Chapter 8: Bacteria
It was a familiar voice; it probably came from someone Chang knew.
“Hey, we aren’t dangerous.” Chang entered the attack range of this person as he finally got to see the face of that person.
“Sir, it’s really you!” The person in front of Chang was indeed familiar. More precisely speaking, he’d met him this morning—it was the biology teacher, Qingshui Li.
“You are …… Liu Chang?” Seeing Chang’s face, Mr. Li lowered his guard and put the bar aside.
“Me too, I’m Tao.” Tao followed Chang, letting Mr. Li see his face.
“How did you guys get here?” Mr. Li moved away and said, “Come on in.”
The two nodded and entered the dusky store. The store was actually darker than the outside and filled with red fog. The electricity was cut off by the vines, making it hard to see each other’s faces.
But after their eyes adjusted to the darkness, Chang and Tao recognized more familiar faces in the room—they were all students from the school.
There were dozens of students and their parents, about 25 people in total. This small group was probably formed after the apocalypse, and then they found this store. The leader of the group was probably Mr. Li, the biology teacher.
It seemed like it wasn’t just them that wanted to find a convenience store as shelter.
Walking to the other side of the room, Chang found Pangzi and Glasses, as well as a bunch of his other classmates.
“Chang? Tao?” Pangzi stood out from the crowd, “How did you guys get here?”
“Stroke of luck,” Chang said with a grin on his face. “We were fortune enough to bump into Mr. Li while he on patrol.”
“Good to see you guys.” Glasses came over from his parents with guilt written all over over his face.
“It’s okay, we got lucky that nothing bad happened.” While Chang was speaking, he instinctively seized the gun tightly in his pocket.
“What a relief that nothing happened.” Glasses nodded, “This place is safe temporarily.”
“There’s no safe place on this planet now.” Mr. Li walked over and said. “The mutation rate of all organisms is too rapid; it’s even faster than that of the Cambrian explosion written in textbooks. With many species evolving at this rate, within three days, they will turn into predators…this strange red fog probably has the same property as the free oxygen in the Cambrian explosion. No wonder why biology was such a large aspect in the college entrance examination. Did they already know from the beginning……?”
Mr. Li became quieter as he spoke, and the last sentence could only be heard by Chang, who happened to stand beside him.
“What do we do?” Pangzi’s mother shouted. The teacher’s words caused panic.
“I don’t know what to do either. Let’s wait and see and try our best to survive.” Mr. Li sighed, then he sat beside the shelf.
Chang and Tao also sat on the floor after they talked to Pangzi and Glasses.
Time flew by and soon night came without surprise.
The world was in real darkness.
Even when the sun was shining, the red fog was dense enough to block more than 70% of the light. Not to mention, the soft moonlight and starlight were completely absorbed by the fog. In a store without electricity, their occupants learned what pure darkness was like.
Mr. Li had prepared for the darkness in advance, so he took out a lighter and carefully lit the two candles he had placed on the table before it became completely dark.
“We need to conserve these candles. If the light is too strong, we will become easy targets for other organisms.” The candlelight drove away some darkness and brought relief to this quiet room.
Under the candle light, Chang felt dizzy when he stared at the light source through the red fog. He noticed an unbearable itchy feeling slowly coming from his ankle.
He found an empty corner and then removed his shoes. Through the faint light, he loosened the bandage that was wrapped around his ankle, and a wave of flesh-life odor immediately filled the air.
“Oh god…” Chang almost got knocked out by the smell, but he forced himself to adapt to it. What he saw next was even worse than the smell.
The wound was festering and oozing; it was a frightful mess.
“Wound infection!” Mr. Li’s voice came from behind Chang. He stepped forward and held onto Chang, then he lightly pressed the skin around his wound.
“Does it hurt?”
“It’s itchy, but not really painful”.
“You wound is infected.” Mr. Li was attentively watching the festering wound. “Do you have any medicine?”
“There.” Chang pulled his bag over and took out some over-the-counter medications.
“Do you have any antibiotics?” Mr. Li looked through the different medicine Chang had in his bag.
“Then take some anti-inflammatory pills.” Mr. Li once again looked at the horrible wound, then frowned, “your injury looks a bit scarier than usual. It’s completely different from a normal festering wound!! It seems like it wasn’t only animals and plants that evolved, but rather bacteria too.”
Chang took out the anti-inflammatory pills. The instruction on the bag told him to have one pill at a time, so he poured another on his palm and took twice the recommended dosage.
“Take some more, it might not be very effective.” There was still discontent on Mr. Li’s his face.
“Okay.” Chang poured another two pills and swallowed them with bottled water from the convenience store.
“Does anyone have rubbing alcohol?” Mr. Li shouted to the people in the dim room.
His cry garnered no response.
“I don’t think it’s that serious; it’s merely a wound infection, like the ones I would get when I injured myself as a kid.”
“You also ran into rats and dogs when you were a kid; you clearly know they’re different now. You need to understand that the simpler an organisms is, the easier it is for them to have significant mutations. Bacterial mutations are already pretty common even without the surrounding of red fog.”
“Is it that serious?” Chang’s heart sank upon hearing the bad news. If the tamest of animals could turn into the most bloodthirsty beings, then these pathogens could be much worse.
“I don’t know, we’ll see.” Qingshui sighed and fell silent. The room became quiet again.
Chang put his foot on a stool and left it unwrapped. Probably because the smell from the wound was overwhelming, no one came around. Even Qingshui went somewhere else, so Chang tried to move a little further to the corner to make the smell less noticeable.
It felt as if time had come to a halt in this eerie silence.
Chang was sitting in the corner by himself, and his head got dizzier and he began to feel colder and colder.
He felt a fever coming.