Recalcitrant

The constant thudding at the heavy fire doors carried with it the lingering remnants of death, a putrid olfactory assailant that stabbed at the nostrils and could put the fear of the reaper into anything with a working brain. Luckily for Doctor Munroe, the plastic broom handle that she had wedged between the handles was hard to induce terror into, so it held fast against the assault.

“I’ve got to be dreaming.” Nurse Walters gibbered, keeping himself as far from the door as he could, catching glimpses of the diseased face pressing against the view panel. “This is some Dawn of the Dead crap right here! How long is that going to hold?”

“Calm yourself, Nurse.” Doctor Munroe spoke softly, like a mother to a small child. “We have time to collect ourselves. And arm ourselves.” The middle-aged woman was looking around the cleaner’s office for anything that could be used in self-defence.

“Arm ourselves? Have you gone mad, Alison?” Doctor Taylor said with the added punctuation of his hand slamming on top of a desk. “There are these… monsters, wandering the wards and the halls! Do you think this is some kind of movie?”

Taking a mop handle, Alison Munroe hefted the weight in her hands. “I do not think we are in a movie. What I do know though is that we have a quick-acting disease with the vector being the mixing of bodily fluids, that results in fever, convulsions, comas and then a walking ghost phase that sees cognitive functions quickly degenerate to the feral, with dermal necrosis and a marked increase of strength. Prevention is the key to keeping ourselves from becoming infected. So we will put on what PPE we can find around here. We will take up anything that gives us some reach for if they try to attack us while in a delusional state, and we will make our way out of here via the best route we can find. And if we have to hurt some patients to protect ourselves? Then the Hippocratic Oath be damned.”

Nurse Walters ran his fingers through his dark brown hair, tugging lightly at the spikes. “This is crazy! I mean… this is crazy!”

“I know.” Alison replied, opening a locker and starting to take out face masks and safety goggles. “What do you do in a crisis though, if someone is coding?”

“I… I listen to the doctor in charge?” Walters replied. He was in his mid-twenties, a handsome man with tanned skin and deep blue eyes.

“Exactly. So put these on, it may provide some protection for when we have to move.” She smiled, before looking to her fellow doctor. “Any objections, Martin?” She asked with a raised, blonde eyebrow.

“… Damnitall, fine.” Martin sighed. “There should be some overalls around here… a second layer of clothing might help, especially for Sean there.” He gave a meaningful look to the nurse, who’s uniform had been torn in several places in his escape, thankfully with no scratches.

“Good thinking. Then get something long like a broom or mop handle, we want to keep them at a distance. Think of it like a quarterstaff.” Alison smiled, quickly moving about the office to gather up supplies. First aid kits, needle-proof gloves, spare keys and a few of the cleaner’s bags. “Anything of use you can find, load into these bags. I’m thinking food, drink, that sort of thing.”

“One question, Doctor Munroe…” Sean said. “How on earth are you… I mean, being so calm? They don’t plan for this kind of thing.”

“They do, actually.” Alison chuckled, tying her bob of hair back with an elastic band. “You’d be surprised, but they often use ‘zombies’ as an exercise in disaster planning. A lot of the preparations are similar to a host of other events, and they tend to be a bit more engaging as a subject matter. Makes people pay attention.”

Martin was already bundling his slightly overweight frame into a pair of overalls. “So, once we start moving… where to?”

“The fire escape. We know this is a fast acting disease, unlike anything we’ve seen before. Given the size of the hospital, going back into it at any point we may be signing our death warrants. We need to get some distance between us and it. There’s plenty of daylight left. Fields to the east of here would be my bet. We can then swing around and join the road to the village, do some observation and information gathering.”

“What about a car?” Sean offered.

“My car keys are in my locker. Yours, Sean?” Martin inquired.

“… Locker, yeah. Damn.”

“Well then… let’s get ready. The sooner we start moving, the better.” Alison suggested. “I have just about had enough of recalcitrant patients.”

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