by Bob Lackey
Icy raindrops stung Jamie’s face as he ran. Another shot exploded in the alley, smashing the bullet into the wall near his head and showering him with hateful fragments. He dodged behind a dumpster, running several yards in a crouch. Slugs ricocheted in metallic echoes over his head. The alley opened onto a side street. He turned hard right, charging along the sidewalk toward the stoplights above the next intersection. Reaching the end of the alley seconds later, the shooter centered his gun sight at the back of the Jamie’s head.
Jamie scrambled around the corner before the shooter could fire. He stumbled under the brilliant lights of a theater marquee. His chest heaved, trying to pull in enough oxygen to stay conscious as red and blue flashes hammered his vision. He shuffled to a stop, bending forward, coughing, bracing his hands on his knees, his sweat joining the water between his shoes. People dodged him in the rain, frowning that he blocked their way. As the fireworks in his vision cleared, and the thundering of his heart diminished in his ears, a gloved hand gently touched him on his back.
He jerked away, bracing against a movie poster, his arms blocking an attack.
“Easy there, young man,” the old priest said from under his umbrella. “Just patting a coughing man on the sidewalk.” He held his hand up in surrender and smiled. “Just trying to help.”
Jamie nodded, taking in measured breaths and exhaling slowly.
“Had a hard run, did you?” the priest asked.
“Running from the truth and my own death, Father.”
The priest chuckled. “That’s mighty profound.”
Jamie frowned, glancing at the crowd moving by them, then up at the lights of the sky scrapers punching into the night clouds. He shook his head and turned to the priest.
“I’ve told all the right people…for nothing.”
“Told them what?” the priest asked.
“That I have seen the end of our world.”
“Oh,” the priest said, still smiling. “That’s quite a vision you’ve had.”
“No vision, Priest. Research. I’m a Scientist.”
“Showing the end of the world?” the priest asked.
“You wouldn’t understand.” Jamie said, between deep breaths.
“Maybe not. And maybe it will help just to share this terrible vision.”
Jamie sighed. “Might as well tell you,” he said , then hesitated. “…Human DNA is failing,”
“What is failing?”
“All of it. Our ability to replicate; to copy genes.”
“Copy? I don’t understand.”
“Told you…Our DNA is like copying machines. It needs an original. Each generation loses something. Once we lose the original copy, and only make copies from copies, the original information is lost.”
“Can’t it be fixed? Some drug?”
“Human DNA is…losing itself?”
“Yes,” Jamie said.
“…and when will the copying stop?”
“Nothing human will reach the end of this century.”
The priest’s tearful eyes widened.
Two short hisses spit through the air. Small red holes opened on their coats. They crumpled to the sidewalk as men jumped from a van dragging them away.
Robert F. Lackey has published five novels, two short story collections, and a children’s book. He has published several flash fiction pieces in online literary journals, one of which was awarded best submission for an international contest. He is a member of the SCWA and the Surfside Writers Group. He has been a soldier, professional photographer, medical clinician, administrator, technical writer, and defense contractor. Robert has lived in 38 locations within the United States and Europe. These experiences provide an awareness of human behavior in a wide variety of settings that he brings to his characters and stories.