Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Intelligence

Hue Nguyen exited her staff office at the Arlington group home for the mentally challenged to check on Melinda, who had been self-diagnosed with Morgellons since reading about it in the Washington Post Magazine the previous Sunday. Melinda was in her room, curled up in the fetal position on top of a layer of butcher block paper she had placed on a plastic chair--the only place she would sit or sleep. She had gauze tape binding her fingers together to stop her from scratching herself, and was otherwise naked under a 100% cotton blanket that had to be changed morning and night. A large heat lamp was shining on her because she refused to bundle up against the January chill. The butcher block paper--also changed morning and night--was dotted with dried up blood droplets and dead skin cells. Melinda immediately called out to the social worker to view the latest "fibers" falling out of her skin. "Melinda," Hue started, looking obediently at the residue, "I can only keep you here one more day. If you don't stop the scratching, Dr. Schwartz is going to have you sent back to the hospital. They'll put you in a straight jacket, and you'll have to smell that disinfectant you hate, and you'll have to go to that group therapy session you hate." Melinda bit her lip, anxiety showing in her irises. "They're just fibers," Hue said softly, against protocol. "They can't really hurt you. Look what came in the mail today." Hue opened the Amazon package in front of an intrigued Melinda. "It's udder cream! This is the best cream in the world! It soothes dairy cows. Can you imagine being yanked for milk over and over again, two or three times a day? If this cream can fix that, I'm sure it can soothe your skin from these fibers. I mean, they're just fibers!" Hue opened the jar and scooped out a little to rub onto her own forearm, and Melinda looked on jealously. "Do you want to try it? I hear all the Australian movie stars use it whenever they are shooting in the outback." Melinda obediently stretched her arms out from under the blanket, and Hue began rubbing the cream onto Melinda's raw forearms. Ten minutes later, Melinda stopped thinking about the Morgellons--unaware that a biogenetically engineered parasite developed at a chemical weapons research laboratory in Maryland was living comfortably just under her skin, where it had taken up residence the last time she was in the psychiatric ward.

A few miles east, Laura Moreno was sitting in the over-heated workroom at Prince and Prowling, scratching her forearms again because the air had sucked all the moisture out of them. Her hard work had paid off: all these Saturdays had put enough money in the bank for a condo down payment. There was just one problem: the partners refused to sign a letter for the lender stating that Laura had been working here steadily for over two years, that the client still needed her services, and that there was no plan to let go of her services. "The case could end on Thursday, for all we know," the junior partner had said, even though "the case" she was now working on was actually about thirty different cases, with new lawsuits being filed on a weekly basis against the client, and he had no intention of letting her go until the last legal matter for this painful client was done. He had not even shown enough backbone to tell her this directly, but had relayed the message to her through her agency. She had then emailed the senior partner--who had told her at least ten times that he wanted to hire her as a staff attorney--but he had still not replied. She scratched her arms and stared at the wall, wondering how big a down payment she needed to get a condo without an employment letter to the lender. Her spirit guide stared back at her from a cut-out calendar page taped to the cinder block wall--a pristinely white arctic fox who knew the secret to surviving the planet's most hostile climate, but had still not told her.

Out on the street, Bridezilla walked out of the parking garage and approached the Prince and Prowling building in her dazzlingly white arctic fox fur coat. She waved warily to Chloe Cleavage, who was already leaving for the day to meet her realtor. Chloe had a lot of money saved up now because she had been shoplifting her wardrobe since junior high school and most of her other expenses were paid by men--it just worked out that way. She had even found a sugar daddy to pay the deductible on her boob job completed over the holiday break, and was in a very good mood! Between the two of them, they would deliver four hours of real work for the client today, but bill eleven. They paused only for a moment to discuss one of the cases and share saccharine smiles. Bridezilla knew that Lance was a legs man, but she imagined there was no longer a male attorney in downtown Washington who was unaware of what Chloe Cleavage had gotten under the tree. Chloe headed off to meet her realtor, dreaming of granite countertops, though she was not sure why.

A few miles north, the new butler and caretaker at the Brewmaster's Castle directed the caterers to place the luncheon trays on the granite countertops. A recent defector from the Chinese embassy construction project, he was grateful for the mysterious web of connections Charles Wu had come up with to get him this job. Still having trouble with English, he was nonetheless a quick learner and showing a somber dedication to his job, which pleased the building ownership greatly. The defector had already (indirectly) given Condoleezza Rice as much Chinese intelligence as he would ever have, but Charles Wu knew that the man would have second thoughts about his new country as his English skills grew, and then it would be Wu's turn to learn something valuable for the Chinese. But for now, Han Li was only concerned about the luncheon...and the rats lurking outside the door.

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