Chapter One â GUARDIAN by Alex London
At night, they disposed of the bodies. There was no ceremony, no ritual, no remembrance.
âTheyâre human,â some argued.
âTheyÂ wereÂ human,â said others. âNow theyâre meat.â
âWe have to study the infection,â said the doctor.
âWe have to contain it,â said the counselor and gave her orders. âBurn the bodies.â
A work detail was tasked with the burning. One by one, in the dead of night, green uniforms with white masks hauled corpses to the pile. The corpses were webbed with black veins, their entire network of blood vessels visible through the pale skin. Dried blood obscured their faces and each had a single hole in the temple by the eyes, where the killing bolt went in. They were put down like livestock, burned like sacrifices.
As the bodies crackled, the doctor watched the flames, her face half in shadow, half dancing in firelight. âI believe there is a cure for this,â she said.
The counselor, standing beside her, nodded, but did not turn to look her way. âYour cure is worse than the disease.â
âYou believe that?â
âItâs the truth. Your way is treason.â
âYouâre in denial,â the doctor said. âThis is going to get worse if we donât stop it.â
âItâs a new world, Doctor,â the counselor replied. âWe canât turn back the clock.â
âEven to save peopleâs lives?â
âTheseââthe counselor gestured at the bodiesââare not people.â
âIf it spreads?â
âIs it spreading?â
The doctor watched the young members of the work detail tossing the bodies on the pyre. They moved with the assurance of youth, the kind of attitude that
allowed them to stare infection and death in the face and believe it would never touch them. âI donât know.â
âIt is your job to know.â
âI can hardly understand it. The blood turns against the body. Itching, burning. Then, expulsion. Half of them bleed out.â
âAnd the other half?â
The doctor clenched her jaw. âThey havenât bled out yet.â
âThey are in pain?â
âThey canât communicate, but we have to restrain them to keep them from scratching their skin off with their fingernails.â The doctor sighed. âSo, yes, they are in pain.â
âPut them out of their misery,â the counselor ordered.
âBut, we can still learnââ
âThose are the orders.â The counselor walked away, two green uniforms trailing her into the jungle. The doctor took off her white smock, pulled the blue gloves from her hands with a loud synthetic snap, and stood before the flames. She watched her latest failed experiments turn to smoke and ash in the bonfire, every bit of blood boiled away, with all the information it might have contained.
She had ideas, dangerous to share; but if she didnât find a way, she feared, this sickness would go further than any of them could imagine. She would record a message in case she failed. She hoped that someone would still be alive to receive it.