For the A to Z Challenge I generated a list of random words, and I will be writing a short story incorporating those words. Each day a little more of the story will be unveiled. You can read the full story, to date, here. Here we go:
“He’s going to save the human race,” Mark repeated.
“The whole human race.”
“A good chunk of it,” Mr. Cross said. He pulled a napkin from the dispenser and began to shred it. Mark caught himself tapping out a rhythm with his uninjured hand. Both of them were brimming with unspent energy. Anxiety did that to him.
“Please, just tell me what’s going on,” Mark implored.
“In about eighteen years, there will be a plague that makes the Black Death look like flu season. It first appears in rural China, but it quickly spreads across the country, hops borders, flies across the oceans in jet liners. They called it Pandora. Because once it was out, there was no putting it back into whatever box it came from. It’s airborne, very virulent, about a 60 percent death rate, with a good 20 percent of survivors permanently disabled. Blindness. Brain damage. It kills people very quickly. Only a few days from the first symptoms until you’re dead.”
“But, doesn’t a fast killing virus usually die out?” Mark asked. “Like, I heard Ebola doesn’t spread very far because it kills so quickly.”
“Usually, that’s the case. Also, Ebola patients are obviously sick, and the virus isn’t airborne, so it’s easy to avoid exposure and minimize risk. No, this thing was something new. Pandora was so effective, there were suggestions – still never debunked by the way – that it was created by the Chinese as a weapon. The Chinese blamed Russia. Things aren’t so good between them.” Mr. Cross said it as if the two nations were in a marriage on the verge of divorce, a flippant way that contrasted sickly with the disease he was describing.
“So 80% of the population is…put out of commission,” Mark said, just as the waitress returned.
“What can I get y’all?” she asked in a Southern twang that was out of place in a Northern city.
“Yes,” Mr. Cross said completely dropping their conversation. “Can I get the Double Cheeseburger Platter with an extra side of chili fries?”
“So that’s in addition to the fries that comes with the Platter?” the waitress asked. Mark could see her measuring the old man, wondering where he was going to fit all that food.
“Yes. And my grandson will have…?”
Mark wanted to laugh at the ruse they had fallen into, one he had started. But he also remembered how Mr. Cross had stuck him with the check at Golden Dragon, and he only had $10 dollars in his pocket and a giant black hole on his debit card until the end of the week. “I’m good. Thanks.”
When the waitress left, Mr. Cross took a sip from his coffee before continuing, as if he had never been interrupted. “Not exactly that. Potentially 80% of the population. At its height, depending on the country, anywhere from ten to 30 percent of the population was infected. That’s about 3 billion people.”
Mark tried to process the number: 1 out of 3 people infected, dead, or disabled. That was a serious threat. But what did that have to do with Ashton Miller?
Mr. Cross answered the unasked question: “Ashton Miller had the cure.”