The Scratch

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Tommy continues to fidget as he opens and closes his mouth like a fish; he clearly doesn't know how to begin his story. The fact that he is hesitating so much leads me to believe that he did something stupid. With Joe becoming impatient, I hold out my hand out to Tommy.

Taking his small hands in mine, I stare at him earnestly. "No-one is mad at you, Tommy. We just need to know the truth."

Tommy exhales loudly and focuses his thoughts, before addressing Joe with a guilty expression. "Well, it was last Sunday, and I was hanging out with Ed, Jace and Stu We were kinda bored, so we thought it might be cool to check out the doc's lab..."

I furrow my brow at him. "Really, Tommy? Breaking and entering? What's wrong with you?"

"Oh, yeah?" he replied defensively. "What about you and your boyfriend's adventures outside the walls every five minutes!"

Joe gives me a warning look as I open my mouth to snap back. We need to figure out what happened, and now is not the time to bicker. Swallowing my pride and biting my tongue, I reluctantly gesture for Tommy to continue with his story.

"I know we shouldn't have broken-in...but we did. So we managed to get into Artie's lab pretty easily, and he has a ton of medicine stashed! Even though he always says that we are running out and makes everyone use herbal alternatives."

Arthur Dunlop, who works in the lab as the town's only doctor, is one of my favourite people. Even though he is in huge demand and under an awful amount of pressure, he always takes the time to ask how you are and then tells you a cheesy joke. With his positive disposition and huge white beard, he reminds me of a skinny Father Christmas. Basically he's one of the last people you would ever think of as putting lives at risk.

My automatic response is to defend Arthur, thinking that maybe he's just being cautious, but he could be the reason that Tommy almost died. I have a feeling that whatever Tommy is about to tell me may change my opinion on Arthur.

"We get into the lab and find an Infected strapped to a metal trolley in a small room near the main lab. This thing has all kinds of tubes, wires and monitors attached to it. At first we thought that it was dead because it wasn't moving or chomping, so I went in for a closer look..."

Sucking in a sharp breath, I clench my fists, turning my knuckles white. Joes face flushes bright red as he grinds his teeth at Tommy.

Noting the tension, Tommy almost stumbles over his words in an attempt to justify his actions. "I know it was stupid, but I have never seen an Infected up close before! The thing suddenly woke up, and I thought that the straps were tighter than they were. It lunged forward, grabbed my shirt and pulled me towards its mouth. Stupid thing nearly took a chunk out of my neck. Luckily Ed pulled me free, and we got the hell out of there! At the time, I hadn't realised that it had scratched me until I got home..."

Tommy hangs his head in shame as Joe swallows his anger and clenches his jaw. "This Infected, what did it look like? Anyone we know from town?"

Tommy shook his head. "Its eyes were all sunken, and half of its face was missing. All you could see were rotten teeth and exposed bones mostly. I have no idea who that thing used to be."

Will, who until this point had been very quiet suddenly speaks, "Whatever drugs Arthur gave to that thing could be the reason why you didn't turn. Maybe he was trying to find a cure? Or maybe he was trying to do something more sinister, hence the abilities. Guess there's no way of knowing."

Tommy visibly swallows as his eyes suddenly become watery. "But what if the drugs wear off and I become Infected?"

Will reaches out and places his hand on Tommy's shoulder. "To be honest, we need to be prepared for that. We don't know what we are dealing with here."

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