Chapter 11: Microbes
With his eyes closed, Chang had a long dream. He dreamed of hovering in the universe, looking down at the red fog-covered Earth. From this god-like perspective, he gave off the impression of being the creator of Earth.
Standing over the azure sphere, Chang saw the desolate Earth. There seemed to be nothing but microscopic single-celled life dividing at a snail’s pace.
If the evolution speed was that slow, even until the destruction of Earth in five billion years, the planet would still without a doubt be desolate.
While Chang was praying, the azure planet suddenly became shrouded by the red fog, turning it into an oxblood globe.
Inside the red fog, the monotonous unicellular organisms rapidly evolved and branched into countless species. In the blink of an eye, the world turned into a green paradise full of life.
“How did that happen?” Chang muttered.
As he asked the question, the red fog quickly dissipated. Time accelerated, the Earth was once again in harmony. He saw the proliferation of these marvelous creatures as they thrived on the greenness.
The planet was full of life, and every life was full of vigor–however, the sudden emergence of another life changed everything, humans.
Human had only appeared on Earth for a few million years, but they radically changed the past billions of years of history on Earth.
Humans had unceasingly altered nature, resulting in the rapid decay of other species.
In a way, humans were similar to the infection on his wound; they inflamed and festered the Earth. Soon, Earth’s decay would occur if no one took any action. While the Earth was dying, the red fog–as if it was an antibiotic, timely appeared to curb the growth of the pathogen.
No… rather than being an antibiotic, the red fog acted as catalyst – it gave the decayed species a chance to face the human pathogen.
The red fog was not directed against humans.
At the end of his dream, the red fog dissipated after a long period of time, and the “pathogen” on this planet was eliminated. The green world had recovered and once again became a habitat for those marvelous creatures. The paradise had returned.
It was a long, uncanny and inexplicable dream.
Sometime the next day, Chang woke up from his dream. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head so that he could return to reality. From the light coming through the window, he knew it was daytime.
Chang pulled out his almost dead phone – 9:40 AM.
“It’s morning already.” He stretched out his body – he was no longer dizzy. Chang also checked his ankle wound; a scab had formed on the wound already. His body recovered and became almost as energized as he used to be.
“Hey, Tao, time to wake up!” His voice was filled with joy because he survived. He pushed Tao who was sitting next to him – his stiff body slid to the ground.
“Tao?” Seeing Tao’s body hit the ground, he suddenly had a bad feeling.
He moved forward to straighten Tao’s body, but the area that Chang grabbed was stiff and sticky – Tao was dead, and his skin began to soften and decompose.
Tao couldn’t be more dead; his muscle was rotting.
“…” staring at his classmate’s corpse, Chang was speechless.
One thing to keep in mind was that Chang’s fever was much more severe than Tao’s. But things were unpredictable nowadays, who knew whether someone would pass away in the next moment.
“Well, I didn’t know you would die before me.” Chang tilted Tao’s body into a sitting position, then he found a pack of cigarettes and lighter from another man’s corpse. He put the cigarette between Tao’s lips and lit it.
“Last time you asked me for cigarette, I didn’t have any. This time, I hope I’ve fulfilled your last wish.” Chang once again straightened Tao’s sliding body, but when he touched Tao’s limb, a large piece of sticky flesh fell off of Tao’s arm.
“The microbe mutations have made the decomposition speed of corpses so much faster!” Chang pasted that piece back on Tao’s body, of which he tried to maintain intact.
Gazing at him for a while, Chang stood up and realized that most of the people he saw yesterday didn’t manage to get up.
Though some may have left, only he and a woman were the only people still alive in this pharmacy. She didn’t notice Chang at all as she was sobbing in front of a body that she was holding. Looking at her back, she looked especially sorrowful.
“…” He inaudibly sighed and thought of his father when he saw all the corpses around. He reached into his pocket and took out his father’s fingers that he kept. The skin and muscle that used to be attached on them had melted; all that was left was two bones.
He rinsed off the remaining skin on the fingers with alcohol while rubbing it, then Chang walked out the room without hesitation.
“Wait, where are you going?” Just as he was about to leave, a female voice came from his back – it was the sobbing girl.
“I am going to the orthopedics or operating room to find a needle to string my father’s fingers into a necklace. I;m afraid I may lose them if they stay in my pocket.” Chang confessed.
“Can I go with you… we can take care of each other.” Her voice choked and let go of the middle-aged man’s body.
“Yea, its better to stay together.” Chang nodded.
After all, having a companion was safer than walking alone in the apocalypse. Chang was going to propose the idea of leaving together with her. However, he didn’t interrupt when he saw that the girl was in deep sorrow.
Chang waited until she came closer. She was in her 20s. She was neither pretty nor unattractive; she looked ordinary.
Chang cracked a brief smile to this girl. His chapped lips were already healed. A smile also touched the corner of her lips. But at this moment, their smile was full of bitterness.
“Do you know where the operating room is?”
“Not far ahead.” The girl pointed at the corridor outside of the pharmacy.
“Okay, let’s go then.”
They walked side by side in the corridor, and it was very quiet in the hospital. Chang didn’t know where those doctors had gone, but he didn’t see wounded people come in, either. The hospital seemed to be a lonely island. There was no sound at all – everything in here was particularly bizarre.
Passing through the fog, they came to a room with the large sign “Operating room”. The door squeaked as Chang opened it.
Suddenly, he was pushed out of the room by a massive black shadow, along with a strong buzzing sound. He staggered a few step backward until he saw what pushed him out. He threw up immediately at the door.
It was groups of flies that gathered into dark clouds. They were strong enough to even able to push a living person when they were frightened.
After the flies left, Chang repressed the nauseating feeling and walked into the operating room.
Compared to the silent world outside of this operating room, it was full of rustling sounds.
It came from the operating table. Chang carefully looked at the curtain in front of the table. He saw something that disgusted him again.
It was a corpse that had been cut opened. It was stuffed with maggots in its belly. The maggots were the cause of the uncomfortable sounds.
This time, Chang’s puke immediately coated the entire ground.