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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2139439
Weird Tales Entry - The price of salvation
Dr. Soh leaned back in his chair and blinked helplessly at the pages of test results. Infection rates, toxicity readings, and side effects scrolled by. He couldn't think, couldn't bear to stare at the monitor anymore. Instead, he found his feet and began to pace. The reports he cared about were those coming from the news. Men and women with unnatural hunger and rotting faces were walking the streets, attacking passerby, chewing on any protruding limbs, and infecting them. Dozens had appeared throughout the state in the past week, and no one knew why. Dr. Taylor's team was examining tissue samples night and day. Dr. Soh was trying to anticipate the next strain of influenza. The research required top security clearance: it wasn't his job. It was maddening, but there was nothing he could do.

But no, George Soh wasn't built that way. He'd studied medicine to save lives, and the same drive that had brought him to the top of his class in Johns Hopkins was directing his feet to Dr. Taylor's office. He despised the man, of course: his coffee maker had more warmth and empathy (granted, it was hard to compete with coffee). But if there was anything he could do to solve this new mystery, he'd do it. Whatever red tape he had to cut through, whatever clearance hoops he had to jump through, he'd suffer - even if it meant working with Taylor. It was time to tell him so. He knocked twice, then stepped through the open wooden door into the Director Taylor's office, and closed it silently behind him.

Except the man had apparently just left. Typical. The man spent most of his hours disappearing into some meeting or other, schmoozing with government types. He could come back later, except - Taylor's computer was still on, and the screen saver hadn't yet locked it. Soh blinked, then peeked toward the office door. If he could look, just for a minute, maybe his questions would be answered.

The Director's seat was still warm, and the Outlook notification for his current meeting still on the desktop. Good, he'd be gone for an hour, then. George tabbed over to the project Necromorph file, still open, and began to read.

"Subject tissue shows shrunken capillaries from decreased blood flow. Living specimens show greatly decreased metabolism and caloric consumption. Mental activity still present, but the cerebrum shows atrophy. When satiated, the subject is biddable but is highly susceptible to mood swings, and hyperactive base drives: hunger, thirst, anger, fear, and sex drive. This is in distinct contrast to the milder cases."

So, they were running tests on human beings in-house. It made sense, but that certainly wasn't public knowledge. Dr. Soh skimmed through, then picked another report, an older report.

"Most test specimens retain normal function. Independent action is decreased, but fatigue and metabolic consumption are greatly reduced. Both dogs and cats become strikingly more obedient."

Dear God! This report wasn't about the analysis of an unknown disease. This was about serum development! Biotech En-motion had the most advanced labs in the industry, but that wasn't why it was doing the research. It was following through. Dr. Soh's blood ran cold.

"Ninety percent of subjects retain the majority of critical and motor skills, but appear to lose nearly all independent will. When asked to cut their own arms, all subjects complied. The experiment terminated after two subjects nearly died from blood loss, having severed arteries. No serious side effects noted. Requests for larger sample sizes denied due to secrecy concerns."

Dr. Soh, eyes wide with horror, looked up as the office door opened and Dr. Taylor entered, forty minutes earlier. He opened his mouth to explain, but the Director raised a thin, bony hand, and spoke in his reedy, emotionless voice. "So, you know."

George, to his shame, only opened his mouth and closed it, no sound emerging. Calm, dark eyes read his horror like a book and were unmoved by it. It was long seconds before George was able to stand, able to mouth a single question. "Why?"

Dr. Taylor's chuckle was mirthless. "Then you don't know, not fully. The strain mutated, and the effects were magnified several-fold. Then came the side effects. Have you seen who the people voted for, what vile causes are bringing mobs with torches? Have you observed what anti-intellectualism has wrought? The first global warming paper was written in 1967 and predicted the current temperature curve nearly precisely. What have humans done about it? We've lived with nuclear weapons for decades, but how long until they are used? Human beings are largely incapable of thought, incapable of doing what must be done. At least, not without help. The neural degeneration and necrotic skin are rare side effects, even with the mutation of the virus. A few in a thousand. Sit down, Dr. Soh."

George remained standing.

Dr. Taylor tsked, and lifted his phone. "You didn't get your yearly vaccine, did you? I wondered why you've been so troublesome. Security will see that you take your medicine."

George, shocked, nonetheless had the presence of mind to dart for the door, bowling the vile scientist over.

Dr. Taylor only laughed, where he still lay on the floor. "Seventy percent of the population is vaccinated, now - the children by law. There's nowhere to run."

Outside the door, a dozen men in blue coats, with weapons by their sides, advanced, at a slow walk. With no emotion in their eyes. The one in the back held a needle.
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