Mythic Revival. Short Story.

Jack turned from the observation window, “How far along is he?”
“He’s about two weeks in.”
“Huh, I thought it would be faster.”
“So did we, based on folklore we thought it would be a pretty quick and painful transformation, but based on how he’s progressing we think it takes about a month from infection to the end stages.”
From where he was standing Jack could see deep scratch marks on the door. “What’s with the gouges in the door?”
“He keeps scratching at it, trying to get out. Don’t worry, the door has a steel core, he’s not getting anywhere.”

Jack looked at the man lying on the bed, his back was to them and he couldn’t quite see him. “What kind of changes has he undergone so far?”
“Well, he has had remarkable hair growth all over his body, his nails are becoming thicker and sharper, his teeth have started to fall out and from what we can tell larger, pointed teeth are growing through. He has began to lose his ability to speak, when we started he was able to hold full conversations, now it’s broken, words missing. His metabolism and appetite have increased dramatically, we feed him almost constantly, every hour or so. It seems the more access he has to food the faster the changes come on.”
“And what’s his personality like now?”
“Much more aggressive than before, he will try to attack anyone who makes direct eye contact, he has a shorter temper, if things do not go as he wishes he goes into a rage. I suspect that at the end of the transformation he won’t be able to control the anger anymore.”
“And how useful do you think he would be in a combat situation?”
“Well, we haven’t tested anything like that yet, but I think he would do fairly well. He’s becoming more animalistic and he is currently infectious. As far as we can tell he’s losing the connections he had to friends and family, he no longer recognises photographs of them and has a hard time remembering who they are, even with recordings.”
“So you’re saying he’ll have little to no loyalty.”
“Essentially. I suspect once he is finish transforming he will show no regard towards anyone he once knew.”
“Interesting. How are the other subjects progressing?”
“Why don’t we go have a look and you can see for yourself”

The room she was in was the same as the mans, small, one bed, a small table and a toilet. The woman stood in the centre of the room, her body seeming oddly relaxed, her hospital gown was stained with browns and reds, Jack could see thin scabs criss crossing their way up and down her arms.
“This was a much faster transformation. 48 hours from first infection to total change. Her hearing seems to have increased, though her eye sight seems to be worse. She lost the ability to speak for the most part, occasionally she can get out a word or two but that’s rare. She will only eat raw meat, though she is slow most of the time she can move surprisingly quickly if she wants to. Her intelligence has decreased dramatically and if she isn’t engaged with something everything just seems to shut down. Her nails have grown longer and sharper, and her blood clots astoundingly quickly once it’s exposed to air. I have a theory that she could lose a limb and still be fine, though we haven’t tested that yet, we’re saving it until after we’ve gotten most of the other useful information from her.”
“How’s her temperament?”
“Violent towards anything living. Docile when left alone. Testing has started to become a little difficult, we’ve had to get creative with her.”
“What would happen if we dropped her in the middle of a city?”
“Oh That’s easy, she’d attack and infect anyone she could, the spread of it would be difficult to contain, she seems to register no real pain and will continue until she tires out, which takes a lot longer than it should. She has no recollection of any past life but she does have survival instincts, she will eat and drink. The largest danger is containment. If there is nothing happening she stops, but she’ll continue after a car or an animal until something else gets her attention.”

Jack tapped on the glass, the woman slowly turned around, her hair was stringy and greasy, her eyes had a strange clouded look to them. Her face was completely relaxed, her mouth hung open and a thin strand of drool fell onto her hospital gown. Her skin was a strange mottled grey and purple, making it look like she was heavily bruised in places. Without warning the woman sprinted forward and slammed into the glass, her face twisting and snarling with rage. Jack jumped, the tour guide chuckled, “I’m sorry I should have warned you, she ate not too long ago. She’s always more active after she’s eaten.”
“is there any sure way to keep something like that contained?”
“Not once it’s been released into the wild. We could add trackers to her, but it wouldn’t be much help. The disease seems to kill most other mammals in a few days, they become tired and listless and either starve or die of dehydration, you’d need to contain the area before deployment.”
“What’s the infection rate?”
“It’s high. 99.9% of those attacked will be infected, assuming they survive the attack itself. The goal doesn’t seem to be infection so much as killing and eating. It’s spread through bodily fluids, so a bite or even a scratch could be enough to infect.”

“And finally we have our last patient. Unfortunately he’s nocturnal, so you’re not really going to get much of a show.”
There was a mound on the bed, covered by the thin sheet provided but Jack could just see a sliver of startlingly white skin.
“He’s clever, still remembers most of his old life, doesn’t seem to have any real emotional attachment to it. He eats ordinary food but has cravings for blood. His skin has become pale, almost impossibly so, and his eyes are in an almost permanent state of dilation, his night vision is simply astounding. He’s been compliant with most of our tests, but after an incident the other day I’m now reasonably sure that it is an act to get us to lower our guard.”
“Incident?”
“Did you not read the report we sent?”
“No, I’m afraid I haven’t seen it yet.”
“One of the staff was killed, throat ripped right out before anyone knew what was happening.”
“Did he say why?”
“He said he was hungry and he could see her veins throbbing in her neck and he just lost control.”
“That could be a problem.”
“Yes, he’s also developed a severe allergy to sunlight, being severely burned after only ten seconds of exposure. He is still changing however so we’re not sure what the end result will be.”
“What’s the infection rate?”
“Fifty-fifty. It might take it might not. We don’t know why that is yet. The subject was tested 3 times before the infection actually took, we’re still not sure if the infection adapted to overcome the body or if it’s just particularly delicate, it is quite hard to study.”
“You probably won’t be studying it for too much longer, I don’t see any real use for this type in combat situations.”
The guide shrugged, “Well, you say that now but if you infect a population with it, at least half will become allergic to sunlight and will need to stay indoors during the day.”
Jack nodded, “True, but they’re not going to go out of their way to spread the infection.”
“Not necessarily, they’re quite vicious, as we saw from the recent death, I think that if only one person in a family is infected, that person will spread the infection or simply kill them. Like the other subjects his strength has increased, though unlike them he still retains a good deal of information on who he was. At least so far. Over the last day or two he’s been complaining about forgetting things. Names, dates. Could be a progression of the infection or it could be that he simply forgot. We have had him on a cocktail of drugs since the death to try and keep him contained.”
Jack nodded, “When will we have your next set of reports?”
“Should get them out in another day or two, I just have a couple of tests I want to finish first.”
“Good, be prepared though, once those reports go in they’re going to want to see these guys in action. Either through live or recorded demonstrations.”
The guide nodded, “We’ve already thought of that. We have a few ideas as to who we should use for testing and demonstrations. I’ll include a list with my reports.”
“Who are you recommending?”
“To start no one specific, anyone will do, but I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if you used a family member or two, see how things play out.”
Jack nodded, “Yes, that wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. I can already think of a few applications for the first two.”
“We’re also getting ready to test them in outdoor conditions, see how they survive in the wild.”
“Is that safe?”
“We’re going to pen in an area entirely, keep it stocked with wild animals and water, see how long they last.”
“What about adding a disease or infection? One that would kill them after a week or two?”
“Well we’d need something that is as easily spread and is fatal in order to get them all, I’ll look into it though.”
“Good, I have high hopes about this project.”
“What about the source of the infections? Have you found any more?”
“No, not yet, but I’m sure there will be. The cave system they were found in is vast and difficult to explore, we’ve lost a few people too, but I think we’re going to find a lot of interesting things before we’re done with that place.”

 

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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