Be still my heart.
I always thought the apocalypse would start with a bang. Brought on by some trigger-happy politician too long mired in a corrupt office to see the world as it could be. The signs were all there; our historical decent into madness. The world wars, the horrors of the atom bomb; the desire for bigger, better weapons of mass destruction that hinted humankind had learn nothing. Then there’s recent war against ‘terror’ that seemed to fight terror with terror… But my point evades me. Let’s just say, if the planet turned to a thermonuclear wasteland over night I would not be the least bit surprised. Instead we have… drum roll please… Zombies. Rambling hordes of the undead with an insatiable desire for flesh. A geeks paradise. And my, Susan McCloud, that’s me, personal hell.
So, there we have it, it’s hell on earth. And what am I doing at this very moment? Helping the panicked gits whom brought this doom upon us by being a lab-rat for the ‘cure’. Admirable, right? I wish. Truth is I’m because I have to be. Found a lump on my breast half a year back, and well you can guess from there. By the time I had started chemo it was already wrecking my organs. So what’s a girl to do when she’s dying and desperate? Sign up for medical experimentation, apparently. Ended up on the ‘Fountain’ project with the aforementioned gits too busy playing god to recognise potential disaster staring them in the face. How were they playing god? Haha… The fountain As in the Fountain of Youth. I know, right? Trying to cure death… Experiments which my wrecked body was perfect for. If it worked, it showed the value of such a product, and if it failed… Well, I wouldn’t be a liability for very long.
Of course, it all went horribly wrong. There was an accident with one of the early serums. It had been injected into a chimpanzee, Z, whom promptly became a rabid terror. Didn’t die though, oddly enough. Something in the small margin of DNA difference protected the shit-flinging bastard from the biggest side effect of the scrapped drug. Then Some radical animal rights activist, with delusions of grandeur, broke in with the intent of sabotaging the project in a publicly humiliating fashion by releasing all test subjects into the streets. Insert some Z face-munching and a impromptu escape into the night and you have the idea. Authorities had Z and the others test subjects rounded up by the following day; but by that point the damage was done. The real panic started when the activist’s shambling corpse was found in an abandoned warehouse downtown. It hit the news like a flash bang and then the arse-covering began… as did the human trials for a cure. Bringing us full circle to me, egomaniac extraordinaire, the crash-test dummy.
I was not eager, to put it mildly. There I was, hooked up to medical equipment getting the run down on procedures from the one man on the premises I could remotely stand by that point, (infecting the local population did nothing for my level of trust in their competency) trying not to ponder the irony of trading one horrible death for another. Matt must have caught on to it too, because his final words were, “Don’t worry, I’ll look after you.” Said with that care-free smile too. Sweet, adorable, nerdy liar. We both knew he was mucking about in uncharted waters, but I swallowed my inner cynic. Matt had been a great source of support during my time with the project; I would allow him some trust. Putting on an air of false perkiness, I replied “How could I be worried when I’m in such capable hands,” then swung my legs in the sterile, medical bed. I proceeded to make myself comfortable, (because I was going to die comfy, god damn it), only to be startled by his warm hand on my shoulder. My gaze met his, and I’d like to say it was electric but Matt’s smile was only there for professional necessity. Those beautiful green eye spoke volumes of gratitude and… regret? Sorrow? With my face straining under the first genuine smile I had managed since the C-word, I said, “I’m a tough cookie. Besides how could I have been go could I put anything but smile on such a handsome face.” Smooth, real smooth. Flirting on my death bed. One thing about the shadow of death, it removes your inhibitions and at least I was flirting and not downing, snorting or injecting illicit substances; well medical ‘miracle’ serums excluded. Of course, my ill-timed flirting failed. It was in his eyes. Whatever else he was feeling had only been reinforced by my words. I swiftly placed my hand over his, filled with sudden determination to live in spite of everything. Matt was always good at reading my posture, I noted a spark of hope in his expression as a response. Then, because death waits for no one we were interrupted by one his colleagues via the intercom. “If you’re just about done, perhaps we could be getting this procedure under way.” I rolled my eyes at the reproach in the feminine voice. God, of all people to oversee this, they had to pick her. In better times I would have called her my rival but with the differences in out position she more like a callous boss whom is intent on quashing me like a bug. Today she might well succeed. Matt removed his hand to activate his mic. “Hold your horses, Louise, must I remind on the particulars on human dignity that we must maintain?” Ah-ha, there’s another reason I liked him. Matt put the humane in human experimentation. Strict moral compass, god-complex aside. Louise’s response was venomous, “I’m fairly certain the codes of conduct outline the difference between humane treatment of subjects and unprofessional relationships.” I repressed a snicker, I knew the shrew was just jealous, but the slightly embarrassed look on Matt face was priceless. And interesting. And worrying. All at the same time. Had I had more of an affect with my mostly harmless flirting then I realised? If so, this was a bugger of a time to find out. The expression was gone before I could ponder it. “I’m starting now. Start quantine lockdown on this room. Set to my access code,” Matt stated in an eerily cold tone. I’d never seen him look so… hard. The intercom crackled, the pause ominous. “… Are you certain? If something goes wrong only you will be able to get in or out.” I froze, as the awareness of the danger Matt was putting himself in hit me. Before I could protest Matt commanded, “Do it. If something goes wrong follow quarantine procedures. I recommend the same for other subjects. This thing is too dangerous to allow to spread any further.”
“… Understood. I relay that to other personnel. But… No… Never mind, I’ll be here to run any tests you need.” Matt swirled back towards me, face unrecognizable under to grim mask of professionalism. This was a side of him I never liked; that part of him that made him exactly like git-clones he worked with; but, hey, it takes bees to make honey. I refused to let my resolve waiver as he prepared his syringes. Kill or cure. 50/50. At least that’s what I told myself. Pro: might live. Con: spend after life brain-munching. Pro: saviour of the know world. Con: death, deathy, death, death. Trepidation’s a bitch, but hey I have nothing to loose; I’m dying anyway. “Susan, are you ready?” Matt asked, depositing his payload on the steel table next to the bed and leaned in to meet my gaze. I resisted the urge to jump up right there, it would dishonest to ignore the fear coiling in my belly. I tilted my head, smart-arse, knee-jerk reaction ready, “Sure, darlin’, just don’t mistake the poison for the placebo. I’d hate to get all melodramatic for no reason.” My smirk threatened to injure my cheek muscles. Then I noticed how watery Matt’s eye appeared. Crap. You idiot, Susan. Matt, you bigger idiot, you should have passed my case too someone else if it affected you this much. Instinctively my hand found it’s way to his cheek. “Matt… are you sure you want to be here?” Matt gently removed my hand, aware as I was of the cameras, and gave it a quick squeeze before releasing it. I pulled it back almost defensively, though god knows who I was defending. Him? My own pride? I was never good with displaying emotion and as necessary as his actions were, the slight rejection hurt. Not that I’d let that show. The smirk was back, bigger then ever. Matt looked away, slouching ever so slightly. “… No one should go through this alone… And I…. … Let’s begin. We covered the drug earlier, but first things first I’m going to give you a sedative, okay?”
“Hmmmmm, a sedative, I think I can li… deal with that.” I replied as he lined up the syringe with the drip connection and pushed the plunger. I felt his hand on mine, “Really… Matt you are too kind for this… line of… work…” There was the brief sensation of pressure on my lips. What a nice last thought….
Author Notes: Sooo one hand I’m really pleased with how this turned out given it started as a free writing exercise. But I have too say: What the hell is this?! It starts out as a zombie fic, easily explained by the time I spend on the zombie genre, but then… Romance? What in the world brought that on? Is it a compatible mix?