Tremors

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The sound of feet tapping against the cold, marble flooring penetrated throughout the hall, running around every corner and nook until it met each available ear in close distance. It was a curious noise that, in combination with the light drumming of rain against the tinted windows, created an almost ritualistic rhythm.

Mina Howard kept her eyes on the renowned guest lecturer, biological chemist, Dr. Scott Gramms, but her mind was elsewhere. She tried to feel the privilege associated with her attending such a prestigious event at the University, an invitation-only event, but nothing could erase the argument she had previously had with her mother from her mind.

It was over her younger brother, Ibrahim, who had just graduated from undergraduate university top of his class with a degree in Molecular Biology. He didn’t want to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. but, instead, wished to travel to Syria to locate their estranged father. The news came as a surprise to both Mina and her mother, but of course Mrs. Howard erupted at the thought and mention of her twenty-one year old son moving to a country, once her country, riddled in war and corruption to find a man whom she considered dead. A man who had, on the day of Mina’s birth, disappeared entirely. A man who has, for the past twenty-four years, never been seen or heard from. No one knew if he was actually in Syria; it was all estimation and rumors. Though both Mina and Ibrahim weren’t as enraged with their father as their mother was, Mina still knew never to bring up that topic in the presence of their mother. However, Ibrahim, despite not personally knowing his father, was eager to find him.

What had happened that morning was disastrous. Mina received a phone call from her mother informing her that Ibrahim had booked a flight to Syria for that very evening. Where he received the money needed to arrange a trip to a foreign country, Mina did not know. Matter-of-fact, that was the most curious aspect of it all. Ibrahim was still tangled in college debts and there was no way in hell their money would fund the air and hotel fare. Her mother was furious and threatened that he was no longer her son, and so forth, but Mina stood ground for her brother. After all, what hurt could a trip to the Middle East to do a young man recently graduated from university? That was Mina’s mentality. If Ibrahim wanted to meet their father, so be it. Their mother had no say in his actions. As soon as Mina told her this, however, there was excessive screaming and bellowing. After a certain point, Mina simply hung up on her mother, angry with the confrontation and not, in the least, content with the way things had turned out.

She finally found the strength to bring her attention back to Dr. Gramms, though it appeared that he was near the end of his presentation. The projector screen was all black with the exception of bolded white text reading, “A New Generation of Molecular Science.”

“All of you, in this room,” The man spoke, raising his arms as if to embrace the entire auditorium, “are the future scientists of this generation. You hold immense knowledge in your minds, knowledge that could change this world as we know it. It is your responsibility to dispense it best you can.” Dr. Gramms adjusted his glasses and ran a hand through his white hair. “Do not allow failure to stand in the way of excellence because, and this is key, failure is not a state of being. Do not let others influence your own opinions; build your own and allow others to carve at it, but never redesign it. Do you understand?”

There were hushed whispers of compliance in the audience.

“You are the new generation of science.” His voice suddenly grew eerily quiet. Everyone was silent, unsure how to proceed, as Dr. Scott Gramms stared blankly into his audience. The sound of tapping feet, rain, and the humming of the projector rattled throughout the auditorium.

Mina furrowed her eyebrows in confusion as she continued watching him gaze lifelessly into the crowd. The college dean, who was seated behind the doctor with his wife, exchanged baffled expressions with the university president. Moments later, the president rose to his feet and gently touched Dr. Gramms on the shoulder, excusing him from the microphone.

“Thank you, Dr. Gramms. We sincerely appreciate your words of advice and fine wisdom.” He began clapping his hands, to which the rest of the auditorium took as a cue to break into a bombarding applause of gratitude.

After the applause faded, the dean took the microphone and cleared his throat.

“And now we’d like to welcome esteemed Physicist, Dr. Edward Reem, to the stage.”

Mina watched as a tall man, of perhaps fifty years, approached the stage. He was dressed finely in a grey suit and red tie. His greying hair was parted neatly and he had a full beard. Dr. Grams could’ve easily been his father; they looked well related but, as she knew, most probably weren’t.

Dr. Reem took the microphone in his hands and merely gazed into the audience with a warm smile plastered on his face. He inhaled deeply before he brought his lips to the speaker.

“Hello my fellow scientists and thank you for-”

The sound of gunfire abruptly interrupted Dr. Reem. They jolted everyone out of their sleep-like state and brought tension and fear into the auditorium. All too quickly, people were screaming and climbing out of their seats in pursuit of the exit.
It appeared to be occurring in slow motion to Mina; all she could do was remain seated and watch it all unfold. However, as soon as she registered the horror of the situation she jumped to her feet and struggled to ease her breathing by placing a hand firmly over her chest. She didn’t want to have a panic attack, especially with her severe history of episodes. She ignored the members of the audience as they pushed past her, animalistic in their urges to escape the auditorium at all and only cost. Mina stayed stationary, listening closely to the sounds outside the closed doors. There appeared to be a steady channel of gunfire just outside the auditorium, perhaps in the upstairs library or the main office; every minute seemed to occupy at least three shots from what had to be a hand gun or rifle. Mina didn’t know anything about guns, but she knew that whoever was yielding a gun right outside of the auditorium in her university was acting alone. She didn’t hear any accompanying gunfire, which was either a good or a bad thing.
“You must get out of here!” Dr. Gramms, who had been running up the main aisle, took her firmly by the shoulders and gave her a shake. “Don’t just stand there!”
Mina stared at him, dumbly, as he let go and ran past her.
Nothing was making sense; her brain couldn’t properly process what was going on. She didn’t know what to do; would running outside really make any sense? Was staying put any better? She had to be logical, but she also needed to keep her breathing in check or she’d pass out.
She heard a woman’s shriek radiate throughout what seemed to be the entire university building; the noise rattled against her ear drums, causing her excruitiating pain. When Mina was at risk of a panic attack, or she was experiencing the fleeting first stages of an attack, her senses always seemed to spike in sensitivity. Therefore, the normal auditory ranges associated with gunfire and screams amplified to an uncomfortable extent.
Mina threw her hands over her ears and did the only thing she could; she shrunk down to her feet, nestled between two rows of auditorium chairs. She tucked her head between her knees and, with her hands tightly cupped over her ears, she shut her eyes. She was being stupid, literally deeming herself a sitting duck for the madman shooting just outside the doors of the auditorium. However, her breathing was beginning to ease as she escaped into another world of quiet and serenity. If she was going to die today at least she wouldn’t have to see or hear the associated terror.
She was there, just like that, for what may have been minutes. The gunfire and screaming seemed to come to a cessation. The sounds of whimpering and choked sobs echoed in her sensitive ears, but aside from that it was quiet. But she kept her eyes and ears shut off from the world for as long as she could, until someone interrupted her.
“Are you alright?”
Mina reacted to the husky voice as if it came from an angel. She opened her eyes and, with her hands still over her ears, glanced up at the body accompanying the voice. Whoever it was, the owner of the husky voice, stood tall over her squatting body. Mina could barely see his face, her eyes had grown oversensitive to the artificial lights in the room and this was casting a hazy white glow over his face; it truly seemed like he was an angel, whoever he was.
“Give me your hand.” The voice gently commanded.
She watched as a hand was stretched out before her face. She blinked a few times before registering its purpose. Carefully removing her hands from over her ears, she placed one in his hands and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. However, the moment she stood her knees buckled from her weight and she collapsed into the stranger’s chest. It was an odd feeling, the firmness of his chest. She could feel the soft fabric of his shirt against her cheek as it brushed against it. His arms protected her, wrapping her tightly to prevent her fall.
“You alright?”
“Y-yes,” Mina’s voice was barely audible, she knew. She pushed away from his chest and sucked in deep breaths.
“Do you need water?”
“I need a phone. My phone. I need to call…” She lost her train of thought as she felt her arms begin to tremble.
“Woah, it’s alright now.” The man assured, putting a hand on her shoulder and squeezing. “It’s alright.”
Mina nodded, her head hung low as she shut her eyes tightly and focused on her breathing. She could feel herself falling into an attack. Her arms continued to tremble, but the man’s hand still sat on her shoulder. She stood like that, with the man close to her, for a good five to ten minutes before she was back to a relative state of ease. Her breathing slowed down and her arms no longer trembled. A feeling of relief swept inspired her to find the strength to slowly lift her head up and properly gaze into the face of the man. However, that relief was soon replaced with pure and guileless horror when she met the eyes of the husky-voiced man.
Two light green emerald orbs greeting her, surrounded by thick forests of black eyelashes and distinctly shaped eyebrows. Mina clearly recalled one factor about his face, aside from his glowing eyes, which relished with her from that day onwards- a small black mole to the right of his right eye, just below the bottom lash line.
Below his eyes were smears of blood.
Mina thought she was staring at red paint, at first. It took half a second to register that what she was looking at was, indeed, human blood. And, as she realized another half second later, not his blood.
The full second it took for her to completely comprehend his physical appearance was the same span of time it took the man to jab an object against her stomach. Her tremors returned with a violent vengeance at the sight of the small pistol pushed into upper abdomen.
Another half second later, she had passed out. However, just before blackness overwhelmed her she had managed a small glimpse of the bottom portion of his blood covered face.
It was a perfect snapshot of his lips; he was grinning at her.





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