October 28th, 1919
I don’t know what to do. The whole damn thing’s a mess. Out of the five survivors from mine #4, four are dead already. Only the woman’s alive. She’s sweating blood from her chest, shoulders and neck. Her corneas are yellow, but Vezzoni tried to tell me they’ve always been like that, God knows why.
She’s extremely sensitive to light. Her pulse is faster than a jackrabbit in a cage, and she sweats like crazy. I gotta change her IV twice a day just to keep her alive. Morphine seemed to help for the first week. But she broke free of her restraints twice, even with enough dope to drop a mule. Now the company has me shooting all of them with Curare. Damn inhumane if you ask me, but no one’s asking.
Dot, I’m just a country vet playing doctor. I know you never thought that. But dammit, I couldn’t even deliver our baby girl without losing you. And now this?
It’s spreading. I keep telling Vezzoni they gotta find someone else, someone qualified to deal with this plague. I got three more today, including one that doesn’t even work at the mine. Before this is over I think we’re all gonna need a priest rather than a doctor.
Is it airborne? It can’t be in the blood. Whatever it is, it seemed to start with the explosion. But there’s nothing left. Everything burned but the young woman strapped down and dying right under my nose.
I haven’t seen Isabella and Abby for 10 days. I miss ‘em something terrible, but I’d sooner eat my own spleen than risk infecting them. I told them to stay in Palo Pinto with her parents.
Something isn’t right, Dot. The company seems more interested in covering everything up than finding a cure. Dammit, gotta go. Thanks for listening.
The sweat running down my back begins to freeze. I huff a cloud of breath into the darkened sky, watch it trail off while mentally girding my loins for the long night ahead. First, the Model T. Jogging across the rutted out dirt lot between the hospital and the maintenance barns behind, I try to stretch my slumped shoulders, loosen the arthritis in my joints.
With a smirk, the stiffness reminds me of the dead guard lying in the basement. Better to have stiffened muscle movement than none at all. At least he’ll make a beautiful corpse, unlike the rest of us when we finally die from the twitch.
Reaching the third stall, I lift the wooden latch and heave the heavy door open a couple of feet. It lurches in its tracks before coming to rest. The smell of oil-sodden dirt and sawdust wraps me in a familiar warmth, washing away the stench of death from the lab. The faintest of light penetrates a few feet into the gloom within, reflecting off whirling dust motes in the air. Without wasting time I duck inside, fetch a hand-held electric lamp from my satchel and flick it on.
Forgotten machines and tools cast skeletal shadows against the far wall—predatorial and lurking, or maybe just waiting for human folly to free them from their obligatorily subservient existence. But not yet. Not until you’ve helped me get my Isabella and Abby away from here for good.
In the back of the stall I tug a heavy canvas, uncovering the machine I’ve spent every stolen moment for the last month creating—a bastardized Model T with the sole purpose of escape. The weak beam of hand-held light glints off the windshield, then the gleaming headlights, all four of them. Two are the factory electric lights, but the two I cobbled to the fenders for fanning light further abroad are carbide, and hopefully bright enough to blind God himself from the deeds I’ve premeditated.
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