Author : Dan Larnerd

Doctor Grace Virchow sat at her computer desk with her eyes closed. Her office was dark and full of deep shadows. Only the flickering blue light of her computer monitor illuminated the scene.

Next to her sat a cold cup of coffee and a picture of her family that lay face down. The wall that stood behind her was bare. The diplomas and professional accolades lay scattered at its base. Her humanitarian award sat in a nearby trashcan.

An anguished cry echoed from down the hall. Doctor Virchow opened her eyes.

On her monitor was a high-priority email from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. It began with a long list of recipients followed by an urgent message set in a giant type.

Attention Hospital Medical Personnel:

Several cases of a parasitic infection have been reported in your region. It is highly contagious. This parasitic organism may be extraterrestrial in nature. Please report any cases to the CDC for immediate military quarantine. See attached photo.

In the upper corner of the email was a paperclip icon showing a photo had been attached to the email. Doctor Virchow frowned and clicked on the file.

A picture of a young military private appeared on the screen. He glared bitterly at the camera with his hands cuffed behind him. Across his neck, and growing up the side of his face, was a swarm of turquoise-colored spores. Some of them were the size of marbles while the biggest were the size of ripe plums. Two armed men stood in the background pointing their weapons at their infected comrade.

“No! Don’t put that on me! No!” a patient screamed from down the hall.

Doctor Virchow deleted the emergency email and the picture of the infected solider disappeared from her screen. She sat back in her chair and gently stroked the spores growing across her own face.

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