This Will Not Happen To You

I got sick.

This will not happen to you.

They have an anti-fungal now. They know how to kill all the little spores when they start to creep into your tissues, your lungs, your eyeballs, your liver.

I didn’t know quite what was happening to me.

This will not happen to you.

All the signs and symptoms are well-known. You’ve been educated. Even very young school children are aware. The weeks of wondering if you should go into the doctor, if you would be dismissed as a hypochondriac. If you were just tired, just achy, just having a cold, just fighting off something. Then the months of going from doctor to doctor, wondering what it was that you had, wondering if it would ever go away. That’s a thing of the past now.

It turned out not to be reversible by the time they figured it out.

This will not happen to you.

We understand all of it now, and of course you have all the coverage you need, all the care, and you never go outside the reach of doctors, not on vacation, not for work trips, not for family emergencies, not for any reason. The paperwork will never get fouled up. No one will ever decide that you’re an exception. Everything will get delivered on time. Every step of the treatment, all the correct assessments, in the correct order. All of it. Nothing is irreversible any more, because we live in the future. Certainly not anything that happens to your own personal body.

The first set of prosthetics failed.

This will not happen to you.

The places where they reinforced my legs, my fingers, my eyes: the metal collapsed and the synapse connections lost coherence. My legs stopped under me while I was trying to be a good citizen, fetch my own medicines and unguents from the pharmacy after fetching my niece’s birthday present. So her present broke on the dingy off-white tiles of the pharmacy. I had carefully picked out just the right box of plastic building bricks, and it was crushed under me and the bricks spilled out while I twitched and drooled and all the advanced electronics, mapped into my own nervous system, turned on me.

I couldn’t see the bricks, because the places where the prosthetics had mapped into my eyes were shorting out, but I could feel them under the nerves that still worked, in my biceps, in my hip, in my ribs. And I could still hear the startled cries of the other shoppers, the alarm of the pharmacy techs, like a flock of angry birds. Those nerves still worked too. The fungus hadn’t eaten those. The malfunction hadn’t taken them.

Definitely won’t happen again, though.

The second set of prosthetics hurt. At every moment, on every day, they hurt.

This will not happen to you.

I dragged myself from one part of my life to another, every second of it pain. A good day was a day when I could focus on my work, which was supposed to be teaching music theory to college students. The pain dragged out my rhythms, changed my mode, made every third beat a dropped one. They were supposed to be built to my body, and instead they worked against it. All the places where they were supposed to fit to my damaged nerves, they found the damage.

They have based research off those like me. It’s been peer reviewed. It’s very reliable. They have learned quite a lot. The odds of a neural mismatch that bad have gone down, and everyone knows that if someone says that it’s 95% odds, that means no one you know will get it. Because surely you don’t know twenty people. You are not one in twenty people. Surely.

The final set of prosthetics are cold. At every moment, on every day, they chill me.

This will not happen to you.

Because you have never been sick and you have never been too late and you have never been permanently damaged and you have never been through two prior generations of prosthetics for all the things that the newfangled tech, slipping in along the fungus-damaged neurons, can’t quite do for you. The last set, the set that lets you walk and see and breathe evenly, it will not keep you cold at every moment. You will not have a flask of tea like a lifeline. You will not wear a ski vest in May, a cardigan in July.

The silver shine in your eyes, that your mother swears is so beautiful, will not feel like ice when you look in the mirror. And you will never see the cracked-ice glaze of tears that she tries to hide when she says it, and brings you another blanket at the family picnic in the August heat.

And none of this, definitely none of this, will happen to you.

Unless the spores change again.

Unless the technology changes again.

Unless anything, anything at all changes.

But what are the odds that the world will change in your lifetime.

So this will definitely, totally, completely not happen to you.


Previously published in Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, Sept/Oct 2018. Reprinted here by permission of the author.

PATREON EXCLUSIVE: The Writing of "This Will Not Happen to You" by Marissa Lingen

I wrote this story before COVID was on anyone’s radar. I had no idea that there would be thousands, maybe millions, of people joining the ranks of the newly disabled–and thousands of my fellow disabled people whose disabilities would be newly complicated. But this story came to me in a blue flame of anger when I noticed a trend in how people asked about my disability: they kept asking, “What did you do?”

What did I do….

To read the entire interview...

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