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Trees everywhere.

That’s what I see every time I relax. The beauty of nature envelops my soul every time. I never worry myself with trivial matters like finance or politics. Every time someone brings them up in a discussion, I just walk away and find my happy place.

Breathe in…

Breathe out…

A single drop of water can cause the largest ripples in a pond; just as any negative emotion can spread like a disease through the sacred waters of our consciousness. That’s why I purge every bad thought, every horrid idea, every negative notion from my hallowed mind. My brain is a temple for my soul, and I have to keep it clean.

I’m a park cleaner named Adrien Albescu. My job is simple. I clean. Whether it be metaphysical or tangible, I clean. I allow my senses to guide me to the filth that those swines we call humans leave behind in these sacred grounds. I’m getting negative thoughts again.

Breathe in…

Breathe out…

I had no time for complaining over the continuous plummet that humanity has been suffering. I had a park to clean. As I cleaned the scraps left behind by naughty children and the swill of neglecting adults, I found myself getting into a perfect rhythm. Pick, throw, repeat. Pick, throw, repeat. The sounds of nature formed a percussion-like beat as I cleaned to the rhythm. Pick, throw, repeat. Pick, throw, repeat.

I tidied the park to the harmonious flow of nature’s musical talent. As I picked the last bit of muck in the park, I felt the warmth of the pre-dusk sun falling below the horizon. It was time to head home.

That’s when things went wrong.

While I was heading home that day, I felt something was amiss. I peered around my shoulders. The full moon painted the world below in a soft, luminescent glow. Just then, I felt a strange sensation, almost like nature was calling me. I felt… attracted towards the Hoia-Baciu forest. I had no choice but to see why I felt drawn there. The foliage blocked the moon’s glow further down, but there was just enough light for me to see where I was going.

That’s when I saw the mist. This mist had an… I can’t even think of the right word… uncanny glow to it. It painted the forest in an eerie, spectral picture. As I walked further through the brush, I felt an unexplainable tingling sensation in my throat. I remembered the stories about this place, about how people who visited never returned.

I was getting too nervous.

Breathe in…

Breathe out…

Better.

The further I went, the further lost I became. I couldn’t tell where my house was through all of that damned mist! There was… something wrong with it. I couldn’t tell what, but I knew something was dreadfully wrong.

The woodland declined further into darkness with every minute that passed. I could barely see my hand in front of my face. As I finally believed all hope was lost, a small light shone within the woods. Finally, a way out! I hoisted myself up and clawed my way to the light, as it grew and swelled more and more. As I was halfway there, however, I heard a siren singing out into the darkness. Dim at first, but it grew louder and more thunderous, until it swelled to an almost deafening shriek.

Breathe in…

Breathe out…

Breathe in…

Breathe out…

My eyes couldn’t fathom what they were seeing.

I was standing in the middle of what could only be described as nuclear fallout. The mist still tugging at my lungs, I read the sign in front of the tattered wasteland around me: Romanian Disease Research Facility B. They must have had to bomb the place… but why? The mist seemed to surround the place… was it radioactive or something?

Fearing the worst, I dashed back to town through the forest. I hoped that I didn’t get any radiation from that.

The concrete was tapping beneath my feet with every step, every slow step I made. I found it harder to breathe; it was almost like a cork was shoved down my throat. I felt it getting harder to think, harder to see. I asked everyone around me what was going on, where that fallout zone had come from, and why it didn’t spread that far.

"Please, you have to help me! I saw a fallout zone in the Hoia-Baciu forest! Please, please help!" But no one listened. Vision getting darker, lungs getting heavier, actions getting increasingly lethargic. The last thing I saw was the police officer getting on the phone in a panic, like it was an emergency.

A hospital. That’s where I was. I must’ve blacked out, because I had a breathing tube attached to my face and IVs attached to my arm. "We might have to run more tests. Who knows what else this virus can do?" I heard someone say behind a muffled filter. Virus? What virus? I tried to look around, see my surroundings, but I couldn’t get up. My body wouldn’t move.

A kind and beautiful young lady wearing a medical mask stepped in who I could only guess was the nurse. "Hi there, Patient 0! I see you’re awake! Don’t worry, I’m going to run some quick tests on you in order to further assess your condition and figure out what’s making you sick, ok?"

Patient 0? No, my name is Adrien. Why are you calling me Patient 0? She ran a blood test, a breathing test, and a neurological scan. All in order to help figure out more about this ‘illness’ I apparently had. As she was performing these tests, I noticed the file on my side desk. It read, "Influenza X." W-what? The flu? The flu isn’t this bad. Why would a doctor be testing for this version of the flu? Why am I Patient 0? Then I realized it: the mist. Something about that fallout… maybe it wasn’t a fallout, but a way to eradicate a disease gone wrong. A mutation of the flu that spread through the forest like a mist. My face turned pale as I realized now what ‘Patient 0’ meant.

More people arrived. They were all people I talked to before my blackout. The officer… my neighbors… my friends. I… I had infected them all…

I could feel a faint dizzy spell taking me over. I finally drifted away, closing my eyes as my mind returned to the images of my friends, my peers, my people; all taken over by this illness I brought to them in my own foolishness. As my final breath was taken, I felt a strange sensation at the back of my spine; almost like a tickle.

I woke up in the same hospital, the lights were dimmed to an almost pitch-black radiance as I sat up. The walls were awfully dirty and tainted.

Wait. I sat up? My binds were gone! The IVs were out! Come to think of it, I could breathe just fine and I didn’t have any scars from the IV at all! Was this all a dream? Was I in heaven? The midday luminescence of the glass window was scarcely visible through the enclosed blinds; denying them any entry.

The heart monitor (as expected) was only droning a long, drawn out *BEEP* in response to the null input of the electrodes that lay limp by the side of the stand. As I was trying to find a light to turn on, something occurred to me. Why hadn’t the nurse come to check on me? The monitor was tracked remotely by the hospital staff, so why didn’t they come to take my body out?

Come to think of it, where WAS everybody?

I decided to investigate, hoping that something terrible hadn’t happened. The door handle was covered with rust and sweat; it didn’t seem like it was fresh, either. How long had I been out? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? As the door extended into the dark void of the hallway that lay before me, I realized something was wrong. Horribly wrong.

The darkness was choking me. I couldn’t see a goddamn thing! As I fumbled my way through the dark hallway, I felt my foot kick something. As I bent down to grab it, my face blanched. It was a pistol. An oozing liquid was squelching and squeezing in my hands as I picked it up. Then, out of nowhere, I licked the liquid. It… it was blood.

And it tasted great.

What the hell? Why was I acting like this? I just licked human blood! Stop. I was getting too emotional. I needed to calm down.

Breathe in…

Breathe out…

Better.

I shook those thoughts out of my head and pressed on into the darkness. As I felt the structure of the pistol, I noticed that a tactical light was strapped to it. What luck! I quickly turned it on, and continued to press forward. Even with the light, the end of the hallway was impossible to see; the light was apparently only designed for spotting targets. As I looked around, I noticed streaks of blood along the walls; the mist carved intricate patterns on the wall with an almost snake-like movement. No people anywhere, no sign of any life. No matter how hard I looked or which room I checked, I couldn’t find anyone. Finally, it felt as if the end of the hallway was there, the elevator at the end of it glowing with the faint glow of the elevator lights on the other side of the door. Finally, I could get out of here and get help!

Suddenly, the door crashed open with the growl of a massive, inky black, tentacle-ridden creature thrusting its way into the quiet hallway, its gaping jaws and rows of teeth clearly visible even from the few feet I was standing. I quickly raised my pistol, the light allowing me to identify it as a magnum. I prayed to the Lord almighty, if there was one, to let there be bullets in this gun. I let a shot loose.

The body of a dead police officer lay before me. The hallway was ridden with the cadavers of the patients of this hospital, the staff… everyone. The destruction I brought about... the destruction IT brought about...

It was so beautiful.

Why was I thinking these thoughts? I… these weren’t my thoughts! I wasn’t a harmful person!

What the hell is going on?

What the hell is wrong with me?

This isn’t ME!

Just as quickly as it appeared, the light of the hallway dissipated; leaving me to fend off the demon in my mind.

It’s so dark now… I can’t breathe, but I have to keep trying. I’m a cleaner. I can fight this. It’s just like any other grime. I just have to take a few deep breaths, and purge my mind of this vile illness.

Breathe in...

Breathe out...

Breathe… in…

Br… eathe… out…



Written by The Anonymous Crouton
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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