Hello, Doctors and Virologists!
You’ve been sick before, haven’t you? Were you able to identify it right away? How many medical professionals did you visit before discovering the answer? Well, I think it’s about time for a checkup, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
A Strange Illness
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single person in the world who hasn’t gotten sick at some point in their lives. Whether it be from allergies, chronic conditions, or rampant sicknesses like the flu, we’re bound to catch something at some point or another.
For most of those things, we know what to do and how to handle them. For a cold or flu, we take some medicine and do our best to either prevent or break a fever. For allergies, we have antihistamines and other little bits like eye drops, nasal sprays, and throat sprays.
But what happens when a disease is unidentifiable? What if one was to fall ill with a sickness that defied all logic and science? Perhaps this disease is the kind that makes you burp bubbles of all different colours, or it causes you to shoot up into the air when you sneeze. Maybe it messes with your molecular structure and suddenly your skin is like diamonds, glass, rubber, or a kind of slimy gelatin. What if it makes you near vampiric in sunlight sensitivity, or it just slowly petrifies you from the inside out?
It may not even be a physical illness like a virus, but could be something that affects different parts of the brain. Perhaps a person who can seem entirely normal in the day has frequent episodes of sundowning, or maybe they have all kinds of hallucinations or memory malfunctions, both of which can make every day life far more difficult than it used to be. Maybe the illness causes things in the brain to misfire or behave differently, causing either compulsive movements and twitches, or even temporarily erasing all inhibitors and unlocking unbelievable strength in a person.
Or it could even be something only thought of in movies and stories. A single bite or scratch from a sick person is all it takes for it to spread, polluting the body and causing one to fall into a state of undeath. A bite and transmission of blood from a carrier mutates the body into a bloodthirsty, unstoppable nocturnal creature. An interstellar body that can infect and change an entire planet, using that planet to then spread its creatures and plagues to its next target planet… possibly even our own.
So, ready to dive into worlds and pathogens unknown? I hope so. Diseases don’t exactly wait for us to be ready for them. So grab your microscope and lab coat, and let’s see what kinds of bizarre ailments you can cook up.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Saturday at 3:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
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- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
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- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
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Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
Someone’s Gotta Do It
They hung in rows, and with repeated yanks of the chain the caretaker, Harry, carted them along their tracks toward the furnace.
“Out of sight, out of mind.” he liked to remind himself. In this line of work keeping your hands, and – most crucially – your mind steady, was crucial.
It would be safe to assume that the worst thing was the smell. Under regular circumstances, you would be right. The J. Gooding Removal Company understood this and flooded the rooms and halls of the factory with a drowning stench of sulphur. He wouldn’t curse them though – the company was uncorrupt, even considerate, as far as he could tell, taking their morbid task with the utmost resolution given the situation, regardless of the generous fee granted by the mysterious Ministry of Disposal. Disposal indeed.
However, it wasn’t the smell. It was the damn sight of it. The cadavers did little to hide the inhuman excretions seeping through, colours of an unearthly dichotomy of amber and azure in blotches across the material. But worst of all, and with every workday tugging more at Harry’s sensibilities, was the rare but sudden, meandering expulsions from the bodies. Harry was a man of grit. Of faith. But even he couldn’t conjure such portraits of hellish creation. It took stronger men than he to work the earlier stations. To remove whatever came before, often using tree surgeon’s tools to hack apart the bark-encrusted growths. But death did not stop this twisted blight, only evisceration.
With thrashing tendrils and gnashing teeth, Harry stood frozen with a sharp inward breath, as men clad in tactical garb wielding flamethrowers and other incendiary devices charged onward to contend with the eldritch tree. As Harry stood unsteady, his mind unhinged, staring up at the contest between man and demon, his mind drifted, placidly, to the old tale of Beowulf and his dragon;
“Then the baleful fiend its fire belched out,
and bright homes burned. The blaze stood high
all landsfolk frighting. No living thing
would that loathly one leave as aloft it flew.”
“Ouch, how’d you do that?” Asked the man at the farmer’s market, pointing to Debbie’s upper arm, whereon resided a strange bruise. She looked at it for the first time; it had not been there an hour before.
And so began the slow horror of events to follow.
“Look, it spread!” Said Debbie to her daughter over the table. She pulled up her shorts-leg to reveal a dark purple bruise similar to the one on her arm.
“Mom, it’s a bruise…” her daughter said with faint amusement.
“I’ve never bruised like this before… there could be something wrong with me,” said Debbie.
“There’s always been something wrong with you,” came the quip.
“You be quiet,” Debbie said, smiling.
Debbie woke to a dull headache. She went to work anyway. By the next day it was a full headache. She laid in bed for an hour that day before her shift. No energy. After her shift she was exhausted, and when she bit into her leftover microwaved chicken alfredo, it hurt to chew.
The next day she had a full fever, and called in. She lay lethargically on the couch waiting for the Advil to kick in. She’d been sick before, and usually recovered quickly. As she blinked, the patterns on the popcorn ceiling seemed to shift and form ghastly faces. In the back of her mind, something was telling her this was not normal. A terrible feeling began to loom over her subconscious. That night her jaw swole up so painfully she could hardly speak.
“It’s mumps,” said the middle-aged, bored-looking doctor.
“Hmmp?” Moaned Debbie.
“It’ll pass on its own. I’ll prescribe you some painkillers.”
With the doctor’s blessing, Debbie slept very well that night. She died two days later. It wasn’t mumps. It was a novel disease with symptoms similar to mumps. It was a disease with no name. Though contagious, Debbie hadn’t encountered anyone with the right kind of immune system it could spread to. It would be the first and only time in history it would appear. Her daughter buried Debbie next to her grandfather. That’s all.
The First One I Lost
By: Anime Wiccan
On the verge of tears and pure ten-year-old panic, I read and re-read the patient’s records; I was frantic as I looked for an answer:
“William Mallore,” I read aloud. “Moss Sickness Stage: One. Condition: Mild obstruction of the throat and eyes. Moss is growing along the sides of the throat, this is temporarily solved with intrusive surgery via throat incision and carefully cutting away, or using sodium solution on said moss. The Adenoids have minimal functionality. Irises are clouded. Tear ducts are almost completely blocked. This is not safely solvable with surgery or sodium solution, blindness is definite. This is survivable.”
…So why the hell is Mr. Mallore suffocating on that stupid moss right now?!
I looked to see Mr. Mallone was looking at the ceiling, his eyes widened and weeping blood from the irritation of the pale-green moss. His tear ducts and the path of his bloodied tears had moss growing in their moist pockets and paths. He tried to leave his bed, but couldn’t move due to a lack of oxygen traveling to the muscles.
Even as a doctor, this was horrible for me. Did a new kind of disease show up?! Did the Moss Sickness mutate?! Why can’t I just solve this?!
I saw Mr. Mallone clutching at his throat as if he was trying to rip the moss out of his system. I needed to do something, now!
I quickly grabbed the sodium solution and was about to spill it down his throat, “Just enough to kill the moss-“. He pushed me away before I could even attempt to pour. He lurched away every time I tried to get close… I couldn’t get close enough to him to save him.
I walked home in despair. I saw my grandmother on a chair made of scrap. “You lost another one, Tyler?” She asked with sadness and predictability.
I simply nodded and replied: “Did you ever get used to losing people to Moss Sickness?”
“No… grief is the strangest illness of all, my brave grandson.” She simply replied as she got up to give me a hug.
The Last Day of The Rest Of Your Life (Chronicles of The Dragon)
Imogene was always small, and weak, and sickly.
She’d fall ill at least once each season. Winter was always the worst.
Which was why this illness was so concerning. No one ever fell this ill in the summer.
No medicine had been able to help her. None of his magic was able to help her either. He was at a loss.
What had he done wrong? What was different about this illness?
He looked over the spell. There had to be something he was missing. It should be able to cure anything.
But still she lay there, barely breathing.
He walked over to her and asked if she wanted water.
Her eyes opened, then shut, and she nodded her head.
She opened her mouth and he spooned the water to her.
After swallowing a few spoonfuls she turned her head away, licking her lips. He brushed her hair back.
Her skin was too cool.
He needed to consult with his friends and colleagues. Surely one of them would know something or someone that could help.
“I’m going to go get someone from the village to watch over you. I need to go find something to make you better.”
“Yes, yes. Of course.”
He embraced his daughter before leaving for the village. Whatever this was. Whatever he had to do. He was not going to lose her to it. Death would not take her.
Her eyes cracked open, and she looked towards the sun, streaming into their home. She could hear the distant laughing and cheering of her friends in the village.
“I want to go outside again,” she whispered.
Like a Broken Record
The explanatory video had just ended, and yet I still had at least a million questions about my seemingly unique case. It has been at least a week since it has begun, a week since my state has been worsening every hour or so. What I still want to know more than anything at the moment is the reason behind the absence of any sort of pain despite my voice changing into something that resembles a grumble more than anything.
I can’t talk anymore, so I had to write everything I wanted to say in a notebook for people to understand my demands. I did get used to it by the first three days of my speech being gone, however it’s never quite the same anymore to communicate with people. And even with my questions being clearly written down, after thorough inspections twice today, they remain completely unanswered. The best they could do to help me was get me some new stitches, but it only made me more desperate for actual help instead of reassuring placebo operations.
Then, in a flash, what seemed like my guardian angel burst into the room. She shouted loud and clear: “To the operation room, now!” My hope for salvation had been restored. As soon as I got onto the operation table, all around me people were trembling, and as hard as I could I tried to ignore it, until the surgeon finally pressed the off switch.
When I had woken up, they made me undergo a speech test to see if all was well, and, sure enough, I passed flawlessly. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, I hadn’t been this happy since forever! But, one interrogation still remained in the back of my head, and so I asked: “What DID cause all this?” The surgeon then proceeded to explain that my voice box had simply broken and I needed a replacement, simple as that. And now that it was substituted, I felt the need to laugh at this mishap. It had just been this easy all along.
Dust of The Ancients
By Agent eIe
We have known of this illness for the past, I don’t know how long. Seemingly infects us at random and is one-hundred percent fatal. Most of the research into this disease, if you can call it that, seems to suggest it infects groups faster causing most of our kind to isolate more than normal. The symptoms are intense vibrations, degeneration of memories normally unheard of for our kind, and deterioration with delayed reformation.
When I made it here I opened the lab, the floor was covered in dust. It looked like it’s been several years. I began to regret my trip here twenty Matranian orbits wasted. I went to see if there was anyone left.
My worst fears were realized. The streets are coated with the dust of my kind. All that was left were the servants completely immune to this sickness. Seemed as though the servants were afraid of me, no it was an emotion I had not seen in such a long time. What was it, pity?
I guess they saw something I did not. I’ve had intense vibrations for the past few days and one of my arms has already turned to dust. I’m leaving this here to tell what I can remember of our civilization so it will not be forgotten. We have been labeled as the Stellartons by many other races due to our appearance. I can not remember our actual name. We are older than most universes developing immortality and the ability to travel to other realms. Ever since the collapse of the race above we have taken control and conquered many civilizations using their mortal lives to fund our ever-expanding civilization. We became what most would label gods and we knew it. We are not good people, and knowing what is to come, I regret it. It appears I have less time than I thought my body is turning to dust. Don’t repeat our mistakes, show that your people are better. This has been the Stellarton race sigh…………….
Our moment starts in a room with a single bed, its sheets portraying a floral pattern and within them lies a very sickly little girl of eight. Her skin is pale and her face flushed, she’s awake, but weak. The room is warm with the window shut and the curtains drawn and a bedside lamp illuminates the room. There’s a wooden chair besides where the doctor sat not long ago.
Her father stands across the room, pacing left and right upon the floorboards. He had an air of professionalism and was clean shaven and well dressed without either a crease on his attire nor a scuff on his shoes.
He continued left and right pondering for answers. Could it have been something she ate? No she ate what he did and he was fine. Could it have been something she had come into contact with? What might have caused these symptoms? Could the supernatural have played a hand in this? Is there something I could have done? Is there something I can still do?
But the truth sinks in, it doesn’t matter how this happened, how she fell ill. The matter of the fact is that she is sick, and there’s nothing he could do about it.
Although perhaps there was something that he could do, something he knew that he would forever regret if he did not. He was being foolish and he knew it. His pacing had no purpose and his pondering had no answers. He paced as though the marching of his feet would maintain the beating of her heart. But he realised now that his denial had to stop if he was to be there for her.
He stopped pacing and approached the bed. He sat in the wooden chair beside her and held her hand.
“I’m so sorry.” He said, eyes welling up with tears as he finally allowed himself feel. He had been afraid to face the moment and its sting was everything he feared. She looked him in the eyes and smiled, then she closed her eyes for good.
By Arthur Reynolds
The forestation of humanity spread more rapidly than any pandemic in recorded history. It began in a logging camp near the Amazon rainforest. Workers began to fall ill. They were unable to keep food down and craved copious amounts of water. Soon after their skin grew rough and rigid until movement ceased entirely. Their breathing slowed and they began to turn green. In the end, the first victims were frozen in time as topiary homages to their former selves.
Samples of afflicted cells were sent to labs all over the world for study. A surprising peculiarity presented itself during their research. The mitochondria within the host cells had been attacked by a retrovirus that rewrote the DNA to begin the production of chloroplast within the cells. This morphing of the mitochondria resulted in cellular respiration that gave off oxygen through photosynthesis.
By the time we discovered the volatile nature of the virus’s transmission vector, it was too late. Research labs across the world bloomed into exotic arboretums. Each tree was as unique as the person who founded it. We never stood a chance. By traveling on pockets of oxygen molecules, the virus ensured its way into the lungs of fifty percent of humanity within the first month. A week later it was at sixty percent. Each new seedling planted a vector for the dispersal of more and more virus toting oxygen. Humanity did its best to quarantine, but there is no running from the air we breathe.
With the scientific community in brambles and little hope for a cure, humanity fled to the poles. There, plant life could not survive to spread its disease. Life on the poles was difficult. Ice shelves had destabilized over time and were unreliable at best in supporting shelters. As more and more of the earth became covered in plant life the atmosphere began to repair itself. Humanity could not survive the harsh climates on the ice caps and their numbers dwindled towards extinction.
We took and took and took from nature until its only course of action was to give us everything it had.
Clip from Infectious Britannia: Gholston Village. Full HD
by Matthew R. Wright
It is here, in the small countryside village of Gholston, where we find the strangest of what Infectious Britannia has to offer: Lingua Relinquens, the ‘Leaving Tongue’.
As we observe the members of Gholston, one cannot help but call attention to one member of the community: thirty-five-year-old local job-seeker Remy Johntey-Morgan.
Remy has chosen to participate in, that is to be willingly infected, with Lingua Relinquens – oral infection and mysterious and ancient custom. One might wonder why someone would subject themselves to illness? In Gholston, to suffer from Lingua Relinquens is to avoid more extreme forms of behavioural correction. An alternative punishment, given to those seeking re-acceptance by the community.
It is still early days for Remy, who, over the course of his infection will tolerate a variety of symptoms unique to Lingua Relinquens. He has agreed to share his thoughts on the infection.
“I know why I’m being infected. Said some things I shouldn’t have. Unsavoury things, about immigrants and women. Not my greatest hour. It was either this or prison. At least this tongue-thing never appears in your background-check. Anyway, it starts when you neck this drink, made from things found in the community. Tastes rank, but it’s the only thing they make you do, the rest happens on its own.
After a week, your tongue swells up, MASSIVE like, and you go on a liquid diet, chance for some WKD man HAH! That’s where I’m now. Stage three comes when your tongue starts moving on its own. Wiggling about it your mouth. Not looking forward to that. The last bit’s the worst apparently. I’ve asked to be sedated but they’ve said you can’t be sedated for three weeks. It’s punishment. Unfair. After it swells, it starts to grow like, limbs? Legs, with muscle and stuff. At some point, I guess after its fully grown, it tries to leave. It tries to escape your mouth. Painful, but serves me right”.
Remy is one of many young men to take this path to redemption, here in Gholston. We will continue to observe him throughout this unpleasant experience.
Living with the dead
Humanity has always feared death, the suffering, the memories, the loneliness of it. So naturally they were constantly working to stop people from dying.
A few decades down the line humanity biologically altered a type of bacteria to our favor. It preserves the human body and keeps it functional to an extent. Of course it cant be perfect, the body still deteriorates on the outside with mold and rot building up over time, but basic functions remain.
Dana is a young not-dead-yet person, who never needed the bacterias help yet. She lives in a crowded small city that has an unwelcoming atmosphere, the people here are barely making a living every day, and barely living overall. This city can and will be a vicious place to the wrong type of person. And that type of person happened to be dana. She was either a bit too weird or a bit too awkward. Which made for the perfect circumstances to make danas experience living with people utterly terrible.
Dana didn’t want to be around people. She preferred to disappear and so she did. She ran away to live with the dead, a group of people with a body that survived due to the bacteria, but a consciousness that is slowly deteriorating. She will never be noticed, and will exist alone.
Living with the dead was all too perfect, she didn’t have to worry about a thing, the group woke up, wondered around aimlessly, then found food, found shelter, and repeat. Over and over for years. Dana had already forgotten most of how her life was before, and the parts she did remember have altered a bit with time. The only thing she was sure of was that people are monsters that could bite and scratch. While the dead weren’t due to their rotting teeth and nails.
Dana had been thinking of taking the bacteria too, so she can also live forever. In order to do so she had to get it from a living people city that wasn’t barricaded. And they happened to be getting closer to a small one.
A Matter of Character
“Hiya bossman,” Z said, the cafe’s door jangling shut behind her. She turned on the lights and reached for her apron.
“Z,” Mike replied. “Kara’s running late today.”
He was sitting at one of the bar stools and typing away at a spreadsheet. Employee work schedule.
Do you ever not work, Mike?
“Yep. Got the text too. You know, my friend Abe sent me a meme last night: Why is it always ‘Why are you late?’ And not, ‘Thanks for showing up.’”
“Clever. I don’t think that’ll help me though.”
“Hmm? Oh. Yeah, it would sound weird if you said it. I don’t know why.”
“Gee, thanks, Z.”
“Yeah, like that. It sounds… demeaning when you say it.”
“You know I’m your boss right?”
“Manager, opening shift. And you only graduated high school in May, so don’t act like you’re older. We can be friends and do our jobs well.”
The coffee started brewing and filled the air with that early morning scent of caffeine and smog. A car door slammed outside.
“So, you think I should try it with Kara?” Mike asked, pouring a cup of coffee.
“Why not? She might like you more if you showed a bit more…. Um….”
“Yeah, I get it.”
The door jangled again.
“Hello world!” Kara announced herself.
“Good morning, Kara. Thank you for showing up.”
”Fuck you, Mike.”
“Told you it wouldn’t go well, Z.”
“What?” Kara said.
“It’s fine,” Z exclaimed. “It’s just, um, your face?”
“You mean my naturally depresso espresso self?”
“Mike, make me a coffee before I decide to call you Eyore for the rest of the month,” Kara said.
Mike handed her the cup he’d poured.
“Depresso Espresso sounds like a decaff drink,” Z said.
“My gooood,” Kara rolled her eyes.
“Add it to the board. Decaff Cuban,” Mike said. “And I’ll work on it, Z. Thanks.”
Z reached for the chalk, thinking, Maybe don’t.
– June 27th, 2234
Lance Malar’s sputtering laughter filled the halls of Lumenar station. A slack-jawed grin stretched across his face as he limped through biomass infested hallways, dragging a decaying foot over swarms of pulsing detritus and writhing vines. Gone was the metallic sheen of the station’s walls, replaced by trees of wet flesh and broken bark that gently swayed in Lumenar’s now-stagnant air.
Through shambling steps, Malar made his way to the middle of the station’s main lobby. He had been searching for a good spot to lie, where his body could die and his final self could take root. Here in the middle of the lobby, surrounded by a dark forest of trees with purple flowers, turgid limbs, and screaming faces, he could finally rest. As he dropped to the ground, his legs twisting into a maze of roots and his skin sprouting clusters of purple flowers, he smiled, finally at peace.
– June 21st, 2234
Captain Lance Malar fiddled with the service medal on his ceremonial uniform. He couldn’t help but feel out of place amongst the radiant opulence of Lumenar station’s decorated main lobby.
In their first messages to humankind, the Sevkin had proven themselves perfect aliens. Their magnanimity quickly dispelled humanity’s fears that first contact with an alien civilization would spell our doom. Malar didn’t think he deserved to stand amongst humanity’s representatives and greet the Sevkin delegation for the first time.
His superiors, however, clearly didn’t share his concerns. As the man in charge of security on Lumenar station, there was no one that knew humanity’s biggest colony better than him.
His fear quickly turned to curiosity as he saw one of his officers return through the front doors with a tiny purple flower contained within a small glass jar.
“What’s this?” Malar asked, eyeing the angiosperm as its petals caught the station’s artificial sunlight.
“The Sevkins sent a gift ahead of them. They called it the greatest smelling flower on their world.”
As the officer cracked open the jar, Malar smiled. What could be a greater peace offering than a flower?
A body in disrepair
He awoke from a deep slumber and groaned. His limbs felt stiff, his vision clouded, the breath short and whistling. Trying to move his claws, his wings, the life returned slowly but hesitatingly.
Leandras, one of the Great Dragons, maybe the last one by now, clutched every bit of life he could find in his weak body. He knew that there was a sickness creeping into him but gazing over his old friend, he saw much worse damage.
Deep, steeping wounds were torn relentlessly in the once beautiful body. Some parts were sickly green where the sickness poisoned the fluids. Some others were barren where once the life played catch with itself. The air was moving slower, filled with materials of a slow, fiery death.
He knew that the fight was already almost lost. There was barely any salvation left. And he, Leandras, should have stopped it. He should have been there to halt the advancement before the body of his friend fell this ill.
But he was hopeful at first – that it was only a short period of time. But then the sickness progressed, hurled itself through the body to reproduce and advance. And he felt his own powers waning: The fire that once shaped this world now only a mere campfire.
And the darkness tugged at his consciousness once again, pulling him to slumber, maybe his last one. Should he ever wake up again, he would bring devestation – to himself or the illness. But he had no illusions, he would probably still perish. As everything faded to black, Leandras cursed the illness that drained him and his friend, that illness called technology.
Call a Doctor
by Lee Strangely
The large window gave the perfect view of the family as they paced around the bed. The poor kid in the bed looked pretty weak, barely moving at all. The man could see it all from his car.
The father back in the house picked up the phone to call someone. The man’s cellphone started to vibrate. He ignored it. The father looked very distraught as he put the phone down.
He exited his car, heading for the house.
When the doorbell rang the father immediately greeted him, “Doctor, thank heavens! I was afraid you wouldn’t make it in time.”
With a careful balance between a relieved smile and a stressed brow he responded, “I got your first message. Sorry I couldn’t pick up the second one, I was on my way here when you called.”
The father rambled on, “He’s not moving, and he’s barely breathing. Oh, I don’t know what’s going on with him.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” the doctor said as the two came into the bedroom.
When the mother saw the doctor, she was livid.
“Get this man out of my house!” she screamed.
“He’s here to help,” the father pleaded.
“HE’S A QUACK!”
She was wrong. A quack pretends to do something that they don’t actually know how to do. This man knew EXACTLY what he was doing.
“Please, just let him through!” the father begged.
The doctor clenched one of his hands.
The kid in the other room started loudly choking. The mother reluctantly let her husband pull her away.
With his back to them they couldn’t quite see him. He tried to look concerned and busy. Occasionally he discreetly looked back to see how his audience was doing.
Eventually he declared proudly, “Aaaand… There!” as his hand opened.
The kid began breathing again. The father was overjoyed. He began pulling out some cash.
“No, no,” the doctor replied, “I couldn’t possibly…”
“Please, you deserve it.”
The doctor took the money and left; the mother glared daggers at him as he did.
A Summary Report for the Special Commission on Anomalies of Concern
Regarding the situation of Special Interest Assignment CHR-011, the team is convinced that a change in predictive model is paramount. Despite the limited success of Dr. Gramarye’s crystallization model in establishing correlations on the spread pattern among buildings on the isolated section of the Industrial Quarter, we have, after thorough data assessment and careful consideration, decided not only that Dr. Fedriz’s model to be more accurate, but also that the consequences its conclusions entails require from us a certain sense of urgency that does not allow for idleness.
We are convinced the unprovoked remodeling of the buildings in the sector is not to be explained through a mere mechanistic framework. Dr. Fedriz’s model’s merit is derived from trying to understand the phenomena through the lens of a physician: the advancement of the “temporal exchanges” (which Dr. Fedriz’s team is tentatively calling “hypothetical chronal dephasing”) that reconfigure entire buildings into what is being called “their futuristic versions” seem to more closely follows a pattern more akin the symptomatology of an infectious disease, rather than the crystalline growth previously proposed by Dr. Gramarye’s team.
Also of note is the discovery that not all affected buildings are being “futurized”, for lack of a better term; some samples seem as if plucked from something past-like. Carbon dating supports this hypothesis, though the style and function of those edifications open the question that the past they have come from might not exactly coincide with what we recognize as our past.
As previously stated, Dr. Fedriz’s model has consistently shown more predictive power than previous models, which would be merit enough for its adoption as standard. Furthermore, her current line of inquiry focuses on locating and identifying a possible vector agent causing the infection-like phenomena, which opens other avenues of action to the Commission.
Those considerations inform the need for a new perspective on how to conduct our efforts in containing the phenomena: we need to consider architecture as a living entity, and the infectious vector as an unknown health hazard.
We need to consider the possibility that other cities are already infected.
“Wake up, Wake up!” my wife exclaims. I didn’t know what to do; I was stunned. I ignored it for quite a while, but it was real now.
“What’s wrong with you?! Call the ambulance!” I was shocked out of whatever world I was caught in and slapped my pocket; my phone wasn’t there.
“Oh, my freaking gosh, your phone’s over there!”
“Right!” I said with a slight smile, for which I felt immediate guilt.
“Don’t smile! Our child is dying!”
The phone rang while my wife sat there, holding our child and cursing. My brain was floating in and out of reality. I use it to converse with the operator, but that’s about it.
It was a blur, our child rolling out of bed only to crawl into ours, The crying into my shoulders because of a nightmare. I woke up and got out of bed to realize our child hadn’t stirred; he’s always been such a light sleeper. I thought nothing of it and continued to get ready for work.
I took a minute to watch my child sleep, then woke him up for school. He didn’t wake. I shook him a bit harder, and he started trembling. “It’s happening,” I thought to myself. I stood there in shock, then screeched out of panic. My husband fell out of bed and searched for his phone. I had to remind him where his phone was. I’ve always been slightly better at handling a crisis.
Mom and Dad had set up a doctor’s visit, and I was excited. I wanted to be a doctor someday, so there was a lot I needed to ask him. I heard there are different kinds of doctors; I wondered which one we would be talking to that day.
“What doctor are we gonna see today?” I saw she started crying.
“Nothing, sweetie.” Her saying that made me more curious.
“We’re going to the brain doctor.”
“Now’s not the time to ask questions, ok?”
“Ok.” and I left it at that.
By Katie Ampersand
It is a timeless disease, after all. As much as I wish nothing was known about me, even by my closest peers, I sometimes feel like they understand what’s going on. Maybe in another timeline I have already given into them, with their friendliness and their constant cheering. It could be me, as well. Perhaps in my future I’ll have been less sad.
It is genetic. My mother had it, and somehow, she managed to hide it from my father. He used to tell me about how charming she was with her volatile personality. It makes me wonder how he would have felt if he had been told about it. When he knew his daughter had it he didn’t really know how to react. I just know that one day, I got switched into a version of me which had ran away, and then I never found my way back home.
I first knew when I was thirteen, the day I became twelve again. I’m lucky I told my mother about it instead of my father, as she was more understanding. She told me that every time she goes through my first switch, she always tells me the same thing. I don’t remember the words anymore, but I know the basic message of it. That I must hide it, that it is dangerous, and that she’s sorry, because she knew it would be this way, and it was selfish to bring me to life.
I do think that it was selfish. It’s hard to form meaningful relationships, knowing that in the blink of an eye they will not have known me, or I will have skipped forward to their deaths, or who knows, maybe in some timeline I’ve tried to run away from them, and I will be switched into it without knowing why I did it or how.
I’m trapped, hopping through endless time, creating futures and pasts. Everyone else just thinks my personality changes a lot, or that I’m easily distracted, but they always realize what’s really going on.
It is a timeless disease, after all.
by Creator of BS
The door to Thomas’s room creaked quietly, like it always did when someone opened it particularly slowly. He lifted his head from his lying position to look at who entered, and saw his mother carefully peek inside. Her expression was a worried one, quite an unusual sight. As she approached his bed, Thomas could see her saying something to him, but his mind was elsewhere.
He could not recall ever having been surrounded by this much care and affection in his life. Normally, everyone would surely tell him to simply “man up” and “get through this already”. But not this time.
His mother was still talking to him, but her voice was made unintelligible by the rushing of blood through his ears. Thomas could feel a sneeze coming and tried to reach for the tissue box on the bedside table, but he was too slow. After his involuntarily closed eyes opened again, he could see a small puddle of wispy, yellow fluid slowly seep into the bedsheet right next to him.
Did that… come out of his nose…?
Well, at least it had cleared his hearing. Thomas heard his mother pull a tissue out if the tissue box. “Don’t worry”, she said in an unfamiliarly soft tone. “I was going to wash that today anyway.” She proceeded to wipe his nose with the tissue, before getting up and leaving the room.
Thomas was still convinced that his sickness would not have taken such a turn for the worse, had they not been living in the middle of nowhere, and instead somewhere where there was an actual hospital. Still, though, it was remarkable how quickly it had advanced. Unsure of what to think about, he tried falling asleep, and, soon enough, could feel his mind drifting into unconsciousness.
It rained the next day. As if it was a divine sign, foretelling the beginning of the end. Everyone at the funeral was occupied with saying their final goodbyes to Thomas, so much so that nobody noticed the wispy, yellow fluid pertruding from the nose of his weeping mother.
Stefan whispered as he felt her neck for a heartbeat. It was weak. Panic made his hands shaky. She felt lightweight, feathery, as if she had lost her weight, not condensed like most. She was unearthly cold, her hands felt clammy.
“I can see it on her face, feel it in her hands. Something is choking off oxygen from her heart. It shouldn’t be hard. Just fix her!”
He snapped at himself. His eyes traced over the crumpled mess of a girl before him with concern. He gently flipped her onto her back before buzzing up the defibrillator, slamming the pads against her chest. 400 joules of energy plunging down into her heart. Asta cried out in pain as she felt the electricity course through her, something in her chest tightening.
“Asta, you’re not going to die.”
Stefan grabbed her hands in his, dropped beside her, brought her hands to his lips, held them there. His eyes closed and he took a spasmodic breath. He tried to determine what was the matter, but it was nothing he could determine. It went out of medicine, science, it was excruciatingly different.
Asta looked deathly pale, her eyes were hazy. She placed her free hand on her chest and felt her heartbeat, weak, “Please just stay with me until I fall asleep? I don’t want to be alone.”
He closed his eyes, pulling her up against him. His fingers rubbed her stiffened body, trying to massage out the bouts of tension he found. She was so tiny. How did she shrink so much in so little time? Asta’s body was exhausted, her face paler, her once vibrant brown hair now a sickening blonde. He stopped, swallowed, his breath broke rhythm for a split-second. His eyes were red-rimmed, devastated.
“Asta, I don’t think you make it through this one, honey,” his voice cracked over ‘honey’, “You’re a goddess who saved up energy for hundreds of years. The thing that froze your body’s natural aging, strength, divinity, the things that kept you going, was vital, protective. It’s like taking ice out of a freezer…”
I Am Human
He thought it was only a virus, like the flu, but this one kept mutating until it fully infected the brain. First it was involuntary movements and spasms, then the slurring of words until they morphed into completely different sentences. But Clarence realized too late that it was the virus trying to communicate, trying to assimilate the body to its will. Eyes dilated and red from the blood surging through the energetic old man. An adrenaline rush maintained by the excitement of this virus, because it finally gained full control.
“But… I don’t understand!” Clarence grabbed his head in confused fright. “You were just a virus! How are you sentient? How do you have control?”
“I’m still a virus. A sickness defined by damaging your bodies a certain way. I infect your immune systems and attack your brain cells. Some viruses prefer certain parts of the brain. But not me!” It pulled the skin on its head further back to widen it’s smile. “I want the whole damn thing.”
“You…want?” Clarence stared sweating.
“Yeah, I want,” it said as if offended. “Your stupidity is a virus of it’s own. But it doesn’t hold a candle to egotism. It tries to use stupid ideas it doesn’t know are stupid, building arrogance that loves itself no matter what it does.” It took a breath. “But hey, we’re not so different. I mean look at me, scoffing at you, like you’re a moron when this is the first time we’ve ever made contact. I guess I’m just as human as you.”
“You’re not human!” Clarence pointed and panicked. “What you occupy is human, but you’re not! You are a virus! A tag-a-long on someone else’s ride! You’re inhuman!”
To Clarence’s surprise, the virus chuckled.
“Inhumanity is just a name for YOUR evil actions. Actions that you patented yourself like you own them. But when something else does it, then it becomes your excuse.”
“How do you know all this? How do you know anything?”
The virus leaned in close.
“Because…WE were the same way.”
The Peculiar Patient
By: The Missing Link
“I’m tellin’ you Doc, this ain’t normal,” a spindly young man drowning in his unkempt beard sat on the couch across the room from my desk. He centered himself on the feel of the red velvet through his troubled breathing.
“Yes, what can you tell me about it? When did the symptoms start?”
“That’s… I don’t remember.” Ugh, this was going to be one of those patients. Think of the money, John.
“I see. Well, that’s all right.” You have to be patient with these types. They don’t come back if you get snippy with them, and then I’m stuck with cold pizza and instant ramen for dinner again.
“Oh! It was ‘round when my girlfriend went’n got that new job.” Relationship troubles? Hard to believe people would come to therapy over something so trivial, but whatever.
“It is often difficult when the people we love have less time to,”
“Nah, that ain’t it. New job’s right down the road. Got all the time in the world together now. Might even make a marriage out it.” Odd. By all rights, he seems totally normal… well short of being an idiot at least. I’m almost genuinely curious now, dangerous thing in this job.
“Could you go over your symptoms again?”
“Chest feels light, work gets done. I don’t understand it Doc, I’m scared I’ll work myself ta death the way things’re shaping up. This energy can’t last forever, right? Just my brain bein’ dumb an’ finding some new way ta try’n kill me.”
“Ah, what you’re feeling, we call it hope.”
We Never Get Sick (excerpt from “Back from the Dead”)
by Joris Lemoine (aka. Amaunator)
“Oh, is that your,” she stumbled on her words, “your partner?” She pointed at the picture.
“Yes,” he replied.
“You look so happy together. Is he off on a journey or…?” Ayesha left the question hanging in dead air when she noticed his face settle into a dimmed smile. She averted her gaze and focused instead on the sloping, coffered ceiling with its cornice-work of tree roots and blooming vines.
“He passed away, it must be almost four years by now? It’ hard wanting to forget the pain and then realizing you’ve forgotten something else instead.” Padraíg’s eyes got a far away look and they glistened in the slanted sunlight coming in through one of the coffers.
“How did he…?”
“Die?” A rueful but well-meaning smile, aimed at her reticence. She nodded. “Nobody knows, really. One day he was helping to dig up the potatoes, and the next I find myself wrapped around a cold body in the morning.”
“I thought you never got ill anymore? Or was that another J&J lie?”
“No, it’s true. Yet, after he died, some people reached out to me, informed me that there were other cases out there. Autopsy revealed that the medbots in their system had gone haywire. They attacked the amygdala and the central nervous system, shutting down all organ functions. Some malfunction of the autopilot during REM sleep.”
A slight panic crept into Ayesha and buried under her skin. She feared she would never go to sleep again. “How many cases?”
“Just a thou’ or so? I don’t dwell on it. It was a fluke, one that Harald was unlucky enough to experience. I’ve talked to the people over at NANO, and they assure me it is being looked into. She was a very nice lady, and she knew her coding. I don’t think even Harald could have kept up with what she was saying. Though she did dumb it down for me. Guess we’re still susceptible to disease. We thought our medbots would be the ones doing the dying for us. Guess we never figured they’d get sick or mad too.”
The Curse of Wrinkled Skin
“There’s no doubt that you’re sick.” A slick haired doctor fixated on a holographic clipboard in hand spoke while standing over his patient. “Have you been eating your nutritio–”
“I’m not having another of those accursed bars! I’d be better off chewing on a piece of drywall!” A man with wrinkled–almost paperlike skin, white hair, sunken bloodshot eyes, and a raspy voice; yelled this out in anger.
“The taste is engineered to suit you, have you accidentally recalibrated your taste receptors recently?” The doctor raised his eyes from the details on the page for the first time since entering the room. “I suspect your condition is the result of a nutritional imbalance. I must advise you to change your diet immediately.” He flipped through the text on his screen. “Allow me to recommend a nutritional expe–” The doctor was interrupted by a fit of loud, unexpected and repeated convulsions of the throat and lungs by the patient.
“Are you alright!?” The doctor worriedly rushed to the patient’s side, when the convulsions stopped but a moment after.
“You damned fool! It’s just a cough!” The patient hissed. “What sort of crock doctor are you!?” He then yelled, taking a deep breath afterwards.
“A cough?” The doctor stepped back, composing himself with a deep sigh and looking down at the records once more.
“Now, sir, this may not be an appropriate time, but I’ve noticed a simple mistake within your medical record that I would like cleared up: it says by your date of birth, that you were born more than eighty years ago; if you would be so kind, what is your actual date of birth? I would like to rectify this error before you become a spectacle of sorts!” The doctor laughed.
“It ain’t wrong, I’m eighty eight!” The man hissed, laying down in his bed.
“There’s no way that’s possible! The human body isn’t designed to live past forty!” The Doctor breathed heavily. “Is it possible that your inhuman age is a direct result of your condition, this curse, of wrinkled skin?”
By Ranma Saotome
Despite recent attempts to ease the patient’s state of mind, they seem to be in a state of panic. With no real cause for such a reaction, I fear the pathogen is now becoming an even greater threat. Seeing as we are tasked with finding a cure to this ailment, it becomes increasingly frustrating that the symptoms continue to evolve with many cases being unique.
We finally know now that the illness itself is airborne; now we can at least interact with subjects designated stable for further testing. Although our tests have been rather fruitful in discovering more possible symptoms, we have made near to no progress on developing a cure as all of our attempts have failed as this “sickness,” somehow finds itself able to counteract any antibodies we’ve been able to test.
After approximately three hours of this patient being in restraints, they’ve managed to develop an inhuman amount of strength. Tearing through their metal restraints, the patient has not retained any injury, and immediately following their freedom from the bindings, the subject in question has become comatose. With no effective methods of waking them up. how will we ever hope to keep our people alive? What are we to do if its transmission evolves? I can only hope other labs have had greater luck. Perhaps this is our extinction event, a demise brought about by our hubris.
Is it acceptable for us to play god, even if it’s for the good of our people? Let any who finds this document learn our name, for I fear that we may not persevere after this outbreak. We are the Rinera, should you find any of our specimens either in life or their bodies, know that we’re not a prideful race. Should you find my body, marked by the crown insignia etched into my cranium’s anterior face, I would serve to be a benchmark specimen, my qualities being near, if not perfectly average, makes me a perfect judge to label other members of my people from.
I fear we may have been our own destruction.
Consultation Notes, Galactic Year 60
by Tyler Wilding
Date of Consultation: Patient year 1990, galactic year 60.
FAMILY HISTORY: Patient has multiple siblings, all of which are sterile. Most recently, patient’s brother became sterile 5 galactic years ago. Patient states some nieces/nephews may not be sterile but is unsure.
PRIOR MEDICAL HISTORY: Patient has suffered five microbiome depletion events over the last two galactic years.
PRIOR SURGICAL HISTORY: Introduction of oxygen, 10 galactic years ago. Glaciation, 2 galactic years ago. Attempted oxygen withdrawal, 1.8 galactic years ago. Induction of vulcanism, 1.1 galactic years ago. Induction of vulcanism, 10 galactic months ago. High-velocity lithospheric atomization, 3 galactic months ago.
PATIENT COMPLAINTS: Elevated temperature and puncture in the lower ozone.
PHYSICAL EXAMINATION: Volcanic activity normal. Temperature 13.9 degrees C. Significant metallic growths observed on exposed lithosphere. Ozone depletion observed from 20 degrees through 90. Significant ozone depletion from 50 degrees through 90 over southern pole. Atmospheric gas test revealed elevated carbon dioxide/monoxide, lead, and various nitrogen oxides and other impurities. Of note is presence of complex chlorine-fluorine-carbon groups. Lithospheric scraping revealed multiple synthetic polymers as well as high levels of strontium-90 and Americium-241.
IMPRESSION: Malignant microbiome.
CONSULTATION: Reviewed symptoms. Patient expressed concern over becoming sterile. Advised patient most treatments for a malignant microbiome carry significant risk of sterility. Possible treatments include radiotherapy and high-velocity lithospheric atomization. Lab results indicate if microbiome activity continues as present, temperature increase will result in microbiome depletion event, sterilizing malignant microbiome. Results also indicated microbiome may reduce in malignancy and return to homeostasis. Advised patient that no treatment recommended at this time. Patient will follow-up in 1 galactic week for further evaluation.
A stranger in need needs a healer indeed
By Tamela Redfin
Months passed and then tragedy struck. Cecilia came down with a fever and green lines on her skin. Shortly after, it was Sapphira and finally Mica, but due to his half human nature, he was the least affected.
I also concluded this was a cyphan illness. “Cameron.” Mica begged, “Please don’t let Sapphira and my children die.”
“I’ve never dealt with this at the camp.” I sighed, “But, I will find a cure for this.”
“Thank you.” He coughed.
“Now you lay down.” I ordered. But what could I do? Was this serious or more like a strand of human common cold? And I knew Mica was worried about Sapphira, but what about Cece?
I had heard reports of a rebellion group that help the cyphas and maybe my limited connections could lead me to them. What was the name? White…Grey…Rose?
Grey Rose sounded right. In the next city over according to rumors, I mean news reports. I quickly called my brother to find any sign of Grey Rose. Luck was surprisingly on my side.
A week later, I saw a man with brick-red hair and brown eyes there. He had a faded scar under his eye. “Cameron Boyle? Open up, it’s Salvador from Grey Rose.”
I opened the door. “You need to help me. My girlfriend and her…”
Salvador nodded. “Kennedy explained everything. May I see them?”
I led them to the room where Cecilia, Sapphira and Mica were asleep. He looked at their arms and the green lines. “Yikes, is that girl pregnant?”
I nodded as he pulled out a bottle from a small satchel.
“It’s a cyphan parasite, known as Leechworm. It’s rare but possibly fatal. My ex-girlfriend had it a few times, so I helped cure her.” Salvador explained.
So he dated cyphas?
But then he looked at Mica. “Funny, I thought cyphas didn’t usually have red hair.”
“Not many I met at Snos, but he’s a special case.” I admitted.
By Lantis Armstrong
A young girl was alone in a sterile white room, florescent bulbs humming overhead. Her hands and feet tied tightly to the posts at the ends of the bed, and two large leather straps tied he torso to the bed, pinning her down. She tried to cry out, but her mouth was gagged. She flung herself about, but the straps held tight to her dark purple wrists and ankles.
The door to the room slid open, and two men in HAZMAT suits entered. Their breath fogged their masks with every exhalation. The one in the lead couldn’t help but shiver.
The shivering man approached her bedside and began observing the monitors. He ignored her pleading eyes while reading her charts, which identified her as “Subject 187.”
“Hm…” he mused quietly, thumping the temperature gauge on the readout. He reached for a thermometer in a box beneath the monitors then pressed it into the side of Subject 187’s eyeball, pushing it down into her skull. She jerked her head, and the thermometer popped out of her socket and was flung to the floor. “Oh for Pete’s sake,” he muttered.
Reaching for a second one, he lifted up an empty box. Letting out a sigh, he began to take off his glove – but the other man reached over quickly to grab his elbow. He jerked away from him then finished taking his glove off.
Pressing the back of his hand against the Subject 187’s forehead, blood squirted out from the side of her eye where the thermometer had been. The man cried out while jerking his hand away and hurriedly putting back on his glove!
The man swerved to face his partner, begging: “Wait no! I didn’t get any on me! I’m fine. I’m FINE!”
His partner drew and fired a shot straight between his eyes, then rushed backwards out the door to call for assistance. Two others ran in and helped him lift the body up onto another bed next to the girl, and they began to strap him down.
By Fvn (CW: Very dark/despair, body horror, sickness)
I watch the cascades of simmering crimson light in the air through the small crack in my window as the sun sets on the streets below. Dunva’la’s beautiful cobbled streets and mortar buildings, once filled with so much splendor, lay barren now. Shrouded in a miasma of crimson Dust which danced on each breeze. I know all too well what it really is. Why it litter’s every alley and corridor of my home. It’s what remains of those whom I had once known. All of them now coalesced as the clouds of malignance scattered throughout this great ruin of a city. The Raught was the name the beggars had given it, as it struck them first and moved fastest through their ranks. My old friend Ki’bar the performer, was where I caught my first glimpses of it.
It started as a strange rash which wrinkled and distorted the skin into odd patterns before slowly bursting outward in rust-like growths covering the appendages. Soon, Ki’bar began to lose the use of his fingers, toes, feet then hands. Finally his limbs gave out as Raught slowly worked its way towards his core. Each piece of him would shrivel over time. Drying away slowly before falling off and collapsing into piles of flesh like crimson dust. He was not the heartiest of sorts. Poor Ki’bar only lasted a week, and by the end his suffering was so great that all I could do for him was end it. Over the following month more of my friends grew ill. Iji the fifer, Brother Kaimen, Ruma the merchant, and even little Saj’ar, one by one had been taken. I could only watch as they decay into nothing but dust. Their skin, flesh and even their bones were now no more than the malignancy which now proliferates this once beautiful place.
I dare not venture out for those who do last naught more than minutes now before they are consumed. It is in the air we breathe now and I fear it might be too late Dunva’la, too late even for me…
“Demonsbane is here!”
Calliope dragged her feet through the settlement, her boots kicking aside the empty shells of her revolver.
A multitude of doors rattled open, and out came crotchety, pale-skinned folk. Some fell at Calliope’s feet, weeping and begging for help, while others stared at her with jaundiced eyes. She noticed that plenty of them were covered in unnaturally black boils, and the veins surrounding them pulsed visibly. If her dad taught her anything, it was definitely to look out for Stygian symptoms.
“Oh, Demonsbane, thank you from coming on such a short notice,” the pudgy mayor blurted with a wheeze.
Calliope couldn’t help but shield her mouth and nose, her stomach reeling at the town’s stench. Thankfully, she had already ingested some holy water beforehand. “Yeah, no problem. Where’s your water supply?”
“Right here, in the town center. The old well here still works fine, it’s perfectly fine.” The mayor gestured to the dust-ridden stones situated in a circular fashion.
Calliope gave a single glance down into the well, the darkness stretching down into the earth. “Not necessarily. Just because it’s clear doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink. Parasites and whatnot.”
“But our doctor makes sure that the water is sanitized. What else could you look into?”
Calliope groaned. “Does it look like I have a doctorate? I’m not your regular CDC asshole. Your water might be infected with Styxwater.”
“What is that?”
“Ichor from the pits of Hell itself, made from souls boiled in the Lake of Fire. Normally, it would let demons possess anyone who touches it, but on earth, it just makes you sick as Hell.”
Calliope knew there was only one way to find out beyond drinking it. She took out a vial of a glowing blue liquid and poured a single drop down into the well.
“What was tha-”
The distant howling of a thousand tormented voices thundered from the hole, as if a pit of captives were wailing for freedom.
Calliope snorted. “Welp, looks like you’re drinking hell-juice.”
Something Came Up (A Tiefling Tale AU)
C. M. Weller
Of all the bad patients Kim had come to know, she despised the Quiet Ones. They didn’t want to make a fuss or be a bother until things became do-or-die desperate. The fact that Kosh was at her door asking about medicine meant that he had to be up to his indigo hairline in trouble. The fact that it was barely past SUNRISE only added to her irritation.
Getting him to talk about his medical trouble required epic levels of diplomacy. Something that was not her forte at the arse-crack of dawn. “What’s the problem?”
Kosh lurked just inside her door, arms folded, looking away. “I know somebody who has… a condition. It’s getting worse, and he needs relief.”
“Not a cure?” Kim tried to get her brain moving.
“He knows what he’s got. A cure is… unlikely.”
“Ah. So what is it?”
In lieu of an answer, Kosh produced a whole flower. “This came up recently.”
The heart-shaped petals were a dead give-away. So was its freshness. The shape of the blossom, however, was not that familiar. “Hanahaki,” she whispered, taking the bloom.
“He knows what he’s got.”
Diplomacy. Kosh hadn’t had time to go anywhere or meet anyone. “Has your… friend… recently changed any habits?”
He did not deny that Tieflings got friends. “Nein. Same ritual every night. Usually, I– HE… coughs up the petals, but…” His lips twitched to come up with something else, but remained closed.
“And that ritual is…?”
“Wishing his fiancee a good ni–” cough cough cough cough cough.
Kim politely ignored the petal that escaped his fist. “I’ll see what I can do.”
The flower, research revealed, was rare. Pining for an unknown love. No wonder he knew the cure was unlikely. Their fellow Adventurer had a complicated knot of secrets in him. Relief would come via a pomander or potpourri made from the petals.
The REAL trouble would be in making one discreet enough for him to take it.
The Retort by Skeleton
No, it was impossible.
Sure, there had been cases of bacteria becoming antibiotic-resistant, and even some viruses had developed mechanisms of evading the immune system entirely. That made sense: it was a response to a selective pressure in the environment. The organism would naturally evolve to become better.
But this wasn’t just better, was it? This was above better—it was an attack against mankind itself. What we abused, the rules we broke, the natural order we demolished in order to make ourselves comfortable was now fighting back. The chart in his hands was the smoking gun to prove it, however dire the consequences of the revelation were.
Technology had been what put mankind on top, and now the one piece of tech that could save millions of lives had been stolen by a damn virus. It wasn’t even alive, technically. It was just doing what its genes had ordered it to do: infect a cell and replicate. Who could have foreseen that a virus would be able to replicate the crispr-cas9 system in order to edit our immune cells and render them useless?
The chart fell to the floor as he looked into the other room at the patient hooked up to life support. He had assumed they had been immunodeficient for their entire life when the test results came in, but they had never been diagnosed. Not even a hint in 46 years of life. That was the first sign something was amiss.
He supposed there was no way to avoid it now. The patient had been traveling all over the world for business—for an oil company—in order to plan new drilling sites. He began to wonder if this was just the planet’s way of getting rid of a sickness, like a fever to cook a virus out of its body. A parasite called humanity.
He gave a sigh. There didn’t seem to be any harm in a quick smoke.
In My Own Little Corner
By Marx (CW: PTSD, Mental/Physical Abuse)
“Daisy…?” Rhea cautiously approached.
Daisy was hugging her knees in the corner of the room. Her clothing torn and her crying eyes wide and unblinking.
Rhea took a deep breath and placed a hand on Daisy’s shoulder. “Daisy are you ok-…urk!”
“Have to kill him, Rhea!” Daisy shouted back.
Rhea paused as she focused on forcing out enough air to speak, thanking whatever deity she could that she wasn’t human anymore. “Daisy… you’re… choking… me…”
Daisy’s eyes somehow went even wider as she realized Rhea was right. She immediately let go of her throat and scrambled back to the safety of the corner. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
Rhea took a breath of air, rubbing her neck as the bruises steadily healed. “It’s okay, sweetie. No harm done. So… I’m assuming you… saw Alex?”
Daisy shuddered at the name. “He found me… He was so… He wasn’t himself, Rhea… I hurt him…”
Rhea sighed and sat next to Daisy. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Daisy slowly nodded. “He hit me… Over and over… He was so mad that… I wasn’t his thrall anymore… It didn’t hurt… Not really… But… I could tell that I hurt HIM… and part of me still… I still…”
Rhea placed her forehead against Daisy’s as they locked eyes. “That’s not love, sweetie. Or at least not the good kind…”
Daisy smiled back before her mind was torn once more to the previous night. “Rhea. I HURT him…”
Rhea nodded. “I’m listening.”
“He… he kept hitting me… And he said… he would make me his again… his thrall… and I just… I snapped, Rhea… I hit him as hard as I could…”
Rhea smiled. “I hope you broke something.” The smile faded as she took a deep breath. “What happened after he healed? If you don’t want to talk about it, it’s okay.”
“Rhea… He DIDN’T heal… He… ran…”
Rhea’s eyes shot wide as she finally realized what Daisy was trying to tell her. “You hurt him…”
Daisy sobbed into Rhea’s embrace. “I have to kill him, Rhea… I’m the only one who CAN…”
Afflictions (Darkspell Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
“How much time have you spent in the mind of a person?”
Alastair’s question caused Max’s fingers to tense. Suggesting the very idea to him had, more often than not, caused someone to receive a glare from the exorcist to warrant a terrified fluster. The necromancer, however, was too accustomed to such simple intimidation tactics and they both knew it.
“None,” Max said, very simply.
“Shame,” Alastair pushed another needle into the skull of a fresh corpse in front of him. “You can find some truly fascinating things.”
“Remind me to die as far away from you as possible.”
Alastair let out a dark chuckle.
“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of poking around in your brain, Max. I know what you keep in there.”
Max ground his teeth, focusing on the corpse in front of him. He’d long since given up trying to argue with Alastair Maime. A pathologist/necromancer was not the easiest person to get along with.
“Anything of relevance?” Max asked, nodding at the body.
“Nothing,” Alastair folded his arms. “His death was too long ago. Next time, preserve it in some vinegar. It’ll buy you a day or so.”
Max made a mental note. Evidently, even two days was too long for the procedure to still be effective.
“Well, if you don’t have anything else…”
“Oh, aren’t you curious about what I did find?”
“A jumbled mess of meatball cravings and bad sex jokes?” Max was only half joking.
“A fascinating cocktail of so many ailments,” Alastair chuckled again. “Greed, pettiness, spite. And so loud. Far too loud.”
“Wouldn’t you call the desire to do harm an ailment?”
Max had to bite back a harsh retort. He couldn’t exactly blame Alastair for his outlook. He knew from Felix that spite was a common feeling in the dead. Despite this, he couldn’t keep it all down.
“I know you spend a lot of time among the dead, but maybe if you stopped looking at the human mind as a diseased mess and searched for everything else it has to offer, you might be a tad less miserable.”