Knowing what will happen to you, you only have two options. You stay or run. But it is too late for the choice, the matter is a foregone conclusion. Henrik knew this well when he went to the first class. A course for which few, selected and selected from among the best ones got on. The awareness of being exceptional meant that he was able to stop the gag reflex for those few hours he spent in the office, and the stomach contents returned only in the late afternoon.
Rotting gases that accumulate inside the body push the fetus out. The smell that accompanies this rare phenomenon can stay in memory forever. Henrik still remembers that after the first visit to the client for several months, each scrambled egg stank of his rotten body. They also taught this in the first class. They explained how the sense of smell gets used to the odor of customers. They didn’t just say that vomiting on the body could lower his chances in the labor market.
Hours pass before the fetus is pushed out. Several dozen hours during which the midwife has time to get to the place and arrange everything. Make sure that the client wakes up refreshed and in the best form. Then you need to make him aware of some things he knew of course before he started playing. Memory after transformation, however, likes to play tricks. And waking up with a frog’s belly is not one of the best reasons.
Dyes that penetrate the gallbladder walls are the smallest problem for a new customer. Rotten color can be hidden under a dress or suit, but diffusion streaks are a completely different story. Body breakdown progresses quickly if something goes wrong. Failure, power outage or simple carelessness – all this can effectively upset the second life of the person concerned. Therefore, Henrik’s course included more than standard apprenticeship training for an air conditioning fitter. He had to know everything about decay, decay and autolysis of the human body.
Seventy-two hours. Four thousand three hundred and twenty minutes. Two hundred fifty-nine thousand two hundred seconds. These numbers meant more to Henrik than to ordinary people. They meant to be or not to be for every new customer. Every morning, before leaving the apartment directly to the suffocating street heat, he read the first contact card received after completing the course. „Be prepared for the worst,” read the inscription at the very top of the laminated document. Coffin delivery, autolysis, rot, frog’s belly, subcutaneous edema. Only theory is worse than theory.
Rubbing your eyes and blowing your nose didn’t really help much. The smell of the corpse accompanied him from the very morning. The cell phone was on the bedside table and was signaling a new message.
„Good morning Henrik, it could be this day,” he said to himself and got up. – Be prepared for the worst.
It took him more time than usual to reach the office. Breaking through the city in the morning was not the most pleasant activity, but compared to what Henrik did every day, it was idyllic. Thousands of people pushed at the subway entrances, and the other two stood at the same time in queues at the labor office. Fortunately, he had a livelihood, though he felt his life was going nowhere.
– Aren’t you crazy?
Albert never greeted his subordinates. He considered it unworthy of his position as a Senior Specialist, which in reality meant only that he worked in the company for several months longer than others. He despised everyone who didn’t have the Expert prefix on their business card. He was also so big that no employee would ever dare to touch him, even during company drinks. Then they would probably get away with it, but the very thought that Albert could give away effectively cut off the wings of drunken boys. Getting in the snout from a two-meter packer, even dressed in a perfectly tailored suit, was not the peak of anyone’s dreams.
– I’m far from it.
Sitting behind the desk, Henrik didn’t even look at Albert. He didn’t want to ruin his humor, not on a day like this. Mondays were depressing enough and no complaining over my head.
– I saw your application. – Albert didn’t give up so easily. – Are you asking to transfer TAM? Tell me that you dream of a change! We know best what it is and what you will become!
– What can I tell you more? You already know everything.
Henrik gave his superior his best smile. Albert knew what the situation in the 21st district looks like, just like everyone employed in the company. His stories of how he was almost bitten on the first day came back at every possible opportunity. The fact that thanks to the bosses’ protection he did not have to go there anymore, he never appeared in the talks.
– Do you want to be one of them? Eat raw meat and pretend it’s a fried steak when the poor man’s blood drips down your chin? Come on man!
He didn’t care about the body, only
for an excuse to leave the best technician in the position. Henrik knew that.
– We’ll see how the committee considers my request.
– Without my approval, shit will be considered.
It is true. The career ladder may have been slippery when it got upstairs, but when viewed from below, it resembled an impenetrable rock. However, what Henrik intended to do did not require a proper stamp nailed on the official stamp. All he needed was the right customer.
– I have a job, can we talk about this a little later?
„We don’t have anything to know about how it will end.”
Fortunately, the discussion ended there. From the early morning everything went wrong. First, instead of notifying him of a sudden occurrence with a loud ringing, the cell phone decided to switch itself to vibrate mode. The worms are probably coming out of the client, and his eggs have grown to the size of an ostrich. Inflammation of the scrotum is one of the most common causes of lawsuits.
He started the computer. The procedures were clear and simple, even for someone who had just finished primary school – just like Albert, the boss’s pet and son-in-law.
Receiving data from a secure server in the company.
Return home without a bite.
Pattern repeated for years. The days merged into one long, stinking string of boredom. You can not live in many ways, he dreamed of the most interesting. 21st district, the only air-conditioned place in the whole city.
He launched the e-mail program and read the notification. The server password changed every day, just like the login. Hp12_jkO, that was his name for the next few minutes. As soon as he entered his data, the cell phone vibrated. The password appeared on the display and was quite trivial compared to the login.
Henrik entered the undead in the highlighted box. Before his eyes he saw the client’s entire biography and his wishes.
– I’ve got you, baby. – The printer began to spit pages out. – Time to clean up this …
Otherwise, it was impossible to describe what Henrik saw on the seventeenth floor of a modern apartment block. The walls were painted, but the floor was full of rotten food and droppings. He could never understand what drove people waiting for change. The unfinished apartment definitely facilitated the whole process and all the unpleasantness that followed, but what a joy to be in such rooms without a kitchen or even a toilet.
The transformation lasted from a few to several hours. It happened that the customer on the way to the 21st district changed, and this ended with a picturesque shot in the head of the always vigilant police. Since the memorable incident with the president of the bank and his brain on the rear window of the limousine, all controlled changes must take place in the district. Guarded better than the largest bank. No wonder, it contained the greatest treasure of society.
The Hobbes virus gave immortality to those she could afford. Unfortunately, Henrik was not one of the chosen ones who dabbled in luxury. He remembered perfectly well how it all began and how close it was to the global catastrophe. For the first few hours after the transformation, the client posed the greatest threat to everyone in the area. Unpredictable and hungry, he became infernally fast and intelligent killer. After several dozen hours, the virus did its work, and the culprit could enjoy immortality. And a little broken body, but nothing comes in life for free.
The view outside the window was stunning. Viewed from this height, the city evoked mixed feelings in Henrik. Fear and admiration combined in a bizarre marriage. He never liked staying at heights, like many other things, including butterflies and snails. Only when entering adulthood did he understand one thing. He didn’t mind seeing the decaying body. Whether it belonged to his father or a stranger did not matter. A new career path was open to him. He didn’t know what it would look like in reality.
The corpse was lying on an inflatable mattress. Under the weight of his body, the air escaped from him and now resembled the moving sands consuming his victim. Puff from accumulating putrefactive gases. The eyes practically popped out of the skull and blisters began to appear on the skin. The stomach looked the worst. The distended bowel loops lifted him above his chest. Blood spilled from every hole in the body and soaked inside the mattress.
– Fucking amateurs.
The air conditioning did not work. No wonder, since no one has turned it on for the last several hours. The sun’s rays, falling through the trained walls, turned the apartment into a sauna, and the client’s rotten and crumbling corpse. Something that you can’t make a full member of the 21st district. From the beginning of cooperation, customers were taught about the importance of indoor climate. Especially the one where they undergo change. However, they are always smarter than ignorant fitters and those from service.
– You’re not so smart, are you?
All the things Henrik had taken with him were now fit to be thrown away. The suit that the client was supposed to wear would not step on him in the current situation. You would have to deflate the customer, and Henrik didn’t smile that much. In addition to the smell, as a bonus he would get hundreds of worms crawling everywhere, not just inside the remains of a man lying on the mattress.
– More for me.
Unused items after customers passed into the hands of service technicians. Unwritten law, which he gladly used. Situations like this didn’t happen often, so they shouldn’t be wasted. Henrik’s wardrobe has just grown with a new black suit, laptop and make-up kit. It will be useful to him.
Something in the room did not give him peace. He looked around, but except for the stench and dirt, everything seemed fine. Gray floors, wall outlets protruding from the walls or splinters of paint on frames. Finally he saw it – the balcony door was ajar.
– Oh, colleague I see was smoking.
The body did not react. According to the report, death occurred twelve hours ago. If the air conditioning worked, Henrik could just resuscitate. Waking the client and giving him what he paid for. Immortality. Each transformation went a little differently, but one remained unchanged. An impulse was needed to wake up. Something that will bring you back to life for a second. Well, unless you got bitten, then everything happened spontaneously. Saliva combined with the virus sent the bitten off the world of the living in a few hours, as did the blood of the infected itself. This has not happened for years, however, the army effectively took care of it. Voluntary virus implantation had to take place under controlled conditions.
Henrik did not like his work, it ceased to interest him for a long time. When he first entered the 21st district, she devoured him completely. He felt his place here. Tall buildings, zero crime and CEOs, artists and the rich themselves. Who would not want to live in such a place? Only money stood in his way. Applying Hobbes cost a fortune he never accumulates. There was one more way. The one that has been successfully cut off for many years.
When Calvin Hobbes received the Nobel Prize for his contribution to the fight against infectious diseases, his laboratory changed for the first time. Almost twenty years after the discovery of a new strain of virus, Albert Jones became the first „living dead”. A few hours after his death, and then recovery, his body and mind returned to eighty percent. Life after death has become a fact.
Jones gave hundreds of interviews and even tried to write his memories, but the hours spent under the television spotlights quite strongly affected his physicality. The process began to slowly reverse, and hunger became unbearable. When, while shopping in the hypermarket, Jones began to eat raw meat and then greedily looked at customers passing him, the police called in did not think for a long time what to do. Before Jones’ brain decorated the bread department, the first bite occurred. Next and next followed him.
The army quickly coped with the small town, exterminating virtually all residents. Henrik knew this story perfectly. Although a dozen or so years have passed since the memorable event, the television periodically released a document with the meaningful name „Life, death and death in Stöde.” Sweden has become famous once again. When the case settled, there were investors who helped Hobbes refine the virus. After all, new buildings can’t be wasted, not in the middle of Stockholm. So for a fee you could command your company from an air-conditioned tower block and not worry about anything.
A miracle under the control of guards armed with rifles.
The issue of security against outsiders was written on leaflets advertising the investment. Everyone would like to become immortal. The rich do not like to share with the poor. And protection only protects one from others.
Henrik was well aware of what a newly animated body needs in the first phase of transformation. Meat, preferably fresh. Another plus for the Swedish economy. The number of homeless people has decreased by a further 5% over the past year.
How can you not love this beautiful country.
He went out to the balcony. The terrace stretched the entire length of the block, and tempered glass separated small territories for apartments. Henrik pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pants and lit one. Nicotine calmed down, and now he needed a moment to calm down. Such an opportunity as today did not happen every day. The pass to the 21st district, which he had to ask for at all times, had a specific expiry date.
So he has twenty-three hours to use. Every living organism reacts differently to Hobbes. He hoped that he would handle the virus quickly and relatively painlessly He was most afraid of death itself. A bite is one thing, and …
– I’m sorry, sir.
Not much was missing, and the contents of the poor breakfast he’d eaten today would have landed in his pants. He was aware that the building was inhabited, but did not expect a neighbor’s visit. Henrik looked around and saw his head sticking out from behind the tempered glass.
– God, but you scared me. Henrik calmed down enough to prevent trembling in his voice.
He was not afraid of contact with animates, he was used to him for years of work. He liked them even more than the living. He admired. Each day convinced him that he would be best suited to the 21st district. The service from the inside was a dream. A pipe dream that will never change into reality. At least not without the approval of the supervisor or solid „back”.
– How can I help you? He asked as the unbearable silence lengthened.
– I saw that you were paused and I was just over. Could I have a jeeednee, please?
In addition to the fact that the newly-met friend dragged some words a bit, he looked quite decent. Admittedly, Henrik could see only his face, covered with three-day stubble, and a piece of torso, but it was enough to make him feel familiar with him. Dressed in a black T-shirt and fitted jacket, he resembled a model cut out of a newspaper in which teenagers fall in love, not a „living dead”.
„Sure,” he said and handed the entire package to the neighbor.
– Thank you.
The animated man clutched the packaging awkwardly and carefully pulled one cigarette out of it.
– Keep the rest, I have another one.
The man smiled, revealing yellow teeth and rotten gums. He leaned on the railing and then lit a cigarette.
– Paaan new? He asked after a moment.
Henrik looked carefully at the apartment. The body lay safely on the mattress in a place where it was impossible to see it without entering the balcony. He was safe.
– Is it so visible? Today I am undergoing a change.
– I remember that staan. I’m braying him.
– Do you regret it?
Henrik was afraid of answering this question. He was not afraid of eating raw meat and confinement in the 21st district. It was no different than everything he experienced every day. Routine became cyanide, only slower spreading in the body.
– Nooo. – Animated, he answered only after a long reflection. – Everything is fine.
They stood in silence. The street below them was deserted. Nobody came out during the day because of the temperature. A few hours in the sun could have initiated a breakdown of the body. Hobbes was not a perfect invention, but the only one that gave something more. Sense of security. Zero fear of illness, cancer and death. After all, the animate have it behind them.
– Excuse me, I didn’t introduce myself. Henrik extended a hand towards the interlocutor. – Josef Persson.
The rightful owner of the name was just entering the next phase of the decay, so he probably wouldn’t mind Henrik taking it.
– Johaaaan Caaarlsson.
The animate’s hand felt like a dried plant. Veins in which blood flowed slowly pierced the skin. Hobbes didn’t care about his appearance, he cared about the survival of the host.
– You shouldn’t go to the balcony too often. The temperature is too high here. Do you know what this threatens?
– I know.
Throughout the conversation Johan did not look at Henrik once. He only stared straight ahead, even as he shook his hand. The rays of the sun practically pierced his skin. What Henrik initially thought was a tastefully trimmed beard was actually blood scabs. He also noticed traces of plasma under his fingernails, unnaturally long and frayed.
– Thank you for the cigarette.
Johan turned and entered his apartment.
– You’re welcome.
There was no point in delaying the future. The conversation with Johan only confirmed Henrik’s resolve. He returned to the apartment and closed the balcony door behind him. The sweet smell of death could be cut with a knife. There was an air conditioning remote control next to the mattress. Henrik lifted him off the floor and weighed it in his hand.
Of course without batteries.
The bag he never parted with always lay where he left it. Right next to Josef’s decaying body. He kept everything in the bag that was useful for reviving. Portable defibrillator, battery supply, knife, several long nails and a whole set of tools. Spare parts for air conditioners had in the car. He rarely used them, the most common „failures” consisted of the user not reading the instructions. He had not been involved in repairs for a long time, new customer service and recovery was the core of his duties.
– All right, let’s not waste time.
He pulled a long nail from his bag, a large hammer and batteries. He arranged everything next to the mattress, one next to the other.
„If you narrow your eyes, you were quite like me, fat man.”
The nail touched Josef’s forehead. The metal tip dipped in blue leather. Josef grunted and opened his eyes.
the bastard was so big that the sound of a cracking skull spread through the apartment in a deafening sound. The nail pierced the bone and went into the head for the head itself.
„Hobbes, you’re getting more and more unpredictable,” he grunted to himself.
He put down the hammer and put the batteries in the air conditioning remote control. A pleasant chill enveloped Henrik’s back.
– Ten degrees Celsius, the perfect temperature for a change.
He stared at his future. He approached Josef’s head slowly and put his mouth to his forehead.
The blood was cold and thick as he swallowed it.
It was already dark outside when he woke up.
He was hungry.
He was sitting with his back against the wall. That’s good, he thought, rainfall stains appeared on the buttocks and legs, and those were hidden under clothing. He looked at his watch.
He had twelve hours left to the end of the pass.
He rose slowly from the floor and went to the balcony. His reflection in the glass was no different than who he was a few hours ago. It will give him time. Protection should not stick to what it looked like now, the transformation went extremely smoothly. He knew he was made for that. If he plays everything well, he will be able to return to his new life before the pass expires.
From the perspective of the seventeenth floor, Stockholm looked exceptionally … tasty.