These creatures that surrounded my team, seething with hunger, with anger…. waited. Their collective mind leaned back on its haunches and waited. More gathered, some slowly and some quite excitedly. I’m never quite sure what they wait on, but they always do. When there was more than one within proximity, they always wait until about five or six of them surround us to attack.
Now though, my team of fifteen faced….thirty, maybe more. Sputum and blood and viscous liquids spilled from the infected’s lips freely. Their stench was that of a corpse in the sun, rotting. Though along with the putrid smell came the smell of human. Came the smell of dirt. Of sweat. Of hard work digging deep into the bone on a hot day.
When the first one lunged, twenty nine followed. Their waxy skin stretched under excitement as each and everyone of them spread their cheeks wide baring teeth rotten and yellow.
We had several people on the ground around the convoy and several more atop the vehicles. Their guns trained, aimed and fired. Four went down in the first wave, several more in the second. I knocked off a few as shots rang above me; some tranquilizers and some bullets. Some dead, some saved.
It was a very formulaic process. Triage. Step one is to shoot them all. During step one, use your judgment as to whether or not you were shooting to kill or shooting to save. All of the targets had to be hit to move to step two. Step Two, sort and sift. Salvage what could be salvaged and discard the rest. We usually burned them out of respect. The infected we retrieved would go into truck one and overflow into truck two. They would be sedated for about two hours which was plenty of time to arrive back at Vaccilita. There they would go through decontamination and curing. The process of curing was on a case to case basis, but for me, curing took about a month before I could reenter. Reentry was the goal. Reentry was the key to the future. The key to healing this god forsaken race of ours.
When we arrived back at the facility, we unloaded the infected. Still sedated, still very stinky, very heavy sacks of potatoes. I laid one after the other onto decon tables that drained into the floor below. By this point, I was dressed with gloved, a buff, and plastic boots. It tended to get dirty and wet in decon. Several of my men stayed behind and helped unload.
I jumped into truck two and scooped the last infected woman from the back. Her eyelids fluttered and a small moan escaped her pink chapped lips. “Hey guys, we’ve got one just coming around. I would finish up in there.” I gestured to everyone in the decon rooms, placing the last of the salvaged onto their own separate tables.
The woman in my arms wrestled with consciousness. She was a small little thing, barely a hundred pounds. Her brown hair was still rich in color and her skin, though still stained with sickness and death, still held the promise of life. I could feel her strength resurfacing and took that as a cue to get her to a decon table. As I leaned over, I pulled her in close to get leverage and paused. I could hear her heart quicken. Inches away from her chest and I could still hear her heart beat.
I had no time to think before I felt her teeth sink into my right shoulder. The sensation of each individual layer of skin tearing beneath her teeth burned with admonishment. Her hands flailed, struggling to grip my arms and once she clamped down, her fingers snaked around my bicep yanking me closer.