We Unearthed an Ancient Evil frozen in the Andes - Chap 3
I was herded like I was cattle back into the mess hall, the armed men forcibly blocking all exits as they scouted the entire facility. Dad and Dominic were already there, both looking equally concerned about the unexpected visitors.
“Perimeter is secure sir,” one of the younger soldiers told their commanding officer. I was still shaking from having see them callously cut down Manuel right in front of us.
“Who are you?” my dad asked, boldly stepping toward the senior ranking officer.
“Professor Gammell, I understand that you have questions but you mustn’t be surprised. The University sent us immediately when we heard of the discovery you had made. My name is George Akeley, Colonel in the United States Army, Private Forces Division.”
“Since when is the University being assisted by the military?” I asked.
“Since we deemed this site as a possible threat to international security,” Akeley answered and then turned toward my father, clearly viewing him as in charge.
“Where is the mummified corpse, Professor? I would like to see it with my own eyes.”
I grabbed at my dad’s arm and muttered, “Why should we cooperate with anything they want? You saw what they did to Manuel. They could kill all of us:”
Akeley’s sharp eyes zeroed in on me again. “And we still could, if we saw that the virus was continuing to spread amongst the population here. But we are not barbarians, we will access the situation first and then determine the best way to proceed,” he snapped back as he turned to my father and raised a curious eyebrow. “Besides if you want to be technical, you did ask for our assistance when you contacted Headmaster Schwartz,” he remarked.
Dad gave a sigh, and then an apologetic look toward me before saying, “We can argue about my faults later. Their expertise could be useful for determining what we are dealing with.”
Without another word, he led them toward the next room where we had sealed off both Howlett and the original corpse. It occurred to me that since the doctor’s untimely death I hadn’t actually come back to check and see if the spores were continuing to spread.
As we activated the exterior lights to give us a good look at the makeshift infirmary, I found myself shivering uncomfortably.
“My word,” one of the soldiers whispered as we peered into the hell that was being created on the other side of the glass.
In just the short period of time we had been gone, the virus had spread all across his body. In fact it had caused growths of the strange fleshy web like pattern to branch out and connect to the mummy only a few feet away.
Was it developing into a new type of organism? Just seeing the strange mass of flesh, writhing and heaving like it had a set of lungs; was enough to send shivers down my spine. We had no idea what we were dealing with, and it was getting worse, I realized.
“How many hours has it been since Doctor Howlett became deceased?” the Colonel asked as he kept his eyes on the hellish new growth. It almost seemed like it was getting larger before our eyes.
“An hour or two. Three at the most,” I answered as I stared in abject terror. It was impossible for it to have spread so quickly but i couldn’t ignore the evidence right in front of my eyes.
“At this rate, the entire facility could be compromised by the end of the day,” dad proclaimed.
“This room is sealed?” George asked, checking the vents as well. Before we got a chance to confirm it, he gave a new order. “We need to kill this thing before we are all at risk. That is, if none of you aren’t already infected and acting as carriers,” he decided.
For once he was talking sense. I knew this discovery was monumental but the risk to civilization was too great. It needed to be stopped here and now.
Dad was not too happy with that and to my surprise immediately began to get upset.
“We have to at least gather samples before we make a drastic decision! We don’t even know what we are fighting!”
He pushed up to where the Colonel was standing and blocked the way, forcing the military men to look him in the eye.
“This is the greatest discovery in centuries. The fact that this virus originated in the Fungi kingdom; something quite rare I might add. And the DNA aging of even a microscopic portion of the infected flesh could unlock years of research for the scientific community! We may even be able to determine the evolutionary connection between viruses and the fungi,” dad said. I knew where he was coming from, but this was bigger than us now.
I pulled him away and said, “You have to let them do their job. There will be other samples we can find in the ice. The mountain is big enough.”
He pursed his lips, clearly unsatisfied with that response from me and glared angrily at Akeley and his men.
“Fine. Then you must at least allow my men to return to their dig. Any further samples we uncover can remain on ice, to prevent a spread. Does that sound like a fair deal to you, Colonel?”
The senior officer nodded reluctantly and then issued a few orders himself.
“Henson, Albright. Get the gear from the crate and bring it here immediately. We’re going to torch this entire area,” he growled.
About a half hour later, Henson, Albright and two other armed men arrived with flame throwers as Colonel Akeley instructed me to unseal the room. Truthfully I had no idea how the fleshy organism would react once exposed to the outside air so I insisted we all wear biohazard suits brought by Akeley.
“Some protection is better than the alternative.” I told them as I opened the metallic door wide and the men walked in with the canisters of liquid flame on their back.
I watched from the other side of the glass with bated breath and insisted that Dominic be there to document the entire thing.
“Even if it is lost to history, we need a record of what happened here so the world knows we had no other choice,” I told him. LeGray was too fascinated by the strange morphed fungal virus to ignore me.
Slowly the soldiers approached the writhing body that had once been Howlett and then pointed their nozzles straight at it, eager to end this nightmare.
The flames spit out and it seemed like it all happened in slow motion, watching as the rapid fire weapon blazed against the flesh and started to make it melt.
What happened next I have had difficulty shaking from memory because it was so horrific.
The organism began to move. Suddenly from the mass of flesh, one of the corpses hands reached out and and slashed directly against the front soldier’s biohazard suit.
In shock he fell backward and the flames spewed upwards.
A moment later we were watching as the bizarre faceless fleshy corpse moved on its own, like a marionette puppet being pushed along as it scrambled across the room, flames spreading everywhere. It slammed against the glass where I was standing with the force of a freight train.
A blended mass of open wounds peered toward me and tiny spores pushed their way out of the face of the corpse as it spewed deadly chemicals directly against the thick glass. Were it not for the protection it would have been directly on my face.
Then the reanimated organism slithered and fell backward, crawling like a crab toward the next soldier as he hurried to help Jenson up. Constantly the wounds that covered the body were opening and closing, sending out more of the spores into the air as Akeley ordered the men to fall back and kill the damn thing.
Dominic was doing his best to capture it all in photograph, but it was all happening so fast.
Then it slammed against the glass again and this time it began to crack.
LeGray instinctively protected me and we jumped back as the creature began to push through the breaking glass, this bizarre otherworldly hiss being heard from every new wound that was opening.
“Move… move!!” Dominic ordered frantically as the wall of glass finally gave way.
A moment later and I was sure we would be the next infected. Then Colonel Akeley activated another flame thrower and torched the corpse at max strength.
We scrambled to take cover as the organism made this whistling scream and flailed onto the floor, unable to avoid the flames. It was digging into earth like some kind of rabid dog. I realized as the flames melted it’s flesh fast.
It writhed and shrieked a few moments longer as Akeley got closer, making sure the flames licked and burned every part of the organism form.
Then the room fell silent and the undead creature was immobile once again.
Akeley wiped sweat from his brow and gave me a serious stern look.
“Call your father over the radio, the deal is off. We can’t allow any other samples to come up,” he ordered.
Despite everything we told Dad, he was not having a discussion about stopping the dig.
“This is still my site. You came here to keep us under guard right? Well then why don’t you do your fucking job and I’ll do mine,” he stubbornly told the Colonel.
That didn’t sit well with Akeley and the two got into a verbal fighting match.
“Three of my men are dead; we have an unprecedented unidentified enemy organism on our hands. This virus is not something to try and play god with, Professor,” he snarled.
“And until I get an order from the University, from your superiors; I will continue to dig. It isn’t harming anyone if we collect the data and send it to others. The world deserves to know,” dad said.
Akeley huffed and gestured toward me.
“Your daughter was nearly killed when that corpse attacked. What if we aren’t so lucky next time? How much blood do you want on your hands?” Akeley asked.
That statement did give my father pause but before he got the chance to respond, Norman shouted from across the dig site.
“Professor Gammell! We have found a new pocket,” the crewmaster shouted.
My father stopped his debate and rushed toward the dig site, eager to see.
I followed behind, a bit more cautious but also curious. The hole in the ground looked like it went down at least two hundred feet or more. But there were clear signs of what had once been an ancient civilization below us.
Even with the limited light we had available I could see small jutting buildings pushing their way out of the earth wall. But none of them appeared to be designed for actual life. Instead as the crew managed to bring the other heavy equipment over and shine a brighter light on them it was quickly apparent that what I was looking at were amalgams of crystalline merged together over the years.
Frozen together and forgotten, what was hiding under the ice gave me further pause.
We could see dozens, if not hundreds of more mummified bodies and it shook me to reality again as I realized the implications.
This was an entire civilization that was sealed away because of a plague. They were all infected. And we had just discovered the mass grave where they sacrificed themselves to prevent its spread.