90 Exit Zero Sneak Peek

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Sneek-PeekIM90-cohen1From the novel Exit Zero by Neil Cohen

Published February 10th, 2015
Permuted Press

Woodrow was then taken to the next room, an area that looked much like a prison. He looked through a large glass window to a section where multiple “test subjects” were held in side by side cells, which more resembled cages. They were emaciated, yet some had large, distended stomachs. Their eyes were rolled up, mouths gaping open, standing slack shouldered. Some sat against the wall, some lay on the ground. Some appeared dead.

“These subjects are in the final stage, originally reached within 5 to 7 days after first treatment,” Dr. Moz explained. “The poor souls you saw will be at this stage by tomorrow. The process speeds up with each successive exposure.”

When they entered through a high security door leading into a corridor of cells, the subjects went wild, reaching, grabbing, trying to force their faces through the bars, biting, moaning, and shrieking. Some slammed their heads against the steel bars, attempting to get at their prey. One man ran towards the group and slammed his face against the bars with such force his cheekbones and jaw shattered, sending his teeth scattering onto the floor. The guards became visibly nervous, placing hands on their holstered guns, as if getting ready for a quick draw competition.

“How long will they live?” Woodrow asked, approaching one of the caged patients.

Dr. Moz shot out his arm to prevent Woodrow from getting too close to the skeletal subjects.

“These are no longer living.” He sighed. “These are the dead.”

“I understand they are beyond saving, but when will they truly die?” Woodrow asked.

“You don’t understand,” Dr. Moz said. “These are the dead.”

Moz removed a guard’s pistol from its holster. He put the barrel of the gun to the head of one of the caged subjects and fired point blank into the forehead. The top of the man’s head exploded.

Woodrow recoiled in horror and shouted his confused objection, but was silenced when he observed what happened next. The subject, who’d had his brains blown out, did not collapse to the floor in a crumpled dead heap, but only stumbled backwards a few steps. The gunshot victim then straightened himself upright and again begin reaching through the bars again, biting at the doctor.

Dr. Moz pointed the gun to the temple of another caged subject and pulled the trigger, this time blasting off the entire top of the target’s head above the bridge of the nose. Again, the creature arose, minus three quarters of his head, yet the body kept reaching and what was left of the jaw was still biting.

Woodrow stood motionless, speechless.?  ?  ?  ? 

Dr. Moz then fired a single bullet into each of the now nearly headless men’s stomachs, causing them to crumple to the ground, finally still. He handed the gun back to the guard, turned towards Woodrow and spoke in a tone that seemed relieved he had someone with whom to finally share this knowledge. “And my friend, that is not the strangest thing I am going to show you.”

Minutes later, Woodrow stood on unsteady legs in the mortuary area. On a steel table lay a body covered by a sheet. Dr. Moz lifted the sheet to expose the cadaver’s head, displaying that the cranial cap had been removed, and the brain was nearly gone; almost liquefied.

“At first, we thought this was some sort of spongiform encephalopathy, perhaps the Mad Cow Disease had spread to humans,” Dr. Moz explained. “And, in this particular instance, that would be a very likely possibility.”

Woodrow focused on how he said “this particular instance”. Mad Cow was caused by cows eating ground up cow bodies in their feed. He wondered what that scenario had to do with his research. The whole point of his theory was to avoid the raising, feeding, housing, and slaughter of livestock.

“Although the test subjects have become almost skeletal, their stomachs continue to expand. At first, we thought it was retention of gas and fluid. We were wrong. We could have never imagined what was really occurring in the stomachs of these poor souls.”

An assistant in a lab coat pulled back the sheet all the way, displaying the cadaver’s full body. It was a male whose stomach had been sliced open for autopsy, the vivisection displaying a stomach lining that had taken on features resembling those of a human brain.

“It is as it appears. And it does not just resemble a brain, it is functioning like a brain.”

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