Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tales of Nihuru Rising: Plague

(I've fallen behind recently with my stories, and feel it's important no matter what to continue writing, even if all I can think up is science fiction, so brace yourselves readers, I'm starting a Bi-monthly deadline and hopefully some of these stories will eventually come together to form a novel, comic, or other finished work.)
Shae Sveniker, November 2009

The child was the latest one to come down with it, coughing up little dry clouds of red dust. Soon he'd rust from the inside out and his blood would become the consistency of mud. Doc Thalver was not happy to inform the family, and they agreed to admit him to the facility for further study. The mysterious illness had affected many of the towns-people lately. I was becoming an epidemic and it hadn't seemed to follow any logical path of transition. First an old man in a nursing home had it last year; he passed away as his eyes began to karatinize. By his last breath, his irises had become red shells as hard as nails. An autopsy revealed his blood impossibly thick with minerals and of course, there was the dust in his lungs. None of the other patients in the nursing home experienced any unusual symptoms, nor had any of the employees of the nursing home, nor had their families.

However, two weeks later a man in a mining operation on the opposite side of town began to describe a pain in his chest while breathing, and having been prescribed an inhaler, he began treatment for athsma, including adrenaline shots. Two weeks later, he died with the same symptoms as the old man. They had not been related, nor even drank the same water or shopped at the same stores.

In total, twenty-five people from opposite corners of society began exhibiting symptoms. Two were impossibly ill, the rest had died within three weeks of displaying symptoms. Then there was this boy... the youngest yet.

Doc Thalver sat on the outer steps of the medical facility and ate his mid-day rations as the medical traffic swarmed around him. He scratched his three-days-growth of beard and brushed the ever present dust of the atmosphere from his mustache. His eyes were red and bloodshot from the lack of sleep and the red dust that was always in the air. There were a million things he had to do to make sure the facility ran effectively for the town. He informed one of the orderlies he was going out for a couple hours and began to walk across town to the officer's barracks.

Col. Andersenko met him on the street and took him into the barracks. There he met with the major-general and they walked to the communications facility for the daily meeting. The communications area was a small white room with a rectangular table before which, one by one, images of representatives from the other divisions at similar tables flickered onto a large wall-screen.

The Doctor waited until introductions were made before presenting the companies and military corps with the disturbing problem of his mystery epidemic. After assurances from the representatives in Washington and that they would put their best scientists to work on the problem, Doc Thalver left the communications area and went back to his facility where to his dismay, two more patients had showed up with similar symptoms. One of the died in the admitting office and no one noticed until he began to leak brownish-red mud from his nose onto the shoulder of his jacket and the seat next to him.

He was the major-general's only son.

That night, lit by the cold stars of a moonless sky, the Major-General walked out into the red sands that surrounded the colony. Doc Thalver watched him stumbling until he could no longer make out his black shape in the dunes. Had the Doc known the Major-General wasn't planning on coming back, if he knew that the Major General's body would have been found by a patrol the next day at the bottom of a nearby minor tributary of the Valle Marineris, he might have done something, but instead he just leaned against the clear silicone wall of the settlement and smoked his pipe tobacco and contemplated the dust and the disease.

As the days followed and more cases developed, the military prepared to recieve the new Major-General, Doc Thalver began to feel claustrophobic. The biodome that the entire settlement inhabited seemed to flood with the red dust. In his quarters, the dust occupied every corner and seemed to rain constantly from the cieling, so that hee had to order the housekeeping to sweep and clean twice daily.

The new Major-General summoned him from rounds the fifth day after his arival.

"Doc Thalver," the Major-General said, "I will require you to accompany with me to the com, we've got some disturbing news from the other divisions."

As they settled behind the table, dust settled from the doctor's clothes and dust, leaving a red trail across the white room and table. One by one division representatives checked in until all twenty seven divisions were present and accounted for. At the end of the meeting, the Major-General said to Doc Thalver "Everthing you just heard is confidential until we can put together a press release that wont start a riot in our little community, do you understand?"

"Yes sir," Thalver said. "But you better tell everyone soon, they need to know what's happening where their families are. Everyone has a right to know."

"As I said, Doc, we'll let everyone know when it's appropriate. You go back to the facilty and continue your research. We need your help if these plagues are ever to be understood or contained."

The rest of the day passed in a haze as Doc Thalver made his rounds and prescribed continued observations. The boy was on blood thinners, adrenaline and made to move constantly to avoid the settling of dust in his lungs, but he was partially blind with red cataracts. The others three in the facility were now bedridden, blind, and resigned. They would probably die by the morning. Doc Thalver wondered why the boy had lasted so long in comparision to the others. there was nothing dramatically different from the other patients except the boy seemed calmer and the disease was progressing more slowly.

That evening in his quarters, Doc Thalver cracked open a bottle of scotch and tried to make sense of the unreal reports of the division meetings today. There were strange beings washing ashore all over the islands of the south pacific; half-aborted tenticular cephalopods with large brains and large, fleshy bodies, some aparently adorned with piercings that held wire jewelry, some of them had even been alive when they were captured, but died later, despite the best efforts of scientific men. It was unknown whether they were intellegent, where they were from, and why they were dying.

On a metropolis-capacity space-station orbiting Venus, personel were being afflicted by a plague of air-tumors, their bodies producing concerous mestacular tumors that after autopsy revealed they were hollow and full of air, like the bouys of sea weed. The blood of those victims had high levels of amonia leading the head medical cheif to list their deaths as both due to mestasticized tumors and amonia poisoning. Astronaughts on long-term research missions began to loose limbs completely, waking on morning to find a finger missing, the next morning, an arm gone, the next a majority of their bodies, and the next their coworkers would find an empty suit where their companion had been sleeping. On the moon, workers began to display symptoms of jaundice and polio, and would die of dehydration. On Titan and Europa, all of the colonists were becoming anemic dispite every medical advance and special supplimental diets, and they were dying also of ascites with high concentrations of nigrogen.

Doc Thalver was wandering through the streets of the settlement, halfway through the bottle when he looked out of the clear silicone of the bio-dome wall into the panorama of Mars. There, amidst the sand was the boy, dressed only in the hospital gown Doc Thalver had last seen him in, stood atop a dune and waved. Thalver, shocked, disbelieving, dropped the bottle and his jaw, unsure if what he was seeing was real. The boy continued waving, obviously at Thalver, so hesitantly, he waved back. "My god," he said to himself, "This can't be real."

As Thalver waved back, the boy pointed up to the dim black-purple of the red planet's night-time sky, and as a dust-devil centralized itslef on the boy, he slowly began to disappear into the atmosphere. As the dust cleared, nothing remained of the boy but the hospital gown, now gently floating down like a fall leaf to the ground.

1 comment:

  1. Great writing, I thought. Needs a spell check. You are soooo talented!