Sunday 14 March 2021

The Parable of the Virus and the Vaccine

by Jane  Carter


Man felt incredibly pleased with himself, sitting as he did, on the very top of the food chain. 


He was Lord and Master of all he surveyed, ruler of Earth and all her bounty. 


There were many different species of animal that shared his space, but they were simply there, in Man’s opinion for his pleasure. Man hunted them, ate them, or kept them in captivity to satisfy his needs. They were a commodity – nothing more. 


Blindly, Man went about defiling Mother Nature and plundering her natural resources. He didn’t care about any potential impact of his actions on the world’s fauna and flora. Species preservation was not on his radar. He simply took and took, living off his host, the Earth without thought, putting his own desires first.


Over time, Man and his place on the planet grew stronger and he became more ruthless. 


His needs were the only thing that mattered. Whatever he wanted he seized. To satisfy his cravings for meat, he cut down the rain forests to create more grazing land for more cows. He didn’t care about the impact of greenhouse gases or global warming. He didn’t even believe in such things. 


To have the convenience of ready meals and drinks, he created packaging from a synthetic material known as plastic. He didn’t care or even consider how long the plastic would take to degrade and the impact this would have on the environment. His needs were paramount, nothing else mattered. 


Soon, the Earth began to die but Man did nothing to try and save her. Instead, he became more and more dominant and destructive, raping and pillaging the land. Animals and plants alike were destroyed without even a second thought. 


 Some saw the error of their ways and tried to change, but many men of power, who could have stopped the destruction, but who were concerned about how any change might impact their wealth, did nothing. 


But then, in the winter of 2019 everything changed. In China a new creature was born. A creature that was so small, it was comprised of only a single cell, but she was powerful in her destruction. She had lived for centuries amongst the animals of Earth, but she was ambitious in her need to destroy. The dying planet with its climate extremes and devastated, natural habitats allowed her to create a new version of herself. She jumped the species barrier and her prey was Man. 


She swept across the Earth spreading pestilence and death wherever she went. Starting in cities she quickly spread out to the villages. No man was safe. There was no place on the globe where she couldn’t track him down and infect him. She was a parasite, living in his body and only moving onto her next victim once she’d caused maximum destruction. 


She was frightening in her unpredictably. Man did not know who she would select and the severity of disease she would bestow. No man, no country was immune. 


 Within a year, deaths of men were in the millions and the world was turned upside down in a battle reminiscent of David and Goliath. 


For the first time in history Man was scared, fearing for the future of his race. Could he be facing extinction like so many species before? 


He fought for his survival, using his skills to defeat the virus. His great gifts of intelligence and communication, together with his ability to collaborate with his fellow man, came to the fore. 


Whist all mankind was locked inside, fearing to venture out in case they encountered a disease for which they had no immunity, the scientists worked day and night to create a defence, a vaccine. 


She railed against Man’s attempts to defeat her. She morphed again and again, mutating to increase her infectiousness and potency, but Man continued in his development and roll out of a vaccine. It was a race against time. At times it was unclear who would win. 


To make an effective vaccine Man needed a virus that could be made safe and act as a Trojan horse, bringing in a small piece of her so that his immune system could recognise and attack her. The virus used was harvested from one of Man’s closest relatives, an animal he’d previously thought little about, except as a source of entertainment: the chimpanzee. For the first time Man was humbled and realisation began to dawn that he couldn’t survive in isolation, he needed the other animals to support and sustain him. His perspective was beginning to shift. 


Soon the virus was dead. She had been defeated and mankind was safe once more. 


The relief was tangible. There were celebrations throughout the world. Man was no longer enslaved, in fear of the virus. Things began to return to normal and Man breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed life once more. But would the status quo now be re-established? 


Man had defeated his greatest enemy, a microscopic creature, and been saved by another. He could not return to his old ways. 


Man vowed he would change his perception of his place within the hierarchy of life on Earth. He could no longer exist alone, but instead he needed to create, and sustain, a symbiotic relationship with the other animals and plants. He came to realise that their survival was Man’s survival. He had finally understood that he needed to change how he lived, in order to save both the Earth and himself. 


Never again would he act so selfishly. 


 He swore he would use the skills he’d employed to create the vaccine to generate ecological and renewable energy, cut down on waste and live more harmoniously with nature. He pledged himself to healing the planet, working tirelessly until the ozone layer was healed, the polar ice caps were saved, and all life lived sustainably together, as it had done before the dominance of Man. 


Will Man keep his promise? We can only wait and see, but for all our sakes, we pray he does. Only time will tell. 


About the author 

Jane retired from a 30 year career in the civil service in 2019 and joined Newport Writers Group in January the following year.
During lockdown she was inspired to write her first poem since o'level English Literature (in 1978) and has recently graduated to writing short pieces of fiction.



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