ZOMBORO VIRUS PART 2
Later that evening, Trevor walked into the hospital’s lab. The odor of disinfectant was so strong
the fumes stung the back of his throat. The white walls and tiled floor sparkled with cleanliness.
As Trevor crossed the room, he murmured hello to the six scientists who milled about,
setting up computers and other paraphernalia.
Tyler stood at the back of the room in front of a white board. His hair stuck up in a wild halo around his head as if he’d been shoveling his hands through it.
His tired hair their mom use to call it when they were younger. She could always gage how tired Tyler was by his hair.
The memory jabbed a hole through Trevor’s gut. He dropped it, not wanting to get trapped in an emotional vortex. Thank God his parents had passed away before the zombie apocalypse.
“Hey, Ty. You up for a visit?”
Tyler glanced over his shoulder and smiled. “Oh, hey. Yeah. I need a break.”
“What’s all this?” Trevor asked as he studied the drawings, numbers, and abbreviations on the board.
“The Zomboro Virus broken down.” With a heavy sigh, Tyler placed his hands in the front pockets of his lab coat. “The perfect killer.” He pulled a black felt pen from his pocket and drew a circular shape, than added a black oblong in the center. “The virus attacks brain cells, destroying them from the inside out. First symptoms are unnatural aggression and insatiable hunger. The virus needs an enormous amount of protein to multiply, so as the disease depletes the body of proteins, the host experiences intense cravings for protein-enriched foods—living tissue. As the disease progresses, the body begins to attack itself.” He stared at Trevor. “In essence, it eats itself. Once this stage hits, death follows. It’s a gruesome illness, and death from it is neither quick nor painless.”
Trevor remained silent. What Tyler said wasn’t news to him. He’d seen the effects of the sickness up close too many times to count. “What about the vaccine? Do you think it might work?”
“In theory, but . . . it needs to be tested first.” Tyler moved to stand beside a glass topped desk. “Do you know why my scientists and I have been stationed here?”
Spreading his arms wide, Tyler said, “This facility is to be a testing site.”
Understanding hit Trevor with such force he stopped breathing. “You need human subjects?”
Tyler nodded and then looked away. “The only way to find out if the vaccine works is to vaccinate people, wait six weeks, and then inject them with the Zomboro Virus.”
Trevor walked to the desk and crossed his arms over his chest. “What happens if the vaccine doesn’t work?”
“The test subjects will be destroyed.”
“Jesus Christ.” Trevor gripped the back of a blue chair, his knuckles turned white with the force. He then slumped into the worn seat and placed his forearms along the desk top. How could his brother willingly infect people and them kill them?
Tyler ran a hand over his unruly hair before taking a seat. “I know. The only conciliation is the test subjects volunteered for it. And yes, they know the risks.”
“Isn’t there any other way? What about testing it on animals?”
“We have and the results are mixed. Some species it worked and others the vaccine had no effect.” Suddenly, intense weariness and worry filled Tyler’s eyes. “And we now don’t have the luxury of time.”
Trevor’s heart raced and sweat broke out across his forehead. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“The virus is becoming stronger. We’ve recently discovered that fleas and mosquitoes are sources of infection. And also, the virus is now capable of infecting others even without getting bitten or scratched.”
Trevor didn’t speak—he couldn’t. Was Tyler implying the virus could now jump from one person to another without actual physical contact?
“A new strain has emerged in China--one that can be passed through the air by coughing and sneezing—like a cold. It’s merged with the bird flu.” Tyler leaned forward and grabbed Trevor’s arm. “Do you see why we have to act now? I don’t want to do this either, but I’m under orders, and as a doctor, I know this is our only hope.”
Even though Tyler was right, this knowledge didn’t sit well with Trevor. He rose to his feet and paced in front of the desk. “Why would anyone put themselves at risk like this?”
“For money,” Tyler stated.
Trevor glanced at him. Since the outbreak the economy had tanked. The lure of money would definitely be enough for some to risk even their lives. “How much are we talking here?”
Whistling through his teeth, Trevor gazed at the white board once more. He remembered when he and Tyler would play zombie video games for hours when they were teenagers. He remembered how he had secretly wished there would be a zombie apocalypse. Well, sadly he got his wish.
His throat tightened and an invisible band formed around his chest, constricting his breathing. The walls felt as if they were closing in. Sweat dripped from under his cropped hair and slid down his temples.
Tyler stood, his eyes filled with concern. “Are you okay? You look white as a ghost.”
Irrational anger towards Tyler swirled through him like a hurricane. He wanted to grab his brother by the throat and demand to know how he could even think of infecting people, willing or not. And for money no less.
Instead he glanced at his watch. “Hey, I’ve gotta cut this short. My turn for night watch.” Which was true, but shift change wasn’t due for an hour. He needed to get away from Tyler before he said something he’d regret.
“Trevor, there’s no other way,” Tyler said, his tone pleading for understanding. “If we don’t act now everyone will die.”
Without another word, Trevor stalked from the lab and down the hall. He absently nodded to his men who guarded the only entrance into the building as he stepped out into the chilly evening.
Small groups of soldiers sat outside playing cards. They saluted as he walked past.
A light breeze blew against Trevor’s face. He pulled his camo jacket tighter to ward off the chill. Fog had rolled in from the ocean, lending the night an eerie feel. The only sounds he heard were his men talking and laughing amongst themselves.
He turned down a narrow alley that split the hospital wings and leaned his back against the cold brick. A security light shone down on him, but left the rest of the space in darkness.
His fury grew. Anger towards Tyler and what he had to do. Anger towards the government whose fault this nightmare was. Anger that the higher-ups asked—no--forced his brother to go against his values. Then unbearable sorrow edged aside his wrath. Sadness for what life had become and for all he had suffered and lost.
In the deep shadows, something rustled. Trevor straightened and grabbed his hand gun from his chest holster. He sagged with relief when Corporal Dylan McKelvey stepped out of the gloom.
“Corporal, you scared . . .” His words trailed off when he got a good look at McKelvy’s pallid complexion. He was sweating profusely and the skin around his eyes was a dark purple. A bloody drool stained his lips and chin.
The hairs on the back of Trevor’s neck rose. “Are you okay?” Stupid question. He knew he wasn’t okay.
McKelvy’s head jerked from side to side and his eyes darted around like a frightened animal. “No, Major. I don’t think I am.” He took a step forward.
Oh no. Jesus, please no. “Stay where you are,” Trevor commanded.
“Remember when I had to shoot my partner?” McKelvey took another lurching step toward Trevor. “It was me who had gotten bitten, not Dan. Dan was going to shoot me. He said he had to because I was infected, but I couldn’t let him. I didn’t want to die.”
Trevor slowly cocked his gun and aimed it at MCKelvy’s chest.
“I had to do it—I had to kill Dan.” MCKelvy’s expression crumbled and tears coursed down his cheeks. “I shot him before he shot me, then I left him for the zombies to eat. They ripped him a part like a pack of wolves. Every time I close my eyes I see it.”
“You’ve put us all at risk, Corporal. Others may be infected because of your selfishness.”
“It’s in me—I feel it.” McKelvey grabbed his head, his fingers tangling in his blond hair.
“You know I have to do it,” Trevor yelled. “I have no choice.”
Before Trevor could react, McKelvy jumped forward. He grabbed Trevor around the waist and took him to the ground. As Trevor’s back connected hard with the pavement, the wind whooshed out of him and the gun flew from his hand.
McKelvy grinned, a gesture that looked more like a sneer. Saliva dripped from his lips. “I can’t control it major. Forgive me.” His lips curled up in a snarl before he lunged.
Trevor twisted and brought his fist up. It smashed into the side of MCKelvy’s head; the force of the blow sent him rolling off.
Flipping to his stomach, Trevor scrabbled for his gun. Just as his fingers brushed the cold steel, searing pain ripped down his neck and left shoulder. He jerked away and fell face first onto the pavement. McKelvy jumped on his back, the weight embedded rocks and grit into his cheek.
McKelvy’s teeth clamped shut on the skin and muscle at the nape of Trevor’s neck. Agony, so cold it burned, exploded through him. He screamed and thrashed, trying to dislodge the roaring monster McKelvey now was. With a vicious twist, he reached up with both hands and gripped Dylan’s head. He twisted it, but the teeth entrenched in his flesh wouldn’t let go.
Growling low and deep, McKelvey pulled backward with his teeth, yanking left and right.
Scorching pain ignited through Trevor like a match set to a gasoline-soaked rag. His torso bowed off the ground and his fingers clawed at the pavement as he tried to crawl free of the intense pressure of the bite. He screamed a sound filled with agony, fury, and panic.
He felt his skin stretch, the pressure building before it tore. Pain, white hot in its intensity, stilled his struggles as a piece of his muscle ripped free from ligaments and bone.
The weight lifted. Trevor flopped forward. Black spots swam before his eyes and his breath came in shallow gasps. In a daze, he noticed light glint of something steel.
He crawled to his weapon, grabbed it, and swung around. What he saw stopped him cold.
McKelvy sat on his haunches, blood streaming down his chin, as he shoved a mangled chunk of Trevor’s flesh into his mouth. He chewed, swallowed, and then choked it back out only to push the masticated pulp back in. Slavering sounds and growls mixed with disjointed words.
Trevor pulled the trigger over and over until his gun was empty. Corporal Dylan McKelvy’s body slumped to the ground. Blood sprayed from the boney stump above his shoulders. His head was scattered over the back wall.
Shouts and pounding footsteps pierced through the ringing in Trevor’s ears. He turned as Captain Nick Nylander and his squad charged into the alley. Tyler was beside him.
They slowed and took in the scene.
“No,” Tyler murmured before he ran over to Trevor. “NO!”
Trevor’s teeth chattered and tremors shook his body as he stared up at Tyler. “Don’t . . . don’t . . . touch me. I’m . . . infected.”
Tyler knelt down. One shaky hand reached for Trevor, but he pulled it back and lowered his head. A sob filled the silence and his shoulders quivered.
As Captain Nylander stared back at Trevor, tears shimmered in his eyes. “What the hell happened?” He pointed behind Trevor. “Who is that?”
Warmth from his blood spread down Trevor’s back and chest. The gaping hole at the nape of his neck throbbed with each rapid beat of his heart. Panic took hold when he realized the enormity of his situation. He’d been bitten. The infection was spreading through him. He was doomed.
Trevor cleared his throat and closed his eyes. “Corporal McKelvy had been bitten two weeks ago, but never told anyone. He killed Corporal Dan Conrad to keep his secret.”
He gazed up at Nick. “You have to shoot me.”
Shaking his head, Nick stepped back. “No—I can’t. Don’t ask me to.”
Trevor’s eyes swung to his brother.
Tyler gaped back through his tears. Deep sorrow was etched on his face, but he stayed quiet.
“Tell him, Tyler,” Trevor said. “There is no cure.”
“I . . . Oh, God. Trevor’s right.”
Nick continued to shake his head. “I can’t.”
“I would do it myself, but my fucking weapon is empty!” Trevor threw his gun against the wall to drive his point home. His gaze swept the crowd of soldiers. “Is there anyone here who can still take an order?”
All the men were quiet. Their looks of pity and sorrow drove Trevor over the edge. There was nothing anyone could do for him. He was as good as dead and they all knew it.
Fear and frustration seized Trevor with gnarled fingers, squeezing and squeezing until he thought he’d faint. “I don’t want to die as one of those rotten son-of-a-bitches!” His voice reverberated off the walls.
Tyler nodded and then stood. He cleared his throat and addressed the squad. “The major is correct. We know what we have to do.” He glanced at Trevor.
Trevor tried to smile, but failed. There was so much he wanted to say to his brother. Yet as they stared at each other, no words were needed.
A calm settled over him, and instead of trepidation, he felt relief. He was tired, more than ready to set the controller down and end the game. “Tyler, do whatever you can to find a cure. Mankind depends on it.”
Tyler crouched. Tears once more filled his eyes, but he blinked them away. “I’ll do my best. Say hi to mom and dad if ya see them.”
His own tears threatened to fall, but Trevor willed them back. “Will do. Take care of yourself.”
Nodding, Tyler straightened and moved away. He drooped against the far wall, his cheeks damp with tears.
Trevor smiled at Nick. “Make sure you watch your back after I’m gone.”
Nick saluted then lifted his rifle and aimed it at Trevor’s chest. The muzzle bounced up and down in his unsteady grip.
With closed eyes, Trevor allowed his mind and body to relax. He heard soft sobbing and the shuffling of boots on pavement. The sharp click as a gun was cocked filled the silence.
His part in the story was over and he welc—