The Scarlet Character
by Richard Tornello
There she sat surrounded by empty seats, alone in the onboarding
section. And I, like a voyeur, watched her safely from the distance. I
knew no one in his or her right mind would approach her, dare to say
'hello', 'good morning', or any normal greeting.
Others in the spaceport were bunched up in overcrowded onboarding
sections. The difference was obvious. They were friendly, talking
easily to strangers, telling stories, eating, chasing loose children
and doing things that come naturally to travelers. And as usual, I
noticed some were a bit nervous, as if they might be new to space
“Look,” I said to my partner. “She?” I almost spat the words as I
pointed to her. “She is never approached. No child is ever let near
her. In fact you can see she’s sitting in that whole section by
herself. No one made her do that. There was no law. It was the red
Chinese characters Kang ti 抗体 embroidered on her vest that the planet knows by heart and we all avoid.”
We were all afraid of her. Even the hypersonic jet taking us to the
low orbiting shuttlecraft where we all would disembark for our
respective deep space voyages had a special separate compartment always
reserved for the likes of her and her kind. She was not to be
approached, not touched, searched or in any way communicated with
except by designated cleared personnel. And, as I was informed, those
employees were all volunteers or prisoners who would be granted freedom
if they could stay alive for a period of employment. That’s what I
I continued, “I consider her a sinner and this is Gods way of
punishing her, her family and those like her. All should be condemned
for ten generations.” But I had to laugh at that. “Who would consent to
marry them? She will never have children. They will all die out soon
enough. I’m sure of it,” I stated.
My partner nodded in agreement and touched my hand. He had heard it
all before but seeing this one up close, almost in my face was too much
and I had to speak.
“We should have been allowed to kill them all. But being humane, we
didn’t. However we didn’t want to be reminded of what they were, a
plague upon humanity, and a carrier. We exiled them to a G2 orbital
world of their own,” I stated. “It makes me sick.”
“She and her type are the disease carriers. The experts and
professionals claimed they were cured and not dangerous. But CX9 killer
virus cropped up all the time after time killing and maiming millions
with no cure. By all the time I mean annually. And while we died, she
and her type lived,” I said as my partner looked at me, holding my hand
and squeezing it harder it in sympathy.
"But no more, oh no. We all breathed a sigh of relief as each one
was caught, ordered to wear the red Kang ti characters and shipped out."
I smiled with the knowledge of the One I held in my heart and said
more calmly, “Once the planet is rid of her type, God will bless us all
with a normal existence. Sure we get sick, and have normal diseases,
and the seasonal flu. And sure a few hundred thousand might perish
worldwide. But that’s life."
“And no matter how much we were informed by the experts, the
epidemiologists, the scientists, and politicians that we really needed
them, we made sure that anyone supporting them would never be elected
again and sent to die along with them.” And I pointed to her sitting
She looked up at me and smiled.
I stated a bit louder still pointing, “It’s claimed they have
immunity. They have antibodies? And we need them to help stop this
annual plague that comes from them? Who is going to believe such
nonsense? If we can’t kill them, we should brand their foreheads with a
big scarlet A. That little embroidered patch they must wear is too
small and can be hidden inside a coat. Do what I suggest and they could
never return nor hide among us. What do you think of that?” I asked
smugly. I knew he would smile and keep reading his magazine.
It was in Chinese. I never learned Chinese except for that stupid
kang ti character. English is the God given language of the people of
Earth. Everybody understood it even though it had been said that
throughout the solar system Chinese was the real lingua franca. What
bullshit. That branded A would have been a better idea.
The call for our flight was being announced.
We stood up and my partner kissed me on the cheek and squeezed my
hand tightly. I knew he hated these hypersonic jumps. I looked at him
and smiled. I understood.
He looked at me and said in a quiet and somewhat oddly controlled
voice, “I love you, and in a way, I always will. You have no idea what
you’re saying. I’ve been with you now for over three years and we have
planned for this trip to the moon palace. But now after all you have
just said, the manner and tone of your tirade, you must know.” And from
his inside jacket pocket he pasted a little scarlet Kang ti on his
lapel. He grabbed his bags and strode over to where she was sitting.
From what I could guess and his manner, asked if she minded if he sat
there, pointing to the seat right next to her.
© 2019 Richard Tornello
Rick always had an interest in writing, art, science and history.
He studied at The Art Students League in NYC and picked up a degree in
History and Asian Studies from Rutgers University.
He began writing short stories and poems about 12 years ago and
has published 3 children’s books and illustrated one book of poems. He
also translated the poetry for a Chinese-American poet.
Rick has been published in Aphelion-webzine.com, Orion’s
Short-Humour.org.uk and a few stories in the anthology Flash of
Aphelion and a new one in Rogue Planet Press, "Fantastacal
and Jungles" anthology
He is a business owner and a technical/engineering recruiter for
working in the Washington DC metro area.
Find more by Richard Tornello in the Author
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