Science… never solves a problem without creating ten more. – George Bernard Shaw
In the midst of the deadly human cordyceps outbreak, scientists scrambled to find a cure, a vaccine or some way to contain the spores. It was not before half the world’s population was overtaken that they finally discovered a way to stop the spread. The poor souls who were already infected would be lost. but at least the human race would live on. The discovery was a vaccine, the compound was produced en mass in the few CDC facilities that were still operational. Soon after clinics were set up across the entire world. United under the common goal of saving what was left of the human race, countries and governments cooperated without indecent. The vaccine was hailed as the savior of the human race, and the men and women who had created it were regarded geniuses. But our accomplishments are viewed through the eyes of those who come after us. Years after the cordyceps threat had ended, women who would have been children when they received the vaccine started having children of their own. In about fifteen percent of cases the infants were born with a new and aggressive bone disease. The horrific disease would claim the life of one in three at birth or within the first year. Those who survived were at the very least wheelchair bound. The cordyceps vaccine was rushed, and therefore not thoroughly tested before being used to inoculate the public. The disease caused the bones to develop small holes, making them exceptionally weak. In x-ray scans the bones resembled sponge. No conventional treatments, such as bone marrow transplants or bone grafting were successful in helping the unfortunate afflicted with the disease. A brilliant scientist by the name of Albert Coughlin was at the forefront of the fight to end Osteospongiam. His theories were radical, but showed promise. He posited that the properties of an insect’s exoskeleton could be merged with cells of an individual with Osteospongiam and those cells could be encouraged to essentially coat the weak bones of the afflicted with a hard shell. After much testing and perfecting the cellular recombining treatment was ready for human testing. It was not difficult to find volunteers a group of six were chosen and the treatment commenced. In the first week of the human trials the subjects all experienced a degree of improvement. By the sixth week all of the subjects were walking for the first time. By all accounts the cellular recombining treatment was working exceptionally well. Two of the subjects actually experienced a growth spurt, most of those afflicted were shorter than average. A year into the trails one of the subjects, Mike Davis, reported a strange callus like protrusion in his elbow. Coughlin biopsied the protrusion for testing, to his dismay the results showed the recombined cells had mutated and started to transform Davis’ skin. The trial was halted and Coughlin began looking for a way to reverse the transformation. Within a matter of months Davis’ skin had become a solid, paralyzing cocoon. His skin continued to harden, and the joints began to define with a softer but still strong coating. Testing confirmed that the latent insect DNA had become dominant and was vying for his vital systems. After six months in a coma Davis awoke in hysterics, his skin was dark and smooth with a slight green hue. When a nurse discovered him crouching in the corner of the room, she attempted to calm him. As she approached he turned his head up slowly. His skin creaked and cracked as he looked up. When he opened his eyes he revealed two orange orbs with only a pinhole sized pupil. Before the nurse could get close enough to see what he was becoming, Davis pounced from his corner and on to the hospital bed. An awful howl bellowed from his throat. He bared his, now uniform, fused teeth, and the nurse witnessed the complex series of mandibles his jaw had become. The nurse inched towards the door of Davis’ room. When she was three feet from the door the nurse made a break for it. Davis pounced again, this time knocking the nurse to the ground. She struggled to get away but it was a futile effort. After snapping her neck he used the limp nurse to smash the exterior window of the room and escape.
Coughlin attempted to locate Davis by watching internet news reports for a specific kind of brutal deaths. His search took him across the US and into Canada. After three years he finally caught up with Davis in an abandoned subway station in Chicago. Coughlin was astonished by the transformation Davis had continued to experienced. His hands and the top part of his head were the only vaguely human-like traits that remained. His now massive frame required enormous amounts of food and the steady stream of missing persons reports had led Coughlin to his Chicago hideout. His goal was to tranquillize Davis, and bring him back to the hospital facility to try to cure or treat his condition. He set bait and waited for Davis to arrive. When Davis approached the bait, Coughlin took his shot with the tranquilizer. The dart sounded an unsatisfactory “tick”, like a stick being thrown at a brick wall, as it bounced off Davis’ bony skin. Davis turned toward the source of the shot and let out a short cough-like howl. He then charged at Coughlin. But the scientist turned hunter had not come unprepared, before Davis could strike he reached into his pack and produced a foot-long metal cylinder and slammed it into the tile floor of the abandoned subway platform. The cylinder generated a kinetic burst that knocked Davis backward and through three of the pillars that supported the antique station. Coughlin raced to his feet as the ceiling began to crack and dust sifted from every crack. Davis rose from the debris and howled three short throaty calls. Caughlin almost collapsed when a slightly higher pitched call came from deep within the adjacent subway tunnel. He lost Davis in the dust and rubble, it didn’t matter the platform was collapsing and Coughlin had to get out. All his new questions would have to wait.
He escaped to the surface, but never escaped the question of what had replied to Davis’ call? Or was it just an echo?