Interlude: Research Notes 2

I know it’s not appropriate to write this sort of thing here, but I feel like I have to jot this down somewhere, even if it’s not meant to be included in any paper. Last night I felt like someone was following me home. Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve experienced that kind of paranoia, I always feel a bit uneasy whenever I work too late and have to walk back to my apartment. Luckily the place they drop us off with that laundry van is only a few blocks away, but I’d still rather they just drove me home. The feeling I had, it was different last night, it felt more definite than ever before. I certainly did not see anyone, but since I know what kind of things lurk in the night, that’s not exactly reassuring. I bought a silver chain necklace to wear outside of the facility, and I keep it in my purse so as to not bring it through the metal detectors. Wouldn’t want to jeopardize any of our research. I dunno, maybe I need to bring this up to my therapist. I mean, it’s normal for a young woman to be uneasy wandering around dark city streets, right? I don’t know why I feel the need to keep this to myself.

Oh geez, I knew this was coming. My friend told me about it first, but I’m sure there’s gonna be a project wide meeting about this. Someone was fully infected. They were performing another autopsy this time, wearing some eye protection that seemed to prevent the hypnotic effect of RQ’s organs, but they had no idea what other precautions were necessary in retrospect. They found an unknown organ next to her gallbladder, one that had been obscured before, and when they cut into it there was a sudden release of a black pressurized gas. Everyone else retreated as soon as they saw it, but the surgeon who had made the incision was blasted directly in the face of his suit, and whatever was in the gas ate through the material and spread over his nose and eyes. The other surgeons had tried to bring him to the chemical wash, but he had collapsed by the time they reached the station. Nobody was sure what to do, if they needed the security team to come in and incinerate the body, but by the time they had called them he was already back up. According to my friend, he seemed surprisingly lucid, pleading with everyone to calm down as he took off the head of his hazmat suit. Something was wrong with his eyes, though, they were completely red and were bright enough to stick to your retinas even when you shut your eyes, like if you had stared at the sun for a few seconds. He went quietly with the security team when they finally arrived. No one knew what happened to him after that.

The director held the meeting with all of us, mostly recounting the accident as my friend had described it to me. She said that it was an unfortunate event and that it disrupted the intended pace of the project, but that she was glad that we could retain a valuable member to our team. Then he came out, a tall man in a black suit standing close behind him. The surgeon, Dr. Schafer, said that he was happy to still be alive and that he was excited to continue working on the project with us. He wore black sunglasses and a surgical mask, more than likely to prevent the attendant staff from panicking at his appearance, but there was one instance where I got a good look at one of his eyes from the side. It was no longer completely red as my friend had described them, just the iris, but I felt sucked in with just a glance at it. The director took the podium from him and explained that from now on Dr. Schafer would be staying in onsite quarters near RQ and would have a security team handler accompanying him at all times. I’m sure most everyone felt as dumbfounded as I was to hear this. I felt some relief to learn that they hadn’t just terminated him, but the idea that he would continue working with us felt patently absurd.

The director assured everyone that the doctor was not dangerous, especially with his handler present, and that their psychological and physical exams proved that he was still the same man and in control of his faculties. She said that it was fine if certain people felt uncomfortable with this new arrangement and that she was willing to accept resignations after the meeting. There was going to be another round of hiring for the project, bringing in more psychology staff, a linguistics and language expert, more specialized security team members, and some miscellaneous advisors. After the meeting ended, I asked my friend how they felt, since they would presumably be working alongside Dr. Schafer again. As always, they had a laid back attitude and said they got along with the dude before, so it didn’t really matter to them what his diet was like. I have a hard time believing that, but it wasn’t my place to say what they should and shouldn’t be comfortable with. I have no intention of leaving the project either, not while there is still so much I can learn.

I had another weird dream last night. RQ was standing over my bed, her eyes this warm, blazing yellow, and she was petting my face. She leaned down and whispered something in my ear, words that I couldn’t hear or at least can’t remember now. From tonight onward I’m going to wear my silver necklace to bed.

I know I’m not the only one in the biochemistry department who feels unnerved. I’ve heard some of my colleagues reciting prayers to themselves before handling the test samples. Someone even snuck in a little token depicting saint Christopher. He’s the saint said to protect against sudden death. I’m not really sure that’s what we should be worried about.

This whole atmosphere has me distracted. I’m using these notes more like a diary at this point rather than for actual scientific research. It’s not like I don’t have anything serious to record either. The tests involving 2GR (Second Generation Residue) have produced some intriguing results. First, it does not need to be stored at low temperatures, since there is no longer any issue with metabolizing it. I have found, though, that it takes on interesting properties at different temperatures. It freezes at -6 degrees celsius, which makes sense for its viscosity, and its solid form is surprisingly malleable. I was able to sculpt it into the shape of a little heart with relative ease, and I am not particularly artistically inclined. I was more reluctant to try heating it up to the point of vaporization, as I think is understandable. If it happened to become the same gas that got Dr. Schafer, I had no reassurance that a fume hood would be enough to protect me from it. Our head researcher Dr. Yeoh was the one who bit the bullet and performed that experiment herself. Thank god it was not the same gas. It became translucent and quickly dispersed when the 2GR started to burn.

Second, we happened to encounter a potential profound connection between the substance and something observed during the autopsies. When mixed with oil, 2GR is able to dry at room temperatures and stick to paper or cloth. It basically becomes an ink, as numerous researchers have shown through dipping pens in the substance and drawing doodles or writing out messages. I believe that this could indicate that the script written on the bones of RQ might have been inscribed using 2GR treated with oil and resin. Now, of course, that only introduces the further mystery of who might have opened her up and written on her skeleton, but I don’t think I have any answers to that. The surgeons have yet to find a way to perform an autopsy on Dr. Schafer that would not result in his death, and for whatever reason he seems to be able to walk around the two-tiered surgery room just fine without the running water paralyzing him like RQ. The autopsies on animal test subjects seem to indicate no script naturally occurring inside of them, so it’s unlikely that it would appear within the doctor either. I suppose I’ll just have to keep my ears open in case there are any new developments there.

It feels like everyone’s going insane around here. It’s not obvious, no one is cackling maniacally or smearing blood on the walls, but I can catch hints of madness in the way people blink, how their mouths twitch, the pauses between their words. I’m no exception, in fact I felt like the prime example until my friend just confessed herself to me. The dreams are coming every night, it doesn’t matter if I wear the necklace or not, I just keep seeing her. She speaks to me, tells me things that I can’t remember, touches me. I thought I was alone in this. I thought that everyone else was protected with their prayers and totems keeping her away. I don’t believe in anything like that, so even if I wanted to try them I know they wouldn’t save me. I keep blacking out, performing tests I can’t remember or waking up in parts of the facility where I’m not supposed to be. I’ve been writing with the 2GR ink. I keep taking it without permission and writing little notes in that incomprehensible script. I hide them away, feeling more covetous than ashamed. Something is happening to me. I should tell somebody, try to take off for my mental health, or just quit. I can’t though. I can’t. Especially now that I know I’m not alone.

My friend. She told me that it’s been happening to her too. The dreams, the blackouts, this feeling of ever simmering madness. She hasn't been writing like I have, but I have no doubt she would if she had the opportunity. I know she’s even worse than me, though. She wants to volunteer. Volunteer to be a test subject. Why?! She’s spent more time close to her and Dr. Schafer, maybe they’ve both been talking to her, somehow. The director won’t approve this, right? There’s no way she could make it past any psychological screening anyway. I tried to convince her that she was being crazy, that she was throwing her life away, but it all just felt like going through the motions. There was no way I was going to convince her, and I knew that, every objection I made she just shrugged off. “It’s going to be fine,” she told me. How? How is anything going to be fine again? How am I ever gonna feel safe or sane or comfortable again? I know. I know. I KNOW. I can’t let her get to me. I need to find some way to fix this. There must be time. I must still have some left. I can’t. Please, please, I know you can read this. I CAN’T. PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME.

I can’t wait to see Bobby.

- Anastasia Anderson, Research Assistant on Project “Red Queen”

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