Death of the World
It had been a year since the Croat virus developed by Light Bearer Industries had ravaged the world. Richard Headstrong had put the Alpha Omega Corp. building into lockdown the moment. Everyone else that worked for the company and even some that they had offered shelter for when the infection was released got locked in as well. Richard had been testing everyone daily to make sure no one was infected. Richard had some people get in that were infected. He knew the symptoms: lethargic, red blisters, irises of the eyes turning completely white, and then eventually death.
Richard sat at his desk in the lab going through slides of blood that he had extracted from the infected. He had tried every known antibiotic on this biological agent. With all of his education and experience with the Alpha Omega Corp., he couldn’t find a cure for Croat. The more he looked at these slides, the more frustrated he got.
“Any good news?” Richard heard from behind him. Steve, another scientist at the lab and friend of Richard’s, was looking over his shoulder. Richard turned away from the microscope to face Steve.
“Nothing,” Richard responded. “I don’t understand this, Steve. We’ve thrown everything except the kitchen sink at this thing and nothing. How can that be?”
“Richard, there are diseases that we have never found the cure for before Croat. Cancer and AIDS are two examples,” Steve said.
“True, but we have found treatments to slow those diseases. However, Croat, not even close. Those poor people outside these walls are either dead or dying. And we can do nothing for them,” Richard retorted back. He put his head into his hands. Steve stood up and put a hand on his shoulder.
“You’ll find it. I know that if anyone can you can.”
“Thanks, Steve. But right now I’m not believing that at all,” Richard sighed.
Steve walked out of the lab and looked back at Richard. Richard was starting to look much older than he really was. He was only in his mid-thirties but he looked like he was approaching fifty with all the work and stress he had been putting on himself. Steve thought that for some reason Richard blamed himself for the Croat virus being introduced to the world. However, Steve couldn’t understand why. Steve walked away with hope that Richard would stop putting the weight of the world on his own shoulders.
Richard sat for a while on his stool just thinking. He decided to take rest seeing as he was getting nowhere. He grabbed the T.V. remote to see if anything had improved since the last time he checked. Nothing but static. When Croat was released, it only took a month before everyone was either plague-ridden or seeking refuge in secure buildings. Any buildings not sealed airtight had been infected just like the rest. All the news stations, radio, and newspaper ceased.
The world went to hell in a hand basket faster than anyone could have expected. Richard couldn’t help but think he could have stopped this before it started. It was the mole that worked for Light Bearer that had reported back to them all the research they had done on every virus and bacteria there was. He had found out who it was but didn’t move fast enough to stop him. Just like any other corporation, Alpha Omega had channels that had to be gone through for any grievance.
Richard had let the static play as he remembered. He turned the television off and left the lab. He went to his office that he had also been using as living quarters. He grabbed the bottle of whiskey sitting on his desk and walked to his makeshift bed. Richard drank about half of the bottle before drifting into slumber.
Down the hall in a different science lab, a young man stood in front of a group of people. His name was Jim; he was one of the scientists that worked with Richard for five years. But today he and his followers were meeting to discuss their grievances.
“The good doctor hasn’t even come close to a cure yet. How much longer must we wait to leave this tower of white and grey? This fortress has six stories of people living in them and many have been becoming stir crazy,” Jim proclaimed. The group all agreed. “We must get back to the world that we abandoned a year ago. There will never be a cure.” The posse hurrahed with excitement. All agreed that it was time for a change. In the back corner, Veronica watched this all unfold.
Richard’s dreams were filled with torment. The diseased that he couldn’t save lay on slabs in a long hall. All of their dead eyes were staring at him. Then a flash and all he could see was himself standing on clouds. The blue sky and bright sun were all he could see. After a moment, he went into a free fall into a sea of black. Richard awoke with a start.
“What the hell was that?!” he screamed. He was soaked from head to toe in sweat. His heart was beating out of his chest and his head was pounding to the same beat. He had some major issues to work out. Why did he blame himself for this calamity? He didn’t create the virus. He didn’t even know about it until it was too late. A knock came from his office/bedroom door.
“Who is it?” he asked.
“It’s Veronica. It’s passed noon. Are you ok?”
Veronica was a nineteen year old girl who had started her internship with Alpha Omega before the virus was released. She was short with blonde hair and bright green eyes. She had supported Richard as he searched for a cure.
“I’m fine, Veronica,” he responded. “Thank you for your concern. I’ll be out shortly.” Richard turned to the side and let his legs hang off the edge of the bed. He held his head, his elbows resting on his thighs. He had a killer of a hangover. He got up and got dressed. Once the haze of the morning had faded away, he headed out of his office. He went to the lab and found Veronica looking at slides.
“Hello, doctor,” Veronica voiced.
“Hi, Veronica. I’m sorry for worrying you. Just had a long night. I had some gnarly nightmares probably brought on by too much drinking,” he said.
“I see,” she answered. He could see the disappointment in her eyes, a look he did not like on her face.
“I apologize, I know you don’t approve of my drinking. I’ve just had a lot on mind, not being able to find a cure for Croat is for disconcerting.”
“Apology accepted, doctor,” she smiled. “I think you should talk to the populace in the building. They are starting to get restless.”
“It’s been just over a year, it’s only natural people would want to see the world. To see if we can survive out there or if there is a way to rebuild society. Will you tell them to meet me in the café in a couple hours?”
“Of course, doctor,” Veronica replied. She walked out of the room. Richard slumped onto his stool. Now he had to prepare a speech as to why people shouldn’t leave. He had to convince them to let him find a cure before even attempting to break the air seal to the building. How could he do it? Did everyone trust him enough? There were over a thousand people in the building. Could he convince them all?
He went back to his room to start preparing. He started writing down key points that he could bring up. One of which was they didn’t know what to expect. They could see out the windows but they were in the middle of New York City. There were buildings everywhere. Another was if there were any people left alive outside of the walls of Alpha Omega, had any adapted to the virus and if so what were the repercussions of that adaptation. Were they mindless creatures? Had it evolved humanity in some way? There were just too many variables.
He finished his list and decided to head to the café, where undoubtedly everyone would be waiting for him. When he reached the café, there were only a handful of people waiting for him. He decided to wait to see if anyone else would show up. He made his way to the front of the café to make sure he would be heard and seen by everyone who decided to attend. Shortly, several hundred people came pouring in. Richard had hoped that there would be more than just a few.
“Good afternoon, everyone,” he greeted. “Thank you all for meeting with me on such short notice.”
“What’s going on?” someone from the crowd chimed.
“Good question. The reason I called you all here is that I’ve heard rumors of people wanting to leave the building,” Richard responded. “I want everyone to know that I understand someone of you want to venture out. However, I’m standing here to tell you that is a dangerous notion.”
“This is preposterous!”
“How do you know it’s dangerous out there?!”
“Everyone, please calm down and let me finish,” Richard said calmly. “As far as we know, the virus is still rampant out there. We don’t know if anyone else has survived or if anyone has how they’ve adapted to stay alive. I know that we have all been getting a little stir crazy after being cooped up for a year, but without a cure there is too much at stake.”
“You are no closer to a cure than when this outbreak started,” Jim said.
“I will admit that the progress for eradicating this plague has been slow moving. Nevertheless, I feel I am close to a break through. Please just give me a little more time,” Richard reacted.
“Your promises have lost their meanings, doctor,” Jim retorted. “Why should we believe you’re remotely close?”
“All I can do is give you my word that I will work night and day until we can fight this horrible disease. I’m asking for time. If I don’t deliver in a week’s time, I will open the doors and you are all free to do that you want,” Richard answered. Everyone in the hall murmured to each other. What would the verdict be?
“You’ve got one week, Richard. But only one and if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain when you don’t find a way to fight the curse that infected the world, we will break down the doors ourselves.”
Everyone marched out of the café remembering the promise that was made. Even Richard himself felt the crisis had been averted for the time being. He walked out of the café feeling very accomplished about his speech and being able to come to an agreement with everyone. He noticed Veronica leaning on a wall, smirking at him.
“You did very well,” she commented.
“Thank you, my dear,” he answered. “I fully intend to keep the promise I made as well. I’ll double my efforts if I have to.”
“You better, or you will have a riot on your hands,” Veronica giggled. “Would you like to come back to my room for a night cap?” Richard stared at her for a moment. He never thought Veronica any type of romantic feelings for him. However, he was so wrapped up in his work to even notice.
“I appreciate the offer. I have to finish this,” Richard said sheepishly. “Will you take a rain check?”
“Of course. Good night, doctor,” Veronica responded.
“Good night, Veronica.” As he said his farewell a wave of dread hit him. What if he couldn’t deliver? What would he do if he couldn’t? Would he truly open the doors and let the chance of the virus getting in? His head swam. He walked back to his room. As he walked in he grabbed what was left of the bottle of whisky and sat on the bed.
As he sat looking at the bottle, the same wave of questions hit him again. He still didn’t have the answers to any of them. He opened the bottle and started to indulge once again. It didn’t take him long to finish the bottle. As the last drop hit his tongue he dropped the bottle, laid back, and drifted into a sea of blackness.
“Richard, wake up,” a voice called out to him.
“Hhrrmm…who is it?” Richard grumbled.
“Someone who is here to help you.”
Richard opened his eyes to see a young man, in his early twenties by the look of him, sitting in the chair next to the bed. He had platinum blond hair, pale blue eyes, and wore a white suit and shirt with black slacks. What surprised Richard was the young man wasn’t wearing any shoes.
“I’m sorry, do I know you,” Richard said.
“No, but I am here to aid you nevertheless,” he answered.
Richard sat up in his bed. The scene that surrounded him baffled him, however. His bed and chair were sitting on the fluffiest white cloud he had ever seen. This couldn’t be real, he thought to himself.
“Wait a minute, am I still asleep?” Richard asked very perplexingly.
“Yes. It’s the only way I could get you to listen to me. You see, Richard, I’m an angel of the Lord,” the young man answered.
“What’s your name?”
“My name is unimportant,” he said. “What is important is the information I have for you. I can help you with the virus problem.”
“Well don’t leave me hanging. Spit it out!!” Richard exclaimed.
“There is no cure for the Croat virus,” the angel said. He watched as Richards enthusiasm waned. “On the other hand, there is still a way to keep everyone that is still left alive from suffering it’s ill effects.”
“How have many of the so-called plagues that have not effected humanity for many years? A vaccine. Creating the vaccine should be relatively simple, you still have the blood samples you collected. That is how you will save this world and these people,” he replied.
Richard sat straight up in bed. He was back in his room with no young man or clouds around him. Once again, Veronica was banging on his door.
“Richard, not again!” she hollered. Richard got up and ran to open the door.
“Veronica, I know how I’m going to beat this virus!”