September 29

The Milwaukee Protocol (Part 2)

[…continued from September 28 entry…]

 

Maia turned and saw the unfenced animal heading up the sidewalk.

The Doberman didn’t have the same confident swagger it displayed when it patrolled its own property, frightening anyone who passed.  His legs now wobbled, torso lurching from side to side like a drunk after last call.  If it were possible, the dog looked crazier and meaner than she’d ever seen.  His eyes flashed a bloodshot red, and froth and drool spilled from his gnashing jaws.

She turned back and started to run.  Her only hope was that the dog’s obvious illness might slow it down.

The barking and growling behind her sounded sickly and wet… and too close.  Toenails clicked against the sidewalk in uneven rhythms, gaining on her.

Another chance, if the dog’s agility was affected by the disease.  Maia ran across the street, ducking between two houses.  She opened a wooden fence and slammed the gate behind her, then ran through a small wooded area that suddenly shifted into a steep incline.  She scrambled up the hill, her feet digging into mud and embedded rock, her hands grasping at tree roots as she pulled herself higher, hoping to gain the next level of ground.   The animal growls sounded farther away now, but she didn’t dare stop running.

Highway sounds called to her in the distance, and she hurried toward them.  Glints of sunlight off chrome and windshields sparked through gaps in trees ahead, and she saw a low metal guardrail at the edge of the woods.  Almost there.

A heavy thump fell against the back of Maia’s head.  She thought the rabid dog had caught her, for sure — silent and stealthy in its latest movements, drunken legs finding fresh strength to leap upon her from behind.

But no barks or growls, no foaming teeth gnashing at her exposed neck or arms or tearing at her ankles.

Maia paused for a minute, her hand at the back of her neck.  She felt a bump already rising where something had hit her.

And at the ground, small and black and feathered, she found the poor thing.  Not the terrible Doberman after all, but a wounded bird.  It had fallen out of a tree as she passed.   Or, forced out of the nest, rejected by a healthier companion.

Poor thing, she thought, reaching down to check the bird’s injuries.  She kneeled beside it, turned it over to see its face, to see how badly its wings might be damaged.

The face was horrible, like a tiny evil monkey.  And the dwindling evening light had tricked her:  the wings weren’t covered with feathers, but seemed made of ribbed, hairless flaps of skin.

Before she fully realized the creature was a small bat, before she noticed the foam around its mouth, the animal lurched up and bit her hand, piercing the skin.

Maia never told anyone what happened — that she’d successfully escaped from a rabid dog, only to stumble across the path of a rabid bat.  She assumed that washing with soap and hot water would clean the small wound in the webbing between her index and middle fingers.

She hadn’t realized that rabies symptoms might arise several weeks after being bitten.  Or that, once the symptoms appeared — high fever, twitching nerves, blurred vision — that meant the disease had already progressed too far.  Most patients would die.

As a last resort, doctors told her about an experimental treatment called The Milwaukee Protocol.

 

[…continued tomorrow…]