Author : Natalie J E Potts

“Go away!”

The pounding sounded like it was never going to stop, even a pillow over my head wouldn’t block it out. Grudgingly I dragged myself from bed, a tissue still shoved up one nostril –holding fast with a moist grip.

The man was still trying to knock as I hauled the door open. His impeccable suit was at odds with his uncouth behaviour.

“What do you want?” I asked, my manners also forgotten.

“Mr Angus Scott?” He said. I noticed two small plugs up his nose. The latest trend in viral warfare looked significantly more elegant than my soggy tissue, but at two hundred dollars a pop I’d rather take the sick leave.

“Yes,” I said, before doubling over to cough a green chunk of phlegm onto the welcome mat. When I lifted my head I was eye to eye with a white envelope. Without thinking I grabbed it.

“Mr Scott, you have been served.” With that he turned on his heel and left.

After a nap, I re-read the papers. They referred to a ‘patent infringement’ at work, but made no sense. I worked logistics in a cardboard factory, all I did was drive forklifts and count boxes. There were not patents on that, not yet.

I tried to call the office, but no-one answered, so I coughed and sneezed myself over to the train, and noticed more nose plugs in the few individuals who let me get near them. Those who were plug-less were covered by face masks, either bought or homemade.

Was this a pandemic? Was I going to die? I’d slept most of the past two days, I hadn’t seen any news services. When I sat down on the train a space cleared around me, at the next stop the carriage became mine alone. This thing must be killing people. If I hadn’t felt like I was starting to get better I might have been worried.

I got to the office and saw two workmates standing outside. The fence was barred and a notice was attached to the gate. They were reading intently, between blowing noses and hoicking up gobs of phlegm.

“You too?” Barry said when he saw me.

“What’s going on? Is this about the flu?”

“Haven’t they served you?”

I was about to ask if he was talking about lunch when I remembered the angry door-knocker. “This is to do with the court case?”

“Jackson came back to work while he was still contagious,” Nigel, the accounts clerk said, as if that was explanation enough.

“So?” I prompted.

“So he was being treated for asthma.”

“Not treated,” Barry interjected, “cured, by that new GM thing. Gets implanted with a virus.”

“The cold?” I couldn’t believe it.

Barry nodded. “Now we’ve all been cured.”

“Only we didn’t pay for it, so we’re getting sued,” Nigel said with a sniff.

“But I don’t even have asthma!”

“No shit, sunshine, none of had it, but they don’t care about that,” Nigel said. “Now the shop’s shut up, so we can’t even sue work. We’ll just have to pay for treatment.”

“What about Jackson?” I asked.

“He’s broke, suing him will just send us all bankrupt.”

“Good luck,” Nigel said without any real enthusiasm, a protracted snort his final adieu.

“But,” only I didn’t know what else to say. I looked at Barry. “So how much is this treatment?”

“Ten grand, that’s why Jackson’s broke. Still, it’s cheaper than a $100,000 court case.”

“Not as cheap as a pair of nose plugs,” I lamented.


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