Authors: Matthew Kinney,Lesa Anders
That night after dark, a group of the bikers made their way to the old church to find a good final resting
place for their friend. The tall walls around it kept them safe as they dug, but
once they had a suitable hole, the others were notified by radio. Snake brought
a large group of the residents in the truck but the service was kept short, due
to the growing number of dead gathering around the wall.
“I think he’d have liked this spot,” Snake said, noticing all the mature maple and oak trees on the
property. “He always loved trees.”
“Yeah, he did,” Wolf said, staring down at the newly turned mound of dirt at their feet. “I’m going
to miss that smile of his.”
“Wish we could’ve brought Monkey here,” Snake said. “I think we need to at least make him a
headstone and put it here.”
“We’ll make one for both of them,” Wolf said.
They waited a few moments longer then decided it was time to go. The dead had to be lured away
from the gate before the vehicles could get out. One of the bikers closed the
gate behind them before they hurried back to the hospital.
When they returned, Snake and Wolf approached Jack who was talking to Dr. Doune. Dr. Sharma also walked
up at about the same time.
Jack greeted the others and said, “Dr. Doune was just telling me that he thinks this plague was caused
by a parasite, not a virus.”
“I thought that viruses are technically parasites,” Snake said, surprising Doune.
“Yes, because they infect a cell. There are all sorts of parasites, but this one seems to be
similar to Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which is, to be precise, a parasitoidal
fungus. It takes over the body of an ant and moves it into position beneath a
leaf on a tree then it kills the host. It seems that what we have here is very
similar. And this green fluid we’ve been finding seems to be produced by the
parasites, if I’m not mistaken.”
“So what exactly does that mean?” Jack asked. “Will it be harder to make a vaccine?”
“I am guessing that it won’t be easy,” Doune said. “This parasite is a very complex organism, but at
least I now have a direction in which to move.”
“Dr. Doune, I am sorry to interrupt,” said Dr. Sharma, “but I wondered if I could talk to you about
Cheri when you have a moment. She was doing very well, now today she won’t even speak. I was hoping you had some ideas.”
“What medications have you been using?” Doune asked.
“None,” Dr. Sharma replied. “I would rather not do that unless we have to.”
“It would probably speed up the process.”
“I think we’ve got enough zombies out there without adding another one,” Snake said. “The woman’s
been through hell. I think she needs some time to get over it. You can’t just
start throwing drugs at her if she doesn’t get up and start dancing.”
Doune shot him a look. “And nobody here has the kind of time that it would take to baby this woman through
her ordeal. We need her to snap out of this so that she can take care of
herself and her children, rather than suck up Dr. Sharma’s entire day.”
“It’s not like that,” Dr. Sharma said. “I’m just concerned because I seem to be losing ground.”
“It may be none of my business,” Snake said to Dr. Sharma. “Dr. Doom here may be great at dissecting
zombie brains, but if you’re looking for advice on dealing with a living,
breathing human being, you should probably talk to a doctor with a conscience.”
“You’re right,” Doune said. “It’s none of your business. Why don’t you go back to building walls and
doing supply runs and let us worry about our patients?”
Wolf crossed his arms and grinned. He always enjoyed listening to Snake and Doune go at it.
“Aww, I bet you’d like that,” Snake replied, mockingly. “But since everyone on the State Ethics Board
is probably either zombified or hiding, someone’s got to keep you on the straight and narrow. What better person than me?”
Doune didn’t have a reply for that. While he’d had no intentions of doing anything unethical in treating
the woman, he had been feeling that the rules had changed since the outbreak
had first happened. The idea that he was free to do as he wished had taken hold,
but suddenly there was Snake, letting him know that those same old boundaries
were still in place. While Doune was somewhat disappointed to see his newly
found freedom ripped away, he also found it as something of a relief. He had never quite trusted himself.
“Never argue with a Ph.D. I always say,” Wolf said.
Doune glanced at the man. “I’m not a Ph.D. I’m an M.D.”
“I didn’t mean you,” Wolf said. “I was talking about Snake.”
“Thanks for the talk Ernie,” Keith said, “and thanks for always being there for me.”
“I’m going to hold you to your promise,” the older man told him. “No more midnight zombie smashing
sessions. No more fighting with the bikers.”
“I said no more
midnight zombie smashing sessions,” Keith pointed out.
Ernie glared at him for a moment and finally decided he’d have to settle for the amended promise.
“All right. But don’t go getting into trouble with the bikers, either,” he said. “It’s not like you. I
don’t want to see you change because of what happened. You’re a good man,
Keith. Keep it that way.”
,” Keith said with a grin. “Now can I go check on my patients?”
“Sure. And anytime you need to talk, you know where to find me.”
“I sure do. Napping in the janitor’s closet,” Keith said with a laugh.
Ernie chuckled and went to the kitchen to see if Theresa had left any cookies for his bedtime snack.
Doune turned to look at Snake, a question in his eyes, while Jack and Dr. Sharma both looked equally
stunned at the revelation.
“That was a lifetime ago,”
Snake replied, shooting Wolf a look.
“Snake doesn’t like to
brag about it,” Wolf said, ignoring Snake’s glare, “but I think his Ph.D. in
psychology should put him at least on equal terms with the good doctor.”
Doune’s first instinct was to disbelieve Wolf’s statement, but he thought back to some of the many discussions
that he’d had with Snake. While the man was rough around the edges, to say the
least, there was no doubt that he was intelligent and he did seem to know a lot
about human nature. Knowing when to cut his losses, he said, “Well, in that
case, I think that Dr. Sharma and I should turn this patient over to you. Good luck.”
He turned and walked back to the lab without another word.
Dr. Sharma had remained silent, but once Doune walked away she asked, “Is it true? You are a psychologist?”
“I’ve got the paper that says I am, somewhere,”
Snake said. “I had a couple setbacks since then that made me realize I wouldn’t
be able to help people by pretending to listen to them as they leaned on a
couch, spouting off about their mother. The majority of what I know about
people comes from living in the real world. That’s where Dr. Doom falls short.
There’s a lot about human nature that you can’t learn from a book.”
“That’s very true,” Dr. Sharma said, understanding that Snake had found a better way to use the gift he’d
been given than by practicing in an office. From what she had heard, Snake had
helped almost every one of the men in his group. More than one of them had told
her that they would have been dead if Snake had not come into their lives.
“Well, like Dr. Doune said, we would be happy to have you try to talk to Cheri. And if you don’t
mind, I’ll bet there will be others that could use some help as time goes by, if you have time.”
“I’ll be glad to help, if I can,” Snake said. “Might give me an excuse to leave some of the wall building
and zombie killing to the young guys.”
“Thank you,” Dr. Sharma said, giving him a smile before heading for the elevator.
Wolf turned to Snake with a grin. “Sorry, Boss. I know you don’t like people to know about that, but
I couldn’t help myself.”
“Well, you succeeded in shutting up Dr. Doom,” Snake said, smiling. “All’s well that ends well.”
“You got that right, Boss,” Wolf laughed.
Jack said, “Do we call you Dr. Snake now?”
Snake groaned and shook his head. “Let’s not.”
“By the way,” Jack said, “I’m sorry about your friend. How did everything go?”
“It went fine,” Snake said. “We found a nice tree and put Smiley beneath it. I think he’d be happy
about the spot. I’m sad that he’s gone, but he’s in a better place than we are.”
“Maybe if the generator had been working better, he’d still be here,” Jack said, shaking his head.
“Maybe. And maybe if he’d updated his prescription and maybe if I hadn’t sent him up all those stairs. We
can’t dwell on the maybes, Jack, but what about the generator? How can we fix it?”
“We need parts,” Jack
said, holding up a list. “Lots of parts. A new generator would be even better
but I don’t know if that would be possible.”
“Well, the resources of
the whole city are at our disposal now,” Snake said, “as long as the stores
haven’t all been destroyed and as long as we can get there through the rubble.
We may need to be doing our shopping at night for a while, until the bombings
stop, but we can do that. Just let me know what you need.”
“Thanks, I’ll do that,”
Jack said. “Just be careful out there. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that
it’s going to be much worse than it was on your other trips.”
“I know, but don’t
worry. Even though I believe in the hereafter, I’m not ready to visit it just
yet. I plan to do my best to stick around a while longer.”
“I do, too, my friend,”
Jack said. “I think we’ll do just fine here. We’ve got some good people that
know what they’re doing. We’ve probably got a better chance at making it than
most others. I’m glad we all decided to stay.”
“Let’s have a meeting
tomorrow,” Snake said, “I’ve got a whole lot of stuff I want to talk about and
I’m sure you do, too. But tonight, I just want to sleep.”
“I hear you,” Jack said,
his age showing in his eyes.
Jack made one last check
of each floor before going to his room on the third floor. He went to stand at
the window and look outside at the dark night. In the distance, fires still
raged in various parts of the city. He wondered if nature would soon
erase all signs of man’s tenure on earth. He thought about how quickly things
disintegrated into chaos, and wondered if life would ever be the same. Maybe this was the beginning of a new age. How many people
were still out there, desperately fighting for their lives? He knew that some
of the group would risk their lives to bring these survivors in. They’d have to
be careful. It was possible that some survivors may not have the best of
intentions, but he wouldn’t dwell on what might happen. There was no point.
They had a community that would only improve with time, and they would survive.
He was certain of that. They were all survivors. Turning away from the window,
he climbed into his bed. Then he slept.