By Christopher Cudworth
I have this friend that gets sick fairly often. When he gets sick, he gets very sick. Coughing, hacking, spitting blood even. For years he has jokingly called these episodes for what they are.
“I have Ebola,” he’d say.
And for 20 years or so, that has been the running joke.
Bad diarrhea? Ebola. Stomach flu and vomiting? Ebola. Bad headaches that make you feel like your brain wants to bleed? Ebola.
Then he got a hemorrhoid so bad it required surgery. Before that he was literally bleeding out his ass. The pain was so bad he considered, for a crazed moment, cutting the offending pulpy nodule off his own ass using one of his razor sharp arrow tips. I talked him out of it by text. I did not want to see the selfies from that operation.
That’s what Ebola can do to you.
All these run-ins with Ebola have cost him training time. Or perhaps it was the opposite way around? His training brought on these cases of faux-Ebola.
That’s how it was for me way back in the early 1980s when I was running 90-100 miles per week and trying to get by on six hours of sleep per night because I was young, horny and stupid. Drinking some too.
But I was fast, goddamnit.
And then the crash would come. It would start with a cold and migrate into something much worse. I’d get so sick it was impossible to function in daily life. Then I’d recover and cough up a bunch of green and purple phlegm and wait for the next cold to come around in six months. I was good at that.
Colds are caused by viruses too, you know. There’s no real cure, only stopgap and preventative measures can deal with the effects of the common cold. I choose zinc.
Perhaps zinc will be effective against the Ebola virus too. Wouldn’t that be marvelous? If a bleeding emigrant from another continent stands next to you on the commuter train tracks and you’re wondering what to do, just pop a Cold-Eaze and hope for the best.
It may be our only real defense. A disease such as Ebola has no real mercy you see. Infectious diseases propagate by fucking you over and then moving on to the next blind host that can be eaten from the inside out and left as a bleeding hulk. Dust to dust, baby. Don’t say God didn’t warn us.
There is no ethical or moral lesson in any of this unless you consider the workings of evolution, which is the most ethically advanced system of all. It rewards the strong and punishes the weak. But just like religion, sometimes it works the other way around. Evolution does not care who survives and who doesn’t. Which is why sometimes a really successful disease can burn itself out because it runs out of hosts to feed upon and kill.
The entire evolutionary concept of survival and death is played out regularly in shows that feature zombies, the living dead who seem to want to feed on living flesh. Well, that’s not so very different from the Ebola virus. Only we stand the chance to become the walking dead if we contract the virus.
And that sort of sucks, if you think about it. But are we really surprised? Human beings have been fucking with the environment in a big way the last 250 years or so. There are 7 billion of us on this earth. Yes, there are major expanses where there are no people at all. I’m thinking Terre Haute, Indiana on a Sunday night mostly, but we digress.
It’s our concentrated populations that make us vulnerable to diseases like Ebola. Out where the virus evolved in the African Outback, to mix a few terms, there is not such a concentration of human beings.
It also happens that the predominance of human beings in Africa happen to have dark skin, which makes them less a focus of concern for billions of other people in the world who base their values upon such things.
But Ebola does not care if you’re black or white or Asian or Inuit. It wants to eat you no matter the color of your skin. Inside, we’re all pink and bloody and yummy. Just like Ebola likes it.
A frail proposition
Who knows if any of the things we do to keep ourselves healthy will be of much value if the Ebola virus takes hold on other continents besides Africa. While a healthy constitution from running and riding can help us combat the common cold virus, it may turn out to make us more susceptible. Efficient cardiovascular systems may carry the virus faster to other portions of our body. It may turn out the fattest people on the planet are the ones that survive. Like I said, evolution works in strange ways. It does not always favor the strong or the fit. Sometimes it just likes to fuck with you for the fun of it.
International travel almost guarantees migration of the virus to other human population centers. We’ve long been dealing with the effects of world travel on native plant and animal populations. A few years ago when the nuclear reactor blew up in Japan it unloosed a giant concrete raft covered with all sorts of nasty, aggressive forms of sea life that if unleashed on American shores could devastate native wildlife and plants. Scientists converged on the thing when it reached land and exterminators arrived in quick pursuit to alternately sample and then kill whatever came across the ocean.
There are feral raccoons all over Germany and Japan because some idiots decided they should import the critters based on how cute they looked in the book about raccoons called Rascal. Now they’re a pest that can’t be eliminated.
Asian carp are fucking up the Illinois River because they breed so fast no one can keep up with them. They also jump up in the air when frightened and can take out a fisherman flying down the river in a boat.
That’s one crazy twist on evolution if you ask me.
A marathon to end all
There is the very real possibility that by next year’s Chicago Marathon, there may need to be a division for Ebola Zombies. They’ll have their own cage at the starting line of course, but other than that they’ll have every opportunity to compete like the rest of us. Never mind the bloody trail and body parts strewn on the course. You’ll just have to step around them or else run fast enough to keep ahead of the Ebola crowd lurching toward the finish line. The goal for all such participants will be to finish before they die.
Yes, Ebola is running rampant. Best to keep on running and riding to stay ahead. Otherwise you could be part of a human race that you wish no part in.