White gloves wrapped around the round body of the rodent, pulling it out of the shaving-filled, high-walled container. The rotund rodent squeaked and squirmed its little legs while the man with the white gloves carried it to its destination.

Placing the guinea pig on the metal table, the white gloves patted the little spotted creature to comfort it as its nostrils flared wildly, befuddled as to why it may have been moved. It was stationary regardless of the little squeaks it emitted, which was a relief to the scientists gathering around it. While uncommon, some test subjects had made a break for it, causing the lab to be placed on lockdown and all studies to be halted. This one was as calm as could be, even before the injection, which, if done right, would make it drowsy as well as send the experimental drug through its system as soon as it was administered.

One scientist, nametag only reading ‘Cavendish’ fiddled with his surgical mask. Like many others in the room, interns and potential researchers, he had never been present before. He was there for the hypotheses and he was there whenever they discussed the results, but today would be the day he would see the process firsthand.

The man with the white gloves motioned for assistance, and another scientist came to the table, placing one hand on either side of the white and brown creature, holding it in place while the other prepared the syringe. Once restrained, the guinea pig moved its head and looked around no more, as it seemed to realize that attempting to move was pointless, a realization greatly encouraged by those watching.

The man with the white gloves pinched the scruff of the rodent with one hand and stuck the needle into the skin with the other. Pressing the plunger down, he released the solution into the creature’s body.

Cavendish was unsure what quite happened next. One moment the researchers were watching the guinea pig intently as the injection was applied, and the next moment his knees were buckling and he was sinking to the floor, spots swarming in his vision and a numbness gripping his legs, his torso, his whole body. The sound of concerned onlookers blurred together in his mind as attention quickly turned from the rodent to the man.

When he next awoke he was leaning against a wall, another scientist standing above him speaking into a phone. When Cavendish’s eyes fluttered open the scientist breathed out a sigh of relief.

“Yes, yes, he’s coming to. Yes, we still need the ambulance. Yes, yes, thank you.” The scientist hung up and crouched beside Cavendish, who was just now beginning to recall the events that had occurred, to him, only seconds ago.

“An ambulance?” he whispered.

“Yes, yes, they’re sending one over. You just passed out. Something might be wrong. I didn’t peg you for one frightened of needles, Cavendish,” the scientist noted, looking him over. “You just stay there and don’t move. We don’t want to risk anything.”

“What about… the guinea pig?” Cavendish spoke up as best he could, voice coming out a tinny whine. After all that eagerness and anxiousness about watching the experiment he had missed the whole thing! He scolded himself inwardly. The scientist was right. He was not one to pass out because of needles. He had had his fair share of injections at the doctor’s office. He was no stranger to syringes.

“God, Cavendish, the guinea pig? That’s what you’re worried about? It’s doing what it needs to do. So far nothing’s happened to the respiratory infection we’ve induced, but if the drug does what it needs to do it should clear up within the day. Now stop talking and wait here for the ambulance.”

And that is what he did. Moving an inch before then sent the other scientist into a worrying frenzy, so Cavendish was forced to remain in the slouched position against the wall the scientists had apparently placed him in during their panic. The position was doing nothing for his airway, and the longer he sat there waiting for the ambulance the harder he found it to breathe. A slight, rattling wheeze fled his throat every time he would exhale after a deep breath, but he assumed sitting up straight would fix that.

Eventually the ambulance did come, and Cavendish was hauled off to the hospital to see if the fainting spell had been the work of something more serious. He did what he was asked, let them take his blood pressure, check his heart rate. He even offered to give them blood just to prove that he was not afraid of needles, but the nurse attending to him assured Cavendish that if they needed that they would let him know and never brought it up again. For the rest of the day he was confined to a hospital bed.

The breathing only got worse, he found. An hour in the coughing started, and the mucus he expelled was thick and green. The wheezing was louder and more obvious. Cavendish shut his eyes, letting out another rattling breath and shifting a little in his bed. A doctor gave him an X-Ray and told him the results would be out eventually.

He tried his best to get to sleep, but to no avail. It seemed that whenever he felt that he was finally beginning to get comfortable, a coughing fit would seize his form again and he would scramble to grab a tissue from a box on his bedside and expel the disgusting green slime into it.

Every time he breathed he felt a rattling in his chest and a soreness in his throat. He watched his heart monitor with wide eyes, noticing how fast his heart rate had become. He turned on his side to try and ignore it, a persistent chill running through his body and sweat pouring down his face.

He got a text. It was from one of his coworkers.

[text] hey cav u ok?

[text] saw you went to the hospital

[text] everything alright?

Cavendish reached over, looking at the text with tired eyes. He tapped out response and hit send.

[text] ill be fine

[text] how’s the guinea pig?

Another coughing fit struck Cavendish and he groaned. He got a text back.

[text] not looking good.

[text] don’t know what happened but the little bacteria we gave it got worse and worse within the hours

[text] the others are saying it probably developed pneumonia

Cavendish jumped, nearly dropping the phone onto the floor as he was startled by the sound of the curtain in his hospital room moving suddenly to the side.

“Sorry, Mr. Cavendish. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“It’s fine,” Cavendish assured with a dry rasp. “Are you back with the results?”

“I am indeed,” the doctor said with a grin, but the smile quickly faltered as he passed him the paper. “I’m afraid you’ve developed a bad case of pneumonia.”

“Pneu…monia?” Cavendish repeated, the words barely making their way out of his mouth while his mind spun.

“Yes. Judging by the X-Ray it’s gotten pretty bad. I suggest letting us take care of you for the next few days. We’ll have to prescribe some antibiotics, of course,” he said.

Cavendish swallowed thickly and nodded his head, eyes stuck wide open. He heard the buzzing of his phone on the bedside table and turned to grab it while the doctor walked away to address the concerns of another patient.

[text] update: yeah, the pneumonia’s bad

[text] we’re putting it down

The blood cells migrated from Cavendish’s face all at once before he quickly and unceremoniously slipped away into oblivion.

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