Monday, May 4, 2020
Quest: Ames, Iowa
The trip to Ames took ten days, not the planned-for seven. As the weather deteriorated, Steve started looking for shelter after fifteen miles. Once they had to go thirty before something suitable was found. More often, they found buildings, a windbreak and tall grass within three-to-five miles, still well short of their daily goal of 25 miles.
Steve and Sally became snappish and impatient with each other. Too much time together. Too much bouncing on the same seat at the front of the wagon day-after-day-after-day. It turned out that Walt had been a buffer between the two of them.
They pulled into Ames at mid-day, three days after Christmas.
Steve was not surprised that Dr. Sue Bay did not live at the address that Dr. Samantha Wilder had given them. What did surprise Steve was that the house had burned down. He sincerely hoped that the Bay family had not succumbed to Ebola. Burning down the house where a family had died of Ebola was a common way to dead-end the virus.
If the Bay family had died from Ebola then it was unlikely that Dr. Sue Bay had been able to develop the effective, if unregistered vaccine Dr. Sam Wilder speculated she had.
The few neighbors Steve was able to talk to were evasive when he asked about the Bay family’s fate.
It took a lot of door knocking, but Sally finally uncovered somebody who was willing to inform them that the Bay family was, indeed, alive and was able to point them toward the community where they now lived.
Steve had seem some dumps in his time, but the trailer park near the river was about the worst he had seen.
The first door they knocked on was an old Korean man who happily drew them a map to the Bay’s trailer.
Steve and Sally stood expectantly at the door. Sally knocked.
The door was opened by a young Korean woman. Her beauty was ethereal. Her complexion as flawless as the finest porcelain. The bone structure of her face was exquisite. Steve placed her age at 27. Later, he would be stunned to learn that she was 47.
“We are here to see Dr. Sue Bay. Dr. Samantha Wilder of East Lansing, Michigan sends her greetings.” Sally said.
The woman’s face was impassive for a fraction of a second while she processed the information. Then she smiled and gestured that they should come in.
“I am Dr. Soo Hwan Bae*” the woman said. “I take it that Dr. Sam survived the plague.”
“Yes. She did. She is now living in baronial splendor in rural Michigan” Steve said.
The woman arched an elegant eyebrow. “I take it that there is a reason you came 600 miles to visit me.”
“Well, yes. As a matter of fact there is...” Steve said.
Sally and Steve stayed with the Dan* and Soo Bae family for two nights and one day.
Yes, Soo had a vaccine. Yes, it was effective. Too effective as it turned out.
Soo had vaccinated all of the Koreans within her social circle. They had proven immune to Ebola, to the point where they could tend patients and remove dead bodies with impunity.
And. Just. Like. That. They were accused of being witches. Or worse, having introduced the disease after vaccinating themselves for economic advantage.
Houses were burned. Koreans fled to this trailer park that was eminently defensible. Steve and Sally had been unaware that their progress had been tracked in minute detail when they were within three miles of the park.
The communities were at an impasse. Soo was not inclined to vaccinate the general populace. For one thing, if somebody died then the Koreans would be blamed. For another, the promise of a vaccine maintained the balance of power. If too many of the other community were vaccinated, they might decide they didn’t need the Korean “witches” any more.
Sally was aghast.
“Witches. No! Really?” Sally asked.
Soo sadly nodded her head. “Ames, Iowa, one of the most educated cities in America.”
“Hard to believe, but we had a big Wicca community before Ebola. It took off during Ebola.” Soo said.
“Let me tell you. Wicca can be every bit as violent as any other religion” Soo said. “It does not matter. People are people, regardless of what god they are following.”
“Well” Steve said “I would understand if you did not want to share your vaccine with us.”
Soo shook her head. “No. Dr. Sam is different. We spent time together at a seminar in Lincoln, Nebraska. I don’t mind sharing the vaccine with her, but you are going to have to take a lot of notes. And, you are going to have to memorize them because you might lose the notes.”
“This vaccine is not your typical vaccine” Dr Soo said.
*These are not typical Korean names. Rather than accidentally using the name of some innocent grad student at Iowa State University, I decided to use the names of a couple of Korean pears.