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

18:28 Apr 20, 2021

This was such a funny story! I do have some questions though but I'll get to those after all the praise... This was such a great idea for this prompt! I love how creative people are with them, and half of the time I spend reading the story while the other half I spend wondering how in the world this person came up with an idea so brilliant :) Ok now for the criticism and stuff... I really liked this story but my main question is (and this may come across as a little dumb but still) does COVID leaving the bar or wherever he is mean that he is...

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Deidra Lovegren
18:32 Apr 20, 2021

Thanks for the kudos. Always fun to write a piece that anyone likes :) Honestly, I just decided the diseases were people -- obviously arrogant and competitive and hoity toity ones at that. I wanted the fifth wave to just coincide with the pandemic's fifth wave (it's got to be that many, right?) A year ago, we were horrified over a possible second wave. Now it looks like annual vaccinations (like the flu). The circle of life (or death, as the case may be.) Memento mori...

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21:53 Apr 18, 2021

Wow, this is very cleverly written! The personalities of the viruses are really cool and totally not what I was expecting (in a good way!!) This is truly unique.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:52 Apr 19, 2021

Thank you so much. It's nice to be weird :)

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15:26 Apr 19, 2021

:)😁🙂

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Charlie Murphy
17:43 Apr 18, 2021

I love your story! Especially the last line! Very creative!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:09 Apr 18, 2021

YAY

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Camille Crutcher
13:32 Apr 18, 2021

Clever and fun! I get C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" vibes from these diseases talking amongst each other. Well done.

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Deidra Lovegren
13:33 Apr 18, 2021

I'll take the C.S. Lewis comparison -- in any degree. WOW. Best compliment ever :) :) :)

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Ruth Smith
20:20 Apr 17, 2021

Very creative! I liked COVID's impatience on trying to leave, yet getting sucked into the attention. Very well written.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:37 Apr 17, 2021

Thanks, Ruth! I appreciate the feedback :) YAY

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Cole Lane
14:15 Apr 17, 2021

What a fantastic idea! You gave a unique voice to each of the diseases they became real characters! I was near the end going who can be worse than these guys ... oh yeah, that guy lol!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:00 Apr 17, 2021

Of course it was the Black Death. We love that guy :)

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Dorsa S.
18:09 Apr 15, 2021

all these puns meshed in with the facts about the diseases makes for a wonderful masterpiece, history teachers should do something like this for their classes to spice things up a bit. my favorite parts: “Come now, COVID. You know that Ebola works alone.” - “Why is Meningitis late?” asked the Manchurian Plague. “That’s not like him.” “Headache,” Flu replied. - “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...

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Deidra Lovegren
18:18 Apr 15, 2021

Always fun to brighten up the lighter side of grotesque debilitating pandemics :)

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Angelina Jeong
04:07 Apr 15, 2021

Ooh!! Love this story!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:20 Apr 15, 2021

Ironically, the story is incredibly fond of you, too. :)

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Amanda Fox
21:19 Apr 14, 2021

Very clever! I loved the "oh rats" bit - and how Flu is all hoity-toity and full of himself.

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Deidra Lovegren
21:54 Apr 14, 2021

The common cold and seasonal allergies are down the street at a Waffle House.

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Amanda Fox
04:19 Apr 15, 2021

Makes sense that they’d go to the ol’ House. It’s the barometer for community health, after all.

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Deidra Lovegren
13:22 Apr 15, 2021

I have never seen a Waffle House with all the letters lit up. It's either: AFFLE HOU W FFLE OUSE W FF E U E A E OU E

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Amanda Fox
19:16 Apr 15, 2021

The end is nigh when all the letters are lit. Bewaaaaare

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Rachel Loughran
08:57 Apr 14, 2021

Omg, this is brilliant. I laughed out loud when COVID sighed "Oh, rats" about the Black Death. Loved this.

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Deidra Lovegren
10:03 Apr 14, 2021

Rodent humor is my specialty 🐁 Haha

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06:44 Apr 13, 2021

Very funny (in a macabre kind of way!)

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Deidra Lovegren
09:49 Apr 13, 2021

The best kind! 😃

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R. K.
17:46 Apr 12, 2021

I had one of those "oh, i get it!" moments with the title. Brilliant and hilarious with that underlying sorrow of knowing our race really is so brainless sometimes. Made my day, great piece D!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:16 Apr 12, 2021

Brainless (and disappointing) no doubt. To quote Hamlet . . . because he put it best: "What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me."

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17:44 Apr 12, 2021

happy fiftieth! seeing the first paragraph as i was scrolling by made me think it was a metaphor, but nope, it's really viruses sitting around a table. i learned about a couple of sicknesses i'd never heard of before, which was cool. plus, this straightforward, mostly-dialogue approach was a great call. great job!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:12 Apr 12, 2021

I'm sure there are infinite other bacteria, microbes, and viruses who just look at the whole of humanity and laugh. :)

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05:12 Apr 12, 2021

Very clever and funny, I loved it! I was waiting for the black plague and was so happy when it made its appearance.

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Deidra Lovegren
11:07 Apr 12, 2021

Agreed. The Black Plague is definitely a fan favorite of microbes. He'd belong in the ashcan with Smallpox and Polio, but too famous to fade away (Ring Around the Rosy and all that) -- definitely a heavy weight in his era.

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K. Antonio
01:42 Apr 12, 2021

Such a great and creative story. It was such a creative take on the prompt. I find it wild how you can create such interesting and unique stories that are so dialogue forward, it's one of those skills I wish I had. The microbes having personas, that was great, so clever and out of the box. Congrats on having 50 stories, I hope I can reach that number one day, with stories at a calibre as grand as yours, Deidra!!

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Deidra Lovegren
11:05 Apr 12, 2021

High praise, indeed :) I think the Black Death needs his own story. He'd be a fascinating character, very "Paradise Lost" - haha. Hoping to turn some of these shorts into longer works this summer. Thanks for reading and thanks for writing.

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K. Antonio
11:34 Apr 12, 2021

I can honestly say that I would sure read a longer story based on "The End of Days". This year I'm also planning on doing the same. In the process of making some of my personal favorites into novels. If anything, reedsy really does light a creative spark for writers. I totally applaud you on taking your work an extra mile!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:05 Apr 12, 2021

I've mapped out the "End of Days" -- just need to finish the school year and get to it. Malachi has a lot planned for his ushering in of Armageddon :)

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Gabi =)
23:53 Apr 11, 2021

Wow, I laughed so hard at this story! Great job!

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Deidra Lovegren
00:20 Apr 12, 2021

Thanks Pug! Always good to know the jokes don’t fall flat—humor is tricky!

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12:58 Apr 11, 2021

Happy 50th! The perspective of the viruses/plagues was very creative and clever, but it also kind of made me angry at covid even more😝. Great job Deidra!! This was a great story.

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Deidra Lovegren
12:59 Apr 11, 2021

I understand the anger. Especially at people who choose not to understand basic science...

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13:00 Apr 11, 2021

Now I'm triggered :P I hate it when people say covid doesn't exist, because it obviously does, or when people choose not to wear their masks.

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Deidra Lovegren
13:25 Apr 11, 2021

Great Puerto Rican idiom: “déjalos morir locos.” Basically, “let them die crazy,” What else can you do with the willfully ignorant?

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13:57 Apr 11, 2021

Wow, I love it! Let them die crazy...that's perfect.

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11:25 Apr 11, 2021

I love the whole plague concept. Seriously, what would they be saying? Something like this, I think :)

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Deidra Lovegren
19:28 Apr 11, 2021

I'm sure the microbes would be plotting against vaccinations and antibiotics and basic science, trying to promote apathy and distrust of the medical profession. They'd also be spreading disinformation on Facebook so your aunt would buy a metal bracelet to keep her healthy...

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20:24 Apr 11, 2021

Yeah.

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Aisa M
05:38 Apr 11, 2021

This is so clever and entertaining!

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Deidra Lovegren
09:10 Apr 11, 2021

Yay! Mission accomplished ✅

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Aisha Khan
00:59 May 02, 2021

This was such an awesome story! It's funny, satirical, and informative all at the same time! I love reading history on my own, but if all my history classes were like this, I would have never hated school! :-D Amazing work!!!

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