Thursday, August 11, 2005

Chapter 14: March 24, 2031 Blizzard

“Fourteen hundred soldiers at Camp Mudhole were quaranteed after twenty suspected black pox cases were discovered in their encampment in central Nigeria. Initial indicators point to a prisoner of war who may have been intentionally infected before surrendering as the alpha case. About ninety percent of those infected with this bioengineer hybrid of highly contagious small pox and deadly Ebola virus die. The quarantine will continue until two weeks pass with no new cases. Ultimate casualties are expected to reach the hundreds, but initial indications are that the outbreak will be contained to this camp, which was on an extended counterinsurgency mission. A biohazard containment team has been deployed to the area. Troops have been confined to their tents and are subsisting on combat rations.”

“Meanwhile, in local news, spring snowstorms have extended construction road closures in the C-470 corridor, in addition to causing minor accidents throughout the city. The death of a ninety-nine year old man who slipped and fractured several bones while shoveling snow has been attributed to the storm.”

“Scandal has put the future of Purity Beef Corporation in danger after a Wild Foods official discovered an elaborate system of bribes and deception used to pass ordinary genetically modified beef off as organic, natural bred beef, causing Wild Foods to cancel its contract. Purity Beef’s attorney claims that the alleged bribes were in fact legitimate travel reimbursements for drivers and has promised to bring suit for a breach of its supply contract.”

“In sports, the Colorado Rapids have, for the first time, surpassed the Denver Boncos on a per game sales basis boosted in part by its nine and two record, something the winless Denver Broncos after their third coach this season would have welcomed in reverse.”

Lily turned off the news and stared out at the snow falling. Several people who’d had appointments to plan proms and weddings had already cancelled their appointments. Joe’s delivery for the afternoon had been postponed, so he was reading one of his textbooks. Their boss, Mark DeVeaux, was in Morocco for a trade show. Their Spring Break party event was still on, but the trays were already neatly stocked in their carts, ready to roll out of the freezer and into the truck.

“What in your studies today?”, Lily asked Joe.

“Psychiatric emergencies.”, Joe responded. “My professor opened his lecture yesterday with a projection of an old tree on Park Avenue with a knot as big as its trunk. He said the knot formed when the tree tried to work around the growing grubs of an invasive insect species. It lived, but it was grossly deformed by the experience of trying to control the invasion. He said that minds are like that too. If a traumatic idea embeds itself deeply enough in just the right place, it can warp the entire mind. The mind may live, but it will be grossly distorted in the process of trying to protect itself, as ordinary growth processes are distorted by the trauma. Most of those distorted minds end up going through emergency rooms and getting treated by EMTs like I’m training to be, before they see a psychiatrist, if the ever do.”

“What do you think?”, Lily asked.

“I’ve seen some pretty crazy people, even just volunteering in the E.R. few a few months. There was one guy, he was brought in from hypothermia after the cops had picked him up drunk in an alley. He was convinced that he had assassinated John Lennon, even though he was 50 years old and Lennon was dead before he was born. He’d sobered up by then, and I was helping him fill out his discharge papers, so we wasn’t shivering any more, but I’d swear that he believed it even though it was impossible. I don’t know what makes people turn out like that.”

An e-mail message came in, and the computer chirped in acknowledgment. Lily looked at the screen. The roof had collapsed at the old church where the Spring Break party had been scheduled, so the event had to be cancelled. She motioned to Joe who looked for himself.

“Want to join me on the trip to the shelter?”, Joe asked.

“Sure.”, Lily said.

The thirty homeless men at the church at 6th Avenue and Inca had some of the finest fajitas, fish tacos, guacamole vegetable dips, and pineapple-escarole salads available in Denver that night. And, even the man who thought he’d killed John Lennon, who happened to be staying there that night, didn’t complain that the Purity Beef Company steak in the fajitas was not actually organic.

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