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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Day That No One Died (9)

Read parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight.
* * *

The food was getting cold, but the coffee was still hot, and as hungry as Daryl was feeling, he didn't think he should be consuming anything more substantial than coffee just now.

"What did you bring me?" Charlie asked as Daryl slid into the seat across from him.

Daryl took a sip from the cup of coffee, slid the plate of now-cold food aside, and dropped the file folders onto the table. "The folder on the top seemed most interesting to me." Another, longer drink of coffee while Charlie pulled the top file folder to him and opened it.

"Where did you get these?"

"On a desk in the records room."

Charlie spent a couple of minutes looking over the enclosed pages while Daryl sat quietly, coffee cupped in both hands, elbows on the table, slowly drinking down the warm essence of the coffee. The few minutes felt to Daryl like a lifetime.

"Okay," Charlie said, placing the pages onto the table in front of him. "So what do you make of that?"

Looking up from his coffee shocked, Daryl said, "I was going to ask you exactly the same thing."

"Humor me."

"I don't know what it means. Somebody was interested in births and deaths over the past month or so. That's all I can tell."

"No idea why?"

"Charlie, please. It's been a long day. I haven't slept well for two nights, and my mind has been wrapped around this cricket thing so tight that I can't seem to think of anything else."

"Okay, I'll give you a clue," Charlie said. "It's not just an interest in who was born or deceased. It's more of how many were born and deceased."

"How many." A statement, not a question.

"More specifically, how many and how that number increased."

"I don't get it," Daryl said.

"Joe, there's something going on here. Since October first, the number of births in that hospital alone has increased by more than five percent per day. Cumulatively."


"At the same time," Charlie continued, "the number of deaths has decreased by about the same amount per day. Cumulatively."

"What do you mean, cumulatively?"

"I'll make this as easy as I can. Let's say in a given hospital that there is an average of fourteen babies born each day, and an average of eight people dying each day."


"It's the national average. Per one thousand people, that is. It just makes the math easy to understand."

"Go on."

"If you look at the lists that you brought me, what do you notice?"

Pulling the file folder back to his side of the table, Daryl examined the lists again. Counting, he looked up and said, "On October first there were 8 births. Yesterday there were almost..." he paused and recounted. "Seventy?"


"Seventy babies born in one day in one hospital? That sounds like a lot."

"The average number of babies born in McCullogh Valley Hospital each month is two hundred and forty three. Well, it was a month or so ago, anyway."


"That's a hundred and six more births than deaths, which is actually on par with the national average."

"A baby boom."

"Something like that. And you said almost seventy births yesterday?"

"Sixty eight," Daryl corrected. Being a man who held stats to be very important, Daryl had counted and remembered the exact number.

Scribbling some figures on a napkin, Charlie looked up and said, "Which translates to an average of over two thousand per month."


"Except that the number is still growing by about five percent every day. And what's worse is that the number of deaths each day is declining by the same rate at the same time."

Daryl made no response while Charlie paused, then continued. "According to the list you gave me, nobody died yesterday. Or the day before. In fact, at the current rate," scribbling again on a napkin, "of fourteen deaths a month, this town will have twenty five thousand more people than it did a year ago. Except, again, that this number keeps growing, which means that it will be much more than that."

"But why? How?" Daryl asked.

"That's where the lab notes come in, I think."

* * *

Nothing. That was exactly what Charlie had been able to tell Daryl about the cryptic lab notes, about the scribbled text in the margins, about why there suddenly seemed to be thousands more crickets, birds, cars and, maybe, people. With a promise of a call from Charlie as soon as he had any news, Daryl headed home. He was late getting out the next episode of his show and, though he wasn't sure he was in the right frame of mind to put out a good show, his subscribers deserved the consistency of the best he could on a timely schedule.

* * *


* * *

Deciding that it was the only way to put a stop to the incessant ringing annoyance, Daryl snatched up the phone and barked, "Hello."

"What kind of greeting is that for the deliverer of good things."

"Charlie. Why do I feel like you're the only person I talk to sometimes?"

"Don't know, man. It's been almost two months since the last time we talked."




"I've got something for you," Charlie explained.

"Whatcha got?"

"An intro."


"For your show. The one you asked me for over two months ago."

"Cool! Let's hear it."

"Check your email, listen to it, then call me right back." Click. Charlie never was much for long goodbyes.

Hanging up the phone, Daryl crossed the room to his studio, fired on his computer, and poured himself a cup of coffee while he waited. He had completely forgotten about the intro he had asked Charlie to put together for him. It had seemed like such an important thing so many months ago, but somehow everything had changed since then. But maybe it was exactly what he needed to get the feeling of a return to normalcy.

Web browser loaded. Inbox. Message opened.


Funny how someone who was supposed to have a way with words -- a musician -- communicated in such concise, incomplete sentences sometimes. What a massacre of the English language it seemed to be.

Daryl pressed play and sat back with his cup of coffee.
To be continued ...

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