Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
  • Mood: geeky
  • Music: Ludo, "Too Tired to Wink."

T-minus 29 days to DEADLINE.

Denver, Colorado. May 15th, 2014.

"How are you feeling, Amanda?" Dr. Wells checked the readout on the blood pressure monitor, attention only half on his bored-looking teenage patient. "Any pain, weakness, unexplained bleeding, blurriness of vision...?"

"Nope." Amanda Amberlee let her head loll back, staring up at the colorful mural of clouds and balloons that covered most of the ceiling. They'd painted that for her, she remembered, when she was thirteen; they'd wanted her to feel at ease as they pumped her veins full of a deadly disease designed to kill the disease that was already inside her. "Are we almost done? I have a fitting to get to?"

"Ah." Dr. Wells smiled. "Prom?"

"Prom."

"I'll see what I can do." From most patients, Dr. Wells took impatience and surliness as insults. Amanda was a special case. When they'd first met, her leiukemia had been so advanced that she had no energy for complaints or talking back; she'd submitted to every test and examination willingly, although she had a tendency to fall asleep in the middle of them. From her, every snippy comment and teenage eye-roll was a miracle, one that could be attributed entirely to science.

Marburg EX19—what the published studies were starting to refer to as "Marburg Amberlee," after the index case, rather than "Marburg Denver," which implied an outbreak and would be bad for tourism—was that miracle. The first effective cancer cure in the world, tailored from one of the most destructive viruses known to man. At thirteen, Amanda Amberlee had been given six months to live, at best. Now, at eighteen, she was going to live to see her grandchildren...and none of them would ever need to be afraid of cancer. Like smallpox before it, cancer was on the verge of extinction.

Amanda lifted her head to watch as he drew blood from the crook of her elbow. "How's my virus?" she asked.

"I haven't tested this sample yet, but if it's anything like the last one, your virus should be fat and sleepy. It'll be entirely dormant within another year." Dr. Wells gave her an encouraging look. "After that, I'll only need to see you every six months."

"Not to seem ungrateful or anything, but that'll be awesome." The kids at her high school had mostly stopped calling her "bubble girl" once she was healthy enough to join the soccer team, but the twice-monthly appointments were a real drain on her social calendar.

"I understand." Dr. Wells withdrew the needle, taping a piece of gauze down over the puncture wound. "All done. And have a wonderful time at prom."

Amanda slid out of the chair, stretching the kinks out of her back and legs. "Thanks, Dr. Wells. I'll see you in two weeks."

***

Denver, Colorado. May 29th, 2014.

"Dr. Wells? Are you all right?"

Daniel Wells turned to his administrative assistant, smiling wanly. "This was supposed to be Amanda's appointment block," he said. "She was going to tell me about her prom."

"I know." Janice Barton held out his coat. "It's time to go."

"I know." He took the coat, shaking his head. "She was so young."

"At least she died quickly, and she died knowing she had five more years because of you." Between them, unsaid: and at least the Marburg didn't kill her. Marburg Amberlee was a helper of man, not an enemy.

"Yes." He sighed. "All right. Let's go. The funeral begins in half an hour."

***

Amanda Amberlee, age eighteen, was killed in an automobile accident following the Lost Pines Senior Prom. It is believed the driver of the car had been drinking...

When will you Rise?
Tags: deadline, mira grant, pandemic time, short fiction
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