Chapter 2: Inflammation

Zhang Chyou looked over at her brother who had slumbered in front of the TV again. This was one of the nights when she secretly prayed for more luck than usual. Zhang Fen, her mother, was the chief nurse at a large hospital in Guangzhou. Despite her age, she was mature beyond her years. That maturity was about to be put to the test.

– Do not leave the house. Lock all the doors and do not open it for anyone except for me and your father.

– Why what’s happening?

– That’s the problem, Chyou, we don’t know exactly what’s happening.

– Is it Wan’an?

– It might be

– What happens if someone knocks? What if grandma knocks?

– Do not open the door, even for grandma

– Okay

Chyou had never received such instructions from her mother like this, and it worried her. She had already cooked dinner, making sure that the gas range was off, and the tank was tightly shut after cooking. In cramped apartment complexes, a single fire can raze an entire block of people’s homes, their possessions, and their lives. This was why Chyou’s father had always been conscientious about the “little things” such as making sure that the gas was off.

The eldest daughter plopped down on her favorite spot on the couch and tried to put her mother’s instructions out of her mind. It was almost 11 PM but she was allowed to stay up if she needed to. This was unavoidable when there was a huge age gap between two children, and both parents worked at the hospital. Chyou was the parent when the adults weren’t around and over the years, the parents realized that their eldest had developed inner fortitude despite her tender years. It was a source of both pride and sorrow for them, as every parent wants their children to be children. But what were they to do? Work was essential, and with so many layoffs in the previous months, no one can risk it by staying at home.

– Fen!

– Hello Chyou my not so pretty best friend

– Quit it

– Did you hear about Wan’an?

– How could I not? The adults are all talking about it

– What’s going to happen

– They say that the government is telling everyone to stay indoors

– Because of the virus?

– No because there’s something happening outside that they won’t tell us

– How about TV and internet?

– I don’t know

Chyou shut off WeChat and rubbed her temples. This was something beyond her, and she couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. Something else was happening outside—something terrible, she just knows it.

Dr. Wang rubbed her temples and tried to make sense of the plate. She adjusted the electron microscope again and examined the sample of brain tissue. There were obvious signs of inflammation, meningitis specifically, but she couldn’t quite recall what can cause this type of tissue slaughter in the brain. Prion infection? Prion infections can cause similar holes in the tissue, but not this quickly – not after mere days of infection. She read through the details of the patient from whence the brain tissue was extracted.

The man was 42 years old, from Beijing. The patient had been mostly comatose at home before showing signs of erratic behavior. He was persistent and deadly, and the police was brought in. The patient continued moving after being shot in the chest and abdomen, fourteen bullets emptied by the police. Blood samples are still being examined by another hospital. Local government advises not to speak to the media. Another strange case of the Wan’an virus, one among the emerging hundreds of thousands. 

Marius D. Carlos, Jr.

Marius D. Carlos, Jr. is a storyteller, essayist, and journalist. He is an independent researcher focused on transnational capitalism, neocolonialism, empire, and pop culture. Contact him for writing projects. Visit Marius’ profile on MindsMeWe, and Twitter. Email Marius:

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