The Last One’s Plague

Aadith Ratish
The Last One’s Plague

“Darkness. That was all Zephyr felt. It was one of the rare times when he had gotten scared. His arms and legs turned cold. Beads of sweat formed on his temples. He started to hyperventilate. He had no idea where he was, what he was doing, or even what time period he was in. He could not remember his past and wanted answers desperately.”

Darkness. That was all Zephyr felt. It was one of the rare times when he had gotten scared. His arms and legs turned cold. Beads of sweat formed on his temples. He started to hyperventilate. He had no idea where he was, what he was doing, or even what time period he was in. He could not remember his past and wanted answers desperately. The only things he could remember were his name, an explosion in a lab, and… something about him surviving a genetic breakdown.

Zephyr had been in that exact spot for a whole night. Or more. The sun rays had found their way through the cracks in the concrete that encased him. He felt heavy, weary, and solid. He tried to move his legs, but couldn’t. He forced his arms upwards and pushed away the concrete on top of him. He found an isolated metal rod that gave him leverage to help him remove the concrete that was lying on his feet.

On the ground near him, he saw a dead person. He ambled up to examine the corpse. The eyes were not in their sockets, and the skin around the mouth and nose were peeling off. Dried blood was on the ear lobes, the skin under the eyes, and the philtrum. The person’s body looked like he or she had not eaten in several days. The skin around the chest could not be seen, exposing the rib cage and the shrivelled organs underneath it. He bent down to inspect the lung. It had several dark spots and looked like it had imploded or had been eaten from inside out.

“Ew!” he exclaimed.

As he stood up, he looked around at his surroundings for the first time. Worn down, abandoned buildings with broken windows and paint peeling off of the walls. Fires, raging inside the buildings and smoldering the grounds near them. Smoke was rising into the air from various places, intoxicating all the oxygen, and giving a pungent taste to the air. The blazing sun had camouflaged itself into the vain, orange sky.  Dawn became dusk.

Smoke clouded his lungs. His throat felt dry, and his eyes felt like they were on fire, thanks to the dust that was polluting the air. His clothes were torn and ragged, showing off his once lacerated skin. On his shirt pocket, there were large bold letters: O-M-E-G-A.

Did I work there? He pushed that thought away. His shoes were piles of mud. He assumed that it had come from walking around on the turbid puddles on the ground. Nasty.

As he looked up from the ground, he saw a shrewd building. It was a bit bigger than the size of an average house. If he squinted, he could make out the larger version of the letters on his shirt on the front of the building.

“Omega, huh? Seems like a pretty big deal!” he shouted. His voice broke the sound of silence, with the exception of the roar of the fire.

He walked over to the once architectural masterpiece. The doors would not open, so he went in through the rear, watching what each of his feet stepped on. When outside, it looked like a modern house some rich guy owned, but when inside, it looked like a high-tech, next-level lab of some sort. Although it was completely obliterated, he thought it looked kind of classy, apart from the broken windows, of course.

Zephyr traipsed over to the nearest fallen desk and picked up a file. He opened it up to see a table with multiple names:

1

As he looked down to the bottom of the list, he saw his own name.

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And the page stopped there. He wanted to… No, he needed to know more.

He went over to another desk and picked up another file. Nothing. He picked up a file on the floor. Nothing. He went over to a cabinet that had fallen over.

Subjects: List A-180 – A-230.

Weird, he thought. There were only 228 people, but the label said there were 230.

“Maybe they got the label before starting the program,” he laughed to himself.

He kneeled down and reached for the cold, rusted metal door. He yanked at the handle; it wouldn’t budge.

“Locked? Darn it!”

He sauntered towards a misshapen piece of metal. He firmly grasped at the part that looked like a pole and went back to the hindering cabinet. He brought back the metal and swung down with a brutal amount of force on the hinges of the door. The screws came out the side.

“Nice!”

He took another two swings at the other hinges, and one of the doors popped right off. He groped inside at a handful of folders and pulled them out.

He found the one with his name on it and picked up a chair from the ground.

“This should be interesting.”

He sat down and started reading the file’s contents:

screenshot-2016-12-22-at-11-35-07-am

Was this really his past? He struggled to remember the past. Struggled to think about where he came from. His wife and son. Were they still alive? If they were, where were they? Questions raced through his mind. The rest he thought was just a bunch of junk about his genes and some survival stuff.

He scavenged what was useful: some frozen food, two-and-a-half bottles of water, and a flashlight without batteries. Maybe he would find some. He also took the clothes off of some dead guy and put them on. Gross, but still better than his. After an hour of scavenging, he also found a nine millimeter pistol (not that he would need it) and a picture of him with a lady holding a child. Maybe his wife and son? He had found a blade that he could use for cutting things, a lighter, and a torn, worn out backpack. He put whatever he could inside and left the building.

Nighttime. The sky was so clear. Stars visible every time he looked up. He somehow knew the names of some constellations. Orion — the hunter. Both Ursa major and minor — the great bears. Gemini — the twins and other different star formations.

The cold was killing him. He sat down and pulled out his old clothes — yes, he had kept them — and used his shirt to wrap it around his body. He took out his lighter and lit his old pants on fire for warmth. He opened his backpack and took out some of the frozen food. He was lying down in a small hole formed by the fallen rubble outside the lab. The light of the moon found its way into the nooks and crannies of the top of his shelter. He closed his eyes and slept a dreamless night.

He woke up at the first light and made his way back to the lab. He had to find a way to contact another person. He rewired the satellite dish on the top and connected it to a broken holo computer on the ground. He pulled off the energy cable and connected it to solar panels on the roof. Nothing. It was not getting enough energy. He made a series circuit and connected a transformer cord. The light blinked on. Yes! He took the headset off a corpse on the ground and plugged it into the auxiliary port.

He spoke into the microphone: “Hello. If you are receiving this message, please trace the signal back to origin. Please try to make contact. Broadcast this message near you, so that we can gather together to do something about our present situation.”

He took apart the mainframe of another broken computer and installed it into the one he was using. He formatted it so that when he received a message, it would amplify an ear-piercing screech to let him know that there was someone there. Over the course of the next two weeks, he tried sending out smoke signals and shouting for anyone who was possibly near him.

He had gotten quite familiar with his surroundings, so he knew where everything was. A demolished supermarket was his new source of food. Dusty, moldy, cold food. A condominium that had fallen down was where he spent the night. The lab’s computer room was where he was during the whole day.

After spending a month or two surviving, he went over to the open computer screen and searched up how to clone. A few websites came up. He wasn’t expecting it to work, since he assumed that the ISP servers were down. That was great! He pulled up a website saying that he first needed an advanced gene separator and a cloning machine that could process the chip. He would then take a sample of his blood and give the genetic code to the machine, and a clone of him would grow in the capsule on the back of the device.

This was starting to seem impossible. But he had to do it!

***

6 weeks later

Zephyr had finally built the cloning machine. Metal combined wires and glass. Next-level genetic processors and the latest technology installed. It was a beautiful sight to see. Hard work and sleepless nights had gotten him what he needed. Hunger and fatigue had consumed him over the past few weeks. He had lost his strength. Mentally and physically. He had been thinking about where his family was and what they were doing.

Are they dead? Maybe after the repopulation of the world, I can go and find my family.

All he needed now was a sample of his blood, and his genetic code would create a clone. The blood was easy, but how would he get his genetic code? Back to the internet.

The internet was no longer available. The servers must have crashed. What now? He treaded over the dust covered concrete and went to the old cabinet to seek guidance. He got down to his knees and pulled out some books. He found one that said “GENETICS” on it and put the other books away. He moved his hand along the front of the book, both dusting the cover and feeling the cold, rough, red leather.

The book had said that the process of extracting somebody’s genetic code required two people. You had to take a cell sample from the blood sample and decode it. The danger in this was that because there was only one person, taking a cell sample could infect him with the virus going around. It would infect the open wound and go into his bloodstream. His anti-gene would fight it, but would it be strong enough? He would have less time to decode it and push the big red button on the machine to finish the cloning process. If he did this, there was a high chance that he would die without the clone. But the chance of dying with a clone gave him a sliver of hope.

He got to work. “Step One: Find a sterilized syringe,” he read out loud. That was easy. There were many of them in the cabinet in the infirmary. He took one out and went back to the device. “Step Two,” he continued, “Extract blood sample.” He had to do this quickly. After this, he did not know how much time until he turned into the other corpses. It was a risk he had to take.

He jabbed the syringe in his right shoulder and took some blood. The impact hurt him, but when he took it out, his arm immediately became half-limp. The plague was in the air, and it was infecting his wound and weakening him. His arm was becoming pale, and the black spots started becoming visible. He had to hurry. He skimmed the next few steps and rushed all of them.

Every minute that passed by, he got closer to death. The black spots started to take over his skin. He had gotten his genetic code in a test tube and dawdled with it over to the machine. He stopped for a second and looked outside. The buildings started jumping up and down. With each jump, a part of them fell off, showing off the metal rods and pipes holding it together. The ground started swaying left to right to left. The first building fell into the other, creating huge dust clouds. The sky turned a dangerous grey, and the sun parted from the sky. The building started shaking. Earthquake.

He had to hurry. His arms started to lose skin. Bones became more visible. Blood clouded the vision of one of his eyes. His mouth and throat became dry. His hands became sticks, and one of his knees buckled. He crashed face first in the ground. Scars covered his face. He crawled over to the machine. Another great shake. The machine fell over. The tremors became more common. The ceiling was falling apart. A huge piece of concrete crushed his leg. The blood warmed his body. He was stuck. Since his leg was already limp, he decided to cut off his leg. He grabbed the nearest sharp piece of metal. His bones gave a crack. He could feel each strand of muscle tissue disconnect from the other half.  The pain was unbearable. The pain lead to rage.

He would not go down without pressing the button. He crawled using his only available limb, his left arm. His head vibrated. Something was growing in there. Time was running out. He reached the machine. He opened the datapad and activated the gene reader. Another tremor, and he lost hold of the test tube. Time slowed down as the beaker made a leap out of his hand. The beaker broke, and the contents poured into the datapad.

“Yes,” he exclaimed with a smile on half his face.

The bleeding had worsened. His intestines had caught onto something and unwinded as he moved. He saw his liver fall out of his fleshless belly. His torso had multiple openings and bled violently. Blood came out of his chest. One of his eyes fell out, and he could not open his mouth without puking out liters of blood. His throat shrunk, making it hard to breath, choking him. Taking him closer to the Light. His face was losing skin by the layer, and his ears would not stop ringing. The rubble around him cut off his air supply. The toxic air had burned the exposed skin. This was pain. Living hell. Mental and physical torture.

The button was inches away from his hand.

“Start,” it flashed.

So close. The button was taunting him to press it. He did not have the reach. Another tremor. The rubble was caving in. He could feel the energy radiating off the button. He screamed as he gave it all to stretch. He pressed the button.

He had done it! Saved humanity. He could die knowing he did the right thing.

As he closed his eyes, the ringing went away, and he heard a robotic voice.

“ERROR, INSUFFICIENT AMOUNT OF ENERGY!!! CANNOT PROCESS DNA STRUCTURE”.

The rubble caved in, and he couldn’t feel the pain anymore.

 

 

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