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       "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever", p.1

           G Miki Hayden
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"Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever"

  Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever

  by G. Miki Hayden

  "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever"

  by G. Miki Hayden

  Copyright 2011 G. Miki Hayden

  All rights reserved

  Syd leaned back in the wooden booth and sipped his beer. He and Heck—Hector—always celebrated their birthdays together since they’d been born only a month apart—nearly 40 years before—and they’d been friends since the age of 10.

  “We’re getting on,” said Syd to his buddy.

  “You mean we have to be tested pretty soon,” answered Heck.

  The two men were different in a lot of ways. Heck was more direct than Syd, and certainly less conventional in every respect. Still, they connected, as friends who differ often do.

  “Yeah,” agreed Syd, “but I’m healthy. Really healthy. You are, too.”

  Heck lowered his eyelids halfway over two brown eyes, and he smiled, expressing his own special brand of mirthless cynicism. “Those machines’re crap,” Heck said. “The whole thing is crap.”

  Syd wasn’t exactly sure what his buddy meant. “Accurate crap,” he answered Heck. “One hundred percent accurate.”

  “Nothing in this world is 100 percent,” countered Heck. “Do you see how ridiculous that claim is. Years ago, they said 99.4 percent accurate. Now they say 100 percent. Don’t you find that odd?” He waited with interest for Syd’s response as though he’d scored a telling point.

  “They must have made improvements,” Syd answered finally.

  “Don’t you ever wonder why it’s a legal mandate to have the test at age 40?” asked Heck. “What’s the advantage to us in knowing how—and when—we’ll die?”

  “We can get our affairs in order this way.” Okay, Syd knew he was quoting the public service announcement. “And it allows the different levels of government to plan accordingly.”

  Heck caught the waitress’s attention and pointed at their beers for a refill. Syd hoped she’d bring the sizzling steaks soon also. Steak, yeah, a big blowout yearly party for two guys on a budget in a world that didn’t produce enough food for all its inhabitants, much less high-caliber protein of this kind.

  “Population control,” Heck said next, as if he’d sorta been thinking about the same thing Syd had.

  “If they could just control population growth,” Syd agreed with his friend. “At least the U.S. has a zero pop goal for our population growth rate, but what about the rest of the world? It’s crazy some places—having kids just to watch them die.”

  “I mean, the blood tests are for population control,” corrected Heck.

  Heck knew how to connect with the anarchist sites online—Syd had warned him time and time again that he was bound to get caught one day and put on a list. Not that it was illegal, exactly, in the country that had been the birthplace of free speech.

  “Look,” said Syd. “Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t use the blood tests to control the population because they couldn’t possibly go around and make hundreds, thousands…or whatever number of people…die every year the way that’s predicted. How the hell they gonna do that?”

  “I don’t know.” Heck had a stubborn look on his face. “I don’t know because I don’t understand these things and I’m not an expert. But if you trust the bastards, you would be on the wrong side of the argument. They don’t have your interests at heart with the mandated testing. Or mine.”

  Syd didn’t understand the ins and outs of the whole thing, either, but he felt that the testing was not only accurate—everyone knew that—but absolutely fair. Mandated testing brought social advantages—prevented the spread of diseases, they were sometimes told—and better allowed for social planning. He saw no malice on the part of their government officials. Here was a technology that even if it made people uncomfortable, worked.

  Two weeks after his 40th birthday, in order to conform to the law in a timely fashion, Syd went down to the medical center right after lunch. Currently unemployed as a metal worker because his company hadn’t been able to import sufficient materials from China this quarter to keep the shop open, he was able to come and go as he pleased.

  But so, apparently, were others his age. Most work available these days was for basic labor—physical labor—and the jobs were often taken by the younger, more able-bodied kids. But that was right, too, wasn’t it? The kids ought to have their chance for employment, a little life, a little love, maybe children of their own. He’d had that. Syd had a wife and the one allotted child, a 12-year-old daughter named Adrian. Man, he was crazy about that girl. His family meant the world to him.

  Syd thought he felt confident and relaxed when they took his blood, but while he sat in the lobby waiting for the blood to go through the machine, his mind began to do all kinds of cartwheels—every `what-if' sprang into his imagination, and he began to shake with fear. He was shaking, actually shaking. He put his hand out in front of him and it visibly trembled. His body was caught in a state of terror and he tried to let out his breath.

  Then his name was called and he was buzzed into consultation room number 12 where a pretty girl sat, ready to speak to him. She had the look of health that only the young can have, her skin elastic and unmarred, her hair glossy, and her eyes alive with a depth of feeling, feeling for him… Something bad lay in wait. That she rose and offered him her hand confirmed it. Such kindness only came when a terrible announcement was going to be made.

  He sat, almost collapsed, in the seat, and she handed him a piece of paper, saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry, Mr. Gaines.”

  For a moment he couldn’t even read his fate. His mind prevented his eyes from focusing. But then he saw the words, words he didn’t even understand. Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. And the date, July 20th, 2023—only two months from now. From right now.

  The girl’s eyes were filled with tears, and Syd wanted to reassure her. But he couldn’t speak.

  Then his jaw unlocked and the words spilled out. “But this doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

  She compressed her lips and tears filled her eyes. “I know,” she answered. And then she whispered. “I’ve had three of these already this week.” And suddenly her cheeks were wet, and Syd felt an odd mix of disbelief and horror, an incredible sense that humanity itself was doomed.

  When he was up to it a few days later, he called Heck and met him at Tinto Square Park where they used to have a weekly game of basketball. In fact, if you’d invited him for a game even the week before, Syd would have answered, “Come on. Let’s do it.” But now he felt too down to even consider running around the court. He slumped onto a green bench made of recycled garbage and Heck slumped alongside.

  He was about to tell Heck what the machine had predicted, but Heck spoke first. “They told me I’m going to have acute appendicitis and that my appendix will burst two weeks from now,” said Heck.

  Syd stared at his oldest and maybe only real friend. “I’m going to die of a stupid exotic, African disease in less than two months.”

  Their eyes met.

  “I’ve been digging around the Internet,” said Heck.

  “Don’t give me any of your crazy bullshit,” Syd stopped his friend. “No way could they manipulate any of this insanity, even if they wanted to.”

  Heck stood up and put one foot on the bench. He seemed to be watching the boys running around the court today, shirts off and slung over their necks to serve as sweat towels.

  “Will you at least agree that they might want to?” asked Heck before sitting down again. “This nation can no longer support a growing population. The worst of it has been the so-called entitlements, which is mostly the money that goes to the older class and to
those without work. And who’s without work, these days, my friend? It’s us. Get it? You and I, and a couple of million other guys like us are a drain on the system. We don’t contribute. We’re considered used goods, costing the rest of the country more than it can afford. Right? Or not?”

  “And you think the government could be that corrupt, that cynical?” On a perfect spring day with only a few wisps of clouds marring a faultless, blue-hued sky, could something like that really be true?

  “Yes,” said Heck without hesitation.

  “Okay, maybe…” Okay, maybe, maybe they the could be that cynical. “But how? There’s no way in hell…”

  “One kind of interesting theory is making the rounds.” And that was all he said for the moment. Heck was obviously waiting to be asked.

  “What then?” Though Syd knew the idea was going to be ridiculous.

  “Ya know how we heard about someone like a witch doctor or someone like that placing a curse on a guy? He would tell a guy he was going to die. And very soon, the guy would die. End of story.’ Again, Heck waited.

  Syd let out the breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding. Yeah, right—what a dumb, dumb, dumb theory this was.

  “Okay, but, not everyone would be susceptible,” said Syd. “And the circumstances—so diverse… how could this theory account for that? It’s totally stupid.”

  Heck stood up again and started to pace. “Actually, it’s
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