Sykes sipped his coffee. Well, neither did anyone at the CDC. But something had happened, some interaction between their immune systems and something, most likely viral, that theyd been exposed to in the jungle. Something they ate? The water they drank? No one could figure it out. They couldnt even say exactly where theyd been. He leaned forward over his desk. Do you know what the thymus gland is?
Wolgast shook his head.
Sykes pointed at his chest, just above the breastbone. Little thing in here, between the sternum and the trachea, about the size of an acorn. In most people, its atrophied completely by puberty, and you could go your whole life not knowing you had one, unless it was diseased. Nobody really knows what it does, or at least they didnt, until they ran scans on these four patients. The thymus had somehow turned itself back on. More than back on: it had enlarged to three times its usual size. It looked like a malignancy but it wasnt. And their immune systems had gone into overdrive. A hugely accelerated rate of cellular regeneration. And there were other benefits. Remember these were cancer patients, all over fifty. It was like they were teenagers again. Smell, hearing, vision, skin tone, lung volume, physical strength and endurance, even sexual function. One of the men actually grew back a full head of hair.
A virus did this?
Sykes nodded. Like I said, this is the laymans version. But Ive got people downstairs who think thats exactly what happened. Some of them have degrees in subjects I cant even spell. They talk to me like Im a child, and theyre not wrong.
What happened to them? The four patients.
Sykes leaned back in his chair, his face darkening a little.
Excerpted from The Passage by Justin Cronin Copyright © 2010 by Justin Cronin. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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