Three Words Musing 1: Bacon, Shortage, Blockade – Part VIII
The eighth installment of a work in progress, inspired by suggestions on Twitter. All rights reserved.
Toby Beauchamp graduated in 2010 from Winter Park High School and got a free ride to the University of Florida thanks to his talents as a center who managed a better than average free-throw percentage at the line.
He wasn’t all that much of a jock at heart, though. He knew he might make a brief but decent living as a basketball player, injuries permitting. However, he loved animals. Always had. He’d grown up on his family’s estate, with frequent access to the horses in the stables. He’d mucked the stalls, kept the wood chips fresh, and made sure the horses always had plenty of water.
So, before taking the scholarship, he had decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine. Now in his second year, Toby became an intern for his professor, Dr. Sandra Wald. His medical knowledge, although still rather limited, would serve him well in a few months when he became the closest thing Fort Orlando had to an actual doctor in residence.
He watched Dr. Wald now, though, before the Skitters tore civilization apart, through the porthole in the sealed airlock door. He had tried talking to her for a while after calling the authorities. She had seemed alert and lucid for about fifteen minutes after the zombie cow chomped on her hand. Now, she sat slumped on the floor, her back to the wall, leaning her head against the blood-splattered hatch to the autopsy chamber. Her eyes were closed, but he could see the gentle rising and falling of her chest in the big biohazard suit. She wasn’t dead, but she wasn’t talking.
“I’m here to see Dr. Wald.”
Toby jumped, startled to see a lanky red-haired woman in her late twenties with a notepad and pen. He frowned. “Are you with the FDA?”
“No. I’m Amy Dennison, a reporter with the Orlando Press. I talked to Sandra this morning. She’s expecting me.”
“Oh,” Toby replied. He pocketed the doctor’s cell phone. It thunked next to the keys to the university’s truck. Then he shook his head. “I’m sorry. She…” How do you explain that a dead cow came to life on an autopsy slab? That it chewed through her biohazard suit and probably infected her with the same hideous disease that killed the beast and then reanimated it? How do you say that to a reporter who’s going to put your name and picture in the newspaper, and probably on the Internet, where it will remain for the rest of your natural life – and maybe beyond? He opted to say very little – he just nodded toward the porthole and backed away, making room for the reporter. His only advice: “Don’t open the door. She insisted.”
That prompted Amy to furrow her brow. She moved to look through the small window and her eyes widened at the sight. “Dr. Wald? Can you hear me? Are you all right?”
The doctor didn’t open her eyes, but she spoke loud enough to be heard – a rasping sound, like her tongue was scraping over a cheese grater. “Let me…out.”
Amy shot Toby an angry look. “What’s going on here?” She moved to grab the hatch lock’s handle. He intercepted her wrist, then blocked her way. “Move! She needs help! What did you do to her?”
“Look, you don’t understand,” Toby said hurriedly. “She’s infected! If she gets out –” He didn’t get to finish his warning before she drove her left knee into his crotch and drove a right jab into his jaw as he doubled over. He tumbled over sideways, moaning in pain as he covered his agonized groin with his hands. The coppery tang of blood mingled with saliva in his mouth.
He couldn’t say anything, couldn’t do anything, to stop Amy Dennison from breaking containment. The Warehouse, as Dr. Wald called it, wasn’t a technological powerhouse of biohazard management. The state university system didn’t have a lot of money to throw into the veterinary medicine program. Big grants came for cancer and Alzheimer’s research, instead.
The reporter swung the door open. “Dr. Wald, what did he do to you?” She tucked the slim spiral notebook into the back pocket of her beige slacks and stepped inside to kneel next to the doctor. “Do you need an ambulance?”
“No,” Sandra Wald said, turning her head toward Amy Dennison. The doctor’s eyes slowly opened to reveal sulfurous yellow-green orbs. “Need…food.” She lunged for the well-intentioned reporter with gnarled fingers.
Amy turned in a panic, making a dive for the door, but only managed to slam it shut ahead of her before the infected veterinarian tackled her.
Toby heard the woman’s screams, but couldn’t bring himself to look through the window to watch – especially when the awful cries changed as she gargled on her own blood. He slammed the lock back into position, then decided that the son of Leonard and Delores Beauchamp had spent more than enough time playing watchdog in the Warehouse.
He ran for the truck. He didn’t look back.
What I’m Reading
Blackout by Connie Willis
What I’m Playing
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II
You Don't Know Jack
World of Warcraft
Left 4 Dead 2
What I’m Writing
No Son of Hekayt - Book I: Artifacts
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Coming soon: 31 Days of OtherSpace - 1 work of fiction a day during March 2011.