Don’t Bury Me by Nick Younker begins as a dystopian novel, provides a steadily increasing supply of despair and pathos and ends with a twisted presentation of what may be described as social justice. This is not a spoiler because the interesting element of the short story is the process by which it gets there. Plus, there are two rewarding surprises for the reader who has taken the journey through all the negative sludge. To phrase this in a way that is not a spoiler, the reader might find an answer to the problems of income inequality.
Evan was a freelance hustler in web publishing. He saw an opportunity to join an expedition to Croatia with some scientific and medical hustlers to unearth specimens that contained the origins of the great plagues that had decimated human populations in the 1300s and 1400s. The group found some bones which were sent back to the US for an extraction process that would isolate pure elements or spores which would be used for the development of medicines that would make pharmaceutical companies rich. The transport of bones and research of extracts were not subject to oversight by any governmental or other scientific organization. This was a criminal enterprise.
Because Evan secretly carried bones into the US via Canada, when the supernatural element joined with the pandemic that would blaze through the US, Evan became patient zero. He was infected; he knew and admitted that. But the virus, known as Rip Tide, personalized itself for Evan by appearing in several forms before it found one acceptable to Evan. It took the form of one of his favorite musicians and throughout the rest of the story will appear to Evan, not the rest of the world, as “Evil Izzy.” She will tell Evan that he has been chosen; he will not die until she decides he has no more worth to her. But he will not die as a result of the normal viral progression that kills others. All others will go through degeneration of health such as fevers, boils, wounds, delirium, and finally, self-cannibalization. This is not fate for Evan; Izzy has chosen him to spread the disease.
Evan has another idea. Since he knows that he has inadvertently (?) caused all this, Evan decides he will find victims and either try to help them survive or administer a quicker, kinder death. Evan wanders through large tracts of quarantined areas, primarily in the US Midwest, looking for survivors who are passing through various stages as they approach death. Evan seems consigned to a life of constant movement. As he travels from site to site, his constant companion is Evil Izzy as she appears now and again to inform him of her progress in world decimation. Then Evan meets Tuli. The story becomes a dystopian love tale with an emphasis on human relationships. The story becomes much more interesting than any of my past dystopian reads.
Readers should look for the discovery of a tremendous medicine that at least slows down the disease. Clive appears out of nowhere with this organic approach to a cure. There is not-too-well disguised humor in descriptions of a government response to this disaster. The excellent world building, nice and complete descriptions of characters and a surprise ending which satisfied my sense of social justice (not true for all readers) led me to give this story five Amazon stars. That is not something I usually do but I have recently found some great stuff in the short story area.