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Final Journal

by Kristen Leavitt 2 months ago in Short Story / Short Story
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The Recordings of Jeriki Halter

Final Journal
Photo by Oscar Ivan Esquivel Arteaga on Unsplash

Recording 1

[Crackling, soft muttering sounds]

Is this thing on? Dang it all, this thing is older than I am.

[Painful scraping sound- a chair being dragged across the ground, perhaps?]

Well then. I suppose I should start from the beginning. My name is Jeriki Halter, former agent of the United States Department of Warfare. Before you throw this in the nearest vat of toxic waste, realize that if nothing else, you could at least learn something from these words. Traitor though I am called, I know things that you want to know.

I had to make this record, despite the risks, because I am no longer sure that I will make it to the end of this conflict. Both sides are now desperate to find me, and neither have particularly friendly intentions. I only hope my ex-fellow agents will find this before anyone else.

It started with Project X. By now, most people have heard of this, although it was meant to remain top secret for years to come. At this point, though, Project X has been so grossly misconstrued that it is no longer recognizable. If you worked on it, though, you already know that.

As you may or may not know, Project X was a response to the weapons being developed by unfriendly foreign nations,from nuclearized guns to mutated diseases. Project X, instead of focusing on external protection, was directed at strengthening and enhancing the human body to respond to any threat that could be thrown at it. We assumed this was the best way to combat any strike from Russia, China, North Korea, or anyone else.

Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, the project was working. The serums were effective and safe, at least as far as we had determined. Sorry, all you uninformed doomsdayers, but this is not a zombie apocalypse or some sort of cloning project or anything else of the sort. It was, in fact,

[police sirens drown out the voice for several seconds before fading]

…beside the point.

[Loud crash, followed by unintelligible shouting. It isn’t English]

Ah, mother of all-[harsh intake of breath]. Time to go. They found me.

[Chair scraping, muffled rustling. Perhaps the recorder was put in a pocket.]

[Muffled voice, heavy African accent] Halter! We know you are here! Just give us what we want and know one has to get hurt.

[Something shattering, likely a window. Footsteps, heavy breathing.]

[Soft muttering, almost indiscernable] Stupid…should’ve known…Isari, that rat…going to ruin faster…

[Footsteps and breathing for five minutes, thirty-three seconds]

Oh, blast, is this thing still running? Gonna run it out of minu-

Recording 2

I apologize for the interruption. I’m sorry also to say that it will certainly not be the last.

[Cat screeching, metal clanging]

Hmmm. Yes. As I was saying, Project X. With the world on the brink of World War 3, we found it prudent to take certain measures to protect our soldiers. The rest of the world was so focused on weaponry and the like. Not that the US ignored that. We were making nukes and missiles and bigger guns and ships just like the rest of them. But we also decided to try something new. It-

[Banging, like someone knocking on a door]

[Sharp muttering that sounds a lot like rather elicit curses, followed by a woman's voice with a Brazilian accent] By all that is good and holy, you had better open this door! If they catch me out here now, I’m dead. I didn’t follow your sorry butt all the way out here just to-

[Chair scraping, thudding footsteps, growing softer. A door opening.]

[Somewhat muffled] Tasha? What in heaven’s name are you doing here? How did you find me?

[Indistinguishable words in a woman’s voice, followed by some shuffling sounds and a door closing. Footsteps, at least two pairs, growing louder.]

Nice place you have here.

How did you find me?

Please. As if you’ve been discreet.

[Silence for about five seconds]

Fine. I bugged your locket.

You did what? Why? When?

Right after you came to me the night before you took off, being all cryptic about making everything right. You didn’t really think I’d just let you walk away, did you?

But why the locket?

It was the only thing that you keep on your person at all times. Besides your cell, which I rightly assumed you would be dumping if you planned on disappearing.

[Grunt] Why bother tracking me at all? Going to bring me in for questioning?

That depends. Are you going to answer my questions right here, or do you need more…incentive?

You’re not seriously threatening to turn me over to Harns? Even you’re not that cold.

Desperate times and all that. We-hey, what’s this?

[Static noise]

Hey! Don’t touch that. It’s nothing. Just-

Recording 3

My apologies for the abrupt ending to that last message, and the intrusion of my new…guest. I’m not getting very far in my narrative, I’ve noticed. I will attempt to remedy that. Tasha, stop touching my knives. You have your own.

[Soft, unintelligible muttering]

So, back to where I left off. Project X, instead of focusing on external weapons, was meant to focus on people themselves. Make them stronger, faster, smarter, more resistant to disease and toxins, etc etc. Despite what the general public thinks, the project was a major success. After a few bumps and hiccups, we managed to work out most of the bugs, and our test subjects-

Not rats, in case you were wondering. We tested the serums and genetic coding on ourselves.

Yes, thank you. Anyways, the test subjects showed positive results with little to no side effects.

I did get an itch behind my left ear. It still hasn’t gone away.

Don't you have something more important to do?

Yeah. Stop the whole freakin’ world from self-destructing. Unfortunately, I need your help, and you’re too busy making a journal.

[Sigh] Anyways. The US government is not to blame for the mutations. [Pause] I am.

Finally. Getting to the good stuff. Whoever listens to this, realize he made me wait to explain to his little device before he would explain it to me. Appreciate my restraint in not shooting a couple of the less important pieces off him to get answers.

Do you want to hear the story or not?

I am your rapt audience.

Wonderful. [Static-filled sigh] Anyways. Back to my confession. The fact is, I went vigilante. I went behind the US government’s back and contacted some of the more shady elements of other countries. And I gave them our secrets.

What??!!

Sort of. I took samples of our serums and corrupted them in subtle ways, then I sold them to other governments. The greedy bastards were thrilled. The ability to create superhumans? Who would turn that down?

Any reasonably cautious or intelligent dictator who doesn’t want to buy from his enemy.

I wasn’t stupid, Tasha. I was careful. They couldn’t trace it back to the US. They thought they were buying from a black market dealer looking to make a profit. Anyways, they took the serums, and they used them. I didn’t give any formulas, and I made the substances corrode if exposed to oxygen for too long so that they wouldn’t be able to run proper tests. Anyways-

Did you hear that?

What?

[Silence. Then a tiny creak]

That.

Dang it all.

We need to work on your cursing.

Focus, Tasha.

I’m very focused. I wouldn’t’ve heard your ridiculous attempt at profanity if I wasn’t focused.

Just-just shut up!

He-

[Loud cracking sound]

Time to go!

[Crackling, fuzzy sounds, some unintelligible muttering. A deep man’s voice, speaking German, perhaps, based on the accent]

Recording 4

[Jeriki, speaking very fast and breathing heavily] Hello, no time to waste. Basically, I sabotaged the other countries so that their soldiers would be compromised. I didn’t expect the serums and formulas to be so widely used on such a large percentage of the population. I also didn’t expect the mutations to be…genetic. Basically, a lot more people got infected than I assumed possible. And so here we are.

Chased by zombies.

Oh, please, Tasha.

Looks like a zombie, acts like a zombie, must be a zombie.

They aren’t dead. And they look like regular people.

The ones that aren’t decaying!

They aren’t decay-move!

[Cracking sound, followed by vaguely human grunts. A high pitched shriek, very human]

Bleeding mummers! You [curses interspersed with crashing, crackling, and static]...let go…I swear…-eriki!

[Earsplitting cracks, cause strange interference over the recording]

You had that this whole time, and you didn’t use it?

I prefer not to kill unless I absolutely have to.

And you didn’t think that time started right about the time Consolas set his zombies on our tails?

They aren’t zombies!

That won’t stop them from ripping our throats out and eating our brains.

They don’t-

[Silence]

[Distant yelling]

Is that

[Sounding very perturbed] If she doesn’t quiet down, she’ll get us all killed.

Ha. Bold of you to assume they could find her.

You’re forgetting that some of the mutations stuck and even grew stronger. Their abilities range from-

Blah, blah, spare me the lecture. I’ve seen it all. And she’s too smart for them to find her. Their bodies may be able to do some incredible things, but they don’t have many marbles left.

[Almost human screeching]

Well, they found someone.

[Distant yelling, gender of speaker undeterminable]

What the crap is she doing?

If she let them find her, she has a reason. Trust her.

You know very well that this has nothing to do with trust. Accidents happen. I don’t want her getting hurt. How did she find us, anyway?

[Silence]

I will kill you.

Hey! She asked me for help finding you. What did you expect? We were worried sick. And the entire government was after you, calling you a traitor.

So you brought her into this?

Oh, don’t be that way. She’s a better soldier than even you.

What? No she isn’t. She isn't even trained.

[Only the sounds of distant screeches and occasion static for about ten seconds]

Ummmm...

[Unintelligible mutter, probably a curse] You trained her?

No, actually. She trained herself. Honestly, what did you expect? You ran off, we needed soldiers, and she wanted to find you. She volunteered, was rejected, and then did the procedure on herself.

Which one?

[Pause]

Um, all of them?

I’m going to strangle you. Then I’m going to find her. And strangle her too.

Please don’t. My bruises from the last strangling finally went away.

Tasha? Is that you?

Oh, dear.

Tasha! It is you! I thought I saw you! Don’t worry, I distracted the mummers. I-Tash, what’s wrong?

Nothing, dear. It’s just…

[Very softly] Jeriki?

Kass. I thought I told you not to follow me.

[Snort] I don’t obey mysterious notes left on my bedside table in the dead of night.

You do when they come from me.

I could not verify that they came from you, captain.

Don’t pull that tone with me. We have never been in the military.

[Softly] Could’ve fooled me.

Why did you do it? They’re all calling you a traitor. What is going on?

You need to leave. Now. Tasha, take her back. I need to finish what I started.

Which is?

I’m just going to need you to trust me.

You’re making that very hard to do!

Kass, please.

[Long silence, then a loud, staticy sigh]

Okay, Jer.

Tash, what are you doing? Let go of me! No! Stop! Let go! [Screams grow softer]

I’m sorry. I promise, I’ll make everything right.

[A long time of footsteps, static, wind, and the occasional night creature]

Recording 5

[Lots of background noise-wind interference, crickets, leaves crinkling, footsteps]

This may or may not be my final recording. I will finish my story, and then attempt to pull off my plan. If there are no further recordings, you can assume that I failed and am dead.

[Long, deep breath]

I cannot undo what has been done. There is only one thing I can do to somewhat repair the damage. As of today, the US government is working to, firstly, eradicate the mutated humans, whether by cure or extinction, and, secondly, kill or capture anyone who has access to the serums and formulas. But I know that, on this last account, they will be too late. I would have told them as much if they wouldn’t have immediately executed me for treason.

There is a lab in Northern Coria that has been working with the serums to undo the taints I put on them. I know for a fact that they are very close to uncovering the secrets. If that happens, they will have a weapon on their hands that will cause untold destruction. I must destroy this lab. If I survive that, I’ll decide what to do next.

Here’s what you need to know: the lab is found in the exact center of the country, fenced off by electrical wire. It looks like an energy power plant. You will find, after investigating, that the land belongs to a Chan Hue. Chan Hue doesn’t exist, so don’t worry about him. The land is really owned by the Corian government, and the area was built specifically to study the serums and run experiments.

I’m only about a mile away now. I’ll leave the recording running in case any relevant information pops up within that mile, then I’ll hide it away. If you find this, use it well. And Tasha, if you listen to this, don’t laugh too hard at my fitting end.

[A long while of background noise]

I’m here. It’s just as I expected. I’m going to put this recording…[Sharp intake of breath] No. No, it can’t be. There’s no way…

[Distant shouting]

Oh, [a rather harsh curse].

[Gunfire]

It’s now or never. I’m sorry, everyone. I won’t have time to clear the blast zone. This lockbox should keep the recording safe. Maybe.

[Male voice, no accent] Well, do we have a rat out there? What’s happening, boys-

[Click. Silence]

Postscript:

I, Kass Halter, have provided as clear a translation as I can of my father’s audio recording. This recording was found in a strongbox after a thorough sweep of the area by underground US agents who were searching for mummers. Several bodies were found. None were identifiable. I don’t know what my father did, but it caused nearly wholesale destruction of this supposed ‘lab’. He left behind little evidence that what he did was in any way justified. His actions could have been those of a traitor or a madman, for all we know.

May I add that, on a psychological level, it was jarring to hear my final conversation with Jeriki before his death. He seemed sane, he seemed honest. But who can possibly know? ‘

The US continues to fight the creation of more mutated humans and search for a cure. I hope that someday we can undo what my father started.

This is Kass Halter, signing off.

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About the author

Kristen Leavitt

Hey all! I am a recent graduate from BYU in Provo with a masters in PE. I have a passion for the outdoors, physical activity, sports, and health, but I also love writing! I love my husband, parents, and all eleven of my siblings!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

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    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

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Comments (7)

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  • Joe Deezabout a month ago

    That was a REALLY fun story. I'm glad I read it! Thank you.

  • Annelise Lordsabout a month ago

    You are funny and good. I hope this is fiction. If not, you are scaring me.

  • Natasha Morozovabout a month ago

    This was so good! I felt captivated the whole way through, and like I was at the edge of my seat until the very end. I love the balance between it being a serious and still fun read - there was just enough humor to help break things up a little bit. This would have made an amazing podcast style story like welcome to nightvale

  • Dylan Boyd2 months ago

    Amazing to read, a lot humor and seriousness. Loves it

  • Carol Townend2 months ago

    I loved this in every way. It's serious, humorous, and just a really engaging read. Well written!

  • Michele Hardy2 months ago

    This was excellent! It was a quick paced story and engaging and an awesome take on a zombie outbreak! have you considered turning this into an audio drama?

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