to pay for the lack of traffic eventually.
The bill came due soon after.
He walked into CIA headquarters to find it virtually empty. The few remaining agents and staff had been asked to stay in their offices and under no circumstances turn on any TV or radio, read a newspaper or pull up any social media sites on their devices. A literal information quarantine was in place. They were told that they would be given further instructions at a later date.
Nap’s superiors had sent him emails over the course of the phenomenon but he was only now getting a chance to read them. They were vague, written like riddles and left him with more questions than answers. The only thing he knew for sure was that action was required.
His first action?
Check up on Madonna, his on-again, off-again girlfriend.
He found her in the same state as everyone else, due to a recent briefing on the outbreak, clutching her stomach and trying to keep down the food that would later fuel her next round of diarrhea. She was at her wit’s end and pleaded for Nap to do something, anything to help. She couldn’t give him anything concrete to go on so he felt his frustration growing. Whether on-again or off-again, he cared a great deal for Madonna and it killed him to see her in pain.
“That’s it!” he said to himself.
You wouldn’t have thought an exclamation point was necessary when referring to someone talking to themselves but this was possibly a world-saving epiphany so you’ll excuse his enthusiasm.
“I know you can’t tell me any details, but can you at least tell me who patient zero was?” he asked his struggling fellow agent.
“I can’t see how that would hurt” said a hurting Madonna, and she proceeded to give him his name and location.
“Be careful” she said as Nap departed. Even though it came between sharp pains, the ‘be’ and the ‘careful’ separated by at least two full seconds, it was clear to anyone listening that, even in her weakened condition, she felt much more on-again than off-again about Nap.