The virus that spread amongst New Yorkers was swift and most unusual, not least of all because of the sudden drop in the patients core temperature, which arrived with a slow agonizing death. It appeared to be airborne but tests were still frantically being done.
Which is why Martin, a photographer by trade, was intrigued by the email he had been staring at for the last hour. It was mixed with skepticism too, as the author of the email stated that they had a cure. There wasn’t much in the way of details either just a time and place to meet; Dock 17 on Saturday night at midnight.
Stretching, Martin shut down his laptop and rubbed his eyes. It was probably the stress of recent events that had contributed to his headaches, but he had until tomorrow night to rest.
Being inquisitive, Martin had researched the virus symptoms against other known viruses but the patients temperature drop, along with the final 6 hours of agony, were most unusual. If they could find out why, the antidote, and vaccination, could be administered much quicker, and prevent more fatalities.
Martin stood, and realized with some concern, that he was aching. Figuring it to be a lack of sleep, he laid on the sofa.
Several hours later, Martin awoke with a start. It was now dark, meaning he had slept since that morning. Worse, he now realized an awful truth; that the headache and pain had been the first sign of infection. The best case scenario was thirty six hours until death! As he tried to comprehend his own mortality, his sell phone rang.
“Hello, Mr Dawson”, the voice opined. “I take it you’re awake now. What are your symptoms?”.
A million questions ran through Martin’s mind, before settling on the obvious. “What the fuck is going on and how the hell do you know me?”.
The voice at the other end chuckled softly. “All in good time, sir! You know where you need to be tomorrow night?”.
“It’s you!”, Martin exploded. “How the…”. The voice stopped him dead with its abruptness.
“That’s irrelevant right now! All that matters now is your being at Dock 17 tomorrow at midnight. Do I make myself clear?”. Martin began to respond but the line went dead.
After attempting to eat, which didn’t go well, Martin decided to stay on the sofa for the night. The caller had withheld their ID and several failed attempts later he resigned himself to the same fate with the email address he had. Further online searches, this time via The Dark Web, had yielded nothing much beyond a now growing rumour, called Genesis. Apparently Genesis was not only a cure for the current viral outbreak but a cure for everything from the common cold to cancer and Alzheimer’s. The posts he read alluded to a Host but he was unable to find out what this host was.
Martin awoke again with a jolt, causing him to groan loudly. He realized the infection had spread and he was feeling worse. Using the bathroom he was shocked by his pallid complexion. His breathing was laboured too. Walking back into the living room, he registered the time, ten at night just before seeing the blink of his answering machine. Its red flashing hurt his eyes. Martin pressed play and heard, once again, the relaxed sinister voice demanding his prompt attendance.
Grabbing his keys and cell phone, he lurched toward the front door. His vision was blurring and he felt cold. It was mid summer but he grabbed a jacket and left.
Walking out on the street was a nightmare Martin could have done without. Every sight and sound was amplified and distorted, colours and sounds building into an insane cacophony. Somehow he managed to hail a cab and tell the driver the location.
Thirty minutes later the muttering driver pulled up and demanded a tip. Martin was beyond argument, simply handing a was of notes over. He stood observing the eerie dock and heard the cab leaving at speed.
It was just after eleven and deathly quiet. Martin had only just given up on trying to distinguish reality from delerium when he felt himself, roughly, being put into a wheelchair and secured. His mumbled protests quickly faded as he passed out.
Some longer time later Martin awoke in what seemed like an operating theatre, but there were far too many people, all masked and clothed in safety gear. Moving proved futile as he was strapped to the table
A voice, the voice, came over the tannoy. “Glad you could join us, Mr Dawson!”. Any inflection in the still soothing voice was now lost”.
“It took us some time to find you”, the voice continued. “You, Martin Dawson, are our Patient Zero!”.
The voice paused while Martin, thrashing, attempted to force some movement.
“You see, you were the one who was bitten, the one who first caught the infection, which also makes you the cure!”.
Martin relaxed slightly as he scrambled through memories of being bitten, then tensed again. The mosquito bites? Surely not?
“Yes”, the voice said, with a grim chuckle. “Those mosquitoes carried it but, having passed it to you, it mutated and grew”. Martin began to shiver.
“We discovered the mosquito connection very early on, but it’s taken until know to trace the first known human carrier. Fortunately, in our case at least, your photography helped, not only in identifying the species but how it mutated into a human infection”.
Still shivering, Martin realized the temperature was dropping rapidly, his rapid breath misting as he exhaled. His teeth were chattering too. As he continued to feel the effects of the cold, he became aware of activity around him. The malicious voice continued to opine.
“It’s the cold which speeds this disease up and, ironically, the very way we can deliver a vaccine. But first we need to carry out further tests!”.
Martin attempted to scream as the masked faces closed in on him but he couldn’t. Everything was becoming a blur, but he also realized that his body was being worked on.
“We need you alive, Mr Dawson, for only via the live Patient Zero can we observe, test and learn!”.
Martin didn’t quite hear that as his eyes were fixed on the mirror above him. The mirror which reflected his exposed internal organs, still there but an ugly, sickening, luminous green.
“Naturally you won’t survive this procedure”, the voice cackled. “But we need a phial we can place hope for humanity in. Until then, bear witness to your one saving grace!”.
But Martin was already witnessing the horror, all the while barely registering that the tormented screams were indeed coming from him.
The tannoy voice chuckled merrily.