Patient Zero

One hundred days, 144000 minutes to save us. It’s a hard job finding a cure to the worst virus the world has ever seen. We spend days thinking we’ve found the answer only to start all over again. There is no way of knowing if the vaccine will work. There is no magic number of times we can test it. It is trial and error until we find the cure.

We are developing and testing and going back over and over again. The hardest part isn’t that the fate of the world is in our hands. No, the hardest part is that our test subject, patient zero is only seven years old.

It was hard finding someone willing to volunteer. We were lucky that Patient Zero landed in our laps or this vaccine might not even be possible. We watch him from the safety of my observation room. The patient is hooked up to an IV that gives him doses of the vaccine.

We will have to go into the room with Patient Zero to assess if the vaccine has worked. A lot of preparation goes into getting to the magic day 100. 100 doses of the vaccine is based on research done with lab mice. We take the number of days it took to cure the mice and then multiply the human body mass ratio. It’s a rough guess in a situation where we can’t afford to be wrong.

The military is guarding our facility keeping it safe from would-be intruders. They were accommodating when I mentioned that we needed safety gear for going into the room. They gave us hazmat suits and other items that will keep us alive.

I put on my suit. I can’t breathe and I wonder if that is the point of the suit, to keep me from breathing the air around me. My partner gets inside of his suit too. He will stand at the door in case something goes wrong and contain me if the need arises.

I walk in. Even though Patient Zero is still asleep we have stopped his IV. He will wake at any moment. If he gets agitated, he could attack me and spread the virus without meaning too. My suit will only protect me so much. If he damages it in any way, I’m out of luck.

I check his chart while he is still asleep. Diagnosis Highland Plague, also known as the zombie virus. There are so many other places I want to be right now but I know my job is important. I stand there watching him when he wakes up. I step back towards the door, towards my partner for safety.

“Where am I?,” he asks.

“You are at a medical facility. You were sick. Do you remember? We are trying to make you better. “

“I’m hungry.”

“You must be starving. I can get you some fruit or a sandwich. You can have whatever you want.”

“I want brains.”

“Okay Doc, we’ve got to be getting out of here now,” my partner says.

“It’s okay, just another moment. I’m prepared for this.”

“Mommy, I’m hungry.”

My partner gives me a strange glance. He tugs on my arm and pulls me out of the room closing the door behind us. My son remains in his bed.

“Did that thing just call you mommy?”

“I never wanted you to find out this way.”

“When were you going to tell me you were treating your son Doc?”

“Look, we’ve done what we needed to survive. One day, my Charlie was outside playing in the background. I thought he was safe out there. If only I hadn’t left him out there alone. I turned my head for one second. When I went back over and looked at him, he was on the ground in a pool of blood.

I ran outside by his side. He had a large bite on his neck. He was gasping for air and couldn’t tell me exactly what had happened. I called an ambulance, desperate to try and help him. When he died, my whole world had stopped.

Imagine my surprise, when he showed up in the yard the next day. He was my boy but he wasn’t the same. The love that was in his eyes wasn’t there anymore. There was nothing but anger. I kept him from harming me and I locked him up in my basement. I fed him animal brains that I bought from the store. When I got offered this job, I gave them my one request that he be the test subject.”

“That’s convenient, Sheila,” he said.

He hadn’t used her real name in a long time. They had developed such a close relationship that she had earned the nickname Doc.

“Look, I would do anything to help my son. If I get to help the world at the same time, then perfect.”

“Why do you get special treatment, Sheila? You know I lost my wife and daughter out there too. I didn’t get the chance to volunteer them for this project. The rules state that relatives and loved ones could not be a part of the study. “

“I didn’t make those decisions. ”

“We need to end this project now.”

“Why? We are making some real progress here?”

“Sheila, you are allowing your feelings for him to cloud your judgment. He is still infected. The vaccine isn’t working. We need to try something else.”

“You heard him in there, John. Nobody else with the virus is capable of cognitive thought. He is getting better. Now I need to get him something to eat before he gets upset. We don’t want anything to set back our progress.”

“I can’t let you go back in there. “

“Come on John, I promise everything will be fine.”

“Sheila, please don’t make me choose. You know I care about you but I can’t let you do this. If something happened to you, I could never forgive myself. I let my family go a long time ago. It is time that you do the same. Only then will we be able to move on. We can make it through this together. “

He held out his hand to me and I just looked at him for a moment. A siren went off in the distance. I looked at John in panic. It could only mean one thing. Zombies have gotten past our armed guards and were infiltrating our facility.

“Come on Sheila, we’ve got to get out of here.”

“I’ve got to help Charlie.”

“He’ll be fine in that room. They can’t break in there. We can come back for him once the military has everything under control.”

“I can’t leave him, John. He needs me, now more than ever. I can’t take the chance they hurt him. I have to help him.”

“Damn it. There isn’t time. We have to get down to the safety bunker now. “

“You go ahead. I’ll be right behind you. I want to make sure he is okay first.”

We say our goodbyes. He gazes back at me only for a moment. He seems hesitant to leave me behind. I wave at him and he runs off into the distance. I hope he makes it to the bunker.

I go back into the observation room and see my son is still sitting on his bed waiting for my return. Noises can be heard off in the corridor. It is too late for me to make it to the bunker now.

I make a difficult choice in the few minutes I have. I hear the sounds again and dart for my son’s room. I shut myself in with my son hoping that it will keep us both safe.

“Charlie, everything is going to be okay sweetie. They can’t get us in here.”

“I’m not scared mommy. They won’t hurt me because I’m one of them.”

“You were one of them honey but now you are not.”

“Mommy I’m hungry.”

“We have some rations in the room. What would you like?”

“I want brains mommy.”

“You don’t want brains. It is just the last of the virus in your system. I promise those cravings will go away.”

I look out into the observation room and I see several zombies have made their way in. I take a deep breath to try and calm myself.

“Mommy I’m hungry.”

“Just a minute honey, I’ll get you a snack.”

“I don’t want a snack mommy, I want brains.”

“I can’t get you brains right now. You are going to have to wait.”

“No, I don’t want to wait. I want to eat now.”

Then, he attacks me. As he overtakes me, I hear myself scream. The door of the room opens. Zombies are rushing towards me. I try to break free but my son is too strong. He has me pinned down. Now there are more of them on top of me. I realize that no one is going to come help me. I’m all alone.

If my son manages to get out of this place, he will spread the evolved virus to others. Now I realize how wrong I was about everything. I manage one last scream and then everything goes black.