Chapter 18:

1.18. NTBM

The Writer's Illustrator is Stuck in Cookie Cult (LN)

The interior of the ELRT was a sleek minimalist design. There were only seats near the door for the disabled. The rest were standing pads to put our butts on. I suppose this design was to encourage citizens to stand instead of sitting.Bookmark here

“Play. Stop. Skip,” my aether said. The music mixer in front of hir shuffled. Xe bobbed hirs head up and down to the beat.Bookmark here

“Nate, the usual,” my mother called her AI to filter through a sea of information for the latest global news.Bookmark here

I took off my glasses and atune my ears to the surroundings.Bookmark here

I looked up at the handrail. Modern technological advancements and its wonders. It wasn’t shaking at all.Bookmark here

The ELRT itself is extremely fast but quiet. You don’t hear the swooshing of wind or the clanking sounds of friction. However, the quietness was limited to the number of people making noise in the coach. Bookmark here

With my glasses off, talking to air wasn’t limited to my parents and elter. Everyone was doing the same. Bookmark here

Some people were swiping fingers in the air. Others were laughing. There’s a person in a business suit talking to what I guess to be a hologram.Bookmark here

I wore back my glasses without initiating the AR since I couldn’t see nada without it.Bookmark here

I watched as the sun, which had already peaked far beyond the horizon through the window; The city skyscrapers coming into view. It didn’t have the hyper futuristic lighting as I would expect. Sure, there are a few structures that stood out with its strange design. Though, I find that ‘simplicity’ is more of a common theme.Bookmark here

That’s obvious. Sci-fi movies or any techy stuff are created to inspire, not as an actual blueprint to how the future should look like. Making artwork and designs ‘look’ complex, is a bias artists have. And the unrealistic designs inform public opinion, which creates a false perception.Bookmark here

“Avner, what are you doing?”Bookmark here

“Nothing particularly.”Bookmark here

“Is there something interesting about the train?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. People are talking to air.”
Lia looked around.Bookmark here

“That’s normal.. isn’t it? What’s interesting about that?”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“It's not. To me at least.”
“What’s odd about that?” Father joined in our conversation.Bookmark here

He shut off his document and leaned against the standing pads with his arms crossed.
“You’re right. Maybe we should experience the real world once in a while.”Bookmark here

“What’s the difference? Using our OptAR and not using OptAR. Isn’t it the same?” Lia asked.Bookmark here

“I’m just saying nonsense. Don’t mind me.”Bookmark here

True. The reality may be different for me than for them. I grew up in the smartphone era, they grew up in the OptAR era. So to them, using the glasses must be the same as taking a smartphone out on a train.Bookmark here

“Avner. Can you tell me if anything happened to cause your sudden change?”Bookmark here

“Will you believe me?”Bookmark here

“You got dumped?”
“That’s not the reason why..”Bookmark here

I was silent, father prodded me with his chin.Bookmark here

“I’m not Avner.”Bookmark here

“I’m not getting you. Can you explain it further?”Bookmark here

He narrowed his eyes.Bookmark here

“You can think of it as, I’m Avner, and someone else who entered his body.”
He went silent. I must have sounded like some retrograde anime character.Bookmark here

“I don’t intend to hide it, I know it sounds odd.”Bookmark here

“Is it the early symptom of NtBM..” he started muttering.Bookmark here

Lia distanced herself from me and snuggled closer to father.Bookmark here

“Don’t bite me.”Bookmark here

“I won’t.”Bookmark here

Things will be settled once our test results come out. Bookmark here

===Bookmark here

NtBM didn’t show symptoms in the first one month. It’s only during the second month does one feel mild changes happening in the body. Bookmark here

First they’ll begin to feel tired more often, activities that usually don’t require much effort become taxing and irritability increases.Bookmark here

Then they’ll become pale, skin surrounding the eyes will sink into the sockets.Bookmark here

Come to a certain stage, the person will suddenly feel the urge to drink blood or eat clay, pica. The logic behind is the decrease of blood in the body. If the person doesn’t get help, he, she or xe will lose all sense of themselves and bite someone.Bookmark here

Most of the time, the NtBM carriers who lose their sense of self bite the wrong places so they don’t ingest enough blood. Their consciousness might wane, sobering up to find that they had bit their family member or loved one. They’ll fall into a state of depravity again and eventually die.Bookmark here

Those that die are those that bite the places of the body that don’t have good blood supply, the shoulder, arms, legs. Those that survive are those that bite their prey’s neck, the jugular veins.Bookmark here

In any case, the person bitten would’ve become infected because the NtBM carrier’s saliva came into contact with the victim's blood directly. Not to mention, the NtBM closes up the wounds so it would look as if the victim wasn’t bitten.Bookmark here

Though said, the blood stain would be a big give away.Bookmark here

For the treatments, there were only two at the current time.Bookmark here

Blood transfusion.Bookmark here

Or certain death.Bookmark here

Blood isn’t something the hospital could just dish out. And this was what led to sky high death counts.Bookmark here

If only they knew ingesting blood on a regular basis is the key to resolving this issue. The NtBM carriers wouldn’t need to bite. They’d only need to ingest blood.Bookmark here

With all the chaos and fear, some people hadn’t realized this point. Bookmark here

“Should I tell the doctors?”Bookmark here

And so. I have this great idea to solve a national crisis.Bookmark here

“This is ridiculous. We should’ve come earlier,” my mom lamented.Bookmark here

We took our numbers and waited. 100 more before our turn.Bookmark here

“How early? It’s only been 30 minutes since the testing booth opened,” my aether said.Bookmark here

“We just have to wait.”Bookmark here

“Aether, I need to use the toilet.”Bookmark here

“Oh dear.”Bookmark here

“We’ll go together okay, Lia?”Bookmark here

My aether left with Lia. Our position in the que was still valid.Bookmark here

“Do you need to go to the washroom?” my father asked.Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

“I also don’t need to.”Bookmark here


A scream echoed in the hospital lobby.Bookmark here

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