Tuesday, March 15, 2016

by Anthony Servante

The creature had a circular mouth, lined with hundreds of sharp pincers, dozens of rows of teeth. It fed on the skin of living hosts and lay its eggs in the soft tissue below the skin, where its young could emerge to feed and continue the parasitic cycle. Its only symptom to the human hosts was so simple in its manifestation that anyone would mistake it for an irritation from dry weather or hay fever in hot days of the year. That's why it could escape detection in climate conditions such as Southern California. With the drought now in its fourth year, the microbes could multiply and spread. Their time had finally come.

"My arm itches," said Margie Zimmer to her mother, Dr. Lily Havens. Her lab assistant and husband, Jack Zimmer, examined the girl's slight rash. "We'll give you some medicine before you go to sleep."
"Benzadrine?" asked Lily. 
"Yeah. The calamine doesn't seem to be working." He returned to his dinner and told his daughter, "Try not to scratch it."
"But it itches, Mommy," she said, ignoring her father. 
"Do as your father asks," Lily said with a bit of a terse tone. "You'll be fine."
"Can I go to my room?" Margie asked her mother, who nodded her approval. 
As soon as she left the dining room, Lily said, "We had several new cases of the rash today at the hospital. A CDC Exec from GS15's been assigned to our department. They've quarantined West Hollywood and Silverlake."
"My god, what if they take Margie from us?" Jack lay his fork down across the cold steak and sipped at his glass of red wine.
"That's not going to happen," Lily whispered with little to no confidence in her words. 
Suddenly Margie appeared at the door. "It's gone," she said in jubilation. "Look."
Lily and Jack examined her arm. The redness was no longer there. 
"I washed my hands and some soap got on it, so I cleaned the red area and now it's gone. And it doesn't itch anymore." 
"That's it," cried Jack. "Call the Exec. Tell him to get word out to the media."
"It's a her," Lily said.
"Well, tell her to let the media know that everyone should take a shower and to use soap." Jack pounded his fist on the dining table and the fork on his plate fell to the ground.

By morning reports began to come in about the death of the microbes. The itching had been contained. The CDC kept a temporary lock on the quarantined patients, but it was only protocol. The rash was gone. From the Los Angeles Mayor's office to the Oval Office the good news spread. The country was on shower alert. The National Guard was called in with truckloads of Dial and Purell. The looting and riots subsided, although no one knows what that had to do with the quarantine. 

The Mayor tossed the LA Times newspaper on his desk. The headline photo showed Lily and Jack holding up their daughter Margie. TAKE A SHOWER read the heading. What the Mayor didn't notice as he sat down to read the paper was the microbes that left the confines of the paper and crawled across his hand, burrowing under his skin, using their mutated mouths and fangs to reach the tissue. These microscopic creatures were hungrier and had more developed egg sacs. It was just a matter of time till they stopped showering. It was Southern California in the middle of a drought after all. The Mayor scratched the back of his hand, ignoring the pink patch of skin that resembled his natural shade of color.