I pressed the doctor on his next visit – I’ve never been told his actual name or anything else about him – and eventually he realised how serious I was and how, after what had happened to my father, I wouldn’t accept no for an answer. Eventually he relented, handing me a card with a logo printed on the front, and on the reverse, I found details of an event taking place close by the following week. It was under the guise of a regional town planning event, though not many town planners demand discreetly armed personnel outside the entrance.
I went along, approaching a gun-toting guard tentatively to hand over the card. He addressed me with suspicion but let me enter nonetheless, and I emerged through the double doors into what resembled a church hall that had been split into various sections. To the far left I could receive advice and guidance from a nursing unit specialising in post-bite care for victims who had confounded the three-minute rule. There were expert tips on what to expect at each stage, how to avoid detection and what to do when the time comes to ‘dispose’ of your Zombie.
Down the centre I found a collection of computer operators, each busy with a purposely undefinable task. They could have been compiling tax returns for all I knew, but I found out later that they were the gatekeepers to an ANZ database; humans living with the disease out of the reach of the Preservation. Each victim receives care but also careful monitoring, for these are the places where outbreaks can start if the disease carries out its intention. Each has a file that requires regular status updates and this team ensures that none of the NZ sufferers can slip through the net. It is their social responsibility to do so. It is massively confidential information that only a few have direct access to. If leaked, the names on that list would be the stars of the next Preservation raid you see on their news channel.
As the room opened on the right, there was an audience congregated in front of a small, makeshift stage, listening to a speech from the doctor who had tended to my father and permitted my presence. I quietly sat down at the back row and was engrossed by his presentation. He was providing a thesis on how you could estimate, with reasonable accuracy, how long NZ would take to overcome a victim who had exceeded the three-minute deadline. In this section of the population, he explained, the white blood cells that protect the body from infection can fight off NZ with varying degrees of success. He put forward a formula that can be used to calculate the production of white blood cells twelve hours after initial exposure. The body will initially look to flood the system with white blood cells to combat the disease, but such is the unique nature of NZ’s capabilities, it prohibits the body from creating any more beyond this 12-hour gestation period. So, at that point, it is a race against time until the white cells are so overcome that NZ takes control of the body and brain.
In some cases, the white blood cells can be wiped out within a few minutes. In others, like my father, the white blood cell production in that 12-hour period, coupled with NZ’s slower destructive capability, can take years. The doctor told the room that this remained a theory but that he had case study evidence to back up its precision. It seemed that here, in this room, this cross-section of society was doing more to combat NZ than whatever the hell the Preservation experts had been doing. But again, admittance of research such as this is to concede that their rules are flawed, and that we can’t have that, can we?
At the end of the doctor’s speech and a brief smattering of applause he approached me and thanked me for coming. The first thing that strikes you about him, other than the fact that you’ll never heard his name mentioned, just a code number – #46692 I think it is – is how unconventional his entire makeup is. That’s about as descriptive as I can get, unfortunately. You just need to see him for yourself. Maybe you will, one day, if we get our way.
He told me that my father had been a very important contact for establishing everything that I could see before me. He had gathered support for the miners in the 1980s, raising funds, planning marches and helping to issue measured responses to Conservative government lies. While this project was clearly on another level to that, he was drilled in communication the old-fashioned way and, thanks to the Purge Act and the Census, setting up a Facebook page or a Twitter account was a sure-fire way to bring an end to this immediately. He has always been very particular and capable, my father, in everything he has ever done. It’s easy for me to visualise what he did to get the ANZ off the ground here.
The doctor also noted that my father’s NZ was the most promising he had ever seen. He believed that the way in which his body had aggressively upped the white cell count and how strong those cells were at keeping NZ at bay could prove the foundation for a cure or, at least, a treatment of some kind, as a defence mechanism, should this ever happen again.
The idea that this could happen again had never crossed my mind. Have you thought about it? A single blood type was impacted, but there are another seven main blood groups remaining. What if, one day, another blood type decides it is a good day to change?
I told the doctor that I was obliged to assist the ANZ for the extra years, months, weeks and days their support had offered, and he set me to work with a clean-up group. That’s what I do now; I accompany a doctor to newly-established NZ cases and reassure relatives of victims who feel bereaved that it’s not over yet, that there is, hopefully, still time to be enjoyed together. They appreciate me speaking from experience and providing them with landmarks to be aware of and prepare for. It’s not always possible; sometimes the NZ is just too aggressive and the white blood cells disintegrate, but I try to be as honest as possible.
I am a tiny part of an overall whole. The ANZ is not a centralised organisation; rather it is a big idea with each unit operating locally and in isolation. For years, we have shared data and information when it is safe to do so, but our remit extends to the boundaries of London and no further. Other units take care of other towns, cities, regions… countries. We are doing our bit.
And all of it is now in danger. Our ability to exist undetected ended when the Preservation blamed us for the attack outside the King’s College building. We had nothing to do with it, but that is not the point; the public are nervous again. They fear chemical terrorism. They fear the ANZ. Paranoia will be stronger than ever. Neighbours will be peering out from behind their curtains. Routine activities will be judged with mistrust. Everyone will be guilty until proven innocent and that is a bad place to be.
We need to mobilise a response. We don’t have much time.
I’m going home to spend some time with my father, just because I can. I hope that we can continue to allow others that opportunity.