* * *
Nurse Mitchell rubbed her eyes and stared into the mirror over the spartan sink in her lavatory. She turned her head to one side and pressed up on her chin with the back of her hand. She frowned at the reflection in the mirror.
There’s a full-length mirror in the bedroom, she thought and turned away from the mirror. She couldn’t shake the feeling of dread the reflection that stared back.
She came upon the mirror she was searching for and stared at her reflection. She lifted her undershirt and got a good look at her hips and belly. Turning sideways to view her profile, she cursed softly.
Sprinting back to the lavatory, she rummaged around in the cabinet under the sink until she found what she was looking for. Standing and catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror again, she turned her attention to the utilitarian scale in her hands. Flipping it over, she read the instructions on how to ‘zero out’ the scale.
After performing the required steps and verifying the scale read zero, she placed it gently on the floor and stepped on it gingerly. The digital numbers varied as she shifted her weight, but it quickly came to a consensus and the figures at her toes blinked. She gasped at the digits, stepped off the scale and stepped on again. The results were the same: 116 pounds.
She couldn’t remember the last time she weighed only 116 pounds. She knew it was likely somewhere in her medical file, but she suspected it was her freshman year of high school. Her last physical checkup was six months ago and she recalled being embarrassed when the scale read 155 pounds. She knew her weight was high for her age and height, but the facility’s gymnasium hardly got used.
Almost forty pounds in two days, she thought. What the hell am I gonna do?
Before the outbreak she had agonized over her weight. Fad diets and exercise routines attempted and abandoned. She could swing three to five pounds and squeeze herself into a pair of pants if she wanted, but ‘uncomfortable’ was an understatement. She had wished for more weight on top and less on the bottom.
She staggered back from the scale and her back felt the cold wall as she slid down to a sitting position. She hugged her knees and cried softly, the cold morning floor leaching warmth from her. Her mind raced at the implications.
Since the outbreak, a weight at the top of the ‘acceptable range’ was desirable. A sudden weight loss earned you scrutiny, not the looks of envy it had before.
A chill ran through her, waking her from her thoughts. She slowly climbed to her feet avoided the mirror and wandered back to her bedroom. She dressed in what had been a comfortable bra, but now hung loosely. She adjusted the straps and the goose bumps informed her she was standing under an air vent.
She finished dressing herself. All her clothes were loose, so she compensated for the weight loss and sudden aversion to cold by wearing multiple layers.
* * *
Mitchell scowled at Kelvin and rushed into the staging room. She quickly donned her isolation suit and Kelvin watched her from his normal position behind the monitor.
“Are you okay?” Kelvin asked, staring intently.
Mitchell waved her hand dismissively. “Overslept,” was her response.
Kelvin stood and placed his hand on a red telephone on his desk. “Are you sure?”
Mitchell slammed her knee into a metal plate embedded into the wall, beginning the cycle that would gain her access to the isolation lab. When the glass door failed to open she glanced up at Kelvin.
Kelvin shook his head in the declarative negative. “You haven’t even taped your suit.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “It’s too late!” she cried, great sobs shaking her dwindling frame.
Kelvin stepped around his desk and Mitchell shrank from his advance. Kelvin held his hands up, palms forward. “I’m not gonna hurt you.”
“Like I believe you. I know what your real job is here.”
Kelvin shrugged. “That may be the case, but I wasn’t lying when we talked Friday.”
Mitchell looked at him when he failed to cross the stripes painted on the floor. “Hands on research?”
Kelvin knelt at the edge of the bright yellow paint and nodded. “Hands on.”
“Like Mister Siebert in there?” She clarified her question by jerking a gloved hand over her shoulder.
“We got to Mister Siebert too late. He was too far gone. How long ago was your exposure?”
She glanced at the door less than twenty paces behind Kelvin.
“Don’t bother.” He retorted. “If you run, I have to do my job.”
“And if I don’t?”
Kelvin stood. “I know of some people who are more critical of classifying this as a disease. Perhaps a transfer to our facility in Pennsylvania is in order.”
“You can do that?”
Kelvin smiled, revealing rows of perfect teeth. “Not me, I’m just a tech, but I know people.”
“I’m already down forty pounds, how can we hide my affliction until a transfer is approved?”
Kelvin ignored her question and returned to his desk. He typed a few commands into his terminal and waited for something to happen. Mitchell didn’t realize it, but she was holding her breath. She could hear her heart beat in her ears. She suspected her body was surging with adrenaline – adrenaline designed to move a 155 pound woman into action. They still knew so little about the affliction, but she still wondered how the changes in her body would affect her.
When the phone rang, she startled and fell onto her ass. She was used to a little more padding back there and damn it, it hurt!
Kelvin picked up the red phone and listened. “Yes, Sir, two days.”
“Twenty-two year old female. Five eight, one twenty or so.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Kelvin placed the receiver onto the telephone. To Mitchell he said, “An escort will be here in an hour.”
Mitchell exhaled. “Name?”