Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Achoo( 04/11/13)
| TITLE: Portent |
By Beth LaBuff
| ~ 5th Place |
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I’m the host of a local morning television show that is broadcast live before a studio audience. This morning we’ll feature a writer from International Geographic Magazine. The writer is bringing a guest who speaks no known language. In fact, this guest has only worn animal skins until a few days ago. He is one of a recently discovered colony of people found on an isolated volcanic island in the Pacific. It is believed they’ve had no contact with the outside world for several millennia. The news wires have been abuzz since their accidental discovery just days ago. It’s the kind of story that has power to spawn a blockbuster movie—a ship blown off course during a storm encounters an island, inhabited by a here-to-fore unknown race of people. The media, to further add to the ballyhoo, has dubbed them “The Lost People of Atlantis.” Who writes that stuff? Anyway, contact was made with the colony, and one from the colony returned with the ship.
The scientific community is ecstatic. Initial tests reveal this man’s blood to have never been tainted by a virus. Epidemiologists are studying his blood with the belief that they can replicate the properties of his blood. They hope that a designer vaccine can be developed that will give all mankind an immunity to viruses, eradicating them.
As I pull into my assigned parking slot, I catch myself scratching again, and now the back of my neck itches like crazy. Good grief, I’ve caught the plague. I wonder if Betsy recently changed laundry detergent?
In my office, I look for some kind of anti-itch product. All I find is a half-empty bottle of cucumber-melon scented hand lotion. I liberally plaster that on my afflictions. I take a few minutes to prepare for the interview, then, walk onto the set. The blazing studio lights seem extremely harsh today. The audience is already assembled, waiting. The insane itch on my stomach and neck is screaming for my attention. Don’t scratch . . . Do. Not. Scratch . . . Smile, all eyes are on you.
I ignore my misery and force a smile while willing the rest of my face to play along with the charade. My two guests enter the studio set as a text rings through on my phone. I turn the chime off and quickly glance at the message. Betsy’s text reads: Doc says Griff has chickenpox.
Before my mind can process the message, I extend my cucumber-melon scented hand to welcome our foreign guest. Electric charges connect in my brain. The scratching! Chickenpox! . . . And this man has never been exposed to a virus! Too late! . . . Our hands clasp as our eyes meet. The features on his face change. Perhaps my worry was needless as his eyes scrunch, his nose twitches and his mouth opens. I wasn’t the first to infect him, for with an expulsion from his mouth and nose, moisture particles spray my hand and arm. I’m stunned.
The on-air countdown begins. “We’re live in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1. . .”
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