A deadly virus known as Neuro-001 has claimed the lives of millions of people across the world. It came like an ocean of darkness flooding our very souls. The virus works by fooling our immune systems into thinking our healthy cells and tissues are foreign objects that must be eliminated. The brain becomes inflamed which causes impaired functioning and severe psychological and neurological symptoms. Neuro-001 quickly transmitted from person to person and the catastrophic results of having this virus was death.
We became our own worst enemies. Cities and forests burned in the fallout of our madness. Governments across the world crumbled like sand castles during a raging storm; leaving people to fend for themselves. Even our own minds betrayed us. Our consciousness became evil entities driving us to the brink of schizophrenia. Most people were lucky to survive a month. The lucky few who survived did so by wearing biohazard suits.
In eastern Pennsylvania, The Cape Town Medical Center stands as the last beacon of hope for mankind. Doctor Jessica Andrews and her team of scientists believe they have found the source of the virus in a man named Victor Almos. He was the only survivor found in New York City, and had been on his own for several months. A local volunteer heard him crying from a back alley on Staples Street just before igniting a pile of dead bodies. The dead had to be burned to eliminate the virus. The smell of burning flesh gave birth to a new normal of air pollution.
Victor was placed in an observation room at The Cape Town Medical Center. It was determined that he did in fact have the virus, but it was a complete mystery as to how he was still alive. Other than his bloodshot eyes, Victor showed no signs of having the virus. After several tests, Doctor Andrews decided to leave him in lockdown for further studies. To her surprise, Victor had no problem being locked in a room with no privacy.
Maybe the isolation had finally gotten the best of him, she thought.
In a similar situation, Kylie Dawson was found in Bakersfield, California living alone with her dead family. She showed no signs of having the virus and was brought to Doctor Andrews in Pennsylvania. Kylie was tested for the virus and despite her high exposure rate, the tests always came back negative. This piqued Doctor Andrew’s curiosity and she wanted to have a face to face meeting with Kylie.
A special interrogation room was set up for the interview. On a light brown hardwood floor sat a black table with two matching chairs. The walls and ceiling had an off-white color, and on one wall a big two way mirror was installed so that other scientists could observe.
Kylie entered the room wearing her white hospital gown. Her dirty blonde hair was neatly combed into a ponytail and her black slippers matched her eyeglasses. She took a seat across from Doctor Andrews who was wearing her orange biohazard suit and looked like an astronaut getting ready for a space flight.
“Hi Kylie, how are you feeling today?” she asked.
“I want to go home! You have no right to keep me here!” Kylie said.
“I’m sorry Kylie, you're only twenty years old, and your family is gone. You might be the key we need to find a cure.” Doctor Andrews said.
Kylie made a fist with her left hand and held it out in a vertical line. “I have something for you. You wanna see it?”
Doctor Andrews smiled and said, “Sure, why not”
With her right hand, Kylie started making a cranking motion next to her left hand. She smiled as her left middle finger started to rise. “Do you like it? It skipped customs and everything,” she said.
Doctor Andrews ruffled her eyebrows and said, “Very funny, but I don’t think that’s very nice!”
Kylie started laughing. She then slammed her hand down on the table with fierce determination and said, “I want to go home. Now!”
Doctor Andrews leaned back into her chair and clasped her gloves together. “Let me make you a deal Kylie.”
Kylie leaned forward in her chair, “What is it Doctor.”
“Please, call me Jessica,” she said. “I want to tell you about an idea that I have, and if you agree to do it, then I will let you leave”
“What do you want Jessica?” she asked.
Kylie started to tap her right foot up and down, and felt a sudden urge to chew her finger nails. After a moment of silence, Doctor Andrews continued, “I want to try a new test. I want you to share a room with a nice young man named Victor Almos.”
Kylie rose up and yelled, “No way! This is crazy! What the Hell are you thinking?”
Doctor Andrews raised her hands up and patted the air to calm her down. “This is a big test, Kylie. Victor has Neuro-101 and as far as we can tell, you are immune. I want to see what happens when we expose you two in the same living environment. It might help us discover a cure. The blood samples we took from both of you are worthless. I want to see if the virus somehow changes or adapts in a way that we can make some progress.”
Kylie sat back down and asked, “How long do I have to share a room with him?”
“It could be a few months, maybe a year. After that, I promise that I will let you go,” she said.
Kylie looked up at the ceiling and took a deep breath.
Jessica looked at her and asked, “So... do we have a deal?”
“Alright, I’ll do it. You better keep your word, or I swear I’ll find a way to kill you,” Kylie said.
Later that day a special biohazard team converted the observation room to accommodate Kylie. The room had a clear see-through sliding door, with adjoining clear walls. A big blue floral curtain hung in the middle of the room, which complemented the white marbled floor. Oval lights hung down from the ceiling cradled by black cages. The room had one bathroom in the back with a blue pull around curtain for privacy. The room resembled a small one room apartment.
Victor stayed on his side of the room in a corner and sobbed. This seemed to be his favorite thing to do. He would cry most of the day, and sometimes at night. He was diagnosed with severe depression.
The next day, Doctor Andrews brought Kylie down to sublevel B. Kylie noticed the split room design and said, “Great, you have a curtain divider. How am I supposed to have my privacy with that?”
Doctor Andrews folded her arms and replied, “You’ll manage. Now just act normal and be nice. Victor is a nice man and I want you two to get along.”
“I knew you’d say that. If he tries anything with me, I’ll break his arm off,” Kylie said. “How are we supposed to cook anything Jessica? I don’t see a cooking area.”
Jessica looked down at her clipboard of notes and said, “Your meals will be brought to you on a regular basis. You have plenty of books to read, a TV with some DVDs and if you need anything else, we will try to make it happen.”
Kylie entered the room and Victor quickly hid behind his bed. “What’s wrong with him?” she asked.
“Victor has some anxiety issues. Just give him some time and I’m sure he will warm up to you,” Jessica said.
Over the next few months Kylie kept to herself. She stayed on her side of the room, and spent most of her time reading sleazy romance novels. Every now and then she would catch Victor staring at her from behind his bed. With his slim build and big white bald head; his red spider-webbed eyes gave her the freaks.
She had a hard time sleeping at night because Victor would make shrill moaning sounds and cry for long periods of time. She would look across the room and see Victor’s eyes staring at her. He would then quickly pull the covers over his head.
One morning Kyrie decided to confront Victor on his behavior. She strode over to his hiding place behind the bed and found him curled up in the fetal position.
“Stand up now, Victor!” she said. “We need to have a talk.”
Victor slowly raised his head and looked up at her. With a warm smile he stood up. He took special care to make sure his hospital gown was tied in the back. He looked like an innocent school kid who just got caught stealing. He spoke in a shrill high pitched voice.
“Hello…” he said.
Kylie realized that she needed to be careful with her words because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He was a prisoner too, and there was no reason to upset him. She reached down and grabbed his hand which felt like sandpaper and quickly let it go.
“Look...like it or not we're stuck in here together. I would really appreciate it if you stop acting like a freak,” she said.
Victor took a step back and started to tremble.
Kylie quickly said, “Oh no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say it like that. I just want you to stop staring at me, and stop crying all the time.”
Victor looked her up and down, and nodded his head in agreement. That was enough for now, Kylie thought and returned to her side of the room. Victor sat back down on the floor and curled back into the fetal position and started to rock back and forth. Later that night, Victor never made a sound, and Kylie finally got some much needed sleep.
Kylie lost track of time because everyday was the same. She tried mixing things up by watching DVDs and reading horror stories. The romance novels became stale and she needed something to thrill her. She missed her family and spent days thinking about them. She couldn’t wait to be free. The world was waiting for her, and she wanted to spread her wings and fly. Meanwhile, Victor still kept to himself, and hid behind his bed. He stopped staring at her and the crying was over. Kylie barely heard a peep out of him.
One morning Kylie woke up and found flowers made out of construction paper on her pillow. She ran over to Victor and asked, “Did you make these for me?” Victor was on the floor again, and said, “Yes...I thought you might like them.”
Kylie gave him a smile in return and said, “I love them. Why don’t you join me for dinner later?”
Victor nodded yes, and later that evening Doctor Andrews brought them a nice steak dinner. They didn’t talk much, but Kylie knew they made some progress. She was tired of the isolation and she desperately wanted someone to talk too. There were signs here and there that Victor's self-imposed shell was starting to crack.
Several months went by and Victor no longer hid behind his bed. He sat out in the open and even joined Kylie when she watched a DVD. He still didn’t talk much, but he was like a brand new man. Every morning she found a new bundle of paper flowers. She had no idea how Victor made them but she thought the gesture was really sweet.
One evening Victor decided to play a CD. He selected a song called In the Still of the Night, and turned up the volume. He looked over at Kylie who was reading: It came From Outer Space, and started to walk towards her. He held his hand out to her and asked, “Kylie, would you like to dance with me?” Kylie pulled her glasses to the bridge of her nose and put the book down. “Sure, I’ll dance with you Victor. This is a nice surprise.”
Victor put his arms around her waist and she put her arms just above his shoulders. They started to sway back and forth as the music played. Kylie felt like she was floating in the air. She stared into Victor’s bloodshot eyes and felt an inner connection with him. At that moment, they pressed their lips together and shared a beautiful kiss.
As their lips parted, Victor spoke softly, “I love you Kylie.”
Kylie looked at him with glassy eyes and said, “I think I love you too.”
The song was over and they heard someone clapping behind them. It was Doctor Andrews. She was wearing her orange biohazard suit and started to laugh.
“I must say...even I didn’t see this one coming.” she said.
“What are you talking about Jessica?” asked Kylie.
“I don’t think you know what today is.” Jessica shook her head in disapproval and continued, “Today marks the end of your sentence.”
Kylie walked over to Jessica and asked, “It’s been a year already?”
“Yes. Your time here is up.” Jessica hung her head low and continued, “I’m afraid the time you spent here was wasted. The virus showed no signs of changing. It was a foolish idea.”
She pointed to Kylie and said, “You’re free to go.”
Kylie pointed at Victor, “What about him? Can he come with me?”
Jessica shook her head no and said, “Victor has the virus, so he will be burned to death. He serves no purpose for us.”
Kylie spoke while fighting back tears, “You can’t do that-”
“She won’t do that to me,” Victor said.
He pointed at Jessica and his hands started trembling. Kylie watched as Jessica’s eyes and nose started to bleed like a running faucet. Her head started to shake uncontrollably and she fell to her knees screaming. Her head exploded in her biohazard suit and she collapsed to the floor twitching like she had just been electrocuted.
Kylie looked at Victor with eyes wide open. “What the Hell just happened?”
Victor looked deep into her eyes and said, “I’m not from this planet. I’ve traveled to a million different worlds in search of my one true love. But no matter where I go, everyone around me gets sick and dies. It made me very depressed and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t stop crying.”
He reached over and grabbed Kylie’s hand. “I’ve just spent a year with you and you're perfectly fine. This means that I finally found my true love, after all this time.”
Kylie jerked her hand away from Victor and said, “You’re joking right? I mean they took your blood and everything!”
“My biology is not that different from humans. We can now mate and have seedlings,” he said.
Victor watched as Kylie’s face turned red with anger and filled with furious vengeance. “First of all, I’m not ready for that kind of commitment!” she yelled. “If it’s true that you are responsible for this pandemic, then you killed my family!”
Kylie jumped up and kicked Victor between his legs. He fell to the floor and started screaming. “I see you have those where you come from!” she yelled.
Then she grabbed his hospital gown and drug him over to the sliding door that was left open by Jessica. She slammed his head face first in the doorway and held him there with her foot against his neck. She grabbed the sliding door and rammed it several times against his head.
She laughed maniacally as she watched his face cave in, and his eyeballs pop like a swollen pimple. Victor was dead.
She stepped out of the observation room and was careful not to slip and fall on the warm sticky blood. As she walked through the hospital she didn’t find anyone alive.
They must have all died from the virus she thought to herself.
As she made her way to the exit, bright beams of sunlight pierced her eyes like sharp daggers. Just then a thought occurred to her.
Victor was the walking plague, and I just kicked his ass and killed him. That means I just saved the world! Hell yeah!
Kylie stepped out into the new world with a sense of hope, and wondered what life had in store for her next…
Daniel R. Hayes