The touch plague? Yes, I certainly know about that. It’s been all over the news.
“I am familiar with the touch plague, but perhaps you could elaborate on some of the details?” I ask.
Marks nods. “As you’ve probably heard from the news reports, it’s quite possibly one of the deadliest diseases that has ever appeared on this earth. We’re still not sure exactly what caused it—our best guess is that two viruses came into contact with one another and combined, but that’s all it is, a guess.” He pauses to take a breath.
“The first known case happened in Bathurst, Australia approximately three weeks ago. The patient came into the emergency room at Bathurst Base Hospital with skin that was gray in colour. The patient was also very lethargic. Doctors had no idea what had caused this, so they put the patient in quarantine. About 20 hours later, the patient had stopped breathing and was pronounced dead on the scene.”
I gulp. I certainly never read that information in any news report.
“A doctor who dealt with the patient for a minute or two ended up leaving shortly thereafter. He had already missed a flight to London, England for a guest lecture at a university because the hospital was understaffed that night and needed him. So he left for London and delivered the lecture as scheduled. Naturally, many people came up to him after his talk and shook hands with him, asking how his medicinal practice was going. You can probably guess where this is going. What we didn’t learn until later was that not only does the virus spread by skin-to-skin contact, it also takes 24 hours to show any symptoms. And once it’s spread in the body, it only takes about 24 more hours to kill the host.”
That much I know. but I still don’t want to believe it. I remember reading some of the reports of various countries going into a bit of a frenzy once the reports started coming in. People were coming down with the “plague” in Italy, France, Belgium, Morocco… The list goes on and on.
“For a while, we here in North America were fairly safe. Our governments were extra careful about who they did and didn’t let in and out of our countries. But as I mentioned, the virus takes 24 hours to spread before anything is noticeable. The Canadian government issued a special message to us five days ago letting us know that a case of touch plague had made its way into Canada.” Marks says the last few words as he would speak the end of a fairytale.
“Okay, so… Again, what does all of this have to do with me?”
“Right. Well, once we got the message, Cornelius Laboratories got to work finding those who might be immune to the disease. We moved swiftly by first going through medical databases for a specific strand of DNA that only a few carry. You’re one of them.”
“So that means I can’t catch the disease?”
“That’s correct. You’re very lucky,” Marks says. What he says is starting to make sense, but there’s one glaring problem with what he’s said so far.
“Alright, so I’m immune to the disease. But why isolate me then? Shouldn’t your labs start quarantining other people?”
“You’re very perceptive, In most cases, yes, the government warns people to stay indoors or wear masks, things like that. But in this case we needed to find those with an immunity because we might, by studying their DNA, figure out a way to manufacture a cure. That’s where you come in.”
“Why kidnap me then? I probably would have come with you willingly.”
“We didn’t want to take any chances,” Marks says sheepishly. He looks genuinely embarrassed. I’m pretty pissed off that this happened, but given the circumstances there’s not too much I can do. Besides, Marks might be able to provide more information on the plague than I currently have.
“And I know what your next question is going to be. The reason we haven’t performed any tests on you thus far is that this particular lab building isn’t equipped with all of the necessary materials for testing. That one, as you might guess, is in Ottawa. This is just a temporary sterile quarantine chamber.”
“I guess we’re going to Ottawa, then?”
“That’s correct, Ms. Stiles. I’ll leave the room while you change.” Marks does just that and when he closes a door, a panel beside the bed slides open revealing a closet. In it are clothes, every single item being in a plastic bag. It’s only then that I look down at myself and see that I’m wearing one of those gross hospital gowns. I take it off and choose a blue t-shirt and black pants.
“Okay, I’m ready,” I yell, hoping Marks is only on the other side of the door. He is, and the door immediately opens again. “Why do all the clothes need to be sterile? I’m immune, aren’t I?”
“Yes, but the rest of us aren’t. The plague can live on more or less any surface until it comes into contact with a living host. Again, we can’t take any chances. Now, if you’ll follow me.” Marks doesn’t wait for my reply and begins to walk out the door. I follow, looking around at my new surroundings immediately as I leave the room. I try to look for a possible method of escape, but the hallway is just as featureless as my room. Cornelius Laboratories’ official motto really should be “There’s no escape.”
We walk for what seems like days (it’s really minutes) until we reach a garage. The only vehicle there is a large, box-shaped vehicle. This is what we’ll be traveling in? Marks seems to sense my dismay.
“Yes, it does look a little strange, but it’s essential. It’s basically a plague-proof vehicle. Once we get in the car, it starts to emit a high-pitched frequency that human ears can’t detect but are killers to the plague germs. We get into the car, Marks in the driver’s seat and me in the passenger’s seat. I look inside the car and then look behind me. I nearly gasp. What the hell are two shotguns doing lying on the back seat like that?
“Oh, those?” Marks says. “Well, one can never be too careful.”