When Ben called me to the Infirmary late yesterday, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I didn’t know if anything was wrong with one of the twins or if something had happened to the monster. I wouldn’t have put it past any of the parents of his victim’s to have attempted to exact their revenge. It would have been difficult with Lt. Lafferty and her officers guarding him 24/7 but that didn’t mean that it would have been altogether impossible.
The smell that greeted me was overwhelming and frankly terrifying. It was putrid and a smell that we had come to associate with death. And more importantly, undeath.
I hadn’t brought a weapon along with me, mainly because Ben’s messenger hadn’t relayed a need to bring one. My eyes scanned the room quickly for the closest thing that I could use to defend myself against an assault. Finding what I’m sure would turn out to be a flimsy melee weapon; I tentatively called out for Ben as I wielded the mop with trepidation.
Ben came around from behind one of the sheets strung up for privacy and immediately started to laugh at me. I must have looked pretty stupid but even I knew the smell wasn’t normal. He sobered up pretty quickly and drew my attention to the area that he had just come from.
On the cot lay a woman, her clothes and exposed skin dirty beyond anything we had ever seen. Her brown hair hid most of her dirty but ashen face. On her shoulder was a dirty, stained makeshift bandage that looked like it hadn’t been changed in quite some time.
Ben told me that one of the crew had happened to spot 4 people on the beach at Coney Island about an hour ago and had raced (well rowed very quickly) over to get them. The woman had been unconscious the entire time but 2 of the other 3 survivors had been adamant that she was not infected. They would not agree to get into the life boat unless she was allowed to come as well. Javier, who had taken over the day to day affairs of the ship had taken responsibility for the woman and allowed her safe passage. He knew that if the woman became one of the Undead that we could deal with it accordingly. His decision came not a moment too soon. Within the next few moments, the beach was crawling with the stumbling masses of the Undead, looking for fresh recruits.
As a precaution, I could see that she was already handcuffed to the nearest built-in fixture. No one was taking any chances.
Not sure why I was here, I looked expectantly at Ben. He just set to work, expecting me to play nurse to his doctor.
The moment that he removed the bandage the room filled even more with the smell of the infection. Ben dropped the bandage into a bedpan, doused it with tequila and tossed a lit match into the mix. It was one of the only ways that he knew to kill off any infection that may be harbouring itself inside the stained and pus filled folds.
Ben surveyed the wound. From the shape and size, it was obviously a bite mark. The distension of the flesh surrounding the wound belied the evidence of a deeper infection. It made sense. The smell could really only mean one thing: the possibility of sepsis.
Ben prodded the angry looking scab knowing that it would have to come off in order for the wound to drain. If they couldn’t get the infection out, there may not be any chance in saving her life. Unexpectedly the pocket of infection burst along the seam of scab and flesh, covering Ben in a layer of yellowish, fowl smelling liquid the consistency of clotted cream. Not the best of situations, but at least I was out of the line of fire.
After a moment of shock, Ben used what seemed like an infinite number of clean gauze pads and a pair of forceps to continually swab at the infection site. With each pass, he tried to clean away as much of the pus and blood as he could. The hole in the woman’s shoulder seemed to be getting bigger by the moment. It didn’t appear as if it was ever going to stop flowing out of her and it was a wonder that she was even still alive.
Once Ben was satisfied that the wound was finally finished oozing pus, he cleaned it with more tequila. It was the first time I witnessed the woman move. And she only moved enough to allow her hair to fall from her face.
My head snapped up to Ben, then back down to her face. Ben packed the wound with clean gauze treated with some topical antibiotic and bandaged her shoulder again. I left to find the 3 other survivors that had come in with the woman.
I found them in the Mess Hall getting something to eat. People were being very wary of them knowing that they had been brought in with someone who had been injured. No one had been given any indication as to what that injury might have been but rumours abound quickly in any community.
I sat down at their table, noticing the wide berth that everyone gave them, and asked them to tell me how they came to find the woman. This is what they told me.
Eduardo and Polly had been travelling to Waskaganish from New Mexico in the hopes of meeting up with Captain Kanelstrand and the cruise ship. Unfortunately, they couldn’t travel too quickly with Polly being close to 8 months pregnant and their Ford Pinto being unreliable. When they came into Waskaganish they found the town deserted. No cruise ship, no people, and thankfully no Undead. Just a bunch of abandoned cars and some buildings. They had intended to find a better vehicle since their old Pinto had definitely run itself into the ground and keep on going. The untimely appearance of a few of the Undead had caused them to duck into one of the buildings where they had found the woman and Jane. Jane had been crazed when they first found them but she had already been restrained by the other woman who had been bitten on the shoulder. Understandably they had been fearful that the woman had been bitten by one of the Undead and that Jane herself was one of the Undead. The woman assured them that she had been bitten by Jane ( and as a FYI, they named her Jane because she has yet to speak her real one) and that Jane was definitely not one of the Undead. They remembered her exact words “If you don’t believe me, look into her eyes”. Eduardo chanced a bite to get close enough to look. His reward was the crazed but clear gaze of the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen. The woman was right; Jane was not one of the Undead. This meant that the woman was not infected. Not soon after that, the group got back on the road, the woman taking the time to slowly coax Jane back into the land of the living. Little by little she was coming back. The woman was always on the search for a laptop or a Smartphone. Five days ago, we found a laptop in a house we were using for the night and knew that we had to get to the coast.
I looked at Eduardo and Polly with tears in my eyes and thanked them for bringing Julie home. She still wasn’t out of the woods yet but at least she had a better chance now.