Read Dead, but Not for Long Online

Authors: Matthew Kinney,Lesa Anders

Dead, but Not for Long (29 page)

“Nothing,” they said at once, both looking at the
walls in silence as the elevator continued its downward journey.

When they reached the first floor, the three men
moved the revived corpse out of the elevator.

“Let’s take him to the lab,” Doune said. “There’s
no reason to have him in quarantine now. He’ll just upset people.”

Jack agreed, but he insisted that a guard be
posted at all times as long as Dr. Winston was still active.

Lindsey and Autumn walked over in time to catch the discussion.

“He’ll be strapped down,” Doune promised.

“That’s not good enough,” Jack told him. “I want
the door kept closed and I want a guard right outside that room. I’ll talk to
Snake about it.”

“Fine,” Doune said. He felt that the guard was an
unnecessary waste of manpower, but it was Jack’s call.

“Well, Harold,” he smirked, looking down at the
zombie. “I can’t say how much I am going to enjoy spending time with you, now
that you can’t speak.”

The doctor did a few basic reflex tests and made
some notes. Once that was done, he put on a special apron and a pair of
stainless steel nylon mesh gloves that were often used in autopsies where there
was a high risk of contamination. He wasn’t about to take any chances, so he
also put on a mask and added a face shield. Rolling up some gauze, he
cautiously jammed it into his subject’s mouth then looked around for a moment.

“Where’s my duct tape?” he asked. “I know I had a full roll.”

After a couple minutes of searching, he gave up
and pulled out a roll of adhesive tape and tore off a long piece. He placed it from
one side of Harold’s face to the other.

“I’ve always wanted to do that to you,” he said.
He turned to open a cabinet door and pulled out some of the four-point
restraints he’d brought down from his office. He fixed them to the bed then
hooked them to Harold’s wrists and ankles before unfastening the Velcro straps.
Speaking to Lindsey and Autumn without looking up, he said, “I’d appreciate it
if one of you would add duct tape to my list. Make it two rolls.”

Autumn started making notes and looked up when
Doune pointed at some supplies on a tray.

“I’ll also need one of you to get some clean slides
out of the box. Once I put a sample on the slide, someone will have to place a
drop of that liquid on it,” he nodded in the direction of a bottle with a
dropper, “and a cover. They’ll need to be marked. Don’t forget to wear gloves.
In fact, wear two pair.”

“I’ve got it,” Autumn said, before Lindsey could
speak. Moving over to the tray, she put on the gloves and picked up a
rectangular piece of glass. “This is a slide, right?”

“Correct,” he said, “and the thin square piece is
the cover.

She lifted one of the covers and looked it over,
finding it much thinner than the slide. It looked very fragile.

Doune turned his attention back to his patient and
lifted a scalpel from a nearby tray.

“Now, Harold, let’s take some samples.”

He began to cut.

Lindsey made a face and turned away as the doctor
started to slice into his subject’s flesh. Autumn, on the other hand, became
intrigued with the entire process, watching every move the doctor made.

After placing samples from the wound and from
other parts of the patient’s body on slides, Doune told Autumn how to mark
them.

“Do you think he can feel that?” she asked.

“I’ve already tested his reflexes with no results.
His nerves don’t respond to touch or to light. He doesn’t seem to feel pain,
but he does respond to sound and he can certainly see us. Come closer, Autumn.
See how his eyes don’t change when I shine this light into them?”

She looked on with fascination. “So the optic
nerve isn’t working, right?” she hypothesized.

Doune glanced over at her. “How old are you?”

“Nine,” she replied.

“Where did you learn about optic nerves?”

“I read a lot and I ask a lot of questions,” she
said with a shrug. “Last time I went to get my eyes checked, I think I almost
drove my optometrist crazy, but she answered my questions. She told me about
the optic nerve and the ocumoter nerve.”

“The oculomotor nerve,” Doune said. “It controls
most of the eye’s movement.”

Autumn nodded and added, “And she said the other eye reacts even if you
don’t shine a light into it because the nerves cross or something.”

“Right,” Doune said. “So the assumption might be that some of
Harold’s nerves aren’t communicating with his brain, though that’s nothing new.
This is where it gets interesting.”

He waved a hand over Harold’s face and the dead man’s eyes followed.

“He can obviously see, though I have no idea how good his vision is. It just makes me wonder
if our usual tests will even be valid on the infected people.”

“It’s almost as though he’s been lobotomized,” Lindsey added.

“What’s that mean?” Autumn asked.

“A lobotomy is a surgical procedure where some of
the nerve pathways in the brain are severed,” Doune said.

“I can’t wait to see the brain! You need to
operate to see what parts of the brain are working, don’t you Dr. Doune?”

“Yes, I’ll have to dissect the brain to learn
more,” he said. He took a scalpel and slid it deep into Harold’s leg, but there
wasn’t so much as a flicker of reaction. “No pain, no reactions. The brain is
not getting a signal from the nerves, I would guess. Yet the brain must still
be sending messages to the body or the muscles wouldn’t be working.”

Lindsey interrupted. “You can’t operate with Dr.
Winston still being alive. Can you, Dr. Doune?”

Doune shrugged. “I don’t know why not. He won’t feel a thing,
I’m sure. And I may learn more doing this while he’s still active.”

There was a knock on the door. Wolf peeked in.

“Snake said you needed a guard, Doc?”

“Jack wants someone watching the room as long as my patient is still active,”
Doune said. “It’s just a precaution. He isn’t going anywhere.”

He picked up a scalpel and quickly made an incision over the top of
his patient’s head, ear to ear. He peeled the scalp back next, causing Lindsey to turn away and gag.

Setting aside his scalpel, Doune picked up a saw.

“You may want to step back for this part,” he told
the others. “Sometimes the chips fly.”

A Plexiglas room divider had been set up and the
three spectators moved behind it. Doune started the saw, explaining to them
that it was a special vibrating saw that would cut through bone but would not cut through flesh.

Lindsey watched as the doctor prepared the skull
saw for action. Recalling how Jack had warned her of the doctor’s unethical
tendencies, she was afraid that he was crossing the line. Harold was clearly
still alive, or at least seemed that way, and Dr. Doune was preparing to dissect his brain.

“Wait!” Lindsey shouted. “If that man isn’t clinically dead,
I can’t let you do that. I mean tissue samples are one thing, but carving on a patient’s brain; it’s just not ethical.”

Autumn rolled her eyes and breathed a sigh.

Doune shot the therapist a look, but he turned off the saw.

“I carve on patient’s brains all the time. It’s what I do.”

“Sure, but they’re under anesthesia,” she replied.

“The brain has no pain receptors,” Doune stated. “I have done many surgeries on patients
while they have been awake. It helps me to avoid disrupting the areas that control speech, for one thing.
They are given sedation for the opening then I wake them to do the actual surgery on the brain.
Harold doesn’t seem to feel any pain, so I don’t think he’ll need to be sedated for the opening.”

“It just seems wrong,” she said.

“Come here, Lindsey,” he said, taking her hand once she approached.
He placed it at Winston’s neck then placed it on the man’s chest. “There is no heartbeat.”

He held her hand close to Harold’s nose, enjoying
seeing her flinch when the doctor tried to bite. Of course he couldn’t do it,
but that didn’t stop him from trying. “No breath. He isn’t breathing and his
heart is not beating. His brain acts as though it is alive, but it probably isn’t.”

Lindsey was visibly agitated as she pulled her hand away.

“You’re telling me that, with all this equipment,
you can’t do a brain scan or EKG or something to see if he’s brain dead? There’s
got to be something in this hospital that could determine whether or not his
brain is working instead of just sawing through it like some kind of Nazi scientist.”

“Yes, I can perform tests and I plan to do so, but
the equipment I will need is on the fifth floor. I’m not so sure that the
intensive-care patients would care to have Harold up there. Not only that, but
I want to see what the brain looks like, now, in the early stages and I want to
watch it as it changes. It would take too long to hook him up to the equipment,
though I can always do that later, if not to Harold, then to another of the
infected.”

Wolf had stepped closer, the saw having kept his interest.

“Lady,” he said, “the guy has no heartbeat. He’s
not breathing. He’s clinically dead. If he were the only one in the world like
that, scientists from all over the place would be lining up to study him. As it
is, there’s probably half a million just like him outside our door with one
purpose; to kill us and eat us. This is self-defense. Every time someone turns,
they become the enemy. They can’t be reasoned with. There are too many to take
prisoner. It’s kill them before they kill us. If the doc can find something out
in the process, so be it.”

“Well said,” Doune told the man. He turned his
attention back to the saw and flipped it on again before beginning the cut.

The observers returned to their spots behind the
divider as the saw started to grind through the skull. The smell almost made
Lindsey gag. Turning, she covered her mouth and walked to the farthest corner
of the room and tried not to vomit. Autumn, on the other hand, watched with
excitement as Dr. Doune removed the top of the skull to expose the brain.

The patient had made no indication that he felt
pain or was aware of what was being done. His only interest had been in
constantly trying to get to Doune while his skull was being opened.

“You can come back now,” the surgeon said as he put the saw away.

“Awesome!” Autumn commented while positioning
herself for a better view.

Doune stepped aside so that the girl could get closer.

“This is the cerebrum that you are seeing,” he
said, not knowing how much she knew about the brain. “The cerebellum and the
brain stem are below where you can’t see, but we’ll get to those eventually.”

He took a scalpel and used it to point out the
frontal lobe, the motor cortex, sensory cortex and parietal lobe, explaining
the functions of each part of the brain.

Autumn helped to make the samples as Doune took
them, and she drank in everything the doctor said. She had once had a book on
human anatomy that had showed a different cross section of the human body every
time the page was turned. She had been so fascinated by the book that she used
to read it at night when her parents thought she was sleeping. After their
passing, the book was lost as she was shuffled from one foster home to another.
She was now thrilled to see the real thing.

“Where is the part of the brain that works things
like hunger? Bet that’s still working.”

“Actually,” Doune said, “it’s the brain stem that
controls most of the basic body functions like hunger, thirst, body temperature
and breathing. The cerebellum controls more complex actions like walking,
talking and balance.

He glanced at Autumn and said, “It’s odd. Once the
person changes, like Harold, here, they still seem to have hunger but not thirst.
They don’t seem to breathe and their bodies are cold. So the critical question
is - if one part of the brain is affected, why wouldn’t all functions be
affected if they are controlled by that area of the brain? Why can they still
walk but not talk? There are so many questions to try to answer.”

Lindsey, feeling embarrassed at her reaction,
wandered back to the operating table and stole a glance at the exposed brain.

“When can I put him on the treadmill?” she joked.

“That might not be a bad idea,” Doune said. “We
could clock him and see just how fast he can walk. We’d just need someone
standing in front to act as the carrot.”

He began to poke at different parts of the brain.

“Amazing,” he said. “The brain looks normal, at a
glance. I see no signs of deterioration, but if you look at his flesh, it’s
already turning gray. So what is allowing the brain to keep working? Any thoughts?”

A knock on the door interrupted the conversation.
All eyes were on Marla as she entered the room.

“Keith told me that you moved Dr. Winston down here,” she explained.

“Yes, but he’s . . .” Doune paused as he watched
the woman grab the wrist of the zombie once called Harold.

Marla stared at her watch. A few seconds later,
she scribbled something on a chart and pulled out a stethoscope and blood
pressure cuff. It was a bit of a struggle for her to get it on the zombie’s
restrained arm. The room was silent as Marla ignored Harold’s futile attempts
to bite her and continued with her duties. A minute later, she scribbled again
on her pad and left the room, smiling at Dr. Doune as she left.

Nick wondered if the alleged nurse was always so
calm when finding out that a patient had no blood pressure. He looked at Autumn
and shook his head. “We should place a bet on how long that one is going to
survive.”

“I don’t know,” Autumn replied. “She’s so dumb,
they might just mistake her for one of them, and leave her alone.”

The comment earned a smile from Doune before he
went back to prodding at Harold’s brain.

~*^*~

 

 

 

 

~27~

 

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