Apocalypse Manila

         The End Begins

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Episode One

 Outbreak

Scene One

The monkey squirmed against its restraints.

 

Two Filipinos wearing lab coats and one tall white foreigner in street clothes watched from outside the large Plexiglas observation window.

 

A lab technician stood inside the sealed room. He looked down through the face shield of his hazmat suit at the terrified creature and then peered over his shoulder at the spectators.

 

The older Filipino man nodded.

 

The technician turned back to the animal, placed a needle in its IV medication port, and squeezed in a blue-colored fluid.

 

The monkey, a common Philippine Long-tailed Macaque, reacted almost instantly after the chemicals entered its bloodstream.

 

At first, it stretched out its arms and legs, then it cried out with pain; its extremities tightened as if the muscles had been electrically shocked. It began shaking, slowly at first, then violently. After a minute, it settled back onto the gurney looking terrified, as it had before.

 

The white man’s voice came over the intercom. “Wait two minutes and inject the cyanide.”

 

After the allotted time, the technician took another syringe filled with a dark-colored liquid and injected the poison into the IV. The monkey reacted by lurching its body upward and then shaking. It stained to breathe, and vomit erupted from its mouth. Finally, after a minute or so of struggling to breathe, it fell still, its eyes open. The monitor that had shown blips for its heartbeat now displayed a flat line.

 

The lab technician turned and shrugged his shoulders to the group watching through the glass.

 

The facility was hidden in the jungle of a small island in the southern Philippines. In the beginning, they had used rats to test the solution with unremarkable results. Most of the rodents just died. However, after a few modifications, the last experiment had given them some encouragement. The rat had come back to life and lasted 10 minutes before finally expiring a second time. They expected this phase of the experiment using monkeys to prove more enlightening since their physiology was much closer to humans.

 

The Caucasian man reached up and pressed the intercom button. “Put the animal in the large cage. Quickly.”

 

The lab technician looked down at the corpse. He hurriedly removed the IV line, monitor connections, and straps. He struggled and lifted the limp body.

 

Thirty seconds had passed.

 

He slid the animal into a large four-by-four-foot cage that was connected to a line with two smaller cages occupied by two similar monkeys.

 

One minute.

 

He closed the cage door and engaged the latch. He stood back and observed the body lying on the cage’s plywood floor.

 

The technician looked back at the people behind the glass. The white man raised one finger.

 

Two minutes later the dead animal’s eyes blinked. It turned its head and its dead, milky eyes toward the technician. The animal’s brown skin had turned a pale tan color.

He looked back at the men behind the window. Sweat stung his eyes.

 

The monkey stood and grabbed the cage bars. It scowled, bared its sharp teeth and began a biting motion. Saliva splattered in the air. It shook the bars and made a sickening moaning sound, nothing like a typical monkey’s high-pitched screech. It ran around the cage looking for a way out, then came back and pointed its dead eyes at the technician. It chomped and moaned.

 

The technician took several steps back. He turned to the observers, waiting for their next order.

 

The white man reached up and pressed the intercom. “Open the door between the first two cages.”

 

The technician looked at the line of monkey cages and then back to the man giving the orders.

 

The man nodded. “Do it.”

 

The technician stepped over to the cages. He glanced back at the man once more.

 

The monkey in the center cage had pressed its body against the bars furthest away from the infected animal. It sat. Its eyes bulged.

 

Sliding doors connected each of the cages in the line. The third monkey ran around its cage, screeching.

 

The technician reached up and flipped a latch. He slowly raised the barred door connecting the first two cages.

 

The reanimated monkey turned its white eyes toward the next cage and continued its sickening moan. It moved quickly to the small gap widening as the door slid up. It reached under the bars toward the other frightened monkey.

 

The technician continued to raise the door.

 

Once able to fit through the gap, the infected animal slid its body under the cage door and pounced onto the second monkey.

 

Its teeth clamped down on the helpless creature’s neck and ripped away a huge piece of fur and skin. Venous blood squirted out in a thick stream across the cage. The animal continued its vicious attack, biting at the other monkey’s abdomen, tearing it open. Organs spilled out onto the cage floor with a gush of blood and other fluids.

 

The technician backed away until his body slammed into the glass observation window. He hurried over to the lab door and pulled at the handle, but the door was locked from the outside.

Scene Two

Jim Taylor sat in his office at the call center reviewing the call-time statistics. Average talk time per call was one of the primary statistics used for judging phone agents’ performance.

 

Where was Glenn? He hadn’t seen him for almost an hour. And he was supposed to be out roaming the floor, which was the central call agent area where dozens of employees sat talking with customers from all over the world, but mostly from the United States.  Glenn was supposed to be out there helping them in case they had an irate customer or a situation they didn’t know how to handle.

 

Jim and Glenn were two of four American supervisors hired by the corporate office to work with the Filipino call center agents. They gave regular training on U.S. customs and how to speak with American customers.

 

Jim stood and walked over to the window of his office, which looked out on the floor of the call center area. Sixty-six cubicles, each equipped with a computer and a headset, stretched across the room in half a dozen rows. About 80 percent of the stations were filled with hard-working employees. It was the night shift in Manila, which meant it was daytime in the U.S.

 

Glenn was nowhere in sight. Jim stepped through his doorway and out onto the floor.

 

He stood an inch short of six feet. Regular workouts kept him in shape and at 31 years old; he looked like he could still be active duty Army. But that was a different life, one he’d put behind him. Now he was a supervisor of foreign employees in a country thousands of miles from the Afghanistan desert where his military career had ended.

He saw his reflection in the office window. American women gave him a double take when he passed by, but Filipino women—who tended to be very attracted to Caucasian men, especially Americans—smiled openly at him. His blue eyes and chiseled facial features caused beautiful, olive-skinned waitresses to line up to serve him. At times, he almost felt embarrassed.

He looked out onto the floor and wondered where Glenn was.

Scene Three

The older of the two Filipino men in white coats pressed the intercom. “Calm down. I know this is disturbing, but these tests are vital.”

 

The lab technician turned away from the door he had been trying to escape from and looked at the men through the glass. A frown showed on his face. He didn’t speak.

 

“Let’s wait for the next phase,” came over the intercom.

 

The technician turned back to the cages. The original infected monkey sat on its hind legs over the corpse. It lifted a section of intestines in its bloody hand and chewed. Its victim lay on the cage floor, motionless.

 

Three minutes passed. Then, the second dead monkey moved.

 

The first animal stopped eating and began running between the first two cages, bouncing off the bars. The moaning started again.

 

The second monkey sat up, despite its mortal wounds. Its abdomen was torn open, organs were strewn across the cage. Most of its blood had drained from its wounds onto the cage floor, and then down to the laboratory floor below, forming an enormous purplish-red puddle.

 

Like the first, the second animal’s eyes were glazed over white. It looked at the technician and began the now familiar moan. It then turned to its closest source of food, the monkey in the third cage. It reached through the bars at the frightened animal backed up against the far side bars of the last cage.

 

“Inject the third animal with the antivirus,” came over the intercom.

 

Without looking back, the technician walked over to a glass cabinet. He opened the door and selected a small glass bottle filled with green fluid. Half a dozen similar bottles sat on the shelf next to a group of bottles filled with the blue liquid he’d used on the first animal. He reached with his other hand and removed a syringe. Back in front of the cages, the technician inserted the needle into the bottle and drew out half a syringe of the green fluid.

 

He glanced back at the observers before going around to the far end of the last cage. The frightened animal was pressing against the outer bars. It didn’t seem to notice the technician behind it but only stared at the two monkeys reaching toward it through the bars on the other side of the cage.

 

The technician inserted the needle into third the animal’s left thigh and quickly injected the syringe’s contents.

 

The monkey looked down but didn’t seem to care that it had been stuck with a needle. It focused on the two beasts trying to reach it through the bars.

 

“You’re doing fine, Ben,” said the older Filipino man from outside the room. “We’ll wait five minutes to give the antivirus time to circulate in the bloodstream before moving to the next phase.”

Scene Four

Jim walked across the call center floor looking for Glenn. He stopped by a cubicle occupied by an employee named Rommel who was one of Jim’s best workers. He often assisted with training and had worked at the call center since it opened, almost five years earlier.

 

Rommel asked his customer if he could put him on hold, pressed a button on the keyboard, and turned to Jim. “Yes, sir?”

 

“Have you seen Mr. Hammons?”

 

“I saw him going toward the back,” he said, pointing.

 

“How long ago?”

 

“Ten or fifteen minutes ago, sir.”

 

“Thanks.” Jim turned and went off in that direction.

 

Jim worked his way across the floor, pausing at cubicles to listen in on calls, smiling at employees and patting a few on the back. He saw a raised hand of someone needing his help, and he went over.

 

The call agent was a 19-year-old, slightly overweight woman with black-rimmed glasses. She had only been working on the floor for a few weeks.

 

“Sir, he wants to talk with a supervisor.”

 

Jim asked, and she gave a quick synopsis of the call. Jim motioned for her to let him take the seat. She stood and handed her headset over to him.

 

It took Jim just a few minutes to get the customer settled down, and he gave the call back to the girl. She looked relieved when she took the headset and sat back down.

 

Filipinos tended to be more naturally timid than Americans. They usually took a few months to get used to dealing with what seemed to them like aggressive American customers. Americans tended to be more straightforward than Filipinos. They usually said what they thought or wanted, while Filipinos managed to avoid being direct. Jim liked the gentle nature of Filipinos. He considered it one of their best features. And their smiles were infectious.

 

Glenn should have been the one to handle that situation since it was his turn to watch over the floor. Where was he?

 

He kept working his way back along the cubicles. He approached an agent named Gladys who appeared to have just completed a call. She looked up and smiled.

 

“Hi, sir.”

 

“Gladys, how are you? Have you seen Mr. Hammons?”

 

Her smile slipped away. Jim followed her eyes as she turned her head and looked toward the hallway leading to the break room and comfort rooms, which was what Filipinos called restrooms. She didn’t speak.

 

Not knowing what to say, Jim just nodded and walked toward the hallway.

 

The men’s and women’s comfort rooms were first. Jim stuck his head in the door of the men’s bathroom and called out, “Glenn?”  He waited. “Glenn, are you in there?” Nothing.

He continued down the hallway toward the break room, which was a large room that seated about 40 people. It contained six long tables lined with chairs with additional chairs along the walls. A TV stood in one corner. A couple of refrigerators hummed along a wall.

Jim entered the room. “Glenn?”

 

At the far side of the room sat Glenn and a female call agent named Daniella. They were sitting across from each other in two chairs near the TV. They both looked up and quickly sat back in their chairs.

 

“Hey, Jim. What’s up?” Glenn stood. He was white, in his early 30s and about thirty pounds overweight. He wore a white shirt and blue tie. “I was just going over a problem call with Daniella. The guy was a real asshole. Upset her pretty badly.”

 

Daniella looked like many Filipinas, a little over 5 feet tall, slim, long black hair, and cute. She stood and looked at Jim, then looked down.

 

“Well Daniella, I guess you should get back to your station now,” said Glenn. “Let me know if

you need anything else.”

 

“Yes, sir.”  She nodded and hurried past Jim.

 

Jim stood there looking at Glenn for several seconds before speaking. “Going over a problem call, huh?”

 

“Yeah, no big deal. She’ll be fine.”

 

“Glenn, I hope you’re not getting involved with any of these women.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“You’ve got a wife and kids, man.”

 

“Don’t worry, bro. It’s nothing. Hey, I flirt once in a while. It doesn’t mean anything. We’re in a country with millions of beautiful women who love Americans. Give me a break.”

 

“You’re supposed to be on the floor watching over the call agents.”

 

“I’m going.” He pushed past Jim. Then he paused and looked back. “Don’t sweat it, Jim. Everything’s cool.”

 

As Glenn left the room, Jim shook his head and walked over to the soda machine.