My eyes were red from tears, but I was over feeling sorry for myself. I had made peace with dying. There was no fear; only a trepidatious curiosity. I had survived the biological terror attack at the local mall. Some hemorrhagic respiratory pathogen – a virus or bacteria or who knows what – was released into the air conditioning. I watched over 2,000 people cough up gory chunks of lung tissue over the week we were quarantined in that hell hole. By then end, the floor was covered in gallons of blood. It dripped from the second floor in half-congealed gelatinous rivulets.
Three of us survived. The CDC decontaminated us and brought us to a local hospital to test our blood for antibodies. The other two were gone in mere days. I wasn’t. I’d been in plastic room for a month with no word on my condition. Five different sets of doctors took samples of my blood. I was sure I was infected and that my progression was just much slower than normal. Every time I coughed or sneezed I expected to see part of my trachea dangling from my lips.
Finally, a paternal-looking doctor came into my room.
“Mr. Caldwell, I have to talk to you about your blood samples.”
I nodded. “I think I’ve worked it out. I know this part of your job must suck, so I’ll just tell you that I know I’m infected. I’ve come to terms with it. It’s ok.”
“You’re right that this will be difficult, but you’re not dying. Your blood is not human. We’re not sure what it is, but it’s not human. You are not human.”