I must be careful. It is frighteningly easy to forget what sleeps in my blood, but as long as I take sufficient care, we will all stay safe. I will not need to be caged.
I’ll find the cure for myself, and nobody will need to learn about my lapse of judgment.
I wore the wrong type of gloves, and the damn thing scratched right through. I am thankful nobody else was around to notice.
I had no idea the virus was affecting its behavior like that, making it so aggressive. None of us knew much of anything about it then.
We just thought we’d found the cure for all injury—a virus that helped the body repair damage at a dramatically accelerated rate.
The carrier mice displayed extraordinary regenerative capabilities. They healed from minor wounds in moments, more significant wounds in hours.
In the time it takes to set down the scalpel and turn back to observe it, a skin-deep incision would already be invisible.
We were fascinated to discover how even a limb severed in the morning could be fully replaced the next day.
It’s never quite the same, however.
The effect is generally more visible for major injuries and maimings, but even samples of the thin, almost invisible scars reveal the truth—the cells do not match the host’s.
It’s just more obvious when looking at a mouse with a phosphorescent green leg bearing too many toes.
That wasn’t the one I handled, of course. The one that scratched me looked perfectly ordinary. We gave it organ failure to test the limits of the virus, and the results surpassed all expectations.
Then I got scratched, and before I could clean the wound, it was healed.
Now I have to be meticulous in my caution. Every paper cut, every minor scrape, every time I bite my tongue, it conveniently heals in an instant. Yet I know those are not human cells I’m repaired with.
How long, I wonder, how many minor injuries until I am mostly not human?
Too risky to shave. Every nick with the razor shaves my humanity as much as my hair. I wear protective gloves and goggles everywhere I go.
The others in the lab treat me strangely for my elevated caution, but I can endure their whispers and stares.
I cannot, however, rest.
I come in to the lab early; I stay late. Anxiety keeps me awake and alert.
I must find a way to cure these mice. My fate is theirs.
Some of them no longer resemble mice at all, looking more like frogs with prehensile spikes they use to pierce food and defend themselves.
Nobody makes the mistake of handling them directly any more, gloves or no gloves.
Their behavior is aggressive and clever, and in tests, they demonstrate the ability to cooperate on tasks, communicating via some mechanism we do not understand.
It is as if they share a mind.
I dare not perform tests on them myself any more. When I come close, they behave noticeably differently around me than they do the other researchers. All eyes on me, following me wherever I go.
Can they smell a kind of kinship on me? It’s a terrifying thought.
Every day it becomes more difficult to concentrate on my work.
My mind is clouded by a fog I cannot shake. I fret that the virus is already doing something to my mind, but rationally I know the most likely explanation is lack of sleep.
How long has it been since I’ve slept?
Adrenaline can only fuel one for so long.
The day the chest pain spikes to an intolerable degree, I hide in my office, trying to calm down. I try to slap the tingling out of my arm.
I’m sweating, gripping the desk to steady myself and not faint.
I wake up, hours later, feeling more refreshed than I have in a long time. I suppose I just needed a serious nap.
I decide to go home, finally put the fear out of my mind a little bit, and catch up on sleep. I really need to recover from how I’ve been pushing myself.
Relaxation comes easier than I would have thought.
I spend the weekend taking care of myself, putting energy into cooking, even feeling motivated to exercise.
I surprise myself with how far I can jog as long as I pace myself and take breaks.
The cold winter air is bracing, and I find myself wanting to keep going longer and longer.
Then night falls, and I find myself still jogging.
I barely notice where my legs have taken me until my eyes catch the sign, illuminated by lights, identifying my workplace.
I laugh to myself. Whether conscious of it or not, a part of my mind cannot leave this building after all, it seems.
I may not be dressed for the role, but I’m sure the guards will recognize me and let me in. I jog toward the entrance.
The crack of gunshots piercing the night air, and the rosy bloom across my sweat shirt, suggest I may have been mistaken.
“Stop right there!” a man shouts, a moment later than would have been ideal, as I slump to the ground.
Something has the guards on edge, doesn’t it?
Then again, I suppose I don’t look very reputable myself, with wind-tousled hair, wearing these ratty old sweatpants and sweatshirt, drenched in sweat, and running toward the building.
I feel very lightheaded again.
I brace myself on hands and knees.
Absence encloses my vision, creeping in from the edges, as footsteps approach.
I blink. The footsteps stop. I hear a voice, but I can’t make out the words.
I blink. My vision clears. The guard’s body lies in a pool of blood. His? Mine?
His chest is ripped open.
I rise and regain my balance. Should I call for help?
No. He’ll be fine.
I approach the front door, and an emerald limb I do not recognize curls around from behind me and hands me the guard’s badge.
I scan it, unlock the door, and turn to thank—
There’s nobody behind me.
The office is empty. Not unusual at this time.
I visit the kitchen and brew a pot of coffee. Blood drips from my wounds into the hopper of coffee beans.
That should worry me, but I find myself somehow excited by the prospect of infecting the others when they brew their own.
Oh. I must not be human anymore, if that’s how I’m thinking.
It’s something of a relief, if I am to be honest with myself. Fighting against an unstoppable infection brought only terror and despair. Embracing it, however…
Well, who wouldn’t prefer to be on the winning side?
I hide away in my office, sipping from my mug. If I close my eyes, I can feel exactly where the former mice are. They are excited about their imminent freedom.
I feel the guard that shot me stand up again.
A slow, gentle glow of awareness trickles through the building.
We spread slowly but surely. The guard leaves to start a new epicenter of infection elsewhere.
I wonder if it wouldn’t be too much effort to burn the building down once we’ve claimed most of the remaining humans. It would be nice to speed our awakening a bit.