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: Who knows when it started...

The Plague
Tom Donoghue

It’s not so much of a grand mystery now, sitting in this waiting area, tubes coming out of my body, crappy little hospital gown, body shivering uncontrollably from the AC and the meds. It doesn’t really matter now anyway. I never paid attention to the warnings, the emerging side effects, and the slow build of the body count. I didn’t listen, I was too busy talking. Look at me now.

It looks like no one else bothered to pay attention either. The waiting room is packed, and the hallway is lined with men, women, even kids, who are all suffering the same crushing agony as I am. This is it, folks. We went along for the ride, and we have now all ended up in the exact same place, at nearly the same time. The culmination of global self absorption, self gratification, pop culture peer pressure, and vanity, leading every one of us to this very place in time.

Welcome to the new plague. This one only took about 20 years to manifest. It will wipe out 50% of the planet within two years. The people left to carry on will be the ones we used to consider the poorest, the least advanced, and the most primitive. The irony is so thick it can’t be measured. God, how I envy them now. A year ago I’ll bet they envied me.

I can remember my first time using. Well, I can kind of remember it. I was young, 23 at the time, and traveling for business, feeling like a big shot. I can also remember thinking, "this might not be too healthy". But hey, other people were starting to do it, and there was no denying the "coolness" of it, the "pop couture" of it. What started out as a fad, a hipness indicator, quickly morphed into a permanent accessory. By the time it hit the mainstream, I was using maybe 30 times a day, and everyone around me was too.
Back to now. Pain, searing headaches, crushing nausea, eminent death. There is nothing they can do for me or anyone else in this hospital. We’re the walking, rolling, crawling, crying, dying victims of a plague that is sweeping the Earth, and as of today, there seems to be no cure. Hundreds of millions of people, with bubbling, hemorrhaging brains. No more words are needed. They’ve all been spoken, ad nausea.
I hope, pray, beg for relief. I rail at the lack of foresight I displayed as I willingly subjected myself to forces I knew nothing about. I wonder how many deaths I’ve contributed to, how many contributed to mine. This was truly a virtually viral virus. No beginning, one end.

I live in regret that I will not be able to make a lasting mark on this Earth. I welcome eternal sleep. The pain is too great.

Junkies, we just kept on using and using and using and using, all the while making other people rich beyond their wildest dreams, while we lapped up every new marketing gimmick, every new enhancement. Stupid unthinking junkies. What did we expect for our lack of sense?

Back to now. I can barely stay focused. The woman next to me has blood coming out of her ear. Right ear. I know this bleeding, I have it to. I used that way for years. She is whimpering, maybe praying, I don’t know because I can’t hear her. I can hardly hear anything anymore. That started first, then the skull splitting headaches, then the blurred vision. The vision cleared up as soon as I stopped using, but the headaches and the hearing loss and the lack of appetite all continue to consume me, my energy, and my life.
Oh. There is a boy, maybe 17. He just slid off his chair. He’s dead, no doubt about it. I’ve seen it too many times in the past three weeks. Dead as a door nail. Nobody moves, only a few of us in this overcrowded waiting room even look at the boy’s body. His face, now at peace, is a mass of lesions, looks like a bad black and blue mark but we all know its worse. We know how he got it. Like the lady next to me, who has wrapped a rag around her head to keep her ear from bleeding out, we all know what delivered us here. This plague will get us all in the end. There will be no one left to talk to.

I can hear something now, faint. I strain with my good ear, my left one, to pick up the sound. Others hear it too. Someone laughs, a laugh of utter capitulation. One woman cries out in anguish at the sound. It is the plague calling, we can hear it growing louder now.

It is coming from the dead boy’s pocket. Too late, he can’t answer it, his stupid, death carrying cell phone going off in his pocket, the default ring tone of a Nokia 6210 pinging away. Who on Earth would be calling him? Maybe its not a call from Earth. Maybe God has a cell phone too.
If He does, I hope he’s got good life insurance…

© Tom Donoghue November 2005

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