01 Feb We’ve just discovered the most bizarre virus
Alright, long story short – my name is Cam and I’m a virologist. If you’ve never heard of that title, it’s just a person who studies/researches viruses and any biological agents resembling them. It’s a decent job. Pays well and keeps me interested. I’ve never really thought about pursuing anything else.
That was until last night. We’ve discovered something very bad.
I was part of a 5 person team in a small lab situated up in the mountains of a western European country. I’m not going to give too many specifics here.
The project was spearheaded by a particularly exceptional microbiologist. Let’s call him Hathaway. Now, Hathaway had been on vacation for a while in South America. Everybody who worked closely with him or knew him well thought this was incredibly strange. I mean, the guy never took a break. However, it all made sense when he came back.
He looked like absolute shit. There were heavy bags under his eyes and scratches all over his face. He was jittery as all hell and could barely string together a coherent sentence. As we would learn later, he was never actually on vacation. I guess you could say that it was more like a business trip of sorts.
Apparently, he’d been in contact with a colleague of his based in Chile. He’d been informing Hathaway about some peculiar events occurring in a small village near the coast. Something to do with a potential unknown disease. The specifics remained a mystery to us at the time. All Hathaway said was that it was worth looking into. What worried a lot of us were the cuts on his face and forearms. When asked about it, he simply claimed that he’d fallen down a few times while hiking. Without knowing what else to believe, we just bought it. Besides… the prospect of studying a new virus was incredibly intriguing. This might have been something big.
We got to work right away. As the five of us – me, Hathaway, Jake, Beth and Collin, congregated in the main lab, Hathaway carried in what appeared to be a fortified glass tank containing a single bird. I think it was an Andean Condor, native to Chile. I’ll be honest, I was a bit worried at that point. We didn’t even bother asking how he got it past border security.
“Tell me this isn’t some derivative of the bird flu”, Jake asked.
“No.” Hathaway responded. “I uh… I have no idea what it is, actually.” We all collectively raised our eyebrows at this. “You see, it’s definitely not airborne. You can also touch the bird as much as you like, nothing’ll happen to you… it’s transmitted some other way.”
That’s when I noticed that the bird was actually blindfolded. I don’t why I hadn’t earlier. Why nobody had even pointed it out. I guess my subconscious wasn’t expecting such a bizarre sight.
“Don’t tell me it has something to do with that” I asked, pointing to where its eyes should’ve been. Everybody else seemed to catch onto the strange detail. Hathaway stayed quiet for a second, staring at the ground before finally nodding.
“Are you kidding me?” Jake inquired. “How does that work?”
“Wait, what the hell’s even wrong with the bird?” I found myself blurting out. Although, it was a fair question. Upon initial glance at it, nothing at all seemed to be off. The only somewhat strange thing was that it hadn’t moved much.
Hathaway sighed. “Not at first, right?” He dug around in his bag and pulled out another, smaller tank. It was filled with beetles. “We’ll do a demonstration here.” He walked over to the bird tank and dumped all of the beetles in.
“Jesus Christ…” I heard somebody mutter from behind me. Once Hathaway was finished, he turned back to us. His expression at the time was dead serious. In the gravest tone that I’d ever heard come from him, he spoke to us:
“I’m about to take the blindfold off of the bird. Whatever you do, don’t look at it. In fact, just leave the room. I’ll tell you when you can come back.”
I think that we all hesitated for just a second when he said that. What the hell was going on? Eventually, we all just did as we were told. We stood out in the hall in absolute silence for maybe about 3 minutes. At that time, I couldn’t understand why it took so long for him to take a damn blindfold off. But then the noises started.
I… I can’t even find a way to describe them. They couldn’t have come from a bird, that’s for sure. Or at least, they shouldn’t have. If anything, it was like a screech, except extremely deep and guttural. And also… somehow discombobulated. A few seconds later, we heard Hathaway screaming expletives. It sounded like he was in pain. We stood there frozen, not knowing at all what to do. Eventually, we were called back in. Hesitantly, I went first.
As soon as I stepped in there, I saw Hathaway disinfecting his hand, which was now cut open. As he started wrapping it up, I turned my attention to the bird. It looked the same as it was before. The only difference was that it was covered in beetle guts. So were the glass walls of the tank.
After we’d all settled down from the initial shock, Hathaway tried to explain what the hell had just happened.
“Here’s what I think: Somehow… this virus is transferred upon direct eye contact with an infected specimen-“
“What the fuck?” Jake interjected. “No… no fuck that, it makes absolutely no sense!-“
“You think I don’t know that?” Hathaway interrupted back. “Just listen, alright? Anyways… there aren’t any immediate indications when something’s been infected. They’ll act exactly the same as they were before. At least at first. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when they start changing. I’d say maybe three hours, tops. But once they do… you notice. The best thing you can do is to blindfold them. That way, you can’t get infected, and the subject loses all of its symptoms. Well… I suppose that the best thing to do is to actually blind them but… I had to demonstrate first. Now we just have to figure out what the hell’s actually going on.”
After that brief and albeit somewhat unsatisfying explanation, we went to work. But shit only kept getting stranger.
After we’d blinded and killed the bird, Hathaway instructed us to start dissecting the brain. At first, we were tentative. After witnessing what had just happened, we were scared as hell of contracting whatever the hell it was that the bird had. Besides, we weren’t even trained surgeons.
However, Hathaway insisted that the only way this virus could be transmitted was by eye contact. As strange as this all was, we just went along with it. His reasoning for dissecting the brain first was that he’d made the assumption that this virus must be affecting the host on a mainly psychological basis. As it turns out, he was right.
Once the brain was exposed, we noticed something truly inexplicable. Something was moving around in there. We all turned to Hathaway, hoping for further explanation.
“It’s a parasite?” Beth asked, looking mortified.
Hathaway shook his head, looking incredibly confused. “No… it shouldn’t be. The bird’s been alive for weeks after infection. I see no signs of physical deterioration, no nutrient deficiencies, none of that.”
We were all absolutely baffled at this point. What kind of fucking virus is large enough to be visible? We just stared at it, not knowing what to do. Then out of nowhere, the brain started bulging outwards. Hathaway’s face dropped.
“It must know that the host is dead. It’s trying to come out.”
Thinking quickly, I went and grabbed a nearby beaker. I managed to trap the thing just as it burrowed its way out. I really didn’t know what the hell to expect at that point, but it didn’t stop me from being completely surprised at the appearance of the thing.
It looked… absolutely alien. It nearly resembled a bacteriophage, expect for the fact that it seemed to have tiny suction cups covering it. The head also appeared to be partially mechanical, with tubes protruding out and connecting to the legs. It was about the size of a black widow spider.
I heard a cacophony of screams ring throughout the room, while Hathaway shouted at me to not let it out. As everything started settling down, we managed to transport it into another glass tank, this time smaller and more fortified. We spent the next 12 hours observing and analyzing it. The conclusion that we came to? It made no fucking sense. We couldn’t classify it nor make sense of its various parts. Hell, the thing was too fucking huge to be any kind of pathogen. We would’ve written it off as some kind of undiscovered jungle creature, but the fact remained that it seemed to affect the behaviors of its host organisms.
Eventually, we decided to just secure and leave it, planning to continue our research the next day, even though that was unlikely to yield any solid results. Most of us even considered just turning it over to the government. We sure as hell didn’t know what to do with it.
However… Hathaway declined that proposition.
“We’ll figure out what it is” He claimed, sounding somewhat unconfident. “This is big, alright? I’m not letting it go just yet.”
Tired as hell and not wanting to get into an argument, we all decided to head off to our separate temporary dorms in order to get some rest.
What a big fucking mistake that was. We should’ve burned that thing right then and there.
I remember lying in bed that night when a troubling thought creeped into my head. If the way that this virus was transmitted was by making eye contact with an infected organism, then wouldn’t looking directly at the virus itself cause something similar to happen? How the hell would that even work? Did it replicate through our thoughts? Or did it need to control optical nerves in order to spread? How could that even make sense? But then again… none of this really did. However, I did recall Hathaway claiming that symptoms would surface three hours tops after the initial infection. It had been a hell of a lot longer than that. Being somewhat reassured, I passed out.
I woke up about four hours later. I groggily rubbed my eyes, wondering what could’ve taken me out of my slumber. I’m usually a very deep sleeper. As I awoke back into reality, I heard it:
Somebody was mumbling down the hall. It sounded like Jake. I got up and opened my door, planning to confront him. I stepped out and saw his silhouette, shrouded in darkness about twenty meters away. His back was turned to me, so I prepared to call out. That’s when I felt somebody cover my mouth and pull me into an adjacent hallway. Reeling at the initial shock, I looked behind me and realized that it was Hathaway. I was about to shout at him once he let me go, but he motioned for me to be quiet. I also saw the desperation in his eyes. I stayed silent as he gestured me back towards the lab.
I realized that we were fucked as soon as I saw what had happened. The reinforced glass tank where we had been holding the virus was empty. Whatever this thing was… it was out.
“Don’t look into his eyes.” Hathaway told me, in reference to Jake. “We weren’t careful enough… it must have infected him.”
“Did he open the fucking tank?” I asked him.
He shook his head. “No… no way. You need a password for it. It’s not even written down anywhere, only I know it.”
I looked back at the tank in abject confusion. There weren’t any cracks on it or anything. There was no feasible way out.
“The how the hell-“. I began to ask him, but he cut me off:
“Look, I don’t know. Maybe there’s a lot more about this thing that we can’t understand.” He sighed, throwing his hands behind his head.
My mind started racing. If this virus… or whatever it was, could’ve escaped at any time, then why didn’t it make a move earlier? This thing must have been smarter than we’d anticipated. I guess it somehow knew that it had a better chance of escaping when nobody was monitoring it. But how did it escape?
My thoughts were interrupted when we heard a knocking coming from outside the lab door.
“Hello?” A voice called out. It was Collin. I got up to open the door, but Hathaway pulled me back down.
“What the hell?” I barked at him. “Let him in before he sees Jake!”
“What if he already has?” Hathaway responded. And then I thought about it. It takes around three hours for the symptoms to manifest. So even if he’s been infected, he wouldn’t know it yet.
“Uh… the hell are you guys doing in there? I can hear you. Let me in, Jake’s being really fucking weird. It’s actually kind of scary.”
“Weird how?” Hathaway asked.
“Well, he woke me up when he walked past my door. Actually, I think he was standing right outside. Yeah, he was mumbling something. I opened the door and asked him what the hell he was doing. It was dark, but I could tell that he was just staring at me. And then he started rambling… it was absolute nonsense. He was stringing words together, but none of it made any sense.
“After a while of him not responding to a word I said, I gave up and walked past him. That was like 5 minutes ago. Look are you guys gonna come out or what? What are we supposed to do?”
Hathaway and I exchanged worried glances. If Jake really was infected… then so was Collin. We didn’t move.
“For fuck’s sake, what are you doing?” Collin went on, sounding more agitated now. “Is there a reason that you won’t let me in?”
That was followed by silence. A few seconds later, we heard him mumbling something:
“Shit… tell me that Jake wasn’t infected.”
I guess our silence was enough of an answer.
“No… no fucking way! So what happens next? Hathaway! What the hell am I supposed to do then?”
Hathaway just sighed and shook his head. “I… I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
We heard him shout some more expletives before walking away, fuming. We sat there for a while after that, having no idea what to do.
“Is there an emergency escape in here?” I asked him.
“No, but it wouldn’t matter anyways. We can’t let those guys out of here. I’ve yet to see what effects it has on a human, but it can’t be anything good. And don’t even ask me about a cure. I don’t know.”
“So what are you saying?” I asked him, dreading the answer.
“Best case scenario is that we blindfold and restrain them before they show any signs of aggression.”
He sighed, looking down at the ground before continuing.
“And then we hand them over to somebody else… somebody who can deal with this. We sure as hell can’t”
I know who he meant by that. I guess he just didn’t want to admit it. Hathaway pulled out two rolls of duct tape as well as what appeared to be two tranquilizer guns. I didn’t bother asking why he had them. Slowly and quietly, we opened the door and walked out into the hallway. The lights above were dimmed, so we could see, but not that well.
I was terrified at this point. I kept thinking about that damn bird. I didn’t see what it actually did, but the results spoke volumes. I did not want to witness how that translated over to humans.
We walked down various corridors for about five minutes before we heard a soft voice to the hallway left of us. It was Jake. This is roughly what he was saying:
“In time… where in time? I… it doesn’t make sense? I know that it doesn’t. So what do I do? I can’t stay like this…”
Obviously, this made no sense. What was even weirder was his tone. It wasn’t devoid of emotion. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He sounded genuinely confused and afraid. Barely making any sound, Hathaway peeked past the corner, his vision aimed at the floor, presumably trying to avoid eye contact. However, as soon as he did this, he screamed and jumped backwards.
I asked him what he’d seen, but he wouldn’t turn to face me. A second later, I found out why.
“I saw him… I saw his face. When I peered over, he was lying on the floor, staring right at me. Fuck… ”
I stumbled backwards, horrified at this sudden revelation.
“Don’t worry” He told me. “I’ll take care of Jake… and then I’ll take care of myself. Just go find Collin. And be more careful than I was.”
Without needing further conviction, I turned and ran the other way. As I did, I heard the sounds of a struggle and Hathaway screaming out in pain behind me. There was also… laughter, for some reason. Hysterical, deranged laughter. It sounded nothing like Jake.
I ran across corridors, making sure to only look to the walls, so that I could just see in front of me from my peripherals. I nearly jumped out my skin when I heard somebody call out from behind me. It was Beth this time. I’d nearly forgotten about her in all the panic. However, I wasn’t taking risks. I raised the tranquilizer pistol towards her general direction.
“What’s going on?” She asked, sounding terrified.
I responded curtly and directly. “Have you looked into anybody’s eyes since we left the lab?”
She let out a near whimper, “No… no why? Oh god… don’t tell me…”
“Yeah. It’s out.” I told her, still aiming the weapon at her.
“Fuck… well, I haven’t made eye contact with Collin, alright?”
Now, I suppose that most people would’ve let up in this situation. She obviously wasn’t infected, right? But there was something wrong with what she just said. Why did she mention Collin specifically? Why didn’t she just say that he hadn’t made eye contact with anybody? In addition to that, something about her tone was off. It was like a bad actor trying to deliver a line.
I didn’t know how to react, so I just froze there. Eventually, Beth started speaking again:
“Is that a tranquilizer gun? Because that won’t do anything.”
Before I could even react, she lunged at me. I closed my eyes as I felt her nails dig into my skin. And then into my face. She was trying to forcefully pry open my eyelids. Luckily, I had about 90 pounds on her, so I managed to throw her off of me. The whole time she was assaulting me, she was letting out some kind of extremely deep, throaty chuckle, as opposed to Jake’s boisterous hysterical one.
Beth got back up in an instant and lunged at me again. This time, I managed to put her into a chokehold. However… she wouldn’t go unconscious. I must have held her there for about three minutes, but her relentless scratching eventually made it a task too difficult. I pushed her away and started running.
As I bolted out of there, I could hear her coming after me, still letting out that disturbing chuckle. The weirdest part was that I could also hear her palms hitting the floor. Was she fucking crawling? I didn’t try and find out. I ducked into an adjacent lab and locked the door behind me. I heard her clawing at it from outside, so I just lied down of the floor for a while in order to catch my breath. God, she was still fucking laughing. What the hell was going on? Wait a minute… I thought. The laughing was too loud. It sounded like it was coming from in the room. Hesitantly, I checked the door. I nearly had a heart attack at what I saw.
She was… halfway through the damn door. But it was still closed. I could see her arms and face poking through the metal. Safe to say, I left immediatley. Thankfully, there were two doors in the room, so I ran out into an adjacent hallway.
I just wanted to get out of there. I started running frantically, trying to search for an exit, or a window, or… anything. At that point, I was quite disoriented. I couldn’t place where I was in the building. I still remembered to stay cautious, however.
My heart nearly leapt out of my chest when I saw an illuminated exit sign. I followed it and was finally lead to the door I entered through. However… Hathaway was blocking the entrance. He was hunched over, covering his eyes with his hands… and they were dripping blood.
“You know I… I just feel weird right now. Not like myself, you now?” I heard him utter out.
I tried thinking about it. Had it been three hours since our encounter with Jake? Surely, it hadn’t been. I guess he eventually heard me, because he shifted himself towards my direction.
“Cam… is that… is that you?” He spoke, in a soft but somewhat threatening tone. “I don’t know what happened. I tried killing Jake but he just wouldn’t die… I think it’s coming now. I feel weird. What’s happening to me? Can you tell me, Cam?”
Right after he said, a loud roar emanated from some corridor behind me. It was followed by what sounded like rapid crawling towards our direction.
“Don’t worry about me, Cam… I always make it.” Hathaway kept going. “I always make it… I… won’t make it.” He then fell to his knees, sobbing hysterically. I took the chance and bolted out the front door. As soon as I got out, I grabbed a bundle of nearby sticks and jammed the entrance. I’m pretty sure it won’t last long but… it was the best I could do.
I got into my car and sped down the mountain trail, back onto the highway. I got home about thirty minutes ago and I have no idea what to do. Should I call the police? Are they even going to listen to me? What about the FBI? Surely that’s the best option here. I’ll probably end up doing that soon.
That virus cannot spread more than it already has.
God, when I saw Beth’s face coming through the metal door… I don’t think I can ever forget that. And her eyes… they looked like something straight out of hell. Her pupils were replaced by what looked like this dark purple vortex, it was all so fucked up.
I made eye contact with her, didn’t I?