Prelude to the apocalypse – Xavier

Soumetande, Guinea

Despite an abundance of mineral wealth, the people of Guinea were some of the poorest in Africa. Without the help of international organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières, many of its people wouldn’t have access to basic medical care. Doctor Xavier Bisset was there to help provide access to the healthcare they desperately needed.

He could have been back home in France living the easy life, but he hadn’t become a doctor to take things easy. He was dedicated to helping those who could not help themselves. Volunteering for Médecins Sans Frontières seemed like the logical thing to do.

It helped him sleep better at night.

The problem was, standing in a village that reeked of death, he was kind of regretting it. Xavier had been to this village the month before, and as far as he’d been able to tell, the people had been healthy. Well, they weren’t healthy anymore. The only evidence of life he could see were the animals and insects that found this human devastation so appealing.

There was still smoke hanging over the village, shrouding it, a sign of the panicked burnings that had been enacted. Some of the huts still smouldered, the stench coming off them caught in the prevailing breeze.

“Go, we must leave this place.” That was his driver. A good man all told, but sometimes vulnerable to superstition.

“We have to find out what happened here,” Xavier insisted. If it was what he feared, the world would need to know. “Radio in and let base camp know the situation.” It was a four-hour drive from this village to anywhere resembling civilisation, the ground uneven and lacking any paved roads. There were other villages around, most constructed from mud and wood, just as this one had been.

“I do that, yes,” the driver agreed, the interior of the Jeep far preferable to whatever had been set free in this place. They were far from the border, so it was unlikely whatever had happened here had been down to some kind of incursion. Xavier reckoned that would have resulted in bodies being strewn all around. Instead, the dirt paths between the huts were free of any evidence of the dead.

Most likely, the people here had fled, which was the worst thing that could have happened.

From the pouch on his belt, Xavier took out his protective gear. Mask, gloves and safety goggles. It would be enough for him to safely investigate, he told himself, but already he could feel the adrenaline kicking in and his heart rate rising. He’d witnessed scenes like this before. When you ruled out human violence as a cause, the next thing that sprung to mind was Ebola.

Leaving his driver, Xavier made his way to the first hut. They knew him here, the people often grateful for his appearance. He had saved lives, vaccinated the children against a host of disease and earned the respect of the village elders. It was so easy to be confused as to why the villagers hadn’t radioed for help, but Ebola broke all the rules. The virus was so deadly and so feared it tended to mutate not only itself but any semblance of rational behaviour.

There had been cases of health workers being attacked and killed by people who couldn’t understand what Ebola was. Sometimes, those trying to cure it got the blame. That was why his driver was armed.

The first two huts he tried were empty. The third wasn’t, the smell breaking through his mask even before he opened the door. Three bodies lay inside, a woman and two young children. Dead for several days at least, the bodies bloated from the heat, food for the battalions of flies that already feasted greedily.

That pattern repeated itself throughout the village. Xavier didn’t find anyone alive, which he was strangely thankful for. He wasn’t equipped to go anywhere near a viral carrier, and yet he would have felt compelled to put his own safety in peril. The burnt-out huts didn’t get a visit. There was no point. Xavier knew what would be inside them. Why only some of the huts had been cremated, he didn’t know. Surviving family members maybe doing the only thing they could.

Where were those family members now?

Whatever this thing was, he reckoned it had killed a third of the villagers. Which meant there were others out there likely carrying the disease. Some would die out in the dry savannah, but if any made it to the surrounding villages, the disease they were carrying would spread.

Hell, it probably already had.

Xavier returned to his driver, the native Guinean standing nervously by the Jeep.

“Relax,” he said, “it’s time to go.” Whilst he wouldn’t know for sure until a team arrived and the bodies had been tested, Xavier was pretty certain. Ebola was back.

That was the problem with the apocalypse. Old forgotten diseases had a habit of blossoming once more into the light. It was a sign that the planet was getting ready for humanity’s final act.

 

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