Monday, March 4, 2013

Patient Zero - Part 2 (1,000th post!!!)

I can't believe this is the 1000th post on my little blog, but then again, it does seem like half a life time ago that I started this blog which was in late 2008. What better way to celebrate such a milestone than by sharing the highly anticipated conclusion to... 

Patient Zero 

Hamish switched off the sat phone and looked over to Charles and Sophia who were both staring in horror at the bodies outside. “I don’t know how much of that you heard but there may be military coming in. We need to lock ourselves in and sit tight. Charles, I need you to grab food supplies for a week.” “A week? I thought you said they’d be here in two days.” “I’m not going to take any chances. If we’re going to get through this, then we need to be smart.” Charles nodded and rushed towards the kitchen, keeping his eyes on the people outside on his way. “What should I do?” Sophia asked. “I want you to grab the records and relevant samples and make sure they’re safely inside the supply room. We need to have the documentation chain of what’s happened here.” “What are you going to do?” “I’m going to reinforce the windows where I can, and try to make this place a bit safer.”

He grabbed whatever he could find, pushing bed frames against doors and balancing desks against the window ledges, blocking the view of the zombies outside. There were groans and moans coming from the thirteen bodies outside, and he watched in horror as a figure came running up behind them, yelling for a doctor. It was a little girl and she barrelled through the zombies, not noticing anything amiss, to bang on the front door. “Doctor!! Doctor!!” she screamed. He watched in horror as the zombies noticed the child and grabbed her. Blood coloured his eyes as he turned away, the little girl’s screams echoing around him. There was nothing he could do. He took a deep breath and went to place a table in front of the last visible window pane. One of the zombies looked up from the body of the little girl and seemed to stare straight through him. He shivered and hurried about the rest of the clinic, trying to provide as much protection with the equipment they had.

“How are we doing?” he asked Sophia who was walking to the supply room with a pile of folders in her arms. “Almost done, I just want to triple check that we’ve got everything. You look pale. What’s happened?” “They just murdered a little girl in front of me. Tore her apart. I can’t...”he voice trailed off. Sophia pulled him into her arms, and tried to comfort him. “We’ll make it through this Hamish, we will. There’s nothing more we can do for them except wait.” She felt him take a deep breath against her shoulder and sighed. “You’re right. Where’s Charles?”

“Right here boss. We’re all set. Food, water, peepoo bags, mattress.” Hamish looked at his logistician, calm in the face of zombies. “Ok, let’s get in there.” He took one last glance around the clinic, and heard the unmistakable sound of glass smashing. “Go!” They hurried to the supply room and Hamish couldn’t help but look behind him. The undead were climbing awkwardly through the front window. He pulled the door shut behind him and bolted it. “Where’s the sat phone?” Sophia and Charles looked at him in horror. “I thought you had it,” Charles said. Sophia was shaking her head.  Hamish grimaced. “I need to get that phone, we’re done without it.” His heart was racing and sweat formed at his temples. He didn’t want to open that door, he didn’t want to get any closer to the zombies out there, but there was no choice.

“Wait boss. I brought this in, just in case.” Charles gave him a wan smile as he handed him one of his shinty sticks he’d brought from Scotland to play with the kids. Hamish took a deep breath and looked at his colleagues. “I left it in my office. Lock the door behind me, and when you hear me yell ‘open the damn door’ then let me back in.” Sophia’s eyes were welling up, “wait. You can’t go out unprotected.” She handed him a pair of gloves and safety glasses, pulled a mask over his nose and mouth, and reached up to arrange a surgical cap over his ears.

He nodded and slid the bolt back on the door. He peeked out through a tiny gap in the door and didn’t see anything. Tightening his grip on the shinty stick, he opened the door and sprinted to the office. The coast was clear, not a single body along the way. He snatched the sat phone off his desk and made for the hallway. As he rounded the corner he was stopped in his tracks by two women, gums bared as they shuffled towards him. He steeled himself for what he had to do, and swung the stick to connect with the first zombie’s head. Blood splattered everywhere, but it wasn’t red, it was the same sallow grey of the zombies’ skin. There was grey spattered on his glasses but he didn’t try to wipe it away. He felt pressure on his left arm and turned to see a grey hand trying to grab him. It was Maria. There wasn’t time to think and Hamish lifted the stick again and swung it as hard as he could. He didn’t stop to see if the job was done, and hurried back to the supply room screaming for Charles and Sophia to open the damn door. Once safely inside with the door bolted firmly behind him, he careful removed the blood soaked gloves, mask and cap and tied them tightly in a bio hazard bag.

He let out a deep sigh. “I take it you ran into some trouble,” Charles said. He nodded and looked down at the floor. “It was Maria. And another woman. They...I...the stick.” Charles put a hand on his shoulder. “You did what you had to do to keep us all safe. It’s ok Hamish.” “You’re right. But that was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.” He paused and picked up the sat phone. “Let’s see where the rescue mission is.” He dialled the number for Doctor Waldorf and waited to be connected. “It’s Hamish Macleod. Have you got any news for me?” “Are you all ok?” “Well, me and my team are ok. We’re locked up with supplies, but it’s getting worse out there. I just don’t think there’s going to be many survivors, you have to get us out of here.” “Of course. The military are sending a chopper, it’s all been approved with the government there. They’re going to take care of it.” “What about those who haven’t been infected, how are we supposed to get them onto the chopper?” “I don’t know the details Hamish, someone will be getting in touch with you soon with the evacuation plan. All I know is that they’ll be there tomorrow morning at 5am. Will you be all right until then?” A terrible feeling washed over Hamish but he pushed it away. “We’ll be fine. I’ll wait to hear further instructions.” “Ok. Take care.” Doctor Waldorf disconnected the call.

“What’s going on?” Sophia looked at him expectantly. “They’re sending a military chopper; it should be here at 5am so we just have to hold tight until then. Someone else is going to call with the evac plan. “Man, I haven’t had a helo evac since Darfur,” Charles said, “bit of a different situation there.” They smiled weakly at each other. “You look worried Hamish, is there something else?” “When I asked about evacuating the people who weren’t infected he didn’t know. I’ve just got a bad feeling that we’re going to be the only ones that get out of here.” “You think they’d leave people behind to die?” Charles asked. “I don’t know what to think.”

They sat in silence, jolting each time another window broke, or the sounds of groaning made it through the door. Every so often there was a thump on the door, but the infected didn’t seem to put much effort into trying to get in. “Those poor people,” Sophia said, her arms wrapped around herself. They sat, lost in their own thoughts as the hours dragged by. “Hamish, get some sleep, you’ve been run off your feet for days.” Charles passed him a pillow and waved in the direction of the mattresses he’d arranged behind some shelving. “Thanks Charles, but I don’t think any of us are going to get much sleep.” “It’s worth a shot.” Hamish took the proffered pillow and lay down with his hands over his eyes. How on earth had it come to this? He evened out his breathing in an attempt to relax, and just as he felt he was slowly drifting off to sleep the ringing of the sat phone jolted him up.

Sophia tossed it to him and he connected. “Doctor Hamish Macleod.” “Doctor, my name is Major Steven Jackson. I’m aboard a helicopter bound for your location. We should be landing in two hours. What can you tell us?” “Hello Major. I can’t tell you much more than you already know. We have infected undead in and around the clinic. We are barricaded in a room in the north-west corner of the building. I think you’ll need to come in and get us.”

“Have you had any contact with the infected?” “None of us have been bitten, and we’re all vaccinated. I managed to stop a couple of them a few hours ago with a shinty stick so it doesn’t appear too difficult to stop them.” “And you think they’re definitely already dead and are now undead you say?” “Well some of them are, there are probably a number of people in the community who are infected who are not yet dead, and some who have died that haven’t yet returned from the dead, but most importantly there are people out there who haven’t been infected at all. We need to help those people Major.” “Our orders are to get you and your team out safely first Doctor Macleod. We’ll then be given further orders on how to contain the situation.” “Major, what does that mean?” “It means we’re coming for you soon Doctor. Stay where you are, our squad will come in to get you. Be ready to run in two hours.” The phone line went dead.
“They’re not going to help the community are they?” Sophia asked. “I don’t think so. I think something terrible is going to happen.” “This is messed up Hamish.” “I know. They’ll be here in two hours, we need to make sure we can run with what we need to take with us. Let’s divide up the files and samples now to make sure we can all carry what we need.”

“Sophia, did you happen to get our passports?” Charles asked. She smiled at him, “of course I did Charles. But I think they’d let us go even if we didn’t have them.” “True, I just didn’t fancy having to go out to grab them with Hamish’s stick thing.” They busied themselves with sorting out the files and organising samples into thick bags that they could run with. There was nothing to do but wait.

The steady thumping of the chopper’s blades rose from a distant beat to a roar. They stood up and grabbed their bags. “Everyone ready?” Hamish looked at his colleagues, so calm under pressure, like this was any other emergency evacuation they’d experienced before. “Ready Doctor Macleod,” Sophia said with a small smile. “Ready boss,” Charles’s teeth barely showed through his smile. “Ok, now we just wait for the signal.” “Did he say what the signal would be?” “No, but I think we’ll know it when we hear it.”

The sound of gun fire rang out across the dawn, and it was a constant sound. “My god, it sounds like they’re mowing them down,” Charles said. “They’re probably trying to clear a path to get in.” The gun fire slowed down with what sounded like more targeted pops every few seconds. They could hear heavy boots making their way through the clinic. Hamish banged on the door and shouted. “We’re in here; follow the sound of my voice.” “Doctor Macleod, we’re just clearing the rooms, we’ll be with you shortly,” a voice called back. More pops of gunfire burst out, along with voices yelling “clear.” There was a banging on the door, accompanied by the same voice. “Ok, open up Doctor.”

Hamish slid back the bolt and looked into the face of a soldier. “Follow me sir.” The soldier turned and jogged down the hall, and they followed him in single file. Hamish watched the soldiers stationed at each window pointed out, and noticed more in the yard outside, surrounding the helicopter. “Oh my god,” Sophia cried. Strewn throughout the clinic and across the yard were the grey bloodied bodies of the infected. “Into the first chopper please,” the soldier shouted. They ducked their heads and ran towards the first of two helicopters that had landed in the yard. A large man reached out a hand to pull them each in. “I’m Major Jackson. Glad to see you’re safe and sound Doctor.” “Thank you Major, it’s good to see you. What happens now?” “Now, we fly you to the capital and put you on a plane. There’s nothing more for you to worry about now, you’re safe.” 

Hamish let his head fall back into the seat and looked at Charles and Sophia, both who looked relieved and worried in equal measure.  As the helicopter lifted off the ground slowly, Hamish looked down to the clinic that had been his home, to the bodies on the ground, and as they climbed higher, to the people standing outside their huts watching the helicopter leave. “Major, those people down there, they’re not all infected. They need to be evacuated until the virus is contained.” “Don’t worry Doctor, the virus will be contained. Get some rest; we’ve got a couple of hours ahead of us.” The tone in his voice meant that there was to be no further discussion. Hamish looked out the window and watched the second helicopter lifting off and was horrified when seconds later, small explosions rocked the ground below.

“What’s happening, what are you doing?” he screamed at Major Jackson. He watched as more and more balls of fire exploded around the village. “They’re innocent people, you can’t do that.” Hamish was hysterical as he watched the world erupt into flames below him. “The virus had to be contained Doctor. There was no other way.” Hamish looked to Sophia and Charles, both of whom had tears streaking their cheeks. There was nothing to be said, and they sat in angered silence for the rest of the journey. As the sun rose around them the two helicopters banked towards civilisation, a civilisation that Doctor Hamish Macleod had major wasn't sure he wanted to be a part of anymore.  

Twenty four hours later as Doctor Hamish Macleod sat with Doctor James Waldorf in Atlanta to work through the samples that had made the journey with him from the jungle, he mindlessly rubbed a small graze on his left arm. At the same time in a small central American country a short flight away, the dirt that had been piled onto the grave of Maria de Silva’s cousin stirred ever so slightly.


So there you have it - always leave it open for a sequel I say! If anyone else participates in the challenge, please leave a comment with a link to your story.

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