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4. Airborne

By Phillip Ghee (USA)

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OMG GF jst met TTHD he wnts 2 go ot on a d8. Ive2 RSVP. 2d bch@  OC.

OMG GF WTW WWTYD?” shd I go sxc?”

 Patty heard or at least acknowledged the sounds that were coming out of her daughter’s mouth. The almost unpronounceable utterances streaming from Michi’s mouth was Ameritext. Ameritext was the spoken language of choice for most teenagers. To be fluent in Ameritext was worn like an elite badge of honor. The language had evolved from the typed text messages teenagers, during the first decade of the 21st Century, used to send back and forth to each other, non-stop; 24-7. With all the advances in communication technology the fad of texting eventually faded away. Yet like all things productive and with purpose, the languages were eventually resurrected by the youth of the day as a spoken language. What gave the language productivity and purpose was the same with modern youth as it had been with the youths of old: to confound and confuse their parents.  Even if a parent had a clue to what the text was referring to if viewed in written form, they would hardly be able to recognize the guttural, spoken words as they were railed off in quick succession and with an absence of most vowels. The linguist of the day had proclaimed Ameritext and Eurotext the most difficult languages to speak, even surpassing that of the chirps and clicks infused Bushman languages of the Kalahari.

Patty hated Ameritext. She didn’t have a clue as to what was being conveyed but, the over protective Mrs. Kleinberg did not like the sound of it. She knew it was either boys or large gatherings and crowds. The taboo on boys from the parents of teenage girls was nothing new and had been enforced for millenniums. The ban on large crowds and gatherings was Mrs. Kleinberg’s own personal taboo she inflicted upon her girls. When it came to her daughters, Patty was always on watch for invasive super hugs and super bugs.

During the last decade of the 20th Century and the first two of the 21st, the world had been hammered by epidemics, outbreaks and even occasional yet short-lived plagues. The last five years or so had been unprecedented in the decline of the aforementioned maladies. Featherweights like colds and flues had been beaten into submission. The more nefarious social diseases, the sexually transmitted diseases, declined dramatically, thus opening up another front vigilant for the watchfulness of parents of teenagers. Contagious disorders ranging from contact dermatitis and all the way down to contagious warts and Pink Eye were, at least in developed nations, going the way of small pox and leprosy.

Many greeted this new health prosperity with careless zeal. They threw caution to the wind and partied like it was the proverbial 1999, the actual year 1999 had not so much good fortunate and freedom from disease. Patty however was ever vigilant. She did believe this state of bliss would last and viewed the phenomena, sometimes with paranoid leanings, as the calm before the storm.

Triclosan/Trichlorocarbamide and PCMX/Chloroxylenol

Dr. Kleinberg, a former Pharmaceutical Scienti, had more than just blind skepticism forging her beliefs. She had abandoned her profession of choice many years earlier, during the great Triclosan Infusion of products, from China. Many years prior to that, China had captured the market in the production and distribution of products containing Triclosan. No fewer than twelve major Chinese companies ran a monopoly on the products.

 The times were such that both precaution, and often phobia, ruled the day. Antibacterial soaps, scrubs, shampoo and even the enriched dishwashing liquids and detergents were in high demand. Sure there had been a notable medical and scientific opposition to the mass proliferation of the products, but public demand and corporation profits far outweighed and eventually silenced such resistant voices. Up until that point Triclosan had been relegated to only those earlier mentioned products. Many believed that the over usage of the products would inevitably lead to super strains of resistant bacteria.

Patty continued, to no avail, to listen to her daughters’ conversation from the outside of her room. She might as well been listening to dogs howl at the moon or the early morning chatter of birds. Once she heard the distinct sound of the single indicating ‘End of Transmission’ on Michi’s satellite phone, she gently rapped on her daughter’s door.

“shoo Kaitlan, Im bZ”

“It’s Mom, can we talk?”

“OK mom give me tick.” Michi hurried to stash the more secretive revealing articles of her wardrobe under the bed. She tossed her hair and opened the door.

“I couldn’t help but noticing you really sound excited. Any plans, honey?”

“No, I have a new friend and we were thinking, I mean like of group of us, of going down to the beach this weekend.”

             “This weekend? So I supposed you’re all studied for the entrance exams?” Patty sarcastically queried.

            “Mom, you have got to be kidding me, that test is AKA the  Geek- stat. That only matters if you want to get into MIT or some brainy nerd school.

           “Michi we have had this conversation a million times. Look honey, I’m only trying to look out for what is best in your future.” She now tried to adapt a more compassionate tone.

           “Mom 4 christ sakes, it’s my lyf+I tnk Im old nuf2 plan it. Bside didn’t u…

            “English please,” Patty had to cut her off. In agitated states teens usually deferred to the language they were most comfortable with.  “Look honey, I was a teenage girl too! I was into boys and hanging out and stuff, but I made school with a reasonable and sound career my number one priority.”  Mrs. Kleinberg didn’t need to understand Text language to suspect that somewhere and somehow there must be a boy involved. “I just want you to get a real career and not take chances with your hobby.”

           “Hobby! Is that what you call it Mom, a hobby?”Michi started to cry. Patty sat down beside her on the bed and tried to console her. Michi gently pushed away the comforting arm draped around the shoulder.

            “ I practice my voice lessons non-stop, I attend all my Glee Club functions rain or shine. Look at all these books and browser pads on acting and Broadway. Does that look like a childish hobby? Mom I don’t want to go to Medical School, BioPharmChem School or Engineering school. And neither does Kaitlan. You weren’t so happy with your career…were you?”

            “Your Dad’s and my professions provided us with enough stability to put you into this great house and sent you to those good schools.” Patty now found herself on the defensive.

“I am going to be famous and, a star. You will be proud of me someday. Michi stood and with affirmation grabbed a tissue and blew her nose. “Anyway thanks to the Chinese we may live forever one day.” Her adult argument thus concluded with a child-like dare. Ms Kleinberg responded in child-like accordance. “Then I suspect this boy will be fronting your sky-high tuition at some Broadway U?” Patty stormed out of the room.

 

Pneumoclosan

                  -CL  ↑ - CO3

The second big break though came when Chinese Scientists were able to modify the chemical structure of the chemical to produce an entire family of related compounds. Ciliaclosan was found to be effective in battling water-born bacteria and harmful single cell organisms found in drinking water. It eventually was added to most municipal water reservoirs and lakes. Victusclosan dealt various food borne organism such as e-coli and salmonella a death blow. Carnalclosan were added to oral contraceptives, condoms and a host of adult entertainment accessories. However, the most profitable and widespread used product was Pneumoclosan.

         Pneumoclosan’s first clinical appearance was as an additive in inhalers for asthmatics. Combined with antibiotic and steroids the chemical was credited with curing Asthma, Bronchitis and a host of other respiratory disorders long thought to have been incurable.

    The last major outbreak of a contagious disease in a first world country was a particularly benign yet pesky strain of flu. It was a typical strain of seasonal flu and only the elderly and children were placed at substantial risk. The new product Pneumoclosan was rolled out and tested. Not only was the product a new variation on the Triclosan chemical chain. Its method of delivery was also new. The chemical would be disseminated by way of public mystifiers. Simple yet effective pneumo-transmission tubing and pipes were set up at the entrances of schools, arenas, public building and public transportation stations.  In later years one could purchase home and office units. The chemical was aerosolized in a very fine mist, barely detectable by eye. The chemical served its intended purpose. It worked. It worked very well.

       Michi enjoyed her day on the beach with her date. As a special treat, she decided to treat the potential beau with a sampling of her musical skill. Once they were quite alone, she inhaled deeply and belted out a spectacular version of the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Memory’. Had an audience been available other than a hormone-amped teen boy she would have surely received a thunderous standing ovation. As for the boy, he did as boys have done for a millennium. He affected a look of wonderment whereas he was really more interested in the apparatus that produced the sounds than the sounds themselves.

      The following week, while practicing a duet with her sister Kaitlan, Michi noticed that her voice was a little raspy and she was not able to hit the high octaves as before. She attributed the situation on her performance at the beach. She had really exerted herself, filling her lungs with the cool salted ocean air.

        Michi was a fortunate girl. Despite her lack of enthusiasm she felt that she performed well on the entrance exam, thus keeping her for mother at bay while she upped the ante on the dating game. Michi’s condition seem to worsen. Earlier it had affected only her singing but now she felt almost a constant irritation in her throat.  She thought that it was nothing, really nothing, not noticeable, until her sister commented during one in their practices.

 

                        “^ w/yr voiC. It crackles evrytme u hit a hi note?” Kaitlan looked at her sister with concern. “U suk dis S d 2nd wk.”  

                     “I tnk I strain it on d bch, I sung a song 4my nu pal”

                    “ Sounds ik 2much boy tung t me”

                     “OMG u lil btch”. The two engaged in a playful wrestling match. Michi promised her sister that she would mention it to the voice coach and seek out a remedy.

 

          After its great success with combating seasonal flu’s, the Chinese set their sights for more ambitious goals. Southeast Asia, India and Sub-Saharan Africa still suffered from the scourge of Tuberculosis. The Chinese were confident that they could greatly impact if not eliminate the disease both in its active and dormant states. But how to disseminate the Pneumoclosan? The tubes and pipes used to disseminate the chemical in first world countries were effective and relatively easy to set up. The Third World countries, however, offered more logistically difficulty and financial drawbacks.. Many areas were super congested in general and did not have prime locations for the gathering of the masses. Hence the decision was made to spray the chemical airily by means of Helicopters and Crop Dusters.

            Michi was totally unaware of what wounds she had opened the day she challenged her mother on her choice of careers. Patty held secrets from her family and even from herself for prolonged periods of time. She knew things that she earnestly tried to hide in the deepest recesses of her mental attic.

           Despite her all American (not a hint of the exotic) persona, Patty was ethnically Chinese, all though it was buried under her many layers. 帕特里夏  was Pà té lǐ xià by way of an approximate phonetic translation. Pà té lǐ xià was Patricia by way of English pronunciation. Patricia was Patty by way of nickname. She was Mrs. Kleinberg by way of marriage. Patty was neither dismissive of her heritage nor was she ethnocentric towards it. She, like the old song states, “Was an American Girl”.

 Unbeknownst to her family, Patty was quite fluent in Chinese and very accustomed to its society. Like many of her American but of Chinese heritage peers, Patty had to attend Chinese school on the weekends. In adulthood she wanted to explore her roots more fully, especially since China had become the world’s leading economy. With her fresh PharmChem degree in hand, she headed off for China for residency studies at Hua Xué Guó Wáng  International.

        Albeit China had facilitated many wonders for the world, but at what cost? Patty had worked in the laboratories that were responsible for testing Triclosan and its new family of chemical offsprings they were experimenting with. This was during the days when the chemicals were being successfully bonded to Pharmaceutical agents. The resulting hybrids were cause for much economic joy and speculation.  

        When you have a population of 1.4 billion with an estimated 2 million of the populace either incarcerated in prisons, labor camps or re-education centers, the need for paid volunteers in Clinical Trials is a moot point. It was long before China tested many of its products on suffering inmates ala Tuskegee Institute style. Even worse, some conditions may have even been transmitted to individuals for the specific purpose of testing treatments. She saw the results of these experiments.

         Patty cut short her residency in China and returned to the United States. She initially tried posting a few vague and anonymous notes alerting the medical community that all may not be right with China’s medical community. She was unaware if her posting netted any responses. Patty was deathly afraid of the Chinese. Their government as well as their large corporations had Intel and spies everywhere, throughout the world. Patty took her efforts no further.  Still she had seen things. At this stage of the Chinese dominancy only the Antibacterial Soaps and related products were available to the U.S. consumer. Dr.Kleinberg reasoned that the Chinese would never be able to produce enough of the proper documentation of testing and safety reports to the American FDA to get these inhumane birthed hybrids on the market.

        Obviously not only did an economic powerhouse like China get these products on the American market; they eventually proved themselves most successful in the Tuberculosis Campaign in the Third World.

 

 

                                               Great Garbage Strikes

          Throughout history and most importantly throughout the history of disposable products and excessive waste, they were often viewed with contempt, as lowly, non-ambitious workers. They had been despised, ignored and even ridiculed yet never respected as an integral and crucial part of the labor force. Often it takes the laying down of arms, as it were, for this labor force to get due rights and even full civil liberties. Given the nature of Earth’s most dominant species, it would come as no surprise to an outside evaluator of Earthen Affairs that Martin Luther King Jr. tragically met his violent end while attempting to represent such often abused workers. He was attempting to secure equality for the Memphis Sanitation Workers in that great strike of 1968.

           One of the most notorious, although not the worst in terms of tonnage or duration, was the New York City Garbage Strike of 1981. In just 17 days the city was transformed into an oasis of filth, piled up debris and rat and pest paradise. In 2009, a six week strike starting in Toronto Canada made a smelly summer mess! The city used once pristine public parks as temporary municipal dumping grounds. The effects of this were still evident years later.

           The reigning crown for what was the worst garbage strike goes to Naples, Italy.  The city suffered a year-long strike in 2008. The standoff between city officials and the Mafia (who more or less controlled the refuse industry) got so bad that the Italian military was brought in to clean up the mess! Entire roads and highways had been so cluttered with trash that transportation came to a standstill in many parts of the city.
           The planet Earth employed its own workforce of Sanitation workers. The work force is multilayered. For a time, man had been a welcomed addition to the upper tier of the workforce, but man grew too uppity and self-consumed for the position. His actions became that more of a disgruntle employee and he retaliated by thrashing the planet with reckless disregard. Scavengers and other animals played an important role as do environmental factors. However on the lowest tier of the workforce is a single cell and often single objective worker. We know this collectively as Bacteria. The vast majority of the five nonillion (5x1030)   Bacteria on Earth are not harmful and serve a vital role.
         Once an item of refuse, expiration or decay has been broken down sufficiently, Bacteria comes in like Charon, the Greek ferryman of the dead, to provide the final breakdown and guide the transition from waste to reclamation back unto Mother Earth. These workers are numerous. There are approximately 40 million bacteria cells in a gram of soil. There are1 million in a milliliter of fresh water. Just inside the human flora there is ten times the number of bacteria than there are of human cells.
        The air distributed Pneumoclosan worked so well it became the bacteria to bacteria. That is, its particles infiltrated not only the harmful strains of Tuberculosis but everything else it came into contact with. Many bacteria simple shut down to preserve their life and dignity. They went on strike. The mercenary Pneumoclosan was carried far and wide by the Trade Winds.
             Dr.Kleinberg, after returning to the United States, found herself a nice position at a major HMO organization as a clinician. Work was fulfilling. Helping to treat the sick and infirm somehow lessened the horrors she had seen in China. Still Patty had nightmares at night. She sought to diffuse and dilute those memories. She decided to fill her life with all the things she deemed beautiful and life affirming. She first sought the higher truths and ethereal beauty of religion. She supplemented this with her love of music and dance and theater. And as the final diffusion she added Mr. Kleinberg, who she had met at Synagogue. Ironically it was her love of the arts that she passed down in the raising of her two daughters Kaitlan and the ailing Michi.
             Michi’s conditioned continued to worsen even after trying several home remedies to soothe the throat and vocal cords, offered to her by her voice coach. She finally confided in her mom. Patty was no longer the clinician practicing at the HMO. She had given up that position once the Food and Drug Administration approved the paperwork deficient Drug and Chemical hybrids imported from China. Suddenly her Hospital as well as many other prominent medical centers were swooping up the new hybrids .One could even say they were stockpiling them.  Doctors were writing prescriptions and administering therapy with the products with zeal. Patty wanted no connection to that past so she decided it was time for her to part with traditional medicine. Patty went to work for the Alternative Medicine Collective. The ethics of Western Medicine having failed her also, Patty now spent working hours trying to wean the very same type of patients she had once dosed off of as many pharmaceuticals, chemicals and hybrids as possible. Since her new employment was not officially recognized by the FDA or AMA, she had to drop the title she had worked so hard to obtain. However, the dropping of the title did not mean her clinical skills were not still intact.
             The hospital confirmed that Michi was suffering from a wide array of Particulate Matter combined with newly discovered allergies. Combined, they had first caused irritation to her throat and then eventually found their way into her lungs. They believed that her breezy spent day at the beach and her operatic performance may have exacerbated the condition.  What the doctors at Michi’s hospital did not know was that scores of cases like Michi’s were on the rise. Although seldom diagnosed and underreported, something similar was happening in Third World countries.
              Allergies? Particulate Matter? The former Dr.Kleinberg was not buying it. She knew that it was bound to happen one day. With the over usage of  Triclosan and its family of chemicals and hybrids she knew that new strains of bacteria would arise. She did not have the full laboratories at AMC to run the proper lab tests but she still had friends at her old HMO. Patty had not visited or even driven past the hospital in the past couple of years. She was surprised to see many recognizable faces even before entering the structure.


Mr. Wendal is dedicated to the character created in song by Arrested Development

                      “Hi there Ms. Patty, How you been?” She could believe it. It was Mr.Wendal, the local homeless fixture. He looked the same as she had known him in earlier days; one foot in the grave and the other out. She was surprised to find the two feet had not yet found one another. Mr.Wendal was not the type to stay in a homeless shelter nor was he the type to do anything that would land him in a nice and cozy jail cell. How one could sustain life living on the bare streets for that many years was a mystery to her. His beaming smile was soon replaced by a wheezing hacking cough. “Ah, times sure are a getting short now”. 
    He grunted.  She fished around her purse and came up with a twenty. She had always been a little amazed by Mr.Wendal, despite what she considered his horrendous lifestyle, He had always impressed her as a man who knew much more than he was letting on. She often would detect phrases of comprehension or knowledge that seemed out of the scope of this full-time street urchin. She often wondered if he wasn’t hiding an education behind that simpleton’s demeanor.
     “Good to see you Mr.Wendal. Now what are you doing about that nasty cough?” She spoke using her very best motherly tone. The wheezing had the same characteristics as Michi’s. “I think there is something going in the air.” She cautioned.
   “Are you coming back to work, Ms.Patty? They’s could really use some real scientist like you who know what they’re doing.” He was very sincere in his delivery.           :They’s killing the planet, you know, the Chinese and all those Chemicals and stuff.”  Patty would have entertained him longer but she was on a mission.  Lab-Pharmacist Grace was glad to see Patty. They exchanged small talk and pleasantries. Lab-Pharmacist Grace was a little taken aback when Patty put forth her request. Patty wanted a one-hour access to the lab. Grace was a bit skittish about granting such a request. If such a brief in protocol was discovered it could very well cost the pharmacist her job. She felt a little angered that Patty would take advantage of their former working relationship to put her in such a position. Patty didn’t want to sound like a raving paranoid conspiracy freak but she knew she had to give Pharmacist Grace something.  She left out the information regarding her past and just expounded on how a possible new and resistant strain of bacteria may be working its way into the biosphere. Grace granted her two lab assistants an extended lunch. She figured at least it would be more plausible that Patty was assisting her, if discovered. Once in Bio-Protective gear the women entered the Clean Room. Patty arranged an assortment of blood, sputum, urine, cheek swabs and skin samples and just about anything that could have been harvested from Michi without the benefits of minor surgery.
    “The computers, spectrometers, laser and MI scans worked quickly and were presumably accurate. The abnormally high levels of PM that the doctors spoke of were confirmed but, so was evidence of intrusive bacteria. Patty’s suspicions seemed well founded. But she was puzzled as to why there was evidence of so many different types of bacteria. So many so that individual identification proved overwhelming. And even more baffling to Patty and Pharmacist Grace was why all the bacteria were inactive or dead.
Pharmacist Grace tried to isolate some of what look like more harmful samplings in order to grow cultures. Perhaps they were just dormant, she reasoned. She carefully prepared the samples in labeled agar filled Petri dishes. If something was to grow it would take time, much more than the 1 hour she had painfully allocated to Patty. She placed the samples in the care of the former Dr.Kleinberg.  The rest was up to her.
            On her way out she said goodbye to Mr.Wendal. “I’m sorry Mr. Wendal. I would like to talk to you longer but I have a very sick daughter at home. In fact, you and her, sound like you have the same thing.”
              “I know, Ms.Patty. It’s the planet; the planet is sick. Can’t you scientists help her?  She was crying something terrible last night.” Mr. Wendal sorrowfully hung his head.
              ‘” It’s not that easy treating the Earth, it’s not like treating a person, where you can…” Mr.Wendal, uncharacteristically, interrupted the former Doctor.
              “But she is a person, Ms.Patty. Her brain is the North and South Pole. Her heart is a beating away, way down there inside that hot ole core. Her bladder is the oceans.  We’s be her food. Everything is a part of her body. Even those tiny bacteria, they’s her red blood cells Ms. Patty.”  Patty dropped her lab bag. She immediately panicked, hoping she had not broken the fragile Petri dished contained within. She must have lost her concentration and the bag simply slipped from her grasp. She tried to offer this explanation to herself. She bided Mr.Wendal goodbye, perhaps for the last time, and headed home to her ailing daughter.
               The, un-reclaimed and re-introduced to Earth,  Particulate Matter that was clogging the atmosphere was largely due to the last great garbage strike. The striking garbage men never received their just due. Pneumoclosan was just too strong and busted clear through their strike lines and even roused them from their sleeping state and delivered the deathblow. Over nine tenths of the Earth’s total biomass is plants. The total biomass of bacteria is estimated to equal that of plants. Now the carcasses of five nonillion (5x1030)   bacteria made the Winds of the World their cemetery. 
All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: ... and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, Ashes to ashes, dust
t
o
dust.

Quadrilogy End

By Phillip Ghee

 

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