Accessing the county water treatment facility proved far easier than he'd thought. Adding the contents of a plastic jug, even simpler. Dr. Prescott, (Non-existent University of Foxglove, Class of 1981) psychologist, intrepid explorer, and now high school hygiene/P.E. teacher, ended the evening with a celebratory footlong chili cheese dog at Sonic and climbed into bed with a smile and gentle burp.
Next morning, he picked up the newspaper at the end of his driveway and flung a mock salute at his young neighbor.
"How are you, Kiara? You look a little under the weather."
The teen rubbed her forehead. "Headache. Probably the algebra test today. And the water in the bathroom was green this morning. So gross! Hope I didn't swallow any when I brushed my teeth."
Prescott frowned. "Blurry eyes? Leg pains? Any...umm... " He trailed off. "I'm sure it's nothing." He turned to walk back up the driveway.
"Wait! Why? My leg does hurt a little bit. Do you think I'm sick from the water?"
He reached into his mental closet and chose the appropriate face. Concerned. Wary. Maybe a tad secretive. "I'm sure it's nothing", he replied again, as unconvincingly as he could. "Still, the color of the tap water reminds me of a certain algae which contaminated the water supply in Mayoca, back when I worked in the field. I hesitate to say this, but it tends to cause paralysis in the extremities and, in certain cases, blindness." He looked off into the distance. "I'm sure it's a coincidence. Good luck on that algebra test - I'll be away for a few days. Be sure and give the substitute a hard time."
@purrrtygirrrl No school. Sick. Is ur water green?
@ArtsyLeigh LOL yep. Blech. Headache, may bail 2day too
@Kiki2 u sick too?!?
@purrrtygirrrl @ArtsyLeigh @Kiki2 scared. L went to emer rm paralyzed!
@parkeurbabe oh shit my legs hurt I heard Dr P thinks it's poison scum or something oh no oh no
Five girls, one boy, all admitted with paralysis of the lower extremities, two of the girls with diminished eyesight, one unable to speak. Blood tests fine, organ function normal, MRIs negative for abnormalities. Oddly enough, although their legs were limp and insensitive, the reflexes were normal, indicating no real nerve or spinal damage. And the water contamination had proven to be food coloring, and blamed on the local pharmaceutical company which manufactured, among other things, minty mouthwash. The town whispered, ranted and rioted; fingers were pointed at the drug company, the fracking outfits, the cellphone tower owners and the county incinerator.
Dr. Prescott, returning refreshed from his three day idyll on the island, was quick to arrange clandestine consultations with the angry and frightened parents of the stricken teens. Extracting promises of complete secrecy - and rather large sums for his skill and supplies - he conducted the ancient healing practices taught to him by the shamans of the rainforest many years ago. His patients responded to his soothing voice, gentle hands, and herbal decoctions, recovering in the most remarkable way after only a visit or two. Several even converted to his Church of the Tropical Revelations and continued to send donations to support his work in furthering the study of healing rites in the Caribbean and South American cultures.
And then he left town, disappeared in fact, trailing the tearful and heartfelt thanks of the parents.
"So, how'd you do it?" asked Rico, swinging in his hammock and sipping from the mandatory coconut required in all tropical paradises.
"Oh, you know, talk therapy and placebos and all that. Conversion disorder - what used to be referred to as hysteria - is part and parcel of the human experience. Remember the Salem witchcraft trials? The Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic? You can talk anybody into anything if you go about it the right way. Social media just helps things along. In fact, I'm wondering if those little blinking avatars people use might just cause seizures in some people...
For a more recent possible occurrence of conversion disorder: Teens of Le Roy New York or
CBS News Mass Hysteria Outbreak Reported
Today (May 16) is National Flash Fiction Day in the UK. For more flash (including one I wrote entitled "Final Performance"), check out Flash Flood Journal