Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
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Flash Writing Challenge
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Hello and welcome to the July 2020 issue of Aphelion!

How are you holding up? Not just here in the US, but all around the world, I mean. I know of seven of you whom I used to chat with online on a regular or irregular basis have died from the virus. Three more have survived and are slowly recovering your health. I know I’m not on a first name basis with most of you. I don’t get to have conversations with most of you. But I do care about all of you. Some of you have been part of the Aphelion family for a long time. Some of you just recently discovered us. Doesn’t matter to me because you’re all equally important to me.

The whole world is in this for the long haul. None of us have any particular immunity to most, nowadays, common diseases. A lot of us have been vaccinated against some of the worst ones from the past, though. I was a schoolchild in the early 1960s, so I had a whole host of vaccinations against stuff like polio, rubella, pertussis, smallpox, tuberculosis, and lord only knows what else. I’ve had mumps and chicken pox and every variety of flu that’s come down the pike since the 1960s. I came close to dying from two different strains of flu—one from the late 1970s while I was in college, and one from the early 1980s when I was married to my first wife. Thankfully, her kids didn’t get it. There was another incident in the 1960s that I barely remember—I woke up, hallucinating, in a cold shower, with both my parents doing everything they knew how to break a sudden fever I’d come down with. I remember getting alcohol rubdowns once they thought the cold water had done as much as it could. Within a few hours, my parents had managed to break my fever. But they were scared to death that I wasn’t going to make it, for the longest time that night. I remember Dad saying once that my fever hit 106F. My sister, thankfully, slept through the entire night, in her crib. My brother hadn’t been born yet. A few years later, my sister and I both caught the mumps from someone at school. As we were recovering, Dad caught it from us. Adult onset mumps can be deadly. Almost lost Daddy that year, but his body fought it off. I wish Alzheimer’s would have been something he could fight off…

This thing today doesn’t have a vaccine yet. Even if we had one tomorrow, it might be unable to handle the next strain when this one mutates again. Flus have a way of doing that—to mutate between one outbreak and the next, I mean. Viruses don’t have a brain, but in a way, they are very crafty buggers. Their genetics are very simplified when compared to a cell from your body. Examine any random cell from our body. It’d be huge compared to a virus, and loaded with all sorts of complex structures that help keep living creatures alive. A virus is a tiny thing. All it needs is a place to replicate itself—which is not in any way fun for the creature it is replicating inside. The only other thing it needs is a way to spread itself around. Airborne particulates are its favorite mode of transport. Fever in the hot body to ease replication, coughs to spread to other unwilling hosts. It doesn’t have a mind to reason with or sign a treaty with. It doesn’t know what it or others of its kind are doing. It’s like this barely alive fraction of a cell, but it only knows how to replicate itself, mutate, and spread. That’s it. That’s all. It doesn’t hate people. It can’t possibly know what people are. It isn’t aware of us. We’re too big, too complex, too interconnected on a cellular level. But we’re also SO interconnected on our own Big Living Organism level, too. That is a weakness the virus can exploit. We’re social creatures. We crave the company of others like us. That has helped us become what we now are.

And please, don’t give me that “but I am anti-social” line. Yeah, you hate being around people. I do too, most of the time. But show me a social gathering of people like me, and I’m all in that thing. “Hermits! Unite, Individually, In Your Own Caves.” You’re not so much anti-social as you are “anti- A—hole.” And face it, each of us has a definition of who is an A—hole. (And yes, in my original draft I did just be honest and blunt and spell the whole word.)

 We (were created, evolved, chose your own acceptable nomenclature) as highly social creatures. We crave interaction with others of our own kind with whom we feel comfortable. That’s your tribe. A smaller group within your Tribe is your family. By genetics or by choice is determined by circumstance alone. The basic denominator is empathy. Who you empathize with and who empathizes with YOU! The people who make you feel good to be among, whose presence is comforting. Viruses? They are opportunistic predators. A parasite, on the other hand, will do its best not to kill you because it can profitably co-exist with you if you stay alive. A virus doesn’t care. All it wants is a place to reproduce and a way to spread to other hosts. It has no loyalty, no mercy, no brain. If it is killing you, it doesn’t know or care.

Diseases are a lot more complicated than what I have been able to put into words here. But my message is unchanged. “If there are precautions you can take to lessen the risk of contracting a disease, or spreading a disease, please do take them.” Doesn’t even matter what the disease is. Covid, syphilis, typhoid, measles, whatever! Do the right thing for the sake of people you care about.

The future is in your hands. Care about yourself, care about others, care about people you will never meet. Just, care. In this case, caring is refusing to share diseases. Any life saved is someone you may know--or never know. Each is worthy of your respect and caring. We’re all in the same boat. Sink, swim, or dock safely is up to each and every one of us. Let’s all of us row together to get the boat home safely. Deal?




Title: An APEX view of star formation in the Orion Nebula

Photo Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2