“I need to let you know again that the procedure is very experimental and, well, very illegal,” Dr. Hale said. He could tell by Robert’s expression that he wanted, no needed, to go through with it.
“The animal tests, while promising, were also inconclusive,” Dr. Hale continued. “In almost 25% of the cases the subject was worse after the procedure and in 12% of the cases they died. This for a success rate of only 47%”
Robert blinked twice for “yes”. Dr. Hale sighed. Robert’s organs were failing. He didn’t have much longer and was desperate to try anything. Dr. Hale cursed himself for even mentioning the procedure, but now that Robert had some hope he didn’t want to deny him.
He reminded himself that he should never have taken a friend on as a patient.
The procedure was relatively simple. An extract from a plant found only in one high mountain valley on Haiti is given to the patient to prepare them. The extract saturates every bit of tissue in the body. Stem cells with a modified version of the patient’s DNA are then injected into the areas where there is damage. Somehow the plant extract works with the stem cells to replace the damaged tissue. In some of the animal tests it would even replace missing organs. But the risks were high and the FDA had denied human trials.
Dr. Hale had been called in early to help transfer the animal tests into human trials. He had come up with what he believed was the best compromise for safety and effectiveness for the human body, but it was shot down before he could test it.
And then Robert had his accident.
Depending on your point of view, Robert had been lucky to regain consciousness. There was no or little brain damage, but he was isolated in his head, his body useless and rapidly dying. Seeing his friend in pain, Dr. Hale let slip his research. There was no turning back.
Dr. Hale studied the charts again. Nothing made sense. At first the procedure appeared to be a success. But then the replacement of tissue continued. Healthy tissue was being replaced at a rapid rate. It now seemed to be eating his brain, replacing everything. Not only was the new tissue replacing everything, but the DNA, which was already slightly modified, had mutated. Soon every cell in Robert’s body would contain the mutated version of the DNA. What would happen to Robert when all of his tissue was replaced? Would it even be Robert?
The nurse’s voice was unemotional, but Dr. Hale could see the concern in her eye.
“I’m sorry Robert,” Dr. Hale said. “We tried. But you would have gone any way. There was just too much damage. You’re better off now, in a better place.”
Dr. Hale walked back to his office in a daze and slumped down at his desk. He knew it was too much to ask. Only it wasn’t just his friend, it was his career, his very life. He knew after breaking the trust by performing the illegal procedure he would never practice again and would likely do jail time. This was the end.
And yet, his thought kept returning to Robert. He had so hoped he could have his friend back.
There was a sound outside of his office.
Someone barged into the room. Dr. Hale stood up.
Robert shuffled into Dr. Hale’s office, moving with a strange rhythm, a lopsided gait. His eyes pointed at Dr. Hale, but they didn’t seem to see. They were dead and hazy. There was blood all over his gown.
“Robert, can you hear, me? Robert?” Dr. Hale asked, unconsciously backing up a step.
Robert leaped across the room with an inhuman motion. He hit Dr. Hale, knocking him into the wall. Dr. Hale’s body crumpled into an unnatural position on the floor, broken beyond repair.
Dr. Hale opened his eyes. His eyes, like Robert’s after the accident, were the only part of his body that could still move. He noticed the nurse enter the room with the same strange gait as Robert, the same unseeing hazy eyes.
Dr. Hale was aware that Robert was swinging at him again, for the final time. The end was quick.
Or was it?
Sorry, I know, the world needs another Zombie story like I need another hole in my head ;)