Survivors: Melissa Sharpe’s winning entry to the English Society’s Short Story Competition.

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Valery was reviewing the vital chart of patient 22; a boy from Village 301 in Namibia. Incredible. His immune system had a built in resistance to a half a dozen epidemics plaguing the world today, diseases that it would cost the average New Yorker hundreds of dollars in medical bills to treat. This was exactly what pharmaceutical companies from America to Bangkok were looking for; a vast array of biological information that could treat diseases in the first world. They could make billions off of this one individual alone.

She felt herself catching her breath, then fixed hair, straightened her shoulders and proceeded to strut through to the observation facility to meet patient 301.

 

My name is Bhutana but my friends call me Boot. I am 12 years old and live with my mother and father in Tses. I had a brother and a sister but they died when I was small. Celiwe, my sister, died of malaria and my brother, Deliza died of pneumonia. My mother works as a maid in the city just like her mother but she died at 34 from an asthma attack. My father worked as a car mechanic before my mom kicked him out for using our money to buy beer. There aren’t that many people left in our life but I that doesn’t mean it isn’t full. Mom and I take care of one another. She tells me I help her by going to school. Yesterday some men came to visit Helpmekaar College to meet us kids. They wore suits and had machines that covered their mouths. It made a strange blowing sound like a pump. They told us that they were from a big company in the city and they came because children around the world were having a competition that would help a lot of people. Nobody seemed to know what we needed to do to win except for these men. They took some of our blood and scanned it through a computer. None of us had ever seen one before but it was cool. Afterwards they pointed to 3 of us and said that we had won. They were going to take us away to show us our prize and our families would be informed about the good news. Now I wait here in a cold white room. The air felt crispier here, I almost passed out before but someone gave me the same machine for my mouth as the other men were wearing. A woman walked in.

Valery took the boy in in an instant. His skin was rough, arms incredibly skinny, ears too large for his face. He was wearing a blue paper robe probably given to him by the medical team, and was sitting on the table. He was so young. Regaining her composure, Valery smiled. ‘Good morning how are you?’

‘I’m fine, how are you?’

Valeria wasn’t sure why she found it hard to breath. But she continued to set up the observation table to check his vitals.

‘I’m alright’ she managed to say.

‘Could you just lie on the table for me please?’

He laid down and the surface lit up around him; displaying graphs and charts of his organ’s all the way to hi molecular functions. His blood levels showed signs of over- exposure to oxygen. She figured so much as he was wearing the breathing mask. Most people had to wear them nowadays when going outside. The toxicity levels often lead to health problems. But villages like his couldn’t afford regulators in their home which means they have either adapted or died. His body wasn’t used to the regular atmosphere humans were exposed to 50 odd years ago. In fact much of it wasn’t used to this environment. Even his core temperature was dropping. Why hasn’t he said anything?

‘Excuse me’

Valery’s thoughts were interrupted by his quiet voice.

‘I was just wondering, when I could get the prize? Mommy is probably making food right now and I’m a bit hungry’

Hungry, has he not eaten? They didn’t give him anything? And what is this prize? Is this what they’ve told him to get him here? He doesn’t even know, does he? She felt like she was going to be sick. Years ago when the company told her that they were planning on using pharmaceutical methods to rehabilitate humans back to the outside, she had thought that she was saving the world. But which world? This one or his? They brought him here to be harvested, and tested on. To use his DNA as means to created medicine for the first world. And here he is hungry and cold, in fact dangerously so. She knew that she would need to contact the lab to take what they need quickly before he is rendered unsuitable. She felt her throat closing and her chest being pressed upon. She stared into those expecting eyes, what does she do?

 

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