The Last Of Them

In an unknown city in the United Kingdom, a man lives by himself in an ancient, scenic city. An ancient, scenic city decimated by a fungal infection which has destroyed humanity as he knows it.

In the man's past is trauma and horror. The loss of family and friends and everyone he could ever think of meeting. Yet more importantly, in his past is the secret to where the world-ending Cordyceps fungus originated.

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4. IV.

On a sloping alleyway in the old town was a squat oblong building made of red brick and steel and glass, at modern angles, which sat in its own square surrounded by tenements. Neville pushed through the double doors, metal handles cold against his palm. It was half past eight in the morning.  

Inside the atrium lobby at the building’s center he clocked in. The receptionist, Maddie, greeted him. He was certain had a crush on him. As with all romantic interest, he tried to ignore it. He made himself think of Liz. He took an elevator just past Maddie’s desk down to the laboratory beneath the lot.

The chrome doors opened, and he walked into a sterile cube they called the junction. To his right was a loading bay behind locked double doors, to his left their mess hall and shower rooms, and dead ahead was the lab.

Neville approaches the door and swipes the keycard checker next to it with a card which reads: Neville Mason, Chief Forensic Foreign-Agent Scientist. Putting on a labcoat hanging from the wall, he enters the routine to prepare him for his day's work assessing the strange microorganisms or forms which come in on flights or transport across the border. He entered the room and from that point knew this day would be one of the worst.

Less than a moment in and his chief lab assistant Abby approached him with several pieces of paper: ‘Mason, look at this.'

‘What is it?’

‘This is one of a few shipments today with strange occurrences. Look at this one from China. It’s especially unique. There appeared to be a mammal underneath the fungus found in the carrier bay, largely desecrated. The compartment was full of spores. They were transporting fourteen squirrel monkeys, god knows why, to the USA, and one of them has been ruined by this.’

‘Looks like a cordyceps to me.’

‘That’s what I thought.’

They pondered it for a moment.

‘Leave it with me’.

For the rest of the day Neville worked solely on this one case. The others seemed irrelevant: koala chlamydia on a ship from France, an easily preventable break of rabies from a dog flown in from Sweden.

This was different.

The animal was dead. They didn’t know how long it had been in the container. It was from a genus close to humans. There was very little information with the package. And the fungus was something very common among insects.

Five hours later, Neville felt like his risk assessment was just beginning to resemble completion. He still had no idea what to do. The main thing which stood out was that a tiny proportion of the cordyceps fungus was in any way contagious or dangerous. It should be controllable if it reached any of their own vulnerable creatures; and in any case, only one monkey was affected.

He decided to let it go.

In several hours the dead monkee had been disposed of, the container had been sterilised, and the rest of the shipmant had been sent off.

Thirteen squirrel monkeys. Ultimate destination: Medical School, University of Colorado Boulder. In Boulder, Colorado, United States of America. In ten hours, it would touch down.

 

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