I continued talking nonetheless, commenting that I hadn’t received any medical care since waking up in my parent’s house after the ordeal and told him I was prepared to finally speak to someone about what had happened to me and how I had survived.
He drank his coffee and ignored my gaps in the conversation, where ideally I’d have liked him to speak. He just observed me. After a few lengthy, awkward silences I asked him, bluntly, what he was doing here.
He took another sip of coffee, then flicked the silver briefcase onto the table and methodically opened the combination. He spun it round to show me its contents. Inside were two vials; the one on the right filled with blood, the one on the left, empty.
“The full one is a sample of blood infected with NZ, taken from your leg, that night in the hospital. Unfortunately, we were unable to take a clean sample from the remainder of your body before the hospital became too dangerous.
“I need that sample.”
He then began to unpack a needle kit and tourniquet from inside the case without once stopping to request my permission, as if it was inevitable that I would agree to this.
I reached over and grabbed his wrist and told him to stop. I told him I would need much more information before I agreed to give away a sample of my blood and that, doctor or not, I found his behaviour unprofessional.
He tilted his head to the side as if he were assessing a species he had never encountered before. His expression… I felt compelled to assist him, as if my disobedience didn’t matter anymore.
“No. 3. You are No. 3,” he said, in his low, deep, monotonous tone.
“No. 3 is wrong. You are the proof.”
I relinquished my grip. It didn’t matter that I thought he was unorthodox or plain crazy. He knew what I knew. Instinctively I gave him my arm. He filled the needle, placed it inside the briefcase next to my NZ sample, and took a final gulp of his coffee. He then sat down the cup and headed for the front door.
I had the sensation of being out of my mind for a moment, and when I came back around I hobbled after him, but he didn’t break his stride once or even acknowledge my protests. There was a car parked a little way from the house, a few hundred yards maybe, and I dragged myself in his wake, faster than I had walked on my new leg until now. I didn’t want to let him leave.
When he reached the driver’s side of his vehicle, he turned to face me.
“Every month, we will need another sample. Someone will come here. They will show you a copy of this card. Give them what they need.”
He handed me a standard business card with nothing written on it at all except for a symbol stamped into the centre. By the time I looked up, #44692 had glided into his black saloon and had set off into the distance.
This was eighteen months ago. Once a month, as promised, a white-coated doctor arrives, shows me a card with a logo on it as a method of identification, takes a blood sample, and leaves. I don’t know where it goes, or what happens to it.
You might ask why I give it to them. Why I co-operate. And it’s a good question. I didn’t end up a Zombie because of the Preservers that burst in at the perfect moment. I can never forget that.
But at the same time, what if you thought that you had something inside of you, something that could potentially help others. What would you do about it? Would you want to keep it to yourself, or share it? I don’t know who this #44692 is and I don’t know what this symbol on the card they show me every week means.
I only have one piece of evidence I know to be true. No 3 is wrong. I am No. 3. And if giving over a small sample of me means that someone else doesn’t have to die, I don’t need any answers. Sometimes not knowing is much better than the discovery.
I still run from time to time. I helped to form a disabled athletics club near my parents’ home. I do it voluntarily, with kids of all ages and, if I’m feeling good, I’ll sometimes put my feet, real and artificial, back in the blocks. I enjoy it. It’s a flashback to a positive sensation and that’s all we can really hope for, isn’t it – to experience as many positive sensations as we can each and every day.
This is really all I know. I hope it has been helpful.