“Can you see them? They’re right there!” Jordan dug her fingernails into her wrist blazing another bloody trail down her forearm.
“There’s nothing there, baby. It’s the infection.” I pull her hands apart, but they snap together like two magnets; her skin the north pole, her nails the south. We’ve been playing this game for hours ever since the first symptoms appeared.
Spontaneous schizophrenia has become the term coined by the doctors, but most folks called it The Clutching. They traced patient zero to a South American man twenty-nine days ago, five more cases were discovered a week later. Of course, they didn’t identify it as a problem until the third week when fifty-six cases were reported. One hundred and two the next day. To date there have been over nine hundred, and it’s been less than a month.
The CDC has spared no expense, but the cause remains elusive. They have become so desperate to calm the public’s nerves they’ve labeled it a mental illness. If you ask me, it’s a breakthrough nanotechnology hopping across a synaptic highway at frequencies beyond our measurement.
But nobody’s asked me. It would be nice to use my Ph.D. in Nanochemical Bioengineering I paid so much for, but there hasn’t been time. Its arbitrary, indiscriminate spread has eliminated the possibility of proactivity. Every reaction is a thousand steps in the rearview mirror.
“Can’t you see them? Jesus, Patrick, there’re thousands of them! They look like sesame seeds in my veins. Tiny sesame seeds with legs!” Jordan digs at the vein on her thigh. “Get them out! Please, get them out.” Her terror etches the corners of her eyes, white and rimmed in black hysteria.
“I swear to God, Jordan, they aren’t there. Trust me.” I make another attempt to put the mittens on her hands. “Please, sit still a minute. You have to stop scratching yourself.”
Jordan’s tears pool and overflow. “It’s The Clutching, isn’t it? I’ve gone crazy like the rest of them, haven’t I? I feel them in my brain, Patrick. It’s real.” She rips a hunk of hair out of her scalp and examines the bloody roots, but tosses it aside when the results are negative. “Thank God.”
I manage to duct tape one mitten onto a hand. Her other hand traces the veins at her elbow pinching the blue paths extending past the gray restraint. I glance away to find the other mitten. It gives her enough time to tear away half of the tape. Panicking, I bind her wrists together flipping the roll around and around until her elbows are touching. I put on the other mitten and add more tape.
“Let me go, Patrick. I won’t do it anymore. Please, just let me go.”
“Come on. Let’s get you to the hospital.” Sedation is the only treatment, long-term sedation until a cure can be found. But how can you find a cure when you have no apparent cause?
I lead her to the car and deposit her in the backseat. For the moment, she is calm. I take advantage of the lull, climb behind the wheel, rev the engine, and adjust the rearview mirror. Jordan is picking at something behind her ear. Hopefully, the mittens will hold her at bay. Gravel sprays across the driveway as I head to the hospital. Other cars honk their annoyance when I blast through a stop light. I check the mirror again, and Jordon has disappeared. I chance a look behind me.
Jordan had slumped to her side, one mitten in her mouth, her jugular pulsing against her fingers buried in her throat.
I’ve had no time to mourn. My first symptoms erupted a few hours after leaving Jordan’s body at the emergency room. Like grains of sand draining through a sieve, my invaders flood my circular system. Even though I know it’s probably the manipulation of the hypothalamus or some such, the vision of them sends an electric shock through my marrow. I clamp my eyes shut willing the apparitions to morph into rainbows and puppy dogs, but the trespassers scurry across my eyelids.
“You’re NOT REAL!”
Or maybe they are.
It’s a moot point. I waste no time. I saw the medicated zombies strapped in their hospital beds.
I place the blade against the hollow of my neck and set the bastards free.