Alicia heard the man's screams before she had opened the door to the lab. It was late at night, around 10 o'clock and she knew he would be attempting to fall into an uninterrupted sleep. It was uncommon now for someone- more commonly the elderly than the young- to have a restful sleep and it was up to her to figure out how to fix it. But now, as she placed a hand on the pristine silver metal that would allow her to re-enter the sterile lab that held the shrieking man, Alicia began to think that leaving her assistant in the room alone while she went and bought a coffee might have been a bad idea. Especially if the man was having a fit.
The door swung open and exposed the fiery head of her assistant, Becca Robinson. She had her head tipped at an odd angle as she attempted to look up at the taller scientist, exposing two yellow ear plugs that were drowning out the man's cries and shouts. Becca quickly pulled Alicia inside and lead her to where Jonathon was lying twitching on a bed of rumpled hospital-white sheets. "Dr. Thames, thank God you're here! Jonathon's having an attack and-"
"How long has this-" Alicia stopped and pulled the ear plugs out of her partner's ears, bringing a look of annoyance to Becca's face as she was once again exposed to the sounds of Jonathon's fit, before continuing. "How long has this been going on?"
"About ten minutes." Becca replied, opting for covering her ears with her hands as Alicia was doing.
Alicia stared at her for a moment; sure her mouth was open in surprise. "What? Why isn't he strapped down?" Before Becca could reply she hurried on. "Never mind- I don't want to know. Quickly, before the fit gets any worse- there's still time."
The fiery head of her partner disappeared at these words as Becca scrambled to strap Jonathon's arms and legs, frantically grabbing them to prevent them from injuring himself- or herself. As Alicia watched on from the doorway that stood between the 'bedroom' of Jonathon, with its hospital-like feel and military cleanliness, and the lab that held every piece of equipment used by the two scientists in their feeble struggle to cure EHS, she began to feel for the old man, watching as his greying hair hung limply over his face and wrinkled skin curled back into a grimace of pain. She had only been working with him for just over a year but she had often heard him retell the pain and fear the fits of EHS inflicted on him the following morning. 'It's like having your body invaded by the worst explosive noise ever imagined, and it brings pain and craziness with it.' Jonathon would put it. And now, as she watched him have a fit for the first time since she started working with a human 'subject', it fueled her desire to find a cure even more. When she had first met Jonathon all those months ago, he had been an anomaly but now Exploding Head Syndrome had infested three-quarters of the Earth's population. Even the Queen was suffering from this debilitating syndrome.
"You alright there Becca?" Alicia called out as she sank down into one of the cold, hard metal chairs that stood in the lab. A muffled response came from behind the wall that separated the two, indicating that she was fine. "Good. Nothing odd is going on with his vitals. Just make sure those straps don't break and we have a repeat of Olson."
Another muffled response and Alicia turned her attention to the monitor that was in front of her. It was displaying his brainwaves, a thin white line cruising along the screen, one which shuddered upwards with new life each time Jonathon let out a strangled scream. It reminded her of how her previous partner, James Olson, had always insisted on watching the brainwave monitor and Jonathon at the same time, never letting Alicia watch the man's pain or put herself in any danger of getting injured. Instead, he put himself in the hospital. Alicia thought, forcing herself not to tear up like she always seemed to do as she remembered the horrific sound of his spine snapping as he hit the wall, the shrieks of Jonathon as his legs found contact with his body and the whispered, almost silent, pleading from James for her to stay where she was and not come any closer. She was stupid to do as he said. After everything they had been through together, she couldn't even save him.
The two had been inseparable partners during university and had been lucky enough be able to work on all of her past achievements together- curing the common cold at eighteen; cancer at twenty and the start of the investigation on the most deadly syndrome of the time. Exploding Head Syndrome had put too many people to count in the hospital; many because they had been struck or attacked due to the unnaturally strong hypnic jerks that accompanied the EHS. Just like Olson was right now, they were immediately put either onto life support or into an induced coma. The only good thing that came out of having Olson in the hospital, was that Alicia got to work with her best friend. She hated herself for thinking that, as she watched James be rolled into an ambulance on a stretcher, his face peaceful and the exact opposite of what you would expect to find on an unconscious man with a broken spine's face. But nothing could change the past but, with focus, she could change the future. The curing of EHS would put the two scientists into the history books- it would save millions of innocent people from going crazy or dying. Heck, it would even save the Queen.
"Dr. Thames, the fit seems to have ended at 10:23pm, with his heartbeat, breathing and body movements returning to normal. Hopefully that is the only one tonight." Becca's voice interrupted her trip down memory lane and Alicia quickly composed herself to finding the familiar red hair of her friend beaming down at her from around the corner. "Are his brainwaves normal?"
"Y-yes." Alicia glanced quickly at the screen of the monitor as she hurriedly wrote down the details of Jonathon's fit in her record book, cursing herself mentally for not paying attention. I need to be focused. The people of the world are relying on me to cure this. I can't let my feelings get in the way of this task.
A noise brought Alicia's eyes back to the door. Becca had a hand to her mouth, as if in fear, her eyes as wide as plates. "Scratch that, Alicia." She said, her words quiet and full of fear.
"Why? He can't be having another-"
"Well, he is and this time it's stronger; more violent. We may need stronger restraints."
"This is no time to joke, Robinson."
"I'm not joking."
Alicia suddenly became serious and stared at her partner. Realisation hit her- tonight wasn't normal. "Just keep him alive." Becca disappeared again behind the door and Alicia turned her head back to look at the screen in front of her.
"What the-" The white line was now twisting and winding violently across the polysomnograms screen. It almost seemed to make words. Now don't be an idiot, Alicia, there's no possible way for it to make words. Get a grip! But the line continued to twist evermore violently, as Jonathon's screams once again echoed around the small lab. This time, however, they seemed in more agony, as if someone was ripping out a lung or snapping an arm. Almost in reply this, a shriek belonging to Becca slipped over the top of the old man's and Alicia's partner stumbled backwards into the wall behind Alicia.
"Becca? Becca come here. Quickly!" Alicia murmured, as if she hadn't realised Becca had entered the room, even if it was in an unruly manner.
"What is it?" Becca mumbled as she righted herself and walked over, peering intently at the screen in front of Alicia. "It can't be as bad as-"
"Oh God." Alicia murmured again. It was all falling into place. "It's a signal! His brain's acting like a radio, picking up some kind of radio wave. The noises sound like a bomb because the information is too much for the human brain to handle; it turns out incoherent and painful. And I know why the fits are getting more frequent; stronger; affecting more people."
"Why?" Becca asked, squinting closer to the screen, not picking up what the older scientist was on about. Alicia didn't reply. Instead, she pointed at the screen and Becca gasped, a hand flying to her mouth as she saw what Alicia saw.
Blinking up from the screen, the oscillating line began to form a sentence, over and over again. A scream filled the room and Becca ran to the door, just in time to see Jonathon's body fly off the bed, twitch a few times, scream and fall limply to the floor, a red substance dripping from his ears, his eyes rolled to the top of his head but a peaceful look on his face. His body was still shuddering with the last drops of life when Becca turned away, horrified and disgusted by the sight before her. She walked back to where Alicia sat, preparing to relay the news but stopped short.
The sentence had now formed full words that she could read. We are here- we will destroy- we will survive-.
YOU ARE READING
From the wild, wacky and whimsical imagination of Kirralt15, comes Eclectic, a series of short stories from a range of themes and genres. I hope you enjoy these short stories!!! ~Kirralt15