The Halloween Project 2020 - Story 1: My Name Is Marburg
Welcome friends, neighbors, associates, miscreants, and relatives to the fourth annual Halloween Project. Each October for the last three years I have written a short story every other day for the entire month. Fun at first and always a challenge as the month wears on. I am cheating today since this first story was actually written for the project two years ago. It is timely and perhaps the most horrible story I have ever written. It stands exactly the same as it did two years ago, save for one added line.
I am the stalker. I am not the one you imagine to be waiting behind the fence at the end of the alley as you walk home on a brisk October evening, wind hiding the lilt of a voice calling you. I am not the one who eyes you maniacally at the end of the subway platform. I am not the footsteps you are certain you heard in the attic last night. I am not the solitary figure standing off in the forest watching. I am not the gunman in the tower, the thug, the sociopath, the psychotic. I am not your common fears. My presence has lived alongside you; under your fingernails, in the scum line at your nearby pond, floating on the wind, in the sneeze of your college classmate, in your gut. Ubiquitous is not a large enough word for my presence. My hosts are everywhere and I use them without thanks or contrition. If the gods say so, I will take your eyesight, your skin, your mind, your life. You have your defenses. Your people attack me assiduously, the best minds working feverishly, determined and stalwart. Your science is strong. But I am stronger. I survive. I change. I mutate. Scavenge, eat, destroy, replicate, adapt. Without the use of mind or thinking. Without your science, beyond your laboratories and universities, Nobel prize winners and experiments. For millions of years. And millions more. I am acid and gene, protein, capsid, membrane and envelope. You cannot defeat me. Oh, perhaps my brother, smallpox, is no more, but he left his mark. 300 million lives, snuffed out by his voracious appetite before you overcame him. You were committed and you won that battle and he is no more. But not the war, never the war. You cannot recognize me. You cannot see me. You cannot hear me. Yet you are my host and I need you. I am less than a whisper on an autumn breeze. I come in many costumes. I am 100 times smaller than the width of a single hair on your head. My girth is but one millionth of an inch. I have been alive for your entire existence as human beings. And I also do good, but that is not my goal. I have no goal but to survive. To be. And I kill. I am good at killing because I take you and use you and throw you away after you have fed me and kept me alive, although many debate whether I am truly a living creature. Needless, I am not a friendly guest. I call myself many names. My name is Ebola. My name is rabies. My name is Hanta My name is influenza. My name is Dengue. My name is rota. My name is Sars. My name is West Nile. My name is Nipah.
My name is Covid. I change. I adapt. I live. I AM the stalker. I am not looking for you, but I may find you. My name is Marburg.