22 August 2013 - 08:00 PM
The outbreak was far from contained. The government issued a national emergency and citizens were ordered to designated refugee camps where they would receive food, water, and protection. That was a joke, thought Alan as he sat at his station in an underground bunker. Those same refugee camps quickly turned into human buffets for the dead.
The world was in a panic and yet he and the other doctors and scientist waited in relative safety beneath the streets of Alexandria Virginia, just south of the nation’s capital. This was no hospital or clinic; this was a biological weapons manufacturer and they have been trying to combat this infection since the outbreak.
“Hey Alan, how’s our celebrity doing?” Tyler walked in with his annoying smile and fake politeness. Alan never liked Tyler and damn sure didn’t like being cooped up with him at worlds end. Tyler was referring to the woman sleeping in a medically induced coma in the center of the room covered in a thick plastic cylinder; Patient Zero.
There wasn’t much personal information on Patient Zero, just her first name as Serena but not much else. So they stuck with calling her Patient Zero; the first person infected with the zombie virus.
“Same as she was yesterday, a vegetable. She doesn’t say much but she’s a great listener.” Alan said with a smirk. Tyler came in every morning with the same question and he always got the same answer but that was a part of their procedure. Millions of bits of data have been collected on Patient Zero and how the infection reacts in her body. She is technically still human as the infection hasn’t turned her into a ‘walker’; as he heard them described by a few survivors.
“You never wonder about her?” Alan asked while he notated the current vitals for Patient Zero for the records.
“I try not to. Just focus on the job.” Tyler said as he changed out the IV bag and added more medications.
“But…who is she? What is she like? What makes her smile or cry or laugh? What’s her most treasured memory, what’s her worst?” Alan spoke as he stared at her sleeping face. From weeks on this duty assignment, he’s gotten to know Serena’s face; every curve and smooth edge. Besides Dr. Restano, Patient Zero was the only other woman in the complex; Alan couldn’t help but stare.
She wasn’t hard on the eyes either. Black shoulder length hair, coffee colored skin, slim figure and full lips; Alan wondered what color her eyes were.
“I don’t know the answer and we never will. She’s been in a coma sense the beginning of all this.” Tyler spread his arms wide indicating the ruined world beyond the thick concrete walls of the lab.
“But the real mystery is how she became infected with something that pretty much turned the world to shit. Why don’t we wake her up and just ask her?” Alan asked.
“Her brain’s probably mush by now anyway.” Not wanting to continue the conversation, Tyler rudely left and Alan shot daggers at him. Patient Zero’s brain wasn’t physically mush as hundreds of CT Scans showed but mentally, Patient Zero could have the IQ of a jar of peanut butter. And still the desire to have a conversation with her was all Alan thought about in his limited off time. The world as they knew it was over; who were they trying to save with their research?
The higher ups have sent out reconnaissance teams that have come up with no survivors, only death. But the desire to save their own asses are what keeps Patient Zero asleep until one day Alan decided he wanted to meet her.
For the next several days, the procedure was the same. Tyler comes in every morning to change out the IV bag and add medicine why Alan notates changes and collects data. Alan would disconnect her IV line so the medicine would not be delivered then reattach a line to an IV hidden underneath the mechanical bed. He had to be careful and discrete as the whole facility was under surveillance.
It happened on a Wednesday; as if keeping track of the days had any meaning anymore; at three in the morning. Alan was on his shift drinking a cup of what passes for coffee when he heard a small voice speak from the center of the room.
“Where am I?” Alan inhaled the liquid and coughed it back out. He slowly turned his head to see a frail looking girl siting up on the bed, Patient Zero.
“Hello?” Alan spoke. “Patient…I mean Serena.”
“I’m a patient? Was I in an accident? Paul! Where’s Paul?” She started to swing her legs over the side.
“Is Paul your boyfriend?” Alan asked tentatively.
“My dog, I was walking him in the park when…when…something happened. I can’t remember.” She said.
Alan was relived it wasn’t her boyfriend, as if that would matter now, but her dog? Who names a dog Paul? Alan watched her as she sat cowering on the bed. She was scared and has no idea that the world has ended. She’s not a walker, obviously, but how is she Patient Zero? Perhaps she’s asymptomatic like Typhoid Mary; being infected but not showing any symptoms.
But she’s talking and coherent. Alan’s training is telling him to treat her as an infected person, but his heart is not listening. Over the next two weeks the two fell into a routine. Alan still didn’t want to let his colleagues know what he had done and since their collective attention was focused elsewhere and not with Patient Zero, he continued the charade.
Tyler would make his rounds, Serena would pretend to be in a coma, and Alan would prevent the medication from doing what was intended. Alan was able to record a sleeping Patient Zero and run the image on a loop for the cameras so that any security personnel watching would see no difference. During those days, Alan and Serena talked about everything. Her life before, her sister’s marriage to a jerk, her break up with a longtime boyfriend; Alan in turn brought her up to speed on the world ending, the virus, and the walking dead.
“It’s unbelievable. Makes all my problems seem so trivial by comparison.” Serena spoke.
“Serena, that day in the park when you were walking Paul, you said something happened. What was it? Do you remember now?” Alan asked cautiously. Serena was still a bit fragile.
“It’s all blurry, like a bad nightmare in the light of a beautiful morning. I was walking Paul and I was supposed to meet someone. A friend I think? He said he had something for me but I can’t remember what it was.” Serena placed her hands over her eyes and her shoulders shook with a sob. Alan wanted to hold her, to tell her she’s going to be alright. Until now, Alan has not touched Serena for fear of the virus but the longer he spent with her the more he wanted to.
He placed a hand on her shoulder, she felt warm. He brought her closer into an embrace and leaned in to kiss her. Her lips were soft and trembling but a sharp pain soon stopped him. At first he thought he became infected but when he pulled away, Serena’s mouth and chin was covered in blood. Did he do something to her? He soon realized she did something to him.
Serena smiled as she spat his tongue on the ground with a wet thud. Alan couldn’t speak; less from shock and more from his tongue was bitten off. Serena started to laugh and Alan fell back on the ground. He held his mouth as blood fills his nose and throat, chocking him.
“You asshole, who kisses someone whose infected? Her voice took on a hard edge as she slid off the bed and raked her right hand down Alan’s back. Her nails were long and effective, blood poured from Alan’s back and Alan couldn’t scream.
He crawled along the ground trying to reach and panic button on the console that would sound the alarm.
“You know Alan; I did meet someone in the park. He gave me a package with instructions to open it in the middle of the park. Inside…well I don’t know for sure what was inside but it was a container that held the virus. The perfect biological weapon and it had the same symbol that’s on your lab coat. The man paid me a lot of money two weeks before and since I was going to kill myself anyway might as well take as many people out as I can. My ex-boyfriend Todd was in the park with his new fiancé. I am infected, Alan, but not like the others. Not like you’ll be. I can still think and I’m stronger, faster, and more violent and more importantly, I didn’t die.” Serena laughed.
Alan gurgled as he struggled to reach the alarm. He was chocking and knew he would die and come back. So the virus was a weapon made by his own superiors. They probably released it in a park for the greatest amount of casualties but probably didn’t expect the spread to get so out of hand. That’s why they were trying hard to find a cure; to save themselves from their own stupidity and greed. That’s also why they knew Serena was Patient Zero, she was chosen to be.
“Your world is over. Mine is just beginning.” Serena grabbed Alan’s arm before he could press the alarm and ripped it out of the socket. Still, Alan couldn’t scream. “You all will get what you deserve. ‘Now, I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’” Serena quoted the creator of the atomic bomb. She reveled in the power she possessed and walked out the door with a sway in her hip. She would rip the men of this facility limb by limb, all the while spreading the infection.
This is my world. Serena thought. I am God.
22 August 2013 - 11:18 PM
I read somewhere that Stephen King thinks short stories are more difficult to write than novels. I don't remember if the article mentioned his process.
23 August 2013 - 02:24 PM