Friday, 27 September 2013

High School Drama

The morning of her first day in high school Mary stood in front of the mirror, dabbing her face with the latest formaldehyde face cream. She had her favourite wig on, a blonde bob with golden highlights. She was nervous. Going through school she had been popular and studying had been easy. But now she was starting at the new high school in town. New school. New people. What if she didn't get any friends? What if the workload turned out to be too much for her? Those new hormone treatments made her struggle enough as it was, without the added responsibility of studying.. What if there would be no other ZBs?

The ZB virus always hit unexpectedly. And silently.
The silence was the first sign. The deadly quietness. An absence of life.
Mary had only been a two year old baby when her mother had walked in on her lying in the crib with her eyes wide open and a smile on her lips. But without making a single sound. No rustling around in the crib. No gurgling or laughing. No breathing. Her dad always made jokes about how her mothers screams probably scared half the neighbourhood into ZB on that very day. Mary hated him joking about it, but didn't have the heart to tell him. It was his own way of dealing.
In panic they had taken baby Mary to the A&E. The hospital staff were used to it happening. Gave them coffee, showed them all the flyers. With regular treatment ZB victims could be just like any other person. Their regular routines would have to change obviously, and Mary would have to get used to plenty of hospital visits, but with care she would be able to lead a normal life. She would however loose her hair and teeth fairly quickly and, sadly, she would never be able to have children.
Mary knew her mother had cried at the news of never being a grandmother, but she couldn't see what the fuss was all about herself. But perhaps later she would.

Mary had changed a lot lately, and didn't like it. Ever since that day back when she was two she had been going to the local ZB clinic for weekly treatments. Regular inter cranial injections of epigenetically manipulated stem cells for her brain. A few electrical shocks to avoid the heart muscle from rotting completely, combined with blood transfusions to make up for the lack of blood flow. She also went for monthly physiotherapy sessions where she was taught a set of chest exercises to get into the habit of filling the lungs with air, even though she had no need for it. In combination with the daily injections of trioxane for normal nerve function she thought she had more than enough to go through. But on her 13th birthday she had been given yet another prescription. The customary cocktail of hormones served to all ZB victims to simulate puberty. It tasted vile, and she had to take it every morning until the age of 20. She knew it was needed to go through to adulthood properly. But she still hated it. With a fierce passion.

On the way to high school Mary was in a state of near panic. She had never been this nervous in her life. Her father tried to comfort her the best he could during the drive to town. She wished he wouldn't. He left her mortified at the school gate after having given her a very public hug. After waving good bye she rushed in to the building. She was sure she would have been out of breadth if she had had one, and used some of her chest exercises. Partly to get something to occupy her terrified mind with, and partly to try to fit in as best she could. It took nearly twenty minutes for her to find the right room for her first class, and she was one of the last of the students to enter.

There were no other ZBs. No one but her who had perfect hair and teeth. No one but her smelling faintly of formaldehyde. As she walked to an empty seat at the back of the classroom she could almost feel the eyes on her. Hear the hiss of whispers travelling across the room. She wanted to die. Again.

When the physics teacher entered the room, the class suddenly went silent. Everyone stared at the striking woman who had just walked through the door. Professor Cho gave the class a blinding smile with her false teeth, flicked a strand of hair from the wig out of her face and said; 'All right class, lets get started!'. As she turned to wipe the whiteboard Mary smiled. It was going to be alright.

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