“What the hell?” Tammy muttered under her breath as she read one of the numerous articles she had open. She scratched her head with her pen and frowned as she saw flakes of dandruff flutter to her computer desk. She made a mental note to change her shampoo again before returning to her laptop. Her gray tabby rescue cat, Mr. Butters nudged her hand to get her attention, and she absentmindedly scratched him behind his ears as she skimmed her treasure trove of information.
She had twenty-three tabs open in Chrome, and each one had a story on the recent so-called SARS epidemic that had broken out in nightclubs across the Cities. From the minute Tammy had read about the outbreak, her skepticism meter had shot straight through the roof. Nothing in any story she read indicated bird flu, and yet, no other explanation was even proffered. Every official interviewed said the same thing, “We don’t have enough information to be definitive, but we are fairly certain this is a bird flu epidemic. We urge people to stay away from nightclubs for now.” Predictably, nightclub owners were furious.
“This is an outrage!” Pieter Dahl, the owner of Das Klub, sputtered on the ten o’clock news. “I have called the CDC, HCMC, the governor, and everyone else I can think of, and no one can say for sure that nightclubs are the problem. It’s irresponsible to tell people not to go to nightclubs. People have to dance!” Tammy stopped the video and read an eyewitness’s testimony instead, hoping to catch something new.
“I went out to smoke, and there was this dude. He was stumbling around, spouting nonsense. Honest! Pure gibberish. Then, he just fell down and started clawing the dirt! It was fucking weird as shit, man.” Of course, the eye witness had been drinking Jager Bombs all night long, so his account was suspect. Tammy did a little more digging and found another eyewitness who described seeing a woman waving her hands in front of her as if to ward off something, but there was nothing there. The same woman walked with a limp and seemed not to know where she was going. The second eyewitness had been celebrating his 21st birthday by doing shots of Stoli, so he wasn’t exactly reliable, either.
Tammy frowned as the list of symptoms the two witnesses had produced tickled her memory. She had recently read an article about a disease that had these symptoms, and it wasn’t SARs. What was it? She had written a blog post on Big Ag last week. She spent days researching it, so she was certain that whatever disease she was thinking of had to be something related to her agriculture. She typed the symptoms into Google and scanned the results until she spotted the right one.
“Mad cow, not SARS!” Tammy sat back in her chair, stunned by her discovery. Sure, it was based on two somewhat-suspect boozy eyewitness accounts, but she could check it out herself. She would go to different nightclubs until she found one with a person infected with mad cow, starting with First Ave. where there had been three reported occurrences of ‘SARs’. Mad cow wasn’t contagious, so she was safe. This could be her big break! She quickly emailed the Strib editor she knew, told him she had some breaking news on the bird flu epidemic, and would he take her story on spec? He emailed her back saying only if she had definitive proof because he didn’t want a repeat of the Pawlenty and Bachmann teaming up for a Pres/VP run bullshit. Tammy flushed at his reminder of her stupidity before emailing back that he shouldn’t worry – she would get the proof tonight. She clicked ‘Send’ with as much emphasis as she could; after tonight, she would be a household name!