December 5

The Manifestation (Part 4)


“We can make it manifest itself.”

Deitrich had spoken during a lull in the discussion. It would have been difficult to hear his quiet voice otherwise.

“What?” Myers’ booming question simultaneously branded Deitrich an idiot and demanded an explanation.

“Well, aren’t there people who, I don’t know, specialize in this sort of thing?” Deitrich tried to shrug off the full attention of the group. He looked down at his index finger, traced lines in the wooden grain of the tabletop. Watkins was poised to write notes on Deitrich’s suggestion — as soon as he figured out what the hell the guy was talking about.

“We’ve been circling around different theories,” Deitrich continued. “And keep coming back to the same idea. Something supernatural.”

He was right. Of all the possibilities on the dry‑erase board, the ridiculous one, the one that seemed like a humorous afterthought, was beginning to seem the most plausible.

Under the heading in block capital letters — BROKEN DISEASE — Myers had written a list:


x ‑ Bad Luck

Myers had ticked a small “x” next to this line, ruling out the theory. Symptoms tended to cluster more predictably than could be explained by mere happenstance or coincidence. Bad luck was random, didn’t circle around people like weather patterns. Once contracted, this disease hung over each sufferer like the proverbial dark cloud.

x ‑ Psycho‑Somatic Illness

When objects you touch frequently fall apart, when the world itself seems broken, that has a pretty dramatic effect on your psyche. Small wonder, then, that initial opinions favored the idea of psychosis. People with the Broken Disease frequently appeared to be crazy — ranting at an uncooperative vending machine, going to pieces over a jammed photocopier. Medical opinion followed the track of previous intangible diseases such as chronic fatigue or Gulf War syndromes: they initially blamed the victims but, after a preponderance of convincing anecdotal evidence, grudgingly admitted there might be something there after all.

x ‑ Mass Hysteria

This corollary to the psycho‑somatic explanation focused on social groups rather than the individual. The disease was statistically more prevalent among the target demographic of tabloid newspapers — believers in Elvis, alien, or bigfoot sightings, or Christ’s image burned into a tortilla. But the disease didn’t follow the typical pattern of mass hysteria, didn’t limit itself to particular, gullible populations. As more and more isolated cases arose among the highly educated, this theory fell from favor.

x ‑ Medical Condition

They called it a “disease,” but there was no measurable cause for the symptoms, no isolated virus, no identifiable anomaly in a victim’s muscular or nervous system. Further, the symptoms didn’t exhibit in a predictable manner. Things didn’t break all the time — just often enough to be statistically impossible, often enough to drive many victims towards bouts of uncontrolled anger.

x ‑ Germ Warfare

The inability to locate a medical condition would eliminate this possibility as well. And clearly, the Broken Disease wasn’t interested in politics or national borders. High‑ranking government officials in all nations were susceptible, as were people in positions of trust such as doctors or airplane pilots.  Serious disasters continued to occur throughout the globe — and the next catastrophe, the worst and final one, seemed imminent.

x ‑ God is Angry

Televangelists solicited donations by aligning the disease with God’s wrath, but it seemed too small-minded to fit with the general public’s image of Him. The Broken Disease seemed too random, lacking any trace of so-called “intelligent design.”  If God planned to destroy the world, couldn’t he do a more efficient job of it?


Which left only the last item without an “x” next to it:


‑ Demonic Curse

Well, this was how the disease felt to its victims. So many testimonials brought up the idea of a “curse.” Broken people felt “damned from the start,” whatever they attempted. They weren’t broken physically, but in spirit — as if their soul had been devastated, devoured. Evil, with a capital “E,” had to be at work here.


“It’s what we’re all thinking, isn’t it?” Despite his timid voice, Deitrich had gained full control of the discussion. “The disease is supernatural, right?”

Nobody contradicted him.

“We go after cancer or alzheimer’s with science. But if this disease was created by a demon, medicine isn’t the answer. We’ve got to summon it up, make the disease itself appear.”

“Jesus,” somebody said. “I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Meyers looked at Watkins, nodded slightly. “We’ll check into it.”




[…continued in December 6 entry…]