Throughout the ages, one virus has been little tamed by the combined medicines of humankind. I am a scientist using CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, seeking a cure to end our battles with the common cold. Ribonucleic Acid, genetically modified to include cold genes and interacted with Cas9, the cellular policeman, enables Cas9 to detect and change infected DNA at the cellular level. I expectantly watched the centrifuge timer countdown from five. Four… Three… Two… One… BEEEP! Expecting the best, I opened the hood, and pulled out my new sample, now well emulsified in the solution that could change the world. I had a mouse with altered Deoxyribonucleic Acid, or DNA, allowing the mouse susceptibility to the common cold.
I hope to see positive results in the specimen once injected with the potential cure. The mouse should then be resistant to the cold virus and defeat further infections because of cas9’s DNA editing action. I placed the vial of cure in the same sample tube holder as the virus that I had used to inject the mouse. I went for a break to go over the centrifugal report. After a half an hour of looking over the report, a bag of plain chips, and a Styrofoam cup of coffee with creamer and sugar, I got back to work. I grabbed the sample holder off the counter with both hands, thinking it was precious gold. For some unknown mysterious reason, my hands started shaking violently and I accidentally dropped the samples, which smashed, allowing the cure to mix with the cold virus. I panicked, thinking I had wasted the last day and a half. Not thinking anything critical had happened, I went to grab some paper towel to clean up the spill.
I came back and picked up the bulk of the glass, throwing it in the trash bin that I had brought. Not worried about self-contamination because of the low risk of infection through multiple nitrile gloves, I wiped up the spill. Suddenly I felt a prick in my thumb and swore under my breath, yanking my hand up to my face for inspection. I was not worried as I was dealing with the simple common cold virus, not AIDS, Ebola, or Avian Flu like I was used to. I cursed at the volumes of accident reports I would have to file and changed my gloves after an antiseptic wash of my hands. I cursed again as I was highly susceptible to catching such viruses because of immunodeficiency that had laid half my family to rest and caused my studies in University. I hoped to one day cure my family of such a dreaded thing and bring my Ancestors to rest. I decided I would repeat the procedure in the morning with fresh vigor and headed home.
Dropping the replacement gloves in the wastebasket, I turned out the laboratory lights and armed the alarm system. I tightly locked the door and left work for the last time, still unbeknownst to myself. I would become patient zero in a long chain of fatalities unleashed upon the Earth because of my puzzling mishap. I had become a scientist who had unleashed a plague instead of a cure. Along my path I stopped and shook a guard’s hand, wishing him well on the night shift, infecting the first victim. I felt a slight chill and realization had yet to set in.
I left the facility headed towards the bus stop where I caught the bus home several times before.I took the city bus and while waiting at the stop I felt queasy and thought the cold was already speeding along because of my weakened immune system. I coughed twice and endured the glare of several people at the stop with me. They were right, I thought, to scorn me, but it was too late. I had infected both of them with the newly mutated virus, which science knew nothing about. It was an airborne flu-like virus with similar symptoms of cough, fever, and respiratory troubles.
I boarded the crowded bus, thinking I was fortunate as it was only the common cold. If otherwise, I would have self-isolated until my superiors could have sorted it out. I coughed roughly a few times and felt mucus building in my lungs, thinking the onset was fast, but still it was the common cold. I had thankfully caught on to the warning rumble in my chest and had covered my mouth avoiding an embarrassing situation because in our culture it was taboo to sneeze or cough without covering your mouth. I got off at a major terminal along the route and entered a public market to pick up some stuff for supper. So far there were forty infected as I spread the soon-to-be-named Coronavirus along my path.
I wandered the many isles of produce looking for things to speed up my cure, picking up ginger, lemon, and some mandarin oranges. I sneezed but took to holding a handkerchief in front of my face as I wandered along, thinking I’d be fine when I got home to bed. Finally, after picking up a bowl of fresh chicken noodle soup from a street vendor, I went to the stop where I would connect with my transfer. I had become unusually tired and sat at a bench waiting for the transfer to go to the residential neighbourhood.
I infected several people gathered there. I boarded another crowded bus, again spreading the newly formed virus. When I got home, I ate the soup topped with freshly grated ginger and some lemon, eating an orange for dessert. Then I went to bed extremely overtired. I awoke at three AM, could barely breathe, and called the hospital. By nine thirty AM, I lay dying in my hospital bed wondering what I had unleashed. I prayed for forgiveness and would soon join my Ancestors in the afterlife.