People crowded into the room — every chair occupied, the remainders left to stand at the back or in the aisles.
Dr Larissa Green had never seen North Whibarnes’s town hall so packed. She nodded, glad to see that the residents had taken this with proper seriousness. That meant she might be able to do something. You couldn’t help those who didn’t want help. But these people might have a shred of intelligence.
The mayor — Digby Abbot — opened up the meeting with his usual lack of charisma. Dr Green stared at his dyed-so-black-it’s-almost-blue combover and suppressed a grimace. He rambled on for far too long, without saying anything of particular value. A rather special skill, she thought.
“…remember, stay safe, do your work, follow the advice of registered health officials. And shop at Clarintons.” He lifted a rectangular tube. “I am happy to endorse Clarintons clingfilm. Now, most people don’t pay proper attention to their clingfilm, and that’s a mistake. With Clarintons, you’ll never need another clingfilm brand again! Now, over to our resident health person—”
Abbot nodded. “Health person doctor, Larissa!”
Dr Green bit down on her tongue and gave the mayor a seething smile. She took to the podium and swiped the box of clingfilm to the floor. It clattered and rolled off the stage, down into the darkness below. The mayor grumbled and scurried into the shadows after it.
“Good evening, everyone. It’s good to see so many of you here. You may or may not know me, but I’m Doctor—” she flashed a death glare down at Digby “—Green. I’m here to talk to you about the recent outbreak we’ve suffered.” At the sound of the word, hands shot up for Q and A, but Dr Green silenced them with a wave. “Questions will be answered later. For now, just listen.”
“Who do you work for?” shouted someone from the back.
“Pharma shill!” yelled another.
Dr Green ignored them and pressed on with her prepared speech. “Smallpox, rinderpest, polio, dracunculiasis, yaws, and malaria.” She pierced each person with her grey-eyed gaze. Cool as metal, her dad had called it. “These are all diseases which we have eradicated or are in the process of eradicating. All through the power of modern medicine. The werewolf disease—”
“Werewolves are just a myth!”
“Quiet, please,” said Digby down in front, his box of clingfilm in hand. Dr Green thought he looked almost like an airport marshal with an orange baton. Except less useful.
“—Lupinotuum morbus — is also on this list. It is almost eradicated.” She stopped, paused for effect. “Almost.” One, two, three. “In order to keep these virulent diseases at bay, we each need to play our part. Otherwise, we see what we had here last week. An outbreak in a pocket of a community. Just because we’ve got a handle on a disease, does not mean we can become lax with our attitudes towards medicine. If we do, nature bites back. Literally, in this case. So,” Dr Green paused, “who here actually got vaccinated against Lupinotuum?”
Four, five, six.
In a hall of a hundred or more.
She stared out at the crowd. The crowd stared right back at her with wide, bovine eyes. She cleared her throat. “All right. I suppose that explains how we had an outbreak.” She did her best to not let the disappointment cloud her face. “But tell me this, after all we’ve seen and endured — after all we’ve lost — who is going to get the vaccine?”
A couple of hands reached for the sky.
Less than ten per cent.
Dr Green frowned and tried to keep her exasperation out of her voice. “Really? I—” She shook her head, started again. “I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about the vaccine. Maybe I can help to alleviate any worries you might have. But, as a doctor, I have no choice but to insist that we — as a community — immunise ourselves against this threat. It’s the only way to ensure this doesn’t happen again. I don’t want to be torn apart by werewolves, and I’m sure neither do any of you.”
An elderly woman with curled hair wobbled to her feet. “I’ve heard it makes your eyeballs fall out!” Her voice, although thin, carried through the auditorium. Her statement — not so much a question — got a few nods and murmurs from her fellow citizens.
Dr Green couldn’t help but grin. She shook her head. “No, that’s not true. I—”
A nervous pencil of a man slunk to his feet. He glanced around, eyes too white behind his wireframe glasses. “I-I’ve heard it turns your butt inside out!” He performed a pornographic gesture with his hands, to further emphasize his point.
Dr Green slipped up and a little laugh escaped her. She clamped down on it. “What? No, that’s just an urban myt—”
“My mate, Fast Eddie?” said a teen with lank hair. He pushed the sleeves of his too-big hoodie up to his elbows. “Got the vaccine, went home, felt fine. Nothing. The next morning?” He shook his head and clicked his fingers, face grave. “Hit by a bus.”
“That has nothing to do with the vaccine! Correlation does not imply causation. He would’ve been hit by that bus anyway.”
“So, you’re saying there was no point in him getting the vaccine?” asked the nervous man who hadn’t sat back down. A vague smug expression weaselled its way onto his face. “The vaccine did nothing to protect him?”
Through the window, the clouds of the night sky drifted and parted. Firmamental plankton on a heaven-bound breeze. A pale glow illuminated the shadows — all bathed in navy blue.
“Well, obviously not from getting hit by a bus!” Dr Green ran her hand through her hair and exhaled. The microphone picked it up — the bluster of a gust. “None of this is accurate. And, even if it were—”
“You hear that? She said it’s true!”
“—and even if it were,” she continued, “it’s still better than being shredded by literal werewolves.”
A bald man with a polished head stood up and stuck a thumb into his chest. He had the same body type as a roly-poly toy. “Well, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.” Dr Green wondered what would happen if she pushed him over.
“But it’s not just you, you realise, right? If you turn into a werewolf—”
“Werewolves aren’t real!” yelled a voice from the back. “It’s all just fearmongering from the government!”
“Fake news!” echoed another.
“—if you turn into a werewolf, you’ll put everyone around you in danger. We have to think about other people, we can’t be selfish anymore. And I don’t work for the government!”
“Did she just call us selfish?”
“She’s calling us selfish!”
A blonde forty-something woman wrung her hands. A look of perpetual worry imprinted itself around her eyes. “My sister, Janine, works with a guy who’s neighbours with a man who works at a company that’s across the road from one of the places where one of the vaccine ingredients is made. And she said that he said thaaaAAAWOOOO!” She threw her purse to the ground and arched her back, nose pointed to the sky. Something shifted and rippled beneath the skin. Bones clicked and popped. The sound of something stretching, ripping.
“Hey, what’s going on?” The nervous pencil twitched like an owl. “Why are you making that sooOOOOWWWW!” He grabbed his office shirt with both hands and ripped it from his chest. The ribs had more muscle and thickness than Dr Green would have ever guessed. She stared at the man, found her eyes disoriented by a widening effect.
“AWOOOOO!” Someone from the back.
Dozens of more howls joined the inharmonious chorus. The sound sliced through the air like barbed wire through the skin. In the throng, blurred movements, bursts of black hair. Dr Green squinted into the middle of the crowd, where a splash of crimson caught her eye.
“Hey, Doc, why are they doing that?” asked the friend of Fast Eddie. “What the hell is happening heeeEEEEEOOOOWW!” The teen exploded out of his too-big hoodie, dense black fur and thick muscles beneath. His cracked, mid-pubescent voice split into a canine snarl.
Fragments of clothing discarded and abandoned throughout the auditorium. Smooth human skin smothered with bristles of animal fur.
Transformations. Noses stretched out into snouts, ears grew. Teeth sharpened themselves into long, jagged knives. Eyes yellowed, pupils became slits. Fingers and hands twisted into claw-edged paws, built for ripping.
Her stomach dropped. A vertiginous wave rippled through her, and she gripped the podium for support. Dr Green realised, with melancholic surety, that you should never underestimate human stupidity. Even when it came to self-preservation. Especially so.
Down front, Digby swung his box of clingfilm at one of the lycanthropes, a sheen of sweat upon his brow. His face pulled in a grimace, teeth clenched. He grunted and swiped the tube — Clarintons emblazoned in a tacky font. “Get back! Get back!” The mass of matted black fur drooled and flashed its mad, green eyes. It pressed on, a blur of teeth teeth and claws.
“Oh, for goodness’ sakes.” Dr Green pulled a small black pistol from its holster, hidden by her lab coat. She flicked the safety and cocked it — a silver round slid into the chamber. “You don’t like the preventative measures.” She took aim, steadied her breathing, adjusted her stance.
“But I guaran-goddamn-tee you’re gonna hate the cure.”
Wednesday, 7 July, 2021
Written for the July 2021 #BlogBattle — “Myth”