Saturday, 30 June 2007

Chapter 76: Discoveries

Doctor Owen quickly finished testing the blood of the four remaining soldiers. My mind had told me they weren’t vampires and I was right. Our focus then turned to the unconscious vampire tied to the bed. The doctor filled a syringe with anaesthetic and injected it into the vampire’s arm.

‘I’ll need your help,’ the doctor said to me under his breath, ‘this isn’t going to be easy.’

‘Why?’ I asked, ‘Haven’t you done experiments like this a hundred times before?’

‘I’ve performed autopsies and dissected plenty of infected animals but this is going to be very delicate. I need to examine the inner workings of his body in as much detail as possible without killing him but remember I’m a scientist, not a surgeon. If he dies, his body will probably turn to ash and I’ve no idea what Captain Stein will do next. We also need to make sure the soldier doesn’t wake up.’

For the second time today, the doctor appeared to not know what he was doing but like before, he was doing a good job of hiding this fact from everyone apart from me. He was quick to come up with a plan of action whenever necessary but I now realised that nothing we were doing had ever been attempted before.

Every time he performed an experiment, he was setting a precedent, like watching Walton and Cockcroft split the atom or being there under the tree to see the apple bounce off Newton’s head.

‘You’ve already pumped him full of anaesthetic. What’s the problem?’ I asked.

‘I’ve no idea what effect the anaesthetic will have, if any. For all I know, he’s still unconscious from Stein’s punch in the face. I’ve given him enough to keep a human out for four or five hours but we need to keep watching him for movement, in case he wakes up.’

The doctor had a point. After seeing Officer Myers leap from one vehicle to another and punch through the windscreen of my car, it occurred to me that the straps holding the soldier down might not keep him down for long.

I held the metal tray for the doctor again as he filled it with medical instruments. ‘Why me? Why don’t you get one of these guys to help out? Some of them must be trained medics.’

‘You’re the only one I trust,’ said Doctor Owen, ‘Agent Simpson, I need your help as well.’

She walked over to the doctor, who handed her a video camera. ‘I need you to film everything. It’s going to be fairly gruesome so if you’re squeamish and have to look away, just make sure you keep the camera pointing at what I’m doing. Blood doesn’t make you faint, does it?’

‘Not at all, I’ve seen far worse things in my time,’ she said, looking a little worried.

‘Good. Let’s get started,’ Captain Stein shouted, and clapped his hands together very loudly.

I stood next to the soldier’s perfectly still body, flanked by Doctor Owen and Agent Simpson. I felt like they were the only allies I had in a base that was supposedly the home of the good guys.

I agreed with the doctor: I didn’t trust anyone here that was part of The Brotherhood and I was surprised Agent Simpson counted herself as one of them. She didn’t seem as brainwashed as the others, maybe because she had been out there in the real world seeing how the vampire virus affects society instead of sitting in the headquarters waiting on the call to jump on a helicopter and shoot some bad guys.

She had come to tell us that Captain Stein was on his way and she had saved my life, running the risk of being thrown out of The Brotherhood or worse. I wondered if she was starting to question the legitimacy of the methods used to further their cause.

‘Are we filming?’ asked the doctor. Agent Simpson lifted the camera up and focused on the soldier’s bare torso. She pressed the record button and gave the doctor a thumbs-up with her free hand.

‘Where are you going to start?’ asked Captain Stein.

‘I’m going to check all the vital organs to see if there is any deterioration,’ said the doctor. He was back to sounding like he knew what he was talking about. ‘I suspect that vampires have some form of deficiency that necessitates the consumption of human blood. I want to see how the deficiency affects the internal organs.’

‘Okay, don’t let me hold you up,’ said the Captain as he looked on. He was a little too eager to see the soldier’s insides for my liking.

Doctor Owen started his commentary for the video camera as he pulled on his surgical gloves and waved at me to hand him a scalpel. ‘I will begin by making an incision in the chest cavity to examine the stomach and intestines.’

He took the scalpel out of my hands and looked at me. The look on his face told me he had no idea what to expect. As far as anyone in the room knew, we were about to witness the very first live vampire autopsy.

Very carefully, Doctor Owen leaned over the body and pushed the scalpel into the soldier’s skin just below the middle of his rib cage and started to cut him open, stopping just above his navel. Blood started to pour from the wound, which the doctor seemed be very surprised about.

‘There is an incredible amount of blood in the chest cavity: possible haemorrhage in one or more of the organs.’

The blood poured out of the soldier’s chest, onto the bed and started to drip onto the floor. The doctor continued, ‘Subject is losing massive amounts of blood.’

‘This is going to make a right mess,’ Captain Stein interrupted. Doctor Owen shot a dirty look in his direction.

‘If you want to help, get a bucket,’ he snapped. Captain Stein did nothing. ‘I’m serious. Get a bucket now! I have a theory.’

One of the armed soldiers put down his rifle, picked up a plastic basin and placed it under the bed, catching the dripping blood. At the rate the blood was gushing out of the soldier’s body, it wouldn’t be long until the basin filled up.

‘What’s the theory?’ asked the Captain.

Doctor Owen was fishing around inside the dark wet chest cavity. ‘All the organs feel larger than normal. I suspect they are filled with blood.’

‘Why isn’t that normal?’

‘This man’s stomach should feel like a small football, hollow and leathery on the outside. It feels more like a wet sponge, much bigger and heavier than it should be.’ The doctor squeezed the soldier’s stomach and commented on its quick return to a larger-than-normal size. His hands emerged, completely covered in blood.

Captain Stein was looking at the doctor in disbelief, the colour draining from his face.

‘Have a go if you don’t believe me,’ said the doctor.

‘I’ll pass,’ said Captain Stein, conceding that Doctor Owen knew more than he did, ‘So what does that mean?’

‘I suspect the virus breaks down the organ tissue. This man’s body is no longer the well-organised system that we are all blessed with. In our bodies, each organ has a purpose: one organ feeds the next in a specific order. Food reaches your stomach, which is broken down and processed through the intestines to transport energy to your muscles via the blood.

‘The walls of this man’s organs appear to be more permeable, meaning that blood can pass directly from one area of the body to the other, straight through the organs, bypassing the circulatory system. That will explain their incredible strength: blood can pass directly to the necessary muscles whereas our blood needs to travel through the complicated system of veins and arteries.’

‘But how is the blood directed?’ I asked, ‘The blood is pumped around our bodies by the heart. How can a vampire’s heart decide where to assign the blood?’

‘One step at a time, Detective.’

‘Doctor Owen,’ said Agent Simpson, sounding very concerned, ‘what’s happening to the blood?’

The drip of blood into the basin stopped. The stream of blood from the body to the basin hung in the air, defying the laws of gravity.

Then something even more unbelievable happened.

The blood started to pour upwards, out of the basin and back into the vampire’s chest cavity.

Frozen with shock, everyone in the lab watched as every drop of blood made its way from the basin under the bed back into the vampire’s body. Then the level of blood in the chest cavity dropped and the open wound in the vampire’s chest quickly sealed itself shut.

The doctor looked very concerned. ‘The blood must be moving to an area of the body where it is needed.’

‘Where?’ I asked.

I looked at the soldier’s face and saw his eyes open.

Rebirth is available from the following online retailers:

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