[Author’s note: All right, folks. I think there’s only 3 chapters left. We’ll see how fast I can get through the final few twists and turns. If you’ve just learned about Oasis, start with chapter 1.]
Rest & Recovery?
I gasped and opened my eyes. It felt like my head was finally above water after someone had held it under too long.
“Don’t do that!”
Two red shoes were on the foot of my bed. They were being worn by a young man sitting on a nearby chair. His eyes were big and he pretty much looked like he had seen a ghost.
“You trying to scare me to death?”
I pushed up on an elbow. “Well, good morning to you, too.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Wow. You’re… how are you?”
“Would you open those blinds?”
He stood and let in some light.
The room was hot and the air was humid, but the sky showed no trace of the storm that had pounded the city.
My body was sore to be sure, but it felt good to be alive.
An IV had been set in my left hand. However, for the moment I wasn’t hooked up to anything. The little capped tube just stuck out a couple of inches. The bite on my right hand was wrapped up. It no longer throbbed with pain.
Kevin sat back down. “So… you know… how are you?”
I pushed all the way up to a sitting position. “Oh, I’m doing fine. Except, I think I have a hang nail on my thumb.”
Kevin didn’t laugh.
Oh well. I thought it was funny.
He yawned. “That other girl will be pissed she wasn’t here when you woke up. She’s been in here with you all night.”
“Yeah.” Kevin smiled a little. “Lily wanted to sleep near you and this other girl kicked her out. I thought they were going to catfight all over the room.”
It couldn’t be… could it? “Beth?”
“I think so. Something like that.”
“How in the world did she get here?”
He raised an eyebrow. “I haven’t exactly had time to interview everyone that was already here when we arrived, Corbin.”
He was a little testy, but I didn’t hold that against him.
I was just happy to be alive. I had no idea what had saved me, but I was grateful.
A slightly naughty idea popped into my head.
I laid back down. “Tell you what, Kevin. Go find Beth and tell her I’ve been stirring a bit and you think I might wake up soon.”
I closed my eyes, pulled up the bed sheet, and made an attempt to hold still.
Kevin ran out of the room.
A few minutes later, Kevin and another person came in. Kevin was spinning some story about how I had rolled over and muttered something.
The other person sat on the foot of my bed. “I wonder what he’ll be like when he wakes up.”
Sure enough, it was Beth’s voice.
I felt even better now that I knew it was her.
She put a hand on my shin. “I mean, is his personality going to be the same? Will the virus have changed him?”
I jerked up to a sitting position and raised my arms out straight. “Bbrraaiinnss!”
My joke was not met with a scream as I had expected, but rather with a swift punch to my face.
I had no idea that she could hit that hard.
Kevin laughed. “He’s fine.”
Beth shook her head and her hand. “Ow! You jerk.”
I covered the freshly, punched side of my face. “Ow, yourself.”
“Serves you right. It wasn’t funny.”
It occurred to me that while I was sleeping and healing, everybody else was still dealing with the crisis. While I was now feeling relieved and revived, they were all still physically and mentally exhausted.
“Well, I’m sorry now.”
“Corbin, I’m…” Beth took a deep breath, “I’m sorry, too.”
I looked up at her. “Why didn’t you warn me?”
“The worst part is…”
Kevin stood up. “I’ll just leave you two alone then.”
We watched him walk out.
Beth turned back to me. “The worst part is, what I was afraid of happening… happened anyway, and I hated knowing that I didn’t try harder to at least help you.”
We stared into each other’s eyes for a moment.
I reached out and touched her hand. “It’s…”
She pulled the hand free and wiped a tear away. “Carl found out about my dad and Aunt Janice. He threw out my dad, and I went with him.”
A slight breeze blew in the open window.
I reached around on my back and felt skin. I was wearing a hospital gown.
“Where are my clothes?”
“Another nurse took them last night and cleaned them. Well, rinsed them out anyway. I’ll bet they’re about dry wherever they are. I’ll go look when the doctor comes in to check on you.”
“Yeah, that squirrelly little doctor that’s the viral expert. He says you two’ve met.”
“That doesn’t really help. I used to work here, you know. I can’t even count how many doctors I’ve met.”
“Yeah, but I get the feeling he didn’t work here before. He’s too weird.”
Someone knocked on the door.
“Speak of the devil… that’s probably him.”
A small man in a white lab coat entered. “And how’s the patient?”
I couldn’t believe it. It was the same doctor who had tried to leave me for dead in the stairwell of the research annex.
I felt the blood rush to my face and my hands clench into fists. “What the hell are you doing here? I thought you were going to go it alone. Safety in lack of numbers or something.”
Beth gave me a questioning look.
The doctor touched Beth on the shoulder. “Miss, if you’d excuse us a moment.”
She looked to the doctor and then at me again. “Sure. I guess.”
“And close the door if you would.”
Before she left, she looked back at me one last time.
The doctor sat down. “Don’t look at me like that. I know you’re mad, but I saved your life.”
“Yeah, but you did try to kill me once.”
“Actually, that’s when I saved it.”
The doctor smirked. “I lied to you back then.”
“So how do I know…”
He held up a hand. “Just shut up a minute. I told you then that I was part of the viral research team. That was the lie. I’m part of the team that’s been working on the cure.”
“So why didn’t you…”
He stood again. “Let’s see that hand.”
I held up the bandaged hand, and he started unwrapping. “I didn’t want you to do anything dumb, and I knew you probably would if you thought I might have a possible cure, which, as it ends up, I did. I just didn’t know it worked at the time, so it’s lucky you showed up here.”
“So when I was passed out on the stairs, you…”
“Actually, it was in the dart with the tranquilizer. I only had four different samples that were ready for testing, and between the fact that I’m a genius and you’re incredibly lucky… well, here you are. Your hand is looking much better.”
It all made my head spin. Could it be true? I’m a test subject? I did get bitten, didn’t I? And now I’m here and I’m living…
I looked at my hand. “What is it?”
“What is what?”
The doctor stood up straight. “It’s a bacteria. It has special receptors that fool the virus so when the virus goes through the uncoating process it releases its RNA into a food vacuole where it undergoes phagocytosis instead of replication inside the cell. And yes, I designed it.”
Yep, he pretty much embodied everything I’ve ever hated about doctors.
“I took a blood sample a couple hours ago after I was sure you were going to make it. From that we should be able to recover enough of the bacteria to make a good culture.”
“Don’t you have any more?”
“No. It’s a long story.”
He walked over to the sink and turned it on. Water came out for a moment, then spat and gurgled, then stopped altogether.
The doctor stared at the faucet. “Damn it. This wasn’t supposed to happen yet.”
He turned and ran for the door.
I was shocked. What did he know that I didn’t?
Only one thing was certain. My time for rest and recovery was over.
So what does the doctor know? Keep reading to find out!