Teck infection, p.1
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       Teck Infection, p.1

           Aaron W. Miller
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Teck Infection

  Teck Infection by Aaron W. Miller

  Copyright 2014 The Free Collective, All rights reserved.

  Teck Infection is a subjective short story of the Equilibrium Series. For more works in the series, or for discussion groups and additional content, check out www.thefreecollective.org. To see Equilibrium in pictures, visit my pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.com/awmill016/.

  Twitter: @Sci_Phil

  No part of this work may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recording, or photocopying format without written permission of the author. Exceptions include brief quotations in critical articles, reviews and other articles where the information is pertinent, given appropriate credit, or where permission is specifically granted by the author.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely symbolic or coincidental.

  ISBN: 978-0-9895783-2-5

  First Edition: Published 2014

  Coming August 16th, 2014

  Coming Spring, 2015

  Teck Infection

  "What do you suppose it is?" Archie asked Luddite expecting him to know the answer.

  "I think it's a nematode of some sort, but they are usually transparent," Luddite had to call up his college course on the systematics of biological organisms.

  "Maybe he just ate something red," Archie contemplated this strange organism. He scooped up a bit of soil with the worm so he could get a closer look. The red worm, not longer than a few millimeters, writhed on Archie's finger. As Archie contemplated the intentions of the worm, it burrowed underneath his skin and anchored itself deep in his finger. Panicked, Archie took his knife and tried to cut the worm out. To his surprise and dismay, the worm rapidly sealed the wound. Taking another approach, Archie tried to smash the worm through his skin; with no luck.

  "All right, I guess we'll have to take drastic measures," Luddite said as he pulled out his lighter.

  "Ow!" Archie exclaimed as the worm burrowed deeper into the protective layer of his skin. The pain in Archie’s finger quickly dissipated. "What do I do now?" Archie's panic escalated as they ran out of options.

  "It's probably best to wait until we get back and you can see a doctor," Luddite explained with a cool head.

  "Can we go now?" Archie's fear of Nature was coming back with force.

  "Well, we can go as soon as we finish our 30 mile hike. We aren't going to get helicoptered out for this," Luddite was getting annoyed.

  "But I have a medical emergency!" Archie's panic grew.

  "Perhaps, but not thousands of dollars worth of an emergency," Luddite continued to hike despite Archie's protest. “And that is only to get us out of here. You’ll spend thousands of more dollars on the emergency room visit. And they probably won’t know what it is, make you see someone else later, and charge you again when that ‘expert’ doesn’t know what it is either. We only have one more night. I’ll take you to the ER when we get back.” Archie’s present emergency didn’t afford him any patience. The remainder of the hike, Archie complained about his finger itching and Luddite's unreasonable demand to continue.

  By sunset, they had found a relatively clear, flat, and dry piece of land to set up camp. Luddite pulled out his machete to clear an area for the tents. Archie picked up any twigs and sticks in the area and threw them in a pile for their campfire later on. After dark fell and the fire was ablaze, the two sat there, staring at the flames.

  “What do you think it is?” Archie asked again expecting Luddite to know precisely what he was talking about.

  “I told you, its a nematode.” Luddite remarked. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You can’t do anything about it until we get back to the city. Just enjoy yourself here.”

  “Do you think it will give me a disease?” Archie couldn’t get past his fear.

  “Perhaps. There are plenty of things that can give you a disease. In fact, I would argue that you are far safer from disease out here than in the city.”

  “But out here, a worm crawled into my skin. It infected me.”

  “You don’t know the purpose of the worm, what it is capable of,” Luddite said as the fire crackled in the background and the discussion began to heat up.

  “Purpose? What purpose can it have but to continue its own existence? It relies on me for food. It is using my body as a host.” Archie threw his hands in the air as he spoke. He was always a very animated debater.

  “But your body as a whole is more parasite than host. The number of cells in your body that contain your genetic material are outnumbered by a factor of ten. Your genes are outnumbered by other genes by a factor of 150. You are a collection of self and non-self that together, builds a viable organism. You can essentially think of yourself as a layered construct, right? So you, as Archie, are a person. You have been given an identity. You have a certain personality and specific memories of experiences in your past. You think a certain way, look a certain way, etc. But you are made up of cells. Not only are you made of human cells, but bacterial, archaeal, fungal, viral, and even protistan. Each of those cells, whether human or otherwise, are made up of molecular compounds. The molecular compounds are put together specifically by a series of molecules – DNA or in some cases, RNA. All of your molecules are composed of atoms, which are composed of electrons and atomic nuclei. The atomic nuclei are composed of the baryons called protons and neutrons, which are composed of up and down quarks. The baryons, atoms, and molecular compounds are all held together by bosons, like the photons that carry electromagnetism, or the gluons that carry the strong nuclear force.

  “If we go the other way, a group of people makes up a social group. A collection of social groups makes up a society. A collection of societies makes up a state, and the collection of states makes up our species. We as individuals are just at some arbitrary point along that hierarchy. Each layer has an influence on all of the others, which together make up a whole structure. Thus, while it is possible that you can get disease from some of your “parasites”, it is rare and indicative of an imbalance in the system as a whole. That worm is just one more parasite. Perhaps it has a genetic structure compatible with causing disease in you. Perhaps it is completely incompatible with causing disease in humans. There is even the potential, however unlikely, that the worm would even confer some benefit to you. That is how eukaryotic cells Evolved.” Archie’s minor breach into philosophy drew Luddite into a discourse on the Nature of existence.

  The next morning, Archie and Luddite hiked the last few miles out of the swamp and headed back toward the city. Upon arriving, Luddite dropped Archie off at the ER as promised.

  "Hmm, I want to take a sample," the doctor looked at Archie's finger with no idea what was in there. "I'll give you a local anesthetic and take a punch biopsy," the doctor reached for a needle. "Got it!" the doctor took a chunk of a red worm as several burrowed further into Archie's finger. "I'm going to run some tests on this worm and I'll get back to you within a week."

  That night, with the itching in his finger extending throughout his entire hand, Archie decided to look again at the worm. He opened up his bandage to look at the hole the biopsy left. To his surprise, his finger looked as though no biopsy had ever been taken. Frustrated, Archie took a pair of scissors and stuck one end into the palm of his hand. To his horror, a cluster of worms quickly swarmed to fix the wound. Taking the scissors with his other hand, he stabbed himself in the arm, with the same results as before. 'What does this mean?' Archie was trying to comprehend what was happening to him. He looked at his arm and thought about the “parasites” Lud
dite mentioned. ‘What is this parasite? What does it do? Am I its intended host? Is it using me to replicate itself?’ Archie had been questioning his identity more and more since the hike.

  The next day, to take his mind off of the worms, Archie decided to plant some tomato transplants in his garden for the spring. Digging a hole in the dirt, Archie felt some of the worms escaping his finger. Fearing this new symptom, Archie pretended it didn't happen and continued planting his tomato plants. With every planting, more worms exited his body. He kept his fingers in the dirt hoping they'd all leave. When they seemed to stop coming out, Archie went back inside filled with both disgust and relief. He tried not to think about the worms.

  ‘Why did they come out? Are they really gone? Wait a minute... I first saw the worm wriggling in the soil. I just planted some tomato plants in the soil out in my garden. I wonder if I’m just like an intermediate host or something. I wonder if the worm is some sort of parasite that just needs some animal to replicate and take it to a new area of soil. Yeah, that makes sense. Ok, I feel a bit better now. But, now they’re in my garden. I guess I’ll just have to leave it
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