Saturday, 30 November 2013


For the first time in a long time, I dreamt about Bob.

The dream was weak, and grey, and flickering. I strained my eyes, but I could never seem to see as well as I wanted; there never seemed to be enough light. I was in a walled garden, standing on the lawn. Bob was sitting down, stroking two foxes who rubbed against him. Their cubs frolicked around us. Bob was a desiccated husk. His eyes were milky white, his skin paper thin. His hair and beard were patchy, reduced to white wisps. He told me he was dying.

He said the battle had been fought, and both sides had lost. He held out a fox and said I should embrace it. I stayed where I was. Something moved over my foot. I looked down and saw a snake. Bob saw it too, and nodded. He said it was clear. One was a gift, the other a prize. The burden would be mine, the endless burden that had destroyed him and twisted the other, if only I would take it. The end was coming, or was here, and the choice was mine. Carry the burden or end everything. He held out the fox again; I took it.

Bob said he would help me, one last time. Then he would wake from his nightmare, his burden gone. He told me to pack my bag and sleep in my clothes. Then he said goodbye.

I woke up soaked with sweat. It was mid-afternoon, and I was exhausted. I'll do as Bob asks. I'll take my laptop. If I can, I'll post. I feel like this will be my legacy.

Friday, 29 November 2013


I don't know what's going on. I'm pretty certain the figure under the blanket must have been Smith, and I can think of a reason why she was covered up. We work with the mal here, and though the researchers seem to have an uncanny resistance, there must still be cases where they become afflicted. Smith was displaying signs of paranoia when she met with me, which is a point in favour of my theory. On the other hand, I'm not sure it was paranoia; her observations might have been accurate.

Assuming Smith has been afflicted, I can't help but wonder whether it was just an unfortunate accident, or something else, something worse. There were a lot of scientists waiting in the corridor, and it did seem as if Smith had done something - maybe by talking to me, maybe through her general attitude - that might necessitate punishment. But then, I don't know anything. Maybe she has been promoted.

I can't stand this. I don't know what's happening here, and I don't trust it. No one I've spoken to knows what's going on, and anyone that does know is somewhere I can't get to. My mind keeps going back to the lift they took Smith down in. If I could get down there, maybe I'd find some answers. But I don't see any way to get past the guards.

I don't know what to do.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


I went back to the executive area. I couldn't get to the room I'd seen Smith go into, as there were scientists and soldiers in the corridor. There was no way I'd be able to get close. I loitered at a safe distance, and if they noticed me, they didn't care.

Something seemed to be going on, and the people in the corridor looked like they were waiting for whatever was happening to finish. I had a choice: I could wait with them, or I could go back to my room and give up on my investigation. Smith was my final lead; if I stopped now, I'd have nothing to do but go back to work and trust that the people running the facility knew what they were doing. I waited.

I circled around, finding a place where I could watch without being entirely obvious. I wasn't hidden as such, but someone in the corridor would have to look closely to see me. I waited there for an hour before anything happened. Eventually, a man opened the door.

He leaned out and delivered some information to the nearest scientist. The scientist spoke to a number of people, who left after they'd been addressed. Soon, only a couple of soldiers remained. They went to the door and opened it. Someone came out, covered with a blanket that reached almost to the floor. The two soldiers led the blanket-covered person away. I followed them to a guarded lift; they went in and the doors closed.

When the doors opened, the person in the blanket was gone.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


I explored the rest of the corridors. Most of the space is taken up by researchers, all of them doing vivisection. I didn't bother speaking to them after a while; I was hearing the same story over and over again. They were studying how to manipulate the mal. I thought about going into G section, but I couldn't see the point, as I already knew exactly what they got up to in there. The only part of the floor that was any different was the executive area.

Some of the rooms in the executive area were windowed, and I could see people in suits sat around large tables, their mandatory scrubs and masks hanging from hooks by the door. There were more soldiers around, too, who looked at me with suspicion but never said anything. I explored as thoroughly as I could, though I found nothing of any interest, and didn't see anyone who'd stop to speak to me. I spent hours there, and though I didn't find the information I wanted, my persistence paid off.

I was walking through a corridor I'd already been through several times when I heard boots. I pressed myself into a corner and waited. I didn't see any point in pushing my luck, and I'd been hanging around for long enough that the soldiers might have been getting edgy. Between the footsteps, I could hear someone. She was distressed. I was tucked away, so the soldiers didn't notice me as they came through. They were escorting Smith somewhere. I followed as closely as I dared, and watched them put her through a door into a windowless room. I don't think she's been promoted. I got out of there before the soldiers could see me. I'll try to get back tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


I found out today that Smith has been promoted. I didn't ask anyone; I just received an email saying that she'd been moved to a different part of the facility to undertake a role with more responsibility, and that I'd be assigned to a new supervising researcher shortly.

I wonder if her "promotion" has anything to do with how she was behaving yesterday. I doubt anyone knows that she spoke to me, but she seemed upset and scared, and I don't know what to make of the things she told me. I don't want to believe that the scientists at the top of the facility have given up on holding back The Sick Land. But I can't think of any other way to interpret what I've seen. The research on this floor is focused on treating and manipulating the mal. Unless there's yet more to the facility that I haven't seen, that's everything. There's nothing else.

I don't know what to do. The world as we know it will end, maybe not in my lifetime, but soon. And the survivors, if there are any, will be monsters, people we've altered haphazardly, with our limited understanding of how the mal works. The human species will be extinct, and whatever's left in its place will be something new and frightening.

I don't know if I'm being melodramatic. There must be research here that I don't know about. I'm going to explore the rest of the floor, the parts I haven't seen. I need to find some evidence, any evidence, of research to stop the expansion. If I find it, I'll settle back in, get my head down, and make whatever contribution I can.

If I don't find it, I don't know what I'll do.

Monday, 25 November 2013


I met with Smith again this morning. She was agitated, and explained that she could only speak to me for a few minutes. We met in a small, windowless room. She kept turning to look at the closed door, as if she expected us to be interrupted at any minute.

She caught my gaze and told me to ask the question I wanted to ask. She said she'd do her best to answer it. I didn't have to think. I asked her how the research here related to the expansion problem, and how close we were to having anything that could be used to hold back The Sick Land. She looked away, her eyes fixed on a point miles in the distance. She told me I should have worked it out by now. That there was no escape, no holding The Sick Land back, no resisting the mal. All we could do, all the facility did, was try to find ways for humankind to survive the inevitable. I stared at her, my mouth falling open, and wondered if this was the official line, or just Smith's personal take on the situation. I started to ask her but she cut me off. She said we had to adapt as a species, had to find ways to keep the human race going while The Sick Land washed over us. Change was coming, and death for billions. I didn't know what to say.

She told me she had to go, and left the small room in a hurry. I sat there for another quarter of an hour, brooding on what she'd said. I only left when two soldiers opened the door, looked in and saw me, then went without a second glance. Something is happening.

Sunday, 24 November 2013


I met with Smith, and we talked about G section. I asked her about the man I'd seen yesterday. Nothing more than that. I left the question open. She said he was a test subject, someone they'd purposefully manipulated with the mal. She told me his leg had been nothing but a rotting tube of flesh when he'd been brought in. They'd taken some of the samples from 83 and managed to implant them into the man's leg. 83's affliction had taken over, covering and repairing the putrid flesh, transforming the leg back into an appendage. She told me it was a breakthrough, the first instance where they'd managed to use the mal to do something good, to help somebody.

I asked her why his leg was so big. She said she didn't know, but they suspected it was some kind of interaction effect. I asked whether he was any better off now. She shrugged and said it was the first step. I held my hands up and said I didn't get it. I said I didn't get what the point of any of this was, how it was supposed to help us hold back The Sick Land. It felt like we were trying to stop the tide with sandcastles.

I didn't get an answer. Smith was paged. Her face went white when she got the message, and she told me we'd have to continue our talk tomorrow. She ran out in a hurry. I feel like I'm starting to lose whatever tentative grip I ever had on what's going on in this place.

Saturday, 23 November 2013


I went back to G section. The soldiers on guard weren't the two I saw yesterday, but luckily, I still had my pass. I showed it to them, and they logged the number before nodding me through. I didn't go the way I'd been yesterday, as I didn't think I'd get much out of staring through the window into the experimental drugs lab.

I wandered the corridors aimlessly. Most of the labs were behind heavy doors. The few areas I saw that were windowed showed nothing but scientists mixing chemicals or studying computer screens. I kept my head down when I passed people. There didn't seem to be anything prohibiting me from being in G section, but I thought it would be a good idea to keep a low profile. I turned a corner and saw directly into a large, glass-sided room.

A man was suspended from the wall, a thick metal band passing around his waist, with an attached nylon strap between his legs holding him up. Other nylon straps held his arms and one of his legs. His other leg was enormous, and encrusted with cracked, yellowing skin. I stared through the glass at him. I couldn't hear any sound, but it looked as if he was screaming. I could see no one else in the room. I stumbled away.

As I passed back through the checkpoint, one of the guards stopped me then moved away to speak on his radio. I was made to wait for a few minutes. Smith arrived. She told me to meet her tomorrow, so we could discuss what I'd seen.

Friday, 22 November 2013


G section is separated from the rest of the lower floor by a narrow corridor. The corridor is supervised by a couple of soldiers. Supervised, rather than guarded: they don't seem to stop people, but they do check your details and log that you've passed through the checkpoint.

I spoke to the guards, and they asked me my reason for entering G section. I bluffed and said that I wanted to talk to some of the scientists about 407, and discuss the effects of the drug and some biopsy results. The guards weren't particularly interested, and just noted down a few details. They gave me a pass and sent me through. I checked the floor plan on the wall; the experimental drugs section was nearby.

A scientist was leaning on the wall outside the lab door drinking water from a paper cup. He looked at me suspiciously, so I took a risk and told him I wanted to speak to someone about the drug 407 had been given. He obviously thought I was supposed to know about it, because he told me the whole thing was a bust unless they could learn to control it. Then he said everything in G section was a waste of time anyway, as nothing they developed would ever work outside The Sick Land. He asked me if I wanted to come into the lab and talk to someone, but I pretended I had to leave. He watched me until I'd gone past the guards and back into the main corridor.

I'll come back tomorrow and look around.

Thursday, 21 November 2013


I spoke to the project leader responsible for 407. He was very apologetic about what happened, and seemed genuinely shocked; he said she'd always been a model subject. His attitude changed completely when I told him about the drug, though.

I said that 407 had seemed to have a bad reaction to a drug I was told to give her, and that it came in a red-banded syringe. The project leader's face darkened, and he said she wasn't supposed to be involved in any experimental protocols. He started ranting about the research being seriously delayed, and how they were close to identifying the muscle growth factor that caused her affliction. I tried to commiserate with him. I said it was terrible that a single mistake could destroy a research program. He looked me in the eye and said it wasn't a mistake. I asked him what he meant, and he told me to go to G section and ask. As soon as he said it, he stopped talking, rubbed his eyes, and looked back at me. He said he'd spoken out of turn and asked me to forget it. I said I would.

I'm going to look for G section tomorrow.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


I followed the drug trolley. When the scientist delivering the drugs went into one of the rooms, I had a look at the information on his clipboard. The syringes are colour-coded based on what they're used for. The syringe I have from yesterday has a red band around it, which, according to the chart, means it's an experimental compound. I looked at the contents of the trolley; there were fewer red bands than any of the other colours.

No one told me they were testing experimental drugs on 407, though maybe they wouldn't. The important thing for me to find out now is whether the drug was given to 407 by mistake, or deliberately. If it was given deliberately, I need to find out whether they knew it would have that effect. I have to know whether they knowingly put my life at risk to test a drug.

Even if there's an innocent explanation for what happened, I have to wonder what they're doing with that drug. I've heard 407 is still trapped in an animalistic frenzy. I hope they had no idea that would happen. I can't see how a drug that causes murderous rage furthers our research into curing the mal.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


There was an incident today.

The drug trolley came round as usual, and I was given a full syringe of something to inject into 407. It's something I've done the last few days. I wiped 407's arm with alcohol and gave her the injection. We were chatting normally as I did it. I turned away to discard the syringe, and 407 grabbed me by the throat.

I turned to face her. She was snarling, though that term hardly describes it; her expression was like nothing I've seen before on a human being. Her normal hand was clamped around my throat; I was starting to panic and see spots. She was trying bodily to drag her giant arm around so it could grab me. I knew if she got hold of me, I'd be crushed to death.

I kicked and punched and pushed my fingers into her eyes. My throat slipped out of her hand and I ran out the door, slamming it shut and locking it behind me. 407 stared at me through the glass.

I've been checked out by the medics. I'm fine, apart from bruises, and the shock of what happened. They've signed me off on compassionate leave while I get over my near miss.

I don't think anyone noticed, but I still have the syringe. I might use my leave to find out what it is. I'm certain 407 changed when I injected her with the drug; I want to know what it was.

Monday, 18 November 2013


We did a lot of medical stuff on Amanda today, taking blood and tissue samples from her afflicted arm, as well as similar samples from her healthy arm. She took it well, sitting patiently while people in white coats bustled around her and jabbed her with implements. I was in charge of a small meter that measured her blood pressure and heart rate, among other things.

Amanda told us a story about something that happened to her when she was on duty at the military base. She'd been assigned to guard the gate, which she hated, because nothing ever happened. She was speaking to the other guard and keeping an eye out front, when out of nowhere, the rotted carcass of a whale dropped onto the ground a hundred yards ahead of them. She was almost crying with laughter as she described the horrendous stench and the deeply unpleasant clean-up job that followed. She got to stand there and watch while every unassigned soldier on the base was sent to mop up whale guts.

The scientists taking the samples obviously enjoyed her story. It gives me hope for the state of things here. As long as they realise they're working on human beings, rather than empty bodies, I can't believe there'd be many ethical problems.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


We stress tested Amanda's arm. We had to figure out a way to brace it just under the shoulder, so that it wouldn't rip away from the rest of her body. We did it using an adjustable frame and some straps. Once the arm was braced, we began loading a barbell and seeing how much she could hold onto. We ran out of weight before she lost her grip. She told me she could hold on all day, so we tried a different test. We helped her lift her arm up and grip one of the chinning bars on the ceiling. Then we timed how long she could hang. We ended up having lunch while we watched her. In the end, she said her ribs were starting to hurt where she was dangling, so we helped her down.

Her condition is extraordinary. By most accounts, she's hideously deformed, but her distended arm is unbelievably powerful. She seems in high spirits, too, and was laughing and joking while we tested her. I really hope most of the patients here are more like Amanda and less like 83. It would make the research activities much easier to accept.

Saturday, 16 November 2013


I've been assigned to patient 407. She has an enormous, prodigiously strong right arm, but is otherwise normal. She told me to call her Amanda. My job is to test the limits of her afflicted arm, and to do various simple medical things, like drawing blood. I also have to observe muscle biopsies and other complex procedures.

407, Amanda, is stoical about her situation. She was military, stationed at one of the bases on the outskirts. She thinks she got affected by the mal after a single extraction mission that took her into the Green Zone. It's certainly possible. Sometimes, people do get struck down that quickly. But now that I know about fluctuations, and the rate of expansion, it's difficult to avoid speculating. It's quite possible that her base was inside the Green Zone and they never knew. I didn't mention my suspicions. I think she's better off believing it was just a terrible piece of luck, rather than a systematic failure by her employers to protect her.

Working with Amanda should be a lot less harrowing than working with 83. I hope so, anyway.

Friday, 15 November 2013


I went to the lab where they're experimenting on 83's skin samples. I watched through the glass wall as the scientists inside ran various tests, standard biological stuff as far as I could tell. I loitered outside until someone came out who I could speak to. I asked the scientist what they were doing with the tissue, and she told me they're searching for the mechanism by which 83's skin regenerates. She said it's a particularly fascinating case because they don't know where the energy or protein for the regeneration comes from. 83 eats nowhere near enough food, and they suspect he draws on the mal in some way.

I told her I thought the research sounded fascinating, and that it had obvious applications in medicine. I asked her if she thought it might produce something that could be sold, or used in other applications. I was thinking of how much money could be made from cellular regeneration. She looked at me as if I were an idiot, and said that whatever mechanism was involved in 83's regeneration wouldn't function away from The Sick Land, just like everything else they study here. I was embarrassed; I thanked her, and left.

I've been worried about possible cynical motivations here, but the scientist I spoke to made a good point: whatever they discover here only holds here. The research, though unpalatable, is obviously aimed at helping people survive the mal, which is a noble goal. I'm still not sure how it relates to stopping the expansion, but I'll continue speaking to people until I find out.

Thursday, 14 November 2013


Today was my final day in sole charge of 83. He was still knocked out from the injection, so I took the blowtorch and removed the rest of his thickened skin. It smelt like pork cooking, and I had to leave a few times to get my breath back and stop my head spinning. When I was done, 83's flesh was bloody and inflamed. I injected him, and recorded the relevant data. As I was finishing, Smith arrived to debrief me.

She looked at 83 and nodded. There was no satisfaction on her face. She looked at my data without comment, and asked if I had any questions. I told her that 83's brain damage was much less severe than had been assumed, and that I'd been communicating with him. Smith told me she knew, and that it was always at the back of her mind that 83 was a human being. I got angry, and asked why she and Miles had tricked me, and led me to believe 83 was brain damaged. She said Miles didn't know, and none of the scientists she'd had under her had known. She said that for their peace of mind, it was better that way. My anger disappeared; 83 needed his treatment to stay alive, and the facility needed the research. It was right to ease the burden on the researchers.

Smith called Miles and we transported the burned remains of 83's skin to a lab for analysis. I have tomorrow off, so I think I'll go to the lab and see what I can find out.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


83's skin had thickened during the night, and I found him on the floor, unable to move. I couldn't bear to see him like that, so I tried to scrape away some of the skin as gently as I could to free up his joints. As soon as I touched his skin, he started to moan horribly, and I knew he was in excruciating pain.

I didn't know what to do. If I left him as he was, 83 was trapped in his motionless body. He was struggling to breath, and I didn't think he'd live for much longer. But removing his skin caused him terrible pain. In the end, I did what I had to do. I grabbed his arm, sliced away some skin with a knife, and injected him with the sedative. When 83 was out cold, I grabbed the blowtorch and burned the skin on his arm away. I didn't do any more than that, because I needed to see how he reacted. Tomorrow, I'll clear the rest of the skin away. It'll hurt him temporarily, but he won't be in as bad a situation as he is now. I don't feel good about it, but I can't think of any other way to solve his problem.

I need to know what's going on. I have to get a fuller picture of what they do here on the lower level, how their research is progressing. Once my week in charge of 83 is over, I'll be in a better position to investigate.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


I brought 83 a pad of paper and a marker. He took them and began to write. He wrote that he used to work as a researcher in the top level of the facility. He went on repeated field trips; one day, he found a small patch of thick skin on the underside of his arm. He saw the medical team, and they told him it was the mal. They made him sign papers before he could receive care; when he signed, they moved him down here.

At first, he was treated as a patient, but as his condition grew more severe, he was transferred to different teams of researchers, and began to be treated more like a lab animal. He wrote that his current team have never seen him looking human, or spoken to him, until now.

83 was flagging badly as he wrote, the activity exhausting him. Before he fell into unconsciousness, he managed to tell me that he is kept sedated almost all the time, and that the treatment he receives is like torture. He started to write something else, but he passed out before there was anything legible on the page.

I think it's possible that no one really intended for 83 to be used in the way he has been. At the very least, I need to find out what discoveries have come out of the research conducted on 83. If he's being needlessly tortured, it needs to stop. In the condition he's in, though, it's easy to imagine there's only one way to help him.

Monday, 11 November 2013


When I arrived at 83's cell, he was sitting on the bed. His skin was broken and bleeding, I guessed from the effort of getting up there. I almost went to get someone else - Smith, or Miles - but I didn't. 83 sat on the bed with his hands on his knees, his head down. I opened the cell and went in. 83 looked up at me with his single, milky eye.

I stood by the door, staring at him. 83 raised his arms, and I could hear his skin crackling and tearing. He held his left hand flat in front of his body and moved his fist over it. I realised he was miming writing. I was frightened. He made the writing gesture again; very carefully, I left the cell and got a pad of paper and a marker. I wasn't quite sure that I wanted to go near him, so I clipped the marker to the pad and slid it across the floor to 83's feet.

He bent to pick it up, and I felt bad about the pain it obviously caused. He took the marker, held it clumsily, and drew something on the pad. Then he slid it back to me; it was blood stained. The shaky writing on the pad said 'NO INJECTION'.  I was amazed, and nodded to 83. I went to give him back the pad, but he shook his head. His eye was already closing. It had obviously taken an extreme effort for him to write. I'll come back tomorrow. If his recovery continues, he might be able to tell me how he came to be here. Has he somehow recovered from brain damage? Or are the experiments here more sinister than I thought?

Sunday, 10 November 2013


I don't know what's happening. Something obscene is going on here, and I need to figure out what.

I resolved in the night to give 83 his treatment. The research has a noble goal, even if the methods are questionable. I shouldn't let my repulsion at what they do here hamper their pursuit of a way to combat the mal. I arrived at 83's cell intending to do what I'd been asked. I took the blowtorch and entered his cell.

83 was in what seemed to be his standard position, sitting slumped on the floor by the back wall. If anything, his skin appeared thicker, with even more cracks splitting its surface. I moved toward him to shackle his arms, and he raised his head.

I froze. I'd never seen 83 move in such a purposeful manner. I began to doubt what I'd seen. I stepped forward. 83 lifted his arms, the skin splitting and oozing pus, and held his hands up to me, a clear, unambiguous gesture. I left his cell.

I'd been told 83 was badly brain damaged. That's not what I saw today, and I can't get out of my mind that yesterday was the first day he didn't receive his injection. I wonder if the injections are why he seems brain damaged. I don't want to think about what that means.

Saturday, 9 November 2013


I didn't manage to finish the work I was given today.

In line with the experiment Smith and Miles have concocted, I was supposed to burn away a small patch of 83's skin and administer an injection there. I couldn't do it. When I arrived, 83 was sitting up, no longer comatose, exactly as he was the first time I saw him. I started by following the instructions that were left for me. Maybe I thought it would be better if I was just mechanically following orders.

I shackled 83's arms to the wall, and ignited the blowtorch. When I touched the flame to 83's arm, he screamed horribly, and I realised I couldn't do it. I extinguished the flame, unshackled 83, and left him in his cell. He was making quiet, rasping noises, and I wondered if he knew about anything other than pain. I sat outside his cell, staring in.

I don't know what happens now. I can't do the work they want me to, and I don't think that'll be tolerated here. I'm in trouble.

Friday, 8 November 2013


Today's task was simple enough: give 83 an injection he needed before the treatment proper begins tomorrow. As far as I could tell, 83 was comatose when I arrived; I guessed he'd been like that since the ordeal of his change cycle. Neither Smith nor Miles were there, but they'd left detailed instruction on how to give 83 his injection.

I walked into his cell and lifted his arm in my gloved hand. His skin is like incredibly thick callous, and moving his arm required a lot of force. When it finally did move, the skin ruptured and oozed translucent fluid. With my stomach churning, I took a metal implement and began to scrape away at the skin. I was sweating by the time I'd removed enough to give 83 the injection. The room smelt like an abattoir, and I couldn't look at the bloodied chunks of flesh I'd left piled on the floor.

I injected 83 and left the room, heading straight to decontamination, where I threw away the scrubs, gloves, and mask I'd been wearing, and stood under a hot shower for a long time. I couldn't get what I'd seen, what I'd done, out of my mind. I'm beginning to hate myself.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


Smith took me to one side today and spoke to me in a nearby office. She said she was concerned that I wasn't adapting well to my new role, and that I was allowing squeamishness to override my desire to contribute to the research. She said that if I wanted to help people like 83, I had to be willing to make the hard choices, and do things that might seem cruel in the short term. I don't really understand how torturing 83 is helping, but I kept my mouth shut; Smith is the scientist in charge of our group, and I don't know what happens to me if she decides she doesn't want me. I must be on my last chance.

Smith put me in sole charge of 83 for the next week. The idea is that I get used to every aspect of 83's treatment, and I get over my squeamishness. I'm going to have to do things to 83 that I'm not comfortable with, but it's better than the alternative. I was told I could be kept prisoner here if I was considered a risk; I've had a lot of exposure to the mal over the previous months, and I know what would happen to me if I manifested symptoms as a prisoner. I don't want to end up like 83. At least as a scientist here, I can try to reduce the amount of suffering.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


Against my better judgment, I went back to work. Smith told me 83 was about to undergo his change cycle, and that all three of us would be watching. Miles set up monitoring equipment, and we sat at the desk in front of 83's cell. He was lying on the floor, his arms spread out, still coated in dried blood from the day before. I wouldn't be comfortable keeping a rat in those conditions. After a couple of hours, the cycle began.

83 writhed on the floor of his cell, his body contorting into positions that looked almost impossible. He began to scream, and I watched as his skin rippled. He bucked once, his heels driving into the floor and lifting his back, and thick yellow matter forced itself out from underneath the surface of his skin. His screaming choked off as the yellow crust thickened, cracking and splitting as it grew. The whole process was over in a few minutes, and 83 was back as he was when I first saw him. He lay on the floor of the cell, motionless except for the ragged rise and fall of his chest.

Smith and Miles checked instruments and recorded notes. Then, as if they hadn't just seen a man in torturous pain, they began to discuss the next experiment. When Smith raised the issue of burning 83's skin away, I got up and left.

I can't take this.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


I've been assigned to work with subject 83. Before I went to his cell, I was told he was brain damaged, and had a degenerative skin disorder caused by exposure to the mal. When I got there, he was slumped against the back wall, his remaining eye clouded over with blue mist. His skin was a pale yellow, and inches thick. A network of deep, brown cracks covered his body. He didn't seem to be able to move. The other two researchers assigned to 83, Smith and Miles, explained that they're studying how his skin condition responds to different stimuli, and the growth factors that cause his problem. They told me I was about to see an experiment.

Smith and Miles entered 83's cell and shackled him to the wall. His skin split when they moved his arms, releasing thin pus. Once he was shackled, they took wire brushes and scrubbed his skin. The brushes quickly became soaked with blood, the bristles clogged with fragments of skin. While they scrubbed, 83 whined, a high-pitched, unsettling sound. When they were done, they unshackled 83 and he fell to the floor. He trembled, and his body was slick with blood. They told me to inject him with a sedative, which I did. His arm was slippery and hot.

I feel sick. 

Monday, 4 November 2013


I was briefed about the work they want me to do. I was told I'll be given much more responsibility than I've had before, and that I might find the work distasteful. I asked if there was anything else for me to do here, anything that didn't involve vivisection. Apparently there isn't. Everything they do is focused on discovering how the mal works, how it can be cured and controlled. They believe that every other avenue of investigation has failed, and that the only solid basis we have for our research is in the interaction of living, human tissue with the mal. I asked how it would help us solve the expansion problem, and was told that we needed something, anything, that was tractable to scientific investigation, and that thus far, there'd only been success in this one field.

There's a second reason for this research, one that nobody talks about because it's almost too horrible to contemplate. In the event that The Sick Land begins to consume population centres, our research will be needed to help the afflicted people survive the mal as best they can. To me, it seems like trying to fix a decapitation with a bandage, but I understand that there needs to be some planning for the worst-case scenario. I start work tomorrow; I hope I can stomach it.

Sunday, 3 November 2013


I was shown around the lower floor. The screams never stop here. I left my room in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, and I could hear them, faintly, coming through the ventilation shaft.

The lower floor is built around a large central corridor, with smaller corridors branching from it at regular intervals. Each smaller corridor leads to a research station with desks and equipment, and a glass-fronted cell. I knew what would be in the cells before one was shown to me; it was obvious from the terrible sounds that echo around this place. The cell I was shown contained a sedated woman. Her stomach was a bulbous pus-filled wound the size of a dinner plate. A hairy, segmented leg protruded from the centre of the wound, twitching. I felt bile rising in my throat, but I forced it down. I've seen enough, here in The Sick Land, that even the deeply wrong no longer affects me the way it would a normal person. Two scientists were working outside the cell, examining samples cut from the woman's wound.

My guide told me the research here is focused on discovering how the mal affects human tissue, and how the effects can be controlled. They believe this is the only way humanity can get some grasp of what it is The Sick Land does, and gain some insight into how it works. They think the only way we can gain enough information to stop the expansion is through the vivisection of human subjects. It's terrifying, and I understand why the outside world can never know what goes on here.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


The floor below is more like a hospital than a lab. Harsh fluorescent lights flicker above stainless steel and white-painted brick. I was given scrubs and a face mask before I entered the lift, and everyone I saw was dressed the same way. The air tastes horrible, and the smell of antiseptic is constant.

The first thing I saw when I exited the lift was a team charging through the corridor, pulling on rubber gloves as they ran. I turned to ask what was going on, but a pain-filled howl cut me off. I would have said it didn't sound human, if I thought there was anything else on the planet capable of so much despair.

I had a very bad feeling. The man who'd accompanied me down was looking at me, as if he was trying to read my mind. He said I'd probably guessed what research took place down here. I didn't need to respond; we both listened to a blood-curdling scream that ended with a thick, bubbling cough. He led me straight to a medical room, where I was checked for disease and parasites, thoroughly decontaminated, and given innumerable injections.

The medical stuff took all day. I'm in a tiny room, very much like the bedroom I had when I first arrived in The Sick Land. I'm dreading tomorrow. At least at the moment, I can kid myself about what they do here. Tomorrow, I'm going to have to see it.

Friday, 1 November 2013


I was offered the opportunity to stay. I'd move down a floor, to the level below. I've been led to believe that whatever they're doing down there is vital to the solution of the expansion problem, but also that the research is on the very edge of what's ethical and acceptable. I've been told that if I choose to go down there, I'll forgo any human rights I imagine might cover me. The work is apparently too important for them to allow you to leave if they don't think you're entirely trustworthy, and I could end up seeing out the rest of my days as a prisoner in the facility.

I think it's worth it. Whatever they're doing down there might well be humanity's final hope. If we can't hold back The Sick Land, and it continues to grow at its current rate, we're all doomed. I need to know what they're doing to hold it back, and I need to help if I can. I'm already buried in this too deeply to be extracted; if I left now, I'd spend the rest of my life worrying about what was happening here, and feeling as if I missed my one opportunity to contribute to the wellbeing of mankind.

I'm going down tomorrow, and I have no idea what to expect.