"Kim, it's Michael." Cutting me off before I can reply, he continues. "Jon's dead. I'm here at his apartment now."
"Oh, God no!" Tears fill my eyes before spilling down my cheeks, my knuckles white as I grip the receiver tight. "How? When?" My mind racing as my heart feels as though it could shatter under the intense pain of my grief.
"I don't know," Michael finally answers after a brief moment of silence. "I've called an ambulance. They're on their way now, but Kim... oh God, there's just so much blood... " A loud sob echoes through the phone as he tries to contain himself.
"Michael, I'll be right there." Slamming down the phone before he can object, I grab my coat and head out the door.
* * * * * * *
The street is lit with the red and blue beacons of the ambulance as I park my car beside the curb. I see Michael talking with a paramedic, a blanket over his shoulders as he stares vacantly at his feet. One of the paramedics casually wheels a stretcher into the apartment as a police car pulls up alongside the team.
As I climb out of my car, Michael looks up. His eyes rimmed in red blotches, it's obvious he'd been crying as he forces a smile on his face when he spots me. Falling into his arms, we hold each other close.
"Mr. Gibbon?" comes the soft voice from behind him.
"Yes." Leaving an arm draped around my waist, Michael looks at the officer standing before us.
"I'm Officer Tracey Danson. I just need to ask you a few questions if you don't mind."
"I'll just be a few minutes," Michael whispers, placing a tender kiss on my cheek before moving aside with the officer.
While they talk, I take in my surroundings. Another police car has arrived, and the officers take a large black case inside with them as they enter the apartment. Making my way toward Jon's home, I am cautioned back by the paramedic that had been speaking with Michael earlier.
"You can't go in there, Miss." Leading me back toward my car, he nods at his partner as he emerges from the apartment.
Sitting on the curb, I wait for Michael to finish with the police officer. A tear making its way slowly down my cheek as I watch the commotion inside Jon's apartment. His bedroom lighting up as photos are taken, through the window I can see the outline of officers as they move around inside. My body feeling numb, my mind filled with thoughts of Jon as I close my eyes, blocking out the scene in front of me.
"You shouldn't have come here, Kim," Michael says as I open my eyes to see him standing before me. Offering his hand, he helps me to my feet. "Let's get you home. There's nothing we can do here."
In silence we walk to my car. As he holds the door open for me, we both look back at the apartment and sigh.
* * * * * * *
My head aching as I force my eyes open against the brightness of the morning sun. Looking down at my lap, Michael lays in the same position he'd finally fallen asleep in the night before. Neither of us had wanted to sleep, our conversations centering around what had taken place at Jon's apartment. Exhaustion finally winning the battle as we'd fallen asleep snuggled close on the couch.
Tracing a finger lightly through his dark hair, I sigh. It had been a grueling night for both of us, yet we still had to open the clinic. Raising his head gently, I slide my body out from under him and head for the shower.
The shower invigorating as the jets of warmth wash over my body, easing the tensions as I lather myself. Resting my head back I close my eyes, enjoying the sensations of the pounding water massaging my face. My mind going over the scene at Jon's place as I turn the taps off and reach for a towel.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," I smile, walking into the lounge as I towel dry my hair. Stretching, Michael smiles.
"Morning." Wrapping his arms around my waist, he pulls me close to him. "How are you feeling this morning?"
With a sigh, I shrug. "I'm not really looking forward to going to the clinic, but I want to go. If anything, I know Jon would want us to keep it open."
Moving a hand through his hair, he sighs.
"I know. It's going to be hard."
Noticing the dark stains on the bandage, I take his hand in mine.
"Hasn't that stopped bleeding yet?" Turning his hand over, I examine the bloodied gauze.
"Nah. I guess he bit me harder than I realized," Michael laughs. His expression becoming more serious as I slowly unwrap his hand.
"I'll clean it up for you. One sec, I'll grab some clean gauze." Moving to the bathroom, Michael follows close behind.
"I think I'll go get it checked before I head to the clinic," Michael says as I reach into the bathroom cabinet. Turning to him, my mouth drops open.
"Oh God, Michael." His hand infested as the large yellow puss filled welts cover his hand where Clyde's teeth had pierced his skin. The area surrounding the punctures swollen and covered in deep purple blotches, the infection spreading from between his thumb and index finger up to his wrist. "You have to get that seen to!"
"I'll stop at the emergency rooms on my way. You take the keys and open the clinic, I shouldn't be too long." Kissing me softly, he drapes his arms around my waist.
"Okay." Warily I look into his eyes, his face seeming somewhat jaundice.
Glancing at my watch, I gasp.
"I'd better hurry and get ready. Nathan will probably be there waiting."
Carefully wrapping the gauze around Michael's hand, I kiss the bandage before making my way to the bedroom. Pulling on a sweater and navy slacks, I quickly brush my hair and pull it back into a ponytail. Lightly applying some makeup, I check my appearance before heading out to the lounge.
"I'll see you at the office." Kissing him tenderly, I grab the keys and head out the door.
* * * * * * *
As I head my car toward the parking lot, I notice Nathan standing at the main entrance pacing nervously. Gulping, I park, knowing I'll have to be the one to break the news to him about Jon.
"What's going on, Kim?" he asks as I near the steps leading to the entrance. "The police have been here twice looking for Michael."
"Looking for Michael?" Looking at him quizzically, I unlock the main door to the clinic.
"They seemed genuinely concerned about his welfare, saying it is crucial they speak with him as soon as possible."
"I think I may know what it's about." Punching in the alarm code, I motion for Nathan to take a seat. Taking a deep breath I explain Jon's demise, wiping the tears from my eyes as they fall in streams down my cheeks. "Apparently his entire body was covered in blood, almost as though he'd bled from every pore of his body... " my voice trailing as a wave of fresh tears racks my body.
"Dear God," Nathan whispers as we both reach for the tissues. Pulling me into his arms, he holds me against his chest firm, allowing me to release the grief engulfing me from the innermost core of my soul.
The haunting howl coming from the rear of the building sends a shiver up my spine as I suddenly remember Michael's hand. Looking up with tear stained eyes, I sniffle as I step back from the embrace.
"I'd better finish unlocking the doors." Wiping my eyes, I grab the keys from the desk and head out toward the isolation room.
"Kim," Nathan says, grabbing my arm tenderly, "I'll unlock the rest, you go freshen up." Smiling gratefully I pass him the keys.
"Thanks," I manage to say in a husky whisper. With a reassuring squeeze of my arm Nathan heads out the back.
In a blinding instant it seemed that men in fully enclosed safety gear stormed the clinic from all directions. Their clothes reminding me of something out of a horror movie, with their masked faces and goggles, gloved hands and heavy white boots making them walk as though they were fighting gravity. Glancing out the front door of the clinic I see the police cars lined in a row as the storms of police officers stand around talking to faceless people through their walkie talkies as they cordon off the building.
"What's going on?" I shout as they move past me as though I didn't exist. Stepping back toward my desk as one of them towers threateningly over me, I look up into the piercing eyes of the man before me.
"Remain where you are, we need to secure the building," he says, his voice muffled against the protective mask covering his mouth.
Noticing Nathan being led into the reception, I move quickly to his side; he looking just as confused as I am.
"What's going on?" he whispers. With a shrug, I look to the men moving in through the front entrance with machines resembling the one Clyde is hooked up to, designed to measure heart rates.
Through the door I see Michael being led inside by one of the men in protective suits. His arm heavily bandaged, holding it tenderly as he is moved in behind the desk with Nathan and myself. Wrapping my arms around his waist, I hold him tight as they continue to move in equipment through to the isolation room and surgery.
The phone shrills over the commotion. Picking up the receiver Michael looks at us with a concerned look on his face as he listens to the caller. "Uh huh. Okay, but what do we do?" he says into the phone as he mindlessly coils the cord around his finger. Looking into his face as it seems to drain of color, my heart races waiting for him to finish the call. After what feels like an eternity, Michael finally hangs up the phone. His fingers gripping the receiver, his head bowed before he slowly looks up at Nathan and myself.
"What's going on?" we ask simultaneously. With a heavy sigh, he coughs.
"Ever heard of Ebola?" he finally asks.
Nodding, yet not comprehending what he's saying, we wait for him to continue. Like he's struggling for his words, Michael looks nervously at each of us in turn.
"It seems that Jon died from a deadly strain of Ebola. It's highly contagious, and lethal for all that come into contact with the virus." Rubbing his hands to his temple he closes his eyes before continuing. "It seems... somehow this virus has changed."
"Wh.. what do you mean changed?" Nathan asks trying to take in what Michael is saying.
"Changed. Mutated with another virus." Shaking his head, he looks down at his bandaged hand. "They seem to think that Clyde somehow caught both viruses and transmitted it to Jon."
My heart caught in my throat as I suddenly realize what Michael is saying.
"Oh God, no!" Looking at his hand, I pull him into my arms holding him tight. The tears stinging my eyes as I wrap my arms around him, my face pressing against his chest as the tears fall freely.
* * * * * * *
The endless questions flying at us as we are asked about anybody and everybody we may have come into contact with since Clyde's arrival. The endless blood samples leaving me feeling like a lab experiment, as yet another needle is replaced with a cotton swab and taped in place by the heavily protected nurse. Her slender figure seeming lost under the layers of the protective suit, with the large boots looking at least four sizes too large as she clomps to the surgical tray, placing the blood filled syringe into the zip seal bag ready for testing.
Gazing across the room at Michael, I watch the nurse taking swabs from the punctures on his hand. The blister like incisions fouled with yellowish puss, while the swelling seems to have spread to his upper arm, the purple blotches staining his once perfect skin. Catching my gaze, he smiles bravely as the nurse takes a scalpel and drags it over one of the infected welts.
Nathan, looking a ghastly shade of pale, looks nervously at the beeping machine measuring his heart rate. Reaching over, I squeeze his hand reassuringly. With a weak smile, his chest heaves as he inhales deeply.
"We've notified all on the list, they're undergoing tests as we speak," I hear one of the men say into his cell phone. Clearing his throat as he notices us watching, he lowers his voice as he leaves the room. Watching as the nurse helps Michael from the reclined chair, he moves as though in pain as she holds his arm leading him to the chair beside mine.
"How are you doing?" I whisper when the nurse leaves the room.
"Been better," he chokes, his face a shadow of the one I know and love. His lips now a pale, deathly white with only a glimpse of pink left to contrast against the pallid yellow tinge of his skin. His eyes rimmed in red as he seems to fight to keep them open. Reaching over, I squeeze gently on his hand.
"Get some rest, Michael." Feeling the exhaustion of the day's events catching up with me, I watch as Michael finally sleeps, feeling my eyelids droop as sleep takes over my senses.
* * * * * * *
The voices rousing me from my sleep as I force my eyes open.
"We have a flat liner in here," the nurse calls as another rushes to Michael's side.
"No!" I feel the arms restraining me as I scream, calling out Michael's name. Still calling out his name as the sudden jab in my upper arm sends my world spiraling into darkness.
* * * * * * *
"Kim." The firm hand on my shoulder shaking vigorously, my head still spinning from the effects of the needle as I groggily open my eyes.
"Mmph." My mouth dry and parched, swallowing feeling like razor blades scraping against the back of my throat as I focus on the masked face in front of me.
"We have to move you out of here." The hand on my shoulder unrelenting as it rouses me fully. Glancing over toward where Michael lays, the motionless figure laying recumbent with a sheet pulled over his face.
"Michael," I whisper as a wave of tears rocks my body.
"We don't have time for that!"
The high pitched howl sending a ripple of goose bumps surfacing as I look bewildered into the face before me. My heart racing, unbeknown to the dangers lurking just outside the room.
"Quick, get up!" Pulling me to my feet, I don't look back as I stagger, guided by his firm grip as he pulls me toward the surgery. Forcing a chair firmly against the door, he pulls me toward the back of the room where a group of frightened faces look up at me.
"Wh... what's happening?"
Feeling the hands pulling at me, I reluctantly fall to my knees not fully understanding why we're being so quiet. Shaking my head trying to shake off the remaining effects of the needle, I pull my knees in against my chest and glance around at the array of masked faces surrounding me.
In a low husky voice, the man who had roused me whispers.
"We're dealing with a mutant strain of a combination of both the Ebola fever and rabies virus. Together, the outcome is fatal. Kim." Taking my face in his hands, he holds my gaze fixed on his. "Listen."
My heart racing against its cage as the sound of Clyde's howl moves closer. Stricken with fear, I sit quietly listening to the unknown man in front of me.
"In humans, so far the results have proven deadly. But with primates... " his voice trailing as he looks warily toward the door. "In primates, it creates a biological transformation. We've never seen anything like this before.
"Both Dr. Anderson and Michael Gibbon had different reactions to the virus. Dr. Anderson had a hemorrhagic reaction, causing him to bleed externally - a classic symptom of the Ebola fever. Whereas young Michael had a mutant reaction."
My head reeling as the fear inside of me intensifies listening to the gargling breath of Clyde as he moves slowly outside the door. Looking toward the door, he takes my hand.
"If Michael hadn't passed, the disease would have taken over within days, if not hours. He was already showing signs of mutation with his arm."
"What?" My thoughts a mash of emotions as I fight to grip the reality of the situation. "What do you mean 'showing signs of mutation'?"
Without warning the door to the surgery bursts open. The screams echoing through the room as people move in all directions, the sickening howl deafening as Clyde moves into the small confinements of the surgery. Unable to see him from my vantage point, I cower behind the nameless man who had dragged me in here, more than likely saving me from a grueling death had I been left in the other room.
The blood curdling screams causing my stomach to clench tight as splatters of red flicker on the walls around me. Unable to see the slaughter, I shudder, gripping tight to the coat of the man in front of me. With my eyelids clenched tight, my teeth biting together tighter, I fight the urge to cry against the immense fear surfacing deep within.
Without seeing, I sense the foreboding body hovering on the bench beside me. Too stricken with fear to move, I feel a shiver shake me to my core, waiting for the onslaught to begin. The sharp nails dig into my wrist as I'm suddenly pulled to my feet.
"Get up!" In a frightening second, I'm lurched across the room as my unknown savior grabs a stool and swings it hard against Clyde's immense form. Opening my eyes long enough to see the burning glow of his piercing eyes, Clyde's fingers grab the man's throat tight, lifting him with an ease as he flings the flailing body against the wall. The deafening crack of his neck as he slams against it hard sends a shiver and a cold sweat surfacing through me.
Clyde stands tall. His body bulging, not the same monkey I'd seen rescued from the clutches of a merciless smuggler only days earlier. His chest rippling with sharp spiny bristles, his fingers twisted with razor like pointed nails protruding from his boney fingertips. His snarl revealing blood stained teeth as he rocks, wavering as if waiting for a moment to pounce.
Without warning he lurches. Tripping over a bloodied body, I stumble toward the doorway. The searing agony as his claw like fingers grab me, tearing me open like a tin can, leaving me writhing as I feel the warmth of my blood staining the back of my hospital gown. The high pitched laugh sending a shiver through me as I roll over to see his large form standing, sneering as he thrusts forward, pinning me down as his huge form hovers over me. A string of saliva dangles menacingly from his quivering mouth as he balances on my heaving chest as I struggle to breathe under his weight. My mouth burning both from the stench of his rancid breath and of the acid like saliva as it drops into my open mouth.
With an ear piercing ring, the gun fires. Clyde's burning amber eyes opening wide as I feel splatters of his blood covering my face and body. As though in slow motion, I watch his head move backward as his huge form lunges forward, smothering me beneath him.
* * * * * * *
So here I sit. My days are numbered as I wait for the disease to render my body helpless. My journal entries are becoming increasingly more painful as the pains surge through my fingers making it virtually impossible to grip a pen. I often think about Jon, and of course, Michael. Knowing he and I will be together again soon is the only thing keeping my spirits up as I undergo the endless tests. The strain has been so far unknown to man, so I guess I'm their test dummy as they record the development of the disease and take endless blood from my weary body.
So I've been told since that frightful day, it was a French man, Phillippe DeLaPierre who had first introduced the Ebola strain to American shores. Apparently he'd contracted the disease during his duties in Africa, he and many other Legionnaires had carried the virus unknown when they returned to the U.S. Had he known that Clyde carried rabies when he'd drugged him and captured him from his natural habitat I often wonder if he'd have carried out his attempts of smuggling the monkey to Australian waters.
As I write, I feel the darkness beginning to envelop me. I hear the muffled voices of the nurses as they surround me, hands and needles seem to be jabbing me from all angles.
Oh, before it gets any harder to write, they've named the strain M.I.K.E. or Mutant Infestation Kinetic Epidemic. To me it will always stand for Michael. Michael Is Kim's Eternally. Corny huh? I have to sign off now, it's getting so dark...