Ad 36: fat goes viral

  By Slim

Chapter 1 - the find

The swab hit the small blue square, and instantly, a bright pink mark was left, and the entire square began to change to purple. I let out a cheer, but cut it short, remembering I had to be quiet. I quickly grabbed a petri dish and a new swab, ran the swab around my mouth and then the dish, and tossed the other swab in and closed it up. I pocketed the whole thing, and went about the rest of my workday in the CDC virology lab as happy as could be, even on a Friday. I couldn't believe my luck.
I had specialized in adenoviruses for years, identifying them from samples given to me, and had somehow never managed to find adenovirus 36 until today. I had a bit much on my plate at the moment to begin the research with it that I wanted to do, but to think that I had a sample of the virus so controversial for its claimed ability to make people obese... it was almost too much for me. I was imagining my name on so many research papers, and even patents for vaccines I forgot to take it out of my pocket before I left work. I just tossed my lab coat containing a dangerous virus over the sofa in the living room and went to my bedroom to change. If my roommates had already been home, I'd have remembered it and gotten it back to the lab quick, as I would have instantly bragged to them all about it upon seeing them. I was one of four young women, all exceedingly intelligent and relatively successful at their young ages, living in New York City, and while they may not have had the same appreciation for my find that I did, they could be convinced to see the potential in my research, I was sure.
I dressed in some spandex shorts and a lycra top and went for a run. I felt like if I didn't use some of this energy, the excitement of my find would become overwhelming for me, and I'd never sleep tonight. I realized that wasn't working after nearly getting hit by a third car while preoccupied, thinking about research methodology and hypotheses. I was in good enough shape, anyway, and didn't need to go killing myself with exercise. I returned home to find my roommates on the couch, playing video games, and immediately wanted to tell them about my find. I saw my lab coat was still on the couch, and, suddenly realizing the dish must still be in the pocket, moved to get it out. Pulling it out, I immediately saw the lid had been cracked in two. I gasped, horrified by my bad luck. How many years would it be before I could find another sample? I almost howled in frustration, then immediately covered my mouth. Then looked down at my hand in horror. The reality of how bad this was dawned on me embarrassingly slowly. And to think, I wanted to be the person who cured obesity, not another person suffering from it!
I looked at my roommates. None of them seemed to have noticed my reaction, or the petri dish at all. They could have been infected as well. I looked back down at the petri dish. Why was I still holding this thing?! I quickly rushed into the kitchen with it and threw it in the trash basket. Or tried. It hit the side of a counter and shattered into a million pieces. My roommates had apparently seen or heard, and were instantly on the ground, helping me to pick up the pieces. My mind was racing.
If I told them what it was they were picking up and likely infecting themselves with, they would probably hate me forever, and if anyone ever found out I had taken a sample like that home with me, I would be fired. They might even charge me with a crime! Holy ***, have I become a bioterrorist on accident? ... the only option was to lie. It was my only choice.
"What was this thing that broke?" my friend Sylvia, a veterinarian's assistant, asked me, her long blond hair sweeping the floor as she felt for pieces of the thin, transparent plastic.
"Just an empty petri dish I put in my pocket and forgot about. Meant to throw it away, and missed the can." ***. Now I need to find some normal-sounding reason for them to wash their hands like, immediately.
"What were you applying with this? Some kind of mascara or blush or something? You know they make actual products for that? You find them in STORES, not in laboratories." Kristie, the youngest of us, a recent cosmetology school graduate managing one of the top salons in Manhattan, and with a body shape that led the rest of us to avoid letting any of our guy friends see her, was holding up the swab with one purple end. In horror, I watched as she mimicked applying makeup around her eyes, and then even more horrifyingly, around her mouth.
"I'll have to see what you're telling me about sometime. Do you own such a tool?" Play into it, be funny, don't let them know you're ***ing terrified right now, I told myself. If they know you're terrified, you'll have to tell them why.
"If you all can make a little room in there for me, I think dinner is about done." Anna, professor on feminist literature at a local community college, and our dedicated chef, was carefully stepping over all of us. At 6'2 and all legs, it wasn't hard for her. Her brunette hair was neatly folded up into a bun, and she washed her hands thoroughly before moving to the pots on the stove. "It'll be spaghetti tonight, Becka.".
"Okay." and moved to go wash my hands, confident all of the pieces had been thrown away. Being the first to have my hands clean besides Anna, who was cooking, I went to set the table. The others followed me in after a bit, carrying the food, including a loaf of sliced Italian garlic bread. I started dishing up some spaghetti for myself, having worked up a bit of an appetite with all the terror. The dinner table conversation about boys, and money, and inside jokes took my mind off of the events of the day. For maybe 10 forkfulls. Then, I felt something strange in my mouth, reached in, and pulled out a piece of transparent plastic. It was all I could do not to just start crying right then. I just had to convince myself the sauce had been too hot and would have killed off the virus. I quickly wrapped the piece in my napkin, hoping no one would notice.
"You were totally right, Anna. Letting the sauce rest a bit off of the heat before serving really does make it a lot more.." Kristie was searching for a word.
"Homogenous." Anna supplied it. "Totally. The water all gets absorbed into the meat and other vegetables, also." I really was about to cry. Every hope, shot down. They might have just been telling me, "You'll soon be obese and will never be able to do a thing about it." We probably spent at least a combined 24 hours at the gym in a given week, between the four of us. We didn't deserve such a fate. I didn't want any more of this day and it's many, unceasing attempts to infect me with my own study sample.
"Sorry guys, this spaghetti is awesome, as always, but I'm beat. I'm headed to bed." I tried to excuse myself from my still half-full plate. I caught Anna's expression, looking at it, and rescinded. "Fine, I can probably make myself eat at least a bit more of this." I shoveled it into my mouth as quickly as I could, and made my way upstairs to my room.
"Hey, Kristie, when did you say that friend of yours was going to be looking for a place to stay? We need to give Becka a little advance notice, not to be cruel, but we need to make sure the room is available for your friend in time." I stopped, mid-way up the stairs, wanting to hear more. It sounded like Sylvia wanted me gone, and I thought of all of them, Sylvia and I were closest.
"Oh, Trisha? She's been training for the olympics in Switzerland for a few months, and I haven't heard much from her. But I'm sure it'll be before summer."
"I hope so, because I don't know that I can do another summer with that spastic lab rat. I don't know Trisha at all, but I'm just saying. Anyone could fit in with us better than her." Great. Insult added to infection. I would have cried myself to sleep, but every once in a while, I'd briefly consider how things could be worse. If it was ebola, I'd already be well on my way to a painful death. I couldn't decide if death was worse than obesity, social ostracism, losing my job, and then being damned to get fatter and fatter throughout my prison sentence, the cell ever getting smaller around me... if it was AIDS, my sex life might get a tiny bit more tragic, but I'd have a great excuse for it being so tragic. Net gain, probably. And so the night went. And the next day. The whole weekend.
That Monday at work, I was groggy and out of it, but still identified two more cases of the adenovirus 36 serotype in two more patients. I was glad that day I was just in the lab, and had no responsibility to tell these two patients that they were going to be obese, and there was little that could be done about it. I still made samples of both, but this time, locked them away securely immediately. I felt nervous around that stuff now, which was a terrible thing for someone with my career.
Over the next week, work was normal, with no more cases of the virus being found, and really, rather little to do in the lab. My roommates and I weren't speaking as much. I half wondered if they suspected I had heard them talking about replacing me, and I half wondered if they had spoken in ways that were intended for me to hear. None of them said anything more about that. My first real interaction with any of them was knocking on the bathroom door, and hearing a miserable, angry-sounding "In a minute!" That would be Kristie. I waited outside, and after a few minutes, the door creaked open. Kristie slowly shambled out, her face swollen, sweaty, and the sides of her nose bright, angry red.
5 chapters, created StoryListingCard.php 10 years , updated 10 years
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Slim 10 years
Thanks for the comments and suggestions, everybody! Hope everyone enjoys the next part I just posted.
Slim 10 years
I have clear ideas on where I want to take this, but anyone else's ideas and suggestions are appreciated. Like it? Hate it? All also appreciated.