—Join this week’s episode of Phlegm Patrol*….already in progress–
Officer RB: “Adam Ten, Officer Bacter, on route. What’s the situation?”
Dispatch: “Victim is down…multiple unknown hostiles. Proceed with caution.”
Officer AV: “Going in code zero…what’s the eta on the bus?”
Dispatch: “Five minutes out…coroner is on standby.”
Officer RB: “Code eleven, dispatch. Adam Ten pulling up to the residence. Lights are off…let’s see if any body’s home.”**
Join our intrepid officers, Ria Bacter and Andy Viril, as they broach the unknown, potentially lethal abode nestled in a residential neighborhood where the worst that happens on a typical day is a dog taking a dump on your lawn. Today is not your typical day. As the car brakes to a halt, the duo leap into action…
“A.V…you go round the rear. I know how you like to make an entrance.” Ria says tossing her partner a brightly marked can along with her trademark wicked grin.
“Funny, Ria. Remind me to sign you up for sensitivity training when we get back.” Officer AV snaps, but he snatches the aerosol can mid-air without breaking his stride. Slamming the trunk from which he has pulled the blazing orange gear, he tosses his partner the familiar hazmat suit standard for the op.
“Keep your eye on the prize and gear up.” In seconds, he’s zipped and loaded for recon. Officer AV yanks on his headgear before stalking to the back of the yellow, suburban death trap. He muffles a curse as he nearly trips on the hose snaking through the long grass.
It’s been a while since anyone came out to mow this mess. Not good.
Masks in place, the officers approach with caution.
From the back entrance, Officer AV can’t see shit. It’s an older model home with a door meant to withstand nosy neighbors—solid steel and no fancy cut-work glass spy holes. The curtains block his view through the small kitchen window—other than to note the piles of dishes glimpsed through the sliver of light spearing the darkness inside.
A quick test of the knob reveals the door is shut tight. Out of habit, Andy sprays the surface of both the storm and the outer door handles before heading back to the front to confer with Ria. But she’s not there. He scans the yard then spots his partner hauling ass back from the car.
“I can see someone layed out inside. It appears as though a wrecking crew went through.” Ria waves a crowbar at her partner. “Looks like we’re gonna have to invite ourselves to the party.”
In seconds, the officers are through.
“Geezus Christmas.” AV can’t swallow the reflexive curse entirely. “What the hell happened here?”
Tissues adorn every surface. In the dim light, their advanced recon goggles’ infrared settings pick up the myriad human sputum samples flecking the walls and surfaces around them.
“Don’t touch a fucking thing.” Ria barks, unconcerned about anybody’s sensibilities—least of all the corpse on the couch. “I don’t want to face the paperwork if this spreads.”
Then the body buried under a mound of Kleenex and a moth-eaten afghan moans.
“Effing hell. She’s alive.” AV holds his breath—even though the standard issue mask is tested out at a level-five contagion. Flesh eating bacteria won’t get through this thing, but still…
Reaching for his adapted weapon, AV brings it to bear on the woman whose eyes open to slits, offering a watery grimace before hacking up half a lung—a wet, sucking sound that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
“Hold still ma’am.” Ria has her baton out and punches a button to bring up a swab. Like the pro she is, she’s in and out of the woman’s sphere of contagion in seconds.
“Just…kill me now.”
The woman reaches weakly toward them. Her plea is interrupted by a shudder wracking her frame. Choking paroxysms smother any further pleas for a merciful end.
Ria holds out the monitor to AV—the blinking readout suggests last rite measures.
AV grimaces, upping the anti-viral setting to maximum.
“Sorry, ma’am.” He’d have sounded more sincere, but fear clenches down hard on sympathy in the face of the petri dish that once was a human being. “But this is for the good of the nation.”
There’s nothing left to say. Ria makes quick work bagging and dragging patient zero.
As his partner backs out of the front door, AV fires and the charge disperses with an aerosol hiss of death. Every surface that had been contaminated by the mutant virus is now coated in a dripping goo—a potent substance which dissolves germs—as well as eating its way through any pesky surface that might get in the way of a thorough decontamination. In seconds, the couch is a skeleton of its former foamy self. The rest of the house will soon follow.
Outside, Ria has deposited the woman out in the standard containment unit. The body bag for the living didn’t look much different—except for the mounded air intake sucking in O2–sounding like the bastard child of Count Dracula and Darth Vader having an asthma attack.
“Think she’ll make it, Andy?” Ria Bacter asks with a cold indifference to the answer. She flags the ambulance as it rounds the corner. They know the drill.
“If they can administer the ‘chicken soup’ in time. Maybe.” Officer AV is not confident enough to make assumptions past that. “And that’s Officer Virile to you, Bacter.”
“I think you mean viral.” Ria snarks at him. She holsters the can of government-issued Lysol with a quick flick of her wrist. She’s been practicing, AV is impressed.
“That’s not what the ladies say.” AV offers his own sly grin. “Feel free to ask around.”
“Ohh, someone thinks his bad self is too hot to touch.” Ria saunters to where hazmat has set up the decon tent. She shoots him a sardonic look. “Rumor has it, you are passed from woman to woman like a common cold. You should come with a surgeon’s general warning: ‘Do not exceed recommended dosage.’ Better watch it, Viral. Or they’ll bag your ass as soon as look at it.”
AV watches as the woman Ria tagged is hauled into the back of the contamination wagon—it shoots screaming down the block interrupting his snappy comeback. Entering the tent, he calls to her as he peels off his own suit.
“As long as they’ve got my ass in their sites, they might as well get a good, long look at it.” He’s peeling to the skin when his partner whistles behind him. He whirls to catch her eyeing his physical attributes.
“Woo Whee. I guess they better of ought to, then. Some ills are worth dying for.” Ria flutters a hand as though wracked with heart palpitations, then, snatching up a nearby black bag, she whips the decon pack at his head, just missing hitting him in the teeth as he grins back at her.
“It’s all in a days’ work for the phlegm squad, Bacter.” He shouts, before hauling himself into the air vents blasting a Lysol-dense germ retardant. “Some days, a good end is all you can hope for.”***
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*I considered calling the show ‘Hazmat Cops’ but then got distracted writing lyrics to the show:
“Flu Cops, Flu Cops…watcha gonna do?
Watcha gonna do when hazmat comes for you?”
**All police jargon gleefully stolen from Caissa’s Web.
***And my, was his asterisk utterly bedazzling!
Footnote: I will be body bagging it until I kick this virus’s ass or until Officer Viril comes calling–I’m not sure which to hope for.
Featured image stolen from: RDAnderson
Kleenex Woman image stolen from: Devotion’s By Jan