New York Pathogen (A Short Story)
Another batch of chattering tourists entered the subway and Jaden left out a deep sigh. If there was one thing he hated encountering on his commute, it was tourists. They never respected the unwritten rules of New York, especially the Chinese and the Russians. Sure, it was a clash of cultures, but that didn’t change that he disliked their behaviour.
Someone next to him sneezed.
Another germ for the ever-changing gene pool of this underground ecosystem. Jaden vaguely remembered reading an article about how a huge number of bacteria found in the subway had been completely unknown.
If he was honest, it didn’t surprise him. There were too many people on a daily basis, cramped up inside these metal tubes, in sickness and in health. Evolution did some funky things in situations like this and bacteria multiplied and mutated fast. @suesa
A cough behind him.
Someone shoved Jason and he stumbled, barely catching the bar in front of him.
“Hey, asshole! Look where you’re going, we’re not even at a station yet.” He turned around to look who had shoved him and was faced with …
“Holy fucking shit what the hell?” Jaden jumped back, drawing the attention of other passengers to what was happening. Until now, they had ignored the conflict.
A woman screamed, and more voices joined as the zombie that had shoved Jaden made another step towards him, blood pouring out of its mouth.
“Fuck!” Jaden reached for his pocketknife and backed off towards the door, just as they reached the station and the doors opened. He rushed out, followed by other panicked passengers. Screams and groans mixed, and when Jaden looked back, he saw that the zombie had been joined by two more of its kind.
“Of course, the zombie apocalypse starts in New York. Where else?” Cursing, he ran out of the station, while chaos broke out behind him.
“What do you mean they’re immune? How can that be? Everyone else is getting infected just through skin contact!” Ava stared at her colleague in utter disbelief, but they just shrugged.
“I’ve re-run the tests several times”, Charlie said. “It’s always the same. Immune cells derived from people who have been living in New York for at least the last ten years recognize the bacteria that cause others to go zombie, and successfully destroy them.”
“So you’re telling me that this wasn’t a biological attack, the organism just …”
“Evolved alongside the New Yorker population, yes. They are immune, the tourists are not.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Ava couldn’t believe it, but she knew that Charlie had conducted their experiments with greatest care, and a mistake was unlikely.
“Maybe it is, but that doesn’t change that it’s true. What’s important now is that we track tourists that left New York, to avoid outbreaks in other cities.”
“You think there is still time for that?”
“We have to at least try.”
Jaden wandered through the wasteland that had once been New York City. He wasn’t entirely sure if it didn’t look better now. The lack of people was a big plus, certainly.
It had been five years since the zombie outbreak, and the CDC had unsuccessfully tried to contain it. When the WHO had finally been able to mobilize all the other countries, it had already been too late. Too many tourists had carried the bacteria strain into the world, spreading it everywhere through skin to skin contact.
They all turned, eventually.
There had been attempts to develop a vaccine, after the strain had proven resistant to all known antibiotics, but they had been unsuccessful. Nobody’s immune system had been able to adapt this fast, except for the people who had been in contact with the pathogen throughout its evolution.
It almost amused Jaden that from all the people in the world, New Yorkers had inherited the world. A bunch of big city assholes, and he was one of them.
Breeding programs had been introduced to carefully repopulate the Earth without inbreeding too badly. They weren’t entirely sure if children would inherit the immunity though, so far, they had been kept in isolated areas, as far away from the danger as possible.
Jaden strolled through the empty streets that had been full of life.
At least nobody was getting in his way anymore now.
Signature by @atopy