Friday, March 4, 2011

Story-A-Day #113: Pathogen


Nobody seemed to know what was making everyone sick. It was widespread, all through the town, and not limited to any particular demographic. Old and young, men and women, people of all races; they were all being struck down.

That’s how it had seemed at first. People would complain of a fever, nausea and general weakness, and that would slowly transition into a rash. Angry red welts would spread out from the body’s hotspots, the armpits and groin mostly, and soon cover the whole body. They would ooze at first and seemed to radiate an internal heat, but within a week, the rash would have dried into a flaking, scaly coating.

Public facilities were soon converted into Quarantine stations, but it looked like it might be a case of too little too late. The roads leading out of the city were closed off by the military within a couple weeks, and helicopters patrolled the skies looking for people making a break through the thick forests that surrounded the town.

Researchers were brought in to examine the situation, some from as far away as the CDC in Atlanta. They waited for the first patient to die so that they could conduct an autopsy and try to isolate the cause of the outbreak. The fact that the outbreak was sudden and quick made it difficult, but there were a few contenders that had been identified as potential first deaths.

What nobody expected was that people suddenly started rebounding. The scales cleared up, the fevers broke, and all of a sudden, people were anxious to get home, to go back to work; mostly just to et back to normal.

Additional tests were conducted, blood work and biopsies on the ill, tests on water supplies and local food sources, but they all proved inconclusive. Eventually, we were sent home and our sleepy little town slowly faded back into anonymity.

It seemed like everything had returned to normal, but that’s not quite the case. It was about a year later that I started noticing subtle changes in my friends and neighbors. Old Bill Willam’s skin was hardening into a dark green husk, almost like a lobster shell. Eunice Gardiner was growing whiskers, thicker and firmer than the mustache she usually had.

The other night, I snuck off home with Janice Witt after she had closed down the Deer’s Head pub for the night and we were just about to get hot and heavy when I noticed a pair of protrusions on her shoulders and what appeared to be feathers.

The sickness might have passed, but there are definitely changes happening. Hell, my own toes have started to fuse with this weird webbing between them.

I’m no scientist, but if I had to guess, I think I would probably trace it back to the night the skies lit up. Maybe whatever it was that fell had actually landed in the reservoir. We figured it had just burned up, but if it did land in the town’s drinking water, that could explain what was happening to us.

Whatever the case, we’re starting to get a little nervous - and excited. It’s hard to say for sure what is happening, but whatever it is, it’s going to change everything.

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