Thomas took a swig from the bottle, then grimaced as he felt the burning heat of it move down his throat before blooming in his stomach. He gasped, then took another drink. He started coughing, beads of sweat began to coat his face. He paused for a moment, gasping for air, there was still half the bottle left. He took a slow breath through clenched teeth, then closing his eyes he swung his head back and downed the rest of the bottle in a few gulps. His stomach clenched painfully, causing him to double over. He collapsed forward and lay on the ground, gasping and groaning as the medicine burned its way through him. His arms and legs started to jerk and twitch, he let out a gasp of pain as his muscles tensed and then relaxed. He lay where he was, breathing heavily, waiting for the tremors to pass. When it was over he got shakily to his feet and stumbled to a nearby chair, he sat down, his entire body felt impossibly heavy, every movement seemed monumental. As time passed he began to get some of his energy back, when he was feeling able he grabbed his glass of water from the small table nearby and took a small sip. He drank his water slowly, knowing from previous experience that drinking too quickly meant throwing it all up.
His finger tips started to tingle, gently at first but it quickly grew in intensity, he felt the burning heat move slowly up his arms, then down his chest. Thomas gritted his teeth, it felt like his entire body was on fire. Finally the burning started to fade. His skin felt sensitive and raw, like he had been rubbed all over with fine sandpaper. Gingerly he shifted in the chair, letting out a hiss of pain as his clothes moved over his body.
A few minutes later there was a gentle knock on the door, “Can I come in?”
“Sure.” His voice was weak, even to his own ears, Samantha opened the door, “Do you need anything?”
“No, I’m fine thank you.”
“Did it work?”
He nodded, “Yeah, it did.”
“Good.” Samantha turned and left the room, closing the door behind herself. The question was just a formality, it was clear from his bright red skin and sweat stained clothes it had worked. The treatment helped keep everything at bay, the pain, the gnawing hunger, but it wouldn’t work forever, someday, maybe soon, maybe twenty years from now, he would drink the medicine and nothing would happen. It was a day he both feared and welcomed, it would mean the end of his suffering, no one with active disease was permitted to live, it was safer and kinder to put him down. He remembered the days before, when he would go out with friends, drinking and clubbing, even just going for walks. It all seemed to long ago, and so unfair that one simple mistake had cost him almost everything. They had been standing outside a nightclub, waiting to get in when a drunk girl staggered out, she was stumbling as she went, he didn’t see how it happened but she tripped and fell forward, he had caught her, more out of instinct than any real desire to help. She had smiled up at him and slurred out a thanks. Then she had coughed, it didn’t seem like that heavy of a coughing fit, nothing remarkable or dangerous. He righted her and she continued on, he turned to his friends who were looking at him in horror. His face was covered in a fine misting of blood. It was the last time he had seen any of them without thick glass between them. He never found out who the girl was, though there were numerous attempts to track her down and quarantine her. Fifteen people were infected that night and he was the last one still living.