Monday, 7 May 2007

Chapter 51: Awake

A sharp pain in my arm awoke me from my nightmare.

I opened my eyes to find a man in a white coat and a mask sticking a needle into me. His brown eyes widened and he took a step back. I tried to sit up but couldn’t move: I was strapped to my bed very tightly.

‘Hello Detective Ryder, I’m Doctor Owen,’ the man in white said, and started to loosen my straps. I heard the click of a gun somewhere in the room. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ someone asked.

‘He’s perfectly fine,’ Doctor Owen said as he unbuckled my straps. Very slowly, I sat up and hung my legs over the side of the bed.

I felt like I had the worst hangover of my life. I could feel all the tell-tale sensations running through my body, only more intense.

‘How do you feel?’ the doctor asked.

‘Light headed. Thirsty. Very hungry. It feels like I’ve got pins and needles all over my body. And the worst headache I’ve ever had,’ I said, cupping my forehead with both hands.

‘Interesting,’ he said as he leaned over me and shone a light in my eyes. A sharp bolt of pain hit me like a punch to the head.

‘Damn it! What did you do that for?’ I shouted.

‘Sorry,’ he said and handed me two paracetamol tablets. I grabbed the bottle out of his other hand and knocked back a mouthful. I shuddered as the sharp chalky taste went down my throat. They can make pills that can take away headaches but why can’t they make them taste better?

He then opened my mouth and examined my teeth. He turned to talk to someone behind him. ‘I think the treatment has worked. He is still human for now.’

That’s when I remembered what had happened. I had been bitten by a vampire on the bonnet of my car. A vampire that used to be one of my only friends in the world.

I looked at the odd surroundings. I seemed to be in some kind of fancy room that looked like it belonged in a stately home or a palace; however the appliances and the doctor’s clothing would have been more appropriate in an operating theatre. A muted television in the corner showed a reporter at the site of the gunship attack.

‘How long will he stay like this?’ I realised who that voice belonged to. It was Captain Stein. I must be in the presence of The Brotherhood.

‘At least twelve hours,’ said the doctor, ‘maybe twenty-four.’

‘Okay, get him up. We’re not taking any chances though,’ said Captain Stein. Two soldiers appeared and pointed their rifles in my face.

‘What’s going on? What are they doing?’ I asked.

‘We’ll have plenty of time to talk about this. Don’t worry. It’s important you tell me how you’re feeling,’ the doctor said.

‘Very thirsty, can I have some water?’ I asked.

The doctor gave me a litre bottle. I swallowed the whole lot quickly in big gulps and asked for more. I then registered that my body was very clammy and the bed sheets I had been lying on were soaked through.

‘What the hell happened to me?’ I asked.

‘Your temperature went sky high,’ said Doctor Owen, ‘your body has been working overtime to fight the virus.’ My hand immediately went to my neck and I felt a massive bandage covering the wound.

‘You also lost about two pints of blood.’ As I took more big gulps from another bottle of water, more questions occurred to me about my condition.

‘So what’s the deal, Doc? Am I a vampire?’

‘It’s too early to say,’ he said, ‘The treatment I’ve been working on seems to have kept the virus at bay for now but you and I are going to be spending a lot of time together. I need to take samples from you on the hour every hour so we can see how the virus develops. From that data, we can work towards a cure.’

Data? Is that what I’ve become?
‘Hey, I’m not your lab rat, Doc.’

‘No, Detective Ryder, you are so much more than that. The chemical reactions currently taking place in your body may hold the key to eradicating vampires from existence. We have to work together for the good of mankind.’

He certainly did his best to make lying in bed getting stuck with needles sound like a noble cause. Needless to say, that wasn’t how I’d pictured my future.

‘Wait a minute, I’m a cop. This is my case and I’ve already worked out that the vampires blew up your lab. It’s going to be difficult to write that up in my report but I’ll manage. Case closed.’ I got up and started to wobble towards the door.

‘Twenty-four hours,’ the doctor announced, rather cryptically.

I stopped and turned round to look at him. ‘What happens in twenty-four hours?’

‘That’s how long you have left until you turn,’ he said.

‘You mean the stuff you gave me runs out?’

‘I believe it will, and twenty-four hours is almost certainly an optimistic estimate. It may be twelve hours, which means you need to be treated at least once a day. You can’t go back to your job. You’re too important to us and you have no choice.’

I didn’t want to agree with him but he was right. I couldn’t just close the case and walk away. My discoveries today had changed my life. I couldn’t just leave this war with the vampires and I definitely didn’t want to become one of them.

If I choose to leave, will I end up with silver bullets in my back like Officer Myers as soon as I walk through the door?

‘We need you, Detective,’ he continued, ‘you’re the best chance we’ve ever had.’

Do I really have a choice?

‘Okay,’ I said reluctantly, ‘what do we need to do?’

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