The Patron Saint of Plagues by Barth Anderson [Read extract]
Publication by Bantam Spectra, April 2006
He stood and looked across Nissevalle Valley. The greenhouses had been emptied of sprouts, and fields were planted and primed for summer storms and sun. For nearly two decades, farms from Alberta to Chihuahua had battled seasonal vCaMV outbreaks for meager yields. Gold mold was known to sweep through whole regions in a single season, like a slow-motion prairie fire. But it had never come to Nissevalle. This quop was poised for another very profitable year, and losing shares now would be a disaster. Spinach rippled with passes of May breeze, and so did the corn, low and fluttering. Field hands in hats like Stark's weaved through the young crops as tillers dogged behind, maneuvering through the tomatoes on preprogrammed weeding missions. The idyllic haze of Nissevalle Farm suddenly looked like so much rot.
"Jesus," he whispered. "It really here."
After eighteen years away from this farm, Henry David Stark was still getting himself apace with death's routine visits here. It was one thing to behold it in a hot zone, or an anonymous hospital, but another entirely to see death pass between the paddocks and hay barns of his childhood. Yesterday morning in the creamery, loud with lowing and meowing and the mechanical gasp of milkers, a heavy-headed cow swung her face away from bright headlights shooting suddenly through the dawn's fog and stepped backwards with a stomping hoof, catching a small kitten unawares. Stark had cried out, trying to scare the cat from danger. But blink. Gone. Then, last night in the goat barn, Stark watched as three kids, slick with blood, slid out of their nanny's body, but without so much as a kick, or even a breath. Stark was surprised how such small passings troubled him, after what he'd seen in, say, China's Borna outbreak. But he'd left the CDC's Special Pathogens Unit to take charge of its Surveillance and Response Central Command two years ago, in order to distance himself from death's rhythms. In bringing the Central Command (that is, himself) to the co-op farm last January, it was inevitable that he'd synchronize himself with death--yet again.
(Full text review here.)
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