The Japanese Garden is small, but beautiful with all of its well-manicured plants. The large pond contains dozens of waterlilies that bloom in the summer months. A few stone lanterns are perched on rocks around the gardens and there is one in the water. You feel as peaceful as you have done since this whole thing started.
You look around and find the Education Officer by the pond. You call out to her and she turns around. She’s got brown hair tied up in a ponytail and olive skin. She narrows her big, green eyes and thrusts her garden shears out threateningly.
You hold your hands up. ‘I’m not infected. I’m not one of them.’
She looks you up and down and then nods, putting the shears to one side. ‘Sorry, these are scary times, you can‘t be too careful.’
She walks a little closer. ‘I don’t have much time. What can I do for you?’
‘I’m searching for ingredients for a cure,’ you say.
She smiles, relaxing her shoulders. ‘So am I!’
‘Great, we can help each other.’ You take out your phone and show her the ingredients you’ve collected. She looks at them and nods, knowingly.
‘Perfect,’ she says, undoing her satchel. She shows you some small, glossy Pepper Vine leaves and some soft, furry-looking Self-Heal leaves.
Ah! A potential cure for the older victims. ‘If we’re lucky we can combine our ingredients to make a cure for everybody.’
The Officer pulls out her ingredients as well as a mortar and pestle and a thermos. ‘I’m Michelle by the way.’
While she starts mashing up her ingredients you open the Cure app on your phone and scroll through your list of plants. You click on the Comfrey sample and you scan the screen until you find a green button that says ‘Rematerialise.’ You click the button and several large, green furry leaves pop into existence. You catch them and pass them to Michelle.
‘Cool trick,’ she says
‘My uncle invented it.’
You repeat the process for the Noni fruit and two creamy white fruit fall into your hand. ‘Yuck, they stink!’ You pass the Noni fruit to Michelle and shake your head to clear your nose of their pungent odour.
She mixes everything together and puts all of the ingredients into the thermos full of hot water.
As Michelle is shaking the thermos the old man from the Herb Garden walks into view. Drawn by her movements he suddenly changes direction and enters the Japanese Garden at a run. How can he move that fast? The last you saw he was doubled over, puking his guts out.
‘Watch out!’ you say.
Michelle looks up and loosens the lid on the thermos. She throws the hot liquid in the old man’s face. He falls to the ground and starts convulsing. A froth seeps from the corners of his mouth and you both watch, horrified.
She looks at you helplessly. ‘We’ve killed him!’
It’s then that you notice a tingling sensation in your mouth which slowly turns into a fire that runs down your oesophagus and into your body. Every nerve you have is ablaze. You, double over, touching your lips only to realise that a few of the drops from the concoction must have hit you as well. You’ve somehow been infected; probably early stages, otherwise you would’ve felt something. As you start to panic that you’re about to convulse like the old man and die, you feel the fire lessening, and the burn slowly cooling until it fades completely.
Michelle is perched near the edge of the pond, regarding you with a terrified expression.
You rush to reassure her. ‘The cure! It worked! I must have been infected and it worked!’
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the old man. You look at him convulsing on the grass and guilt washes over you. The old man stops violently shaking, his body arches up, then collapses in a still heap.
You’re wondering whether you should check if he still has a pulse when, suddenly, he gasps and shoots straight into a sitting position. He looks around, confused. ‘Where am I?’
You grin at Michelle, thank God! You’ve successfully created a general cure. But… you’ve used up all of the concoction you made. You’ll have to go back into the infected Gardens to collect more samples, but you should be okay, you’re immune now. As you all get ready to leave, your phone vibrates. It’s a message from Uncle Frederick.
Bad news. The infected have become more violent. Now tearing chunks off people.
Damn. Maybe you won’t be as safe as you thought.
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