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Hansel's Lover - Chapter Seven

In a desperate attempt to save a doctor from her clinic, Anna pursues the illogical.
Chapter Seven: Dr. Carson

After a nice, relaxing shower, Anna found herself scavenging for anything edible in the cupboards. She could not remember the last time she ate a decent meal. Grabbing the fresh loaf of bread she had baked in the oven, she placed it on the counter and made a large batch of mushroom soup. She added the mushrooms from her father's garden, fresh cream, churned butter, a sprinkle of flat parsley, along with ground pepper and salt to finish the recipe.

Once she sat down, she felt better immediately after getting a mouthful. The bread was still warm in her hand, and it created an explosion in her mouth when she matched it with the soup. She took her time eating as she had a few more hours before she had to head to the clinic for her own check up. Yet, halfway through her meal, she was interrupted by a sudden loud knocking coming from the front door.

She wasn't expecting anyone today, but a terrifying thought came in her head.
What if it was one of those people Sahl warned her about?
The knocking didn't stop even as Anna let a few seconds pass by. She stood up and grabbed one of her father's wooden paddles.
Carefully she made her way towards the entrance, and before she could raise the paddle up to get herself ready, she heard a familiar voice pleading for her to open the door.

"Anna, It's me! We don't have a lot of time!"
She immediately dropped the paddle and opened the door to welcome one of the clinic's veteran doctors. Even at 54, Dr. Lilybeth was as sharp as anyone could be. She was strict and snappy at her words and actions, but it was most unusual to find her clothes disheveled and her hair in an unkempt bun.

"Are you alright?" She asked. The doctor had never paid her a visit before.
"I'm sorry for what I'm about to ask you," she blubbered, " but there's nobody else who can help me. You're the only left."
Anna let her inside the house. She quickly grabbed a glass from the rack and filled it with fresh cold water. When she handed it to Dr. Lilybeth, she drank it one short gulp.
"Can you tell me what's going on?"
She heard the doctor swallow, her words unable to come out. Anna waited patiently for her to talk, and eventually she began to explain.

"Two days ago, Dr. Carson reported to me that one of his patients showed symptoms of what could be a transmittable airborne disease, so he immediately drove everybody out of the clinic. There were seven in total, a mix of patients and employees. We checked to make sure their systems were clear before letting them go back home.

"He placed himself on lockdown, and so we could only communicate through the phone."
Dr. Lilybeth held her hands together on the table.

"The patient had been confined for a few days because of chills and a raging fever, but gradually he developed a violent headache, and rashes all over his chest and stomach started to show up. Then he started vomiting blood. His test also showed the inflammation of his pancreas." The doctor looked at her in horror.

" I know it's unreasonable to assume anything unless a proper diagnosis was conducted, but both of us can't help but think it might be- "

"The Morgan Virus."
Anna shivered at the thought. She wasn't alive then, but everyone knows about the deadly disease that made the world they know of now to exist the way it does.

In 1972, scientists identified an airborne virus, now called the Morgan Virus, after several lab researchers were exposed to the infected Cambodian monkeys they were using for an undisclosed experiment. All 10 of them died in a matter of days.

At the same time, the same outbreak occurred in the middle of a Union Nation Convention, where more infected monkey were smuggled inside the building, infecting 123 world leaders and 400 employees. They tried to contain the situation, but with no vaccine, it eventually led to their deaths.

Countries began to blame each other, claiming it was an extreme way of sabotage and an attempt to interfere with peace, so started a gruesome technological warfare that lasted three years. Only 17 per cent of human civilization survived the grips of death before a truce was made.

The surviving world leaders have made the decision to split the surviving ten million people into six distinctly different domains -merging culture, religion, as well as language in order to live together in their own perspective territory. Each domain was ruled over by a Prime Minister, guaranteeing that all persons be provided with whatever they needs to survive. The only rule is to forget about the past, and to live in the future.
This was how Zuwan Kingdom was reborn to existence.

"Today, I haven't been able to reach Dr. Carson on the phone. He wouldn't respond to any of the landlines in the clinic. I'm afraid he might have already been infected. Still, I don't want to lose hope."

What do you need me to do?" Anna said right away.

"I need someone who knows their way around the clinic to enter the isolation room on the second floor. I know he would be there with the patient," the doctor explained.

"All you need to do is get blood samples from Dr. Carson and his patient. I've been working on different types vaccines that deal with common viruses I've ever encountered, but each of them reacts differently depending on blood viscosity and allergic reactions. I need you to get me their blood as soon as you can so I can run the tests and get a proper reading."
"Could I not bring the vaccines with me?"

The doctor shook her head. "These are no ordinary vaccines. The serums can either help the body, or reject it entirely. The tests take eight hours. It cannot be rushed. Give them the wrong vaccine, and they could hyperventilate- maybe even die."

Anna flinched, but the doctor continued.
"You will be given a protective gear, which you must never take off. You can only be inside there for ten minutes max. Any longer, and you may get it too."
Dr. Lilybeth stood up. "Will you go?"
It was a heavy task, but Anna knew there was no time to hesitate.
"I'll get ready," she said to the doctor. "I'll prepare the vials, syringes and sterilized needles. Please prepare to work right after I hand it back to you."

**************************************************************************

After a 45-minute preparation, they arrived in front of the building, and found a mob of people standing a good distance away with curious eyes.
"News travels fast," Anna mumbled.
"They've made an announcement about an unknown virus lurking in the clinic," answered the doctor, "Naturally, people assumed it could be the very virus we are afraid of."

Naturally, Anna thought nervously.

She then noticed the army of men in uniform surrounding the building with rigid expressions. Their hands were folded behind them, their eyes straight ahead. It was only when they got closer did their attention folded on the two. A soldier stepped out of the circle and stood in front of them.

She then noticed the army of men in uniform surrounding the building with rigid expressions. Their hands were folded behind them, their eyes straight ahead. It was only when they got closer did their attention folded on the two. A soldier stepped out of the circle and stood in front of them.

"This is a lockdown. We are not allowed to let anyone inside."
"I am Dr. Wilma Lilybeth, the chief director of this Medical Centre. We've received clearance from the Minister to proceed."
"You will be exposed once you're inside," he warned them.
"Ten minutes will not be enough to get exposed," Dr. Lilybeth retorted.
"Having the two of you inside is worrying," the soldier fired back, but Anna stepped forward.
"She won't go inside, only I will."

The soldier looked her up and down.
To him, she must have looked like an astronaut. She was wearing a white, waterproof overall made up of protective plastic. Her hands have been covered with thick long surgical gloves and complimentary rubber boots to protect her feet.
And in her hand was her respirator. It had been attached to a face shield, ensuring that it would protect her eyes, her mouth and the rest of her face.

He didn't say anything more after than, and let them pass.
Now that they were standing outside the entrance, Dr. Lilybeth's steps fell short.
"Anna," she called out. "To ask you to do this... I..."
"It's alright, Doctor." Anna smiled. "I understand what you're trying to do."

Anna looked at the crowd who eyes her like a cat. If this was really the same virus from that time, the last thing any nation needs is to be short on doctors or nurses who can provide a patient with immediate treatment. Dr. Lilybeth could not risk any of her colleagues to get infected, which meant anyone who wasn't important enough but can still stick a needle on someone's arms would do.

Anna had been her choice.

"Ten minutes, Anna." The doctor said sternly. "You must come back out before ten minutes is up. And at no cost should you take your respirator off. The oxygen level at isolation is scarce. It's possible Dr. Carson passed out from lack of breathable air."
She nodded.

When the doctor went back down, Anna prepared herself by putting the headgear on. She exhaled a few times, and fog formed in the plastic cover.
She waited for it to clear up. Once it did, she looked at the watch on her wrist.
"Ten minutes," she repeated to herself.

Then, with a nod, the guards guarding the door moved out of her way and opened the door.
Clenching tightly on the equipment bag by its handle, she entered the building.
Yet, only once she stepped inside did she hear someone screaming her name.
The doors were closed immediately, but it wasn't fast enough for Anna to miss a glimpse of the breathless soldier running straight towards the door.
She wondered how he could run so fast, when he was holding a large backpack with one hand, and a duffel bag in his opposite shoulder.

Then, she snapped herself back to reality.
"Now."
Anna ran like lightning, and headed upstairs. The building consisted of two main floors. The first floor was used to accommodate regular checkups, but the upstairs was used for containment. It was the same for the big hospital an hour away from their town, or the camp infirmary. Containment rooms are where those who have suspicious symptoms are brought it. They are generally painted grey, with no window and only a door. Aside from medical equipments, you could find a human-sized scanner, a computer for the doctor to use, a telephone to communicate to the main floor, and the red button, that, when pressed, sends an automatic message to the Minister's office telling him that the area is under quarantine.

Dr. Carson must have pressed it, for there would be no other reason a crowd of soldiers would be guarding the clinic.

When she ran upstairs, she found herself facing four enclosed rooms made of plastic glass. As she walked, she found the first three rooms to be empty. At the end of the hall was a double door made of stainless steel. On tops were the words "Isolation."
She swallowed nervously, but without hesitation she opened the door.

"Dr. Carson," she called out, but nobody replied. She closed the door quickly, and as she took a few steps she found a man in a disheveled lab coat rummaging furiously from a medical cabinet.

"Dr. Carson," she called him. His head snapped up, and when he turned to face her, she was shocked. He looked extremely unwell. His eyes and ears were red from lack of rest, his lips white from thirst and his skin had gotten extremely pale.

"Anna, is that you?" He said as he stood up "What are you doing here?"
When was the last time he ate a meal or drank a sip of water? There should have been some provisions around the building for emergency like this but it looked as if he hadn't bothered to leave room since.

She ran towards him, and took out the contents of her bag.
"I've been sent by Dr. Lilybeth to grab blood samples from you and your patient. She has vaccines prepared but we must give her blood samples to determine which one is appropriate.

"Ah..." he breathed. "I see."
Anna had never seen Dr. Carson appear so fragile before. He had always been the grouchy old doctor in her mind, who assigns millions tasks for every person in the clinic. His tone of voice had always been rough, he's stubborn, and always stood by the things he believed in.
Slowly he took off his coat, and tied a band in his left arm so Anna could see the vein easily. After attaching the sterilized needle in a syringe, she gave him a worried look.

"I'll have enough blood for this, at least." He said to her. She sighed, and in a second she inserted the needle in. the droplets had come in slow, but eventually it filled the small vial in her hand. She then quickly placed a cotton ball and gauze in his arm to stop any more blood from coming out.

"And your patient?" She asked.
He pointed to the corner of the room and found a man sleeping on top of it. When she walked forward, she could see the pain from the lines in his forehead. His skin felt icy even when she touched it with gloved hands, and his lips were dry like bones. His fair skin made the reds of his hair look more fiery, as if fire had enveloped it and formed its own color. He was groaning from the pain, and instinctively Anna reached her hand with his. She squeezed his hand lightly.

"You'll be okay," she whispered.
Letting go, she rolled his sleeve and stuck the needle on him. Quietly she waited for the drops of blood of come out, but none would come out. Dr. Carson walked forward and pointed at another vein in his arm.
"Try that."
She followed him, and magically enough, drops started to pour out.
"It started with a high fever," Dr. Carson said to her, "now his organs are starting to get affected."

"Why haven't you been answering Dr. Lilybeth's call?" She asked him.
"My phone died," replied Dr. Carson. "And all the landlines in the clinic have been taken out for an upgrade. We were supposed to get new ones tomorrow morning. I'd have to punch the person who decided to send them all at once."
Anna looked away, knowing it was him who had decided so.

"His name is Kyle Sehler. 24-years-old." He said suddenly. "He is as a watercraft engineer, working from place to place. He came here complaining about a piercing headache, but look where we are."

The vial was almost full now.
"And where was the last place he had been to?" She asked him, and he began to clear his throat.
"He told me he had come from Sonddor."
Anna stopped moving. "Impossible."

"At first, I didn't believe him either. But now..."
Anna slowly removed the needle from his arm, and hastily placed a cotton ball to stop the bleeding.

She stared at the sleeping man. It had been a long time since she had seen anyone come out from Sonddor alive. It must have been because he wasn't a soldier like her father and his team that he was allowed to leave in one piece.
Still, if she could just speak to this man, then maybe she can know something about that dreaded place.

She looked at her watch to see that she only had three minutes left.
"Anna," he called. "You wouldn't happen to have a piece of chocolate, would you?"
"No..." she answered, confused. But then a sudden realization came to her as he looked at the old man with wide eyes. "Dr. Carson, your insulin. Have you not been able to take it?"

He shook his head. "I had no idea I'd be held up here for days. I've taken my last shot yesterday."
"We need to get you out of here!" she exclaimed. " The vomiting, dehydration and weakness you are feeling right now are the consequences of not taking your insulin shots!"
He didn't respond to her words, and only managed to show her a faint smile. Without him saying anything, she knew what that pitiful smile meant. Even if they asked the outside for a batch of insulin shots, they would deny the request simply because they believe it would be used to the patient, no matter how much they explain that it wouldn't be the case. They have to think of something else.

"You must go now Anna," he said. His voice has gotten much fainter this time. "Don't lose time. Right now, I need to give him this shot to hold him off before the vaccine arrives."
"What is it?"
"A new plant-based anti-viral drug. It helps him keep his organs running for now. I give him very small amounts to prevent him from overdosing."
"How often do you need to do this?"

"Every nine minutes, in small doses."
He stood up from his seat, and for the firs time in years, she saw him smile.
"Go. You're reaching your limit soon too."
She nodded, heartbroken. Yet, even as she was a step away from the exit, she turned around to give them one last look.
Despite his weakened body, Dr. Carson was moving in a faster pace. Quickly wiping the sweat off his forehead, his hands busied to wring a small cloth in cold, running water. He placed it carefully on the patient's forehead. Then, he took out his stethoscope to observe the man's heartbeat.

It was then that she noticed of how the doctor's lips had been parted the whole time. He had been gasping for air.

Anna had been wearing a respirator this whole time that she forgot of about the low oxygen level in the room. The patient didn't have that problem as he had been hooked up with an oxygen line, but the problem lies with the old man who isn't hooked up to one. Ever since he announced the outbreak, the ventilation systems in the building were immediately closed shut. There is no way for air to get inside.

And that's when she realized that Dr. Carson would not survive for another eight hours. If the virus doesn't kill him, it would either be his diabetes or lack of oxygen.
Realizing she wouldn't be of much help with the first two, she focused on the last thing that could help keep him alive.

Air.

*******************************************************************************

After storing the vials carefully in place, Anna closed the container shut.
She walked back down to the main floor, where she could make out the shadows of the soldiers standing outside the building.
"Isn't it tiring?" She thought.

At last she made it to front entrance, where only a set of double doors separated her from the man who had been hovering back in forth. The transparent glass doors took the fun out of guessing who it was.

She almost felt like crying, but she armored herself with a smile.
She knocked on the door to get his attention, and at once Daniel's head snapped back. She was glad to finally look at him after being avoided for so long.

Those small brown eyes that glimmered every time she looked at him, the way his voice sounded in her ears when he spoke to her, and his awful way of smiling his way through life - she loved it so much she could perish from the Earth without a single regret.
But right now, Daniel was looking at her as if she had already died. His lips parted open from shock of seeing her without her respirator on.

She had taken it off earlier to give to Dr. Carson. It was amazing, that apparatus. Dr. Lilybeth had failed to mention that a button on the side of the mask would allow its wearer access to filtered water from a little straw that was already attached inside.

At first, Dr. Carson refused vehemently and pushed her away, but when she told him about the next eight hours he had to wait, he almost fainted.

"And what about you?" He had asked her while inserting a needle in her arm. "Once you take this respirator off, they will not let you out, virus or no virus."
"Then I'll just be here," she answered. "We'll give our blood to Dr. Lilybeth and hope for the best."

"And if that doesn't work?"
Anna smiled slyly.
"Then we're all screwed."
Afterwards, she ran to the staff kitchen and searched hard for something sweet. It took a good few minutes, but she found five sugar packets, just enough to hold him down for a little while.

"I didn't think of this," said Dr. Carson. He ripped them open and shot them all down in a blink of an eye.
"Did it make a difference?" She asked.
He nodded his head.
"Like you wouldn't believe."

Anna didn't regret her decision to stay. That's what she told herself, but she started to feel otherwise after seeing Daniel's face. She had never seen him look so restless. His brows furrowed and his forehead grew lines where it never did, but he didn't say anything and waited for her to talk.
Before she could, however, several guns pointed in her direction after they saw her from Daniel's side of the door.

"She doesn't have the mask on!" Yelled one of the soldiers.
"She's caught the virus!" Added another.
"Shoot her the minute she steps out!"
Anna felt terrified. This must be how it felt to be on the other side of the war with the National Guards. She could name each and every man pointing their gun at her right now, and even give them a smile, but they would not even give her a single chance to talk.
Daniel moved fast.

He turned his back on Anna and faced the merciless armed men. Then, he took his gun out and pointed to a closed vent located a feet away from him.
"This vent directs air right from the isolation room," he warned them. "If you don't put your guns down, I'll shoot this thing open."
Anna had never seen him so hostile before. And whatever face he was making must have been so scary, because half of them stepped away. Unsatisfied with the response, Daniel raised his gun and touched the trigger.

"Drop your weapons, men!"
The commander who ran to scene roared, and at once they followed his order.
"Lieutenant Han, that includes you," he added.
The large man then came towards Anna.
"You must have a very good reason for showing up without a respirator," he said to her. "Are you trying to make my men shoot each other?"
She shook her head immediately.

"I've given it to the Doctor inside. Without any oxygen, he'd die before the vaccine could arrive," she explained. "I'll stay here, but I need to give you these blood samples now."
The commanders looked behind Anna, and she knew it was to make sure the second set of doors were shut closed.

"It will only take two seconds to give to you," she added.
The commander looked at her one more time, and then he stepped back.
"Lieutenant, take it from her."
He nodded, and Anna waited until Daniel stood in front of her.
"Go on," she said to him. "Take it."
"Must you do this?" He whispered, and his eyes looked intently at her. " Must you risk your life?"

" You risk your life everyday," she retorted. "I don't see why you would be against my decision."
"But I'm a soldier! It's my job! But you..."
"....are nothing?" she hissed.
"No! I'm not..."

"You know what I imagine, Daniel? What if this wasn't Siho, but Sonddor? And somewhere out there, my father is on the brink of death with only one sickly doctor trying to keep him alive? If that doctor was to fall apart, without anyone helping him the way I'm helping Dr. Carson, then..."
"-But that patient is not your father!" Daniel snapped back.
Anna looked at him in disdain. "You're really cruel."

"Han," interrupted his commander from behind. "Take it from her or she really will die."

Creating a small crack of space, Daniel leaned forward to grab the container from her hands. But when she lifted the case up, he shoved a small walkie-talkie in her hand.

"I'll be back," she heard him say, and he ran out quickly to a black jeep with the samples. Then, as he sped away, she was hit with the realization that it was the first time they'd spoken to each other in such a long time.
She could almost cry.

Almost.
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Published: 8/25/2016
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