Max looked shocked. Dee leant forward and looked into his eyes repeating the question.
“Have you smoked one yet?”
Max shook his head. “There was no smoking in the airport. And then everything went wrong.”
“So,” Dee says. “You hold a something that allows you to become patient zero for the virus. You spread it, but only you survive.”
“No,” Max says, his face shocked. “Only people who have something wrong with them get the virus.”
Dee gives a sad smile and points at the door. “You met Robert?”
I look at the door and although the pounding has stopped I know who she is talking about. I nod.
“Well, he had nothing wrong with him…”
Max interrupts. “Then he ought to have been fine.”
“…except hay fever. Hay fever!” Dee practically screams the last word at him.
I look at Max. “It doesn’t just work if you have a cold or something as insignificant as hay fever?”
He looks away. “It might.”
“It might!” Dee screams. “It did. Robert is a thing because he is allergic to grass pollen. And don’t you dare say that he is a weakness to the human race because that man was a brilliant doctor.”
Max says nothing; he just looks at his hands.
“Why is there no one else?” I ask Dee.
She is breathing heavily and I can tell that she is wondering whether it is worth killing Max. Now she switches her gaze to me and she goes from angry to hollow, as if someone had scooped out her soul.
“Robert got the rest of us. We didn’t realise he was infected until it was too late. With Marie it only took a scratch and…” She fades out and looks at the door with a mix of hate and love.
“You love Robert?” I ask.
“I loved him when he was alive, now I don’t know what he is, but he isn’t alive.”
Max looks alarmed. “A scratch shouldn’t have spread it. It’s meant to be airborne.”
I shiver as I feel something cold walk up my back. “Airborne…” I whisper.
Dee shakes her head. “It was but after the first few hours it mutated and now you have to be attacked to get it.”
“What do you mean that he isn’t alive?” Max asks.
Dee looks at him. “Before Robert turned we had some in isolation. We knocked them out with drugs and hooked them up to monitors. We realised very quickly that their heartbeats were erratic. They are alive but the low iron in their bodies makes their hearts beat differently. If they have no stimulus…”
“Stimulus?” I interrupt.
“Iron rich blood. Anyway, if they have none in the area they go into a sort of hibernation and almost stop. Their hearts slow down and they stop moving, as if someone has hit the pause button,” Dee continues.
“That’s what happened outside,” I say. “They woke up once we got in the middle of them.”
“Once they could smell us,” Max says. He looks a little green and is staring at the door with a look of horror and shock on his face.
Dee just nods. “You probably woke them up.”
“How do I fix this nightmare?” Max asks, but he does it quietly and I think he is asking himself more than us.