Pandemic Revisited

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about the pandemic that I wrote about in my Recall Chronicles series. I think about how my different characters reacted to it.

One of them denied their symptoms right up until the diagnosis came back. It was just stress, they said. Or the altitude. That was all.

Other characters contemplated the relevance of political action under dire circumstances.

Montagne stared out the window and said nothing, his fists shoved deep into his pockets. When he spoke, his voice was heavy with sadness. “I know,” he said. “It seems like a lot of people are going to die of this disease no matter what else happens. Except maybe for the plutocrats who are rich enough to isolate themselves.”

But what if the plutocrats are a bigger problem than any disease?

Another character finds herself thankfully immune to the virus. And that became another whole set of issues. She and her friend decide to volunteer at the hospital, offering comfort to patients:

There were only a hand­ful of [immune] people who could work without the encumbering suits and hoods and we were issued badges indi­cating our approved status. Most of the other badge-wearers came from the ranks of lower-level workers who tended to sweep­ing, cleaning and trash removal. My heart sank, realiz­ing that in another week or so they’d also be removing bodies. My task was bedside care. I gave people water and helped them with their meals and their palliative medica­tions—analgesics, anti-nausea pills, sleep aids. I held their hands and looked into their faces. They seemed grateful to be able to see mine.

And then there’s the opening to book three (Flight of the Owl), which came from someone trapped in the misery of the ongoing pandemic (you’ve been warned).

September 11, 2126—She takes another deliberate breath and stares at the rigid form, dismayed at how inexorably her friend’s life had leaked out, bit by bit, thinking about how it will feel when the same thing happens to her. And it will hap­pen. If not tomorrow, then the day after.


She struggles against encroaching tears. Breathing is already hard enough. She fills her lungs with the oxygen her broken blood cells refuse to carry. Not moving around helps, not robbing oxygen from failing organs.


She considers opening the door and running away, run­ning until she drops. Out there nothing works anymore. Everything’s broken. Out there smoke hangs in the air, smoke from the fires. Not funeral fires. There were no funerals. She doesn’t open the door. She lies still, next to her dead room­mate while her own life leaks out, bit by bit.


The last time she looked in the mirror, she saw how her youthful face had gone pale and gaunt. The calendar tells her she’s 107 and she searches for 107 years’ worth of memories. She finds a few. In her mind she writes letters to friends and family, the dead and dying.


Dear Maggie – I just want to say how sorry I am that I stole your favorite eyeliner pencil. She hasn’t heard from Maggie in years.


Dear Uncle Bart – Thank you for making me memorize poems. Thank you for Dylan Thomas and ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ I have no rage left.


Dear Jonathan – How I wish you were here to hold my hand. I’ve wished that before but I never told you. I’m remem­bering a poem I wrote in college, one where I longed for a revolution. Everyone called it anachronistic nostalgia but you said it was good. I think about what’s happened and I think it had to be deliberate. I think this is our 22nd-century revolu­tion. I didn’t think it would be like this. Is this victory? If so, whose?

“Long live the revolution,” she whispers.

Love, Kate.




WAY blogpost


Reading the news over the past months about the Ebola virus, I can’t help but identify even more strongly with the predicament of my protagonist in Way of the Serpent. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Jenda Swain’s flight from Costa Rica arrived at the Dallas airport right on time.  Jenda was surprised to see how crowded the international terminal was. “I wonder what the holdup is?” she asked herself. And then she almost panicked; what if the international corporate police had caught wind of their plan and were searching bags? “It’s okay,” she told herself, “as long as you stay calm and don’t attract attention.” As she got nearer the gateways, Jenda saw that they were not inspecting bags, but rather scanning people with an infrared device. She felt relieved. “Do you know what’s going on?” She was now relaxed enough to speak to one of her companions in the slow moving queue.

“It’s the IHA – that blood disease, the hemolytic anemia. Well, I think they’re calling it VHA now that they know it’s a virus. It’s been spreading like wildfire. How long have you been out of the country anyway?” her companion responded.

“I didn’t think it was contagious,” Jenda said, “Why are they screening us?”

“Well, now they know it is contagious,” the man replied, “although they’re still a long way from understanding how to deal with the virus that’s causing it. Lots of cases in Mexico and Guatemala, so all passengers from anywhere in Central America are getting screened.”

Jenda thanked her fellow traveler for the information. “Well, here’s something else I could worry about,” she said to herself, “but let’s just say I choose not to.”

When Jenda finally passed through the screening device, she noticed that several people had been pulled aside and equipped with face masks. A gloved and masked physician wearing a Pharmakon uniform was speaking with them. “I am not going to worry about this!” Jenda told herself again.

Riding in the autocar back to her apartment, Jenda gave her grandmother a call.

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear your voice,” Granny El said. “I’ve been worried about you, you know, what with this VHA thing beginning to get all out of hand. At least I was glad you were in Argentina rather than Central America – it’s really getting bad there!” Not worrying about viral hemolytic anemia was getting harder for Jenda.

WATCH FOR publication of Way of the Serpent on Amazon in early 2015!