New Babbage has certainly seen its share of unusual, even downright terrifying events over the past several months. Yet somehow, whether it’s a Martian invasion or a coup d’etat, the city and its inhabitants have always weathered the events and carried on. Early October was no exception.
It started on the 4th of October, with reports of zombie-like creatures in the newly-opened Academy of Industry area of the city. At first, though, the problem seemed to stay confined to that area. By the 9th, however, at least one person, the young Skyler Gant, had been bitten and infected by one of these zombies. In an interview, he talked of his experience early on in his illness—of vomiting blood, and attempting to attack Mr. Victor Mornington. “'E was bloody terrified. I 'member 'e locked th' front door, an' seemed glad th' door I was at was already locked.” Though young Gant was temporarily trapped in a safe by Mr. Mornington and Mr. Sixpence that same evening, he was able to escape that confinement.
But there was another element to the horrors to come that was starting at the same time. Mr. Grendel Footman, owner of Footman Industries in Babbage Square, had scheduled on the evening of the 8th, an unveiling of what he called a “reanimated man.” This reanimated person behaved remarkably like the zombies of the Academy area, though it was, at first, controlled by a collar of electronic nature. However, during the demonstration, the collar malfunctioned, and the thing attacked the onlookers. During the confusion, Mr. Phineas Frakture was injured and infected, and so began spreading the zombie plague throughout New Babbage, including to Miss Elleon Bergamasco and Dr. John Watson. Events culminated on the 11th with the discovery of a cure by Dr. Augustus Dayafter, and with attempts to administer it to all infected. (Events in which this correspondent played a small role.)
But what connection is there between the Academy infection and that caused by Mr. Footman’s “reanimated man?” Nothing beyond coincidence, apparently. Mr. Footman, in his interview, was quite open about his demonstration and the work leading to it. “The zombie, and the three or four...dozen...before him, are just semi-successes. Apparently, most of my test subjects end up brain damaged, if they don't explode. The plague was an unforeseen side effect…The serum I used, in certain bloodstreams, mutates into a virus.” It was this virus that was spread first to Mr. Phineas Frakture, then to others. The Academy zombies, however, appeared to have been there for some time, and had only been discovered during the new construction that was occurring in the area at the time. So though the effects were the same, the causes seem to be different—a chilling prospect for those wishing to avoid creating, or being infected by, such zombies.
The victims also appear to have very different memories of, and reactions to, their infections. Miss Elleon Bergamasco, the landlady of the Mechanix Arms, only vaguely remembers being attacked and infected, and the subsequent events. It was “much as one would remember a nightmare really; none of it makes very much sense.” Skyler Gant, when asked about it, replied, “Tha' was bl---y awful. No' something I wanna go through again, no ma'am.”
Mr. Phineas Frakture, however, viewed, and continues to view, his actions during that time as having been completely normal. In speaking of those days, he said, “I recall trying to get Skyler Gant to safety, but he kept running from me...I didn't think anything of it...Then Doctor Watson was talking to me...trying to take my
pulse...acting weird...think I bit or scratched his hand...seemed like the sensible thing to do at the time...I couldn't figure out why people were acting so strangely.” Even pictures taken of him during that time do not seem to shake his perceptions. When asked if he had seen any of those images, he replied, “I have seen a few....I think someone was tampering with the film.”
Dr. Dayafter, when asked about this phenomenon, related it to the different reactions people have to illnesses or medications. “Some, a cold would lay quite low, while others feel the need to get fresh air or even exercise. I think it is the same with what happened in those horrible events recently.”
As for prevention of any recurrence, it seems only the immediate issues have been resolved. Mr. Footman has shipped his zombies back to Antarctica, though he will “probably keep a couple for study.” As for the type of event that happened at the Academy, Dr. Dayafter’s advice is “to make sure, via extensive investigation, that the ground you are breaking is "safe" to be broken.”
Given that the motto of New Babbage is “What could possibly go wrong,” however, such precautions are not likely to be followed for long.
(First picture courtesy of Skyler Gant.)