so… yeah… today went something like this…
i left my home at 16.45 to catch a bus to Kirkcaldy Bus Station, to catch another bus to Glenrothes Bus Station, to catch yet another bus to work.
it was decidedly warm, for this time of year, when i set out. and then it began to rain. you know, that lazy kind of rain. instead of falling around you it just goes right through you. i stood in the bus shelter, wet and looking effortlessly bedraggled.
i heard a girl crying and looked round. a young girl, possibly in her late teens/early twenties, with long brown pigtails was flapping and flailing her arms, erratically. i turned and stepped out into the rainy night.
it was there and then, out of nowhere, that a fat, balding man brushed past me on a pushbike.
“Hey!” i yelled, as i pushed him off his bike.
a knee-jerk reaction. he fell, with a heavy splat, onto the kerbside, and began to cry like a child. his bicycle lay, jack-knifed, on the wet road- the front wheel spinning with inertia.
i walked away and took out my cellphone to check the time.
the 17.00 hr bus failed to show. i would have had to wait for a whole hour to catch the next available bus, in the company of two wailing adults. i didn’t have the time for either.
the pig-tailed girl was still flapping and flailing. her wailing was now fever-pitched, near hysteria:
“i’m late! i’m late!” she wailed. her voice rising and falling, like a broken siren.
leaning into me, she whispered in a calm low tone:
“i have autism. i cannot be late”
me neither. i had buses to catch. plural. Sunday buses had proven, yet again, to be random and decidedly unreliable.
the pig-tailed girl began to wail, and flap, and flail again.
amid the wailing, i called for a taxi.
“hey girl” i said. “i have called for a taxi- you can jump in with me.”
immediately the wailing stopped and she offered me first bite of her apple. for fear of setting off that siren again, i took a bite.
the taxi arrived, promptly.
we arrived at Kirkcaldy Bus Station and the pig-tailed girl promptly jumped out, thanking me. i paid and headed out towards Stance #5.
the 17.25 #39A came in. the day, saved.
a tall slender man stood behind me in the queue. too close for comfort, i could feel his breath on the back of my neck; a puff of air in my hair as he coughed. so i elbowed him in the face. his nose began to bleed.
as i boarded the bus, i showed the driver my bus pass:
“aw… they’ve changed where that is on here…” he said, as he frantically pushed a host of buttons, with a vacuous look on his grey, leathery face:
“and this affects me how… exactly?” i spat.
eventually, i got my discounted ticket and headed up the aisle to take a seat, stepping over the canoe-like feet of a large woman sat near the front.
in a seat by a window and heater, i delved into my book. The Hot Zone by Richard Preston.
the large woman, with the canoe feet and lank greasy hair, began to cough and rasp. she looked sick. her eyes were red and her nose was running. ‘perhaps she has a cold.’ i thought to myself.
i looked out the window and into the night. the town was super-quiet. it was Sunday. and a wet Sunday at that. i was heading to work.
from behind, i heard a familiar wailing. i turned around to see the pig-tailed girl. she was with a male friend. she caught my gaze and threw a broken smile back my way. her eyes were red from crying. i returned her smile and she grinned broadly at me, seemingly happy now in her own world.
a short, tubby woman carrying a large purple canvas bag, with Cadbury’s emblazoned on it, embarked at The Adam Smith Theatre. i clocked that her bag was full of chocolate bars. i watched as she unwrapped one and bit into it. her round, pudding face looked puffy and tight; her little greedy mouth quivered, like that of a hungry baby bird, as she scoffed the stick of sickly sweetness.
the red-eyed woman continued to cough. she looked gravely ill. the size of her feet were no longer the focus of my attention. she looked deathly pale beneath the harsh artificial strip light of the bus interior. her hair was matted with sweat at the back of her neck. her face had a mask-like quality. lifeless; yet inside she was burgeoning with life.
she was retching. and retching. and retching. finally it came.
she grabbed her bag and vomited into it. as she leant forward i noticed the skin on her face. it appeared saggy and loose, hanging visibly from the underlying bone. she opened her mouth and gasped into her handbag. a hot gush of endless vomit. the vomiting went on – long after the stomach should have been emptied.
i noticed her handbag was brimming with spew – vomito negro, a stew of tarry granules and fresh arterial blood. it was haemorrage and the bus smelled like a slaughterhouse.
i could almost see the ‘hot agent’ replicating inside of her.
meanwhile, the Cadbury’s woman delved into her bag and pulled out another giant size fruit & nut chocolate bar. her eyes twinkling with anticipation, hungry for more of that sickly sweetness.
all i could think about is how could someone even contemplate eating something! the smell of vomit and blood was overwhelming. i could barely contain the contents of my stomach.
at the front of the bus, a different type of passenger had made its hunger known, with spectacular voracity.
when a ‘hot’ virus multiplies, inside a host, it can saturate the body with virus particles, from the brain outward to the skin. this is known as ‘extreme amplification‘. this was no common cold.
by the time extreme amplification peaks, an eye-dropper of its victim’s blood may contain 100 million particles of virus. during this time, the host is overcome – possessed by a life-form that is attempting to convert its host into itself.
the transformation results in a bloody body mass of liquefying flesh.
i watched as the woman slumped forward in her seat, grabbing hold of the handrail beside her- smearing her hot red blood and a million filovirus particles everywhere. it was then that i noticed blood dripping from her seat onto the floor. a small pool of thick black and red blood was finding its level, avidly seeking a new host.
i looked out the window only to see we were still scouring through the streets of Kirkcaldy.
a young man, in a baseball cap and hoodie, embarked. staggering up the aisle, he finally took up the seat in front of me. he plugged his headphones into his ears and disappeared.
i carefully watched the pool of death blood and hoped that it too would disappear.
i wiped the mist from the window and peered out into the night. the town was dead. people walked the streets like zombies, expressionless and pale.
the Cadbury’s woman continued to chow down on her chocolate bar. i continued to fight my overwhelming urge to vomit, sympathetically, as the red-eyed woman continued to purge the lining of her intestines into her handbag.
the red-eyed woman was shaking, near convulsing. she was bent over, clutching her stomach. her nose was bleeding, uncontrollably.
as we approached Victoria Acute Hospital, she reached up and slammed the STOP button, smearing it with hot, sticky, virus-laden blood.
she was crashing. i watched, in horror, as she staggered, leaving bloody foot prints, down the aisle. the seat of her pants was drenched in blood. as the bus stopped, she pitched forward and fell through its opening doors, slumping onto the pavement outside A & E, where she quickly lost consciousness.
everyone was quiet. nobody rushed to help her. everyone seemed oblivious. the only sound i heard was a choking in her throat as she continued to vomit, despite being unconscious. then it came. the worst sound imaginable. it was as if someone tore a bed-sheet in half. this was the sound of extreme amplification. this was the sound of her bowels opening at the sphincter and venting blood. this was the sound of the sloughing of her gut. this was the sound of her crash and ‘bleed out‘.
and nobody cared.
the driver indicated, and pulled out- back on course; the Cadbury’s woman unwrapped her third chocolate bar; and the hoodie-headphoned boy began to cough.
the hot agent is seeking another host.
it was then i spotted the hoodie-headphoned boy had blood on the fore finger of his right hand. an open wound? or a casual contamination from the blood of a (now) dead, red-eyed woman? had he touched that handrail? had he made physical contact with the dirty viral blood from the red-eyed woman, who had coughed up the insides of her lungs and vomited herself inside out as she died a slow, agonising yet balletic death? is this man contagious? is he ‘hot’? is this bus a ‘hot zone’?
‘i have visions of Ebola. it is staring me in the face. everyone on this bus is doomed. i have 10-12 days before the headaches start….’ i thought to myself, perhaps aloud. i cannot fully remember.
‘i will be at work… will i be serving more than mere coffees and alcoholic beverages to unsuspecting people, out for a good time… looking for a fun night out of revelry’
my thoughts consumed me.
extreme amplification is the last stage in this killer virus’ repertoire. its hosts die the worst death imaginable. nine out of ten people who contract this virus will die. certain death.
i looked out the window. we drove past a house with a Christmas tree in the window. ‘jesus christ, it’s November…’
the hot agent does not give a fuck about Christmas. it is leeching and on a mission. ‘this may be the most memorable Christmas yet.’
a pretty(ish) girl with Kardashian-sized hips and bright fuchsia painted lips boarded the bus, and took up a sideways seat- close to the blood. close to where the red-eyed woman spent the last 20 minutes of her life. but she did not seem to care about the blood. she was too pre-occupied with her own reflection, pouting and coiffing her bleached blonde hair. she toyed with her phone and took the obligatory #selfie. i notice tiny beads of sweat on her brow. ‘
is she sick too or am i imagining this?’ i wondered.
with a tissue i found in my coat pocket, i wipe the window and peer outside. Thornton. the bright fluorescent lights of DOM’s Chip Shop flicker as we drove past, but nobody was queuing for food.
the night is now firmly upon us, having fallen quick and fast today.
the pretty(ish) girl continued to pout and preen, gazing at herself in either her reflection on the window opposite or in her camera phone. there was something about her that made me want to liken her to a parrot or a budgerigar; was it her small, beak-like nose, her thin pink lips- puckered like a bill or was it her fuchsia pink acrylic claws?
but the hot agent is indiscriminate. it cares not about prettiness or body mass index.
the blood on the floor was quickly drying in the heat from the warm air convectors.
i looked out the window. Stenton. a quiet suburb of Glenrothes. quiet, yet infamous for the gruesome murder of a man. a man found murdered during an (alleged) sex type thing that went horribly wrong. some say he was found hacked to death with a pair of nail scissors; others say he was found with a leather belt around his throat and a baseball bat impaled deep in his anus… deep inside his bloodied, battered and torn rectum. or so the story goes…
as increased coughing and rasping sounds began to emanate from the rear of the bus, my stomach began to lurch. i looked out the window, hoping for some merry distraction.
we drove past a row of houses, some tarted up with bright, gaudy Christmas lights. like i said, ‘it’s fucking November…!’
but Christmas IS coming. and what will it bring? good will to all men? will little children burst with excitement, hoping that Santa will come and bring them lots and lots of toys?
or will Christmas bring sobriety?
Ebola is a sobering thought.
(c) Kat McDonald 2014
i have read many, many books- of many different genres. i love it when a book whisks you away, helping you escape, or gets beneath the skin and hijacks your attention.
The Hot Zone, by Richard Preston, is one such book. as the news breaks daily of further outbreaks of Ebola, hitting countries in West Africa like an atom bomb, i began to re-read ‘The Hot Zone’. during this time, this blog entry- which started out as a fun ‘Walter Mitty’ type fiction- developed into something more. something more thought-provoking, and perhaps controversial. i have been whisked to Hell and back and i’ve been exposed to and died of many level 4 filo-viruses – all from the safe quarantine of its front and back covers.
i just hope this ‘outbreak’ is contained soon, because i have seen inside the ‘hot zone’.
i have looked into the jaws of Hell.