By Vanessa Wells
A couple of rough-looking bacteria shoved me into a shadowy cell wall on the wrong side of the intestines.
The interior of the cell was dimly lit, but I could see well enough to know I’d fallen out of the esophagus and into the stomach acid. Legends of the virus world were standing around one seated figure at an imposing desk, peppered with a few tough-looking bacteria and some kind of protozoa that was leaning on the wall, leering.
I was dumped into a chair by the two Streptococcus thugs; it broke off one of my protein spikes when I hit the chair. It’s foul play to break a guy’s protein spikes. Just bad form really. But these guys weren’t bothering to play fair.
“Any idea what landed you in that chair Covid?” From the desk, a virus everyone knew, H1N1, was staring down at me like he was supposed to be judge and jury.
I huffed. “I’m guessing you don’t like me invading your turf.”
The twins, better known in the virial underworld as Influenza B and C giggled.
B gave me a ghoulish grin as she whispered, “It’s not so much that you are on our turf.”
C continued, “It’s that you are making a mess of our turf.”
H1N1 nodded. “Exactly. New viruses pop up every day. It’s a big place. But let me explain something to you, kid. Something I wish had been explained to me earlier in my career. Who do you think the most brilliant virus is?”
Jeez, this guy was lame. “I suppose you think it’s you?”
H1N1 snorted with laughter. Flu B and C tried to hide their laughs a little, but their fake coughs weren’t fooling anyone. I do my deadliest work in the lungs. I can spot a fake cough a millimeter away, and in microscopic terms, a millimeter is the size of a Burrough.
“Kid, you have a lot to learn. What’s the whole point of being a virus?”
I gave an evil grin. “Easy. Kill as many humans as I can.”
The protozoa tossed a box of Kleenex at my head.
H1N1 pinched his protein like he was fighting off a migraine…which is impossible, since viruses don’t have heads. He looked up and spoke very, very slowly. “Idiot. The whole point isn’t to kill humans. It is to reproduce as much of yourself as quickly as possible and infect as many of them as you can without killing them! Dead humans don’t cough or sneeze, so if you kill the host, there is no escape. And you not only kill the host, you kill everyone in here with you too. Something we do happen to object to.”
I looked at the older virus in utter disdain. “I’m a virus. I infect people, it’s what I do…what we all do.”
“Kid, do you know who the most brilliant virus of all time is?”
I surveyed the group in front of me and shrugged. “Enlighten me.”
H1N1 gestured, “It’s that guy over there.”
Across the room, snoozing lightly in an overstuffed chair, was the Common Cold.
I looked back, waiting for the joke. “Seriously?”
H1N1 rolled his eyes and turned to the influenza viruses. “Was I ever this dumb?”
The other viruses in the cell just nodded and he gave a frustrated huff. “You think you are so smart. That old guy over there makes the host j-u-s-t sick enough to give off a decent virial load, but not sick enough to stay home. He looks weak, but he can hold on for months in the right conditions and infect everyone in a three-block radius. He almost never kills his host, because you don’t shit where you live.”
Boring. And so limited. What was the purpose of living if you couldn’t reproduce uncontrollably? I ran a hand through my cool punk-rock protein spikes, while Common Cold never faltered in his napping.
I turned back to the assembled pathogens. “So you guys got together to show me the light, am I right?”
H1N1 replied grumpily, “Someone had to. Otherwise, you ruin the host for all of us.”
“I’m not interested in joining your little knitting club, thanks.”
Flu D spoke for the first time. “We’re an HOA.”
H1N1 looked down his autocratic nose (which fairly impressive since he technically didn’t have a nose). “We’re a Host Owner Association. We keep the host well enough so that everyone has the chance to propagate over time.”
I slumped into the chair and put my feet up on the desk. “You guys are nuts.”
H1N1 nodded to the two burly bacteria. “You two, split yourselves via mitosis and have your copies shove this guy in front of a T-cell.”
I lost my balance and fell out of the chair, losing a couple more protein spikes in the process. “T-cells? Are you out of your minds? They’ll eat your guys too.”
H1N1 gave me a cold grin. “Kid, that’s why you don’t mess with an HOA.”
STORYTIME QUARTERLY BLOG HOP
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Storytime Blog Hop Hosted by Juneta Key
The HOA by Vanessa Wells<–You Are Here
Voices by Sue Abrie