In an abandoned university book sales room, I was talking with some random folk about the plague that had afflicted society when one woman noticed that she had it — a patch of green growth on her arm. Everybody freaked out. The plague involved becoming covered in growth of a sort of alien lichen and the body dissolving into pure greenish-yellow vegetation. We all scattered. I recall lots of scurrying and trying to avoid the small colonies of people who were infected. From afar, I saw a woman disintegrate as her body rapidly succumbed to the terrible infection. She turned to crumbled moss against her car hood.
I found a general store where they were still selling supplies. I’d been remarking with people that I couldn’t believe some of our infrastructure we had was still standing, such as electricity and water. No one thought it would last much longer. This had, after all, been going on for a couple of weeks. All social networks had collapsed in nearly no time at all.
My boss’ boss at Uncle Walt’s — M — sauntered into the general store. In real life, M is a gentle man with a terrific intellect, sharp wit and dry sense of humor. But now he was carrying a gun. “I’m shooting them on sight,” he told me, referring to the infected people. I stared at him, hardly able to compute that this wonderful man I’d known for so long was now killing people. Still, I wanted to stay with him. I felt comforted by him. He encouraged me to come with him, that he’d protect me.
We went off to other places. And then my eye itched. I looked into a mirror hanging on the wall and noticed that I had a small patch of the green lichen in the white of my left eye, below the lid.
M noticed me. We locked eyes for a moment, the gun trembling in his hand. He breathed, “Run.”
I ran until I found one of the plague colonies. People were in differing states of degeneration. They reminded me a bit of Swamp Thing. One woman who was half-covered, half-eaten by the lichen told me, “You don’t hear about it, but it happens. People recover.” I didn’t know if I should believe her, if this was wishful thinking on her part. I decided I was better off alone than chancing greater infection. But I did notice that within the colony there was no fear or paranoia, just caring for one another, whereas on the outside it was pandemonium.
And as I spent time alone in the mountains, within a few days the green patch disappeared from my eye. I was well again.
The woman, it turns out, was almost correct. A few people recovered but essentially the plague had a limited run with our species. Not everyone succumbed, but then the plague simply petered out a few weeks later.