Covid spreads in waves, like a single stone dropped into a puddle called Wuhan, the ripples building slowly, almost imperceptivity, until the entire planet is rocked by the tsunami of it. In The Devil’s Bible, it’s the Monsterflu that brings about the Great Reckoning, and the harvest of the humans of earth. Will Covid take the same toll? Is the Black Horse finally riding?
Okay-lets not get too ridiculous here, whispers the rational mind. And there is plenty to be rational about. Plague is a natural part of an evolutionary system; this isn’t anything new. Populations reach an apex, a die-off point, in cold, epidemiological terms. Species numbers grow, grow fat, grow disease.
The line stretches up until it reaches a zenith, a single point on a graph, a tipping point balanced on the knife-edge of crowding, resource and waste, and the line falls off its proverbial cliff. In the world around us, in every species, disease harvests its weak and vulnerable, as the cycles turn for unspeakable lengths of time.
Plague has always been with us, we think, as we struggle to get our mask on, note the new shopping requirements, try to remember to ‘social distance.’
And yet there is vague disquiet, a sense there is something new in this equation, this balanced, closed system. Perhaps foreseen by the ancients, a black swan inconceivable, but in its own way, as predictable as the folly of man.
A very clever monkey has evolved into this million-year expanse of time with natural cycles of disease and death, a primate with a frontal lobe and an ax to grind. Natural viruses are studied and observed by this manipulative creature, and as mankind does with all things, pushed.
Gain of Function research is born.
It sounds so very innocuous, so very benign, doesn’t it? ‘Gain of Function,’ should be wonderful, something better, like a gain in scrubbing power, gains in loads of laundry cleaned, that sort of thing.
Unless that function is a gain in deaths. Perhaps we would want to pause, if the “Gain” was creating a virus that was BETTER at killing people.
The Monsterflu is a Gain of Function virus. A chimera, a little marvelous being created by human hands. Viruses called by their animal spirits; Swine flu, avian, bat coronavirus, all are being manipulated, all being pushed. After all, no one gets that position in the university without being bold, right?
Add the pride that drives, the scientist alone and thinking of his wife, the car repair, a lover on the side to support. The grants are thin these days, competition fierce, and a Devil’s bargain is struck. No one gets paid for should we do it.
Is Covid a gain of function that escaped? Did the ancient writers foresee a world where we would manipulate the very particles of the earth, create new dragons inadvertently released by our own stupidity?
A lab tech touches his nose, unthinking, the reflex so monotonous as to not register, as he rolls up his gown and tosses it in the trash, turns off his fume hood at the end of a long day. The viral particles delight in the nostril, feeding on the new flesh, encouraged by the warm, moist new home, where replication is easy and vigorous.
Out of the lab and onto the street, he meets up with his sweet young girlfriend, wraps a warm arm around her slim waist, and gives her a tender kiss crawling with death.
It has been a long day, and the couple are looking for a nice spot outside for dinner.
Sneeze, he wipes his nose again, takes his lovers hand and enters the busy, buzzing, active market. It is going to be a beautiful evening.
The pebble drops, the ripples spread, the black swan spreads her wings, and the horse is riding…riding…