by Lisa McCourt Hollar
Clearing his throat, Jonah winced at the pain that shot through his lungs. Taking a sip of water, he wasn't surprised when it only succeeded in burning his throat more. He had been taking the medicine the Institute was feeding him for a week now and he was getting sicker by the day.
He pushed the call button. A few moments later, a woman's voice came over the com. "Yes?"
"My throat feels like raw hamburger." Just speaking hurt and Jonah felt tears forming around his eyes.
"Can you describe to me how it looks?"
"Wouldn't it be easier if you came in here and looked for yourself?"
"Mr. Broderick," the Nurse said, her voice laced with honey, "I know this system is frustrating to you, but this is a controlled experiment. If I came in, it would contaminate the results and we would have to start over with another patient. You don't want that to happen."
"No, I don't," Jonah admitted. Sighing and then wishing he hadn't expended the effort, he padded barefoot across the room and looked in the mirror. Opening his mouth as wide as he could, Jonah adjusted the light so he could see the back of his throat better. It didn't look good. Bracing himself against the pain, Jonah croaked out, "Well, it's...it's flaming red. Ummm, there are white and yellow bumps...I'm not sure, but it looks like there pussy."
Clearing his throat, Jonah coughed up some phlem. Looking at it, he made a face and added, "There's blood too."
Jonah looked again. "No. Should there be?"
"Thank you," the nurse said, ignoring his question. "I will pass the information on to your doctor."
"Wait," Jonah said, desperate to stop her before she cut the connection.
"Yes?" This time her voice seemed less patient.
"Is there anything you can give me for the pain?"
"I know, I know. It would contaminate the experiment."
"You agreed to the perameters when you signed the contract...but if you want out, there is still time. You will have to give up all of the sign on bonus and return the advance we gave you."
"All of it?"
"That was the terms of the contract."
"What was that, Mr. Broderick?"
"Nothing," Jonah said, knowing the advance was already gone. "That's okay. I'll just, um...I'll stick it out."
"Okay," the nurse answered, her voice cheery once again.
The connection severed, Jonah stepped into the bathroom to relieve himself. He kept the light off. He liked the false comfort the idea of privacy gave him.
This had seemed like a dream job, when he had first seen the ad posted on the student bulletin board. He'd particiated as a medical test subject before and it was easy money. This one paid more than the others, but the requierments were strict and Jonah was put through a series of tests. Out of over a hundred applicants, he was the only one selected. Now he wished he had never seen the ad.
Jonah sighed. "Yes?"
"The sensors in your room indicate a change in body temperature. Please turn on your light so we can record any physical changes."
"Physical changes? What the hell is going to happen to me?"
"Mr. Broderick, you know we can't tell you what to expect."
"Well, if itchie skin is one of the symptoms, I have that." Jonah scratched at his arm, digging in with his fingernails and tearing at the skin. He thought it might be the fire in his muscles that was causing his skin to burn. Digging harder at the flesh, his fingers felt sticky. Lifting his hand to his eye, Jonah gagged. His nails were covered with blood. Then he saw something wriggle on the tip of his fingers. Flipping on the light, Jonah felt the room spin. Grabbing hold of the safety bar, he pulled himself off of the toilet. His legs were shakey and he thought he might throw up, but that would have to wait until he got into the shower and washed the brown worms off of his hand.
"Mr. Broderick, you cannot get in the shower. The water could effect the changes that are happening to your body."
"Fuck the test results!" Jonah almost slipped on a mixture of blood and worms that was pooling on the floor. Catching himself, he reached into the shower and turned on the cold water. His body felt like it was on fire from the inside out."
"Mr. Broderick, calm down."
"No, you go screw yourself...you and this whole damn institute. I don't know what you did to me, but I never agreed to THIS."
"Mr. Broderick, you read the contract. It warned you that you could feel extreme discomfort and physical side effects."
"It didn't say anything about fucking worms crawling through my bloodstream! What the hell kind of treatment puts worms in the bloodstream?"
"I can't say. It will contaminate the results."
Jonah laughed, feeling his sanity slipping away. Stepping into the shower, he scrubbed soap over his arms, trying to wash away the worms. They seemed to be multiplying.
"What the hell?" He pulled the soap back and looked at the bar. It was covered with hair. Glancing down, he saw that he had fur growing all over his body. Pissing himself, a huge slug dropped out of his penis and onto the shower floor. Screaming, Jonah tried to get out of the shower, but his foot stepped on the slug and he slipped. He heard a loud crack when his head hit the floor and then everything went black.
An hour later his body had been carried out and a sterilization team brought in.
"It wasn't a complete wash," Dr Gray told the nurse. We now know that introducing worms to the bloodstream can cause severe burning and itching. But we were on the right track. It grew hair. The cure for baldness is right around the corner.