Patton Whistler was an attractive man of 35–caucasian with tanned skin and dark features. He married a lovely woman ten years prior, and together they had two young daughters. They lived in a spacious bungalow in Los Angeles. Life was good. Predictable.

It was a perfect spring day. Patton walked along a bustlng sidewalk then turned into a building and took the elevator to the fourth floor where he arrived at his physician’s office. A few minutes after checking in, a nurse appeared in a doorway of the waiting room.

“Mr. Whistler?” she said with a smile.

Patton stood and greeted the young nurse.

“How are you, today?” she asked.

Before he could answer she continued, “I’m gonna need you to slip off your shoes and stand on the scale for me, ok?”

172. Another five pounds down since last week. 

The nurse marked the chart. “Follow me, Mr. Whistler.”

As they walked down a narrow hall, she asked, “Are you taking any new medications?”

“No.”

“And you’re still taking the meloxicam for the pain?”

“Yes,” Patton said. “And it’s not helping.”

They arrived at a tiny consultation room and she held open the door. “If you’ll just have a seat right over there,” she said, then grabbed a blood pressure monitor and unlocked the velcro strap. “Please roll your sleeve up and hold out your left arm.”

It was all about efficiency, Patton thought. I’m nothing more than a science experiment. 

“BP looks good,” she said. Then she took two viles of blood, and asked a few more questions. “Ok! Please strip down to your underwear and put on the gown. The opening is to the back.” She then opened the door, placed the chart in chart holder on the front, and flipped on a switch that illuminated a pale blue light above door. “Doctor Caldwell will be right in.”

A minute later there was a quick knock at the door and a man in a white jacket appeared.

“Patton,” the man said smiling while offering his hand.

Doctor Martin Caldwell was one of the most respected physicians in the city. Patton had been a patient for a few years on the recommendation of a colleague at work. Caldwell was a tall man with gray hair and dark eyebrows. His presence was absolutely doctorly, with black glasses and a crisp jacket that made him look like a TV doctor.

Patton shook the hand of the older man who then folded his arms against his chest as though he was hugging Patton’s chart. His smile faded.

“I’m afraid I have some bad news,” he said.

Patton shifted on the edge of the examining table.

“You’ve got Condyloma acuminatum, or genital warts.”

“What?” Patton exclaimed.

“It’s a virus that affects the genitals as the result of sexual contact,” Caldwell said. “It’s treatable, so that’s good. Nothing to worry about there. They could even go away on their own.”

“But how could this happen?” Patton asked.

The doctor let out a little laugh. “Only you know that, Patton. You’re married, right?”

Patton nodded.

“Does your wife show signs of the virus?”

It had been six months since they’d made love, but she’d not mentioned it.

“No.” Patton said. “Not as far as I know. How soon after sex do these things appear?”

“It varies on how aggressive the virus is. Could be a week. Could be a couple of months.”

Patton looked puzzled.

“Is something wrong, Patton?” the doctor asked.

“No. No.” he said nervously. “So you say there’s a remedy?”

“Yes. Condyloma acuminatum is treatable. But I wouldn’t engage in unprotected sex for a while.”

“It’s spreading,” Patton said.

The doctor propped up his glasses on his nose and reached into a drawer for gloves. “Lay back on the table for me, will you? Let’s see what’s going on.”

Patton laid back as the doctor flipped on the examining light, adjusting it just above his crotch, then he pulled the robe aside. “Could I have you roll over onto your stomach for me?” Dr. Caldwell asked after a minute of gently probing his front side.

The festering sores covered Patton’s thighs and buttocks.

“Well, you’re right. It’s definitely spreading. This is more serious than I realized.” the doctor said. “I’m going to give you two prescriptions that you’ll need to get filled as soon as possible. One is a topical. Use it right away and then again after you shower tonight. Take the other with food. And for God’s sake, do not have sex until we get this under control, ok? We should have the bloodwork back first thing tomorrow.”

Patton nodded, dressed, left the office, and filled his prescriptions.

When he returned home that night, his wife surprised him with a candlelight dinner.

But of course she did. 

“I sent the kids to Mom’s for the night,” she said. “We have the place to ourselves.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not well,” Patton said with some sadness in his eyes.

His wife feigned a smile. “It’s ok,” she said before blowing out the two tall candles on the table.

“I’m sorry,” he said again before jogging upstairs.

He showered, applied the topical creme, and crawled into bed. He could hear his wife downstairs cleaning up from their romantic dinner. He opened his laptop and surfed to a porn site where he entertained himself like he always did, until reaching climax in a tissue. Then he fell asleep.

Patton rose early the next morning to leave the house before his wife awoke. In the bathroom he noticed that the sores had spread down his legs. When he looked in the mirror he saw sores on his face and neck. “What the actual fuck?” he said to himself as he poked the open wounds on his forehead.

He left home and drove to Dr. Caldwell’s building where he sat in the parking lot until he saw the doctor pull in for work.

“Doctor Caldwell,” Patton cried out as he closed the door of his car. “Doctor Caldwell!” he called again.

The doctor turned. He was dressed in sneakers, jeans, and a Grateful Dead tee shirt. Not exactly doctorly, Patton thought.

“Patton,” Caldwell exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

“Look at my face Doc.”

“Jesus, what happened?”

“I fell asleep. This happened overnight.”

“Do you have an appointment?” Caldwell asked. “Of course you don’t you were just here yesterday,” he said to himself. “Ok, let’s get you inside so we can have a look.”

The two men walked into the office together then Dr. Caldwell said something to his head nurse, and Patton retreated to a consulation room where he stripped down, donned a gown, and waited for the nurse. She never came.

Fifteen minutes later Dr. Caldwell appeared in his standard crisp white jacket, alongside another person also in white. “Patton this is Dr. Osborne. She’s one of the top authorities in the city on sexually transmitted diseases.”

The short, black-haired woman stuck out her hand. “Glad to meet you, Mr. Whistler. Dr. Caldwell has filled me in on your scenario and we’re going to do all we can to help.”

“How did you get her here so fast?” Patton asked, shaking her hand.

“She works one floor up,” Caldwell explained. “When I told her what was going on she moved her appointments to meet with you.”

“So you specialize in sexually transmitted diseases? That’s got to be uplifting,” Patton said trying to be funny.

“I work with a lot of pornstars, if you must know,” she said. “Mostly it’s preventative.”

Patton laid back on the table and the doctors inspected his body below the gown. They whispered to themselves and while Patton wasn’t sure what they were discussing in their exclusive, doctorly language, he did hear Dr. Osborne say, “This is absolutely remarkable.”

When they finished inspecting his body, they turned to his face. “We’re going to use bright lights for this part, so please close your eyes, Patton.” Caldwell said.

More doctorly jibberish, then, “It appears to be spreading even as we speak,” Dr. Osborne said. “Remarkable. Just remarkable.”

The examining light switched off. “You can sit up now, Patton.” Caldwell said. “Dr. Osborne and I need to consult and I’m going to check on that lab work from yesterday. We should only be a few minutes.”

The doctors left the room. Patton’s wife called. He sent it to voicemail. A text appeared. He didn’t recognize the number.

“How’s it feel to have AIDS?”

Patton fumbled for the digits and responded, “Who is this?”

“You don’t have much time,” the unknown number said. “You’ll be gone by the end of the day.”

“WHO THE FUCK IS THIS?” Patton responded.

“You deserve this, you know.” 

Patton sat in disbelief.

“Does your wife know you’re addicted to pornography and you prefer jerking off to your computer rather than making love to her?” 

Patton shut off his phone with trembling hands. His mind raced. He could feel his core temperature rising. He began to cough. Ten minutes turned into thirty. Still no doctors. He looked at his phone. He owed his wife a call. He needed to change his life. He needed to put his secrets behind him. He needed to come clean about everything.

He switched on his phone.

In her frantic voicemail, his wife explained that their two daughters had been abducted and he needed to get home right away.

His heart raced and the room began to spin.

There were more texts from the unknown number.

He wiped sweat from his forehead, feeling the sting of the spreading sores, and with shaking hands, opened Messenger.

“People like you need to suffer.” 

“You support a dark industry based in evil that relies on the trade of sex slaves to get you off.” 

“Children who suffer more than you are right now.” 

“And now it’s your turn.”

“But unlike them, your pain will soon be over.” 

Patton threw the phone across the room where it shattered against the wall. Then he put his head in his hands and cried.

The doctors returned.

“Patton?” Caldwell asked.

Patton looked up with tears flowing down his sore-covered face. Both doctors wore stony faces.

“We have some bad news.”

***

Jim

Two Roads

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

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