From the Medical Journals of Dr. Lester Smith

“My years of studying the medical sciences have allowed me to see incredible things. I have seen plagues and ailments of all varieties, expected in my area of expertise. But I discovered something horrible… and wonderful.”
— Dr. Smith, Personal journal entry

Oct. 12, 1871 — The smell of burnt timber and rotten meat still wafts through the ad-hoc clinic outside Chicago. Yesterday’s rain thankfully put an end to the raging fires, but now the real work begins.

All my years of hard study in pursuit of medicine had not prepared me for the sheer amount of morbidity and uncertainty such a calamity would create.

Even with the flames mostly extinguished, I fear closing my eyes for what horrors I may see in the mirror. And so, I turn my mind toward the work.

Always toward the work.

Oct. 13, 1871 — On this day’s influx of patients, I was tending to one young lady who, while not showing any signs of burning or scarring, was screaming in pain and required several doses of sedative.

She exhibited strange physicality — larger than normal incisor teeth; a webwork of varicose veins; sunken eyes and a pallid complexion.

We admitted her, but after a time, she began obsessively muttering about her hunger. This distress grew over time and soon, she was hollering to be fed. We tried to offer her some rations, but she spit them out, swearing the food was poisoned. Nothing seemed to calm her, so he needed to be restrained.

I offered assurance that she would get the help she needed. I had to leave her be, but will be sure to keep a watchful eye on her to see if her obvious mental distress subsides.

We are all very tired.

Oct 14, 1871 — During my morning rounds I decided to check on the female patient from yesterday. But, to my surprise, I found her bed vacant!

I asked the nurse if they had seen her, but curiously, they recalled no patient in the bed to begin with!

What was most peculiar was how several other patients had started to look worse than when we had found them.

Some had their skin as pale as alabaster, with cascading branches of red veins — like the woman’s! Some of the patients began to present strange excretions: a viscous and adhesive fluid on their skin. A hard plating scale that looked like shingles at first. One of them grew a second thumb.

We catalogued each of these, and I proposed that we begin to take samples for our records. Some of the other doctors balked, worried that this strange infection might be the onset of a pandemic. But I waved off their concerns. Nothing — except for these physical abnormalities — suggested anything contagious.

Oct 17, 1871 — I have returned to the clinic to check in on the patients, but have learned that some “colleagues” are attempting to block my research.

Some of the patients have been transferred. Others, discharged! All without my consent as their doctor!

I am frustrated, but unsurprised. I have always been looked down on both figuratively and literally thanks to my smaller stature — the effect of my achondroplasia — but this feels like sabotage.

Fortunately, Lady Luck would provide. A new patient was admitted, although this one was different from the victims of the fire. He reported feelings of insatiable hunger and acidic welts growing on his skin

The similarities to my original patient could not be ignored. Such anomalies must be properly studied. I have transferred the man to my private office where I ordered skin and tissue samples as well as a full physical examination. With these steps, I will be able to do what others choose to ignore.

Oct 24, 1871 — The patient is a caucasian male, 25; 5'8", 165 lbs. Here at my private practice, he has undergone the most amazing transformation.

In the early days of his treatment, he complained of abdominal pain yet stomach treatments seemed to have no effect. I tried to feed him, but he ended up vomiting multiple times.

I remembered a paper I had recently read of a Dr. Thomas Latta, who postulated that intravenous injection to a superficial vein might be useful for the transfer of nutrients during epidemics. I quickly fashioned a makeshift tube and needle, where I injected the patient with goat milk. The effect was non-performative, and the patient experienced only mild discomfort.

However, I reapplied this injection using salt water and the patient screamed uncontrollably. The sounds of his howls will haunt me until my dying day.

The man struggled against his restraints to attack me, but thankfully was unable to escape. I was able to administer a sedative and he slept.

While he slept, I received his test results to find that the man’s blood panel was full of inconsistencies. White blood cells seemed to be attacking his red blood cells. I theorized that perhaps a blood transfusion was possible. It was bold. It was a new treatment, the first full blood transfusion had been performed in 1840 in London. It would be dangerous and I certainly was no Samuel Lane.

Still… I had to try.

With no other subjects to draw samples from, I chose myself as the donor.

Oct 28, 1871 — Words cannot describe how I feel today. Normally my condition taxes me when performing physical labor, such as moving patients or running experiments at my desk.

No longer!

I feel spry. Young. Active and capable. My thoughts are clear.

Whatever condition the young man was suffering from has subsided. He has growth flush and full.

He continues to ask when he will be released.

I told him what I have told my contemporaries at the hospital who ask about my return: I have not completed my experiments yet.

In due time…

Oct 31, 1871 — Sadly, the patient expired today. It seems the transfusion process was too much for him. As I drained his blood, he grew weaker and weaker until…

A shame.

On a personal note, I feel fantastic now. Strong. My mind races with theorems and connections that I never made before. It seems that these bursts of inspiration come mostly at night during the sleeping hours. As such, I have started taking to resting during the day.

I have noticed, quite ironically, that I, too, have taken on some of the appearance of both my previous patients — the woman and my mysterious benefactor. Varicose veins have begun to criss-cross my arms and hands. The strange physical deformities I originally noticed in both patients — the elongated incisor teeth; the dark circles under my eyes; longer fingernails — each new mutation seems to appear day-after-day.

I remain unworried, even if the contagion I once dismissed has proven to be true. Everyone should feel this good. Imagine a world where all mankind could benefit from this research! And to think… I have this stranger to thank for this breakthrough.

Charles Darwin could only dream of what I have discovered! With this, the evolution of humanity is just past the horizon.

I just need more subjects to fully explore this transformative virus. This blessed boon, gifted to us by science.

I will need more subjects.

Fortunately, my credentials should get me into any medical facility in the area. With the confusion of the great fire, no one will miss a few patients.

Surely, there are more of us to be found… Surely…

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Blood Vessels

Blood Vessels

An NFT open world narrative game with ttrpg elements, played via Discord. Powered by Kongregate.