the bunk_ I wake up several hours later after a long nap. There is a type-written letter on my nightstand. I sit up and read it. It says: Mr. Martin- Seven hours after we injected current substances used to counter the effect of the bacteria into the infected patient, the patient died. The substances tried ended up mixing with the bacteria. It did somewhat strengthen the white blood cells, but also sped up the process of bacteria multiplication and also mixed with the bacteria to make it twice as effective as it used to be, making a quicker death. I will show you the substance mixed with the liquid bacteria. When you are feeling better, please visit the G.E.L. lab. -Prof. Gerald I put on my scientist clothes and head to the G.E.L. lab. the G.E.L. lab_ In the G.E.L. lab, Prof. Gerald and the rest of the science team are talking. “Mr. Martin,” Prof. Gerald says, and lifts a test tube off of his desk. It is filled with a pink liquid. “This is our latest discovery. This is the deadlier bacteria.” He sets the tube back down. “Because our last trials were unsuccessful, I think we should try to see if a shot can be given to healthy patients to strengthen the white blood cells before infected, without mixing with the bacteria. I have scheduled for a monitored experiment on how this may turn out. We will all take turns monitoring the patient’s behavior. The shot will be given today, and we will start monitoring the patient tomorrow. We will gradually give him the bacteria in food and drink. I am doubtful that this will work, but hopeful as well. If this fails, we only have one last choice.” He pauses. “And I do not want to resort to that choice.” Everyone remains silent. “Dr. Santellano, I need you to give the person the shot today.” “Alright,” he answers. “Very well then,” Prof. Gerald says. “I will call the patient in momentarily.” He turns to me. “Mr. Martin, we do not need you for the rest of the day. You can take the day off. We will call you when it is your turn to monitor the patient.” “Okay.” I leave the room. Moments later, Dr. Santellano gives the patient the shot and I am free for the day. I hear screaming from the sickroom. I see Prof. Atwood rush into the sickroom with a syringe. I hurry away to my bunk. the bunk_ Because we are strictly not allowed to leave the facility, there is not much for me to do on a day off. I change my clothes and lay down for a minute. I wonder about what the “last resort” Prof. Gerald was talking about actually was. I wonder if what Prof. Atwood and Dr. Stevens had done to the patients in the sickroom had been out of frustration or from order. I try not to think about it anymore. To clear my mind, I go to the cafeteria for a lunch. The rest of the day is lazy and boring. later_ I wake up in the middle of the night in my bunk by a knock at the door. I sleepily walk over and answer the door. Prof. Gerald is at the doorway. “Mr. Martin,” he says, “it is your turn to monitor the patient. You don’t need to change clothes. Please come with me.” He leaves and I follow him. the hallway_ We walk past the G.E.L. lab. “Prof. Gerald…?” I say. “The monitors aren’t in there. The patient is in a secured area. He is in a sound-proof room with white walls and his personal belongings. We deliver food through a slot. He has been given one ounce of liquid bacteria already. In one hour, he will be given another ounce. Three hours later he will be given another ounce. The routine repeats. Your shift lasts two hours.” “Okay.” We stop at a door with a plaque that reads: SECURITY ROOM. “This is the room showing monitored areas,” he says, and opens the door. the security room_ I step inside. There are at least twenty televisions on the wall, showing monitored hallways, rooms, and areas, including the sickroom. I am astounded. “That,” he points to a television, “is the patient’s room. It’s sound-proof except for the microphone on the video camera.” It is a room with rock posters on the wall and various stuffed animals on the wall. The man looks tortured. Not really sick, but a victim of isolating boredom. “You need to sit in that chair.” Prof. Gerald points to a chair in the corner of the security room. “Just look up at ‘em every few minutes. Read a book or something. You can go to the kitchen to pick up some food or something.” I nod and he exits. One hour later, through a small square slot in the wall of the patient’s room, a tray of food is pushed through. The patient walks over and grabs the tray. He puts it on a table in the center of the room and begins to eat. I watch him, half awake. He opens the milk carton and drinks the milk. I keep reading my book in which I had gotten fifteen minutes ago. He coughs. I look up. He takes a bite out of his meatloaf, and I keep reading. He coughs more. I look up and keep looking. He coughs more, and starts to continuously cough. He bends over and spits out phlegm onto the tray. I recoil in disgust. He runs over to the door and violently tries to open it, only to find that it is locked. He drops to his knees. He starts screaming and I jolt widely awake. He throws up and starts screaming again. I run to the G.E.L. lab to alert Prof. Gerald. the G.E.L. lab_ “Professor Gerald!” I blurt out when I rush into the room. Prof. Gerald immediately looks up from his papers. “What is it Mr. Martin?” “The patient! Come quick!” I run out of the room quickly, with Prof. Gerald following behind me. the security room_ We burst into the room. “Look!” I say, and point to the TV monitoring the patient. He is still screaming. “Oh my god,” Prof. Gerald says, staring in awe at the television screen. The patient is laying down in a fetal position. He is now unconscious and the screaming stops. “Oh my god…” Prof. Gerald repeats. “I did not want to resort to this…” “What is it?” I ask. “I… just…” he shakes his head. “I will tell you and the rest of the science team as well as Mr. Green tomorrow. For now,” he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a full syringe of pink bacteria. “Because he’s unconscious, I need you to inject this inside him. Then, you can go back to sleep. I’ll call the science team to the G.E.L. lab when I need you.” I am speechless, staring at Prof. Gerald. Moments pass. “Please,” he says. “I need you to do this.” I take the syringe from his hands. “Thank you.” He pauses. “Room A10.” I turn to leave. “The room is locked from the outside, so you have to unlock it to get in.” Still holding the syringe, I exit the room without a word. the hallway_ I finally reach the door. A10, reads the plaque. I sigh and sum up enough courage to enter the room. room A10_ I unlock the door and try to open it only to find that something is blocking the door. The patient’s unconscious body is leaning against the door. I push hard and he slides over on the floor. I can open the door enough so that I can enter the room. Inside the room, I am standing up, staring at the patient’s cold body. He’s not dead; I can hear his breathing and see the rise and fall of his chest, but he sure looks dead. Infected patients always looked cold and gray, but I think the deadlier bacteria makes it look worse. I hesitantly grab his arm. He jolts and coldly stares at me, shrieking with the intensity of an agitated bat. With a shaking arm, I insert the needle into his arm. I close my eyes and push the bottom of the syringe. Then, the syringe is empty. I take the needle out of his arm and stumble back, staring in horror at the patient. What had I just done? I run out of the room, slamming the door behind me. I run full speed all the way down to my bunk. the bunk_ I cannot stop thinking about what I had done. I have a restless night with no sleep. At 3:00 a.m., I hear Prof. Gerald’s stuttering voice over the intercom. “W-would all m-members of the s-science team please c-come to the G.E.L. lab immediately.” I get out of bed, dress up in my science garb, and go to the G.E.L. lab. the G.E.L. lab_ Prof. Gerald looks horrible. He looks like he hasn’t slept for a long time. The pencil on his desk has been chewed down. He is standing up, pacing the floor. He is twitching. I am the first to arrive. “M-Mr. Martin,” he says, “please wait for the rest of the science team. They should be here m-momentarily.” Moments pass by and Prof. Gerald is talking to himself. Soon, the entire science team arrives. “Oh…” Prof. Gerald is shaking his head. “I’ve been dreading this moment. I cannot bear my own conclusion… It is un-nerving, b-but I think that because every single one of our experiments failed…” He starts chewing on a pencil. “My main conclusion is that by lowering the population of infected individuals, we can lower the rate of how fast the bacteria infect people by a very large amount and eliminate all people who have the infection, to eliminate the traces of the bacteria. By this, I mean that…” he jitters. “By wiping out the infected people, we can stop the disease…” He sits down. “And our main tool can be our latest discovery: the more effective bacteria.” My mouth drops. “Believe me,” he says. “I did not want to resort to this.” He starts trembling. “Believe me…” Prof. Gerald faints. the sickroom_ I have been told to deliver infected milk to everyone in the sickroom. I am currently holding a crate full of infected milk cartons. Everyone in the sickroom is coughing and miserable. I gulp and begin to walk down the corridor, placing milk cartons next to the cots. One patient starts trembling when he sees the cartons. “No!” he yells. “No!!” he is screaming. “NO!!” he closes his eyes. “No, no, no!!” I have been instructed to quickly infect someone who is a “disturbance”. I put my hand in my lab coat pocket and feel for the syringe. I take it out of my pocket and look at it. Will I? I couldn’t let myself. I couldn’t lose my last sense of humanity. I have to. I will not. My mind is arguing with itself. I run back down the corridor, holding the syringe in one hand and an open carton of infected milk in the other. I run out into the hallway. the hallway_ I am running down the hallway. Prof. Atwood is coming down the hallway my direction. “What are you…?” he says. I splash the open milk carton into his eyes. He covers his eyes and screams. I run to the exit of the facility. I faintly hear: “Get him! He went that way!” And I run faster. I look behind me and see Dr. Stevens and Dr. Santellano chasing me with a syringe. I hurry to the exit door, where I soon burst through to the outside world in which neither I nor the science team has seen in many years. outside_ I am running along a dirt path. The science team is getting closer. I’m getting tired. I’m slowing down out of exhaustion. They’re catching up. I look up to the moon, covered in the haze of the early morning night; a sight I haven’t seen in many years. I wish to stop and just stare at it and admire the morning air and the night. Now I realize just how much I missed the night. I am slowing down. I feel someone grab my arm, and then a needle. My vision is fading. Something is happening, but I’m not sure what… The needle is taken out of my arm. I hear Dr. Steven’s faint voice: “Alright. He’s done.” My vision is a blur. I cannot see. I feel frigid inside. My entire body is shivering. Normal blood is not running through my veins. I am in a dark place. My head feels like it is exploding. Then, I feel… ecstatic. As if the pain is no longer there. This is what it is like to die, I suppose. I drop to my knees. Deep in the night, I am falling… Falling… Falling… the sickroom_ I wake up. part II: the facility_ chapter one: confidence_ It was not Edward Atwood’s first time in a suit. In fact, he was quite used to wearing suits. He had worn them quite often—more commonly than his regular clothes, which still were much nicer than a regular boy his age would wear. He couldn’t stand what the other boys his age were wearing. He believed that he was slipping from the social etiquette by wearing jeans, and considered corduroy and a collared shirt his common clothes. He had dressed like this and had always stood out from the crowd—but after a couple weeks in a new community, people tolerated him. He enjoyed this, and hoped other boys his age would follow his lead in what he considered “proper dress.” With his self-proclaimed higher sense of maturity, he considered himself a young adult. Standing in front of the mirror, he looked at the image before him, thinking of what his image would be in the next twenty years. You will change a life today, he told himself. After all, our time is now, buddy. Our work has paid off. Today’s the day. At 15, he decided to take online schooling courses and go into the business early. He was to work at the facility, the business he had anxiously awaited working in for his entire life. He was to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father was Prof. Atwood, and Edward was to work with him as assistant to Mr. Green, the facility’s director. The facility was like a secret hospital—from what Edward had heard, it was a place where scientists worked to find a cure for a deadly disease. According to Prof. Atwood, the facility was a place for saving lives. You’re the man, he thought, enjoying his small yet still alive sense of silliness. He looked up at the clock on the wall of his bunk. It was time. With a quick last encouraging thought, he hurried out of his bunk out to the hallway of the facility, where he was to meet Mr. Green and Mr. John Dyson, an adviser. chapter two: the misery business_ The first person Edward met with was the adviser, Mr. Dyson. “Mr. Edward,” Mr. Dyson said as he sat down, “Of all the things I have to say, I need to congratulate you first.” “Thank you,” Edward responded, feeling grown-up. “Mr. Edward,” he replied, “I’m sure you know a complete high school education will surely help with your assistant job.” “Precisely why I am taking online courses.” “Interactive learning is much better than a computer. Edward sighed. “Edward…” he continued, “I have known you personally for your whole life. I remember when you were still in diapers. I still remember your first word.” Edward blushed from embarrassment. “Being a close family friend, I would have to advise you to go on your own path. A college education would surely help.” “This is my only interest.” Edward was getting irritated. Mr. Dyson sighed. “I guess I just can’t convince you.” “We’ve had this conversation many times before.” “Well…” Mr. Dyson’s voice trailed. “Anyways, I have always wondered about what interests you so much about the business.” “I’m here to save lives.” “Do you honestly know what you’re doing?” Dyson paused. “It’s a dirty business, Edward. You honestly don’t want to be a part of this. For your mental health and well-being, don’t get involved with this. I don’t want to do this to you, Edward. You’re too special a kid.” Edward’s jaw clenched at “kid.” “John,” Edward said to Dyson, “I am as prepared as any one of you. I am as strong as any one working in the facility. I have no fear.” “You are a kid!” Mr. Dyson rose from his seat. “I am sorry, but I think you cannot handle this! I will do all I can to convince you not to do this. You need to get back in school.” Edward was steaming. “You have no idea what you’re doing, do you?” Dyson hollered after Edward, who left the room. chapter three: initiation_ Edward was boiling. Of all the things he hated, the most was being called a kid. He was not a boy—he was a man. He was the best of all other kids his age—there was no doubt about it. Fuming mad as he sped-walk to Mr. Green’s office, Edward was completely ignoring Mr. Dyson’s advice—he had never considered any foreign advice but had only made all open opportunities his own decisions whether or not to take them. This way, he could say it was his own decision. Despite his obsession with trying to act like an adult, he remained blind to his childish behavior. Going down the hallway, he passed Mr. Green’s door in his angered state, oblivious to everything other than his mood. He paced the hallway until his rage finally cooled, until he found himself strapping down the hallway. He quickly caught himself and his face turned red again as he quickly walked back to Mr. Green’s door and entered the room. * The door cracked open as he walked inside and let it shut on its own. “Edward,” Mr. Green said, checking his watch, “You’re early. I wasn’t expecting you for another ten minutes. Did your meeting with John go well?” “Please, call me Mr. Edward,” he replied. “My apologies.” “It went quite well, thank you.” Edward sat down across from Mr. Green’s desk. “Well,” Mr. Green said, “I was just taking a look at your papers. Quite impressive—I would love to have an assistant like you.” Edward beamed inside. “Have you made your way around the facility?” “I have not yet familiarized myself with the facility.” “Well, I think I have time to give you a full tour.” “I would greatly appreciate it.” “Alright, then,” Mr. Green said and stood up from his desk, “let’s go. You’ll be finding your way around the facility in no time.” * “This is the kitchen,” Mr. Green said as they stood in its doorway. “You know where the bunks are, and you know where the labs are. On to the test subject bunks.” They traveled a short distance down the hallway, and then turned down another hall. “The test subjects are kept here in separate rooms until operations.” They could hear people down the hall. They turned back to the main hall. “Last, the sickroom.” They entered a long room with a small passageway between cots full of dying people on both sides of the room. Edward’s stomach churned, but his face remained straight. “Don’t worry,” Mr. Green told him. “Everybody gets the chills their first look at it. You’ll get used to it.” The tour ended, and Mr. Green left. But even after Mr. Green’s departure, Edward stood still in the doorway, staring down the long corridor of the room.
the sickroom_ (part one: the sickroom [section 2] & part two: the facility [first half])
August 5, 2010