In a small pocket of the world it has been in existence since the 1960’s. A disease so feral, it strikes eighty percent of all children under the age of fifteen. For decades it has pushed the boundaries into three countries. Those infected become mere shells, often in a ‘zombie’ like state followed by violent tantrums. There is no hope, no treatment and there is no cure.
Little is known about the sickness known as Nodding Disease. Information regarding it is often buried deep. But what would happen if the resilient disease mutates and breaks into heavily populated areas? With a infection rate of eighty percent, our future could all but be eliminated along with our young.
Nodding takes an emotional and fictional look at this very real disease.
In Nodding, the disease has mutated. Following an outbreak in the UK, a global pandemic ensues. The young victims are so violent, they are a danger to all those around them. The bacteria is resistant to any treatment and deadly to any adult exposed. Governments must make decision as time runs out for humanity, and worse, parents must face their most heart wrenching decisions.
TEN YEARS EARLIER – August 24th
Heathrow Airport – London: Patient Zero
Ren Turner was little enough to dart in and out of people standing at the gate to retrieve his ball. At six years old he was old enough to annoy people and his mother knew it. Shelly Turner was already at her wits’ end. She just wanted to get back to her home in Virginia. That, she knew, was a long way off.
Her husband had left with the other children, the older ones, three days earlier. Shelly stayed behind with Ren, who had a fever, sniffles, and a diagnosis of the common flu, which kept them in London longer. Ren felt better; he exhibited that as he raced around chasing his ball.
They called their flight number and the passengers boarded. Shelly called his name with a scold, “Ren, now.” He hurried to his mother’s side.
The man in front of her just smiled when Ren bumped into his legs.
“I am so sorry,” Shelly told him. “He is just wired.”
“That’s fine, I have two boy of my own,” he said. “All grown now. Although back in the day, a little dose of cold medicine did the trick on flights.”
Shelly winced. “I think that’s the problem. I gave him some. It did the opposite.”
The man smiled. “Ah, hyper first. He’ll crash on the plane.” He winked. “Bet me.”
“Let’s hope.” Shelly chuckled. “It’s a long flight.”
They boarded. Ren argued with his mother that he wanted to sit in the aisle seat. Shelly agreed reluctantly then realized it probably was the best thing. At least he would only bother the person by the window. Sitting three across would make for a long flight, but it was the first flight back to the States that they could get.
Ren remained restless until they allowed electronics to be used, and then he was consumed with his game.
Shelly made small talk with the woman next to her, telling her story of how the family had to return home at different times. It was the first time, Shelly informed the woman, that the entire family was able to go on a story with her husband. He was a journalist with a huge news organization. They hadn’t been home in months, but the children did get to see three continents and eight countries.
The conversation passed some time. It was when the woman next to her to said, “I think that cold medicine is finally kicking in,” that Shelly glanced at Ren.
His eyes fluttered and his head nodded.
She smiled. “You’re tired now, baby. Here …” She reached around him. “Let me put back your seat.”
Just as she reached to do so, Ren’s eyes popped open wide.
“Ren?” she questioned.
He hissed. Long and loudly. Ren hissed again, shot a glare to Shelly, and before she could register what was occurring, he jumped from his seat.
Fast, like a scurrying cat, he raced over the tops of the seats and the heads of the passengers and flung his body at the flight attendant who stood at the front of the aisle.
The weight of his small body with the raging momentum knocked the flight attendant off balance, and they both fell to the floor.
With an angry growl and rapid blurred movements, Ren’s hands whipped about. His hands clawed into the flight attendant repeatedly, shredding her skin, ripping her apart as if he were digging for a buried treasure all while his mouth bit, pulled, then spat her flesh.
She screamed in horror, blooding pouring from every wound.
Shelly had lunged forward when Ren first took off, but her attempts to grab him were futile, and lifting him from the flight attendant was impossible.
She cried out his name hysterically, pleading him to stop, calling for help.
It took four male passengers and an air marshal to seize Ren. However, the five of them couldn’t control him and they eventually had to restrain him.
Even restrained, Ren struggled and thrashed like a rabid animal and did so the entire return trip back to London.
He was out of control, didn’t respond to Shelly at all, nor to any attempts to calm him.
What had happened to her son? Shelly was at a loss and buried in a world of confusion and pain. There was nothing she could do but watch her child and sob from the bottom of her heart.