141 comments

American Funny Speculative

“Well, I appreciate your kindest regards, gentlemen—but I must get back to work,” he said graciously, standing up to leave the café, affixing his silk top hat and holding his calfskin gloves. 

“Oh, don’t leave yet, COVID,” Flu said. “You’ve been so busy this past year, and we haven’t heard all of your plans for the coming one. How many more political careers will you topple? How many more economies will you destabilize?” Flu laughed, pausing only to sip his sherry. “You’ve made quite a name for yourself, my boy.”

“I agree with Flu, COVID,” proclaimed the Manchurian Plague. “I’ve been so impressed with your slow and steady progress. For the first substantial plague of the 21st century, you are one for the history books, sir,” he paused. “Although your mortality rate is quite low for one of us, I do admire your long-term side effects. Quite satisfying, I would think.”

COVID suppressed a smile at the compliment. “At first I thought the lingering pains, breathing problems, and brain fog were bugs, but now I look at my side effects as features.”

They all laughed. Microbes of their caliber understood each other well. 

“As I am the first—and the deadliest—plague of the 20th century, let me say we are proud of you, COVID. You with your respiratory problems . . .” 

“I learned how to be a rare pneumonic disease by studying you, Manchurian Plague,” COVID said graciously. “I just wish I had your mortality rate.”

“One hundred percent!” the Manchurian Plague grandly announced, grinning from ear to ear. “There was nothing like it at the time. Well, maybe the London Plague. But northeastern China will never be the same. My legacy is firm,” he said solemnly, and a little misty-eyed. 

“Well, I must be going—” COVID waved for a second time.

“COVID! COVID! COVID!” yelled a few of the lower class microbes from the bar, toasting him with their beer mugs. 

COVID sighed. It was simply awful to be famous sometimes.

“Sit down, COVID,” Flu said, patting the seat next to him. “And ignore that trash. You should know Meningitis flew in from Nigeria to see you. He should be here shortly.” 

COVID reluctantly sat back down. 

“Why is Meningitis late?” asked the Manchurian Plague. “That’s not like him.” 

“Headache,” Flu replied. 

“It’s been a rough few decades for him. He’s been ruthlessly pursued in his work,” COVID said. 

“WHO’s been after him?” Flu asked.

“WHO, indeed, and the Federal Ministry of Health, UNICEF, Médecins Sans Frontières, UNDP, the International Red Cross . . . it’s overkill, if you ask me,” COVID replied. “But what’s a U-shaped mortality curve going to do? It’s not like you, Flu. You once took out the strongest and heartiest. The rest of us normally just pick off the very old and the very young.”

“COVID! COVID! COVID!” the lesser microbes tried to get COVID’s attention again.

“Don’t encourage them,” Flu whispered conspiratorially. “Polio and Smallpox just aren’t what they used to be. Their glory days are far, far behind them.”

“Flu,” COVID suggested, “you should be a little more charitable to Smallpox. I remember when you and Measles and he took out about 90% of the Native American population. That was some spectacular work. You were the trifecta of terror.” 

“We were just old European diseases,” Flu said, trying to feign humility, but secretly proud of his long history of conquest. “No more, no less. I come around every year or so, and depending on how I feel, some years have had much better harvests than others.” 

“Don’t try to play coy,” the Manchurian Plague chimed in. “The Russian Flu of 1889? The Asian Flu of 1957? The H1N1 Pandemic of 2009? All magnificent works of art.”

“And, of course, my favorite—” Flu said, egging them on.

“The Spanish Flu of 1918-1919!” they all said together, clinking their drinks. 

The Manchurian Plague signaled for another round. 

“You infected a third of the world right after a world war,” COVID said, in awe. “And you had Spain blamed for a disease that started in Kansas. Genius!”

“Well, if I do say so myself, I particularly liked my massive hemorrhaging and edema in the lungs. However, getting the body’s immune system to attack itself was inspired."

“Like I said, you took out the strongest and heartiest—and all those soldiers returning home from the 'war to end all wars' did your transmission for you. Glorious!” COVID smiled wistfully, wondering if he’d ever get as much press as Flu did. It wasn’t a competition, not really. Still.

“Shall we talk about new strains for next year?” The Manchurian Plague asked.

“I must go, my friends—it’s been quite a night already. There is so much to do! I have to say goodnight,” COVID stood to leave a third time.

“You are not going to want to leave just now,” Flu said, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

“Do tell,” COVID sat back down.

“We invited a special guest,” Flu looked at the Manchurian Plague.

“Don’t tell me—”

“Yes, we invited him. He will be here very shortly. He only stays a short time due to his aggressive nature.”

“I have to meet him,” COVID said. “If only we could combine our resources and work together . . .”

“Come now, COVID. You know that Ebola works alone.” 

“Oh, you two. You tempt me,” COVID stood again. “I must go forth. There is still so many I can take. And you know how people are with us . . .”

“Of course, COVID. It’s been the same since the Plague of Justinian,” the Manchurian Plague replied. “When we come, there is always the initial governmental denial and cover up. Then there's the predictable tedium of finding a scapegoat or some other group to blame. Then the economy comes to a standstill. Then the government finally steps in. Blah blah blah,” he waved his hand in a futile gesture. “What’s the alternative? Riots, looting, maybe a revolution. It just depends on how successful we are.”

Flu nodded. “The rich escape to the country. The poor end up in harm’s way. The fraudsters and scam artists abound, selling whatever snake oil the gullible and desperate will buy.”

“But now they are getting better with those vaccines,” the Manchurian Plague grumbled.

“Oh, we can just mutate next year,” COVID said. “I’m not too worried about it. You know, it’s the asymptomatic ones who do most of our work for us. I could never have spread this far and fast otherwise.” He paused and finished the drink he didn’t want, just to be sociable. “And every hundred years or so, humans have to relearn what mankind has known for millennia about face masks and quarantining. They are so toxic to each other!”

Flu rolled his eyes. “Humans really are quite stupid.”

“But very social creatures,” the Manchurian Plague slowly nodded. “And they rush back into public which helps us bring wave after wave of infection and death. I’m almost tired of the regularity of it all.” 

COVID looked at his pocket watch and gasped. For the fifth time, COVID stood up. “My dear friends, it’s very late and I really must be going. Please give Meningitis and Ebola my best.”

Flu’s eyes opened wide, seeing the figure entering the café. “Manchurian! Is that . . .”

“It is HIM.” The Manchurian Plague answered Flu, awestruck. “I’ve never seen him in person. He’s been a personal hero to me.” 

“I’m going to get his autograph!” Flu arose, fluttering and blushing in excitement. “I’ll bring him over to the table! I’m sure he’s going to want to meet you, COVID—” His words trailed away as Flu made his way to the towering dark figure. 

“Manchurian, who is that?” COVID asked, curiosity absolutely piqued. 

“Mr. Yersinia Pestis,” the Manchurian Plague beamed. “He’s the Black Death and took out about half of Europe in the 14th century.”

“Oh, rats,” COVID sighed. “I’d love to meet him, but it’s time I really get going.”

“Be safe,” the Manchurian Plague said. “Don’t wear a mask. Don’t socially distance.”

“Of course,” COVID turned and gave a final wave. 


April 10, 2021 23:37

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141 comments

Zilla Babbitt
18:55 Apr 13, 2021

This is my favorite part: “Oh, rats,” COVID sighed. “I’d love to meet him, but it’s time I really get going.” I am a history nerd and I just love love love that part. And I love that the Black Death is like THE virus of all time, the ultimate celebrity. COVID is just... new, on the rise, but a lesser celebrity. And it's historically accurate too. It would be interesting, when the Manchurian Plague is rattling off the usual controversies of an epidemic/pandemic, to have a line like "and then science catches up" or something of the sort. Bec...

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Deidra Lovegren
19:46 Apr 13, 2021

Of course THE BLACK DEATH is the ultimate celebrity. Ring around the rosies and all that :) I think these microbes flat-out hate science (hence the the vaccination lament, but maybe they like the Johnson & Johnson one....ha....?) 50 seems like a lot and that I should be better at this. Have you hit 500 yet, you prolific Queen of Reedsy? :) Thanks for your wonderful comments. Always a ZB fan for life.

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Zilla Babbitt
15:46 Apr 17, 2021

Microbes are like... anti-science. Sort of. I don't know, I'm a writer, I only passed Biology because I had a great study partner. J&J, yikes. (Ooh, sequel material for Jax and Jillian?). Hey, #3 on the 'board! I don't know how new that is but it's still cool. Not 500 yet, sadly... :)

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Scout Tahoe
22:47 Apr 17, 2021

I am - once again - late to the party. Happy 50th! So proud/excited you've gotten this far. This was hilarious and we all needed a little chuckle. We can always rely on D to supply these chuckles. ;)

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Deidra Lovegren
00:04 Apr 18, 2021

Thanks Scout! I’m all for cathartic fun in these 🦠 days

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Scout Tahoe
13:42 Apr 20, 2021

I actually showed this to a friend and she laughed so hard. She's more of a science gal but loved this so much. I showed her "The Play's The Thing" and she said, "This woman has skills, but I'm not surprised because she's also a teacher. I find that some of the skills overlap. But most of all, she's an incredibly hot 50-year-old writing out her soul on an online writing platform."

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Deidra Lovegren
13:44 Apr 20, 2021

That last part sounds so pathetic :)

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Scout Tahoe
13:53 Apr 20, 2021

It's more than most of us can say.

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Nadya Garza
13:37 Apr 18, 2021

I enjoyed reading this story so much!! It was so funny and so creative! You wrote an amazing story!

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Deidra Lovegren
14:52 Apr 19, 2021

What a tremendous boost to my ego :) Thanks for making my day. YAY

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Nadya Garza
15:14 Apr 19, 2021

You're welcome :)

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Valerie June
20:46 Apr 11, 2021

Who else could make a conversation between bacteria not only interesting but absolutely hilarious? I loved how each microbe had their own unique personality and talked in terms of business with an almost polite/proper tone. Congrats on your 50th!

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Deidra Lovegren
21:16 Apr 11, 2021

It’s a well known medical fact that microbes 🦠 are very well mannered and cultured, so to speak. 50 down, 50 to go! Then another 50... #writingisfreetherapy

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Valerie June
03:55 Apr 12, 2021

You're halfway there! And then it’ll be onward to 200 but don’t worry, I’ll be cheering you on all the way. 😉 Yes, I love that hashtag because it’s so true!

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Meera Lakshmi
13:43 Apr 12, 2021

Hiiiiiii! I friend of mine on reedsy told me you like Bollywood movies. I loooooove them! Which one is your favorite?

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Deidra Lovegren
13:58 Apr 12, 2021

How could anyone NOT love Bollywood (and Tollywood!) movies. My all time favorite is Aamir Khan's "Three Idiots" -- I usually show it to my 12th graders every year before graduation.

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That Asian Creep
18:25 Apr 12, 2021

Do you watch with subtitles? Or do you know Hindi? 3 idiots is a great film... I’ve watched it too much 😭 (I even watched the Mexican remake-)

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Deidra Lovegren
18:37 Apr 12, 2021

A Mexican remake? I'll have to look that up. I prefer the subtitles :) Feel free to send me some titles I should check out! I'm so glad Netflix is offering more Indian films. I find South Korean films are excellent as well, but I love Bollywood (and Tollywood's) sense of humor :)

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Meera Lakshmi
18:39 Apr 12, 2021

Yeah! Netflix is definitely opening it up. I don't know Hindi but I know Tamil. I am also Indian, are you Sahana?

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That Asian Creep
20:48 Apr 12, 2021

Oh right, my Hindi isn’t great either... I can understand but my speaking needs improvement 😂 Me just speaking to my North Indian friend and she’s correcting me like: that’s not a word- I’m Indian, yes (but NRI)

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That Asian Creep
20:46 Apr 12, 2021

Kollywood means Tamil films, I’ve never watched Korean films! Andhadhun is a Hindi murder mystery, it’s really good too. Available on Netflix :)

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Deidra Lovegren
20:54 Apr 12, 2021

Ooooooo murder mysteries I must say I loved Baahubali, too.

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Meera Lakshmi
13:59 Apr 12, 2021

LOL. My friend keeps telling me to watch it but I haven't gotten around to it. My favorite has got to be Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. But can someone tell me why Shah Rukh Khan is always named Rahul or Raj in literally every movie he stars in???!!!

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That Asian Creep
18:23 Apr 12, 2021

Hahaha hi, my friend sent me a link to this convo because I love Indian films. But you gotta admit, Bollywood and Kollywood is the best. Also yes, Shahrukh Khan is called Rahul/Raj in 15 films.. I’m not gonna list-

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Meera Lakshmi
18:38 Apr 12, 2021

Haha no joke. there are too many

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Ana Govindasamy
19:25 Apr 12, 2021

Sahana, your obsession is stunning. I admire it. You counted the 15 films? Actually I need to watch more SRK Films...anyone have recommendations?

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That Asian Creep
20:48 Apr 12, 2021

Hahahaha. Ana. I’ve got plenty- ask me a genre...

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Keya M.
17:51 Apr 13, 2021

Meera, u HAVE to watch the 3 idiots. It's amazing!! Also, I know literally every Bollywood movie ever made, in the history of the universe, so I've got a bunch of recommendations.

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Amaya .
01:00 Apr 14, 2021

Deidra, you have great taste in movies :] Three Idiots is one of my favorites, if not my favorite! I know a bit of Telugu, but movies move too fast for me to follow in Telugu, so I use English subtitles. I don't know any Hindi but I've been meaning to learn. One day maybe...

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Keya M.
13:11 Apr 12, 2021

Hilarious, original, and eloquent! I love how each bacteria and disease had its own personality. Also congrats! Your 50th story!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:15 Apr 12, 2021

Thanks for your inspirational comments :) Now I'm wondering how the common cold and allergies would be as people? Probably very whiny and annoying. And they'd drink something awful like an Oatmeal Stout.

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Keya M.
13:16 Apr 12, 2021

Aww, happy to! Haha! Deidra, you always give me a good laugh ;)

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Melissa Mahon
15:14 May 02, 2021

wow

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Deidra Lovegren
16:23 May 02, 2021

Great baby pic :)

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Fay Winter
23:23 Apr 23, 2021

Oh my gosh, I loved this so much! Everything about this is so true, and it is so funny to read! I honestly can't believe it didn't get shortlisted! I can't wait to read more of your stories

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Deidra Lovegren
23:55 Apr 23, 2021

YAY - What a great compliment! Thanks for reading :)

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22:56 Apr 22, 2021

I love this. The creativity and accuracy are great, and I just love how you personified everyone!

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Deidra Lovegren
00:17 Apr 23, 2021

I love your name. Best pseudonym ever. Thanks for the ❤️

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Zilla Babbitt
21:07 Apr 22, 2021

I shared this story with a friend, and he shared this in response: https://unravellingmag.com/articles/if-english-words-had-jobs/ It feels like it was written for you!

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Deidra Lovegren
00:28 Apr 23, 2021

That piece is perfectly hilarious...Laughed all the way through 🤣 Thanks for thinking of me!

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Nina Thompson
02:17 Apr 21, 2021

This is such a creative spin on the prompt! It sometimes seems that all of the stories on Reedsy are so serious and gloomy, so it's nice to have a breath of fresh air and laugh for a change. :)

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Deidra Lovegren
02:33 Apr 21, 2021

Amen. We need more satire and humor and farce. The world is too serious! Send in the 🤡

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Noor Barq
01:08 Apr 21, 2021

THIS IS SOOO CREATIVEE!!!! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT.

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Deidra Lovegren
01:42 Apr 21, 2021

YAY I AM GLAD YOU LIKED IT WHY ARE WE YELLING 😜

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Pippin Took
20:20 Apr 20, 2021

I LOVE this story! It's so creative and well written. Wonderful job!

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Deidra Lovegren
01:43 Apr 21, 2021

💋

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Zahra Daya
07:48 Apr 20, 2021

Haha, this story was superb and so witty. Like so many have already mentioned, the last lines are too good! This story was honestly so humorous to read and you really managed to bring out characters from these viruses, which really amazes me. The plot for this story was very creative--well done!! -Z

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Deidra Lovegren
11:02 Apr 20, 2021

Thanks Zahra -- Glad you enjoyed it. It just seemed typical that the viruses and microbes and bacteria are having all the fun :)

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Luz Andara
22:05 Apr 19, 2021

Oh! This has got to be one of my favorite short stories as of yet. It was remarkably hilarious with these characters! :laughing: Great job!

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Luz Andara
22:06 Apr 19, 2021

Why don't these things have emojis? Oh, can you read and comment on mine? I'd love to hear opinions!

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Deidra Lovegren
22:24 Apr 19, 2021

Which of your stories should I start with? :)

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Luz Andara
04:37 Apr 24, 2021

Whichever one calls your attention😀

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Lily Ethel
16:57 Apr 19, 2021

I love it, I just LOVE IT!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:00 Apr 19, 2021

IT LOVES YOU TOO

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Kyaris Newton
14:49 Apr 19, 2021

i loved this it was hilarious XD

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Deidra Lovegren
14:50 Apr 19, 2021

YAY - mission accomplished.

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Jen Park
04:06 Apr 19, 2021

Wow I don't know how did you come up with the idea of making the bacterias (or diseases) as characters but this was brilliant! I loved that the Black Plague is the star and legend and COVID is a new rising star. There are a lot of lines of reference to the history and politics, it was very clever. You must know a lot about history. Oh yeah, and I also loved that their manner of talking is like that of upper-class gentlemen, all polite and nice and somewhat hypocritical.

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Phil Manders
11:34 Apr 15, 2021

👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Brilliant as always!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:22 Apr 15, 2021

PHIL MANDERS LIVES! So glad to see you on my feed. Hope all is well on your side of the pond!

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Gerald Daniels
19:28 Apr 21, 2021

Brave and inspired interpretation, jolly good read.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:33 Apr 21, 2021

It’s silly 🙃 but I had great fun.

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