It wasn't six weeks, but a close guess. It was 52 days.
When the testing day for lab rats came, all the scientists were on the floor. Everyone was on edge. If the liquid in the test tube went blue, it meant virus-free. If it went green it meant the virus was present.
AJ was standing next to Miranda who was swirling a clear liquid in an Erlenmeyer flask. He could actually hear the liquid swirling in the flask. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. Then, there was a gasp.
A blue swirl turned into a tide, which spread until every bit of the solution was bright blue.
Congratulations went all around the room. AJ was somewhat underwhelmed by the reaction. They had done it, hadn't they?
When the last scientist was exiting the decontamination and locker room area, Jed's appeared and spoke to him.
"So?" Jed asked, "did it work."
"It worked," the man answered.
"Good," Jed responded and they walked off together, "I suppose it's time for a lottery."
AJ turned to Miranda.
"Wow," he said, "I was expecting fireworks and a party. Everyone seems pretty somber."
"Oh right," Miranda answered, "I forget you haven't been here long. Follow me."
Miranda led him to the stairway to the outside. She tried to explain while they took a closer look at the pictures.
"The thing is," Miranda said, "this isn't our first win. We've found 'cures' before. We've had the blue flask."
"What," AJ asked, confused.
"It's something about the Red," Miranda continued, "all the animal studies don't matter. When we test on a human, it's different. Each time, we found out we failed. Each time, the subject turned. So each time, we went back to formula and started over."
"But this time," AJ insisted, "this time it's different."
"This time we think we found the source virus, yes," Miranda said, "if we found the version before any mutation, then hopefully, this is the cure."
"And if it isn't?" AJ asked.
"Another hero on the wall," Miranda sighed.
"And the lottery?" AJ asked, "I'm sure I don't want to know."
"We are all equal here," Miranda said, "the only fair way to choose a subject is a lottery."
"What?" AJ asked, taken aback.
"Everyone takes a token," Miranda explained unshaken, "A matching token is chosen. The match means you are the next subject. Then, you go to the chair."
"The chair?" AJ asked, "You mean the one outside."
"Yea," Miranda said coldly, "it's the only ceremony we really have."
AJ was stunned. Miranda explained it so matter-of-factly.
"So, when is the lottery?" AJ asked.
"We'll have a party the next full moon," Miranda said, but AJ interrupted her.
"Full moon? What kind of nonsense is that?"
Miranda laughed, "we're not witches AJ. It's the only night that the moon is bright enough that They can't sneak up on us."
"Oh," AJ answered, "right. So what do we do until then?"
"We live," Miranda smiled.
Another two weeks passed before the night of the full moon came. The entire compound went from all work to all play when the clock struck eighteen hundred that night.
AJ hadn't seen a party in some time. He had never been relaxed enough to drink for even longer. He, like everyone in the compound let loose.
There was music, although muted, dancing and drinking late into the night.
AJ found Miranda sitting on her own. He walked over, slightly intoxicated.
"Why so glum chum," AJ said. He meant it as flirtatious but it missed the mark.
Miranda laughed anyway and sipped her drink. AJ sat down next to her.
"Not in the partying mood?" he asked.
"The first cure we found," Miranda said, "I partied my ass off. The second and the third, I joined in with the party. I've helped put sixteen pictures on that stairway. I don't really get in the party spirit anymore. I'll party when we find the cure."
"Well," AJ smirked, "one big difference with THIS cure."
Miranda looked at him confused, "What's that?"
"NOW," AJ gushed, "you have the talented Dr. Ajeet Kapour on the case!"
He at least got a smile from her with that comment.
"I think you're drunk Dr. Kapour," Miranda chuckled.
"I think you're right ma'am," AJ said, "but it doesn't make it any less true."
Miranda's face returned to its morose look.
"So, I get why you don't imbibe," AJ said, "but why does everyone else?"
Miranda sighed, "I don't think you understand AJ. For someone, tonight will be their last party."
"What?" AJ stuttered, suddenly sobering, "Why is that?"
"The cure," Miranda said, "the vaccine, Whatever you want to call it. We're using the virus itself as a base. In every test we've done so far when the cure didn't work, we lost the subject to the Red."
"What?" AJ said, confused in his drunken stupor.
"If it doesn't work," Miranda said brusquely, "the person will transition. The subject will become one of Them."
AJ couldn't respond. He was muted by the alcohol flowing in his veins.
"So, in a few minutes," Miranda continued, "we will be choosing our latest human sacrifice. Only our sacrifices are to the gods of science, not the volcano."
AJ shook his head. He understood what she said but he couldn't respond. Even in his induced idiocy, it became clear. The lottery chose a test subject. They partied to celebrate: not to celebrate the cure, but to celebrate the person who would try it. The person who history thus far showed wouldn't survive.
He immediately began to question himself.
"No," AJ said standing, "No. We need more time. I need to go over the cultures again. I want to be sure."
Miranda stood and grabbed his arm before he could walk off.
"AJ," she said, "the science is good. You've done a great job. Having you hear for these past months has made a stagnant group alive again. You found what we missed. You took us in a different direction. This is the best version we've ever created. You should be proud."
"I didn't know," AJ stammered, "I didn't know the cost. We need more time."
"There is no more time," Miranda answered sadly, "We have a cure. It's time to test. Whatever happens is for fate now."
AJ slumped back down.
"AJ," she continued, "we're fighting against mother nature herself. She has a five billion year head start. Using evolution, natural selection, and her targets' own weaknesses, she created something nearly perfect. We're left trying to contain it. We can only do our best to fight it."
"That's a warped way to look at things," AJ answered rudely. Miranda shrugged it off.
"Human beings were a virus to this world. We grew and spread and destroyed. The natural response of an ecosystem is to try and find balance. This is the natural world; you know it and I know it."
AJ, in his drunken state, couldn't come up with an answer. He mulled it over, but could only agree.
His thoughts were interrupted by the music stopping and Jed's voice.
"Alright everyone," he said, "its time. Queue up and take a token."
YOU ARE READING
The Chair: A Story of SurvivalScience Fiction
A legend - a Victorian-style chair with red upholstery and mahogany wood sitting on top of a small rise. But this is more than a chair: its a life preserver. In a world gone amuck, this chair means salvation; it means safety; it means a cure. But on...