December 31, 2019


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc.) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

Mamadou Zakuani scowled at the health worker. Finally he said, “The people here think that the vaccine with turn them into zombies.”

The woman from the UN World Health Organization laughed out loud, but had the grace to clap her hand over her mouth, muttering, “Sorry. It’s just…”

Harper Smith, standing beside Mamadou, said, “I think you should go back to the plane.”

“I don’t think…” she began, anger flashing across her face.

“I think it is necessary,” said Mamadou. “You will only make the people more resentful of your invasion by mocking them.”

“I’m not mocking them!” she exclaimed. Behind her, one of the other health workers reached out and squeezed her arm. The other woman leaned forward and whispered into the first one’s ear. She jerked her arm free, spun, and marched back to the airstrip where the plane waited.

The second woman held out her hand, “I’m Louise Martin. I think my colleague means well – though I don’t know her that well. We met a couple weeks ago when we responded to Congo contacted us for the vaccine.”

Mamadou nodded, extending his hand. “No trouble. Will you follow us? We’ve et up the vaccination station in the town hall.”

Louise stared at him, “There’s no Level 4 facility here?”

Harper shook her head, “Didn’t anyone tell you? We’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The advantage is that we only have two confirmed Ebola cases in a village ten kilometers from here.”

“Where’s the nearest Level 4?”

“Gabon,” Mamadou said.

“Where’s that?”

“West Africa; just below Cameroun.”

Louise didn’t betray anything on her face, but Harper could tell in her eyes. She said, “Do you want the vaccination now?”

“Please,” said Louise. “How effective is it?”

“We used Ervebo as an investigational vaccine under an expanded access program to help mitigate this outbreak starting at the end of 2018.” She shrugged. “We’ve been here a year and neither one of us has come down with any symptoms. We’re the ‘on-the-ground’ proof of the virus.”

“How many others?”

Mamadou glanced at Harper, who opened her mouth to reply. Louise held up her hand, “What did that mean?”

Harper caught her lower lip in her teeth, sighed, then said, “Some of the responses to the new vaccine have been…unusual.”

Louise stepped back. “‘Unusual’ how?”

Mamadou said, “There’s some evidence that the vaccine has a profound effect on the immune system. It doesn’t just give immunity to Ebola. At least not apparently.”

Something flew over their heads, close to the ground, but high enough not to really affect any of them. Louise looked up, then at them, “Maybe you should just tell me what you found.”

Names: ♀ Wisconsin; ♂ Congo       

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