You see the Education Officer underneath the big Swamp Cypress by the water’s edge. She’s standing with her back to you, looking at a pair of ducks on the ground in front of her. You call out to her, but she doesn’t respond. All about safety, you pick up a nearby stick and prod her gently on the shoulder. ‘Excuse me.’
Her perfume reeks of lavender and something else. Something salty, metallic. She turns around slowly and you see blood crusted around her lips. Your heart drops and you step back, tripping on one of the tree roots and falling into the dirt. Drawn to your movement, the woman scuttles over to you and inspects you closely, her head moving side to side like an Eastern Water Dragon. You try to push her away, but she’s strong! She grabs you by the throat and bears her teeth at you, growling until, suddenly, she unleashes an almighty sneeze. Spit and snot cover your face and shoulders. You try not to breathe it in, but it’s too late. You cry out and pound your fists against the ground only to have her tighten her grip on your throat with an inhuman roar.
You stop struggling and she loses interest in you. She scampers off down the footpath and towards the restaurant.
You back yourself up against one of the trees and dial Uncle Frederick’s number. Even though he’s so close, you can’t go to him. You’re already feeling achy and fuzzy headed, you don’t want to infect him too. If you had the correct ingredients maybe it would be worth it, but you can’t be sure you do.
But the call drops and the error message displays again. You flop your head back against the tree and let the tears flow. It’s all over. You always imagined you would go out arm-wrestling a grizzly bear or by trying to juggle one too many chainsaws. Not like this, not to a damn sneeze! How embarrassing. You’re infected. Doomed to forever roam the Botanic Gardens following every bird or reptile that moves, doomed to infect every living creature you see until you drop dead. But it’s not just you that will pay the ultimate price. Without a cure, all of Brisbane will pay, perhaps the world.
EASTER EGG: Using Plants for Medicines
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