“What’s happening?” A girl, Tracey, one of the first to wake up whispers to me. I ignored her, there was no point in calming her fears, in a moment she wouldn’t be herself anymore. Her eyes were normal, I noted on my form, labelled ‘Tracey James’ and continued to study her every move. Her hands were shaking as she touched the strong wires of her cage, then she looked me in the eye, an expression of fear crossed over her. I shuddered. This girl was twelve years old, and an infection was beginning to take over her body.
“Doctor, another one has woken up,” I turned to see one of the other scientists at the door of the small room. “She reacted quickly, but I have no leads.” Dr Andrews was a small woman, her eyes were red-rimmed with stress. It wasn’t unusual that they were, we hadn’t a clue what was going on, and these teenagers were only the beginning. There wasn’t much hope of us catching the cause before it was too late.
“She’s woken up,” I nodded towards the twelve year old. “There hasn’t been another episode. We caught her soon.”
“That’s good news?” Andrews asked and I nodded my head. “They’re all beginning to wake up now. I have a feeling we’re in over our heads.”
I didn’t answer. I knew she was right, but I didn’t want to hear it said aloud. I took off my glasses and walked slowly to the door of the white square room. My head was spinning with loss of sleep and confusion, each time we brought another person into that exact room they would die within hours. We would then have the room cleaned and bring in the next. The cage in the middle of the room was small. There was barely any space for the captive to sit up straight; they were forced to sit with a hunched back while they sat in fear. I had complained continuously for a larger cage, but the government had stopped listening to any improvements we asked for, they were only interested in results.
The only thing I could do was to ask questions in the limited time I had and hope for a break through. But there was never anything new. First I would ask if they remembered anything from the past few hours, the answer was always no. There was never any knowledge of what thoughts were circulating their brains, or what they were feeling. There was nothing. No memory at all. This was frustrating and each time a new test subject came in I would be secretly hoping that they would be different. As expected though, they never are.
“What are you going to do with me?” Tracey spoke again and I snapped my attention towards her. My chair made a horrible scraping sound as I pulled it across the floor and in front of the girl. I straightened out my forms and leaned in towards her.
“What do you remember?” Her eyes flickered around the room and I could almost see her mind ticking away and trying to extract any triggering thought or picture. This went on for some time and I waited for the answer, almost certain I knew what it would be.
I could sense the time moving slowly. The time was running out and I was growing impatient with her and her eyes began to close and I worried the time I had wasted waiting was up. Then she spoke, her voice calm. “I remember coming home from school,” her words were unravelling slowly like a riddle, and I vigorously scribbled them down. “And then,” she paused and her eyes flew open, her face mixed with fear and horror. “And then . . .” she started to rock back and forth, I noted each movement. “Then I wasn’t me anymore,” she looked up at me, and I heard her silent plea, help me. “I was someone else. I was someone who wanted to kill and kill and kill.” Tracey began to continuously drag her fingernails down her face on each side and I knew the time was almost up.
“Is that all?” I pressed her for information, applying pressure. She was the first one to remember.
“What’s happening?” she wheezed as if she was being strangled. Her arms were covered in red lumps like a sort of heat rash and she began picking at them.
“I’m sorry,” I told her. As slowly as I could I got up and made no sudden movements. There was no telling what would happen next. I grabbed a syringe from the basin across the room and filled it with a solution formed by the scientists to calm the infected until they fall into a deep coma. We then do a few tests and inject them with another solution that will kill them.
From behind me I heard incoherent yelling and screaming, I didn’t flinch. This wasn’t new to me. I had watched it so many times before, after the first few it becomes natural. Turning around I noticed that Tracey’s eyes had gone to bloodshot red and she was pressing her head against the wire cage holding her back. I walked closer and waited the required five minutes to see if she would calm down. It could of course, just be another episode. Luckily for me, she started to vomit up blood; it was spilling from her mouth and I stood back. It was forbidden, or unwise, for anyone to touch or go near the blood of an infected. We had little knowledge of the effects.
“What’s happening to me?” Tracey gasped, her eyes becoming milky red.
“What do you remember?” she didn’t answer anymore. The last sentence she would ever speak was out of distress of what was happening to her. I jotted down some of the last notes I would ever write about her being herself. Tracey, like others, had no idea what was going on. Her mind was being taken over by the disease, she went in fear. Her earlier realisations seemed to be a onetime occurrence. She started to react again and I held my hand close to the cage, and, like expected, her arm shot out of the cage and reached, with my other arm I injected her with the needle. She hissed and a few moments later she was unconscious. I walked to the door and pressed the red button and spoke into the monitor, “This room needs cleaning.”
As soon as I walked out of the room I noticed something deeply disconcerting. It was silent, and for a few moments I was beginning to fear it. My heart was beating in my ears and I looked around, the hallway’s atmosphere was also empty.
“Doctor?” I turned around, the men in suits had arrived. I caught my breath. “Where’s the mess?”
I pointed into the room and watched them sanitize the room. In a few moments there would be another unfortunate teenager sitting in that cage. I listened around again for a while. It was inevitable that the day would come, I mean, the infected were smart. It was just a matter of time. We all knew it was coming. There would be one case that found a way out, and they would soon realise to survive they would have to free the others like them. The infected would find their way out of the prison we had created for them.