From the Malafarina Files, ‘Shady Rest’ a short story from the master of horror Thomas M. Malafarina

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By: Thomas M. Malafarina
© 2017 Thomas M. Malafarina

“Climate change is happening, humans are causing it, and I think this is perhaps the most serious environmental issue facing us.” – Bill Nye

“I find it very sad that by the time corporate science realizes the value of nature, that it
may be too late” – Steven Magee, Solar Radiation, Global Warming, and Human Disease

“Do you remember back in the early part of the century everyone was going crazy
about global warming, climate change, and all that other tree-hugging crap, Frank?”
Jonathan said, making air quotes with his arthritic fingers as he annunciated the words
global warming and climate change.

“Yeah … yeah, John, I remember for sure,” Franklin replied. He was Jonathan’s
best friend and had been since childhood back during the nineteen sixties. It was now
2040, and they lived past the eighty-year-old milestone.

Jonathan said, “What a bunch of nonsense that was. Here we are some thirty years
later, and everything is exactly the same as it was back then. It was a lot of worry over
nothing.”

The two were sitting in wheelchairs in their private room of the Shady Rest Senior
facility looking out the massive window at one of the most beautiful spring mornings
either of them had seen in a long time. Both of their spouses had passed away years
earlier, and they both had checked into Shady Rest at the same time. Because of their
status in the world and their financial resources, their request to be roommates was
promptly granted.

Franklin said, “Remember how they had like dozens of different scenarios
consisting of various end-of-the-world disasters? Polar ice caps melting, oceans rising,
skin cancer running rampant, worldwide famine, plagues, disease, mutation of the human
genome; you name it, and one of those wackos groups would come up with it.”

“You’re telling me.” Jonathan agreed, “And people like you and me took so much
of the heat it was ridiculous; just because we happened to be rich and successful
industrialists. What the Hell did we ever do wrong except maybe put tens of thousands of
people to work, help them earn a good income, and boost the economy?”

“And not just the US economy either, my friend. We had factories all over the
world. We brought prosperity to those foreign Godless heathens, the likes of which
they’d never seen before. And if we happened to make ourselves rich in the process, well,
that was just icing on the cake, as they say.”

“Lucky for us too, Frank, or instead of living in this fancy-schmancy retirement
home, we might be struggling like so many less fortunate.”

Franklin thought for a moment, “We certainly did pay our share of taxes and
contributed to charities as well. Remember John?”

“Yeah, how could I forget? Now here we are, sitting in the lap of luxury and
enjoying this lovely spring day. I can’t think of a better way to spend our twilight years.
It doesn’t get much better than this.”

The two released simultaneous sighs of contentment as they stared out the
window, the lush, green lawn, the many blooming trees, and the gorgeous late morning
sky. Every so often, a bluebird or robin would fly by and twitter. Far out among a grove
of trees was a bird feeder, which the staff at Shady Rest always kept overflowing with
seed. Besides the occasional finch or wren, a chubby squirrel or chipmunk would scurry
up the pole and help himself to a mouthful of seed.

Jonathan suddenly said, “Watch this. In a minute or two, that fat squirrel will
jump down off the feeder, tumble one time, then get up and scamper away through the
grass.”

“What do you mean?” Franklin asked.

“Just watch.”

Sure enough, about a minute later, the fat squirrel jumped to the ground, tumbled
once, regained its balance, and ran away.

“How the Hell did you know that?” Franklin asked.

“It was easy.” Jonathan said, “He does the same thing every day right around this
same time. I suppose squirrels are as much creatures of habit as we are.” Not taking his
eye off the squirrel, he asked, “So what time is it now? About two minutes to ten?”

Franklin looked over at the clock on the wall and saw it was exactly two minutes
to ten. He gave his friend a strange look and asked again, “How the Hell are you doing
this, John? It’s getting a bit creepy. Is it some sort of trick?”

“No trick Frank. I’m just being observant. Here’s another one for you. In exactly
two minutes, Nurse Maggie will be arriving with our morning pills.”
“Nurse Maggie …” Franklin said, trailing off dreamily, “What I wouldn’t do for
five minutes alone with the lovely Nurse Maggie.”
Margaret Esselman was a short, stocky nurse in her late fifties who, although one
of the oldest nurses on staff, the two octogenarians still considered her a “hot number.”
Jonathan asked, “And what in the Hell would you do with good Nurse Maggie if
you had such an opportunity; not that you ever would.”

“I’d give her a taste of something special that would have her following me around
all day like a lost puppy; that’s what I’d do.”

“And how pray tell would you manage such a chore with that shriveled old
useless thing you have between your legs. It’d be like trying to push a rope up an alley.”
Jonathan said, laughing hysterically. It didn’t matter that the pair had this similar
discussion at least twice a day; at medicine time, it always seemed fresh to them and
usually brought about raucous laughter.

“Well, you know John; they’ve got meds nowadays for such afflictions. One
magic blue pill and I’d be like a twenty-year-old again.”

“And what about your high blood pressure or your bad ticker, your enlarged
prostate?”

“They probably have some kind of pill for that too. And if they do, God knows we
can afford to buy whatever they have out there.”

“Maybe you should just take it easy for a bit and take that dirty old man mind of
yours off Nurse Maggie for a while.”

Then as if on command, the pair heard the familiar sound of shoes on the vinyl
floor as the nurse was arriving to give them their daily medicines. Just as Franklin was
about to give a hardy “Good Morning Maggie,” they heard an unfamiliar young voice
call, “Mr. Bleaker, Mr. Stone, it’s time for your meds.”

This was most unusual and equally unappreciated. For as long as the pair had
been staying at Shady Rest, they had never had any nurse care for them but Maggie.
Jonathan decided he’d have to immediately get to the bottom of this outrage.

Before he even looked at the nurse, he harrumphed, “Now see here. Where’s
Nurse Maggie? She always comes to give us our medicines ….” But before he could
finish his thoughts, he stared in awe at one of the most gorgeous creatures he had ever
seen in his life. He had no idea who this nurse was, but she had to be only about twenty-
five, and she was built like the proverbial brick outhouse, with long flowing blonde hair,
a cute button nose, and more curves than any road he had ever ridden on.

His friend Franklin hadn’t missed the beauty of this new arrival either. He was
staring at the young woman dumbfounded, apparently unable to speak. If Franklin had
been having fantasies about Nurse Maggie, Johnathan believed they had all evaporated
by now. This sweetheart was the real deal.

“So, which of you handsome gentlemen is Mr. Bleaker, and which one is Mr.
Stone?” She said, and for the first time, Jonathan got a look at her strange hypnotic eyes,

one of which was bright green while the other was piercing blue. He had heard of this
sort of genetic anomaly in the past. He had never seen it up close before, and instead of
being disturbed by the feature, he found it surprisingly tantalizing.

“I … I’m Jonathan Bleaker.” He said, “But please … call me Jonathan … or John
… or even Johnny if you prefer.”

“I’d be happy to, Johnny.” She said, and he noticed a slight southern accent to her
voice, making her even more alluring. “So then this good-looking big guy must be Mr.
Stone.”

“B … b … b …” Franklin said, apparently unable to form even one coherent
word.

“Yes,” Jonathan said on his behalf. “That’s Franklin Stone.”

The young nurse bent down toward Franklin, giving him an eye full of her more
than ample cleavage. “Is Franklin ok, Johnny, or did the poor man have a stroke?”
“No, he’s ok.” Jonathan said, “He just sometimes gets a bit tongue-tied around …
well … around beautiful women.”

“Why aren’t you just the most adorable charmer?” She said, standing upright then
turning and wiggling over to her medicine cart, speaking as she went. “You’re regular
nurse; Maggie called in sick today. There’s apparently some new virus or flu going
around. Since Shady Rest is a bit understaffed, they requested I stop by and take over
Maggie’s duties for the day. I hope that’s ok with you boys. I can tell you’re very fond of
Nurse Maggie. My name is Joslyn, but y’all can call me Josie if you like.” She bent over
to look into her medicine cart, allowing her already short skirt to ride enticingly high.

Jonathan heard an involuntary gasp escape Franklin’s throat.

“Some stud-muffin he is.” Jonathan thought to himself.

“Well, here you go, boys,” Joslyn said, handing both men their pills and a glass of
water.

As she did, Jonathan noticed something strange about her hands. They both had
what looked like a partial finger, a sixth finger jutting off the side slightly behind the
pinky finger. At first, the sight gave him a bit of a start, but he caught himself and looked
away before the lovely young woman noticed his surprise. If he was anything, it was a
gentleman, especially when it came to the female gender. The last thing he wanted to do
was to cause her any embarrassment. So he lifted the pills to his mouth, closed his eyes,
and took a gulp of water to wash them down. He noticed Franklin had taken his pills as
well.

He was in no hurry to see this sweet young girl leave, so he searched his mind for
something to ask to keep her talking, even though it appeared as if she wasn’t in any real
hurry to go either.

“Do you work at one of the other Shady Rest facilities?” He asked, “Both
Franklin and were always major contributors to the Shady Rest organization, and for a
time, we both served on the board of directors.”

“You did?” She said, surprised but not answering his question, “Why, that’s so
very special! You both must be very important men.”

“Well.” Jonathan said, feigning humility, “We were both very lucky to have
owned successful businesses during our early lives, which netted us substantial incomes.
Isn’t that right, Frank?”

Franklin was sitting silently, apparently still gawking at the beautiful nurse. Then
Jonathan noticed something else about Franklin that seemed a bit off. A thin string of
drool started to trickle down from the corner of his mouth. Jonathan wondered what was
wrong with his friend. He decided to ask Nurse Josie if she could check Franklin to make
sure he was ok.

But when he tried to speak, he realized he could no longer do so. It was as if his
mouth and throat were frozen, and he couldn’t force out a single syllable. Then he
noticed that he couldn’t move his head or any part of his body. What was wrong with
him? He felt fine, yet he couldn’t move.

“Well, now.” Nurse Josie said with a knowing air, “I believe the pill I gave both
of you has done its job just splendidly. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Jonathan suddenly realized he was in trouble. This stranger, this woman, had
drugged both him and Franklin with some sort of paralytic drug, and he didn’t even want
to imagine her motivation. He was certain he had never met her before. But it was
possible that maybe he had wronged her father or grandfather in some business deal
sometime in the past, and perhaps she was here for revenge. He had driven many
companies out of business during his career and was no stranger to having many enemies.
He didn’t feel this was the case with this woman, but he couldn’t come up with any other
ideas for why she would do such a thing. Then the woman lifted a sheet of printer paper
from her cart and began to read from it.

“Jonathan Marvin Bleaker and Franklin William Stone … two of the country’s
greatest and most successful industrialists … net worth … in the neighborhood of several
billion dollars.” Then she interjected, “Sadly, I don’t get to hang out in that neighborhood
very often, boys. It says here that over the years, you both were repeatedly sued by
environmental organizations trying to force you to stop polluting and contributing to
greenhouse emissions. However, because of your wealth, you could afford an unbeatable
team of lawyers who never lost a single judgment. This report says you both are
considered criminals against the world and have been responsible for much of the climate
change we’ve been experiencing for years.”

Jonathan and Franklin looked on silently. They had no choice since they were
unable to move.

“By the way, I made sure you couldn’t speak.” Joslyn said, “This is because I’ve
read the trial transcripts and watched all of your press conferences and have heard your
rhetoric about how global warming and climate change was nothing more than a lot of
liberal fantasizing. Well, gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that you were both very wrong.”
Jonathan had no idea what this raving psychopath was talking about. There was
nothing wrong with the world. There was no climate change. All she had to do was look
out the window, and she could see how lush and beautiful the landscape was here at
Shady Rest. Of course, the grounds here got special treatment by a staff of gardeners, but
the rest of the world was just as fine. What was wrong with her anyway? Then as if
reading his mind, she turned and walked toward the large bank of windows looking out
over the lawn.

“And you know what really makes us sick?” She said, and Jonathan suddenly
noted her use of the word “us.” She was obviously part of some sort of radical tree-
hugging organization. “What makes us sick is how the people here at Shady Rest have
kept the truth from both of you for so many years. They’re just as greedy as the both of
you are. They needed your steady influx of funds to keep the place going, so they created
this special room just for you both. Think about this for a minute Johnny. When was the
last time either of you has actually been outside?”

Jonathan realized he couldn’t recall when he had last actually gone outside. He
was no longer steady on his feet, and to go outside, he’d have had to have someone wheel
him around in his wheelchair. Besides, neither he nor Franklin had ever really wanted or
needed to go outside. Why should they? They had a beautiful view from this room and a
great cool breeze of fresh air blowing in from the side windows. They could watch nature
at work, hear the birds chirping and watch the squirrels playing. It was just like being
outside, but without the mosquitoes and other annoying insects. Then he thought for a
moment about the fat squirrel he saw jumping and rolling at the same time every day and
got a sudden disquieting feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Nurse Josie, if she really was a nurse, walked over to the screen in one of the side
windows, grabbed it with both hands, and pulled it out, throwing it to the floor. In the
place where the screen had been, Jonathan saw a large industrial fan encased in a steel
frame, spinning steadily.

“There’s your fresh air Johnny. It’s completely manufactured in the room behind
this one and treated to make you believe it’s actually fresh air coming in from outside.
Now, what about this amazing view of the Shady Rest gardens, Johnny?”

Jonathan noticed that her alluring southern accent had suddenly disappeared
completely. She walked over to a panel set in the wall, and typed a code into a keypad, which
popped the panel open. Then she pressed a series of switches inside the panel. Suddenly,
the glass wall looking out onto the manicured lawn vanished, replaced by a series of
blank video displays framed to look like a window panel.

“Before I came in to see you both, I was eavesdropping and overheard you telling
Frank about how you thought you saw the same squirrel do the same thing every day at
the same time. Well … you were absolutely correct, Johnny boy. This has all been an
illusion, a video holographic projection of what the good folks here at Shady Rest
thought you both wanted to see. None of it was real. And just so you know, the world no
longer looks anything like what you’ve been seeing here.”

“I also saw you noticing my two different colored eyes and my extra fingers
Johnny. You probably thought you were being discrete, but I’m used to such looks as
most of us born over two decades ago are. We all have one sort of genetic mutation or
another, so much so that we no longer consider it rude to stare, just inquisitive.”

She began to undo the buttons on her blouse, and Jonathan’s heart skipped a beat.
She turned and grabbed an antiseptic wipe from a box on the medicine cart and began
wiping what appeared to be tan make-up from her partially exposed chest. The flesh
underneath was mottled and riddled with boils and other such sores.

“In case you’re wondering, Johnny boy, these are all cancerous lesions caused by
the lack of ozone which permits harmful UV radiation to flood the earth, scorching it and
killing virtually everything that lives. The average life expectancy for anyone in my
generation is about thirty years if we are lucky. In addition, that number is declining
every year. I’m twenty-six and terminal. I’ll likely be dead before the end of this year.
Thanks to you gentlemen and others like you.”

“You see, we have a list. It contains the names and history of all of you people
still living who we consider directly responsible for destroying our blessed planet. And
our goal is to see that as many of you pay for your crimes against nature before we die.”
“Now’s the time when I’m supposed to read this to you.” She studied the
document in her hands then said, “Jonathan Marvin Bleaker and Franklin William
Stone… having been found guilty of crimes against nature and humanity … we, the
people of the United Environmental Salvation Core have sentenced you to death by
exposure to the world you are responsible for destroying. May Satan welcome you,
accursed souls.”

Jonathan and Franklin watched helplessly as the young nurse reached into her
shoulder bag and withdrew what appeared to be a gas mask of some sort. She placed the
mask over her face and then nodded to some individuals who appeared behind the two old
men. Soon their wheelchairs began to move backward out of the room before turning and
being pushed down a long corridor.

Although his paralysis made his vision limited, Jonathan could see the bodies of
several of the nursing home staff lying dead in the hallway; each of them apparently shot
to death. He hadn’t heard any gunfire, so he assumed the killers had used silenced
weapons. These same killers were now pushing him and Franklin down the hall. But why
hadn’t they just shot them? Where were they taking them?

Then he recalled what Josie had said, that he and Franklin would be killed by
exposure to the world they had destroyed. Then she had put on that gas mask. Jonathan
saw the glass front doors ahead with the outside world waiting beyond. Through the
filthy glass, what he saw made his heart sink with foreboding. There was no sunshine, no

blue sky, no green grass, and no little animals scurrying about. He saw a dark grey, bleak
and dismal world of smoke and smog. What little lawn remained was nothing more than
brown, wilted grass. Nurse Maggie and several more of the Shady Rest staff were lying
dead on the former grass. They had apparently not been shot; they had simply been
marched outside without the benefit of protective gear.

The front of his wheelchair pushed against the glass doors, and in a matter of
seconds, he and Franklin were outside. He heard the voice of Josie, muffled by the gas
mask in his left ear.

“This won’t take long, Johnny. You’ll probably try your best not to breathe, but
eventually, you’ll have to. And a few seconds after that, it’ll be all over.”

Jonathan held his breath but heard a gasp from his right and realized Franklin had
just inhaled some of the toxic atmosphere. A few seconds later, he saw his friend collapse
from his wheelchair and sprawl dead at his feet. Jonathan’s lungs burned for oxygen as he
held his breath for as long as possible. He could smell something foul, trying to work its
way up into his nostrils. Finally, when he couldn’t hold his breath any longer, he had no
choice but to inhale. He felt it first in his mouth, then his throat, and finally his lungs. It
was a white-hot burning as he sensed the very lining of his lungs eaten away. As Josie
promised, within a few seconds, it was all over.

About Horror Author Thomas M. Malafarina
Thomas M. Malafarina (www.ThomasMMalafarina.com) is an author of horror fiction from Berks County, Pennsylvania. He was born in Ashland, Schuylkill County where he lived until moving to Berks County in 1979. Many of Thomas’s stories take place in his native Schuylkill County as well as Berks County settings. Thomas’s books are published by Hellbender Books, an imprint of Sunbury Press of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

To date, he has published eight horror novels What Waits Beneath, Burner, From The Dark, Circle Of Blood, Dead Kill Book 1: The Ridge of Death, Dead Kill Book 2: The Ridge Of Change, Dead Kill Book 3: The Ridge Of War and Death Bringer Jones, Zombie Slayer Volume 1. He has published seven collections of horror short stories; Thirteen Deadly Endings, Ghost Shadows, Horror Classics, Undead Living, Malaformed Realities Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, and most recently Vol. 5. Volumes 6 and 7 are to be released in the near future. He has also published a book of often-strange single-panel cartoons called Yes I Smelled It Too; Cartoons For The Slightly Off Center and will soon publish Yes I Smelled It 2: More Cartoons For The Slightly Off Center. All of his books are published through Hellbender Books, an imprint of Sunbury Press.(www.Sunburypress.com).

In addition, many of Thomas’ stories have appeared in more than 170 anthologies and e-magazines. Some have been produced and presented for internet podcasts and radio plays as well. Thomas has shared anthology pages with some of the biggest names in horror fiction such as Jack Ketchum, Joe Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, and Lucky McKee to name a few.

Thomas is best known for the ironic twists and surprises in his stories as well as his descriptive, often gory passages. Thomas is also an artist, musician, singer, and songwriter.|

https://www.sunburypress.com/collections/thomas-m-malafarina

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