Thursday, 30 May 2013

Week 2: A Subsequent Plague - Rabbit Fever

Dermott McIlroy walked around the laboratory with a sneer on his face. His donations were the main source of income for these scientists and he was damn well going to make sure they worked hard for the money. He stopped in front of a cage that held a large green rabbit.

“What’s that?” he asked the pimply young scientist that was following him around.

“R…R…Rabbit, Sir,” stuttered the young man.

“I can see  it’s a rabbit,” replied Dermott in acid tones. “I want to know why it’s green. Is this what you’ve been wasting my money on?” The young man just gaped at him like a fish, irritating Dermott even further. With a huff and a derisive shake of his head, Dermott reached out his hand to open the rabbit cage.

“Don’t, sir,” said the scientist, but Dermott simply glared at him. If he was paying for green rabbits to be produced, then no weaselly scientist was going to stop him from taking a closer look. He yanked open the cage and thrust his hand inside. Almost instantly he jumped back with a yowl.

“That bloody creature bit me,” he said through gritted teeth, his normally ruddy face an unnatural shade of purple. The young scientist just stared at him, continuing his fish impersonation. Dermott’s hand started to throb with pain, and all he wanted to do was leave this accursed laboratory. He stalked towards the exit without another word, the young scientist hard on his heels.

“Wait, sir, you can’t leave. You’ll need a vaccine for that bite,” he said, his desperation forcing him to use more words than he had the entire time the CEO had been visiting the laboratory. Dermott shrugged off the hand that had been placed on his shoulder and fled the building.

Dermott decided to drive home, not wanting to face the office and, as he drove, his hand stopped hurting as much. By the time he had reached his house it was just a little tender, although there was an angry red welt at the bite site.

“Vaccine, my arse,” he muttered, pleased that his superior antibodies and platelets were healing him already.

***

Later that evening, Dermott began to feel feverish. Sweat beaded on his brow, and he found it difficult to draw in breath. At dinner he found he was unable to stomach his meal, even though it was his favourite of steak with pepper sauce. He nibbled at the salad, but that was all he could manage. He went to bed early, giving up the opportunity to criticise all of the contestants on The Voice. He tossed and turned all night, drenching his bed in sweat.

Dermott awoke the next day with a renewed spring in his step. He bounced out of bed and made his way to the shower. He looked in the mirror as he undressed, and stopped dead. The blood drained from his face. He shook his head to try to clear his eyes; he hoped that what he was seeing was just part of some strange dream, and that perhaps he wasn’t really awake yet. He ran his hand over his face and felt the soft fur that was covering it, just as the image in the mirror assured him he would. The grey fur covering his face was the least of his worries, however. The long, floppy ears protruding from his head, for example, were a lot more difficult to come to terms with. He started at a knock on the door.

“Is everything okay, dear?” called his wife through the door. “You’ve been taking longer than usual, and I haven’t heard the water running yet.” Dermott shook himself out of his reverie.

“Everything’s fine,” he called back, trying to keep his voice steady but not quite making it. “ I’ll be down to breakfast soon.” And really, everything was fine, if you discounted the change to his physical appearance. He felt healthier than he had in years. Forgoing a shower, Dermott decided to go downstairs and confront his wife. He decided it would be best to get the shock over and done with sooner rather than later. He bounced down the stairs and into the kitchen. His wife was standing in the kitchen with a bottle of milk in her hands. She dropped it the moment she caught sight of her husband.

“Dermott,” she said, her voice a whisper, “what have you done?”

“I’m not sure,” he said, “I think it was that rabbit bite yesterday. I’ll call the laboratory today and see what could be done about it.” His wife seemed to buy his false bravado. She didn’t look at him as she ate her cereal. Dermott rummaged in the fridge until he found some carrots and a stalk of celery that he could eat for breakfast. He munched away happily, glad to have sorted out the mess that he was in. His wife hurried off to work as soon as she could, leaving him by himself.

Later that day Dermott’s wife came home with a fever and went to bed. Dermott called the laboratory. The rabbits carried a disease that could only be spread from rabbit to rabbit, unless contact was made via blood. Once a human had caught the disease it could be passed easily from human to human. The effects were irreversible. Subsequently, it seemed that Dermott had single-handedly started the Great Rabbit Plague of 2015.

- written by Ash Oldfield 2013

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