In response to the recent outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, followed by the death of an infected German traveler who returned to Berlin, world governments made a rare bold united move. Yesterday morning at 6:00 a.m. London time (8:00 a.m. Tel Aviv time), they began to continuously release my immunizing super virus in every major airport on the globe.
Yesterday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Tel Aviv time (11:00 a.m. London time), Dr. Baruch Lieber and I took a frantic conference call from the commander of the brigade from which six of our ten test subjects came. He holds a rank in the Israel Defense Forces equivalent to a colonel in the U.S. Army. His name is Jonah Weiss. Colonel Weiss reported the death of one of our super virus test subjects.
“Dr. Kohlberg and Dr. Lieber?”
“Yes, we are both here on speakerphone. This is Dr. Kohlberg. I head the team.”
I heard a commotion in the background. Anxious voices fired questions at Weiss.
Colonel Weiss raised his voice. “Chief Private Ari Munwes was stabbed in a terror attack near a south Tel Aviv train station. He died of his wounds. What did you do to him? All hell is breaking loose in my ranks.”
Dr. Lieber and I looked at each other in confusion. We were at a loss to understand Colonel Weiss. I knew Chief Private Munwes well, and I was very fond of him. Quick mind. Wicked sense of humor. I was distressed to hear he had been stabbed, but what did that have to do with us?
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The soldiers reported…they said Munwes arose from the dead and attacked a fellow soldier. It happened while they were transporting the body to the morgue.”
Colonel Weiss’s report was utter nonsense. I didn’t try to hide my annoyance. “Is this a joke?”
The colonel threw it back at me in spades, and his voice rose to a shout. “This is no joke. I am telling you what my soldiers told me.”
This time Dr. Baruch Lieber and I looked at each other in alarm. Surely Ari Munwes did not die from his wounds. He must have passed out. But that wouldn’t explain why he would attack another soldier. Was this an unanticipated complication of the vaccine, and if so, what exactly was happening? I needed a lot more information.
“How are the soldiers now? How is Ari Munwes doing? What about the soldier that Ari attacked? Is he all right? What about the terrorist?” I kept my voice steady and calm hoping Weiss would follow my lead.
“I told you. Chief Private Ari Munwes died of his stab wounds. There is no room for doubt. It was a vicious attack. He was stabbed through the heart and sliced through his carotid artery, a quarter of the way through his neck. Then he was stabbed through the throat. He bled out. The terrorist is unharmed and in custody; we are questioning him now.”
I took a deep breath and tried to collect my thoughts. For now, I had to suspend disbelief and listen to what the colonel had to say.
“How is the soldier doing…the one Private Munwes attacked?”
The colonel’s words spilled out in a rush. “Not well. Private Munwes, or at least what used to be Munwes, ate the soldier’s left arm. The soldier, Chief Private Danny Fisher, could not fend him off. Munwes ripped through the cloth of Fisher’s shirt with his teeth, and he tore chunks out of Fisher’s left triceps. Two more soldiers pulled Munwes off Fisher, but Munwes kept lunging at them.”
“Did they shoot Munwes?” I asked.
“No. The soldiers didn’t want to use bullets in such close quarters. These men are strong and well-trained in hand-to-hand combat. Yet Munwes didn’t stop even when they applied pressure to nerves, shattered a knee, and twisted an arm out of its joint.”
“If they didn’t shoot him, how did they subdue Munwes?”
“They bashed in his head.”
I said nothing for a full fifteen seconds. Finally, I asked, “Where is Fisher, the soldier Munwes bit?”
“You mean the soldier he partially ate,” said Weiss. “Fisher and Munwes’s corpse are on their way to you. I saw Fisher’s arm. Shredded hanging flesh. It looked like he had been mauled by an animal. But worse. It looks ugly. Perhaps infected. Puffy and unhealthy. He’s lost a lot of blood, and medics are trying to stabilize him.”
I tried to overcome my shock. After the immunizations, we had the test-subject soldiers monitored in what we thought was an abundance of caution. The military had instructions to immediately contact us with any medical problems. We had been thinking in terms of Ebola symptoms, not of even more horrific unintended consequences. What could have caused this?
“Colonel Weiss, I commend the military’s quick response time in alerting us. We cannot be sure this is related to the vaccine, but we’ll get to the bottom of it. We would like toxicology to examine the blade the terrorist used to stab Chief Private Ari Munwes.”
“Yes,” said Colonel Weiss, “I didn’t mean to jump to conclusions.” He paused. “Doctor Kohlberg?”
“Yes, is there something more?”
“There’s a lot more. My men are halfway to panic. You’ll recall I have five other test subjects in my battalion, and the other men are now saying they don’t want to work with them. I need to maintain discipline…”
“As soon as I know more, you will too, Colonel Weiss.”
“Thank you,” said Colonel Weiss sounding a little calmer. “And Dr. Kohlberg?”
“If Chief Private Danny Fisher doesn’t make it…be careful.”
END OF EXCERPT
Janet M. Tavakoli writing as Michael K. Clancy