"Hey Dad, can we go home yet?" Nate whispered, lying next to me on the building rooftop. For a second, I flashed back to my childhood: I was the kid asking when we would be finished, and my father was the one practically leaning over the edge observing, only armed with a rifle instead of photographic equipment and a notepad. Then, just as quickly, my mind snapped back to the present.

"No, Nate," I responded. "We can't go back yet. I've got to find a good specimen today. This is important work we're doing. You know that, right, son?"

"Yes, Dad, I know. Protecting the future of mankind or whatever. But what I don't get is why you insist on bringing me along on these observational trips if you know I'm just going to complain. Why can't I ever stay home when you do this?"

What do you say to that? Because you certainly can't try to explain to your thirteen-year-old son that you won't leave him home alone because you don't think he can defend himself and you don't want to see him killed. If you say that, then he'll get all defensive and angry.

"Look," I said after a moment, "next time, if you want to stay home, then at least go somewhere. Maybe go out to one of the restaurants with that girl you've been eyeing - what was her name again? Natalie, right?"

"Dad, her name is Nat. Not Natalie."

Okay, well obviously it would be futile now to point out that Nat was simply short for Natalie - at least, it probably was. "Whatever," I said, grinning. "Anyway, why don't you take her out for something to eat next time, and then I'll drop by and come get you when I return?"

"Sure, Dad. I guess that's better than sitting out here, on top of some abandoned gas station."

"Yes, I suppose it is for someone of your age. Just make sure you have fun, okay?"

Nate sighed, indicating that I was pushing it again. "Yes Dad."

Back on-topic, I picked up my binoculars and was immediately startled to see one of the infected ambling around - very close to the gas station, actually. I snatched up my camera, zoomed in as close as I could on first the head, then upper and lower torso, taking photos as I repositioned the camera each time.

This specimen was actually very intriguing. Its gut was basically torn open, and the chest cavity appeared to be largely empty. But then how did it process food with no stomach or intestines? How did it keep the blood flowing through its body - which I presumed that, like every other living thing excluding plants, it had to - with the heart exposed or maybe missing?

As usual, just when I thought I had this infection figured out it popped up and smacked me in the face with a proverbial Idiot stamp.

The End

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