Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Affliction

It seemed to happen almost overnight. Everyone went to bed the evening of July 5th. in their respective corners of the world, and the reports began rolling in from hospitals in Greenwich, London the next day starting at six a.m. in the morning. No one was awake. No one saw it coming. It crept in during the wee hours of the morning when the sky is the darkest, when the night creatures have retreated to hiding spaces and the birds are still in the deepest of slumbers.

The first reports from London were that a high number of people had contacted hospitals regarding a rash, varying in severity. The mildest cases were red and itchy and seemed to resemble simple Contact Dermatitis. The worst cases were painful, red, inflamed patches of fluid-filled blisters.

It later came out that cab drivers, 24-Hour convenience store clerks and hospital staff report were unable to account for their time between the hours of two and four in the morning. The people who were supposed to be awake in those early, silent hours assumed they must have been unusually tired and fallen asleep. Upon waking they had proceeded with their shifts as if nothing had happened, saying nothing out of embarrassment or fear that they would be reprimanded.  All of them wondering what could have happened to explain the rash they woke up with.

Once the news spread that the rash was afflicting people not only in different time zones, but different countries there was a mass panic. Major news sources reported that the President been taken to an undisclosed location. Later, leaks from the White House surfaced that the President was covered in painful, seeping blisters. For the first time in his Presidency, Donald Trump's Twitter remained silent other than a simple statement that he would find the parties responsible for the heinous acts committed against the United States.

People wore hospital masks everywhere, as if those would protect them. Hospitals were overrun. Grocery stores were ransacked. The news alternated between reports on the rash and clips of security cameras showing the violence that had taken place in store aisles across the country. Like a Black Friday Sale from hell, people were assaulting and killing each other in Walmarts over bottled water and canned goods. The United States prepared for war. People swarmed to gun stores, purchasing guns and ammunition. After the guns stores, people flocked to the home improvement stores, raiding the camping supplies, anything that could be used as a weapon, and purchasing everything they possibly could to board up and secure their homes. Pharmacies sold out of First Aid supplies, antihistamines and Calamine lotion as everyone attempted to sooth the itching, burning rash.

Then the World waited. After a few days, it was discovered that no country had been spared. Every country, every major world power, including those most likely to have released a Biological Weapon, was afflicted by the mysterious rash.

Medical professionals looked under microscopes and ran tests, but were unable to find the cause. No one could determine the cause of the rash or why it was severe in some and mild in others. People bought lotions and creams to try and soothe the rash when steroid creams and antihistamines failed; Nothing changed the rash or made it better or worse. No one could determine how it was transmitted or even if it was transferable. In most people, the rash appeared and stayed and the people whose rash got better or worse had no idea what they did that would have made things better or caused a flare-up.

After weeks of being holed up in their homes, cowering in fear, people began to resume their normal activities and life seemed to begin to start rebuilding itself. Slowly at first, people continued to go to work, and children returned to school. It wasn't unusual to see people covered in the rash doing the grocery shopping, buying gas, taking the kids to daycare.

The Centers for Disease Control continued to study and look for the cause. In the fear and confusion, when the medical community couldn't find a cause or a treatment, people began blaming witchcraft. Desperate for answers, the churches were flooded with people who believed the rash was a plague from God. Most people found that while incidences of the rash were less in the church populations, the people who afflicted were some of the most severe cases. Voodoo practitioners were overrun with requests to undo curses. Snake oil salesmen went door to door with bottles of concoctions.

Small children were unaffected. While some children displayed small, light rashes it was more prevalent in older children. Strangely enough, however, the few children that were afflicted were the ones the neighbors weren't fond of because they were the ones most likely to break windows, damage property and torture the stray cats from the neighborhood.

Hijab sales soared. Women who once taunted and abused their Muslim neighbors now sought them out for advice on how to wear Hijab and headscarves as an attractive means to cover their heads after the rash caused them to lose their hair. The most vain women, when forced to leave their homes, wore burqas. The worst of the afflicted, people who refused to leave their homes, were tended to by those who were less affected or unaffected by the illness. Volunteers would make house visits to the homes of the individuals who were identified as suffering the most, assisting them with baths and helping them around the home. Somehow, the volunteers managed to lovingly tend to people who were angry and scared and unwilling to leave their homes because of the rash.

After months of being unable to determine the source of the rash, people began to attempt to move on with their lives. People began to embrace the good and the beautiful things in life and it was easier than ever before. Crime became non-existent. Somehow, the people who had suffered the most severe rashes were often the most unpleasant people. The neighborhood busy body that prided herself on her figure and well-tended garden who handed out squares of Ex-Lax to children on Halloween stopped leaving her house except at night when she would weed her flowerbeds by lantern light in a burqa. Online business and food delivery thrived because people who were rude to waitstaff and Customer Service stopped leaving their homes for fear of being seen; They still didn't tip, but it was an improvement over the verbal abuse and tears they'd leave in their wake before The Rash.

The world was being rebuilt by people without the rash. They were building better schools. They were feeding people. They were caring for the most severely impacted by the rash. And somehow, the world seemed like it was going to somehow be a nicer place in the end.