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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Stage 5. Acceptance

            Steven woke up face down on a pile of what looked like flattened cardboard boxes, and when he lifted his head he noticed that he was staring out of the doors of an open trash compactor.
Pain exploded through his arm, and as he slowly sat up he cradled it against his chest, his good hand carefully pulled the torn remains of his lab coat away from the wound. He swore to himself at the deep lacerations that crossed his arm like tiger stripes, and it was then that he remembered the strange man that he’d fought beside in the street.

His heart lurched in his chest and he cast about wildly, only to stop dead when his eyes focused on the dark shape of a man crouched a few inches away from him. The doctor’s pulse raced in his throat, and he suddenly felt warm wetness running along the collar of his shirt.

            The man-shaped shadow was absolutely still, and despite their closeness, Steven couldn’t hear the rush of the other man’s lungs expanding, nor could he feel the gentle puff of air from his exhale. Instead, the man might as well have been part of the wall, since he felt as human as a granite slab. He was just about to question his sanity when the shape spoke.

            “Don’t be scared. We’re safe, at least for now.”

            Everything came flooding back at the sound of the man’s voice, and he found himself remembering his last few seconds of consciousness with the same sort of jerking, foggy recollections of someone remembering a nightmare. He threw himself backwards, aware that he was incredibly lightheaded and that his skull throbbed like a bruise as he did so.

            “What did you…what did you do to me?” Steven’s voice was weak and hoarse, and when he turned his neck he felt a thick crust of dried blood break at the side of his neck. He put a hand to it, and immediately felt something warm and wet brush the skin of his palm, “Did you…bite me?”

            Roland remained as readable as a cement wall, “Yes. I’m sorry, but it was necessary.”

            “Necessary? For what?”

            Roland ignored his question. “I have some bad news for you, Dr. Yeats.”


            There was a long and ugly pause, and finally Roland cleared his throat, “You understand that the people of this town are…sick. They are infected, which is why they are so violent.”

            “Yes, that’s why the CDC sent us here.” There was a sudden look of horrified realization on his face, and Steven clutched his arm closer to his chest, “Oh my god…the secondary wave of the disease is contracted through biting…”

            “I’m sorry,” Roland studied the human’s face for a moment, “You already have a fever, it won’t be long before…”

            “Before it kills me and then makes me one of those things.” Steven tried to keep his head, “I read Dr. Wagner’s reports, I know what happens next. I also know that there is no cure.”

            “Not like what you are thinking of, no.” Roland’s mind wandered to the stories that he’d heard of the powerful vampire prince of the South. The legends spoke of Ol’ Papa’s strange hold over undead thralls and his rumored ability to bring them back from their horrific, animal states. He had always chalked it up to mere myth, but he’d seen enough in the last few days to make him seriously question his paradigm.

            Steven was silent for a moment as his brain furiously ran through everything he remembered about Dr. Wagner’s report. In general, it had not given him much to be optimistic about. Finally, he let out a long breath and leaned back against the wall of the compactor, trying not to jostle his arm as he did so, “How long was I out?”

            “Three hours, maybe a little longer.”

            “Alright, so given the time table that Dr. Wagner set up, I mostly likely have another three before I am dead.” Steven felt around in his pockets for a moment before he found a notepad about the size of a deck of cards and a pencil. He flipped to an empty page and carefully wrote out ‘infectious pathogen analysis.’ He then added with a shaky hand, ‘subject: Dr. Steven Yeats. Infected at 5pm.’

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