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The Cure

A sign of the times

By Kenneth BouttePublished 3 years ago Updated 21 days ago 8 min read
The Cure
Photo by Danilo Alvesd on Unsplash

The streamers and flags dance in the breeze of heat falling from the vents. The calendar displays December 7th, and the museum has put on its annual Pearl Harbor anniversary celebration. However there’s another anniversary I’m acknowledging today. I can’t believe it's been 7 months already.

“It’s been a long time… a really long time,” I mutter to myself as I put on my coat. Alisha stares at me through thick dust on the picture frame, while I set the alarm to the World War 2 museum and head to the door. Her smile follows me to my office and compels me to go back to my desk one more time just to see it. Regrettably, her face is starting to fade from my memory. Her photo seems a bit ill placed amongst the relics and memorabilia from the war, but her smile is a reminder. A reminder of how happy she was when she turned herself in for treatment. I keep it on my desk as a symbol of the progress made from the days when Hitler was trying to create his “master race”. This new cure is a shining example of how we’ve grown to help our fellow man. They say it can cure anything! Well anything contagious that is. These days the cure is exactly what we need. But I admit, I miss her. This picture is the only way I get to see her now. It’s been so long since she got sick that she seems like a dream, or that she’s someone I made up. But surely she’s real, and holds on to the love we share. The type of love that comes with the hope for the future, a hope for that little slice of happiness with a cliché picket fence. Hope is all I need today. It’s our anniversary. It's been 7 months to the day since she turned herself in for being sick. I’ve gone back every month since then, each month with the hope of her clean bill of health.

Outside the CDC, US flags hang half mast, a reminder of the lives lost for the freedoms gained on this day so many years ago. The usual mob of protesters is a lot lighter than it's been in the past. I don’t have to shove myself through the mob of “Where Are They Now?” signs, or get handed those “Fight the Cure” pamphlets they’re always handing out. There are only a few stragglers, scattered along the icy sidewalk. Maybe the snow drove them away, or maybe their loved ones finally came home. Either way I am thankful to quickly make my way to the front door. Armed military personnel are guarding either side of the entrance, which is blanketed in snow. Like snowmen armed with AK-47s, they’re sentinels for the CDC’s Reporting Center. “Are you feeling sick?” One of them asks with one hand on the gun and the other covering his face mask. “No sir, I’m just checking on the status of a loved one.” He motions me to move along with the business end of his gun, and I quickly step out of his way. The small brown building welcomes me like an old familiar friend, bathing me in its distinctive aroma as it has done so many times in the past. The smell of formaldehyde and lime surrounding the center is unforgettable. The center embraces me with new hope and optimism of a chance to be with Alisha again.

Inside another AK-47 points me to the disease scanner, another familiar step in the process. I step to the scanner and undergo the temperature screening, mouth swab and blood sample. The indication that I’m disease free is an analog smiley face on the screen. Instinctively I smile back at the only happy thing in the room, then take my place in the socially distanced line. There’s a fidgety woman wearing a head box, turning herself in. I always hated those Tupperware containers people are forced to put on their heads, but I guess it’s necessary to keep the rest of us healthy. My mind drifts to the thought of what disease she could have and more importantly how long it will take to cure. If it’s anything like Alisha’s disease, I hope her family has the strength to endure the long road ahead. Next in line is a man arguing about his daughter.

“She just had the flu! I don’t understand what takes so long to cure the flu. It's been 4 months! If she’d stayed at home, she would have already been better by now!”

I listen attentively to see if they tell him something different than they’ve told me in the last 6 months. Nope, he receives the same ole response they give everyone, and it never gets any easier to swallow. But still I wait my turn, and cross my fingers for something different anyway.

“State your name.”

“Gregory Dunn.”

“Are you feeling sick?”

“No sir…”

“Are you here to report someone that you suspect is sick?”

“No sir…”

“Purpose?”

“Well, I’m here again to check on my girlfriend Alisha Parker. She turned herself in 6 months ago for chicken pox. Now I know you’re going to tell me that there were some complications. And honestly, I admit I thought a girl not having chicken pox as a kid was crazy! But I mean, it’s just chicken pox right? She should be better by now, right?”

“What’s her date of birth?”

“October 11, 1984.”

“Unfortunately sir, our records indicate that Ms. Parker had some complications with her disease, and requires further treatment.”

The words rattle off his tongue like a nursery rhyme he’s said a millions times before. It’s my sixth time hearing it, and yet it’s gotten no easier to accept.

“Well can I just talk to her? Can I see her? Please, it's been six months.”

“I’m sorry sir. The treatment centers at the CDC must be kept under strict quarantine, and there is no communication in or out of the treatment centers except the updated reports. If you would like to leave your contact information, we will update you when her status changes.”

“Yeah, you already have it. Giving it to you a sixth time won’t make a difference.”

It’s always the same. Each month the same questions, and each month the same responses. What kind of complications can someone have from the chicken pox, or the flu for that matter? But for a healthier society I guess the extra treatments are necessary. They are spending taxpayer dollars for this, so they wouldn’t keep her longer than they have to, I’m sure. How can this magical cure all medicine have so much trouble with the chicken pox?

“Maybe next time Greg…” the soldier guarding the tellers says as a verbal pat on the back. “I’ll see ya next month Frank…” I say with a sigh of defeat and dragging my feet that carry me to the door. The cold outside hits even harder with the added blow of having to leave empty handed. My hope stains the snow as it takes its final breaths in this frigid world. Snowflakes fall as loud as Stalins bombs and shatter my very foundation. My morale sinks lower than German U boats and fires torpedoes at the segregatist known as the cure.

With dismembered loyalty to the cause I make my way along the snow trampled sidewalk and catch a glimpse of a man running from the CDC building. He stumbles and topples through the snow until finally resting with his hands on his knees. He’s whiter than the snow and dressed to catch his death in a light sweater and khakis. He’s drenched in sweat and steam rises from his skin. Through the roar of the wind and the crunch of snow beneath his feet I can hear him mutter. “What have we done? What have we become?” There is a hint of disgust in his melancholic words.

“Hey, you ok?” I ask inching towards him cautiously.

“I’m fine, I just-” words barely escape his mouth before he vomits choking on his lie. Swift kicks cover it with snow, but I can’t pretend not to notice. It’s the first time I’ve seen another person’s unmasked face in ages.

“Oh, God man! Are you sick?”

“NO! No, I'm not sick! I just ate something that didn’t agree with me.”

“Then where’s your arm band?” I ask, pointing to my Wellness Armband on the upper right sleeve of my jacket.

“It must be on my coat, I left it inside.” he says, shivering in the brisk wind.

“Are ya sure? Cause if you’re sick you are in the best place for it.” I say with a halfhearted smile in my voice.

“Yea, yea, I know. But I’m not sick. I work here…”

“You work here?” Without thinking twice I run up to him disregarding the lawfully required social distance and bombard him with questions about Alisha.

It’s the closest I’ve been to anyone in so long. So close, his cologne envelopes us both. So close, the heat of my breath warms his shivering body. So close, the soldiers should arrest me. “Get a hold of yourself!” He barks backing away from the madman I’ve become.

“I’m sorry! Oh my god I’m sorry! I just got…Here, take my jacket. You’ll freeze to death out here! I promise I’m not sick.”

“It’s fine, and you know I can’t take that, we’d both be arrested.” He says dusting the “me” off of him before heading towards the door.

“Please! Don’t go! If you can just tell me anything about my girlfriend, Alisha. Anything at all, besides she’s had complications…”

His face falls, and there’s an empathy about him as he stares at the desperation in my eyes. “There’s nothing I can do…” he says, reaching for the door knob.

“Fine then take me in. I’ll pretend to be sick and-”

“NO!” his voice echoes so loud the snow pauses in midair from fear.

“Please sir, I’m begging…her name is Alisha Parker.” I lower my mask to show him my resolve.

“Dammit! Put your mask back on, they’ll shoot us both!”

“Will you help me?”

“You’re a good looking guy, you can find another girlfriend in no time. Just forget about her…”

“Forget her? Please, can you just take my card and just message me. I just want to know she’s ok.” I extend my card and it’s only received by the bitter wind. It flutters to his feet unaccepted, reaching out for him with open arms. His icy blue eyes read the card, but it doesn’t sway him in the least. “World War 2 museum, huh?” He says standing in the door frame.

“Yea, I’m the curator there.”

“Then you’ll understand what I'm going to say next, especially on a day like today.” He says gazing at the half masted flags in the distance. “It's been ages since Hitler spoke about creating a master race. Something the likes of many would never dare to dream… but WE have. We reignited that dream, that monstrous vision and stripped away the racial component for everyone to be equal. Afterall, this is the land of the free and the home of equality, ha! We created a utopian nightmare. Ya see, in order to create a master species, a stronger, more advanced people, you just have to eliminate all the ones that can contaminate the rest…”

-End

Short Story

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    KBWritten by Kenneth Boutte

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