Nothing happened on the way to the chief. It was a little after lunch, when most people should’ve been milling about, but oddly enough, Jen and I didn’t run into anyone. Perhaps they were still eating. It didn’t really matter though whether or not we encountered anyone. The infected was completely under Jen’s control. How was she so good at steering it? We only met someone once we arrived at the chief’s building which was a little past the kitchens. It was a two-story building, clearly built before the outbreak. There was nothing on it to indicate what it was used for.
“Woah. Is that a freshly turned infected?” The person guarding the chief’s building was dressed like a hunter: camouflage clothes and a helmet. “Didn’t the chief just ask for one today? You two didn’t do anything fishy like poke a couple of holes in him and slap in some infected blood, right?”
“Don’t even joke about that,” Jen said.
The guard raised his hands. “Alright, alright. It was just a joke. All I’m saying is it’s odd, you know?”
“The chief probably heard about the influx of refugees and timed his request for right about when they’d show signs of turning.” There’s nothing mysterious about it. The chief’s a smart person. Even though it’s been over a month since we’ve arrived, I’ve never met him yet. All I know is he’s trying to develop a cure. A dumb person wouldn’t even think about doing that.
“You got a point,” the guard said. He opened the door and nudged the infected to the side when it got to close to him. “Follow me.”
The first thing I noticed was the smell. It wasn’t the smell of stink sauce; I was already nose blind to that after working next to the painters all day for a month. It was the smell of something more nostalgic. It stank like my grandmother’s medicine cabinet: sickly sweet yet sterile while smelling like old people at the same time. The inside of the building had its furniture rearranged in a manner that’d slow infected down if they broke in. People probably stubbed their toes in here all the time.
“The chief’s in the basement. Don’t try anything funny like having the infected bite him.”
“Why would we do that?” Jen asked. “And if we were going to, do you think we’d suddenly change our mind because you told us not to?”
“You got a point,” the guard said. “But I said it on the off chance you weren’t right in the head, you know? I’m a guard, but I rarely get to say guard-like lines or do anything guard-like at all.” The guard opened a door which revealed a flight of stairs going down. I hadn’t seen a basement in a very long time. “Chief! That freshly turned infected you wanted is here!”
There was no response. A moment later, a gruff voice shouted back, “Bring it over!”
The guard looked at us. “Can it climb down stairs?”
“We’re about to find out,” Jen said and nudged the infected forward. It tumbled down the stairs, and I was nearly pulled down after it. Luckily, the rope was long enough that I could release it but still grab hold of it after the infected reached the bottom.
“Guess not,” the guard said and went down the stairs. It was brightly lit for a place that was underground.
“Electricity.” I nudged Jen’s side with my elbow. “All that’s left is running water and internet and you’ll have everything you asked for.”
“Don’t forget not having to worry about being eaten alive.”
“Well, that possibility existed before the outbreak too.”
I could feel Jen roll her eyes from behind her visor. “Yeah, sure, if you were one of those idiots who climbed into enclosures at the zoo.” She nudged the infected on the ground with the butt of her spear until it stood up. Then she jabbed it in the back, steering it after the guard, who had gone ahead.
In the basement, there were a bunch of shelves holding a lot of bottles labeled with a bunch of “C”s and “H”s and “O”s with the occasional “N” and “S”. There were also tubes of medicine that squeezed out like toothpaste, and there were bottles with all kinds of medications. The chief really was serious about trying to find a cure. I wonder how many pharmacies this group’s raided.
The guard stopped in front of a door. He checked the infected, making sure it couldn’t bite or scratch before nodding. Then he pushed the door open and walked inside. Jen maneuvered the infected in, and I cut the rope some slack since the door wasn’t wide enough for both of us to go in at the same time. Jen went in first, and I went in after. The room was white. It reminded me a lot of the morgue that shows up in TV shows like the place underneath a hospital where someone’s cut open after they’re dead to determine their cause of death, and once it’s determined, they’re wheeled into a drawer in the wall—that kind of morgue. I didn’t like it.
The chief … was dressed in a hazmat suit. I couldn’t tell what he looked like at all. He was sitting at a desk which was overflowing with papers with his back to us. I wasn’t sure if he was brave or crazy. With the world the way it was now, I’d never leave my back exposed to an entrance. Granted, there was a really long table an infected would have to go around first to reach him. The chief swiveled around on his surprisingly posh chair. He stood up and nodded at the infected. “Strap it to the table.”
Jen and I glanced at each other. The guard walked around to the other side of the table. “Bring it over,” he said and fiddled with the table. There were straps made of cloth with metal bracings dangling over the sides. “We’ll strap its legs down first, then its neck, then untie its arms and do those last.”