Worth a Shot – Entry#15

Turning around to answer John, I held the syringe in one hand and the note in the other. Carrie continued clawing mindlessly at the window while the rest of the group looked at me expectantly.

“The note says to administer this shot to Carrie. It’s supposed to stabilize her,” I answered. Eleanor shuddered, “Who’s gonna do it?” We all looked at Carrie. In this moment, it was hard to imagine she had been one of us just a few minutes ago. She looked to me like a grotesque, unnatural animal. Before I knew what was happening, my mind wandered back to those vague, dark memories of my time spent as one of these mindless creatures. The only thing I knew for certain was that it was time spent in intense pain. I was holding in my hand the means by which to take that pain away from Carrie. It would be inhumane to deny her relief of her suffering.

“I’ll do it,” I told the group. The handsome young man on whom I was certain Tammy was fast developing a crush stepped forward and told me, “I’ll help you.”

I took a deep breath and shook my head. “OK. It says to inject this into the side of her neck. If you’ll hold her still, I’ll stick her as quickly as I can and … ” I couldn’t think how to finish the sentence.

“Hope she doesn’t go beserk,” John interjected with a pained smile. “What’s your name?” he asked the young man. “They tell me it’s William,” was the response. John cleared his throat, “William, why don’t you stand on one side and I’ll take the other? That way, there will be one of us for each arm.” William nodded in agreement.

I looked at the syringe and topped it off as the three of us began our approach toward Carrie.

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Taming the Beast – Entry#14

The sound of Carrie’s straining against the glass filled the room, as we stood silent, gaping at her.

“Hey!” Tammy yelled suddenly. Startled, I jumped. I grabbed her arm and whispered angrily. “What’s wrong with you?” Tammy pulled away and started walking to Carrie. “Look. It’s like she doesn’t see us,” Tammy said to us as she continued her approach.

“What are you doing?” I hissed, under my breath. “Get back here!” I said, even though I was too scared to move. Tammy reached over and poked Carrie in the shoulder. Carrie continued pawing and gnashing her teeth, seemingly oblivious to Tammy’s presence.

Close to Carrie’s ear, Tammy snapped her fingers loudly. Still, no response from Carrie. Fascinated, the rest of us slowly started walking toward the two of them. “Carrie?” I said, as I gently grabbed her by the arm. “Look at me!” Tammy suddenly screamed at the top of her lungs.

Completely taken aback, we all fell backwards, away from Carrie. But Carrie might as well have been wearing high-grade earplugs for all the reaction this elicited.

Quietly, I heard a creaking noise from the other end of the room. The tiny metal slot in the door slowly opened. In the metal box that passed between the inside and outside of the room sat a syringe and a piece of paper. I scrambled to my feet and made my way to the door. Picking up the note first, I scanned it quickly.

From across the room, I heard John ask, “Hey. What is that?”

Us Against Them – Entry#13

I staggered backwards as Carrie began to shuffle slowly in my direction. With a thud, I realized I had backed up into the glass behind me.

I looked past Carrie and saw the rest of the group banging on the door at the opposite end of the room. For a brief moment, Tammy turned and looked at me. This ripped me out of my shock. Instinctively, I lifted both fists in a defensive stance by my face. I was going out like a champ. Carrie might get the best of me in the end, but I’d definitely leave a mark.

At this,  Tammy stopped pounding and ran over to me. She yanked on my arm. “Come on,” she yelled as we ran to join the group. “Dammit, people. There are 24 of us. We can take on this Zombie bitch!” was her rallying cry to face Carrie.

Everyone stopped pounding and looked at Carrie. The crazy thing was, she hadn’t stopped lurching in the direction where I’d stood before Tammy grabbed me.

“What’s she doing?” the handsome 20-something man asked nobody in particular. Reaching the glass, Carrie began pawing at it, groaning as her teeth dragged across the glass. This action made a horrible scraping noise in a slow, deliberately but ultimately futile attempt to eat her way through to the other side.

In a very quiet and suddenly very wise voice, Eleanor answered the young man’s question.

“It’s not us she wants. It’s them.”

Turning – Entry #12

After Eleanor screamed, everyone turned to look at her. One hand on her mouth and one extended in front of her, she pointed to the slumped-over body of a woman on the floor.

Rushing to Eleanor’s side, I asked, “What happened?” Finally catching her breath, she responded, “Carrie just passed out or something. While we were talking. And now something’s happening to her.”

At that, everyone in the room stepped away as far as they could from Carrie. Her head hung lifeless like a rag doll, eyes closed. That’s when the twitching started.

It was slow at first, almost unnoticeable. But it soon began to increase. Carrie’s body looked as if it were being aroused from a long nap into what? A waking nightmare? Her eyes opened after what could have been ten seconds or half an hour. The room froze in what felt like a collective, suspended gasp of horror.

As her lids flicked open, the milky white orbs of her eyes scanned the room. At this, Eleanor snapped and ran to the door, pounding her fist on the unforgiving steel.

“Let us out! You have to let us out!”

Her scream broke the reverie. The remainder of the group followed suit. Screams of, “Let us out!” and the dull thuds of fists on glass and steel filled the room as Carrie slowly shambled to her feet and raised her arms out in front of her.

Her top lip curled over her exposed teeth as she slowly took her first step toward me.

Seed of a Plan – Entry #11

Eleanor continued after I spoke, “Melissa, you’re really smart. I’m really glad you’re a Zombie like us.” At this, I laughed out loud. Eleanor blushed, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean. Oh goodness, I just–” I put my hand on her shoulder, “It’s OK. I know what you meant.” Suddenly, I felt her arms around me. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself in the middle of a hug.

“Good God, people.” From the tone of her voice, I could tell Tammy was rolling her eyes. I was surprised at how much that Eleanor’s simple, yet distinctly human gesture affected me. My heart and brain (and all other organs for that matter) might technically be dead, but I could still feel things. Whatever it was that could be referred to as a “soul” was still somehow lingering within this cold being I currently inhabited. I’m not sure yet if this is a gift or a curse.

Shaking off these existential thoughts, I returned to tactical mode. “Let’s not dominated the conversation here,” I said specifically to Tammy, Eleanor and John. “We only have 30 minutes. Let’s make the most of it, guys. Mingle!” How I managed that impersonation of a cheerful party hostess, I have no idea. Suffice to say, it worked. The room quickly became abuzz with the chatter of Zombies getting to know one another.

Tammy looked ready to walk over to a 20-something man with short, dark (albeit dull) hair and handsome face when I grabbed her arm as subtly as I could. She turned around quickly to see who was acting as her speed bump to afterlife romance. Surprised–she’d probably assumed it had been hug-dispensing Eleanor–Tammy threw up her hands at the sight of me. “Seriously?”

I pulled Tammy closer to me and spoke in a voice I made sure was slightly quieter than the murmurs traveling throughout the room. “We need a plan,” I said.

Tammy’s eyebrows arched ever-so-slightly. “I thought you wanted us to be good little Zombies.” I smiled and pretended to continue a casual conversation about the attractive yet undead stranger just out of earshot. “That’s because good little Zombies get privileges. Like getting to talk to other good little Zombies. Even if they are under constant surveillance.” I gestured with my eyes at the one-way glass lining the walls.

Tammy quickly caught my gist, pretending to rearrange my hair in a casual, friendly gesture. “What do you have in mind? An E-S-C-A-P-E?”

Before I could answer, Eleanor let out a blood-curdling scream.

Getting to Know All About You – Entry# 10

It dawned on me that not a single one of us in the room had a pulse. No sooner had the door closed behind Dr. Williams that Tammy took center stage. “Well, I’m Tammy.” As if rehearsed, everyone in the room responded, “Hi Tammy.” It felt weirdly familiar. She continued, “And I don’t know what else to tell you because I don’t remember a damn thing.” At this, John laughed. Tammy eyed him with suspicion and snapped, “What’s so funny, John?”

Still laughing, John shook his head. “What are we supposed to talk about for half an hour? Our families? Our jobs? Hell, I didn’t even know my name until they told me.” The lonely woman chirped cheerfully, “It’s still nice to meet new people. My name is Eleanor.” Tammy rolled her eyes, “Seriously? Eleanor, don’t be such a lamb.” Was I the only one catching Tammy’s botched animal metaphors? She turned to me, “Melissa, what do you think?”

All eyes turned to me. Even John, as hopeless as his eyes revealed him to be, couldn’t help but be curious. Quickly, I said, “I think the more unruly we are, the more unlikely it is we’ll ever leave her.” Eleanor chirped, “You really think they’ll let us leave?”

I cleared my throat meaningfully, “All I know is they’re watching our every move. Every move we make, they’re assessing our behavior to determine what comes next. Even now. But here we are, talking to one another relatively unsupervised. So whatever you’ve been doing since you got here, I say, keep doing it.”

Tammy looked impressed and maybe a little leery of me. “How do you know this?” Honestly, I replied, “I don’t know.”

Following the Leader – Entry #9

“I’m so lonely in my room by myself, Dr. Williams,” said a woman who looked to be around 50-years-old. Her eyes were filled with a sadness that was palpable when she talked. “Please don’t make us go back.” Her voice was heartbreaking and it dawned on me how lonely I was as well. That was why I instantly wanted to feel a bond with Tammy. I was predisposed to wanting to feel some semblance of humanity inside myself.

Again, I looked at the ashen faces in the room with me. Whatever my life had been before, this was now my family. I’d had just as little control in choosing them as a “regular” person and our fates were inexplicably entwined.

Dr. Williams carefully weighed her response. “Would all of you like to have some time alone to talk? To get to know each other?” The sad woman’s expression changed to one of surprise. “Can we really?” she asked, incredulous. I looked at Tammy. She remained skeptical. “This is some kind of trick,” her body language said clearly.

The short man, John, spoke up. “I think that’d be nice,” he offered. He looked at me instinctively for approval. How did I already end up the de facto voice of this group of misfits? Maybe they knew something I didn’t.  “Me too,” I seconded, which launched murmurs of, “Yeah, me too,” throughout the room. With a nod, Dr. Williams continued, “Very well. You can have half an hour to socialize alone. Keep in mind, I’ll be monitoring your activities carefully.”

A polite smile on her face, she turned on her heel and left the room. The last noise she made was the dull click of heavy metal as the thick steel door locked behind her.

Locked us inside.

Together.

Hamsters – Entry #8

After doing my best to calm down Tammy, I felt an immediate sense of kinship with her. I don’t know if I was an older sister to someone before, but this is what I imagine it would feel like. After Tammy’s initial outburst, we both took our seats.

Dr. Williams gave me an appreciative nod and cleared her throat. “I’ve brought you all together because I understand how isolating it can feel to spend all day in your room. I can’t stress enough that this is not a prison. This is a medical facility. Because of the nature of your disease, you are all being closely observed during your treatment to ensure you are neither a threat to yourselves nor others.”

A male voice spoke up, “Why weren’t we killed?” I turned to see a man standing up from his chair. He looked about 45-years-old and stood a good six inches shorter than me. Before becoming infected, his receding hairline might have listed among his top concerns in life.

“That’s a very good question, John. During the outbreak, many infected had to be…put down. However, those of you here today were able to be restrained and medicated. Your very existence is a testament to the advancement of modern medical science.” Tammy piped up, annoyed, “So basically, we’re like your hamsters?”

Dr. Williams looked confused when she responded, “I’m sorry…hamsters?” Tammy continued, even more annoyed, “Keeping us alive to make us do tests and stuff.” I tried unsuccessfully to suppress the smile slowly spreading across my face  as I realized what Tammy was trying to say. “I think she means ‘guinea pigs.'”

At this, Dr. Williams looked at me in surprise. “Thank you, Melissa,” she offered. She continued, “I know the tests and the constant observation aren’t exactly anyone’s idea of a good time. But you can’t imagine all the good you’re doing. Don’t think of yourselves as ‘hamsters,’ think of yourselves as heroes because that’s what you are.”

I wanted to believe Dr. Williams meant what she said. She certainly looked like she did but maybe that was wishful thinking on my part. Of my three options, monster, victim and hero, I definitely preferred the latter.

Keeping the Peace – Entry#7

“Look, I know this isn’t an ideal situation,” I said as calmly as I could. “But we’re never going to figure out what’s going on if we don’t let Dr. Williams talk.” Tammy wasn’t so easily dissuaded. She fired back, “Explain? Or make up some more bullshit? I’m sick of being talked to like a dumb kid.” Something in me snapped. “Well stop acting like one. Throwing a hissy fit the minute they let us talk to one another isn’t exactly proving them wrong, now is it?”

Tammy’s face immediately changed expression. She seemed to shrink a little. Dr. Williams’ eyes darted nervously between the two of us. I immediately felt remorse and walked over to Tammy, putting my hand on her shoulder. “I didn’t mean to snap at you, but I just got to meet all of you. The last thing I want to do is get stuck back in that room all by myself.” I looked at her with as much meaning in my eyes as I could muster. Quietly, I continued.

“Now,” I stressed that first word before continuing, “is not the time to let tempers flare.” Seeming to get my drift, Tammy nodded in agreement.

Behind Closed Doors – Entry#6

Sheepishly, I waved at the group of 24 fellow Z-virus survivors and took my place in the one empty chair next to a pretty young woman, who must have been 20 or so when she “turned.” As soon as I sat down, Dr. Williams began to talk, “Today we’re here to discuss the socialization process. This meeting is the first step we’re taking to integrating each of you into society.” This came as a surprise to the group, as was evidenced by the incredulous looks exchanged across the room.

The young woman next to me spoke up first, “Does this mean we’re going to leave here?” Dr. Williams nodded, “That’s the ultimate goal, Tammy.” I looked at Tammy, whose face displayed skepticism. “How long is that gonna take?” The good doctor replied, “Several factors will determine that. Now that your initial test results have been processed, we’re comfortable–” Clearly, this wasn’t what Tammy wanted to hear. She cut Dr. Williams off.

“We’re being treated like prisoners here!” I was startled by her reaction, but from the looks of the other faces in the room, I could tell Tammy wasn’t the only one of us feeling this way. With her arms crossed in front of her body defensively, Tammy eyed Dr. Williams with disdain. “How are we supposed to know you’re even telling us the truth? None of us can remember a damn thing before waking up here.” Murmurs in the group seemed to echo her sentiment. Dr. Williams started to speak, “Tammy, I understand that you’re feeling constrained.”

“No, I don’t think you do understand. You can come and go as you please.” Tammy continued, unabated. “And for all I know, you could be lying to us. We’re supposed to be these dangerous ‘Zombies,’ but looking around the room, all I see are some very sick people who have been lead to believe they did something terrible they can’t even remember doing!” The mood in the room was charged with tension and I could tell that under her unflappable façade, Dr. Williams was getting nervous. I realized she was our sole link to the outside world. The kind of hostile behavior Tammy and my fellow disenfranchised survivors were exhibiting would ensure that we would never leave the walls of Area 216.

I stood up to speak.