The Bedlam Virus

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
After being hit with a biochemical weapon, the United States is falling down around young Delilah Querian's ears, a young doctor who's used to dealing with only facts. However, one night she encounters someone she never expected...someone who just might be the answer to everything she's been searcing for.

Submitted: May 19, 2009

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Submitted: May 19, 2009

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The first time I saw him, he was dying.

I shouldn’t have been outside in the first place. It was too dangerous, what with the Bedlam Virus infecting half of America’s population. But my cat, Behemoth (a huge, orange pain in my butt), had escaped from my home when I’d opened the door for a few seconds. Stupid of me, yes, and now I was paying for it. I had grabbed my flashlight before walking out of the house. For some reason, I had an intense fear of the dark. Go figure.

Twenty minutes later, I found Behemoth a few blocks down from my home, curled against a man who was covered in blood. Judging from the multiple gaping wounds covering his body, the blood was his own. I also could tell that it was a virus-induced attack. I should have felt panic, horror, maybe disgust. But the cold, analytical side of me pushed to the forefront of my mind, and I quickly went to the victim’s side. I did a rapid evaluation of his wounds. One gash beneath his sternum, another on the right side of his throat, three wounds on both arms, and one high on his leg. With closer inspection, I noticed that they were bite marks, not gashes. I didn’t have any of my medical supplies with me. His injuries had stopped bleeding, which meant the virus was already taking over. Unless he was dead, wounds of this magnitude didn’t simply stop on their own.

I should have killed him and saved him the torture of the virus, but looking upon his features, I realized that I couldn’t do it. My conscience wouldn’t allow me to. At least, I told myself it was because of my conscience and not my fascination with the man. He had the looks of a fallen angel. His hair was jet black, but his skin was a glowing alabaster. The contrast of the two was stunning. The perfect lines of his cheekbones and jaw were thrown into sharp relief from the moonlight, and his face was strangely untouched by all of the blood. Perhaps the creatures that attacked him were unwilling to mar such a beautiful face.

With my Swiss Army Knife, I cut off the sleeve of my sweatshirt and then cut that into strips. I wrapped the cloth around his wounds quickly, even though they were no longer bleeding. When I tried to move the man, Behemoth meowed at me, drawing my attention to the overweight feline.

“You got me into this mess,” I scolded with no heat. “No kitty num-nums for you tonight.”

The man stirred, coming out of his virus-induced coma. One eye opened in a slit, but I was able to tell that his irises were an electric blue. Humor glinted in his eyes. “But I like kitty num-nums,” he said with a slight smile, his voice a weak rasp.

Shocked, I stared down at the victim, marveling at his ability to joke when he was clearly in pain. My heart ached that yet another innocent person was going to be lost to the virus. Just like...

Finding myself surprisingly close to tears, I cut off that thought.

“Do you think you can walk?” I asked him. “I’ll help support you, but I can’t carry you back to my home by myself.” The decision surprised me, but I realized taking him into my home was the right thing to do.

He flexed his hands and wiggled his appendages cautiously. He tried lifting himself onto his elbows, and when that was successful, he mustered his strength and lifted the whole upper half of his body. His arms shook with strain, but he was able to sit up. His breathing became somewhat labored. I wanted to reach out and help him, but something in me recognized his need to do this on his own. As he stood, I stood, taking the reluctant Behemoth into my arms. That was the first time I noticed the vial on the ground. It was filled with a glowing white liquid. I managed to pick it up and put it in my pocket before he swayed alarmingly where he stood, and I fit myself underneath his arm to support him. I felt a feminine thrill at his large size. He was much taller than my five-nine, and I wasn’t small for a woman.

Ignoring the feminine part of me, I said, “We’re going to start walking, okay? We’ll go at a speed comfortable for you.”

I felt him nod, and I could tell that he had spent a lot of energy with just standing up. Feeling pride at his strength, slowly but surely, we started walking down the street. It was nearly deserted at two o’clock in the morning, but I knew the people who attacked him couldn’t be too far away, so I kept my guard up. Eventually, we were on the porch of my house. I could feel the man shaking with exhaustion, but walked into my house once I unlocked the door. 

Taking the very thing I was trying to fight inside my sanctuary went against every rule I possessed. I ignored the urge to panic and kill the man I now supported. I helped him lay down on the couch, where he seemed to lose all semblance of strength. He sprawled there as if his limbs were noodles, which was probably what they felt like. He seemed to be struggling to stay awake, but his eyelids were drooping and his head lolling.

“Go to sleep,” I urged softly. “You need your rest.” He would want as much peace as he could get before the beast took over.

“Wait,” he said. His voice was merely a strained whisper. “What’s your name?”

“Delilah,” I said, my heart aching. “And what’s yours?”

“Asher.” The side of his mouth curled upwards into a ghost of his real smile. Butterflies tickled my stomach at the sight of it. He was charming even in the worst of times. Turning away, I thought to myself, if I find that little smirk so appealing, what would a full-fledged grin do to me?

I kneeled on the floor beside him, knowing he would want comfort. I knew from experience that the dreams were the worst part of having the sickness. Caressing his baby-soft hair, I stared down at his relaxed face.

“Why did you rescue me?” Asher asked, his eyelids flickering. “I’m infected now. You could have just left me in the alley, where I would have been killed or taken in by ones like me. Either one wouldn’t have been desirable, but no normal person would have taken such a risk.”

“I never said I was normal,” I said gravely, and before he could say anything, I grabbed the syringe on the table behind me and put him to sleep.

***

I knew my guest was awake when I heard a large crash. Looking up from my notes, I sighed and walked out of my study. No doubt Asher would be angry with me for forcibly putting him to sleep. The fact that I had strapped him to a stretcher while he was sleeping might cause some distress as well, I supposed. He didn’t have to know about the blood sample I’d taken.

I entered the basement to see the stretcher flipped on its side. Asher was struggling madly, his head whipping from side to side, his prone body trying to buck beneath the restricting bands. The fact that he’d been able to flip the stretcher at all was amazing. I made a mental note.

I righted the stretcher, and faced a furious Asher. The beast had awakened when it wasn’t supposed to make an appearance until at least three days after the attack. His eyes were completely enveloped in black, and his teeth were jutting out of his mouth as if they were too big to fit. The veins in his arms and legs were swollen and pulsing right beneath the skin. Claws had grown on the edge of his fingers. I made another mental note. The beast was weak, but it was clearly there. Was this a new strain? A faster, deadlier one? A ball of panic formed low in my stomach, and I squashed it fiercely. Panic didn’t do any good in situations such as this.

Growls rumbled from his chest, and his mouth was curled into a snarl. “Release me,” he growled, his voice strange. Coinciding, the voice of the beast and man emerged from his throat in a menacing manner.

“No,” I said distractedly. Staring at him, my mind swirled. Now that I had a specimen to do with as I pleased, there were infinite possibilities. Anyone the disease infected was almost impossible to run tests on, because the ones who infected the victim always took them back to their nest. Why hadn’t they taken this one? When I’d first found him, there was dry blood crusted all around his wounds, meaning that he had been there for at least a few hours. It didn’t make sense that he would be attacked, and then abandoned. Had they presumed him dead? The disease tended to erase human characteristics.

The Bedlam virus was a new sickness that had recently developed as a biochemical tool to enhance the military. It had been a hormone that was designed to create a second being inside of the person--one that had the senses and instincts of an animal, but was still able to think like a human.

Of course, information from the lab leaked, and someone betrayed the top secret organization to an enemy nation. They had taken that vitamin and warped it into a virus that completely took over the human mind and made them crave chaos and destruction. It was passed from person to person by saliva—a bite, a kiss, or a lick, and you were infected.

Our own virus was being used against us. Five years later, it was now 2035 A.D., and still no cure had been found. The entire country of America was almost deserted. Everyone had either fled the virus, or become infected. There were a few brave souls who were willing to withstand the danger of living in such a place, but with more people getting infected everyday, how long would they be able to hold out? 

I felt the full weight of the world press down on my shoulders. I had to find a cure—I had to.

***

Three hours later, after putting Asher to sleep again, I was inspecting the vial that I had discovered by Asher’s body. I could test it to see its contents, but that might harm whatever was in there. Shrugging, I set it down and decided to just ask Asher about it later.

An hour later, Asher’s blood results came through. I studied them carefully. The blood cell’s usual coloring was tainted black, and I suspected it was that taint that was causing the virus. If something could latch on to the blood cell, it would have full access to the victim’s whole body, including the brain. Was it possible that if I could find something to counteract that taint, I would be able to nullify the whole beast? I felt as if I was on the verge of discovering something big.

Delighted with my progress, I went downstairs again to check on Asher. I felt guilty about strapping him down, but it was for the best. When I entered the basement I was relieved to see that he was coherent. It was only when the victim was feverish that the beast took over. You’d think that the problem would be solved if you just made sure the patient never had a fever, but, of course, it wasn’t so simple. The beast was always existing in the victim’s mind, like a shadow—quietly persuading, quietly taking over their bodies.

How did I know all of this so well when no one has ever gotten close enough to one to observe its behavior? My mother, who had been a brilliant scientist, had died of the virus. When she was lucid, she allowed me to put her in a cage and note the way the beast worked. It broke my heart every time when I thought about how she had taken her own life because she couldn’t live with the beast anymore. With each day that passed, the beast would get stronger, until there was nothing human in her left.

***

I approached her cage, my heart a block of burning ice, and slid a tray of bloody meat underneath the small gap in the door. I heard a growl, and the gruesome sound of teeth tearing into meat. Tears silently leaked down my cheeks, which always happened when I saw my mother like this—her snowy hair in disarray around her pale skull, veins pulsing hugely beneath her nearly translucent skin, and the mindless killer that was reflected in her blood red eyes.

She had been like this for two months now, and I knew that I couldn’t keep her trapped in that horrible existence any longer. I had to let her go.

I clutched the syringe in my hand so hard I thought it was going to break. The meat had been seasoned with a tranquilizer, and it was taking effect already. My mother was on her side when I entered her cage, her breathing labored. I gently took her fragile body into my arms.

The bloody taint in her eyes slowly receded, revealing the piercing green of their true color. Confusion colored her unfocused gaze.

“Mom,” I said, my throat aching. “I love you, and I’ll always love you. Please, finally…please be at peace.”

The lines in her face grew even deeper as she realized what I meant. Her body was strained—I could feel her fighting the beast off.

With a shuttering breath, she nodded slightly. Her chapped, pale lips parted and said, “It’s time.”

A sob escaped me. I pressed the syringe to her frail arm, my hand shaking. I was frozen that way.

“I can’t do it,” I whispered.

Her gnarled hand pressed against mine, pushing the needle into her flesh. Her thumb pressed down and she injected herself. “My Delilah, my sweet, sweet Delilah,” she crooned, her eyes shining with something I thought I’d never see again—love. “It’s okay, my sweet Dandelion. It’s okay. I’m going to join your father.”

Her fingers caressed my cheek, and tears flowed unchecked down my face, splashing on to her.

“Don’t cry, love.” She smiled, and for a moment I saw my old mom, the real one—the optimistic, bouncy, bubbly woman who had been the only rock in my life for so long. “I love you, Delilah.”

A guttural cry was ripped from my throat as her eyelids flickered, and finally slid closed. Her body relaxed with the gentle blanket of death. I sobbed, I raged, and I cried as I clutched my mother to me.

Now, I was truly alone.

***

God help me, I would not let that happen to Asher. I had seen too much in my twenty eight years. I refused to let another innocent die.

Wiping away a stray tear, I saw Asher lying on the stretcher, his eyes closed, his breathing deep. His skin was pale, but no longer had the pulsing veins, and his mouth was normal again. He was coherent but asleep. I pulled up a chair and sat next to him, stroking a hand through his hair. Whether it was more soothing to him or me, I would never know.

“I won’t let anything happen to you,” I whispered. “Even if it takes my whole life, I will find a cure, and then—who knows? Maybe we can, I don’t know, go out for a date or something.” My voice was awkward as I prattled on to his unmoving form. “I never really dated much, even before the virus hit. All I did always concerned work, and becoming a doctor. It consumed all other plans. I guess it was kind of like tunnel vision. I had no friends. In fact, I think everyone was wary of me. My mom said it was because my peers were jealous, but I know the truth. I look like a freak. Who’s ever heard of black, silver streaked hair on a twenty eight year old? And my eyes are such a pale gray that they’re at times translucent.”

“I think you’re beautiful.”

Startled, my gaze jerked to his. He was conscious? Heat washed up my neck to scorch my cheeks. Not knowing what to say, I gaped like a fish.

He smiled, dimples forming in his cheeks. Strapped down to a stretcher, infected with a deadly virus, and he still smiled. Some of the ice around my heart started to melt.

“You’re cute when you’re surprised,” he said, eyes twinkling.

Butterflies erupted in my stomach and I felt an uncharacteristic blush tinge my cheeks. To distract us both, I said, “Well, now that you know about me, how about telling me some things about you? Where are you from, how old are you, what are you doing here in Massachusetts…?”

“I’m from New York, but I came here because I heard of a brilliant doctor who was rumored to have more knowledge of the virus than anyone else. And I also wanted to give her something…” The lines around his electric eyes tightened with stress and he clutched his head as if in pain. “I can’t remember...” He shook his head as if to clear it and said, “Anyway, I wanted to learn from her, so that I might be able to one day find a cure. So many people suffering…I can’t stand it.”

I realized then that he truly was innocent. He probably hadn’t ever seen anyone killed, hadn’t ever killed someone—probably hadn’t even thought about it. A little part of me felt a jealousy and relief so deep they intertwined into one confusing emotion.

“But now I don’t have a chance of ever helping her, much less find her,” he said, his voice mournful.

Interest piquing, I asked, “So this brilliant doctor…who is she?”

“The only recorded name that he’s ever used was D. Querian.”

It took a minute for that to sink in.

“D. Querian!” After the shock, I shook my head and muttered, “If I’m the best this country’s got, then we’re all screwed.”

Hearing me, Asher’s eyes went wide as saucers. “You’re D. Querian?”

I shrugged.

“Oh, my God,” he whispered, his eyes reverent. But instantly his face fell, and a sardonic smile curled his lips. “It’s ironic that I finally found the woman I was searching for, and yet I’ve become the very thing that I so wanted to extinguish.”

I couldn’t bear to see him so disheartened. I wanted to restore that spark in his eyes, the one that made my insides melt.

“I think I’m on the brink of something major,” I told him honestly. “If you’d like, I could show you some of my notes, and your blood results.”

Hell, why had I offered that?

Immediately, his face lit up and his eyes sparked to life. “Really?”

“You sound like a kid on Christmas morning.” I smiled, and it felt…strange. When was the last time I had anything to smile about?

“I can’t believe you would risk yourself like this—and, more importantly, your work.”

I couldn’t believe it, either. But I loved seeing him so happy.

“Come on, let’s get you off that stretcher.” I released the metal bonds, and he stiffly sat up, stretching his arms over his head. He let out a groan, and I heard several pops as his bones creaked in protest. I felt a flicker of guilt when I saw lines of welts from where he had struggled against the restraints.

Asher didn’t go berserker as we walked from the basement to my study, and little by little, I began to relax around him. We reached the room, and walked over to the microscope on the table.

Asher looked at me for permission, and with a smile I nodded my head. He peered through the lens, and I heard a soft gasp pass from his lips.

“What are those…black things attached to my blood cells?”

“That’s the virus. It’s how the beast can get control over you.” A realization suddenly struck me. “And the veins bulge when the beast takes over because the virus is attached to the blood cells, and so in order for the beast to be strong, the flow of the blood becomes a current, traveling all over the body to give the beast more control.”

Asher jerked almost violently where he was standing. “I’d forgotten…no, the beast had made me forget,” he whispered. “The vial—I’d brought a vial!” With a mournful groan, he put his head in his hands. “It must have been lost when I was attacked…”

Walking to my desk, I picked up his vial and said, “I found this next to you on the night you were infected. I thought it might be important.”

The amount of relief that showed on his face staggered me. He took the vial from my hands, our fingers brushing in the process. I shivered in delight and instantly shook myself. Asher cradled the vial like it was the most precious thing in the world. Jealous? Me? Never.

“Thank you,” he said, meeting my gaze. The blue intensity once again struck me. “In this container is a very special kind of enzyme. I’d been researching myself, and I’d designed a little power tool of our own. It’s designed to eat the virus.”

“Eat the virus?” I asked, puzzled.

“Yes.” Taking my hand, he brought me over to the microscope. He poured a single drop onto the blood, and motioned for me to look.

What I saw astounded me. The tiny white enzymes latched on to the virus, and started sucking it away. As the virus got smaller, the enzyme got…bigger. Stronger. Disbelief welled up inside of me, along with amazement and overwhelming joy.

“You’ve found a cure,” I said, testing the words. “You’ve found a cure!”

Whirling around, I leapt into his arms, embracing him fiercely. I turned my head towards his, and I don’t know who initiated it, but suddenly we were locked in a kiss. His lips felt like silk, and fireworks exploded throughout my body. His arms were bands of steel around me, crushing me to him, and my arms wound their way around his neck.  There had never been a happier time in my life.

In hindsight, I should have seen it coming, but I had been too blinded by those dumb butterflies to think twice about my decision to bring him into my study. He made me weak, made me happy, and made some of the biting loneliness fade away. That was more important to me than anything. I finally felt as if I could connect with someone.

But one moment we were sharing the most amazing kiss in the world, and the next, I was on the floor, with Asher trembling above me. He was in full Berserker Mode (a term for the victim when the beast has complete control). His jaw jutted forward, unable to hold the second row of sharp teeth that had burst through the gums. His skin pulsed and twitched with the disgustingly swollen veins. Eyes flashing red, Asher held himself there, his brows mashing together as he fiercely fought a battle within himself. I could feel his body shaking around me.

I lay completely still, realizing that the beast felt endangered, and wanted to destroy that which might threaten its existence. If Asher couldn’t regain control over himself, then I was dead, and the cure would be lost. If I moved he would attack. If I felt fear it would excite the beast and make it stronger. My mind was racing, and I couldn’t think of anything but the fact that I could die right here, and the cure would be wasted.

As if he couldn’t help himself, Asher leaned down, his mouth gaping open. The sight of two rows of double dagger-like teeth made me cry out, which was instantly a mistake. Asher’s breath sawed in and out of his chest, and I froze completely as I felt his teeth press against my neck. He was a hair-breadth away from tearing my throat out.

Desperately, I reached for that detached part of myself, the one that had separated me from other people for so long. Finding it, I drew on the cold blankness, letting it wash over me like a gentle ocean wave. The fierce pounding of my heart slowed, the mind-numbing fear ebbed, and my breathing regulated itself. I calmly let my tense muscles relax, until I was like a limp rag doll.

“It’s okay, Asher,” I cooed gently. I very, very slowly reached up with one hand to caress his shaggy, beautiful hair. “Come back to me. Fight the beast.”

Getting control over myself seemed to give Asher some of his sanity back. The bloody color began to fade from his irises, and some of the blue began to return. The terrible trembling that had racked his body became less, and his bulging veins began to return to their normal size.

He managed to roll over onto his back and away from me.

Free, I felt as if everything was surreal. It simply felt as if I was in a dream. It happened in slow motion—I laboriously moved towards the counter for the cure, put it in a syringe, and turned back around to face Asher, who was still lying there on the floor. He was clutching his head, and a mixture of growls and prayers streamed past his pale lips. He was still fighting the battle.

I moved closer towards him. His head snapped up to meet my steady gaze. I didn’t say anything, just advanced on him slowly, letting him know that he had the choice to run away. But the beast was no longer strong enough, and Asher held himself there. Sweat beaded on his forehead, tinged with blood. Before I knew it, I had already crossed the room, and was close enough to Asher to touch him. His eyes were a mixture of red and azure, and their hazy depths swam with confusion and realization.

“Give me your arm,” I commanded quietly.

As if helpless to do anything else, he extended the limb slowly, arduously. I raised the needle to the pulsing vein in his arm, but before I could inject him, the beast made one final, desperate attack. I barely had time to see that his hands extended into claws and his eyes went completely red again before he had leapt on me, and raked a clawed hand down my face.

Pain seared the five long gashes, but I ignored it and stabbed the needle into his neck and injected him with the enzymes. The beast roared with anger and denial, burying his teeth into my throat as a parting gift. I barely had time to feel the unbelievable pain before I blacked out.

***

I awoke with a throbbing neck and a monstrous headache. I groaned and opened my eyes to see that I was lying down on my bed in my bedroom, with a worried Asher sitting in a chair next to me. His face was tired but had a healthy glow to it. I instantly knew that the enzymes had worked. Seeing me beginning to rouse, he crawled onto the bed and held me in his arms gently.

“Oh, thank God you’re awake,” he whispered, crushing his face into my hair. Guilt and shame colored his voice. “I’m so sorry Delilah. So, so sorry. I can’t ask you to forgive me—I can’t even forgive myself. Just know that I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Staring at my injured face, a grief so intense it made my heart break filled his eyes. “God, look at what I did to you…”

“Asher, I’ll be okay,” I said, my lips curling into a smile. It hurt the gashes in my face, which were bandaged tight. My neck was dressed too. “What happened to me wasn’t your fault. Do you understand that? You weren’t yourself.”

“I could feel it inside of me,” he said in horror. “It wanted blood, always. It thirsted for carnage and destruction.” I felt a shudder go through his body. “But it’s gone now…and no one has to suffer from it anymore.”

“You can make more of the enzymes?” I asked.

Asher nodded. “I used the rest to make sure you didn’t get infected.” When I opened my mouth to grill him about the cure, he shook his head and said with a small smile, “I’ll explain it to you later. For now, I just want to hold you.”

And so he did. “Stay with me,” I whispered softly.

“Forever.”

His voice was firm, and filled with an emotion that made my eyes water with happiness. I felt a melting sensation in my heart, and the purest, happiest feeling well up inside of me. The critical part of me tried to analyze the emotion, but I told it to go to hell. Love? Maybe, but I was in no rush to name the confusing feelings inside of me. We had all the time in the world.


© Copyright 2020 Neomaxizoondweebie. All rights reserved.

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