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Patient zero was a twenty-five-old female from a small farming town in Southwestern Pennsylvania. She presented to the emergency department late on the evening of September 14, 2012 with basic flu-like symptoms. Concerned about her complaints of headache, altered mental status, and spiked temperature, the on-call doctor admitted her to the hospital. The story relayed to health care professionals was that the young woman is a scientist who ended up getting stuck by a needle used for one of the viruses that she had been researching. The event occurred approximately twenty-four hours before symptoms began. She followed proper protocol as far as reporting and cleaning the wound. The doctor who drew initial blood work after the incident told her the rash that was forming could be a reaction to the virus. Her family had no idea she was already dying. Nobody knew about the danger lurking in the petite young woman.
Her parents left for the night, leaving the woman’s identical twin to stay. Patient zero remained in the fetal position hugging herself and crying. The infection spreads depending on the size of the bite. For the more gruesome of bites the turn is fast. Only a matter of minutes. Smaller bites can take up to forty-eight hours. Patient zero turned within a day. No one is entirely sure why.
The first symptoms are typically a scratchy, sore throat and a rash that resembles hives. Nothing major. They think it’s nothing more than a cold or the flu, perhaps even an allergic reaction. It escalates from there. Soon, a fever sets in. Then the afflicted complain about being cold despite having a temp of one hundred or more and a headache starts. Their skin begins to get clammy, and small sweat breaks out on their forehead. A few hours later they have respiratory problems. Their breathing becomes shallow and raspy. Right before death their eyes get a milky cloudiness to them, their pupils dilate so much it looks like they’re black. Aggression is the final stage. At that point, they’re contagious. Of course, this is when they’re most likely to bite you, before dying.
Patient zero was taken to the hospital toward the end of everything. Her family didn’t know she was so sick. They had no reason to believe their beloved child and sister was mere hours from death. She was put onto a neurological floor, even though the doctors weren’t entirely sure what was wrong with her. They just knew the altered mental status was new. She wasn’t an aggressive person by nature, but she was throwing swings at personnel and trying to bite them. As the family sat by her bedside they were distraught watching as she slipped further and further into delusion and the sickness that overtook her ravaged body. They were terrified she’d never be the same.
In the middle of the night, the aggression worsened. Most of the family had already gone home, her twin decided she’d be the one to stay. She ended up falling asleep in a recliner next to her sisters’ bed but woke when she heard grunting and growling. She looked and saw her sister sitting up in bed. Her head lolled from side to side. It’s too bad she didn’t run. It’s too bad the nurse didn’t run.
“Becca?” she called softly.
Her sister’s head turned wistfully toward her.
“It hurts so much,” she said.
“What can I do for you?”
“Nothing,” Becca replied.
“Do you want me to get your nurse?”
“Why? They don’t know what’s wrong with me. Nothing they’ve done is working.” Tears streamed down the girls face in silent agony. “It had to be that virus. They said it was fine. We were supposed to be creating a vaccine. Something to save people. Not…not do this.”
“They’re going to figure out what’s wrong. Don’t worry.”
“No, they’re not.”
“You don’t know that. I’m sure they’re figuring it out right now.”
“No, they’re not. Listen to me. There is no cure. It’s not a vaccine. It was a weapon. They lied to us!”
“Who? Who is they?”
“It’s not important.”
“Yes, it is!” her sister nearly screamed. “Who is they? What virus?”
“It’s something new. They never told us the name. It was just referred to as E1.”
“I’m tired. I need to sleep.”
The twin sat and watched her sister. She didn’t know what to tell her. She didn’t know if the doctors would figure out what was wrong or not. Not long after, she watched the life fade from her sister’s eyes. She had no idea what she’d seen. She didn’t know the severity of the situation.
“Hey? Are you alright?”
Patient zero remained motionless. She said nothing. She didn’t breathe. As her sister drew near patient zero’s eyes flew open and an otherworldly scream erupted from the woman’s mouth. The sister stumbled backward and fell to the floor staring on in horror.
“Becca!” the young woman wailed.
“Arrgah,” patient zero replied.
“Are you alright? Becca, what’s wrong?” she pleaded with her sister.
Patient zero said nothing. Her head lolled toward her sister and she bared her teeth like a wild animal.
“Come on, Becca. I know you’re in there somewhere,” the sister said through tears, “I love you. I need you. Please be okay!”
Patient zero yanked on the wires attached to her chest and ripped the IV in her arm out. The sister jumped up and pressed her back against the wall, shocked and terrified by patient zero’s action. That was not how her sister acted. The person in the bed was not her sister.
“Um, somebody! Hey, she’s getting up and pulling off the wires!” the twin shouted.
The room was near the nurse’s station, so she knew someone would hear. Somebody had to come and make sure her sister stayed in bed. When no one came running she went to the hallway.
“Hey! Get in here! She’s ripping stuff off her body! There’s blood everywhere!”
“What’s wrong?” the tall, brunette nurse asked as she turned on the light. “Oh god.”
She grimaced at the sight of the girl in the bed and the wall beside it. Everything looked like a bag of blood had been punctured and squeezed everywhere.
“Did any get on you?”
“No,” the sister replied, wiping the tears from her cheeks.
“Okay, good. Tell me what happened.”
“She just sat up and started growling. Is she alright? Why is she acting like that?”
“Hmm… well, let me check her out, and see what exactly is going on,” the woman said smiling.
The girl watched as the nurse pulled out her stethoscope ready to listen to patient zero’s heartbeat. Patient zero was still sitting up, the growling still going, and her head seemed like it belonged to a rag doll. It was like she had no control of it. The nurse placed the stethoscope on patient zeros back and listened. Patient zero continued getting more and more agitated. She snarled and snapped at the two who were trying to help. As the nurse maneuvered around the girl, the sister watched in horror as patient zero latched onto the nurse’s arm. Blood spilled from her mouth and from the nurses wound. It flowed onto the bed mixing with the patient’s. The nurse screamed out in pain as patient zero held onto the woman’s arm.
“What the shit!” the nurse screamed, pulling her arm from patient zero’s mouth. A large chunk of skin and muscle was missing. White bone was visible.
“What happened?” the twin asked, jumping back quickly.
“She bit me!” she hollered, holding the injured arm. The nurse dropped to her knees screaming in pain.
“Oh my god! I’m going to find another nurse or someone to help!” the sister shouted, running out of the room trying to get away from the blood and her increasingly angry sister. “Can someone help? My sister, she bit the nurse, and there’s blood everywhere. I don’t know what’s wrong with her.”
The rest of the nurses and aides who were sitting at the nurse’s station jumped up and rushed into the small room pushing the girl to the side. The twin stood outside the door, watching in horror as four nurses and two aides tied her sister to the bed with something they called a Posey. She cried as the green vest was slipped on her sister. She couldn’t believe it when they put the white mitts on her hands. The sister watched as patient zero struggled and fought against the hospital staff. One of the nurses ran out and to the phone. She couldn’t really hear the conversation, but there was something about a code; paging security; and finding someone on call. After slamming the phone down on the cradle, the nurse ran off to a supply room. The young girl had no idea what was going on. Was all that necessary? What happened to her sister? Was she in trouble?
Within seconds an overhead page could be heard, and people swarmed onto the floor from everywhere. Doctors, nurses, and security guards converged on the room.
“Excuse me?” she asked one guy who ran past her.
He kept going.
“Uh, sir?” she asked a guy in what appeared to be a security uniform.
He didn’t say a word. He carried a large black case and squeezed into the room.
“What is going on?” she cried. “What’s wrong with my sister? Please tell me!”
Nobody answered her. They murmured amongst each other. Some nurses she didn’t recognize lingered in the hall. They looked as though they were relaxing. One even laughed. She was flabbergasted they could be so callous when an apparent emergency was happening.
“Alright, what happened!” a tall, Amazonian like brunette woman in blue scrubs and a white lab coat asked, rounding a corner.
The two nurses who were leaning against a wall chatting stood up straight and looked down.
“I said what happened!” she bellowed once again.
The girl said nothing. She hoped the terrifying woman would look past her as if she were furniture like everyone else did. The nurses didn’t though. She stared right at the girl with piercing blue eyes. The young girl bit her lip and stared back unsure what to say. The bitten nurse finally emerged from the room. Blood covered the front of her uniform and more was pouring from the wound. A young doctor held onto the uninjured arm helping the nurse down the hallway.
“What the hell is going on?” the Amazonian nurse asked.
“My sister bit the nurse,” the young girl whispered.
“What?” she snapped.
“My sister bit that nurse.”
“How the hell did that happen?”
The young girl shrugged her shoulders.
The nurse rubbed her temples and took a few deep breaths. “This is unbelievable. Do either of you know what happened?”
“No sorry, Katie. We were in patient rooms when it happened.”
“Alright. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” She stormed off in the direction of the bitten nurse.
Standing on tiptoe the young sister tried to peer over everyone’s heads. She just wanted a glimpse of her sister to make sure she was okay. Just as quickly as everything started, it was done. People came out of the room murmuring amongst each other. Nobody paid the young girl much mind. She could have been invisible. Once the last person cleared out she saw her once lovely, full of life sister lying unmoving on the hospital bed. The nylon vest had been replaced with leather restraints. Her ankles and wrists were bound and tethered down. She gasped back a sob as she saw the frail girl laying there.
“Becca?” she asked quietly as a tear slid down her cheek.
Patient zero didn’t respond. No growls, no grunts, nothing. She never even moved.
“Hey, Becca, it’s okay. I’m still here,” she whispered, inching closer to the bed.
“I’m sorry, honey,” an older voice said from behind her.
“What’s wrong? Is she sleeping?” the sister pleaded.
The older nurse shook her head solemnly.
“She’s not…” the girl’s voice trailed off.
“I’m afraid so.”
“No. You’re lying! People don’t die from insect bites!”
“I’m sorry, honey,” the older woman said.
“How? She was perfectly healthy yesterday! She just got bit by something. It was just a bug. Nothing more than a damned bug.” Tears streamed down the girl’s cheeks. She didn’t want to believe her sister could be dead just like that. They weren’t supposed to die until they were crazy old ladies in a nursing home.
“Sometimes these things happen. Nobody knows what bit her or what disease invaded her body.”
“How can nobody know? This is a hospital. You people figure this shit out! Why didn’t anyone save her?” she wailed, staring at her sister’s dead body.
“I’m sorry,” was all the nurse could say.
“It’s not fair. She was so young, so full of life.” The girl continued to cry as she stared at her dead sister’s ashen face.
“No, it’s not fair.” The nurse put her hand on the girl’s shoulder in a meager attempt to console her. “We really did try everything. It’s just that whatever bit her…we didn’t know what it was.”
The girl stood near her sister’s bedside staring at her. How were her parents going to handle this? How was she going to get through life without her best friend? How could life be so cruel?
A soft groaning started from the supposed dead girl. Her eyes shot open; they were bloodshot, cloudy, and just not normal. The younger sister looked up scared but hopeful. The doctors had all made a mistake! Her sister wasn’t dead!
“She’s not dead!” the girl squealed trying to run to her sister’s side.
“Um, she was.” The older nurse held tightly to the young girl’s shoulder not letting her get close.
“Let me go! She’s okay! See?”
“I do see, but four doctors pronounced her dead. There is no way that four doctors could be wrong.” The confused nurse pulled the girl out of the room.
“They were wrong!”
“I don’t think so, sweetie. Come sit at the nurse’s station, we’ll get this all situated, and as soon as the doctor gives the okay, you can see her.” The older nurse smiled at the young woman trying to reassure her.
The young woman wasn’t a fool though. She couldn’t help but feel like she was being lied to. The nurse was freaked out and if four doctors pronounced her sister dead, how was it possible she was still moving around and making noise?
Patient zero was the first undead.
I am patient zero’s sister.
I stood near the door waiting. People argued behind the large desk, while others were freaked out. I still had no idea what was going on. Nobody would give me straight answers and the nurse who Becca bit had not come back yet. While they were busy I slowly slunk more into the doorway of Becca’s room. She lay there strapped to the bed, struggling to free herself
I inched into the room trying to get a better look at my sister. She turned her head toward me and snapped her teeth. Her mouth was foaming, her skin changed to a greenish-white. She pulled at her arms and legs, desperate to get to me. Or to eat me. I wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.
“Becca?” I asked quietly. I didn’t want anyone to hear and drag me back out.
She growled. Her fingers were clawing at the air. The person in front of me did not look like my sister. I didn’t know who that was. I stood there staring at the strange creature that resembled Becca unsure what to do.
“Are you still in there?” I sat at the foot of the bed just out of her reach. I wanted nothing more than to hug her and tell her everything was going to be okay like she always did for me, but I would be lying to the both of us. I knew things were not okay. She was not okay. I wanted my sister though. I needed her. She was my strength.
Her growl escalated to a snarl.
“I’m sorry. Whatever happened to you; I’m sorry.” I cried into my hands.
Her eyes rolled to the back of her head as she lifted her upper body off the bed and slamming it back down. I was terrified watching my older sister act like that. She had always been the calm, rational one in the family. Now she looked like nothing but a mindless monster. I got up and left the room. I couldn’t stand to see her like that any longer.
Everything was still in the hallway. It was eerily quiet. A random heart monitor beeped but that was about it. I broke out in a run and made a b-line for a far-off door. My heart thudded as I ran down the hall toward the stairwell. I took the steps two at a time till I hit the main floor. I looked around the corner of the first floor, and casually walked to the exit. The emergency department was next to the main entrance, Emma’s nurse had to go there to have her bite looked at. The security guard who was supposed to be at the podium was nowhere to be seen. In fact, all the staff vanished. I thought it was odd, but maybe there was an emergency.
Maybe the nurse went zombie and bit everyone already.
There were people sitting in the waiting area watching television and talking. Nothing to indicate a serious crisis was underway. I casually walked to the front window and knocked on it. Nobody was in the area.
“Hello?” I called through the small hole in the glass.
A door off to the side opened as a guy in all green ran out. I hurried over and stuck my foot in the way before it shut. I squeezed through, staying against the wall. I pulled my badge out of my shirt incase anyone questioned why I was back there. The emergency department was familiar. I’d been back there dozens of times for victims and offenders alike for work. Being a detective took me to a lot of interesting places. Never in this capacity though. After a few very long minutes I looked around the corner and noticed absolutely no staff down the main hall. Puzzled, I walked out and toward where the nursing staff sat. People were in the patient rooms, but none of the health care professionals. I continued walking around until I came to a second desk. I finally saw someone in black scrubs running down the narrow corridor behind it. He was covered in blood. Taken aback, but curious, I circled to the back of the desk. I did a fast walk in the direction he came from. I found the staff. They were all around and in one room. I could hear everyone yelling, and on top of all that someone had let out a horrendous, other worldly snarl. I didn’t turn and run. I should have. But I didn’t. A doctor emerged from the room, running around looking for something.
“Get out of here!” he shouted at me.
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know.” He came toward me.
“Can I help with something?”
“Are you staff?” he asked.
I shook my head. “No.”
“Then no. Just, please, for your own good get away from here,” he pleaded.
“I don’t understand…” I started.
“I shouldn’t tell you this, but we have a nurse who has lost it. She’s biting everyone, and I have never seen anything like it.”
My face dropped. “Were you bit?”
“No, this is blood from everyone else.”
“Others were bit?” I looked toward the busy room.
“How many?” I asked.
“I’m not sure.” He shook his head wiping his hands on his pants.
“Is the nurse Rose?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“She was my sister’s nurse,” I whispered.
“Was?” His piercing blue eyes met my own green ones.
“Yeah, my sister is kind of dead.”
“Kind of? Stop being cryptic. If it’s something that can help here, tell me!” he shouted, grabbing onto my shoulders. He moved them a little too late. I looked at my shirt and saw the bloody handprints. “Sorry. I’ll pay for a new shirt.”
“My sister, Becca, was dead. Now she’s undead.” I ignored his offer to pay for the shirt.
“Wait, what?” The poor man looked even more confused and flustered.
“She died. Now she’s not dead. She’s, well, just come with me and I’ll show you.”
“I can’t leave this mess right now.”
“Get Rose strapped to a bed, that’s all you’re going to be able to do; same thing with everyone who was bit.”
He stared at me like I had a horn growing out of my forehead and a third eye.
“Trust me,” I said.
“Trust you? I don’t even know you!” he yelled, pushing past me and searching the cart that was next to the desk.
“Doctor whatever-your-name-is, you have a serious problem on your hands right now. Everyone who was bit is going to turn into an undead biting, eating machine.”
“I don’t have time for this.” He pushed past me with a container of needles and tubes.
“You need to make time for it, doc! You are going to have a serious epidemic on your hands very, very soon.”
He paused and glared at me. I knew it was insane for him to even consider my crazy notion. Zombies? Really? If I hadn’t seen Becca I wouldn’t believe me either. He turned and walked back down the hall. He pulled aside one of the guards and asked him for something because the guard took off running down the corridor. I waited and watched. The group of doctors and nurses struggled with the woman. I could hear her growls and snarls. People screamed, I would have to assume, each time they were bit. Worry and fear bubbled in my belly.
How many are there now? Are they all infected? How fast are they turning? Can this be contained? What if it turns into some epidemic? What if the disease means the end of the world? I shouldn’t have joked about zombipocalypses all the time.
The guard came back a few minutes later carrying a black case similar to the one that was taken to my sister’s room. It must have been restraints. I hid behind a pillar close to the room waiting for the doctor to come back. People slowly filed out. They had solemn faces, were covered in blood, and had no idea what was going on. I didn’t know exactly what was going on either. Only what happened to Emma.
“Well, she died.” The doctor walked toward me.
“Oh, just wait, this is when the fun starts,” I muttered. “And it’s happening faster. Becca didn’t die for twenty-four hours.”
“Whatever your sister is infected with is highly contagious and fatal.”
“No shit and I wouldn’t say it’s entirely fatal. It does turn the infected into the undead,” I mumbled glancing at the room. “Undead who want to eat you.”
“The dead don’t resurrect,” the doctor, whose embroidered jacket said Nathan White, told me.
“That’s what they said upstairs too. Just wait.” I bit my lip. “Where are the others who were bit?”
“Getting checked out.”
“So, this is how the end of the world starts.” I sighed and looked at the clock.
It hadn’t even been a minute.
“Listen to me Doctor White…” He cut me off.
“Just call me Nathan.” The young man looked past me to the nurses’ little room.
“Okay, Nathan. That woman is not completely dead. Pretty soon she’s going to be the undead. Everyone that she has bitten is going to be undead.”
“Do you know how ridiculous you sound?” He furrowed his eyebrows at me. Frustration was quickly replacing his patience. I didn’t blame him. I would think I was crazy too.
I knew it sounded ridiculous. It still sounded ridiculous to me and I saw it happen. “Why is it so hard for you to just believe me?”
“Because it’s not medically possible. Zombies are not real. They were created for movies.”
“That may have been true at one point, but it is happening. My sister doesn’t go around just biting people; especially when a doctor declared her dead.”
“He must have made a mistake. That happens from time to time.”
“A mistake? I don’t think so.” I glanced over my shoulder and a small bubble of fear crept up in my belly as a woman holding her shoulder. I could see her light blue uniform turning red from the blood.
“Emma, I know you’re upset because of your sister, but you have to be rational. Zombies don’t exist.”
“You are such a frustrating man!” I shouted at him. “How do you explain all of that?”
“You’re impossible. At least you think impossibly.”
“Come on.” I grabbed his soft hand and dragged him to the small room.
“I don’t understand what this is going to prove,” he protested but followed.
“It’s going to prove that I’m right.” We huddled right outside the room until the last two nurses shut off all the equipment and vacated. The silence was unsettling.
One of her arms hung off the stretcher; blood trickling down her fingers splashing onto the floor. We stood beside the bed and waited. Rose took forever to turn. Nathan pursed his lips and kept his blue eyes trained on the unmoving body just inches from us. His blonde hair was a tousled mess, probably from constantly running his hands through it. His scrubs were disheveled and possibly blue under all the blood, and he kept yawning.
“I see nothing but a dead nurse,” he snapped rubbing his eyes.
“I don’t have time to wait. I now have a ton of paperwork and need to figure out how to tell this woman’s family that even though she came to work she’s dead.” He turned to the sink running water over his blood-soaked hands and arms. I watched, hypnotized, as the red water ran down the drain.
“How long have you been awake?” I asked quietly.
“Um, I’m going on thirty hours. I think.”
“Wow.” I handed him a towel to dry them off.
“So, what’s your name?” He glanced at me briefly.
“Detective Emma Taylor.”
“Well Detective Emma Taylor, why do you think something is going to happen? Honestly.”
“It happened to my sister not long ago,” I mumbled biting my quivering lip.
“I see. Well this has been some night.” He smiled meekly at me.
“I believe it’s daytime now.”
“Yes, I suppose it is. Well then this has been the most interesting morning I’ve had in the ED in a very long time. I guess I have you and your undead sister to thank for it.” He shook his head and licked his lips.
Asshole doesn’t believe me. Then I noticed it. Her fingers twitched, and her eye lids fluttered.
“It’s about to get even more interesting, doctor.” I nodded toward the reawakening nurse.
Nathan’s eyes popped. At first, he squinted to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating. He wasn’t. The woman’s hands and legs moved a little bit. Just twitches every now and then. Her head began to loll back and forth, followed by the low growling and moaning. My heart leapt to my throat and my stomach did somersaults.
He looked at me with a mixture of fear and bewilderment. “What the fuck is going on?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Hell, if I know. That exact same thing happened to my sister.”
He spun around and grabbed a caddy of different colored tubes, needles, and blue bands.
“What are you doing?” I watched as he tied off her upper arm with the band and rubbed the center of her elbow.
“So, I can take it to the lab and see what’s in it turning people into those things before this shit gets even crazier.” He leaned over the woman jabbing her arm with a needle letting a few tubes fill up with her blood.
Once there were six or seven tubes he backed up. She was a super pissed off undead. Her milky eyes stared at him, her foaming mouth snapped, and she wrenched at the restraints trying to free herself. Rose wanted to eat Nathan’s face off.
“I don’t think she likes you.” I bumped into a wall trying to get further away from her.
“She never liked me.” He grimaced heading for the doorway.
“What happens now?” I watched the undead woman rock the light stretcher back and forth.
“Uh we need to get a security guard and get out of here.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the spectacle.
“We have to stop her.”
“How?” Nathan asked.
“The same way you do in the movies I guess.”
He closed his eyes and shook his head vehemently. “I’m not killing anyone.”
“Is it killing someone if they’re already dead?” I asked.
“It goes against everything in me. I took the Hippocratic oath. I’m not killing her.”
I pulled the knife I always kept on me out of its sheath. “You don’t have to.”
“I can, and I am.”
The emergency department turned into a mad house. Nurses and doctors rushed around. Nobody knew what they were doing or what happened. I ran back to the small room, blade in hand. The old security guard we’d told about the problem stood there with his hands grasping the hole where his throat used to be. Nathan gasped and vomited all over the floor. I ran into the room and plunged the blade deep into the side of the man’s head. He sank to the floor, blood still spurting from the wound. Rose rocked the stretcher back and forth, blood covering her face and flesh stuck in her teeth. I jammed the the knife into her forehead. Her fighting ceased immediately. Pulling the blade out, I wiped it on the blanket that covered the woman. Nathan grabbed my hand and pulled me through the mass of people toward the front doors. Before we were out of the area I heard a crash, a heart-stopping snarl, and ear-piercing screams. It wasn’t over. Not even close.
“I think there’s a problem.”
“I heard. We need to get out of here now.” He yanked me toward an elevator, the tubes of blood in his other hand.
“What are you going to do with all that infected blood?” I glanced at it nervously.
“We’re heading to the lab and having a tech look at it right now.”
“Shouldn’t the hospital be evacuated?”
“I’ll call and tell security to get started as soon as we get to the lab. This blood is the most important thing. It needs put under a microscope and analyzed. Plus, I’ve had enough of the ED.”
“Okay,” I said absently as he pulled me through the maze of a hospital to a small door at the end of a long corridor.
He waved one of the cards on his badge in front of a black box and a little buzz sounded. He pushed the door open but didn’t wait for it to close on its own. He threw his body against the door slamming it shut. He leaned his head against the steel breathing heavily while I stood there biting my lip.
“Does this thing automatically lock?” he shouted at the techs across the lab.
“Uh, yeah.” They looked at us like we were crazy. “What’s wrong?”
“Stop whatever you’re doing and look at this.” He pulled out the tubes of blood and placed them on a counter.
“We’re really backed up, doc. I have four stat lab draws that need looked at right now,” one tech protested.
“Right now, those don’t matter. This does. It could mean saving humanity.”
Everyone looked at him skeptically then at me.
“He’s right. There are two zombies in the hospital. Maybe more by now.”
“Zombies?” A girl sitting in a corner asked.
“Yes, zombies,” Nathan told her.
A man with shaggy hair blinked his eyes slowly. “You mean brain eating zombies?”
“Isn’t it too early for Halloween jokes?” a guy off to the left asked.
“No joke and I don’t think they care if they get brains or your liver,” Nathan said.
He gave each tech a tube than sat down at an empty microscope himself. “Grab those slides over there for me.”
“Sure.” I shuffled over and grabbed a container of long, thin glass plates. I hoped they were the slides.
He picked one up and dropped the blood on slide after slide, staring through the eyepiece mumbling things to himself.
“Hey, doc?” the corner girl asked.
“What?” He didn’t even look up.
“Where did you get this?” She looked confused and horrified.
“It is blood from a nurse who died in the ED about half-an-hour ago. Well, died then came back to life, sort of. Why?”
“I’ve never seen a blood sample like it.”
“I know neither have I,” he muttered.
“What is so spectacular about the blood?” I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted the answer.
“Take a look.” Nathan got off the stool and paced the room.
I took his spot and stared into the eye piece. I had no idea what I was looking at. “What is it?”
“It’s the blood from Rose.”
“Okay, so what am I looking at?”
“The aggressive nature of whatever the virus is.” Nathan took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
“Whatever the virus is attacks the blood which makes its way to the brain,” Nathan started. “Perhaps she turned so quickly because her bite was bad. Your sister took more time because it was just a small bite. The larger the bite the faster you turn. The smaller your bite the longer it takes.”
“Perhaps?” I asked.
“I don’t have any samples of the brain, so I don’t know.”
“Are you sure it attacks the brain?” a lab tech asked.
“If people are coming back to life I’m sure.” He replaced his glasses and continued pacing.
“I still don’t understand what’s going on. How did this even start?”
“I have no idea how it started but it’s transferred from person to person via saliva and most likely blood. Look.” Nathan grabbed a small scalpel that sat near the cart with glass slides and sliced the tip of his finger. I watched as he smeared his blood on it and put it under the microscope.
“Look at that.”
“Okay.” I put my eye to the eyepiece and saw some big differences between Nathan’s bright red blood and the nurse’s dark purple. “So, what am I looking for?”
Nathan got a long eye dropper and stuck it into the tube of infected blood. “Don’t take your eyes off it. Or touch it.”
He dropped a bit of that onto his clean blood, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. The infected blood invaded Nathan’s healthy blood. His blood cells were quickly taken over and pretty much devoured leaving nothing but the infected to multiply. I sat in stunned silence.
“So, the bad over takes the healthy?” I asked still watching as the infected blood searched for more to eat.
“Pretty much.” Nathan sat beside me shaking his head.
“We have to call someone.” Another guy stared into the eye piece of a microscope in front of him.
“Who do you call about something like this?” I bit my lip and furrowed my brows. Who would handle a zombie virus?
“CDC,” Nathan said, finally looking up.
“And tell them what exactly?” I inquired.
“That we have a highly infectious disease spreading through bite that is fatalish.”
“Fatalish? How do you tell the Center for Disease Control that there is a zombie virus spreading through a hospital in freaking Pittsburgh?” I asked incredulously.
“I have to. They must believe. If they don’t and they don’t send a team there is no hope for humanity,” he whispered before pursing his lips into a tight line.
“Call security first and get this place evacuated.” I wondered how many downstairs were already infected.
He picked up a phone sitting on the desk next to him and spoke softly but quickly into the receiver. He argued with whoever was on the other end but hung up quickly. Within seconds I heard a page overhead about some code and to quickly locate an exit. By time I looked at him he was back on the phone. He was arguing with someone again. Every now and then he’d shout, “I’m not kidding, you ass! Put me on with someone else.” He rubbed his temples. I noticed Nathan did that a lot. I was almost surprised not to see a permanent indentation of his thumb and pointer finger there. “Yes, I’m serious. This is an emergency.” And my favorite was, “If someone from there is not here this is going to spread outside of Pittsburgh within days and then undead people are going to eat living people at an alarming rate. Get moving now!”
Slamming down the receiver, he paced around the room again. His face beat red, the vein in his neck popped out, and he mumbled to himself. I would lie if I said I wasn’t terrified and anxious. I bit my nails while watching the young doctor. He had so much thrown onto his shoulders so suddenly. When he stopped he looked at me with such desperation and confusion.
“We have to see your sister. What floor is she on?” He grabbed my hand again dragging me across the lab.
“Six. But I don’t even know if she’s still there.”
“Where would she be? I don’t think anyone knows what to do with her,” he said.
“I guess, but wouldn’t they put her in an isolation room or something?”
“If they think to do that. They may think she’s just a violent patient.”
“A violent patient who died and came back to life? Come on, Nathan.”
“Let’s just check.” He paused at the door and looked at all the lab techs. “Go home. Pack up your families and leave town.”
“Leave town? Where are we supposed to go?”
“Somewhere safe. I don’t know,” he said.
“Where exactly is safe?”
“Anywhere that’s not here. Go find a cave or a cabin in the mountains.” Nathan pulled me out of the lab and down the hall.
“What about us?” I asked blinking back tears.
“We’ll get to safety soon.”
I felt like a complete mess and was on the verge of panic. I wanted nothing more than to go home and hug my parents. “Soon? Why not now?”
“There’s more we have to do.”
“Like what, Nathan? I don’t want to be in this hospital any longer than what I have to.”
“I know, and we won’t.”
“If you know, then let’s leave.” I begged pulling at him as we pushed through a set of doors.
“You can go if you want.” He released my hand and started up the stairs. “I’m not going to force you to stay.”
“I’m not going to leave you here alone. I’d be a huge asshole if I did that.”
“Then you’re going to have to wait until I finish what I have to do.” There was such finality in his tone.
He paused on a landing three floors up and extended his hand to me. I hesitated for a moment. Biting my lip, I looked around unsure if I wanted to leave or stay with the stranger. Sighing heavily, I reached out for him not realizing just how important that man would become to me.