Authors: Stacey Broadbent
Fear the Fever
Published by Stacey Broadbent
Printed by Createspace
Copyright 2016 Stacey Broadbent
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Dancing novella series:
“Dancing Through the Storm”
“Dancing in Circles”
aleb held his ID card up to the scanner. Security was strict in the lab, and you had to have clearance to enter most offices. Some of the rooms in this building contained some potent chemicals and equipment that could be dangerous if they fell into the wrong hands.
The place where Caleb spent the majority of his time, was the animal testing lab. It was a relatively small lab, where the walls were lined with cages of mice, rats and rabbits. Each one had been exposed to at least one supplement trial or another, and part of his job was to document any side effects.
When he had first started out in this field, he had had grand intentions of discovering cures for fatal diseases. How naïve he had been. The chances of him actually cracking a life-saving cure, was slim to none. Needing the income, he had found himself taking the job here at Farrelly Pharmaceuticals, in charge of poking and prodding rodents to see if their particular brand of supplements were potentially harmful to humans. Living the dream!
There was a part of him that saw how inhumane it was to subject these poor creatures to this torture, especially when things didn’t go to plan, as they so often didn’t. The scientist in him couldn’t help but be curious to see the results though, and was forever hopeful that one day, it might be ‘the next big break through’.
One of the supplements they had been working on, was for women who were pregnant. Their aim was for it to increase the babies’ absorption of nutrients without further depleting the mothers. They were hoping that it would lower the risks of allergies and skin conditions that had become so prevalent in today’s society.
Having grown up with a severe nut allergy himself, Caleb was rather excited about this one. This could actually make a difference. If he could save other children from having to go through life with the constant fear of consuming something that could, in theory, kill them, then he would have at least redeemed himself morally. That’s what he kept telling himself anyway. Every time he discovered one of their pregnant mice hadn’t made it through the night, it got harder to remind himself of the big picture.
He adjusted his white lab coat as he stepped through the automated doors. He had been in a rush this morning; sleeping through his alarm, and then realising he had forgotten to turn on the washing machine and having to hunt for something acceptable to wear to work. By some miracle he had managed to arrive on time – with one minute to spare, no less.
Punctuality was of the utmost importance to his employers; not that they were ever around much. Murphy would have it though, that the one day he slept in, was the day that the big wigs decided to grace him with their presence.
Running his hand through his sandy blonde hair and pushing his glasses back up on to the bridge of his nose, he couldn’t understand why he was so nervous. He was the top in his field, that’s why they’d hired him. It’s not like
could do his job. In fact, he didn’t think they even understood what his job actually entailed. All they really cared about was the dollar signs; and that this could generate a lot of it – if it was successful. His job was to make sure that it was. No pressure.
He glanced up at them through the window while he rubbed the sanitiser into his hands. All three of them stood there, clipboards in hand, pretending to know what they were doing. Why they needed to watch him complete the testing instead of reading his report afterwards, was perplexing, to say the least. Did they not trust his word?
One by one, he methodically checked each of the cages. Lucky for him, there were no casualties this morning. At least that would look good. Nothing like a dead mouse to ruin your chances of further funding.
“Subject K has been exposed to the supplement for one week now.” He spoke both to the spectators and the digital voice recorder. “Showing no visible signs of effects. I am now taking samples of droppings and will do an amniotic test.” Caleb held up a syringe, and after bracing the mouse with one hand, slowly pulled the plunger back, drawing the amniotic fluid into the chamber. He labelled it, and stowed it in a holder, ready for testing.
Subject K was replaced in her cage and put back on the shelf with the other waiting mice. He grabbed the next cage and returned to his desk.
“Subject L has also been exposed to the supplement for one week. A little more timid than K, however, no other visible signs of effects. Faecal matter does look a little dry.” He scooped the droppings up into a tray for examining, setting it aside with the other samples. “Now for the amniotic test.” He reached in to secure L. She cowered away from his hand. “Come on girl, it’s not so bad,” he coaxed, inching closer to her.
Subject L darted away from his hand again. She was panting and looking around the cage frantically. He tried again to grab hold of her, only this time, she struck out and bit his finger. “Ow!” He cried out, knocking the cage as he did. “Bloody mouse,” he hissed under his breath as he inspected the bite mark, seeing that she had in fact broken through his glove and made his finger bleed. He held his hand up to the window.
“Subject L appears to be hostile. She has just bitten me,” he said to those watching. He walked over to the sink, throwing his gloves in the bin and lathering his hands in soap. “That went well,” he muttered under his breath. He sanitised, and then selected another pair of gloves.
Walking back over to his desk, he noticed the cage was tilted over the edge. His chair had stopped it from falling completely to the floor, but the cage was empty. Subject L was nowhere to be seen. He had been so distracted by the bite that he hadn’t secured the lid properly and now it appeared she had escaped.
“Damn it!” He looked up at the window. “Ah, subject L seems to have gotten away. I will endeavour to hunt her out.” He put the cage back on the shelf, silently berating himself for being so careless.
As he began to search around the other cages, he heard the voice of one of the ‘powers that be’ over the intercom.
“Forget about her. It’s just one mouse. She’ll come out of hiding when she gets hungry. Perhaps you could test the amniotic sample while we are here?”
“Right. Of course.” Caleb returned to his desk and proceeded with his testing, subject L pushed to the back of his mind.
linking his eyes open at the sound of his alarm, Zeke scanned the dark room, adjusting to the blackness. He swung his legs over the side of his bed, giving a little shiver. It was always so cold on these early mornings. Rummaging through his bedside drawer he found a thick pair of thermal socks and a singlet to pull on. His jeans were still on the chair beside his bed, where he had left them the night before. Pulling the cold material over his legs, he stumbled to his closet to retrieve a flannel shirt and jersey. He found a beanie to cover his bed hair and stifling a yawn, made his way down to the kitchen.
Derek was already up, a pot of coffee brewing. He nodded at Zeke as he sat at the table.
“Morning, son,” he said, as his eyes scanned the paper.
“Coffee’s nearly done, have yourself some breakfast then we’ll head out.” Zeke stood up and ambled over to put some bread in the toaster. Early starts were the norm out here. As much as Zeke liked to sleep, he actually didn’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn to work on the farm. It was so peaceful and the air seemed so much cleaner first thing in the morning.
Starting early had other benefits too – it meant he had the afternoons to himself. There was a creek that bordered on the neighbouring farm, where he would spend his time daydreaming and writing. It was there, that he first saw her. Millie. The girl with the strawberry blonde hair and freckles over her nose. He had been captivated as he’d watched her dance about the fields, picking daisies to make into a chain for her hair. She had been singing a sweet melody, with a voice sent straight from heaven.
When she had glanced up and seen him watching, she had just smiled and waved. Not a hint of embarrassment. She was unlike anyone he knew.
It soon became the favourite part of his day; waiting in the fields for the sound of her melodic voice ringing through the air. She always sang. No matter what the day had brought, she would still sing her way to him. And whenever their eyes met, she would smile that beautiful smile that crinkled her eyes and wrinkled her nose. He would do anything to see that smile. It was so infectious that he couldn’t help but beam back at her.
The way she looked at the world was full of a child-like wonder, as if she had never known pain. She could find the good in everything and everyone. And for some strange reason, this magnificent creature of beauty, seemed to love him; a simple farm-hand. He couldn’t quite understand it, but he didn’t dare question it.
Millie made him feel like he was more than just a farmer’s son. Like he could and
be anything he wanted to be. She made him
to be a better person.
So yeah, he was more than happy to get up before any sane person normally would, if it meant he could spend just one moment in her presence.
“Huh?” he mumbled, coming back to reality.
“Your toast popped up. Where’s your head today?”
“Ah, sorry, guess I’m not quite awake yet. Coffee’ll fix that.” He hastily spread his toast with butter and jam before pouring himself a cup of hot coffee. “What’s the plan for today then?” he asked, as he joined his father at the table.
“Tend your rows like normal. I’m going to be doing a spray tonight, so they need to be well watered, and drained. I’ll get you to check the fence by the wheat fields too. I dare say the wind from last night would have put a lot of pressure on the rickety old thing.”
Shoving his feet into his boots and lacing them tight, he pulled his beanie down over his ears and grabbed his jacket from the coat hook. He zipped it up and stepped outside into the darkness. He could see the sun attempting to rise over the horizon. Breathing the cool morning air in through his nose, he trotted down the steps and over to the barn to start on his chores.
He jumped on his quad bike and made his way out to his assigned rows of soybeans. He and his father, Derek, worked half the field each. Money had been tight of late, so they’d had to let their other farm-hands go. There had been unseasonal rains and low temperatures that had decimated their last crop, and Derek just couldn’t justify spending the last of their money on extra workers.
When it was time to harvest the wheat however, they would likely have to bite the bullet and hire a few bodies to help out. There was no way just the two of them could harvest as well as tend their soybean crops. For now though, they would just have to make do.
Zeke spent two hours checking over his crops before heading to the wheat fields to see to the fence. The winds had wreaked havoc on both the fields and the old wooden fence. It had certainly seen better days, that’s for sure, but it was an easy fix. A few of the rails had snapped, and some had fallen on one side. Not as bad as he’d expected.
Lucky for them, it was a lot calmer today. They were doing a pesticide spray over the fields tonight and wind was not a friend of crop dusting.
After inspecting the fence, he could see that he needed to grab some things from the barn to repair it. He jumped back on his quad bike, and sped off.
“How’s the fence look?” Derek asked, as he sauntered out of the barn.
“There’s just a few rails that need work. Shouldn’t take long to fix,” Zeke said.
“Righto. I’ve just mixed up the pesticide in there, so be careful not to knock it over.”
“I’ll head on over to look at the wheat. Hopefully we can salvage some of it.”
“It didn’t look too bad from what I could see.”
Derek left on his bike and Zeke made his way into the barn. He grabbed his toolbox and some timber that he found stacked against the wall in the back. It wasn’t exactly what he needed, but he could make it work.
Stacking the timber on his quad, he realised he had forgotten to grab some nails. He ran back into the barn, over to the workbench to hunt them out.
“There must be something I can use,” he mumbled to himself as he rummaged through the clutter. “How does he find anything in here?” There were tools, power cords, spare parts for the bikes, paint pots, fertiliser bottles, and various sized screws scattered across the bench. It would really save time if this bench was sorted out. He had a rather large toolbox sitting right in the centre of this chaos, which could easily hold the majority of the mess. Perhaps he would get onto that himself if he had a spare moment before meeting Millie later.
“Ah ha!” he said, as he found a nail that would work. He searched the nearby area for more. Pushing things aside, he didn’t notice the bottle of fertiliser balancing precariously on an old paint pot near the edge of the bench. It didn’t take much for that bottle to tip, just a slight nudge of his hand, as he continued his hunt.
The fertiliser lid hadn’t been screwed back on properly, so once it was tipped, it slowly began to drip. As it happened, Derek had placed the pesticide halfway under the workbench, right underneath the edge where the fertiliser lay. Because it was slowly dripping on the wooden bench, Zeke never heard it. He never even saw that he had knocked it over.
He found what he needed, and went back out to his bike.
The fertiliser slowly pooled on the bench, getting closer and closer to the edge.