Chapter Four: The Infection
Suddenly, the lights flick back on with the soft buzzing of electricity. Through squinted eyes, James gets a hazy look at the men who more than likely just saved his life. All of them stand at least 6 feet tall and look as though they weigh a good 200+ pounds. They are dressed in urban camouflage military fatigues and armor, including kevlar vests and full-face gas masks. Also, each man is armed with a very intimidating assault rifle.
One of them steps forward and aims his gun at James. "What is your name?" he asks. James hesitantly responds, "James Cash." Without skipping a beat, the man continues, "Have you been bitten?" A look of confusion plays across James' face, "What?" The man repeats himself in a firm tone of voice, "Have you been bitten?" James shakes his head and responds, "No, I haven't." The man flicks on a small LED flashlight, mounted to his gun, and shines it over James. "Are you sure?" James shields his eyes from the bright light and responds, "Yes. What the hell is going on here?" The man forcefully grabs him by the arm. "Everything will be explained later," he says as he pulls James away from the wall. "For now, we need to extract you to quarantine." Confused, James' mind races with a hundred different thoughts. "Quarantine?" Suddenly, he feels something crack him across the back of the head before his vision goes black. "Shut up."
6 Hours Later
As he begins to slip back into consciousness, James makes a feeble attempt to open his eyes. His blurred vision allows him to faintly make out blotches of gray. A pounding headache thunders inside his brain. As he tries to move, James discovers that his hands and feet have been tied to the chair he is seated in. He calls out, "Hello?" His voice reverberates through the small room as he tries to wrestle free.
A few minutes pass by and his vision begins to clear. James finds himself in a small concrete room devoid of any pictures or markings. Sunshine pours through a rectangular window near the ceiling. There is a plain metal table in front of him. The air is stale and warm.
James tries to make some sense of the situation as his mind contemplates a variety of possibilities. He struggles to remember why he ended up in the hospital in the first place. However, his short-term memory still seems to be missing.
Looking over his left shoulder, James sees a heavily armored guard standing in the corner. "Where the hell am I?" he asks. The guard, standing perfectly still, almost as if he were a statue, gives no response. The silence in the room is heavy. Then, James switches his gaze over his right shoulder. He sees a giant mirrored window in the wall behind him. "What is this place?"
Suddenly, the heavy silence is broken as a door opens somewhere behind him and the sound of footsteps on the concrete floor lead around to his right side. James looks up to see an older man with short gray hair. He is dressed in light urban camouflage fatigues, much like those of the men James encountered in the hospital.
The man moves to stand in front of the table and tosses down a manila folder. Opening it, he silently scans through a few pieces of paper. James watches him intently. "What the hell is going on here?" No response. James continues, "Hello?" The man calmly looks up from the folder. "James Earl Cash," he says before reading from a specific piece of paper. "Admitted to the hospital on May twentieth." James interjects, "What was I admitted for?" Ignoring him, the man continues, "We ran some tests," he says as he shuffles through a stack of papers, "and it appears that you are not infected." A look of confusion plays across James' face, "Infected?" The man cracks a wicked smile, "You must have been out of it for awhile. It's a miracle you're even still alive, man." James leans forward and shifts his weight. "What are you talking about?" The man exits the room temporarily and returns with an old dusty television on a pushcart. He wheels the cart in front of James and presses a few buttons. The television flicks on and an old VHS tape begins to play. "This will explain everything," he says. Then, the man exits the room, closing the door behind him with a resounding boom. "This is bullshit," James mutters to himself as he watches the screen. There is an old news clip from the death of Osama.
"May 2nd, 2011. Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, responsible for the 9/11 attacks, was terminated in his private Pakistani compound after a ten year manhunt. Americans, home and abroad, rejoiced in this great victory for the United States. We salute those who courageously brought justice down upon this cold hearted snake."
The tape skips forward to the mugshot of an Al Qaeda member.
"...Abdul Fareed, an American-born Muslim extremist and leader of a small Al Qaeda faction quietly brewing in the New York suburbs. He has been on several FBI terrorist-watch lists recently as security tensions have risen. Rumors suggest he was responsible for several anti-American protests which resulted in violent outbreaks leading to two deaths."
A heavy sigh escapes his lips as James shifts his weight again. "What does any of this crap have to do with me?" The tape cuts to an old news clip from the virus outbreak at Mama Mia's Ristorante' in the financial district. The audio has been swapped with a narrator's voice.
"May 20, 2013. Eyewitness accounts place Abdul Fareed and three other possible Muslim extremists inside Mama Mia's coincidentally around the same time as the victims of this deadly virus. Police and military forces have set up a perimeter and quarantined the infected. Samples were taken to a CDC lab and run through multiple tests."
The screen displays a video of CDC agents in lab coats.
"Virologists were able to determine the substance to be a mixture between rabies, influenza and another virus, known as Toxoplasma Gondii, a deadly parasite hosted in felines."
An image of bloodthirsty zombies appears on the screen.
"This new virus has been rapidly turning American citizens into mindless, bloodthirsty freaks. Some obvious symptoms include dehydration, violent behavior and..."
Suddenly the television flicks off. "What the hell?" The sound of heavy combat boots and frantic voices pass by the room as distant gunshots echo out from somewhere else in the building. James remains tied to his chair, staring at the blank television screen, as a few words hang in the front of his mind, "virus....mindless, bloodthirsty freaks." His brain is racked with confusion as he absentmindedly listens to the commotion outside. "What the fuck is happening?"