When we opened Jamal up, the parasite was gone. An alarming discovery that left our surgical team dumbfounded. The ramifications hit us concurrently. From the limited information the military had shared, we knew it required a warm-blooded host.
As we eyed one another, the heavy silence in the room was broken only by the incessant beeping of the heart monitor. I locked eyes with Doctor Ruez, saw my own fear reflected.
In the sudden blackout that followed, I heard scuttling, wet sounds, screams.
My heart struck hard at the inside of my chest, but it was the only muscle that moved. I stood, frozen, waiting for the pain being inflicted upon the rest of the team to find me. But it didn’t come.
When the lights reignited, the sight of carnage overwhelmed me. Despite my training and experience, I dry retched. It was the smell — coppery blood, the sewage stink of torn intestines. Then I noticed Doctor Ruez.
My colleague and friend since medical school stood unharmed, watching me over her mask. Between us was the blood-streaked surgical table.
When she stepped toward me, I stepped back. She stopped, I stopped. Our shared past wavered between us, staying my hand. But then I saw she stared at me like she was certain that I was what I knew only she could be.
We both darted for the surgical implements. I was marginally faster.
Which is how I contained the risk. Check the security footage if you haven’t already but after, please, open the blast door and release me. I’ll submit to testing, of course. And quarantine. But I can’t stay in here any longer. It’s inhumane. These were my friends. Please. The stench is… is… You need to believe me. It was in her, not me.
Top Secret: AO246: Summary of Lab Test #39
The most recent cocktail of the airborne hallucinogen AO246 has proved more effective than past variants. All five prisoners responded with manic violence within ninety seconds of application. Subject B7 alone survived yet remains in the grips of his visions. He believes he is a surgeon, and innocent of the violence committed.
My verdict is this concoction could prove effective in the war provided a suitable vehicle for widespread application amongst the enemy is developed. My recommendation is to increase funding and resources for the project.
Michael Gardner is a writer of horror who masquerades as an economist by day. His work has appeared in Writers of the Future Volume 36, Aurealis, Bourbon Penn and Interzone Digital. He’s also a three-time finalist for the Aurealis Awards. You can find out more about Michael and his work at www.michael-s-gardner.com.