The Measure of Days
By Sophy Layzell
All rights reserved. Any unauthorised broadcasting, public performance, copying or re- recording will constitute an infringement of copyright. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
"And this shall be the plague...their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths" (Zech. 14:12-15).
The second time that Deter regained consciousness the sharp acrid smell of ammonia was still there but fainter.
This time, instead of darkness the room was ablaze with light. It was a small room, the walls a subdued grimy ochre with crack lines and a huge stain on the ceiling left over from a water leak above. The walls were lit by three portable builders work lights with a fourth shining right at her bed. Next to her a young man with plastic gloves was tidying vials and equipment into a box. He seemed anxious and coughed nervously as he focused on his task.
‘Oh, you're awake,’ he paused, ‘I hope you're not in too much pain?’
She lifted her arms, testing her movements and trying to sit up, ‘I don't know, I think I'm ok.’ She grimaced feeling the ache of bruising down her left side. She knew she had to make a huge effort to find out what was going on. If Amery were here, she’d tell her to dig deep, after all ‘nothing comes from nothing’ as she was always telling her. So, although she wanted to just shut her eyes and ignore this boy, she braced herself and sat up.
‘Where am I? What's happening?’
Hugo had given Lincoln no guidance on what the Immune was to be told, so Lincoln hesitated before saying, ‘Well, it's a complicated but important story.’
‘Go on, it doesn't look as though I'm going anywhere.’
Deter knew that it was important to keep your captor talking. Building up as much information both about her situation and her captors' details was paramount in a kidnapping scenario. Amery had reinforced this since she little. Deter had absolute faith that Amery would be tracking her down and a ransom would be paid, she just had to make sure she stayed safe until then.
‘She's my guardian she was with me. We were on our way out of State.’
‘No idea.’ Lincoln snapped the box shut and turned to leave.
‘What about my friends? Where are they? Have you captured them too?’
‘Again...no idea what you're talking about.’
Lincoln started walking towards the door.
‘So how much are you asking?’
Deter could see that the question had thrown him.
‘How much for what?’ he turned to look at her.
‘Me, of course. I'm afraid I've never been kidnapped before so I'm not sure what the current asking price for heiresses is.’
Heiresses? Lincoln raised his eyebrows. She really knew nothing! Money would be useful to the Faction, they hadn't thought of asking the Establishment for a ransom, but money was nothing compared to her priceless immune system.
‘Deter…’ He began,
‘And how do you know my name’’ she interrupted, ‘I have no idea who you are, or where I am.’
Lincoln wasn't sure what it was that made him feel he ought to tell her. It certainly wasn’t her imperious tone. Possibly it was the open and trusting way she looked at him. Or it could be that he felt guilty. After all, he'd played his part in getting her here, and he had just examined her without her consent while she was passed out, and it made him feel uncomfortable. She had a perfect body. Apart from the bruises, that he had been partially responsible for inflicting. But she was brave and sparky. The jealousy he had felt before he met her was overtaken by admiration and also a slight possessiveness. If he was going to be honest with himself, he also thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen.
‘My name is Lincoln. You are held by a pressure group called The Faction. We campaign for better governance and alternative solutions to the FED crisis.’ He held up his hand as she was about to interrupt, ‘I appreciate you know nothing about us, The Faction, but just understand that you are special to us. Not because you offer a chance of wealth but because you are immune to the terrible Flesh Eating Disease, FED. We need your DNA to help create a vaccine as it's the only way to save us from eventual extinction. As you know The Establishment have complete power and can't or won't create one. We believe we can. I'm so sorry but in order to do that, we need you. That's why you're here.’
‘I don't believe you.’ Deter glared at him. He seemed completely serious, but she had never even heard of FED. It suddenly dawned on her that she wasn't dealing with a straight forward kidnapper, this was a deluded psychopath. Just her luck!
‘I've lived in New York all my life and neither I nor my friends have ever heard any of this. FED? What a load of rubbish! Our biggest concern is terrorism which is something you seem dangerously close to.’
He looked so shocked Deter stopped feeling angry and stared at him. What was happening?
There was so much to explain that Lincoln didn't know where to start. It felt such a huge responsibility. Part of him didn't feel this burden was his but he felt guilty about the part he was playing, so reluctantly he continued.
‘I can only tell you what I know. How can you not have heard of FED? It’s literally the only thing that matters in the world right now.’ He paused, waiting for her to permission.
‘Go on.’ Her voice had gone faint and husky,
‘Well, no one is quite sure how FED started but it first became known about 500 years ago. A small indigenous population in South Africa, around the Congo I think, were the first to be affected.
It spread slowly at first, transmitted through mosquito bites they thought, but over time it became apparent that it was contagious. Small infected communities put themselves into quarantine, while uninfected ones also cut themselves off.
It became a universal fight and all medical research was put on hold as all resources were focused on finding a cure. Leading and co-ordinating this was a group of prominent medical scientists who united governments in this common battle. They called themselves The Establishment.’
‘But you said they have a cure now.’
‘Yes, they discovered it fifty years ago.’
‘So... what’s the problem?’
‘It’s not the solution that we thought it was.’
They sat in silence for a while as Deter absorbed and tried to process everything she'd just been told. It was shocking and yet somehow, she could feel the truth behind the boys words. Why would he lie?
‘But what about you? You look fine. So does everyone else in New York that I've ever seen. Jameson, Amery, Jenny and Padma.’
‘We might look fine but every diseased part of us has probably been replaced.’
‘Replaced with what?’ Deter had a vivid picture of a bionic Ironman type robotic limb. She shivered, what world had she just woken up to?
‘Well… I can show you if you promise not to freak out.’
Lincoln stood up and slowly pulled his T-shirt off.