The Infection

No one escapes The Infection.


1. The Kind

The air is thick with disease, coiling greasily around the room. The mask only helps a little, my purified breath still rancid with the smouldering stench of dying. I do my best not to grimace as my patient rolls over in bed, revealing a fresh crop of oozing sores that splatter like gruesome constellations over her once porcelain skin. I dab a damp cloth across her swollen forehead and wipe away the beads of sweat that had accumulated there. Her breath comes in strangled gasps and I feel a retch spasm through my body as the sheet falls back to reveal her hand, two of the blackened fingers lying separate from the rest.

I had only been in my second year of medical school when The Infection began and I have still never really gotten used to the need for complete emotional detachment, I still think of the patients as people, pondering over their families, their histories. Who would miss them? Who would feel a void struct through their universe? Who would cry over their dead body when I failed to save them? Because I always fail to save them. Always. Hundreds of invalids, some so sick they could barely make it to their hospital beds. Frail people, people who need protection and comfort. Things I cannot readily give. I cry myself to sleep nearly every night. I am drowning, the surface far above my head, sinking deeper and deeper into the depths of despair.

My greatest fear has always been powerlessness. That was why I wanted to become a doctor. I was only six when my sister drowned, but I have never forgotten the feeling of weakness. I was incapable to help, I could do nothing but stand and watch as the life left her body. Like a deer caught in headlights all I could think to do was stand and watch. I never wanted to experience that ever again. I still think about it now, now I know all the ways I could have prevented her untimely death. But I had my chance and I missed it. I had my chance to save her and I stood and watched. Now I live through it every day; it is my cruel reality, it makes up my harsh existence. The faces of my patients morphing into my sister's and then back into their own, twisted with pain and death.

The Infection has no cure. I know that. The most I can do is try and ease their suffering for their last few days on earth. But I still feel every death like a blow to my soul. I have seen thousands of faces, each stricken with the plague, but each harbouring a tiny sliver of hope that perhaps they could be saved, perhaps they would be the one that survived this gruesome pandemic. This sliver of hope shines for a few days, before shrivelling up and dying with the rest of them. And a part of me hopes with them. Every single time I let myself get caught up in the notion that maybe this time my perpetual dabbing, cleaning and empty comforts will make a difference, my half formed knowledge will somehow conjure up a way to cure them. But it never does. Soon they crumble in on themselves and the life leaves their bodies. Those are then whisked away to be incinerated to make room for the newly infected. Then they die and more flood in. An endless cycle of death and despair.

And I caught up in the centre of it. The unmoving eye of the storm. I swear I must have seen a thousand faces come and go. Eaten away at by the hungry mouths of sickness and disease. I have seen so many people die in this fruitless war against the nature of themselves. Death has claimed so many, so many innocents. Mothers and fathers, daughters and sons. Once children could play on the streets, walk carefree through the city. Now they are kept in strict quarantine by their families or carers, or they lie dead, their life consumed by the ever hungry Infection.

It is a miracle I have survived this long, considering I spend my days staring death in the face. My life is a series of failures. Each case more gruesome and short lived than the last. Sometimes I long for the luxury of unfeeling. To be desensitised to the horrors of the world. How I envy those who do not spend every day in a turmoil of emotions. How I envy those who do not care. A tear rolls over my face under the mask and I adjust my sleeve, hiding the row of sores that had sprouted there a few days prior.

No one escapes The Infection.

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