I havent updated in a while because:
1. I was traveling, and
2. I got a weird idea from a newsletter I read, and I wanted to see where it went, which took a while.
I ended up writing in a stream of consciousness and the result is the following short story. I am sure there are tons of errors, both factual and grammatical. I hope you will disregard them as cavalierly as I did. I also did not want this to be so long as to not take more than 5 minutes, so my apologies if the pacing seems too hurried. I could probably work more on this idea if you all like it.
With all that preamble out of the way… here we go!
The ‘Exquisite Beauty Of Last Adventure’
Hamid got off the plane early on a cold winter morning. It was a bitter Monday morning in New York and Hamid had some trouble comprehending the sheer wall of cold that hit him as soon as he got off. Having lived all his life in Iran, he could be forgiven for letting the cold catch him unawares. It was the 6th of October.
He collected his luggage, a new Samsonite purchased specially for this trip, and walked out to join the line of people waiting for a cab. He finally got one after waiting for 10 minutes. He gave his driver the address of the budget hostel he was staying in. After all, the cost of this trip was too high as it is. He didn’t want to spend any more than necessary.
He looked at the nick on his finger. While putting the luggage in the trunk of the cab, he’d got himself a cut on his little finger. He saw a small pool of blood forming on the seat and grimaced. He pinched his finger to shut the flow of blood and then, glancing surreptitiously at the cabbie, rubbed the blood all over the seat, so that the driver wouldn’t notice. He grinned at his own actions and continued pinching his finger.
He paid off the cabbie and looked at the hostel he had been recommended before he left. It wasn’t luxurious, but it wasn’t shabby either. It had 4 large rooms, 2 on each floor, and each room had 24 beds. The bathroom facilities were clean enough, and there were two bathrooms for each room. The bed sheets were changed every day and the morning breakfast was decent enough. He was shown up to his room by an orderly. Around a dozen people were inside, most of them getting ready to go out. He chose a bed in the middle of the room and plunked his stuff down on the bed. Then he went and introduced himself to his roommates, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries.
Formalities over, he went over to his bed and took out a clean pair of underwear, a jeans and a Woolen shirt. Then, looking out of the window and seeing the slick roads and the snow falling slowly to the ground, he took out a hoodie as well. With all his stuff in hand, he went over to one of the bathrooms to take his shower. While showering, he saw that his nick had been bleeding again. He determined to buy some band-aids when he was out.
15 minutes later, he was out on the street. In front of his hostel was a vacant parking lot. It was dirty as hell and completely overgrown with weeds, and that is where a large number of homeless people had congregated to ride out the winter. He looked at them disdainfully and walked towards the corner to hail a cab. Once he found one, he took it straight to the subway station and then onwards to Times Square.
He’d seen photos of the place, sure, but nothing could have prepared him for the mass of humanity he saw there. Everyone seemed busy, everyone was hurrying along to do whatever the hell they were doing, and the only people who seemed to stand and quietly take in the madness of the place seemed to be tourists like him. He ended up taking tons of photos to send to his friends back home. After having a quick bite at an overcrowded falafel cart, he returned to his hostel.
A few of his roommates were planning on going to a bar for happy hour, and they asked Hamid to join in to be polite. Hamid wasn’t a big drinker, but he wanted to see what the New York nightlife was all about, so he gladly accepted. He also wanted to make a few friends while he was in New York, and what better way then to get drunk?
They reached a crowded bar early in the evening. His friends told him that Happy Hour was the right time to drink, as they would head out to a club later on, and drinking there would be extremely expensive. Hamid took their advice to heart and kept ordering beer after beer to keep up with his new found friends. His tolerance was over far before the Happy Hour was, and he ended up depositing the contents of his stomach all over the walls of a bathroom stall.
Undeterred, he kept up his drinking till the time his friends decided to go to a club. He had never been to one, and though it seemed to be in a seedy part of town, it was an eye opening experience. He had a couple of shots, checked his wallet, declined any more drinks, and went on to the dance floor. There were tons of women dancing; most of them seemed to be college students. He hit it off with a chubby white girl named Sandra. She seemed very interested, especially once she found out he was a foreigner, showing him off to her friends (You know, he’s from Iran! How exotic!). Soon things got hot and heavy, but his friends decided to leave before he could proceed beyond making out. He wasn’t too worried. After all, this was America, and there were plenty of fish in the sea.
Walking out of the club, he could see some ladies of the night working the corners. Picking up his courage, he approached one, bargained, and went on to her place. After an hour, with both fluids and money transferred, he walked out, embarrassed, exhilarated and slightly feverish, all at the same time. He ended up walking to his hostel (it wasn’t far) and peed into the newspaper boxes on the way, trying his best to aim in the slot. He felt a little woozy and walked into a Deli to buy a bagel, hoping the bread and cheese will make him feel better. He bought a coke while leaving and sauntered along to his hostel. In front of his hostel, he was approached by a homeless man from the empty lot across. He gave his half drunk coke to him, and saw him share it with his family members. Feeling good about himself, he went to sleep.
The same process repeated itself for the next week. He moved from hostel to hostel, making new friends, hanging out at all the touristy spots, enjoying the sights and sounds of New York. He would give his clothes to whichever local (and cheap) Laundromat he could find, and thus would go out every night with newly washed and pressed clothes, looking at his presentable best. He had a lot of fun at a lot of clubs with a lot of reputable ladies, and at the end of the night, a lot of exertion with a lot of disreputable ones as well. He would come back and cover himself with a comforter, soaking his bed with his sweat every night. In the morning, a wave of guilt would wash over him and, perhaps ashamed of himself, he would switch hostels so that his roommates wouldn’t notice the pattern. To relieve his conscience and possibly to assure himself of his innate goodness, he would donate a part of his uneaten dinner to the homeless.
By the end of the week, his fevers seemed to be growing stronger. Perhaps it was due to the cold he was suffering from. The constant sneezes were giving him a headache by now. He went to an ER room in the poorest part of town, simply because he couldn’t afford going to a proper hospital. When his turn came after about three dozen others, and the doctor asked him what he thought was wrong with him based on the symptoms he was feeling, he replied “Malaria”. The doctor wrote him a couple of blood tests to ascertain whether it really was Malaria or just a Viral fever, and gave him some pills in the meantime. Not wanting to spend his money on tests instead of booze, Hamid decided to ride it out for a couple of days and then go back if he didn’t feel better. It was the 14th of October.
Three days later, he still felt like shit, more so since he got diarrhea. He’d been intermittently hit with waves of nausea and his body ached all over, but he’d not wanted to ruin his trip by going to the hospital unless absolutely necessary. After his fourth trip to the bathroom in 6 hours, though, he couldn’t hold off going to the hospital any longer. He sent a text, packed his Samsonite and started for the hospital. He was sweating all over, so much so that the cab driver asked him if he was all right. He appreciated the cabbie’s concern but said there was nothing wrong with him, just a slight fever. He got out, leaving a sweaty spot in the back seat.
Upon reaching his destination, he took out a packet from his bag and left it on an empty bench in the park next to the clinic before going inside. Within a minute, the bench was empty once again.
This time around, there was a different doctor attending to the patients. It seemed that all this clinic (and its patients) could afford were doctors who were volunteering their time. Having ascertained that Hamid was a repeat patient, the doctor looked him up on his system and noted his previous diagnosis. He asked for the results of the prescribed tests, and Hamid profusely apologized for not getting them done, but he was ready now in case they were still required. He was getting weaker every day, and he asked if he could be admitted. The clinic was small, but seeing Hamid’s condition, the doctor arranged a bed for him. He willingly gave his blood sample to the nurse who came in later that evening.
The next morning, Hamid saw the doctor rushing towards his room through the glass partition of the wall. He started chanting something under his breath. The doctor entered his room and Hamid, upon seeing him clearly, noted that he was wearing a protective mask. Hearing him chanting, and seeing the deranged look in his eyes, the doctor felt a shiver go down his spine.
“You knew?” he asked, horrified.
18th of October had started well for him.
22nd of October in Iraq began like any other day, moderately hot and extremely dusty. Inside the backroom of a small out of the way restaurant in the town of Qaraqosh, sat a heavily bearded man poring over a map of America mounted on a soft board. There was a swoosh of the beaded curtain as a younger man entered.
“Did we get a count yet?” the older man enquired.
“Yes. 12 taxis, 8 subway rides, 4 hostels with potentially 38 contacts, 8 bars and 8 clubs, 6 women in the clubs, 5 working women, a few janitors, 3 laundromats, 4 different homeless people, a few of the medical staff at his Hospital, hopefully some patients as well, and visits to public places with large crowds like Times Square, Central Park, Lincoln Center, Washington Square Park etc. Must have been thousands of potential contacts. He also gave himself a cold and sneezed whenever he could, wherever he could. All things considered, he did very well.”
“Are we sure of these figures?”
“Yes. He kept a diary and noted his number of contacts established meticulously. He passed it to us before entering the Hospital.”
“Good.” Said the older man. He pushed a pin into New York. Pins had already been placed over Los Angeles, Washington, Boston, Miami, Chicago and Houston. By the end of the night, new pins had been placed over Philadelphia and Las Vegas as well. He expected San Francisco, Phoenix and San Diego to join the list within 24 hours, rounding out the dozen cities of his plan.
Before leaving for the night, the old man cast one last look at the American map, by now covered in pins.
“America,” whispered the head of ISIS under his breath, “say hello to Ebola.”