I had never been inside the Nursing home when it was operational and I wasn't looking forward to my visit now. The smell of death was less than I would have expected considering the number of patients that must have been there, but they were of no concern to me in any case. I was looking for some evidence of when the subject of my exam had actually expired, and I was hoping that perhaps there would be some indication inside the complex. In such places the front desk is usually located with a view of the patient residence hallways, and assuming that the walker had been a nurse here and had expired at the facility it seemed my best bet.
I seldom count on luck, and wasn't going to start now, trying to shuffle papers in the dark of this huge mass grave as the old building creaked about me. I was hoping for something obvious, and finally the fates that control this perverse universe smiled on me a little. At the empty front desk there was a large white board hung on the wall. Doubtless it was one of those places where the nurses and aides would post duty assignments and patient census when they came on for their shift. I imagine it had once been scrawled with different colors, with lists and room numbers, and marker drawings of smiley faces, and flowers and other childlike pictographs. Every medical unit has one, and I had looked at one just like it five days a week for years. On it was a list of room numbers in black with a date. I could see there had been two lists, and that the second one had been in red and was now wiped clean. The hand that had written the numbers had grown less steady towards the bottom, and the numbers was smeared. Across the bottom of the board was written a final sentence with a date and time.
"All dead. Now I can sleep" S Ruffin. The date was sixteen days ago.
It didn't take a genius to see what had happened. The Campion's virus had burned through the facility, and the staff had fled. The old debilitated patients that lived there had been wiped out within forty eight hours and only the single nurse had remained long enough to see the last one die. It occurred to me that the place should be crawling with old mummy like walkers, but a quick look in the first patient room gave me my answer. both the decomposed residents had been dispatched with a single business like blow to the skull. My guess was immediately post mortum. I pictured the nurse going from room to room with a hammer in her gloved hand, insuring that her dead patients would remain so. Only she had succumbed to Campion's "untreated". Remaining to haunt the place as a walker.
I quickly located and looted the facility pharmacy. Putting anything that looked sealed in a large garbage bag for later decontamination. I would hide it in the woods, as I wasn't going to try and make it back to my vehicle with my hands encumbered with anything but my spike. I looked around carefully outside and seeing no movement returned to the butchered carcass of the walker and wrapped it carefully in the plastic drop cloth. I am not one for sentiment, the weepy dramatic "Beau Geste" that gets you killed by looking the wrong way, when you should be paying attention. The time and effort it took to drag "Suzy" inside the facility would ordinarily have seemed an unnecessary risk and a waste of energy. This time for some reason I was unable to pass it up. I knew the fire would attract the attention of any active walkers, but I had seen nothing move during my time in the area.
I remained only long enough to insure that the building was burning well. It was at least a quarter mile to any other structure and the rains had been good lately, so it probably wouldn't spread. Not that I gave a damn. Burning Gosport might be a fit tribute to the one nurse that had remained with her patients to the bitter end.
"There you go, Suzy" I muttered as I headed back into the woodline. "A viking funeral".
I was returning home with a much better, if not happier, idea of what we were facing. Suzy had been active sixteen days after what must have been her death, and I now had an idea about the actions of the virus, and how it kept the walkers viable for as long as it did. The extent of her dehydration after death, considering the amount of time, was bad news, but the walkers were organic and they were finite. The virus could only use the cells in the body at time of death, and the moisture it contained, and that would run out. The walkers had a shelf life. That left me with a lot to consider as I began the trip home.