Saturday, December 4, 2010

week thirty-four: zombie a week

The following is the third chapter on Story a Week's sister site, Zombie a Week. Zombie a Week is an online serial novel where a new chapter is posted every Tuesday. Like Story a Week, each post is in its raw, rough draft form. This chapter comes from the story's prologue set in 1960's Russia. Zombie a Week can be found here.

Facility 117, Unknown location in Siberia, Russia
October, 1962

“The American blockade, which they refer to as a quarantine, has deterred our cargo ships from reaching Cuba. This is not a defeat, as the Soviet Union still has missiles which threaten the capitalist dogs. They are afraid and they are cowardly!” For must Russians, these lines would have stirred something. Pavlov didn't see a reason though, especially not while his fever worsened. He could still work, but his head hurt now and it got worse as the hours went on. Suddenly, the lights and the television died as a loud jolting sound echoed through the halls.

The red emergency lights took over as the guards ran towards the electrical generators. Pavlov followed. The first soldier pushed open the door and immediately asked, “What happened here?!”

Pavlov looked inside to see Tokovsky standing over Sidovor's burnt body before a blown fuse box. Tokovsky replied, “He seems to have been electrocuted.”

“How?” The guard insisted.
“I do not know; this is how I found him,” Tokosky replied. His composure was remarkable, “Carry his body to his laboratory. I will fix the fuse.”

“His laboratory? Would it not be better to take him-”

“Do as you are told!”

“Yes, comrade!” The two soldiers looked at one another, but quickly obeyed. This was how things worked in the Soviet Union. One grabbed the dead scientist's feet and the other his arms.

Pavlov waited until they were gone before he shut the door. He angrily asked of Tokovksy, “What have you done?”

Tokovsky shook his head as he worked the fuse box.

Pavlov again growled, “What have you done, doctor?!”

The lights came on as Tokovsky answered, “I have done what is necessary.”

“You're insane!” Pavlov snapped.

“Do not talk to your superior in that manner!”

“Oh what? You will kill me as well!?”

“I am warning you!”

Pavlov grabbed the head scientist and slammed him against the wall, “When I am out of here, I will ensure that all of Russia hears of this atrocity!”

Tokovsky laughed, “When I am finished, all of Russia will call me a hero for what I have done!”

Pavlov released him, “What do you mean?”

“Do you not see?” Tokovsky grinned. “Sidovor's compound! When we have proven that it works, the world will hail us as the greatest scientists known to man!”

“You're a madman!”

“Perhaps, but soon, I shall be a famous madman at the head of the Soviet Union when our mighty empire finally takes its place at the throne of the world!”

Pavlov only shook his head in disbelief, “And it does not work?”

“I will take that chance.”

“What about Sidovor, did he agree to take this chance? What of his family?”

“You want to save him for his family?” Tokovsky's grin faded. “Then you're only chance is to assist me and give the man his compound.”

Pavlov exhaled sharply, “Fine, we do it your way, but you will answer for this atrocity!”

“Now, come,” Tokovsky ordered as he walked out of the electrical room. Pavlov took a deep breath and followed. Everything in him wanted to deck his superior right then and there, but his reasoning was correct for the time being. Sidovor's only hope was his miracle compound.

They emerged to find the guards standing over the dead man on the floor. Immediately, Tokovsky ordered, “Clear the table and set him upon it. Pavlov, prepare some of Sidovor's compound for injection.”

“Where is it?”

The guards worked quickly as Tokovsky replied, “There is a supply of it in a beaker. You should recognize it.”

“I see it!” Pavlov replied as he drew an empty syringe and filled it with the fluid.

The soldiers placed the body onto the table as Pavlov approached. Tokovsky ordered, “Inject him.” Pavlov hesitated and then jammed the needle right into the dead man's neck. He wasn't sure how much to put in, so he put in half. “Put in another quarter; this is what Sidovor assured me was the right proportion for a human subject.” Pavlov obeyed.

“What is happening?” One of the guards asked. “What are you doing?”

“Just watch,” Tokovsky nervously smiled. The nervousness left as he raised his arms to the air and announced, “You are about to witness the finest moment in the history of the mighty Soviet empire!”

Sidovor's body began to twitch. The twitching turned into convulsions. “Secure him!”

The soldiers slung their rifles and grabbed the throbbing corpse by his arms. They struggled against the reflexive action, which grew stronger and stronger. Then finally, it stopped. Pavlov growled, “It failed!”

Then suddenly, Sidovor inhaled sharply and violently threw his arms up. After quickly looking around, he loudly grunted and groaned as he sat up. For a second, he calmed. The soldiers let him go. This was their mistake. This was a moment Pavlov would never forget because it would haunt him until the end of his weary days. Sidovor looked over, right at Pavlov. Their eyes. Sergei Pavlov would never forget the eerie, glowing blue stare. This stare was the forever stare of the world's first undead.

Sidovor grabbed the far soldier and knocked himself and his victim to the ground. The dead man plunged his teeth into the soldier, who hollered in pain. The others rushed to the brawl and it took both Pavlov and the second guard to pull Sidovor off. Tokovsky ordered as he opened the glass door, “Put him in the decontamination chamber! Quickly!”

As Sidovor struggled, the two living shoved the dead into the chamber. Quickly, Tokovsky shut the door and engaged the pressurized lock. Sidovor growled, grunted, and roared as he frantically banged and slammed on the glass. Both the soldier and Pavlov turned to Tokovsky and looked at him incredulously. But before Tokovsky could speak, Pavlov punched him in the jaw, knocking the head scientist to the ground. “Look what you have done! Your glory is not worth this price!”

The bitten soldier hollered in pain. Pavlov turned to him and watched as the other soldier helped him up. “Take him to the infirmary and treat his wound as best you can.”

“Nonsense!” Tokovsky stood to his feet. “Just apply some of Sidovor's compound!”

“No!” Pavlov snapped. “That compound is never to be used again!”

“We have seen that it does not have the same psychological effects when-”

“That does not matter! We will not use this compound ever again!”

The door suddenly opened and the facility's chief assistant, comrade Petrov, stepped through, “What is going on here?”

“Comrade, see to it that this man receives proper medical care for his wound,” Pavlov ordered.

The uninjured soldier helped his friend to his feet and carried over to Petrov, who asked, “This is a bite wound. How was he bitten?”

“Listen, comrade, this will take time to explain. I will explain it to you later, I promise.”

“I demand to know this-!”

“Comrade! This man is bleeding and needs medical assistance! See to it now!” Pavlov insisted.

Petrov folded and led the soldiers out.

Rather than continue to lecture Tokovsky, Pavlov decided on a new course of action. His illness had gotten worse and worse. The only thing he could think to attribute this to was Sidovor's compound. Seeing the affect it had on Sidovor, the logical thing to do would be to check himself out. Pavlov took a clean syringe and stuck it in his arm. “What are you doing?” Tokovsky asked.

“I must know if the compound will turn me into that!” Pavlov pointed to the still-moaning Sidovor as he removed the blood-filled syringe from his arm.

Tokovksy thought this through and then asked, “What can I do to help?”

“Prepare a syringe with some of your own blood,” Pavlov told him “We shall need a sample of normal blood.”

“Of course,” Tokovsky replied as he did what he had been told. It was not like him to take orders, but the situation definitely warranted a change, especially if he ever wanted an intact reputation again.

Pavlov dropped his blood onto a slide and put it under a microscope. He looked down at the sample and worked the magnifier. What he saw horrified him. He described it to Tokovsky, “The plasma seems unaffected, but the cells themselves are discolored and behaving somewhat erratically.”

“Then we must assume that you are infected,” Tokovsky said. “I will study Sidovor's notes and see if I can find something about stopping it. Perhaps there is a way to neutralize the compound.”

“I shall begin experimenting on my blood and see what I can do,” Pavlov said, but knew not where to begin. He knew very little about how the compound worked or even what it was really made of. Sidovor's prior explanation was too superficial to get answers, even though most would describe his explanation as in-depth.

They worked tirelessly for about an hour. More of the compound accelerated the rate of decay so much that the blood cells went absolutely haywire. It was interesting though that when he introduced the fully-decayed cells in with Tokovsky's pure cells, the bad cells acted as viruses and infected the good cells. He had never seen such a behavior change in a cell before. His fascination, however, was interrupted.

The bitten guard walked into the room, covered in blood. He walked with very little coordination. Something was wrong; very wrong. It was only when he moaned that Pavlov noticed him approaching. The soldier bore the same dead, blue gaze as Sidovor. He cried, “Tokovsky!”

Tokovsky turned just as the soldier grabbed him at the shoulders. The former head scientist shouted in horror as he tried his best to fight off the monster. But he was an older man and couldn't hold for long. Pavlov knew this. He searched for a weapon and found only a scalpel; barely a blade. This was the first time he had ever been forced to use a weapon on another human being. But this was desperate. He couldn't stomach hearing the soldier moan and grunt as he tried to make his kill. Hesitantly, Pavlov took his instrument and plunged it as deeply as he could into the back of the warped being.

The creature stopped its attack, but seemed phased not at all by the stabbing. It growled as it turned instead towards Pavlov. The scientist, who then strangely regretted his skepticism of Sidovor, back off until he fell to the ground. The twisted soldier reached down for his prey, but was stopped as a beaker shattered over his head. It was Tokovsky! The older man grabbed the soldier at the stomach and forced him to the ground, sending the table to its side with him. “We must get out of here!” Tokovksy cried as he extended his hand for Pavlov.

And he would hear no argument from Pavlov, who took Tokovky's hand and stood to his feet. Neither looked back as they exited the room. It was Pavlov who turned to the door and made sure it was closed. “Do you have your keys?” Pavlov asked.

Tokovsky checked his pockets, “No, comrade, I must have dropped them!”

The soldier screamed as it slammed itself against the door. “He will break through that!”

“We must seal him inside! Grab whatever you can find!” Tokovsky ordered as he put himself against the door.

Pavlov nodded and then went into the lab behind him. Inside, he found a Bunsen burner and a full cylinder of kerosene. He dragged it out to find the metal door already heavily dented and the small window on it shattered. “Watch out!” Pavlov said as he lit the burner and put it against the door frame. Slowly, it melted and welded together. When at last it was complete, the two stopped to take a breath.

“Petrov and the other guard!” Tokovksy exclaimed just as they both rushed down the halls to the infirmary. There was blood smeared on the sterile walls and floor. When they arrived, they found the infirmary a mess of blood and flesh. Both AK-47 rifles were there on the floor, but the room was abandoned. Tokovsky was speechless.

Pavlov knew what to do. He picked up the rifles and checked the ammunition. Both had full magazines and were ready to kill. “Take this,” Pavlov told Tokovsky. “Trust no one.”

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