When I walked in, the lobby was empty, the lights were on low. It was a lot warmer than outside, almost uncomfortable. Some of the lights were on in the banquet hall. It didn’t look like they had finished cleaning. In the center of a room, there was a lone chair, overturned. I walked past, to the elevators and got in.
The second floor cafeteria was dark, as the elevator went past. But I could see a few people rummaging around in the fruit bin. The laboratory looked like a mess. As I ascended, I became aware of the racket coming from my brother’s floor.
At first it was a faint whisper. But as I got closer I could make out the electronic tones. The chimes and bells I’d heard coming from my brothers monitors were loud. What’s more, I could here the lonely tone of EKG’s stuck on flat-line.
No on was around when the elevator jolted to a stop on Clive’s floor. Something about the situation made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Despite the noise, I couldn’t hear anything else.
I walked a few steps down the hall, and turned in to the AIDS wing. It was the smell that made me stop dead in my tracks. It was like rotting pumpkin. But there was something else, something acrid.
I was stood at the end of the hall, maybe three feet from the corner of the nurses’ station and took it in. The place was a mess. I mean, it looked like someone robbed them. A few of the curtains were pulled back. I could see bedpans scattered around the floor; and blood on the sheets. There was a pile of orange-red puke on the floor next to one of the beds.
I felt the overwhelming sensation of déjà vu, as I called out, “Hello?”
I stepped in farther, and almost slipped on a popped bag of saline solution. This is too much, I thought to myself.
“Hello?!” I called again.
It occurred to me that I couldn’t hear any talking, no shuffling of feet. Just the blaring alarms and chimes. They were so loud I couldn’t think. The buzzing was permeating my skull. I wanted to go in and shut them off, but I was afraid I was alone. And I could tell, without even going farther in, that something very bad happened.
But it doesn’t make sense, I thought. I saw people in here, from our tent. Where is everyone? What happened?
I hadn’t seen anyone in the building; no patients, no bodies, no nurses! Being immersed in the horrible smell, I couldn’t think about the word “vomit” without suppressing a retch that, very soon, I wouldn’t be able to suppress anymore.
So I snuck into the room, crouching and being quieter than the alarms. Maybe I was being paranoid. Maybe the whole wing decided to eat in the cafeteria or something… No one was in the storage hallway that connected both entrances. But it looked like everything inside the storage bins had been emptied.
Probably in the heat of the moment, I thought, it must have gotten even more chaotic once they kicked us all out.
I eased up the wall next to the nurses’ station and peeked around the corner, super fast. I wanted to see the nurses huddled around a clipboard. But no one was there when I looked. I took another quick look just to make sure. I searched the beds, disgusted with what I found; the vomit, blood and gore.
There was blood all over the place, now that I noticed it. I mean, I never really thought blood in a hospital would be out of place. But the way this blood was spattered against places it normally wouldn’t be able to reach… Like the nurses’ station. It all gave me cause for alarm.
Charts were strewn all over. The phones were off the hooks. There was blood on those, too…
Maybe someone had come and killed them all, I thought.
But I quickly dismissed the idea as paranoid bullshit. There had to be a reasonable explanation. The whole wing was deserted.
I could see down the hall and into the west wing. The automated doors—which were usually only opened for visitors—were propped open by an overturned wheelchair. Beyond that, I could see it was the same as this one. Now that I knew no one was around, I shut off all the monitors.
It took me a second to adjust to the reduction in noise. There were still alarms going off in the wing next door. I looked on the floor for Clive’s file, being careful not to touch any of the crap by using some gloves that were sitting on top of a table. But I couldn’t find it.
I was about to walk back to the elevators and tell Dad what I found when I heard something move inside the storage area. I became terrified when I realized I walked right past it without seeing anything. I stopped breathing as all the things it could be ran through my head.
Even though every self-protective fiber in my body was screaming at me not to call out, I knew that I should; in the end, this could turn out to be something completely different. But if this really was something like terrorism or a mob hit, or some kind of international spy thing, then maybe it was a survivor… or something—hopefully someone who can explain all this. And, if it were something else, like a rat, or just shifting crap, then I could chuckle to myself before I left to safety; and told Dad to call the fucking cops.
When I looked in the storage area, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. I mean, yeah, it was trashed; yeah, there was blood. Yeah, this is fucking creepy and I want to leave.
I sighed, “But I have to at least look.”
There were tons of trays from the shelving units strewn across the floor, but all of the gates around the shelves were closed. The gates were solid metal, all the way up to my stomach; from there it was covered with metal mesh. Then I saw it.
Even though the place was a mess, I could clearly see there was a space cleared in front of the unit in the center of the room where someone had thrown everything out, and closed the doors. The swing of the doors left a trail in the rubble. What’s more, I could see the top of a head. Someone was hiding there.
“Hello?” I whispered.
Whoever was in there jumped.
“Kenny?” a strangled voice came from the middle locker. It sounded like Clive.
“Clive?” I watched my voice.
“Kenny!” It was him, “Hurry! Let me out!”
I pulled at the handle, but it was locked. There was an LCD screen with a 9-key pad and some additional buttons around it that said stuff like “OK” and “Clear”.
“I can’t,” I said, “It’s locked. Do you know the combination?”
“No,” He said, his voice was panicked. “Get me out!”
I shoved my fingers in-between the door and the frame and pulled as hard as I could. I pulled so hard that the corner of the door bent outwards; but it wasn’t any closer to opening.
“Hold on,” I said.
I crouched down and used all my strength to pull the door up and off the hinges from the bottom. It made a lot of noise, but there he was. Clive was curled in the shelf, shivering. I pulled him out of the bin and he gave me a big hug.
“I thought you were never going to come!” He said.
Clive was covered with blood. I couldn’t tell if it were his own, or someone else’s.
“Clive, what happened to you?!” I hissed.
Clive shoved his hand over my mouth. I was repulsed by its smell; his hand was clammy. His eyes were full of fear, and the bags under them were almost as big as Dad’s.
“Be quiet, Kenny!” He hissed, “We need to get Avery!”
“Where is he?” I asked.
“He’s upstairs, in the cancer ward!” He pulled my hand and we trotted back to the elevator.
As we waited for it to arrive, Clive was looking around wildly, as if something were going to pop out any second. I kept asking him what was wrong, what happened; but he was too focused on finding Avery.
When we stepped out onto the sixth floor, I noticed there were bloody foot prints and smears everywhere. Clive signaled to be quiet and walked silently over to the big double doors of the cancer ward. Clive pushed on them, but they bumped against something and didn’t open. I gave it the shoulder and the doors slid open enough for me to squeeze through….
It was dim inside. Most of the standing lights had been broken, as well as some of the overheads, most of which flickered. The smell hit me immediately. Like rotten pumpkin, but curled, like . . . I don’t know. Whatever it was, it made my stomach wrench.
“Jesus,” I said, covering my nose and mouth with my t-shirt.
The doors on the other side of the wing were barricaded, I noticed immediately. I took a step in and almost tripped on someone’s arm. I was disgusted. I was past vomit, past surreal.
Bodies littered the ground. Some of them had scalpels in them. Some of them had bundles of syringes. There was a boy who caught my eye. He looked kind of like Avery.
I half-stepped further into the room to get a closer look. There was a massive wound in his neck. I realized I was in his pool of blood. I took an involuntary step back, glass crunching below my feet, and turned towards the door. I almost screamed when I saw her.
There was a nurse, dead. Mouth gaping wide, her body slumped against the door. Her head was broken, one eye cleanly removed; her skull crushed like a shell around a boiled egg. I could see the red, scrambled mess underneath the ragged remainder of her scalp, which hung lazily over the crag.
There was a monitor stuck in the wall behind and at angle from her head. It was one of those metal ones the doctors use for EKG machines. The wall was splattered with blood and I could make out something that I told myself wasn’t her other eye.
There was a huge wound in her arm, about the size of my fist, like a gouge. I couldn’t see it very well; but I could tell it wasn’t what killed her. There was something else about her. About the way she was laying . . . .
It occurred to me that whoever had killed her could still be in the room, as the double doors were the only way out, and the woman’s body was effectively blocking the exit.
“Can you see him?” Clive whispered.
I freaked and jumped back through the door. Thank god I had a way out!
“I don’t think he’s in there.” I told him.
His eyes fell on the puddle of blood that seeped out from under the slightly opened door.
“He has to be in there.” Clive said, “I know he is.”
“Clive,” I told him, “Everyone’s dead in there.”
He made for the door. But I grabbed him and pulled him away. “No!”
Clive broke free of my grip and went inside. I followed him quickly, hoping to change his mind before we were caught.
Most of the dead were kids, mostly with shaved heads, and they all seemed to be piled around the nurse’s station. They all seemed to have head trauma. We walked around the room, looking them in the face, trying to find Avery.
We were standing in the middle of the room, I just got finished checking a kid with hair and blood on his face when suddenly, out of the shadows, we heard a cough. I spun around, ready to. . . well, just ready for whatever it was.
It was someone in the shadows. I couldn’t tell from where.
“Hey guys,” A familiar voice said.
“Rodney?” Clive asked.
I could barely make him out. But there he was, the dark shape in the corner holding something. We stepped towards him, being careful not to walk on anyone. Once we got closer, I was able to see he was holding Avery. And Avery was dead.
There was a scalpel sticking out of his forehead. It was so macabre. The blood running from it had already clotted, the place the scalpel protruded from had become a pussy, yellow mess, god it looked like cottage cheese. I was thoroughly disturbed now.
“What happened, Rodney?” I asked.
He pulled Avery’s arms into a folded position, across his chest. “They went mad.”
“Who did?” I asked.
Rodney set Avery down on the ground, beside him, and stood up. “All of us.”
Clive stepped back then, and pulled my hand. “Kenny . . . .”
“They wanted to kill him. The nurses…. They said he was going to kill us. But they were killing each other. I could hear them screaming from the fifth floor. They were killing all the kids.” Rodney stopped and held his stomach. I noticed the blood that had seeped through his shirt; it looked black in the dim light.
“But then he turned on me.”
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
“Kenny!” Clive hissed.
“What?” I turned to look at him.
Clive was staring over my shoulder. His face was filled with terror. I looked to my side when I heard a bedpan clatter on the floor. An orderly, about six foot three, stood up. In the dim light, I could see a bundle of syringes sticking out of his cheek, and more in his body. As he reached towards us, I could see the orderly’s hand was split wide open. It looked crushed almost. So bad I could see his bones and tendons. His neck was leaking blood, from what I could tell was a bite wound. There were very clear teeth imprints all around the actual gouge.
“Oh my god,” I gasped.
And his eyes were yellow. I wanted to close my eyes and pretend this wasn’t happening when the orderly came toward us.
But Rodney was there. He lunged forward and kicked the orderly down. With a grunt, Rodney picked up a monitor and smashed the orderly’s skull in one blow. It was done so fast, I wasn’t sure if it really happened.
The sound of crushing bone and tissue sickened me. I watched as Rodney stood over the body, panting. He looked back at me, with dull eyes.
“They come back,” Rodney said.
I looked around me, at all the bodies, and wondered if they, too, would come back.
“We should get out of here,” I said, and turned towards the door.
But neither one of them turned to follow me.
“C’mon!” I said.
But they didn’t move.
“I can’t,” Rodney said. “When they find out what I am, they’ll kill me, too.”
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
Rodney walked into the light from the hallway and showed himself to us.
Clive shrieked a little; but I was so shell-shocked I don’t think I even blinked.
Rodney’s eyes were glassy, and his pupils were crimson. His face and body were covered with deep scratches. Then there were the fist-size gouges in his sides big enough to be a bite… At the bottom of every wound were purple, empty looking pits that pus seeped out from. He smelled bad.
“Are you going to kill me?” It was the only thing I could ask. I felt nauseous. The smell emanating from him was even worse than the corpses around me.
“I don’t think so.” Rodney replied. He was eyeing the open door. “You know, I was doing okay when the door was closed.”
Clive ran over and pushed the door closed.
We just stood there, staring at each other. I knew I shouldn’t trust him. But he saved my life. So this is some kind of . . . zombie thing? I thought. I could already see there was a big difference to between the nurses and Rodney. Rodney was still smart. Clive. . . . Wait, I thought, what the fuck is going on?!
Clive walked over to a window and looked down, seeming not to care if he turned his back on Rodney. I, only the other hand, could not look away from this . . . macabre predicament. I was sure that, for all intents and purposes, Rodney should be dead by now—or at least screaming in pain. But he was neither.
As if answering my unspoken questions, Rodney began to speak: “All the other people died before they became… They bled to death, and they came back. Or they died like Avery; and just woke up. I don’t know . . . It seems like everyone who got the cure . . . . They came back . . . . And they started to bite people. And the ones who got bitten and came back; they’re like zombies.”
He kicked the orderly in the head, for emphasis.
“And I didn’t do either.” Rodney’s voice carried a bitter undertone.
I noticed Clive looking at me out of the corner of his eye. Did he remember dying? I had the eerie feeling that I had just walked into a trap.
Rodney continued, “But I don’t understand. If I’m a zombie, I would know, right? I mean, all these people got bit. And they… they fucking killed each other! And look at me! Do you know how long I’ve been in here? Four hours… Four fucking hours! “
He was giving me a look I couldn’t discern. He said, “I should be dead.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Do you feel like eating anyone?” Clive asked.
“Not particularly.” Rodney said lightly.
I watched Rodney in the reflection of the window as I looked out. The moon was setting, but we still had more than two hours of night left. Six stories down was the tent I slept in. I could see the coffee pot steaming on the camp stove from up here.
I studied Clive. He looked calm. Through the dried blood caked to his skin, I could see he was unharmed. I wondered if Rodney would try to eat me. I wondered if Clive was one of them, too. I wondered why he could talk, and how they came back, where the bodies from downstairs went. I wondered why they hadn’t come outside yet.
I walked over to the phone and picked it up; playing on the off-chance they’d work. No dial tone. I lit a cigarette and told myself to chill out. I was safe, for the moment.
“So what the fuck is going on?” I looked at Rodney, “What happened?”
“Do you want the long story?” He asked, “Or just the short one?”
“Just tell me what happened.” I told him.
“I went in at about midnight,” He said, “I couldn’t sleep. I’d already found out that people were dying. So I had to go see if Avery was okay. But when I got there, he was in a bed with the curtains drawn. They told me he was sick, like, almost dead sick.
“The doctors said he wouldn’t last the night. So I sat by him, you know. They told me everything was going wrong with him, his blood was poisoned. His organs were shutting down. That fucking cure wasn’t a fucking cure. It killed him. I mean, he looked worse than anything I could ever imagine.
“His skin was white, he was oozing blood from his eyes and his ears and I could just see it creeping out from under the sheet. It was horrible. All the other kids were flipping out, even though the curtains were pulled, they could tell something was going on. They were giving him morphine. Avery was talking all kinds of crazy shit. I could tell he was hallucinating. I sat there with him until they said he was going. I watched him close his eyes and take his last breath.”
I watched Rodney’s face contort into grief. He sniffed and held back a choking sob. But tears still ran down his cheeks. I wondered how any of this was possible. I damned myself for ever setting foot in this hospital. I wondered: What kind of idiot would build a hospital on a place called Bloody Rock? There has to be a reason this place is called ‘Bloody Rock’. And I’m positive it’s not a good one.
“I watched as they checked his pulse and responses. It was twelve-thirty-three, I remember that. Then the doctor left. Outside the doors, there was lots of yelling and screaming. I figured it was just a bunch of people screaming and crying over their kids. I know I was angry, sitting next to my dead brother. But if I’d known then what was going on, I would have run for my life.
“I would have left then, too. But when I turned to say goodbye to Avery, he opened his eyes. At first, I thought it was some kind of dead thing. You know how you hear about people getting rigor mortis, losing control of their functions and twitching and stuff? Well, I thought it was that. But it wasn’t. It was scary. Avery looked at us, at all of us. The doctors were really freaking out, then. All of the monitors and stuff were still attached him, you know? They were all saying he was dead.
“You could tell he was confused. Like he didn’t know how he got there. Then he asked, ‘Am I dead?’ It was trippy, to say the least. All the other kids were screaming, ‘Zombie! Zombie!’ I mean, they were practically tripping over each other to get to the door.
“When one of the kids opened the doors, we could hear people screaming from all over. Another kid, from one of the other wings ran over to ours. As I stood over Avery, I could hear him asking for help. He said there were zombies. Then there was screaming. Lots of ‘What the hell is that?’ kind of stuff. I turned and looked. The doors were wide open and these two little gremlin looking kids, covered in blood, were screaming and hauling ass towards us. The kid we’d just let in shoved the doors closed and we all jumped in to help.
“They were strong.” He motioned over to the orderly he killed in front of us, “Chad let the first one in without knowing because the little fucker said he wanted us to protect him. He looked normal enough. But when Chad picked him up, the kid bit him, ripped his throat clean out. We all forgot about the door, when the little kid came at a nurse.
“I tried to grab him, but he was biting. So I held him by the face, like a dog, to keep his mouth away. I threw him around a couple of times but he wouldn’t listen. He was snarling. That’s when I noticed his eyes didn’t look right. I was pretty sure he was gonna try and kill me, too. So I picked him up, put him in a neck lock, and snapped it.
“When I let the kid fall out of my arms… It changed me. When I noticed it was one of the kids from dinner, I kind of put it together. Well, not exactly. But I knew Avery was one of them, somehow. When I looked back, he was watching me with this weird look. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. The bloodshot in his eyes were so thick they looked red. And his eye color was black.”
Rodney fell silent then, lost in thought.
“The others closed the doors again. I saw Chad stand and charge the nurses and patients gathered around the doors. He was frenzied. It was hard to tell what was happening, because Chad would just grab someone and bite them, taking big pieces out of them, and they would fall, but, like, a minute or two later, they would get back up and start biting, too.
“Everyone scattered out and started hitting him with everything they could; it was a melee. That’s when Avery got into it. I tried to stay out of the way. He had been watching the whole time. But once he started, he was like a rabid animal. He killed them all. Then he turned to the only nurse that hadn’t been bitten yet… and he ate her.
“I wouldn’t let him near me. But he was talking to me like normal…. So I let my guard down. He said he was sorry, he got kinda out of control. Everything would be okay. He hugged me and told me he loved me. But then, he bit me.” Rodney was quiet for minute, then. “And he wouldn’t stop. I didn’t want to kill him. But I had to. So I killed him, and then I killed the nurse before she could turn, too. Then I hid.
“I slid down into the corner and waited to die. But I never closed my eyes, never stopped breathing. I’ve been sitting here for hours, now, wondering what to do with myself. When I heard you downstairs, I didn’t believe it at first. I thought it was another trick. But then I heard Clive. When you walked in, I was ready for another fight. But I saw you weren’t bit. I thought about saying something then. But I knew you guys couldn’t help me. I just hope . . . .” But he didn’t continue.
I stood there, looking at him, wondering how it was to wait to die. I looked at Avery’s body, limp and still laying exactly where Rodney had laid him.
“Where are the others?” I asked.
“I’ve only been in here.” Rodney told me.
I turned to Clive, “Where did everyone in your wing go? How come there was no one in there when I came?”
“They left,” Clive said.
All of a sudden, we could hear running outside, along the hall.
“Hide!” Rodney hissed.
We ducked into the nurses’ station. Clive crawled under an over-turned computer chair. Rodney and I hid behind two filing cabinets. I could only see a little of the room between the cabinet and the wall.
Standing next to Rodney, I became very aware of the way he smelled. I could feel his blood seeping through my pants. It was cool to the touch, and matted my pants to my thigh in a way I thought was more than a little gross. I tried to push him away a little, but he said to be quiet and pressed against me more.
The door slammed open.
I held my breath as I watched three or four people slowly into the room. I was scared, I realized, more scared than I had ever been in my life. They stood in the center of the room for what seemed like hours, unmoving.
I tried to stay still, not make any noise, pressed against the filing cabinet until my leg began to cramp. And the smell from Rodney was becoming unbearable. I felt claustrophobic.
When they turned to leave, I caught a glimpse of a badge on one of them. I whispered to Rodney it looked like a security guard. But they heard me, too. All of a sudden, they were screaming; and running towards us. I pushed the filing cabinets on top of two of them and ran, punching the security officer to the ground as I passed.
“Clive!” I yelled.
He threw the chair away and followed us as we ran out into the hall, to the elevator. I jammed the button so hard I almost broke, the button popping out of the countrol panel. I shoved the button back into place and held it while the security guard came running out of the ward.
“Kenny!” Clive screamed.
I didn’t have anything to defend myself with. But I could see the guard still had everything on his utility belt. If I could somehow incapacitate the guard and take his weapons, then I’d have something use when we were leaving. Rodney was on it. He body slammed into the security guard and gouged at his eyes.
I could see the guard was scratching Rodney, but he didn’t seem to care. I watched as he popped the guard’s eyeballs and shoved his thumbs home. Rodney picked him up by the skull and shook him out like a sheet. The sound of the man’s spine cracking told me he wasn’t going to get up.
I was in awe. Even though I was horrified, I couldn’t help but empathize a little with the guard.
I heard the elevator open behind me. Clive jumped in.
“C’mon,” He said.
“Hold it!” I told him.
“What are you doing?” Rodney asked me, as I dashed over to the dead guard and took his flashlight, nightstick, mace and handcuffs.
“We’ll need these.” I told Rodney. I let out a shriek when I realized his eyes had gone yellow. “Your eyes,” I gasped.
“I know,” He said, “But don’t worry.”
He smiled, and I could see the blood on his teeth.
“Kenny!” Clive yelled.
I turned to him and saw that a nurse was staring him down—the hot one. I turned back to Rodney, to tell him we should help, but he already took that small opportunity to jump me. He pinned me down and started punching me.
“Rodney!” I yelled at him, “Stop! It’s me!”
But he didn’t. I could hear Clive squealing in the elevator. Could hear the elevator thumping against the sides as Clive struggled with the nurse. I hit Rodney in the head with the flashlight so hard he flew into the railing and almost went over.
He came back screeching, mouth open, trying to grab me. I stabbed him in the head with the short end of the nightstick; Rodney slumped back and grabbed his head. But he wasn’t done yet; and neither was I. Before he regained his composure, I hopped behind him and choked him with the nightstick. He kicked and snarled as I picked him up and held him over the balcony. When I tossed him, I made sure he’d hit something on the way down.
I had to take care of the nurse next. She had Clive on the ground; she was snapping at him. I pulled her off and she pushed me against the wall. I was surprised to see the sharp gaze in her yellow eyes. When she lunged, I side-stepped and hit her as hard as I could in the back of the head. She didn’t get up.
I turned to Clive. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Clive said.
There was a loud bang, and snarling from the other side of the promenade. More of them had come running out of the west wing. They were mostly kids, and they were fast. I pulled my little brother to his feet and shoved him into the elevator. One of them almost reached us before it closed. I could hear them pounding on the doors as we descended.
“Do you think I killed Rodney?” I asked Clive.
“Yeah.” He answered.
I gave Clive the flashlight. We stood there, in uneasy silence, as the elevator crept its way downward. The commotion must have been heard throughout the building, because there was a crowd gathered around the elevator on the fifth floor. They screamed and pounded on the doors as we passed, but the elevator didn’t stop. I took out the nightstick and tried my grip on it.
The elevator stopped on the fourth floor. It was dark again. And, from what I could see, so was everything below. The elevator lights cast an eerie glow on a body lying not three feet from the door. I was kind of freaking out at the thought of having to go through the darkness. I could hear people screaming all around. But this floor was quiet. I jammed the door close button.
Before the doors closed, Dr. Robertson appeared from the shadows and stuck his arm through the door. I jumped back, but recovered quickly enough to kick the doctor away when the door opened again. Clive shone the flashlight all around us, to make sure he was the only one there. Dr. Robertson stood up and approached us again. This time, he kept back from the doors. They started closing again.
“Wait!” He said.
He still had his lab coat on. There was blood on the bottom of his coat, and on his hands, but otherwise, he didn’t appear to be bitten. I stuck my foot in the door. “Why?”
“Because you need me,” He said. “I’m the only one who can reverse the cure.”
“No you’re not,” I told him, “After they pick up your research, if this place still exists, there’ll be hundreds of people working to reverse the little freak show you’ve got here.”
“He’s one of them!” Dr. Robertson cried, pointing at my little brother.
“I know.” The elevator doors began to close again.
“Please take me with you!” He begged.
I sighed and felt like giving in; mainly because I really just wanted to get out. I knew the longer I stayed in one place, the likelier it would be for me to get trapped; and the harder for me to watch both my brother and my backs. I didn’t want to add the doctor to the equation.
As I stood there contemplating this, the doctor stared at Clive and me. He could show us the quick way, even drive us out of here. I quickly disregarded the thought of leaving my father behind. How much was this doctor worth? My life? Clive’s? And who says he can reverse this? Who says he isn’t one of them? What if Clive can’t be saved? But what if he could?
I told the doctor, “If you do anything funny. And I mean anything. If you get us close to dead one too many times, if you make too much noise, if you don’t pull your own weight: I’m gonna handcuff you to a pipe; and you won’t be going anywhere.”
The doctor nodded and said, “But, I need to get my research.”
“Why don’t you have your research with you?” I asked, “Your research is the most important thing you have and it’s not on you? Where the fuck is your head at?”
“You know,” Doctor Robertson pointed out, “Berating me isn’t going to help the situation.”
“Well, then let me say in retort that we need to get the fuck out of here as quick as possible. It’s not safe to get your research. You can come back for it later.”
“I need to get my research.” The doctor stressed.
“Only if we can wait here,” I told him. “Besides, if it were us who truly needs you, why does it seem that you need us more?”
“Can we not argue semantics?” Clive grumbled.
Dr. Robertson said, “You must come with me. It’s on the other side of the lab.”
“Are there any on this floor?” I asked him. I considered the fact that we had been pretty loud. But, so were those screaming lunatics upstairs.
“I locked three in the break room.” He said, “There are two more. The rest are dead”
“Are you sure?” I asked him.
“I think so,” Dr. Robertson answered. “But we have to go back to my office. I need my research. I wasn’t able to make a copy of my data before one of the ones from downstairs broke in. But, this floor is secure… I think.”
Clive shrieked, “Can anymore get in?!”
“No,” The doctor said, “The doors in the stairwells are all handles except for the first floor, which was the push-bar.”
Great, I thought, Let’s just give them an easy way to get out.
I pulled the emergency stop and stepped out of the elevator. Clive followed close behind. I directed Clive to examine his arms and legs for bite marks as I stood there and looked around. It was still dark, but I had gotten used to it without the flashlight. At least, out there, in the light well; I knew once we walked away, it would get much, much darker. Everything in front of the elevator seemed to be a series of laboratories, all smashed.
“Do you have anything for a weapon?” I asked the doctor.
Dr. Robertson looked genuinely at a loss, “Weapon?”
“Well, how did you kill all of these people?” I asked, “You didn’t use kung fu, did you?”
“I don’t know Kung Fu,” The doctor said.
“So…?” I let the question hang.
The other elevator went past us, then, going up.
“They’re gonna get us!” Clive almost screamed.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” The doctor said, “I’m sure they don’t know how to use the elevators.”
We heard the elevator ding above us. We listened, maybe for the press of the button, the doors sliding shut. I kind of expected it to happen, actually. I was almost certain that they would have opened the doors to the elevator shaft when we made our get away; that they would tear of the maintenance hatch and kill us both. But after a couple minutes, standing there, listening to them scream and snarl, nothing came. Maybe they didn’t know how to use an elevator after all.
“Even so,” I said, “We should probably make sure there’s a door to run through… just in case.”
“My office is right there,” He said, pointing to a hall behind the elevators. “There are fire escapes on both ends of the hallway.”
As we walked into the hallway, Clive pulled my arm and pointed at the elevators. They were all piled into the elevator, clogging it completely. The things screamed in ignorant rage at each other. Of course, they weren’t really saying anything. They were just a group of screaming, slobbering beasts. Some of them were jumping over the railings to get to us. I wondered if we would meet them later. They looked so different from Clive or Rodney. As the darkness closed in on us, I wondered if Clive was resisting The Urge on purpose or if it hadn’t actually set in yet.
I looked over my shoulder what seemed like every second. Most of the doors were closed and locked; all the lights were off, of course. And it looked just like every other floor, ransacked. Some of the office windows were broken. There was blood inside one, handprints and smears all over. In the center of the room, twisted in a mess of blinds and office equipment, lay someone in a lab coat.
Her head was twisted towards us in a way I knew was unnatural. Her face was covered with scratches, and her neck was eaten through in one place. The woman’s head almost looked torn off, the way she was laying. I covered Clive’s eyes before he could look, and, lord, when I touched his skin, it was cold. That was when I started to freak out; more than when I found Rodney and he tried to eat me. I looked at the Doctor, and he looked back at me with the same terror.
We passed a closed door with an axe guarding the handle. Inside I could hear faint thumping. But I didn’t want to get too close.
“That’s the break room,” Dr. Robertson said quietly.
His office was against the wall, on the south side of the building, the front side. It had a window; and I was relieved to see a hint of dawn on the horizon. As soon as we stepped in, I pulled the curtains on the window to the hall, locked the door, and silently moved a filing cabinet in front of the window. Dr. Robertson hopped in front of the computer and entered his password in the screen saver. As the Doctor did whatever it was that he had to, I looked Clive over. His feet were bleeding. But, he still looked alright.
“So . . .” I addressed the Doctor in a whisper, “Why is my little brother still alive?”
“You know?” Clive asked.
“You’re a walking corpse, little brother.” I told him, “And, as much as I love you, I’m scared that you’ll turn on me.”
“I’m not like Rodney.”
“Who’s Rodney?” The doctor asked.
“He’s . . .” I forgot the name, “He’s . . .”
“Avery’s brother,” Clive helped.
“Oh,” the Doctor said, “But, he’s not a patient.”
“What did you do, Dr. Robertson?” I asked him, “How come Clive and Rodney were smart? How did they come back?”
“Every test I had performed, every analysis told me this was going to work in humans. So, I don’t know. This sort of thing has never happened before. Even with the new enzyme package, this wouldn’t, ever be possible.” As the doctor was speaking, he rummaged around in his briefcase, extracting a blank disc that he shoved into the computer.
“Am I a zombie?” Clive asked.
“Zombies can’t be self-aware.” Dr. Robertson replied immediately, as if he’d already considered it.
“So what is this?” I asked, “Are they in some kind of coma?”
Dr Robertson replied, “That’s ignorant. Even the worst somnambulists don’t run around eating people–”
Clive was becoming offended.
He continued, “And, even if they were sleep walking, how do you sleep walk after you die?!”
“There has to be a reasonable explanation for this.” I said.
“You’re right, there has to be.” Dr. Robertson told me, “But when the first one got up, we ran him through the gauntlet. There have been many cases of mistaken death. Many. We reasoned: this all could have been due to some other, underlying disease we had no knowledge of. Each one of took us turns inspecting his heart and lungs with a stethoscope. There are animals that go from eighty beats a minute to eight, but a human can only drop down to fifteen beats a minute. And when they do that, they’re asleep. This kid didn’t have a pulse; we listened for whole minutes at a time.
“If I’d have known what they were, I would have immobilized and quarantined him. I could have locked everyone in the wings. Anything could have turned them. Could have been any combination of drugs we were already giving them. Maybe one of the DNA treatments Drug Corp. had been so insistent I give them. Maybe it was the something in the cake. How could I have known? I’ve been going crazy over it ever since.”
“So, what did you do instead?” I asked him.
“We tested his verbal capacity and reasoning skills and… he did okay, although he seemed a little slow. We thought maybe we’d got it wrong.” The doctor chuckled slowly. “But his temperature was ninety-point-two degrees Fahrenheit. Yet he was exhibiting zero lividity. We even checked his toes. In fact, he didn’t seem to be the slightest bit uncomfortable. I was going to run him through a full physical, but I was called upstairs, to the lab. I had my assistant perform it.”
Doctor Robertson shivered then, tears streaked his face. I could tell he was trying to hold it back. “She was only 22!” He gagged. “What did she do to deserve this?! I should have transferred the call. But, I only went upstairs for a few minutes.”
Dr. Robertson looked back at the screen, hit a key and switched out the discs.
“The hematologist was standing there, waiting for me. The kid’s glomerular filtration ratio was insane. First off, well . . . . His kidneys should have been decomposing by then. His whole body was filled with toxins at levels only secreted when the body shuts down. He should have been a frosty-lipped corpse in the basement. Do you understand that? There wasn’t a single explanation for any of this. I should have called Lonna and told her to strap him down then. I should have issued a code red and had the whole place locked down! But I was too fascinated. No, I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do.”
“We were just about to look at the blood in a microscope when I got the phone calls. One was from Rachel, in the fifth floor ward, across from where your brother was. She was calling to tell me that all of but two of them had died in the west wing, and only one in Clive’s. She told me that the other wards we overflowed to were reporting similar numbers. And Clive’s friend, Avery, in the cancer ward was sick. I hadn’t heard the code blues because I was too intent on unraveling this enigma. But, even if I had…. there was nothing I could do anyway.”
He sighed, “I was… appalled. I was scared. What I first thought was a rash of food poisoning turned out to be something even worse. Even though there was no way to tell this was going to happen, no matter how many tests I did, I knew I would be held accountable for it all.”
“Those fucking bastards!” He screamed.
Clive and I both jumped, startled by his sudden outburst.
“The second call was from the MRI tech who told me it looked like his lungs were forming hypostatic congestions. Since he was on the same floor as Lonna, I told him to go help my assistant get the patient relaxed and into his bed. That was a nice way of saying, ‘medicate him and strap him down’.
“That’s when it started. I heard Lonna scream my name. It echoed up the light well. The hematologist and I immediately ran down the stairs and came to her. And, when we got there, it was astounding.
“The boy was looming over her, biting her neck. From what I could see, he was trying to eat her! I noticed the tech. out of the corner of my eye, hiding in the opposite corridor, holding a fire ax. He nodded to me, then rushed forward and started to choke the kid with the thing. The boy went wild, scratching and clawing. The hematologist tried to help get the boy under control while I rushed to see if Lonna could be helped. But she was gone. We locked the kid in an examination room and got on the phones. The hematologist went to bandage his scratches… I didn’t see him until later.”
“You know . . . A part of me wonders if–”
The computer spit out the CD and the doctor was about to put it in his briefcase.
“Let me keep it,” I said.
Doctor Robertson looked at me warily, “No, I think I’ll keep it in my briefcase, thank you.”
I didn’t want to fight. But I didn’t want to risk having the doctor drop his suitcase; it was cumbersome, and I thought—if those files are as important as he said they were—he should have put it in his pockets. There was a middle ground here.
“How about making me a copy, then?” I asked, “While you finish your story?”
The doctor scoffed. “What are you going to do with it?”
“I’m just gonna hold it.” I pointed to my cargo pockets, “It’s a perfect fit, and you know it’s going to stay with me the whole time.”
“What would you do with it if I die?” The doctor asked.
“Give it to the CDC, and make sure they credit you for all of this.” I told him, “Not just the good stuff. But, yes, I solemnly swear on my life that your research will get to people who want to help.”
“What if he turns on us?” The doctor said, meaning Clive, “You should be careful who you trust.”
“If he turns, I’m prepared for what I have to do.” I said it cold, like how I would need to be if the time ever came. “But if he doesn’t turn on us, then we don’t turn on him, okay? He’s still my brother.”
Clive stared at both of us the whole time.
“Okay.” The doctor said. He even smiled. We watched as he put another disc in the computer. “Where were we?”
“The kid in the examination room,” Clive helped.
“So we locked the kid in the examination room, and put Lonna’s body on a stretcher. I tried to call the receptionist, so she could use the intercom system. But she didn’t pick up. So Bart, the MRI technician, and I picked up the phones in neighboring rooms and made the calls ourselves. They had no idea why we asked them to strap down dead people. And when I tried to explain I got a mixed reaction. Mostly, they thought I was playing a joke on them. I was completely frustrated by the second call. Bart told me he wasn’t having any success, either. So we stopped.
“Bart convinced me that we should stick together for safety, but it seemed kind of ridiculous. Lonna, killed by some deranged, dead kid… This whole thing seemed ridiculous. We checked on the kid, who was screaming and trying to break through the reinforced glass we have in the exam rooms. The windows were the kind with the wire in them; so I knew the kid would be there a while.
“Bart accompanied me back to the lab, where I transferred all of my data, via the network, to the computer, here. I was finished and about to go back to my office when we got the first phone call. The kids were starting to wake up again. We told them, again, ‘strap the kids down.’ But it was already too late.
“What we didn’t know, was that Lonna had come back sometime during the transfer. She had let the boy out of the exam room, and they began to take people on the floor below us. The sounds were drowned out in the lab, by all of the equipment. It wasn’t until we lost the lights that we heard it. I’m still not sure what caused it. I haven’t gone down to look, but I’d wager it was some equipment malfunctioning. There were only six people working downstairs, plus Lonna and the kid.
“The phone rang again, it was the fifth floor, wanting to know what was happening. I was going to reply when, all of a sudden, we saw the hematologist running at full speed towards the break room. Behind him were the X-Ray tech and Lonna. Bart and I jogged up, to see if we could help, but we realized it was a blood bath. Bart was the one who locked the door with the axe.”
The first CD that I was to hold popped out, the doctor put it in a slim case and handed it to me.
“Thanks,” I said.
By way of reply, the doctor grunted and put another disc in the tray. He continued, “I wanted to stay and hide. But Bart wanted to go outside, and find help. He was bit, I noticed. We ended up arguing about what to do. I told him that, if he left, he could spread it; but he didn’t seem to care. Then he left. Just opened the door and walked out. So I closed it and locked it.
“It was horrible, really. No more than twenty minutes passed when I started hearing the screaming and banging from upstairs. It was enough to scare me under the desk. After a while, it wasn’t as loud. The sounds from the break room took over. But, underneath it, I could hear someone in the hall. I thought, maybe, it was Bart coming back to get me. But when I opened the door, another one of them was standing there, looking at the office right across from me. Somehow, she found me.
“It was Connie, the nurse from radiology. I closed the door, but she came through the window. She was a disgusting mess, leaking coagulated blood from a gaping wound in her neck. I crushed her skull with a paperweight while she was climbing through the window, and she fell at my feet. I didn’t move for what seemed like hours, too scared of abandoning my hiding place just to run into a group of zombies. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what to think when I heard Shane, upstairs.”
The doctor was referring to when I was upstairs, calling out to anyone; looking for Clive.
“I thought you were going to die, quite honestly.” The doctor said to me.
“Thanks,” I said. Luckily for me, I thought, I didn’t die. But am I going to get out?