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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Sci-fi · #1116041
A woman who is 1/8 Vulcan has to find a cure for a pandemic before it's too late...

(By the way, etymologically, the word "epidemic" means "upon the people," thus the working title "Upon the People."

~~~~I'm updating this whenever I can, when I write more, and revise what I have written~~~~

         I've been told I have some strange habits. I eat pizza with a fork. I pinch my bottom lip and pace back and forth across the room when I'm thinking. I like to work in the dark (unless, of course, I absolutely need the light to work).

         My friends like to pick on me about these habits. I always blame it on my great-grandmother passing her bad habits on to me, but they've never bought that one. To tell you the truth, I've never entirely bought it either. So two summers ago when I started what they considered another one of those habits, I pulled out the old grandma excuse. But that really didn't work that time. You see, I had decided to take up journaling. My great-grandma has passed a lot of things on to me, but that wasn't one of them.

         I had never before wanted or been able to write about the boring things I did every day of my life, but that summer was the farthest thing possible from boring. And so my idea morphed itself into a short sort of section of my autobiography. Every once in a while, over that crazy summer, I wrote about my ordeals with what would prove to be some of the worst, and possibly some of the best moments of my life.

         So this is it. This is the story of that summer when I was faced with the biggest challenge of my life.


My Heritage: 1/4 Swedish, 1/4 Polish, 5/8 German, 1/8 Russian, 1/8 Vulcan.

         Observant eyes may notice this adds up to 1 and 1/8 of a person. But observant eyes may still miss the point entirely.

         Vulcans live for two and a half centuries. Half-Vulcans live quite a while too. Those who are a quarter Vulcan only live to be about 150 or 175 because of all their human genes. Their children, those of us who are only 1/8 Vulcan, will probably only end up as some of the oldest people in the world - about 110 years old.

         Most of us probably don't even know about our heritage. In fact, I didn't learn about my own until I was 16, twelve years ago. Since then, I've only confided in three people: my best friend Lisa, who I've known since grade school, my friend Eric, who I know I can tell anything, and Michael, my boss at the CDC.

         The CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Used to just be called the Centers for Disease Control but they added "prevention" on there, and didn't change the acronym. The CDCP, ICUP ... things like that.

         But back to what I was talking about before.

         I believe there are more eighth-Vulcans than any of us know. Since we are mostly human, there is not much that sets us apart from anyone else. We live normal lives, do normal things. We don't suppress our emotions or do everything based on logic and reason alone. Nor do we have pointy ears or green blood - those usually disappear after 1/2. All that remains is the strength.

         My great-grandmother is a full-blooded Vulcan. And she is a very fascinating woman. She is now a little over 150 years old - not really that old for a Vulcan - and she looks like she's only 40 or 50. And yes, she always looks a little green. She has grown her hair out longer so she can cover her ears, and she has become quite talented at hairdressing, since she would not allow any human except her husband to see her ears.

         This probably all sounds pretty crazy to you - what are you talking about, little green men? Aliens and humans and half-humans and quarters and eighths? Very few people know about any contact between Vulcans and humans, or between humans and anyone else (no, I'm not saying there has been anyone else). But we aren't exactly very open about these things - can you imagine the chaos it would cause if everyone in the world knew there were aliens here? But it has happened.

         It all started in the late 1800's. My great-grandmother and some other Vulcans were on a planet studying the plant life there when four of them were kidnapped by pirates. Yes, pirates. Space pirates. They were kidnapped and held for ransom on the pirates' ship - space ship - but they escaped by stealing an escape pod and landing on the closest habitable planet. Earth. (There aren't that many habitable planets in the general vicinity, I guess).

         I know what you're thinking: why didn't, why couldn't they just leave after a while? Well I'll tell you: I don't know. But they didn't.

         They landed in a remote part of Poland and set up camp in the middle of nowhere. But one of the escapees realized that in order to survive for any length of time, they couldn't seclude themselves forever. They had to venture out into the world and come face-to-face with the humans. It was my great-grandma.

         They didn't want to do this, for fear of "contaminating the culture," an idea that seems to be their catchphrase and their excuse for not doing anything about things. So two went, two stayed.

         My great-grandmother, T'Nor, and Sulan (the other guy who went with her) found their way to the nearest city - a place called Gostynin, Poland. Needing information and maybe some food, they stopped in a local establishment they saw other people going into. But they had hardly set foot in the door when they were kicked out and told to go back to the ghetto where they "belonged." Knowing it best not to make waves, they went, hoping they could get what they needed there. Perhaps they would be better accepted where they "belonged."

         The first people they met there were a husband and wife and their son, Jedrek Laski. They immediately offered to take these two strangers in for the night, to feed them and get them new clothes. They were warmly welcomed into their home, no questions asked. My great-grandmother and Sulan later learned that this group of people they had been assumed to be a part of were known as the Jews, and were apparently inferior to the rest of the humans.

         As you've probably guessed by now, my great-grandma ended up marrying Jedrek. She says he fell in love with her that first evening, but it took her longer to fall in love with him, being the illogical, emotional human he was.

         He and his family helped them to get a place to live and jobs so they could pay for the things they needed. My great-grandmother went back to where the other two Vulcans were staying in the middle of nowhere and told them she had found a safe place for them to live, but they refused to go. They still believed that if they lived in that close of proximity to the humans, they would be contaminating the culture. They also thought my great-grandmother was being illogical by allowing herself to become attached to this family - their son in particular. She knew she was letting her emotions get involved in the situation, but she didn't think she could survive very well living like a hermit. Sulan didn't think he could either, and decided to stay with her.

         Over the next few years, they both married (my great-grandma to Jedrek, and Sulan to Jedrek's sister), and my great-grandma had one daughter, my grandma.

         In the little Jewish community where they lived, there had been talk about leaving Poland for America. My great-grandmother had heard there were wide open spaces there, so she suggested to the two who had stayed behind when she went into town that they should go there. Before long, her husband's family and many of her friends were leaving, so she and her husband decided to go too.

         So they left. And they came here, to America. And that, in short, is the story of my great-grandmother. Ok, maybe it's not so short.


         I am an epidemiologist. The dictionary defines me as a medical scientist who studies the transmission and control of epidemic diseases. I'd say I agree.


         Eric and I were at the park. That is when it all began.

         He was spinning me on the merry-go-round. I was getting dizzy. Then the phone rang. My purse (where the phone was) sat on the ground a few feet away. I told Eric - well, what I could see of him - to answer it for me. It was Michael. He wanted to speak to me, please.

         So with a grave tone he told me ...

         Dr. Johannsen? One had died and two were sick in Alabama. One sick in Georgia. One dead right here in Florida. Something was out there, they needed me. Could I put together a team tonight? Smothers, Clarke, Strickland, and Wolfe should be on it. Please?

         Tonight? Tonight was the Sabbath -

         He knew, he was sorry. But there wasn't anything he could do about it ... I had a few more hours left, anyway.

         I understood and would see him in about a half an hour.

         So Eric, who had sat down next to me on the merry-go-round and started it slowly spinning again, stopped us and stood up. He pulled me up and gave me a hug.

         I told him I hadn't heard anything about this yet, so it had to either be spreading quickly or killing quickly.

         He drove me home so I could change (I was in shorts and a tank top) then I drove myself to work.

         They all had similar symptoms: it started like the flu, then unexplainably turns into pain and numbness in the arms and legs, then to delirium, then a coma. Then they die.


         I was born Sarah Naomi Eve Johannsen, in a middle class home in a middle class neighborhood to a middle class family. My father was a police officer and my mother stayed at home most of the year with my brother, sister, and I, and taught swim lessons during the summer.

         As I got older, like any child, I made friends with other children living nearby. I played baseball with the boys and dolls with the girls, and was respected by both. I wore girly shirts and jeans, but rarely skirts or dresses, except to synagogue. I was Sarah, the girl down the street who played baseball and struck out all the boys, the girl with the curly black hair in braids and bright blue eyes, the girl whose dad you didn't mess with, the girl whose parents wouldn't let her play on Friday nights, the girl who fought her brother - and won, and occasionally, the girl with weird parents.

         No one, not even myself, knew I was 1/8 Vulcan then. Sure, it was questioned how such a little girl could pitch the ball so hard and always win arm-wrestling contests, but there was no reason to suspect anything out-of-the-ordinary. I was just passed off as an energetic child. I loved to run and jump and dance and climb. I did handstands and cartwheels and swung upside down from the monkey bars every chance I could get. That was just how I was.

         I met Lisa Campbell the first day of 3rd grade. I was 8 years old then, had just gotten new school clothes and had my hair down for the day. My father had gotten me a beautiful new Star of David necklace for my birthday the month before, and I wore it proudly that day.

         We all looked forward to seeing who was in who's class, and all dreaded having to learn anything new. We all had our little group of friends already and hoped they wouldn't break us up. We all hoped the big kids would let us play where we wanted to during recess, now that we were in third grade. And we all waited for class to start by seeking out our old friends that we hadn't seen for months (or for some, they waited all of 24 hours since they had seen them last!)

         I stood in a circle with three other girls my age, chittering nervously about teachers, math, and english. We were all dressed up in brand-new clothes, new shoes, new backpacks. Looking back on it now, we probably looked like a bunch of little rich kids (in reality, we weren't all that rich) who could only associate with their own type.

         We were too busy worrying to notice a little girl, only 7 years old but still a 3rd grader, standing there intently watching us. She was new to the school, new to the area. This was her first day inside our school and was desperately trying to find someone to ask where she should go. She had almost found us.

         But her plans and ours (our plans to continue worrying) were interrupted by two 5th-grade boys.

         What are pigtails for, except for mean boys to pull? Didn't parents know this?

         Melody was the unfortunate one with braids that day. There were few teachers in sight, so, seemingly out of nowhere, the taller of the two boys appeared and yanked - and like pulling a string to make a toy speak, Melody let out a prolonged, loud "Owwwww!"

         The boy laughed, and that was the end of him. Myself in the lead, our little pack jumped at him like wild dogs, making him run off down the hall before he could be caught by any adult for what he had done. Scaredy cat, we thought.

         But his shorter friend was braver, and a bit smarter. He hung back in the crowd and waited until the ruckus we caused died down (which really only took a few seconds). Then he advanced towards the little new girl, unnoticed. She, too, had the misfortune of having hair done up in pigtails, and like anyone could have expected, she was next. She did more than yell "ouch," though. She screamed and started to cry. Then we all noticed her.          As was usual for me, I immediately rushed to her side to comfort and protect her. Putting my arm around her shoulder, I drew myself up as tall as I could and told him off the best I could.

         I don't remember the words I used, but I'm sure I included things like "that's not nice," "what did she ever do to you," "leave her alone," and "keep your hands off my FRIEND!" (Now keep in mind, I had never met this poor girl until that moment, and knew nothing about her except that she had pigtails that day). Most people, including teachers, knew that I wasn't afraid to fight someone older than me if it was to protect someone else. Most people knew I would win. This boy must have been new.

         So he did it again - well, tried. But I was quick, and pushed the girl behind me so I stood between her and the enemy. This angered him, and I suddenly realized his hair-pulling was more than just usual teasing.

         Then, at the same time, we each saw something different that would turn this into an event that would send us all to the principal's office. I saw a teacher, he saw my necklace.

         "What's this?" he said, grabbing it. Even knowing I might get in trouble, I slapped his hand down.

         "You're a Jew!" he exclaimed, contemptuously.

         I was shocked. While teasing was commonplace, to be not only insulted but truly hated was just ... horrible! Though I didn't know it at the time, he undoubtedly had learned this from his mother and father, who were members of the Klan.

         Apparently, even at that age, I had learned some of the emotional control taught by my great-grandmother to her daughter, then to her daughter, then to me (I guess). Because I could have, and might have, smashed his face in with my fist right then and there. Instead, I took a deep breath, put my hands on my hips, and calmly declared, "So?"

         The teacher had been within earshot the entire time, and was now rushing over, still unnoticed by the boy. He continued on, though not with anything very original to say. His words were something to the effect of "Eeeww! You touched me!" At a time when all girls had a horrible case of the cooties, apparently I had something worse.

         At this new insult, my three friends stepped forward and joined me, not ready to fight him physically but perfectly willing to glare. The new girl also moved beside me, no longer hiding. I stepped forward from the line, but she grabbed my arm and kept me back. Then I realized, she knew him. But I wasn't about to back down.

         Sensing an imminent school-yard fight, the teacher sprinted over and took his place between us with a firm stance. "All of you," he said, pointing an accusatory finger at each of us, "to the principal's office!"

         Needless to say, I was not very happy at this. I had expected the teacher to come over and save the day, sticking up for me for protecting an innocent little girl, sending the perpetrator off to speak with the Big Man, and sending me off with nary a word. A trip to the principal was not what any of us wanted on the first day of school!

         It was a short visit, and I learned that in fact neither I nor my friends were in any trouble. They were only there because they were eyewitnesses. The boy, on the other hand, had a lot more to deal with. First, he was transferred out of my class and into another. Then the rest of us were dismissed to go to class so we didn't miss reviewing addition and subtraction. I'm not sure what else happened to the boy that day after we left, but I'm sure it wasn't good.

         Melody was in my class, as was the new girl. With our heads held high, a grown-up walked us to our class in silence. I stood in the middle, holding each of their hands tightly. They were scared, and needed me.

         The rest of that day was surprisingly normal. Until lunch.

         The new girl and Melody sat next to me, one on each side. Around the large lunch table, we all began opening lunch bags and boxes and comparing food. All except the new girl. To my horror, I realized she had no lunch. Then it all hit me - she wore old, dirty shoes, last year's backpack, and old, hand-me-down clothes. I hadn't noticed before, I just accepted her and didn't think about it at all. But now I realized not everyone would be the same way.

         Thinking quickly (and quite selflessly for an 8 year old) I shoved my pink lunch box in front of her and raised my hand. "Miss Jefferson," I declared loudly, "I forgot my lunch." The snickers around the table were all directed at me as she assured me she could do something for me, and went off to find me lunch.

         Turning to the new girl, I realized I still didn't know her name. As if nothing had just happened, I turned to her and asked, "So what's your name?"

         "Stephanie Lisa," she said. "But I like Lisa better."

         "So, Lisa ..." I began, starting a conversation like it was the first time I had seen her.

         Later that week, the principal asked to see Lisa, the anti-Semitic boy, myself, and all of our parents together. At that meeting, I learned there were problems there much deeper that could be solved in the lunchroom or the principal's office. The boy's parents were lifelong members of the Ku Klux Klan. Lisa's dad a recently unemployed, recently homeless black man, her mother, not there because she had died years earlier. My dad, a Jewish policeman who had arrested a KKK member and friend of the boy's father only the night before.

         The discussion was important and was concerning us children (after all, without what had happened between us, there would have been no reason to call the meeting) so we were there for the whole thing.

         I don't remember much of what we talked about, much of it was "grown-up" problems we thought we were far too young for. I do remember, though, what happened when our discussion turned into a (very) heated argument.

         The boy's father insulted Lisa's father. Then my father. The three men stood up, ready to fight to defend themselves (not physically, not yet) at a moment's notice. Then the women joined in, shouting at each other and joining the men in standing. The principal fought to keep control of the now raging group. Lisa sat in one corner of the room, the boy sat in the other. The situation was quickly turning for the worse, and may have declined farther into a physical fight had not someone stopped it.

         No one expected that someone to be me. I was quite perceptive as a child, I knew I had to stop it before it reached a point of no return. The argument was between the adults at the time, I had been pretty much ignored the past few minutes. So I climbed up on a chair and stood in it, hands on hips, then in the loudest, most authoritative voice I had, I shouted, "Hey!"          They all stopped and looked at me.

         I continued. "You guys don't let us get like this," I said. "If we yell like this you put us in the corner or send us to our rooms. I thought you adults could control yourselves better than this."

         At this point, I was interrupted, but I was going to be heard out. I climbed up on the desk right in the middle of all of them and continued on, borrowing a line from my parents: "You're not gonna get anywhere yelling like this, you know. You're only gonna get yourselves in trouble..." Then in a daring move that could have gotten me grounded for the next century, I pointed my finger straight at my dad, and again in that authoritative voice, told him, "Sit ... down!" To my great surprise, after a moment's hesitation, he obeyed.

         I then pointed to Lisa's dad. "You. Sit." He sat. Then to the boy's dad. "You ..."

         He stormed out of the room.


stamp foot and straighten up ... w/ a stance that could have been mistaken for standing atattention, save for the look on my face


Start with a great quote about dying, starting with "'tis."

         A virus. Who ever knew a virus could cause this much suffering? Oh, yes. Smallpox, polio, ebola. The flu epidemic in the early 1900's, the SARS epidemic in China. Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised. And perhaps I should rephrase:

         An engineered virus. Who ever knew a person could cause this much suffering? Oh, yes - Hitler, Stalin. Robespierre of the French Revolution. Perhaps there I shouldn't be so surprised, either. But those men never did what this one has. It's biological warfare like we've only imagined it before.

         Quickly spreading, slowly killing. Passed on like a cold. To you, to you, to you. Boom, boom, boom. One dead, two dead, three dead. Numbers add up, graves pile up.

         Who has the cure? Not us, not yet. Surely, THEY do, lest this thing spread world-wide and reach its hand of death back to them. Why, they've probably all vaccinated themselves already. But they're not sharing. 'Cause that's no way to ensure the complete ANNIHILATION of your enemy.

         It starts deceptively innocuously - like allergies or a mild cold. (And is often misdiagnosed as such - and also causes mass paranoia at the first feeling of being "under the weather"). A headache, stuffy nose, sore throat. Then it starts to move down. Flu-like symptoms begin: fatigue, body aches, a fever of about 101º, chills, nausea, sometimes vomiting at this point. It continues moving deeper, farther. Into the lungs, coughing up thick yellow or green phlegm, fever increases to 103 or 104, sometimes higher. All patients, victims, have experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhea by this point, and the accompanying dehydration if care is not taken to prevent it.

         If the disease is not stopped by this point (which I am desperately trying to do), it begins attacking the victim's nervous system. Once the disease reaches this phase, it progresses relatively rapidly and is ultimately fatal.

         The first symptoms of this phase are pain, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs. Before long, this spreads to the entire body. Uncontrollable muscle twitching develops first in the legs, then the arms, and sometimes the face. By a few days later, there's usually complete numbness and partial paralysis of the extremities. Then the patient begins to experience mental degradation - irritability, confusion, delirium, sometimes seizures, difficulty remembering things, sudden (and often violent) emotional outbursts, and occasionally hallucinations, especially as the disease progresses. A few days later, the patient will fall into a coma and die.

         Not exactly how you want to spend your last days, is it?

         The few, the proud, those of us who work our tail ends off day after day, hitting one dead end after another in the search for a cure.

         White. Who ever knew death could be surrounded by so much white? White masks, white lab coats, white walls, white lights - and the ever-present pale white face of death.

         We - my team and I - have all essentially given our lives to see the end of this disease. We all know it's just a matter of time before we all fall victim to its reign. Just a matter of time.

         And all this time, something I can't help but think - in the shadows, hidden from view, there sits my great-grandmother and her friends with their superior knowledge, unwilling to share it for fear of "contaminating" the rest of us. Well I have some news for you, my friends. We've all been contaminated with something a lot more dangerous now. And anything you could possibly do to help would be greatly appreciated! But no, I know better than to hope for that now. They'd rather leave humanity to fend for itself (and die) than help us.

         Well, so be it.


**(This isn't the end)**

Characters: Dr. Sarah Johannsen (main character), Eric Sheridon (her boyfriend), Stephanie Lisa Campbell "Lisa" (her best friend)
T'Nor/Natia Laski - great grandmother
Marek, Sakar, Tolek
Jedrek Laski

Starts like allergies or mild cold - headache, stuffy nose, then it starts to move down. Flu-like symptoms begin, sore throat, fatigue, fever of ~101° F, chills, body aches, nausea, sometimes vomiting at this point. It starts to move down into the lungs and develops into bronchitis-like symptoms, coughing up thick yellow or green phlegm, fever increases to ~ 103° or 104° F, sometimes higher. By this point all patients have experienced nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and the accompaning dehydration if care is not taken to prevent it.
If the disease is not stopped by this point (which is what Sarah is trying to figure out how to do) it begins attacking the nervous system of the victim. Once the disease reaches this phase it progresses rapidly and is ultimately fatal. The first symptoms of this phase are pain, numbness, or tingling in the legs and arms. Before long this spreads to the entire body. Uncontrollable muscle twitching develops first in the legs, then arms and sometimes the face. Usually a few days later, there is complete numbness and partial paralysis of the extremities. The patient begins to experience mental degradation - irratability, confusion, delirium, sometimes seizures, difficulty remembering things, sudden and often violent emotional outbursts, and occasionally hallucinations, especially as the disease progresses.
Within a few days the patient will fall into a coma and die.

© Copyright 2006 Caren Rose (carenrose at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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