Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sudden Short Story 55

The cargo container stood out, black against the white snow.  Around it, charred husks of some unknown material lay.  They had been used, apparently, when it was burned, for that the less-scorched spots on the container read:  QUARANTINE ME
Fearing for the worst, Dr. MacGhabhann pounded on the container.  "Is anyone in there?" she shouted. 
"Me," he shouted back, "Doctor Fletcher.  Have you sent anyone to the main camp yet?" 
It was within sight, but still fairly far out.  The flat snowscape made that possible.  Dr. Fletcher had hauled the container as far away from the camp as he could while guaranteeing that the rescue party would see it first.  "Not yet," answered Dr. MacGhabhann.  "We hit you first, and besides, there's a quarantine warning up." 
"That's why I put it here," he answered.  "As you can tell, I've arranged it so that I can't get myself out.  You'll find out if you read my research notes, which are at the camp, but I can tell you anyway.  There was a contagion going around the camp.  Doctor Teague got it first.  It must have incubated in him overnight, because we never saw any initial symptoms.  It changed him.  He's the one who smashed up our radio.  Someone might have been able to repair it, with enough time, but we didn't have it.  It spreads fast.  We tried to isolate whoever got infected, but there was always a new infection by the time that we got the old one contained. 
"Eventually, it was down to just me and Doctors Zielinski and Landvik.  That's when the worst of it happened... but I don't want to go into that right now.  After it was all over, though, I burned the bodies to make sure.  There was only so much fuel left, though, so I just tossed a starter in and let nature do the rest.  I towed the cargo container out here, then drove the tow back.  I torched it, since black stands out against white.  I also gave myself enough water to last until when you guys arrived, but I'm quite hungry.  Also, it's gonna stink in here." 
"Is there any chance that you're infected," asked Dr. MacGhabhann, as she sent three from her team to go find the research notes.  
"You're here, so it must have been ... five days since I isolated myself?  I know that you would have set out when we went overdue for our radio check in, but I lost track of the intervening time.  Anyway, if I were infected, then it would have taken hold by now.  I'll still insist on being quarantined, though, until a full lab's done, just to be thorough."
He left out the part about how the fully incubated acted just like their old selves most of the time.  He didn't want to overly worry them, after all.
Dr. Fletcher would have told them to avoid the camp, for its infection risk.  Dr. Fletcher would have told them that he burned the outside of the cargo container to try to destroy every last virion, just in case.
But Dr. Fletcher died three days earlier.  

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