Gordon had just finished his report about the financial loss of grocery carts to chain grocery stores. He was getting his photos downloaded from his i-phone when he saw something dreadful. The report that he had worked for the last eight days on was doing something strange right before his very eyes. It looked like an animated little lawnmower was rapidly going from one line to the next, even with the clackity clack of a lawnmower. It was mowing the letters into thousands of tiny dashes. For a short moment, Gordon watched in fascination, but then realized he had to stop this, whatever it was. He hit the little x on the top left to close the program. No response. He swept the mouse over to ‘file’ to close the program...click, click, click... nothing. “How do I open my virus program??” he thought in desperation. He hit the button on his computer. It blinked as though going off and then did a little on off on off dance routine, and the little lawn mower sound grew louder. “What’s going on?” He thought as he went to his knees to pull the plug out. Sparks that danced like storm lightning on his hand made him stop trying. Then to his horror, he saw a tiny lawn mower appear from behind his right hand knuckle and with a tiny wisp of electrical fuse smoke, it started up his arm, pulling and snarling through his arm hairs. Gordon’s voice could be heard yelling as he frantically swung his hand around, even beating it against the wall.
Audrey, his gentle wife, came running down the hall to his office. She threw the door open. Her husband was having a strange fit! His eyes were wide, he was on his back, his legs were kicking the air as though he was on an invisible bicycle. She could hear the clackety clack of something, some machine. She didn’t see the tiny lawn mower, slightly bigger than a mosquito round the curve of Gordy’s shoulder, moving up his neck. It disappeared into his ear. Audrey was a small person, barely half the size of her robust husband, so was just moving around the room, trying to avoid Gordon’s kicking legs. She was frantic, her little hands squeezed into little fists just under her chin. “Gordon...Gordon...what’s going on?” she screamed in her high pitched voice.
Just then, Gordon quit moving. He just sat there on the carpet, his head leaning right, his eyes wide that didn’t blink...or even ‘look’. His arms just drooped to each side. Audrey stared with her eyes looking frightened. Her mouth was open, showing the teeth of her lower jaw. Quivering, she said, “Gordy......are...are..are you... uh.. Are.. You..okay?” Gordon’s head moved, centering itself on his neck, and in little jerky movements turned toward the voice he heard. “Doog. Doog my.” His voice sounded different, like a mickey mouse voice. He was talking backwards. He put his hands down into the carpet and pushed himself backward until he was against a wall. Then Audrey saw his back ripple like a snake’s, moving Gordon’s body to his feet. Audrey ran out of the room and grabbed the car keys. Her hand was too jittery to insert the keys in their Prius. The front door banged open. There was Gordon, standing on the porch. His head was dropping to the side like a dog’s does when it studies something. He looked bewildered. The key finally made it into the slot, and the dash lights came on. She found the R and the car made a little screech sound as she pulled out of the driveway...
Cheryl could see that Audrey was upset as soon as she answered the knock at her door. “What in the world is wrong with you...?” She had never seen Audrey so distraught. Her cheeks were wet, her eyes all swollen. “G-G-Gordy...Ohhhhh...” Cheryl shook her little friend’s shoulders. “Gordy, what? Did he have a heart attack? What? Did you call your doctor?” Audrey’s eyes bubble up with tears, “Oh Cheryl...I don’t knoooooow... he had some kind of of fit, and I think he lost his mind. Should I call the police? Would they help? No. No they’re awful with mental problems. Let me use your cell phone. I’ll call Doctor Leavinstein...”
Gordon watched his wife, still in her nightgown, jump in their car and drive away. He waved, and was sad that she didn’t wave back. From the porch, he watched the car drive away, down to Chestnut Avenue and disappear. She turned right. Gordon knew there was a Seven-Eleven down there. Maybe she needs something. “Eefock. Edfock a puck.” He could picture a paper cup full of hot, tasty coffee. “Mmmh...Neveleh-nevves...eefock.” He was still in his street clothes, except for those fuzzy slippers, and decided they would be okay. He checked his pocket. Yep, he’s got a couple of bucks. With a stiff legged gait, he starts down the sidewalk to Chestnut. Two houses down, the Brook’s little dachshund comes running up to him...then stops to stare at him. Gordon drops to his knees on the cement sidewalk, grimacing. Then in jerky movements, reaches for little Petie the dog, to pet his noggin. Petie likes Gordon, but his movements look strange. He gets a worried look, and hugs the grass of their lawn. As his hand touches Petie’s head, the sound of a tiny lawn mower is heard. Petie immediately withdraws, but it’s too late. He hears the clackety clack sound near his ear. His hind foot comes up to scratch away this annoying sound, but it is louder. It has snuggled itself under his floppy ear. Petie begins to whine and yelp, twisting on the lawn. Gordon stands watching, wondering. Then he moves on. Behind him, little Petie follows, in a strange, stiff legged march. The sky lightens. Down at the corner, he sees a fat white baseball bounce across his path. He picks it up, meaning to toss it back on the lawn, then sees a little guy with a mitt on. “Here, here, can you toss it here?” the little boy says. Gordon does a stiff armed throw. The ball goes in a high arch. The boy catches it. “Thanks, mister...” The boy throws it up a couple of times and catches it when it comes down and wonders, “what is that sound? Sounds just like a lawn mower...” In a few minutes, the little guy is walking without bending his knees, following Gordon and the little dachshund.
This strange parade, about 10 feet apart, turns right on Chestnut. As Gordon approaches a driveway, he is not aware that a car is backing out. The driver suddenly sees Gordon in his rear window. He hits the brakes. His bumper just touches Gordon’s knee. He pulls his parking brake, and jumps out, “Oh, man, are you okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.” Gordon turns to look in the stranger’s eyes. The stranger grasps his arm. Gordon says. “Ayekoe. Aeykoe my. Sknath.” The stranger drops his grasp. “Hmm. Foreigner I guess...” he thinks, and then wonders why he hears a lawn mower.
By the time Gordon reaches the Seven-Eleven, three blocks down on Chestnut, where it intersects with Daffodil, there are a dozen people in his parade. One is a lady in a frilly apron who caught up with her son. She was scolding him for wandering down the street, and caught the lawn mower virus. Their toddler was calling “Mommeeee, Mommeee..” and joined the stiff legged parade. A teenager jogging down the street, turned into his home, brushing the guy who drove his car down the driveway earlier. He joined. Gordon was unaware of those behind him. He stands behind another customer at the counter also getting coffee. He pays for the cup and turns, giving a friendly smile to Gordon. He stops to take a sip of his coffee, and thinks, “I’ve seen that look before...” Then he wanders out and gets in his car.
Gordon gives the Middle Eastern clerk a stiff smile: “sealp, eefock.” The clerk stares at him. “You know Anglish?” Gordon stares at him, confused. “Eefock?” he says. “Look, I don’t know what eefock is, okay? We don’t sell no stinkin’ eefock here.” says the clerk. Gordon doesn’t know why this guy is saying eefock. To his mind and ear, he is saying ‘coffee’. Maybe this guy can’t understand regular talk. Eefock? That’s coffee backward. Hmm. Maybe if I ask for eefock, he’ll understand... He says, “..ayekoe, coffee..” that’s how the clerk heard it. “Okay then.” He pours a paper cup full. “Two bucks” Gordon says, “Sknayth”. The clerk just stares. Gordon notices the line of people at the door, standing a polite 10 feet apart. They are the people he had encountered on his walk. This is strange, he thinks.
The earlier customer is finishing the last of his coffee, still in his car. He watches this fellow that we know is Gordon, walk back down Chestnut. Then he watches the dog turn from his position at the door to follow. He had never seen a dog with such short legs walk like that. Then that little boy, then others, one by one, lined up 10 feet apart, seeming to mindlessly follow. He reaches into the back seat to get his laptop. He then joins the parade at the end. They dutifully follow this stiff legged guy down the two more blocks to his house. Gordon pulls out his keys to open the front door, still wondering where Audrey was off to. Then he looks and sees the folks that had followed him. They were all staring at him without blinking. The guy with the laptop, his name is Fred, moved forward. He stood on the porch next to Gordon, and took a moment to study the others. “Hi.” he says to Gordon. Gordon says “I” back. “My name is Fred. Fred Spanler. I work for a virus company. We’ve been predicting this situation for several years now. I think you’ve caught a humanly transmitted virus. Oops. Sorry. Please don’t touch me.” Gordon had stuck out his hand to shake hands. “Suhrive? Eem?” Fred said, “I think so. I need to do some tests to be sure. Did you know you’re talking backwards? That’s one of the afflictions.”
Something in Gordon’s memory, which was infected, remembered his computer problem. “Ood ooee xiff I’m retupmoc?” Fred could understand backwards talk. “Sure, bring it along. I’m calling my office. They’ll send a van over. I’d like everyone to come to the lab. Is that Okay?” Gordon smiled, then it faded. “Wahoe chum sud sith tsoc?” Fred said “Oh, no worries. We won’t be charging you. This is a fantastic opportunity for our laboratory to work on.”
Within the hour, a van showed up, big enough to load the hapless dozen of infected humans. Someone leaked the story, and then CNN, ABC, and all the other networks surrounded the lab, waiting for the development. Even the governor of the state had showed up, answering questions. He was pleased to be able to tell the public that no, no mask mandates would be announced, but vaccinations designed to make little lawnmowers attract rust and halt their destructive programs would be followed by a seeding device to replant the damaged brain cells.