Five Years Ago

###  Five years ago, Cavendish Laboratories, Cambridge, England

“Well, it could be it’s similar to the situation in the dark ages when they thought rats and mice just spontaneously generated from piles of rubbish.”

“That’s ridiculous, James. These fungi don’t spontaneously generate from electronic components!” She didn’t even bother to look up from the microscope.

“Anne, that’s not what I meant and you know it.” He waited, desperate for some response. She finally tore her eyes from the microscope. “Good, you’re paying attention. It’s possible that, like rats and mice are attracted to rubbish this fungus, or its spores are attracted to electrical currents. Or, the warmth an electronic device generates. Once there, it can get nourishment from all kinds of materials: dander, skin cells. . .really, just about anything imaginable. Who knows what sort of weird things people do with their phones?”

Her eyes narrowed in thought.

“But, why now? Why is it only now being detected and why is it only now affecting us?”

“Anne, the Walkman first came out in 1979. We’ve had cell phones for less than 20 years. We’ve only recently started to put things with electrical currents into our ears and all this has been a pretty recent phenomenon considering the entire span of human evolution.”

“Ok, go on.”

They both jumped as the door to the assistant’s research room slammed back against the wall. “Dr. von Höhnel? It’s Geneva.”

###  One year ago, Washington DC, United States

“You mean to tell me you all can’t figure out how this mold is sterilizing people?”

After some time, Fredrick Cole, the President’s Science Advisor stood up. “Mr. President. I need to draw your full and focused attention to this next slide. Sir, this slide is an averaging of our best predictive software from DARPA. This graph shows the effect that sterilization from the Zablocka-von Höhnel fungus will have on the human population over the next fifty years.”

Cole coughed, trying to clear the lump rising in his throat. “The worst-case scenario puts the extinction-point clock at 5 months, 13 days and a few hours, with an error of +/- 15 minutes.”

###  Today, abandoned mining facility, Puelma, Atacama Desert, Chile

The Americans had finally come. Her father said they would and, she knew, he was rarely wrong. Her father also said they would be scientists and would be well educated. The Americans looked the same in their blue and silver Patagonia gear. He had said nothing about that.

When she saw all they were transporting, she knew her father was wrong, which delighted her. The snow shoes and skis would never be used; there had been no rain, or snow, in the Atacama since before she had been born. Her father was hardly, if ever wrong about anything, but these Americans knew nothing about her desert. They may be scientists, but they couldn’t be that smart.

He also said they would bring death with them.

Maybe he could be wrong a second time?


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