Dogs of the Zone and Other Fascinating Phenomena

Sep 7th, 2017
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  4. ~~ The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense
  6. Exerpts From Journal of Junior Researcher Danylo Gulko, From Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, 2013 CE
  8. ...another emmission this week, that's one for each day so far. We're packed into the mobile base like a bunch of panicking idiot sardines waiting for the zombies to pry it open and tear us apart. We've sent out the standard distress call, but I doubt anyone but the military is dumb enough to take this job. Even if the jarheads do show up, they're going to shake us down for every ruble we've got. Maybe a fair trade, as most of Ukraine's bravest sons will be dead and buried by the time the last zombie in Yantar stops moaning.
  10. A miracle! A mixed group of mercs and loners answered the call, and are doing a damn fine job of cleaning up the base and making a perimeter. Casualties are high, but we've been managing to treat survivors and get them back in to the fight. An aspiring molecular biologist should not get to see and seal so many gunshot wounds, but such is life in the zone. Mom always told me I'd have made a better medical doctor than a philosophical one. Of course I was squeamish back then, I'm not now. Scraping ruined eyeball out of a perforated socket is pretty tame by the harsh standards of the zone.
  12. Sakharov gave us the all clear. As expected it is a hellish mess outside, bullet riddled corpses stacked on top of each other as makeshift sandbags, the wounded leaned up against the scored concrete sides of the base wheezing their final prayers to a cruel god that is at best determined to ignore them, or just face down in the mud slowly drowning in the rain. It comes close to my first and only field expedition, but I don't think anything could really put the fear in me now, not after seeing what lies waiting less than a meter beneath our feet, and what it will do to an unarmored and unassuming undergrad.
  14. Only 3 of our saviours are left standing, if you can call their laboured stumbling standing. We payed them handsomly, if only because we could pay them what we would have owed their late comrades. One is inclined to seek further medical aid from us, an "Ivan The Tourist". His accent gives away his more international origins, probably an Isaac, or a Felix, but definitely not an Ivan. The massive holes in Ivan's tattered gas mask reveal a bloody maze of new lacerations and old scars, accompanied by jagged and gap filled yellow smile that tells you "I just mainlined some great fucking heroin a few minutes ago".
  16. Apparently "Ivan" can dress his own wounds pretty well, and is just trying to score some morphine off of us. A shame that we used up all our good shit shutting up all the stiffs lined up under sheets outside, I mean that too, this Ivan character deserves no less than some very good drugs after all that he has done for us. Perhaps the bigger shame, is that recreational opioid abuse is not going fix most of Ivan's problems. Aside from being a bloody ruin held together by bandges, crude stitching, and splints, Ivan is genuinely ill. Running an inconsistent 39.5 degree fever, and showing signs of gangrene in the messy wounds on his calves, Ivan does not seem to be long for this world. Sepsis already seems to be setting in, and Ivan's kidneys will probably have shut down before tommorow morning.
  18. Sakharov has authorized an intervention using artifacts. As Ivan is pretty much already dead, using his body for medical experiments is only somewhat unethical. Dosing ourselves up with radioprotectant for handling the deadly little stones, we got to work. The as of yet inexplicable fields and energies emmited by our small collection of medically useful artifacts went to work for us, staunching bleeding and encouraging the rapid regeneration of tissues, while we did our damndest to cut away rotten flesh with only the dullest scalpels the soviet medical industry could hope to produce. Almost needless to say, Ivan was not comfortable during this procedure, and the only substitute for anasthetic available to us was a strip of cracked leather cut from a dead man's rifle strap. Unfortunately, that didn't last long, as Ivan managed to break the last few of his brittle ulcerated teeth clenching his jaw as though the pain in his mouth could distract from the pain of unanesthatized surgery. The last half hour of the treatment was spent with Ivan intermittently screaming into a musty old pillow while we worked as quickly as we could with our lacking tools and psuedomagical artifacts to mend flesh wounds, set bones, and remove the wealth of infected tissue.
  20. It appears obvious to me now, while I'm sorting good bits of silver and gold out of the extracted shards of Ivan's teeth, that Ivan had been unwell for quite some time, and had probably shown up to fight the zombie infestation in Yantar as some kind of ritual suicide. All to often the destitute, used up veteran stalkers seem to end their lives charging into lopsided gunfights, deadly anomaly fields, or just finding somewhere quiet and private to curl up and end their lives through their preferred poison, which is typically lead. They can't seem to imagine what life could be like outside of the zone anymore, even if they had only been here a few months, most stalkers are more willing to fight through the irradiated sewers of Pripyat just to die a little closer to that damned power plant, rather than attempt an escape through the *relatively* quiet tunnels dug under the border of the exclusion zone.
  22. There is no way I'm spending another 3 months here. No amount of "free" masters degrees is worth becoming like Ivan, a burned up, toothless old man, no older than 23, who can't seem to get it through his thick skull that someone as determined and resourceful as him could find far more lucrative employment up in the far north of his likely native Scandanavia, working only six months out of the year and coasting the rest of the way on the wings of an effective wellfare state.
  24. An emmission happened today, mutants and zombies were taken care of by the more capable elements of the science team with help from a new squad of mercenaries. I, along with Dr. Soskin have been assigned to monitor Ivan's condition after the experimental medical treatment. Ivan does not appear to be content to fed and watered and is anxious to get suited back up in the shredded left overs of his armored suit. I'll admit, being locked up in the miserably lit and now grimy infirmary is making me stir crazy too, but at least when I get out of here, I'm not going to sprint into the closest gravity anomaly screaming the lyrics of "Nearer My God To Thee" as I'm torn limb from limb by the zone's most savage tricks.
  26. Dr. Soskin was rotated out today. I could have gone with him, even the high pitched roar of an Mi 6 heavy lift helicopters turbine engines seem lovely now, but Ivan has not been cleared for release by Sakharov, something is deeply wrong. The fever has only gotten worse, topping out at 41.1 degrees, and signs of severe internal bleeding in Ivan's stool and urine samples coupled with complaints of intense joint pain indicate a massive autoimmune response. Possibly a side effect of the unnatural regeneration brought on by the artifacts. The old body doing it's damndest to kill the new. So I can't leave, not until the stocky Scandanavian breathes his last, and we have the data we need to improve future attempts at healing with artifacts. I guess I'll be getting my master's degree "for free" after all.
  28. A former loner going by the name of Georgiy Fishman has been put under my command, he claims he has experience with medicine, radiology specifically, and that seems to be good enough for Sakharov. He replaces me as the nurse and I replace Dr. Soskin as the head researcher. This also gives me the unique privelidge of being able to go outside, and "collect my thoughts" as Sakharov puts it.
  30. Georgiy is able to make good banter with Ivan, which gives me some comfort as I pace around the mobile base, staring up into the cloudy sky through my deeply scratched lead plated visor. Odd happenings are occuring in Ivan's body, my hypothesis that the unregenerated tissues were attacking the newly generated tissues was very incorrect. It seems that the new tissues are overtaking the old with a terrifying vigor. It probably won't be long before Ivan's body begins to seperate from itself, and put him right back where he was when he first came to us.
  32. I finally found out what a radiologist was doing in the zone, Georgiy is apparently very gay, which in Russia is very illegal. I should have seen it in the way he approached Ivan, but I just assumed that no woman or man would chase after someone who looks like he spent a morning tanning in a burner anomally and the afternoon in the loving embrace of a combine harvester. I spoke to Ivan about it in one of his brief moments of painful lucidity, he explained to me that the law can't catch you for sodomy in the zone, and that a stalker must make due in the absence of women. Oh well, faggots will be faggots, and no one can tell them how to live here.
  34. Georgiy got our X-ray machine working again, rigging one of our less radioactive artifacts into the emmitter, it can only give us an oversaturated low resolution picture, but it's a picture none the less. Sakharov is rightly embarrassed to admit that he didn't think of that himself. Most of our scans indicate nothing that we didn't already know, dozens of bullets and bits of miscellaneous shrapnel, bones warped from repetetive breaks and rapid healing. Calcification in the kidneys and cirrhosis of the liver. Something metalic or mineral sitting in the stomach. Most interesting is the area of the jaws. Several hairline fractures are likely causing Ivan a considerable amount of pain just from gumming his food, and more alarmingly, what appear to be unemerged teeth.
  36. Molecular biology is like virology right? To whoever else reads this, don't answer that, I already know the answer. We've isolated dozens of bacterium, viruses, some parasites, and even a bioluminescent mold from samples taken from Ivan, but all of them are critters we've encountered before. Except one. A virus, the particles are immense, almost as large as some of the bacteria, it doesn't seem to attack anything other than mammalian tissue samples. Most disturbingly, in our human cancer sample, the infected cells do not immediately die, rather they continue to reproduce, but the new cells are far from human, or cancer. As the new tissues attempted to differentiate, they then died. I will pass the findings on to Georgiy, who might be able to prescribe antivirals if we have any in stock.
  38. Antivirals are a bust, both in experimental human cancer samples, and in Ivan. Hazarding I guess, I'd say our long expired soviet stock is innefective against retroviruses, or has just plain gone bad. In other news, Ivan is bleeding profusely from the mouth, apparently his new teeth are errupting. I'm no dentist, but these teeth don't look like they belong in a human mouth.
  40. A second battery of X-Rays was ordered, and the results are unnerving. What I had casually assumed to be poorly healed bones were actually a symptom of something much stranger. Ivan's skeleton appears to be falling into an inhuman shape, most apparent in the tibia and fibula in the shin, which seem to be drawing up to the knee, while metatarsals are lengthening and bolstering replace the receding bones. On the surface of Ivan's calves, darkened skin which initially seemed to be necrotized is actually quite alive, and healthy, however surrounded by bleeding sores it may be. Without our precious morphine, pain has become Ivan's reality. Mercifully for us, he mostly lays on the gurney catatonic. If he could smile, it would give me nightmares, the gleaming white fangs which now crowd Ivan's mouth only get longer every hour.
  42. Georgiy has requested to be removed from my team, though I approved it, Sakharov has denied any such movement. Our staff is stretched thin across just a tenth of the zone, and there would be no one to replace him in the immediate area. I've concluded that Ivan is metamorphosing, into what I can not say yet. He legs are a mangle of bloody dead skin, strange angles, and the start of a coat of brown patchy fur. His feet would not fit into his boots anymore, not that it matters, as I doubt Ivan will be able to stand again. The extremities of Ivan's legs have become narrow, yet swollen around the toes, likely the start of animal paws. It's hard to believe, certainly nothing like this has been reported in the zone before.
  44. A phyiscal examination of Ivan's whole body provided us an opportunity to change the sheets. It seems an ugly brown stain permeates everything Ivan, and perhaps the whole zone touches. Even after sterilizing, the bed under the sheets looks older, and filthier than before. As for Ivan's body, the darkened skin covers most of his warped legs now, is beggining to move out from his crotch, and radiates from around his mouth. The new teeth, or fangs now, more than fill Ivan's mouth, leaving his now black lips stretched into an immovable snarling grin. His jaws have shifted to accomodate the arrangement, and Ivan has a bizarre looking start of a muzzle now. Though it's hard to tell now, it appears that the tail bone has become seperated from the pelvis, shifting Ivan's posture further downward, his legs, or maybe even hindlegs jut from his torso at a 90 degree angle, leaving no articulation required for bipedal stance. Blood crusted fur makes up much of the surface of his body now, leaving only the upper torse, upper arms, and face uncovered. Well, that's not entirely true, at least Ivan is no longer bald from radiation poisoning.
  46. Another emission, another good nights sleep ruined by the most loud and obnoxious event the zone can create. Georgiy got caught out, but he had his anabiotics on him, so he's... "okay". He's puking up everything he ever ate and then some in the swamp near by. He's getting transferred to the Jupiter mission tommorow, whether Sakharov likes it or not, leaving just me and Ivan in the infirmary. My eyes have long since adjusted to the most poorly lit room in the mobile base, and I really should head outside to correct that. Ivan is not a pretty sight, the pained mewling vocalizations he used to muster has given way an almost inaudible low growling. His face has evened out now, a fearsome maw overstuffed with needle sharp teeth being the defining feature. His nose and ears were shed during the emmission last night. Where bloody holes should be are still filled with useful cartiledge and coverrd pale grey skin that darkens with the passing of the morning. Ivans arms are stiff, and largely useless as arms by now, though foreleg is not a great description yet, as the hands aren't quite there yet. The fingernails have fallen out, and bloody claws are pushing their way into their place, but the thumb hasn't quite degenerated yet, and the fingers still posess some dexterity. Judging by the structure of the skull, and the hunch developing around the shoulders, I'm confident in saying that Ivan isn't far off from being a regular psuedodog.
  48. Sakharov's worries proved unfounded, Ivan is still cooperative, and responsive to requests in both ukrainian and some russian. However he does not seem capable of reading, I'm unsure if this is caused by a degeneration of eyesight or something lost during the reduction in cranial capacity. Though the shoulders have fallen into place, movement on all fours is still awkward and uncomfortable, I'll attribute that to the incomplete transformation of hands to paws.
  52. Georgiy was shot through the head today.
  56. Georgiy died before he could make it through the airlock, I found him, still standing, slumped up against the inner door. Apparently he managed to walk 200 meters from an ambush with his brains oozing out of an exit wound ecompassing his left eye and nose. Witnesses say it wasn't zombies, though they weren't sure where the shot came from, just sure that it didn't come from the Yantar industrial complex, another random act of violence to punctuate the otherwise terribly boring life of an ecologist in the zone. The sound of his environment suit's breathing system trying to cycle his blood will haunt me. It's not smart to get to know anybody particularly well in the zone, and I certainly hadn't made that mistake with Georgiy, but it still brings me back to the confusing, horrible first few weeks I spent in this relatively tiny hell on Earth, when I knew people very well. I tried to chase away names and places with vodka, and good drugs, but I still remember the dim, grungy corridors of Laboratory X-18, and fellow Junior Researcher Kyrylo Lazarenko. The area had already been swept clean by organized loners, leaving room for us soft eggheads to move in to the underground lab. We weren't after the top secret documents, which we already had, just samples from whatever the hell was floating in those tubes down in the deepest depths of the lab. Our group didn't make it that far in before encountering trouble. Our point man got jumped by something, we shot it off him, but the damage was done. The pathetic wheezing of the leaking environment suit and the rich red arterial spray coming from the inner thigh told us that our Senior researcher's expedition was over. As requested, we tourniqueted the wound, and he made a run for the surface. I never saw him again. Just me and Lazarenko, our lives in each other's hands, plumbing the depths of a well known shithole in the zone. We didn't make it as far as the inner labs. We took a wrong turn and found ourselves in a small underground warehouse. Something roared and we ran for the exit. I was faster. Lazarenko's upper half was unceremoniously punted into a bulkhead in the corridor where I was catching my breath, his visor had been smashed in, piercing his screaming face with dozens of shards of lead plated tempered glass. It was oddly quiet in that moment, Lazarenko's suit having given up on maintaining a stable environment, and his breached diaphram prevented him from screaming, or breathing. The rest of that evening and night is a blur, all I know for sure is that I arrived back at the mobile base in Yantar having ditched every piece of gear I had save for my suit, my sidearm, and the magazine in my sidearm. I promised that I would accept a lower paygrade, and perform the duties of security and in-base anomalous research, like everybody else who knew better than to go out.
  58. Ivan is learning how to walk again, it seems he hasn't picked up any pseudocanine instinct. He definitely can't read anymore, it's not an issue of sight, but signs of something that should trouble Ivan a lot more than apparently it does. In just a couple weeks he has gotten used to a life of just a few dimly lit corridors, bland military rations, and being unable to stand on two legs. Ivan's eyes get to me, well, everything gets to me now. But the way those milky white orbs catch light makes them seem to glow with malevolence, no one would see a drop of humanity or empathy in them. At least, Ivan still came across mentally competent, for the most part. Perhaps he understood how I was feeling, maybe he could smell my fear through my sealed environment suit, whatever the case, Ivan tries to comfort me when I rest now. Not that having a terrifying gargoyle wolf wrapped around my leg is comforting, but it's the thought that counts.
  60. As I lay in the cluttered entry corridor with Ivan curled at my feet, I wonder why everything drags me back to that terrifying night. Why I feel so alone even among all my peers at the campfire. Why I, one of the most senior ecologists posted in Yantar am jumping at shadows, and running to get into the base at night. Why I, a sane man want to run out into the zone.
  62. I quit, I turned in my issued gear, and took my last paycheck from Sakharov. He let me keep my firearms, and of course questioned my logic. I couldn't explain it to myself, but I tried with Sakharov anyways. He said I was mad, and I agreed. Sakharov agreed to let Ivan come with me, aside from having an unusally lustrous and complete coat, he was a typical and healthy pseudodog. I'd have stopped Ivan from coming with me, but Sakharov has tired of the novelty of a stalker turned dog, and perhaps Ivan belongs to the zone now. Certainly it is one of the more blunt explanations of dominance the zone has given to a stalker.
  64. Ivan is walking better now, he can outpace me if he wants to, but usually hangs behind me. I draped a scrap of an old military tent over his back and stuck a loner's patch on it, hopefully that will stop other loners from shooting him again. I don't know what I'm looking for out here, Ivan seems to know everything better than I do, if only he could communicate it more effectively.
  66. I think I understand why I'm here now, why I became another shitty loner. There is some place I need to go, not the stupid fucking wish granter, something more important to me, and real. The guys at Rostok don't really understand why I left behind two square meals a day and a consistent paycheck, or allow a pseudodog follow me everywhere, and even sleep with me. They just think Ivan is a very good dog, maybe raised from a puppy. Well, Ivan is a very good dog, he understands the importance of taking cover when we are ambushed by bandits, he can see anomalies when I do not, he can even fetch artifacts from the anomalies. Feeding him isn't very hard either, he seems to have a very different sense of taste now, fleshes are an obvious favorite, followed closely by bandits and other dogs.
  68. I know where I need to go now, which sewer I have to die in. Ivan and I are going back to Lab X-18, I'm going to kill whatever the fuck lives down there, or it's going to kill me. Both are fine, I belong to the zone now, I don't need anyone else to tell me that. The fur on the back of my neck that stands up when an emission is brewing up, the incessant ache in my boots, and the way my pack sits on my shoulders. It all reminds me of what I belong to, what I always belonged to since that fearful night months ago. Perhaps this isn't a disease, perhaps this is just what happens to all stalkers who stick around too long. It doesn't really matter, my skin is peeling off like the leaves of the autumn trees, and I have to stand somewhere before I can't stand at all.
  70. This is my last entry, as I probably won't have usable thumbs in a few days. Whatever lived down in X-18 has been cleared out a long time ago. I found Kyrylo Lazarenko, both halves of him, and gave him a proper stalker's burial. At least 20 centimeters of fine Chernobyl dirt, and his shattered screen helmet was mounted atop a wooden headplank. Kyrylo would have resented a cross. If you can get this journal back to the Ecologists, please do. They'll want a head start on the probable epidemic of stalkers mutating into dogs.
  74. If my family reads this, I want you to know that I didn't love you, that's why I wanted to finish my master's degree somewhere you could never follow me. It took me quite some time to finally understand what I was running from and why I ran here, but I finally realize that I'm not so different from the other stalkers here. We're all crazy, and we all belong here, don't follow us.
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