At the medical conference in Hamburg, the coordinator prefaced Mr.. Ellerwein, doctor and author of the book entitled: ‘On the threshold of eternal life’. Next to the podium of the speaker was the organizing committee and behind it a board where the title of the conference was written in big letters: Extension of life – Probability or Utopia; Ellerwein, a middle-aged straightforward doctor, he gave his smile generously to the delegates as he descended the stairs to the pedestal. He began his speech by referring to the elderly who are abandoned by their relatives. He stressed that the elderly are not an unnecessary burden in a society, instead, people should consciously dream of increasing life expectancy.
But he was not meant to complete his reasoning. A delegate interrupted him, informing him that a friend of his went to the hospital. So, the doctor rushed to the hospital. There he was welcomed by a nurse, known to him for a long time. They greeted warmly and remembered Marburg, when they had worked together again. But the news was not pleasant, as his friend failed to keep him alive. And it was not the only bad news. His friend, informed him that in the last eight days there had been some unexplained deaths. Dozens of people had suddenly lost their lives and found themselves in an embryonic state. In fact, the trend seemed dangerously upward.
The alarming news soon spread throughout Hamburg. Sirens were heard constantly, sanitary people with the input of the police, all wearing special uniforms, they visited neighborhoods and quarantined citizens. The frightened people overreacted. Due to this emergency that arose in Hamburg, A Council of Experts was convened. Ellerwein was also invited along with other doctors. Leader of this team, was a tall old man with glasses and stern, glare.
About a dozen scientists have just gathered, the chief first gave the floor to an elderly doctor, who wondered:
– “The issue, colleagues is how the disease is transmitted. By air; Physical contact or food; But pets can also act as carriers.”
A woman was thrown making a case:
– “It could be a laboratory synthetic virus;”
– “Impossible”, the chairman of the committee stopped her.
– “Why it is impossible;” replied another annoyed scientist, relatively young. “They do such studies in complete secrecy.”
– “Please, calm”, said Ellervein. “Not too many time ago, chemical agents disappeared from an army facility in Munster. Maybe we should find the composition of toxins.”
At that moment another doctor entered the room, covered from top to bottom with a cellophane. The chairman of the committee welcomed him and asked his opinion on the incidents.
– “Everything shows an infectious germ”, he replied. “The fact that we have not yet found any result, does not contradict my view”, completed.
– “Nor does it prove it”, someone else was said.
– “Gentlemen, the public calls for immediate measures to combat the pandemic”, replied the chairman of the committee trying to protect the newly arrived doctor with cellophane.
– “How to fight something we do not know;”, wondered a doctor who had not spoken again.
The doctor with the cellophane who seemed to have the favor of the president, took the floor:
– “It's not accurate that we can not fight a disease we do not know. I propose to inject a wide range of hemostatic agents into the population of Hamburg.”
– “This is disgusting”, Ellerwein replied, surprised by the expert's suggestion.
– “The sick colleague is disgusting”, he simply replied.
– “It's convenient to assume a viral infection but who will stand by us if it is not a virus; With these measures that we adopt we will miss the opportunity to find the cause of the phenomenon.”
– “We can not wait weeks or months until you find the cause.”, said the president rudely. “I think only the suggestion of the colleague, gives us the opportunity to do something.”, seconding the doctor's suggestion with the cellophane.
Ellerwein replied somewhat angrily:
– “Then if you called us to give our blessings to your decision, please forgive me…”, and left the room.
He was walking the streets of Hamburg lost in thought. He thought of talking to a friend to hear another medical opinion. So, he entered a bar he found on his way to make a phone call. The crowd was talking about the epidemic and someone said that terrorists had poisoned the water. While the doctor was calling, he saw from the bar window that someone was falling to the ground and slowly took the fetal position.. He ran out of the bar, touched him, trying to examine him. An ambulance and police arrived at that time. They picked up the dead man, but they also forced the doctor to get into the ambulance because he had touched him.
He was taken to a building that had been set up to isolate the suspects. Ellerwein tried to calm down on a patio and isolate himself in his thoughts. The building was full and people were coming and going angrily. They shouted about the prevailing conditions. They were not even allowed to call outside the city. Only a young girl seemed quite calm. Her calm and her beauty, caught the eye of the doctor. They caught a conversation and he told him how she was quarantined. Her name was Ulrike, she was looking for a job, when her neighborhood was considered the epicenter of the infection by the authorities. So they brought her to the structure together with a well-known roaster.
Their conversation was interrupted by the death of an elderly woman who caused great upset. Ellervein voiced his concern over how the situation should be handled:
– “We can not put the disease under control like that. Look at the world around you. They are virtually preparing for the disease…”
People were shouting, attacking managers. They broke windows with objects trying to escape. The itinerant roaster, in all this doom, shouted at Ulrike to escape through a window. A dwarf in a wheelchair was waiting for them outside, grill friend. He had brought the grill's van outside the window. Finally they boarded, taking the doctor with him.
The four of them in the van were trying to escape from Hamburg. Police blocks were everywhere, blocking the exit. People were trying to escape but they were arrested. Eventually they found a way to escape and as soon as they managed, stopped at a safe place. The passengers were exhausted from the dramatic events they were living through. Fortunately, the roaster had food in the van, which he shared with the disabled dwarf, Ulrike and the doctor. After they relaxed, the roaster asked Ellerwein:
– “So doctor what kind of disease is this;”
– “I wish I knew”, he replies. “But imagine that we get a mouse, close it in a closed cage, we feed it unbalanced food, we cool it. The mouse survives… Then make the cage smaller, lower the temperature, we poison his food with minerals, lead, mercury, the mouse is not dying yet… We poison it with a larger dose, lower the temperature more, we destroy its circadian rhythm, constantly turning on and off bright lights. We shake the mouse with high frequencies and suddenly the mouse dies… What caused his death;”
– “I hated the sausages”, said the roaster with an aversion and stopped eating. “For me it is a cleansing process. Nature helps itself, only the strong will survive. How do you say this; Natural selection… It also has good elements.. Makes room for the rest.”
The dwarf in the wheelchair shouted:
– “Healthy people are bad, behave badly to the sick. The terror of doctors and official prosecutors: Once upon a time, the anger of the healthy was directed at the sick. Now the trombones sound in judgment and unmask the healthy as sick.”, and laughed out loud…
After they rested, continued their journey. They arrived in a village that seemed deserted. Later they understood the reason… In various places they found dead, but she was not in a fetal position. The roaster told them they were scared to stay in the van but the doctor was thrown out to check on a dead. He could not understand the cause of death, but he wondered why they all died at the same time. They found dead on the street, at the houses, at work. Ulrike, who had also gotten out of the car and followed him to a house, asked Ellerwein:
– “Do you think the disease is contagious?;”
– “What is the meaning of contagious?;” he replied. “It is not just viruses that are contagious. They are bacteria, radioactivity, even the climate can be contagious. The feelings, the passion…”, and looked Ulrike in the eyes, who, however, brought him back to dystopian reality:
– “Yes, but here we are talking about the dead.”
– “Emotions and passion brought more deaths than Black Death”, he answered her and remained skeptical.
There was silence, when the doctor seemed to hear something…
– “I thought I heard some strange music, a sound”, he told Ulrike.
But he did not pay more attention and continued to search the house they had entered to find more information about the prevailing death.. They entered a room and saw three people, one on top of the other with injuries, traces of scratches and bumps, as if they had fought and died at that moment.
Meanwhile the roaster is desperate and irritated, left them driving the van, shouting that they are crazy touching the dead. The other three continued to search the village. A little further they finally found the first living. He was a young man in a caravan. He was kind enough to offer them tea and explained that his job is to deliver caravans to customers.. And that this one had to go to Giessen. Ulrike asked him:
– “You are not afraid of disease, are you?;”
– “I'm resistant to it”, he replied with an apathy.
– “How do you know;”, the doctor asked him.
– “That's his message. Is there anyone who wants to talk to us?”
The dwarf, which had been removed earlier, ran towards them, on his pram, saying he was found a second survivor. It was on the roof of a house, scared and naked. Following the promptings and assurances of the doctor that he is not in danger, came down and followed them from a distance. His name was Fritz. He said that some people deliberately bathed him with blood and vomit, they took his car and disappeared. So, he threw away all his clothes and went up to the roof of the house.
– “At what stage did the sick become aggressive?; How it started;”, the doctor asked with great curiosity.
– “Do not be indiscreet, leave me alone.”, he replied and hurried into the caravan to get dressed.
Eventually, half boarded the caravan and half boarded the car that was dragging it.. They left the village for Lunenburg and then for Giessen, where they would deliver the caravan. On the road, they were overtaken by patrols, there was movement and a disturbance. There were only announcements and news on the car radio: <<There is a ban on personal freedom and the use of private vehicles. The offenders will be taken to an institutionalized medical camp. Home Secretary says those who risk the common good can not expect appreciation from the community. Only our strong combined will can create effective power>> .
They arrived in front of a block just outside Lunenburg. Things seemed to be worse there. They would not let them pass. Sanitary and police were everywhere. People got out of their cars and roamed angrily. So did the passengers of the jeep and the caravan. A little further on they saw a man, lying down, probably dead and the doctor ran to check on him. But the health authorities stopped him and took him lying on a stretcher. Then Fritz, frightened, approached Ellerwein and told him:
– “We must leave, quickly. Now they will kill them all… This is how it started in the village…”
– “Wait, this is interesting, how it started in the village;”, the doctor interrupted him.
– “The injection”, answered Fritz… “Everyone was injected. Now they are becoming aggressive.”
– “You have all been injected; Who made it for you;”, Ellerwin asked.
– “The health workers, who else”, he replies.
– “The health workers injected everyone;”
– “Well, not to me, I went to the roof…”
– “What did they inject you with?;”, asked the doctor.
Fritz gave him no answer and rushed to the caravan. The doctor said he had to find a way to get to Lunenburg, to go to his sister's house. But all the passages were closed. Many people with their belongings in their hands, they ran and shouted that some people were shooting. Police with dogs and nylon uniforms chased them. They were thrown tear gas. There were barbed wire. Police loudspeakers could hear that entry into Lunenburg was not allowed in the following days.
(The B’ part here)
Note: This short story is not a product of the author's imagination, but it is an accurate depiction of the script of a German film by Peter Fleischmann entitled: The Hamburg Syndrome. Filmed in the distant 1979…
4 thoughts on “The Hamburg syndrome”
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Thanks for the repost
Well done. Stormy Pace of Storytelling, gruesome scenes, incessant rotation of protagonists. The lingering and intense aftertaste your story left me with is awe and terror.
Half the credit to Fleischmann for inspiring it and investing it with very atmospheric music. The stormy pace was necessary for the plot of a film of about two hours to come out in a few pages.