Two hours earlier, Elizabeth places her mobile on the small window seat. She stares outwardly onto the vacant street. At the end of its summer season, Quesser Creek has never looked so quiet. An empty street glares back at her. The army patrol runs its regular route every twenty minutes. She knows this is the beginning of the great plan that Project God Trials are putting in place and Quesser Creek is at the centre. How have they decided? Placed a pin on the map, or was it down to its location? However they chose, the town is now under quarantine, and she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jacob got out, but she wasn’t so fortunate. Trapped like rats behind the barricades, it’s a test tube moment. The general public may not know, but she is aware the outbreak of virus H48-64 which science has labelled it, isn’t an accident. It all happened two days earlier. She muses on the thought briefly that it was on a Friday morning. The same day that Jacob originally had his incident off the cliff face in the very same town. Coincidence?
The local baker and his wife took her in. They are an elderly couple with two adult children living elsewhere. It was not a time for conversing. She has a roof over her head for which she is grateful and food to eat. She moves her eyes once more to her mobile. All network activity stopped thirty minutes ago. Have they blanked out the town so people couldn’t communicate with the outside? Jacob is on the other side of the barricades. Waiting. They had just finished devising a plan when their call was cut off. Picking up the phone again, the no network signal still flashes.
Grabbing her bag, she places her phone inside and exits her cosy room. The elderly couple sit silently in the kitchen. Fear etched into their faces. Elizabeth acknowledges with a small smile before departing the house. A little reassurance but she could offer them nothing more. No words are spoken. Keeping off the main street she moves towards the centre of the town in the direction of the medical clinic.
Army personnel are minimal. Darkness will soon fall. Very few patrolled inside the town, focusing their attention on guarding the perimeter and all exit points of the town. She pauses momentarily facing the white two-storey clinic. It’s unequipped to handle an outbreak of this scale. It is full to capacity treating the sick, but all that could be done is to send each patient home to die. The disease starts slowly at first. Red blotches appear on the skin which later form moles and turn to boils, blistering with severe pain to the victim. The speed of the disease is rapid. White discharge would seep from the tear ducts, reddening the eyes. Elizabeth refuses to allow her memory of the infection to continue. The signs were already present on the baker and his wife. They knew, but did not mention. Their end would be to suffer in silence accepting their fate as if it was handed down to them. Elizabeth never allowed fear to overtake her. She’s not quite sure why.
Lightly stepping forward, she enters through the rear of the clinic stepping off the main corridor and reaching the back emergency fire escape. Her body stops on sighting a man sitting on one of the steps. Only clothed in his underwear and vest, his stare is vacant. Oblivious to her presence. Moving past his blotchy appearance, she continues to the first floor, stepping onto a wide corridor with rows of sick patients on either side. Instinctively covering her nose, she moves to the end of the corridor. Jacob’s instructions were clear. As she enters the nurse’s station, Elizabeth places her eyes on her.
She is more petite than she remembers. Her mousey brown hair is shorter and she looks tired. Visiting practitioners come to the clinic on a weekly basis, but the care is minimal. Now under the outbreak, there is very little that can be done. Another nurse stands next to her, perhaps recruited from one of the town’s residents. Elizabeth allows her eyes to rest on her. Pity rises for the woman before her, knowing this is a battle she’s not going to win. Their eyes meet. Shock and surprise greet her and push Nadia towards her.
“Doctor Bannon!” Nadia breaks the silence between them. “Jacob?”
“Is there some place we can talk, perhaps a little more private?”
Nadia nods and moves towards the rear of the nurse’s station to a small store room. Elizabeth follows, closing the door. Quickly scanning the room, Elizabeth realises that medical supplies are running out but they are ineffective against a disease that there is yet no known cure for.
“Jacob’s fine. He’s at this moment sitting outside the barricades. He was able to get out in time before they sealed off the town. I wasn’t so fortunate.”
“Are you affected?”
“I’m masked at all times, but this disease is too rapid, and it’s only a matter of time before I could contract it. But I don’t understand. You’re walking openly among the sick with no precautions. We don’t know if it’s airborne and still you show no symptoms.”
“Nadia, Jacob and I need your help.”
Their eyes lock momentarily.
“Are you screwing him?”
The question hits her. Pointed with anger. It had been Nadia’s decision to end the relationship with Jacob. Nadia knew what would be involved and she did not want any part in hiding out. She chose to remain at Quesser Creek, continuing her life as she knew it. Something Elizabeth did not have the luxury of. Over time, Elizabeth and Jacob grew together, perhaps it was the close living and working relations, but she doesn’t need to justify herself to the woman standing before her.
“It’s irrelevant what’s between Jacob and me. You have no cause to ask me that. What’s important is that we try and stop what’s going on here.”
“Do you know what’s going on here?”
“We have an idea.”
“Look, I’m not really interested in your conspiracy ideas or whatever. What I want is for this to stop and prevent people from dying. Is there a cure?”
Nadia raises her hands in despair, moving towards the rear wall of the room. She rests her weary body against a glass shelving unit. Hope is vanishing fast, replaced by despair.
“Nadia, I don’t have all the answers. There is no known cure, but that’s not to say it doesn’t exist. I believe it does exist.”
“What does Jacob think I can do?”
“I need you to give me a blood sample from an infected patient and then I want you to take a blood sample from me.”
“Why?” Nadia replies straightening her body with curiosity.
“Two months ago I was injected with an unknown agent. Without knowing what to look for, it’s impossible to find anything. Numerous tests were carried out and nothing’s shown up. I’ve been working with a Dr. Jessica Sali. I believe now I might have something she can test for.”
“Draw a comparison between your blood and the infected?”
“There are very few people left in this town that aren’t infected. The disease is rapid. I’ve taken no precautions. I’m staying with the town’s baker and his wife. This morning I first noticed the signs of infection.”
“Are you saying you believe you’re immune? Doctor, don’t be so sure! We know very little about this disease or how it attacks the body. You’re young and healthy and with probably no previous ailments.”
“Nadia, I could be very wrong, but I have little time, and Jacob’s at risk of being caught just waiting for me.”
Their eyes lock. Nadia lowers her gaze.
“I’ll do as you ask. I have infected blood samples already in storage ready to ship for analysis. I’ll provide you with one and a container.”
“Tell Jacob I’m sorry things didn’t work out differently,” Nadia continues with emotion catching her words.
Elizabeth nods, gently placing her hand on her arm.
“There’s one more thing I wish to ask you for,” Elizabeth lowers her voice, hoping that Nadia will comply. Her question is answered with a mere nod of agreement from Nadia reassuring her escape from Quesser Creek.
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