Dr. Linz

So, I met someone yesterday. Her name is Nora. She's two years younger than me. We met in the market. I saw her walking into the building as I was walking out. We made eye contact for a split second, and I got a chill down my neck. So I hung around outside and waited for her to come out, made myself totally visible, and waited to see if she introduced herself. She did.

"I saw you walking out. And. I don't know, I felt like I needed to say 'hi', so... Hi." She seemed to be having trouble making eye contact and kept rubbing the corner of her shirt in her hand.
"Hi. I'm Dahlia," I answered, "How are you?"
"Dahlia... I'm Nora. I'm okay. I just got here, I've been walking a while. Is there anywhere I can meet with a doctor?" She looked tired. Her hair was dirty, dusty, a little matted in places. Her skin was loose and she was rail thin.  She looked like she was starving.
"Nora, where did you come from? And what kind of doctor do you need exactly? You've got a worm, right?" I took a little step back, just in case.
"Worm? Yeah. It's still working, but it needs cleaned. I came from... I don't know. I came from my dad's house. I got out and ran and ran... I need someone to look at my leg. I fell when I was running, and I cut it. It hasn't healed yet. I'm getting worried. Is there a doctor anywhere?" She swayed a little and I worried that she might be about to faint.
"Honey, I'm a doctor. I can help you. Let me take you back to my place and I'll see what I can do about your worm and your leg. I can't touch you til we get there and I get you decontaminated, though. Just in case. Will you be able to walk about half a mile?"
"Yes, I can, I think."

I led her up to the house. Took her around back as quickly and quietly as possible so Gramma wouldn't see her. I gave her a clean outfit and we used the hose and alcohol soap to disinfect her before she got dressed. Afterwards, I looked at her leg. It wasn't healing. That was for sure. It also wasn't bleeding, though. I have never seen anything like it. I did some more basic tests, checked for little things like fever and brain damage and such. Basically gave her a little checkup. When we tried to test her eyesight, though, I found out that she can't read.
"Daddy never let me go to school. He was scared I'd get sick," She apologized when she couldn't name any letters I wrote and held up at the other side of the room.
"Don't worry about it. It's not a big deal right now. We can worry about that later," I said as I sat on the chair in front of the couch she was sitting on.
"So, I'm going to be okay, right?" She looked worried, although she seemed less dizzy now that she had some food and water in her.
"Well, I don't know what's wrong with your leg. It's not healing, it's still as raw as if you had just cut it today. You said you did it a few days ago, so it should either be oozing some white stuff, starting to mend itself into a scar or else it should be bloody and painful from being reopened. It's doing neither. It's like it's dead. You can feel it, right?" I asked.
"Yeah, it hurts. And, this will sound weird, but it's bigger than it was when it happened. It was just from here to here," she pointed from the middle of the abrasion down an inch. "Now it's almost three times as big. I've been very careful with it. Haven't touched it. But after the first day, it stopped bleeding and started to just hurt, deep into my flesh. Down to the bone. And now it just aches all the time."
"Well, I'm going to draw a little blood, and I'm going to look at it under a microscope and see if I can find anything that might help us figure this out. Is that okay?" I stood and walked to the sink and started washing my hands.
"Yeah, whatever you have to do," She said with a sigh.
I used some rubbing alcohol and a rubber tube and pulled out a little blood from the inside of her elbow. It wasn't easy, as the blood didn't seem to want to come out. It dripped very slowly down the tube. When I finally pulled the needle out, there was a little red dot where it had been. There wasn't even the usual bead of blood that comes out of the most anemic patient.
"Okay," I said. "Let's get you set up and ready for bed. I'll work on this blood in the morning."

I smiled as I left the building to find some blankets and pillows. She had mentioned during our walk to the house that she enjoyed drawing, so I dug around and found some old crayons and blank paper and asked her if she could draw me a picture if she got bored. She said she would.

Anyways, I just woke up, so I need to go out there and check on her and start working on her bloodwork. I think I'm going to make some biscuits for everyone's breakfast.


[Non story related post]

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Define "mistake"...

I have been here for two months now. The thing about having time on your hands and no real way to spend it is you get ideas. I got one about a month ago to use my current job pulling weeds as a doorway to my true calling-researching the monster that destroyed my world: PTA. So, I've been collecting pieces and trading extra food at the market for special requests. I traded my green beans for a child's science kit from Mr. Toren, which was only missing a petri dish and a couple slides (which I easily replaced with screens from old cell phones I've been collecting.)

I found an unused file cabinet and some plexiglass windshields from a dump a few miles away. Along with other various supplies. I've been going down there once a week. It's quite an experience. I got the directions from Gramma, and I take the jeep. It's just a huge lumber yard, full of stuff. Trash, furniture, tools... Some things are whole, most things are broken or damaged. I walk through with a large tote and the second time I came out here, I actually found a dolly that works pretty well. So I use that for big stuff. It's strange walking around that place. Just random stuff piled around. Out of use. Probably most of the original owners are dead.

Yesterday when I went, I got to the center and as I lifted a beam to inspect an electric cooler underneath, a dead body rolled out at my feet. It was a young woman, her hair was gone and she was wearing nothing but torn white underpants and bra. Her skin was so thin that in some places it was translucent. I could see her rib-bones peeking out of her skinny chest. Her eyes were stuck open. Green. Dead.

I didn't really know what to do at first. It didn't really look like PTA, at least not the way I'd ever seen it. It's possible that she had contracted a slight version, different from what happens in large cities, and had simply starved before PTA could take her. Either way, I didn't want to touch her with my bear hands. So I got in the jeep and pulled on my respirator and gloves, and wandered til I found a tarp that had only a couple small holes, and was large enough to wrap around her several times.

I know, bringing her into town was stupid. Bringing her this close to my grandmother and myself was idiotic. Keeping her in the makeshift lab I've constructed is insane. But I don't know what came over me. And now she's here, and I don't want to get rid of her. I did a biopsy, and according to the patterns of erosion on her brain, she seems to have been infected, but I think the parasite was in a severe state of lethargy, because there are big patches where it dug in instead of around. Like it got stuck, or tired, and just sat there and ate until it got energy enough to move again. I've never seen or heard of anything like this before. This could be my chance to make myself safe from the government! If I can decode this new strain before it becomes another pandemic, it would make me infamous. They wouldn't dare to touch me if I were that kind of hero. And there's the chance that this strain can be cannibalized into something that actually destroys the parasite. What if this is the answer? I could pretend like I never knew about the whole brain thing at all! That I left the base to study this strain, to find a cure, like I never even knew about any of this at all! I could say I wanted a change of scenery.

So I can't return her body. I can't dispose of it. Of course, if Gramma knew what I was doing.... She would be mortified. Kick me out and burn the lab. I know it. And she probably should. I probably should. But I can't. If this could be the answer to the question I've been asking for so long... If there's even a chance that this could help...

I'll be careful. And I'll pretend like nothing's going on. But I can't just abandon this. It's my responsibility, my duty, my calling, to do anything and everything I am capable of to kill this bug, once and for all, without harming healthy people. And besides, she's dead. Really really undead. The bugs in her head are dead. So there's no threat. As long as nothing unforseen happens, the bugs will stay dead in her head, and everything will be fine.