Writing prompt: cousins day

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Cousins day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

(author’s note: I am not a biologist, so all the biology in here is just fun and spitballing!)

The Tasmanian Flu wasn’t a type of flu at all. No one knew then, sixty years ago. It was an engineered disease that got lucky enough to absorb a favorable mutation from a wild bacteria. It didn’t develop in Tasmania. We started calling it the Tasmanian Flu after no one would admit to the disease, but it was everywhere. Well gosh, it must’ve come from Tasmania. That’s where devils come from, right?

Either you were susceptible to TF, or you weren’t. A mother would catch the disease, then all her children, but not her husband or her in-laws. Quickly, they isolated the genes responsible for susceptibility. The fear was, if it infected enough people, it would absorb another wild mutation and gain the ability to infect anyone. After Putin died of the illness, conspiracy theorists speculated that it was a targeted assassination of the Russian despot gone awry.

That didn’t to the Cousins.

That’s what they called us. They rounded up those susceptible, the Cousins, and they put us in bio-containment camps away from everyone else. We had good care. They tried to keep the infected isolated from the merely susceptible. But it didn’t work, and TF has a 50% fatality rate even with novel treatment. Then there were the side effects.

I know 200 digits of pi. I didn’t try to remember them, and before TF I had no head for numbers. With minimal training, I found I could make sense of complicated geometries and had inexplicable intuitions as to the solutions of complex systems.

For 60 years, we made up for the loss of our cousins with our gifts. There are fewer of us than there once were. And now, some whisper that perhaps TF could be useful.

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