Flash Fiction Friday has a challenge up this week, involving conspiracy theories. The challenge is to write a story involving a conspiracy that turns out to be true. This is based on one of the given conspiracy theories, the idea that drug companies possess the cure for all known diseases, but they bury them, preferring to sell drugs to fight symptoms.
I should say that I don't believe that. I don't believe in any conspiracy theories. I prefer Franklin's dictum that three can keep a secret, if two are dead. We can't keep anything secret.
That said, here's a little tale imagining what might happen if one were true.
Jeanette expected headlines, her boss appearing on the Today Show, her lab the lead story on every news show. After all, their compound had done it- taken down the Big C. Cancer was gone, consigned to the footnotes of history like scurvy. But there was nothing about it that morning on TV as she dressed for an early meeting.
They had high hopes for the compound, of course- they always did. Biomedical research was like that- you were sure a molecule had promise, but it always failed- it caused problems in humans, or it was chemically too delicate, or it was expensive. When reality met the whiteboard, reality always won.
But this one was different, Jeanette thought, carrying her lab notebooks, her morning Starbucks, her favorite pens, and her MacBook in a public radio tote bag up to the lab. They had an 8:00 meeting, and it was 7:56. She quickened her pace a little bit. Obviously, the meeting was to set their media strategy- all nine of them were about to be very famous.
The results they were getting were astounding. They tested the patients for everything- no kidney problems, no liver, no nothing. No side effects at all. And it stopped everything- lung cancer, skin, uterine, breast, everything they tried, it worked- zapping the cancer like it was a video game. Total remission, no side effects, as easy to take as Tylenol.
Jeanette filed into the lab, the last one to arrive. Dr. Hay began as soon as she shut the door. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have had a setback. I need all your notebooks. We have scrubbed the servers of your emails. PK53 is no longer a project of ours."
Jeanette, never a quiet sort, spoke without thinking, "What setback? We haven't had any adverse events in the trials. None!"
"Ms. Wong, I have my orders. Everyone pass your notebooks to the front."
"We are releasing, right? We're applying for compassionate use. We have to be! People are dying!," Jeanette spat.
"Ms. Wong, I dont need to remind you you signed an NDA. You can't speak about this drug to anyone. Ever."
"But Dr. Hay! You can't do this! Lives are at stake!"
Her lab mates were sheepishly handing in their notebooks. Jeanette slammed her coffee cup down, tan liquid sloshing out the top.
"You're burying this? Burying the greatest advance in public health since penicillin?"
"Ms. Wong," her boss began. "There are forces at work here you don't understand."
Jeanette looked up at her boss, stamping her foot once with rage, a gesture that made her boyfriend giggle, no matter how serious she was. "I won't let you do this. I can't," she said firmly.
"You breathe a word of this to anyone," he said, "you'll regret it."
Jeanette grabbed her purse and stalked out the door. He can't do that, she thought in a white hot rage- this drug could save people! This drug could have saved my mother! She thought about who to tell, taking the stairs to the street two at a time. Brian, she thought. Brian worked on "Fresh Air", he'll get someone on the story. He'd probably think I want to get back together with him, she mused, but once he hears this, he'll know how important it is, and he'll get some attention on it. Jeanette was fumbling for her phone, walking up Eighth Avenue towards the subway, when she felt a man, dressed in black, suddenly looming up beside her and shoving her roughly into the gap between two buildings. Jeanette opened her mouth to cry out, then felt the heavy thump of something on her head. She saw red inside her closed eyes before everything went black.