Dambraka

📅 Published on June 14, 2021

“Dambraka”

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 13 minutes

Rating: 8.00/10. From 4 votes.
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If I could’ve said one thing to covid-19, had one opportunity to deliver a message that the virus could understand, it would’ve been: please don’t destroy my life. No posturing, no tough-guy stuff from me. Just a plea. Not that I think it would have worked. I feel like if a virus understood the damage it was wreaking, it would just laugh. But still, I would have tried.

I had a great life. I had a great job, a thriving social life. I had a pretty cool apartment in New York City, the absolute top of the world. Then suddenly my social life was gone, my job vanished, and that apartment was my prison. No one to see, nowhere to go, nothing to do but worry and fret. All thanks to coronavirus and its relentless, invisible spread.

The disease terrified me. Sure, I was young and relatively healthy, but that was no guarantee of survival. You could catch it from people who were showing no symptoms. In the early days, they weren’t sure whether it lingered on surfaces or not. You know how hard it is to not touch a surface that another person has touched in New York City? It’s impossible. Forget public transit, forget elevators, forget restaurants. I couldn’t even leave my apartment for fear of walking into a cloud of my neighbor’s exhaled droplets in the hallway.

It was everywhere before we even realized it had arrived. It was spreading like wildfire, and the official channels were estimating a three percent mortality rate. You know what a three percent mortality rate looks like in NYC? If the whole city gets it, I mean? And in the early days, it looked like we were all going to. Two hundred and fifty thousand dead. A quarter-million people. That’s what three percent of the city is. You can talk about 97% survival all you like; it’s impossible to believe that someone you know won’t be part of the quarter-million. Or that you won’t.

Obviously it never got that severe. But the reason it never did was the lockdown, and in a lot of ways, that was just as bad. All covid-19 could do was kill you. Well, unless you ended up with long covid, in which case it could cause permanent loss of lung function, brain fog, heart palpitations, constant fatigue and joint pain. Plus you might never taste anything again. So actually, maybe killing you was the least it could do.

Anyway, the lockdown. I moved to the city because it’s the center of everything. It’s vibrant, thrilling, lively. It’s alive in a way nowhere else I’ve ever lived has been. So the lockdown wasn’t just a matter of some doors closing. It drove the city into a coma, slowed its heart, stopped its limbs. All I could do was watch helplessly as the city fought for its survival, just as much a victim as the tens of thousands afflicted within it. For a year, I had nothing to do but huddle within this giant metaphor, hoping and praying that I would emerge with my mind, body and life intact.

Then came the vaccines! But not for me. I was young, and healthy according to their charts. Never mind that I’d gained twenty pounds during the pandemic. Never mind that I hadn’t seen the sky in so long that my skin was nearly translucent. No, I was qualified as “low-risk,” and so I remained trapped in my hovel as more and more of my neighbors regained their freedom. Every person at large in the city made it more dangerous for the unvaccinated like me.

I started to press towels up against the crack beneath my door to stop air from the hallway from drifting in. I bought HEPA filters and duct-taped them over the vents in my apartment. I began ordering takeout in family-sized quantities so that I only had to open the door once a week for food. I refreshed the vaccine sign-up sites constantly, clicking for hours at a time in hopes that a slot would open up.

In short, I was not doing well. In fact, I would go so far as to say I had become desperate. Which explains why, when I got this text, I did not immediately delete it:

Need a vaccine? Not eligible yet?
Sign up today and be vaccinated in a week!
Limited slots available.

I clicked the link, which led me to nothing but a white page asking for my name and email address. It was obvious that I was just signing up to be spammed, but against my better judgment I filled in the boxes and hit submit.

Moments later an email arrived:

Thanks for your interest in Dambraka, Ben!

You are number 71 on our list. Please confirm your email address to secure your spot.

We look forward to vaccinating you soon!

Another link, which I dutifully followed. This one thanked me for confirming my email and presented me with a barrage of questions about my health and medical history. I checked the boxes, filled in the blanks, and gave away far too many personal details about myself. The whole time, I told myself that it was a trick, a scam, that I was wasting my time—but I didn’t stop.

Just minutes after providing all of the requested information, I received a second email. This one provided me with an address for the vaccination site and an appointment date only three days away.

I re-read it several times in disbelief. It was really going to be that easy? There had to be a catch.

The fine print at the bottom started out with the expected warnings: show up with a mask. Don’t come if you’re feeling sick or if you’ve had any other vaccines within ninety days. Remain in the clinic for fifteen minutes afterward in case of an allergic reaction.

Then it moved into slightly sketchier territory.

The Dambraka vaccine is being made available to the general public under the authority of the FDA emergency use authorization. By receiving the vaccine, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless Dambraka for any and all side effects.

I didn’t love that. A couple of minutes of googling showed that similar warnings were coming with the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots as well, though. It looked like it was just more boilerplate that they were all doing, and at least I wouldn’t have to wait months for this one. I wasn’t sure how this company had managed to sidestep the restrictions on eligibility groups, but I also wasn’t inclined to ask too many questions. I needed this.

The morning of my appointment, I woke up with a weird tickle in my throat. I told myself it was nothing. I took my temperature to prove it, but the thermometer came back showing 99.3.

That still didn’t mean anything. That wasn’t even a degree over normal. Sure, my temperature tended to run a degree or so lower than the average, but still. It was probably just stress. My soap smelled normal. My breakfast tasted fine. I wasn’t skipping this appointment.

I put on long sleeves and gloves, masked up, took a deep breath, and stepped out of my apartment. The empty hall was fine, but I couldn’t bring myself to set foot in the elevator. So many people had touched it. And what if someone else got on while I was riding? I took the stairs instead.

The trip across town was nerve-wracking. Pressing through the subway turnstiles sent a shudder through my body. Touching the strap on the train even with my gloved hand felt like a biohazard. How had I done this daily for so long? How had I not caught every disease in the city?

The clinic had a nurse at the door with an infrared thermometer ready to check my temperature as I walked in. I tried to think cool thoughts as he scanned me. It must have worked, as he just glanced at the reading and motioned me inside. I let out a sigh of relief, tried to pass it off as a cough, realized that that wasn’t better, and then almost choked on my own spit trying to swallow the fake cough. The nurse gave me a quizzical look, but I waved and nodded to indicate that I was fine. He shrugged and turned away. I headed into the waiting room.

It was a small affair, only a dozen feet across. A few chairs were set around the edge, spaced out at something approximating six feet. I avoided them all and stood uncertainly near the entrance. There didn’t seem to be any sort of receptionist’s window, just a door on the far wall. I wondered if I was supposed to knock or if they already knew I was here.

In answer to my question, a man in scrubs and a lab coat opened the door.

“Ben Marshall?” he asked.

“That’s me.”

“Great, come on back. I’m Dr. Martin Herlihy. We’re glad to have you here today.”

He led me down a short hallway and into a lab no larger than the waiting room. It was divided into cubicles by a number of paper drapes hanging from the ceiling. Dr. Herlihy directed me into the nearest one, which contained two plastic chairs and a small metal cart.

“Have a seat,” suggested Dr. Herlihy, taking one of the chairs. I sat down in the other and began to awkwardly roll up my long-sleeved shirt as the doctor filled a syringe from a small vial.

“Okay, this’ll only take a minute,” he said, swabbing my skin with an alcohol wipe. I had to keep from flinching. It was the most contact I’d had with another person in a year.

He misinterpreted my reaction and gave me a small smile. “Don’t worry, we’re not even to the needle yet. It won’t be any worse than that, though, I promise you.”

With a practiced motion, he slid the small metal point into my arm and depressed the plunger. “See? Simple as can be. Now just wait in the lobby for fifteen minutes and you’ll be free to go.”

“Will there be other people in there?” I asked nervously, thinking of the cramped quarters.

“In two weeks, you won’t have to ask those questions anymore!” laughed Dr. Herlihy. “But no, there’ll be no one else there. We’ve staggered the appointments so that we only have one person in at a time. The last thing we need is someone catching the disease they came here to get safe from.”

That small cough tickled at the back of my throat again, trying to get out. I realized that I really ought to be more concerned about other people catching something from me right now than vice versa. If they’d gotten their timing right, though, there would be no risk in either direction.

The fifteen minutes passed slowly. I paced back and forth, my eyes on the clock over the door. I made a beeline for the door when the time was up, anxious to get home and seal myself away again. The nurse checked my card and wished me good luck, but I only gave him the barest grunt in return. I’d had more than enough social interaction for the day.

The idea of getting back onto the subway repulsed me. I started to flag down a taxi, but as it pulled to the curb, I saw the driver putting on his mask and realized that he’d been driving around without it on, filling the air in the tiny cabin with his germs. I shook my head and waved him away. He gave me the finger as he pulled back into traffic. I didn’t care what he thought of me. I just didn’t want his diseases.

When I got home, I stripped off the clothes I’d been out in and stuffed them into a garbage bag, then double-bagged it for safety. I took a hot shower and scrubbed myself down thoroughly. The rising steam made me cough. I could feel it deep in my chest. Had I gotten the vaccine too late? Where could I have picked the virus up from? Maybe the vaccine would take the virus out anyway.

I took my temperature after the shower. It was 101.3, but that might have just been from the hot water. I tried again an hour later, but it had only dropped to 100.9. I felt feverish, achy. I told myself it was side effects from the vaccine. I hoped I was right.

As the day went on, I felt worse and worse. My fever spiked. My arm throbbed where I’d gotten the shot. I was wracked with strange cramps. I wanted to see if my symptoms were normal, but my phone was charging across the room and I was too tired to get up off of the couch to go get it.

Eventually I fell asleep on the couch, only to awaken sometime in the early evening with a pressing, immediate need to vomit. I tumbled off the couch, landing heavily on my knees and lurching to my feet. I staggered down the hallway, praying I’d make it to the bathroom in time. I flipped open the lid of the toilet and fell in front of it, hands gripping the rim. Saliva flooded my mouth and my stomach lurched like the entire organ was trying to fling itself to safety.

Next thing I knew, I woke up curled up naked on the bathroom floor. I checked my head for a lump, assuming I must have hit it on the toilet, but there was nothing. In fact, I felt fine all over. I was covered in a cold, gelatinous sweat, but my body no longer ached and my fever was gone. Even the tickle in my throat was absent. Whatever this Dambraka vaccine was, it worked fast.

I was starving, though. Possibly literally. My stomach felt like it had never contained food before. I wiped myself down with a towel, getting the worst of that cold sweat off of me, and made my way down the hallway to the kitchen, using the wall for support. My legs were weak and shaky, and my arms felt rubbery.

I sat down cross-legged in front of the refrigerator and began to eat. I still had two or three days’ worth of leftovers from the last time I’d ordered takeout, but it disappeared within minutes. I shoveled it into my face without so much as a utensil.

When the food was gone, I licked the container and sat back with a sigh. It was an amazing improvement. With my hunger sated, my mind was free to turn to other, less pressing thoughts like: why was I naked?

I puzzled over this as I rinsed off at the sink. I’d gotten dressed again after my shower. I’d still been wearing those clothes when I’d fallen asleep on the couch, so I’d definitely had them on when I ran to the bathroom to throw up. I must have taken them off at some point, but they weren’t in the bathroom. Had I gone to bed, then felt sick again and returned to the bathroom? I didn’t remember doing that, but obviously something had happened.

I headed for the bedroom, figuring that maybe if I found where I’d put my clothes I’d remember how they’d gotten there. I flipped on the light and stopped stock-still in shock. My clothes were in the bed. And wearing them—was me.

I looked terrible. I was pale and sweaty, and judging by how I was tangled up in the sheets I’d been thrashing around in my sleep. But it was definitely me. I’d recognize myself anywhere.

The me in the bed opened his eyes, saw me standing in the doorway, and groaned.

“Aaaaaaggh. Hallucinations, now?” He threw a pillow at me. I caught it reflexively.

“What is this?” I asked, still trying to process what I was seeing.

“You’re a fever dream and I feel terrible,” he mumbled, turning over. “Turn out the light.”

“I don’t feel terrible,” I told him, “but I’m still seeing you. Did I hit my head when I threw up after all?”

“Which time?”

“What do you mean, which time? When I threw up earlier.”

“Yeah, but in the bathroom, out the window, or in the trash can?” He coughed, a deep, hollow sound. I recoiled and grabbed a mask off of the dresser, slapping it over my face.

My duplicate laughed weakly. “You look ridiculous naked with a mask on.”

“Well, you look sick, and I’m not catching whatever you’ve got.”

“It’s vaccine side effects.”

“We both know I could feel that cough before going to get the vaccine this morning. Anyway, what do you mean ‘out the window’ and ‘in the trash can’? I only threw up once, in the bathroom. Then I blacked out.”

He groaned again. “I wish that were how it happened. That was like eight hours ago. Every time I throw up it’s like I’m squeezing an entire garbage bag out of my throat. That first one clogged the toilet; just one more thing I’m going to have to fix in the morning. I went for the window on the second one, but someone yelled at me and I didn’t want them to figure out where I was, so I grabbed the trash can for the third. I swear I’m empty at this point, but I still feel nauseated.” He coughed again, his whole body curling up as he did.

I moved slowly across the room, peering past my double to the floor beyond. Sitting next to the bed was the plastic trash can I kept in my bedroom, one of the little two-gallon ones. It was tipped on its side, and filling the bin and spilling out across the floor was a dark-grey, pulsating sac. It was easily two feet long and featureless like a slug. The grey material was shot through with spidery black veins, and as I watched, I could see it bulge as something shifted and pushed on it from within.

It didn’t look like it was going anywhere, so I risked taking my eyes off of it and went back to the kitchen for a knife. When I returned, it was already slightly larger than it had been. I pierced the sac with the knife. A thick, gelatinous goo oozed out. I recognized the texture from the cold sweat I’d woken up in.

I peeled back the edges of the grey film to reveal the shape inside. Curled up and as-yet-unformed though it was, it was obviously human, or going to be. It didn’t look like a baby, though. It looked like a tiny adult. And the hair growing in was exactly the same red as mine.

As I watched, its skin began to turn brittle and crack. Deprived of the protective material of the sac during its growth process, it was falling apart before my eyes. I stared with a mixture of horror and pity as it crumbled and died, deliquescing into an ichorous puddle on the floor. It never opened its eyes. It was not far enough along for that.

I turned my gaze to the version of myself in the bed. He had gone back to sleep, apparently still convinced that I was a fever dream. I looked at his sweaty, limp, disease-ridden body, and I knew I had to protect myself from him. Right now, I was clean, healthy. The longer we breathed the same air, though, the less likely that was to be the case.

I took the pillow he’d thrown at me earlier. I eased myself onto the bed, straddling his unconscious form. Positioning my weight fully above his head, I placed the pillow over his face and pressed down with all my strength.

He woke up partway through. I’d hoped he’d stay asleep, that this would be as simple as with the half-formed one, but no such luck. He grunted and flailed, but his movements were weak and my grip was good. The pillow protected me from his last frenzied breaths. I kept it in place for several minutes afterward to make sure both that he was dead and that no last viruses could escape into the air.

Afterward, I opened the window to air out the apartment. Looking out into the alley, I remembered he had said he’d thrown up a third time, outside. It was a long drop down. I tried to tell myself that it couldn’t possibly have survived the fall. I knew, though, that I was going to have to go down and check.

I had gotten dressed and was just about to go outside when I heard the front doorknob rattle.

“Great,” I heard my voice say from the other side of the door. “I’m going to have to go get the super like this.”

The knife I’d used to slit the sac open was still in reach. I grabbed it and hid it behind my back as I opened the door. On the other side, blinking at me in surprise, was another naked copy of myself. He still glistened with the birth slime, and he had wrapped several sheets of newspaper around his waist to hide his nudity.

“Come in, quick!” I told him. “I’ll explain everything.”

As soon as he stepped past me, I slashed the knife across his throat, slamming the door shut as I did so. He collapsed to his knees, gurgling. Blood fountained, spraying the clothes I’d just put on. Confusion and fear rolled across his face. He clutched his neck, trying to hold the blood inside, but it was a futile effort.

“I had to,” I told him. “You didn’t even have a mask on outside. You were rooting around in the trash. You could be carrying anything. I couldn’t have you breathing in here.”

I used the towel I’d had blocking the front door to sop up the mess. I dragged the bodies into the bathroom while I figured out what to do about them. I’ll probably have to cut them up to get them out of here.

It’s fine. I’ve got two more weeks of isolation. It’ll make a good final quarantine project. Symbolically, it feels right. I’m getting rid of the old me to make room for the new. A lot of folks are going to be doing that in the coming days.

Most of them just won’t need quite so many dumpsters to manage it.

Rating: 8.00/10. From 4 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Micah Edwards


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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