This story was first published on Tor.com in May of 2011. You can read it in its entirety off site or get a preview right here:
“Wake up.” When Crazy Me rests a hand on my forehead, it jolts me from sleep. “It’s raccoons.”
“What?” I shiver out of a very pleasant dream of licking frosting off Amisha’s nose. “Get!” I flail at him in the darkness and thump his shoulder.
“Raccoons! With their masks and their tiny black hands and their fleas. Rooting through our garbage.”
“What time is it?” I lift my head off the pillow to look at the clock. “Great, it’s four twenty-three.”
“Do you know how many raccoons there are?” he asks. As usual, my irritation bounces off him. “They’re everywhere, like furry cockroaches. I have no doubt whatsoever. The next pandemic will be huge—raccoon flu.”
“What, the last one wasn’t bad enough for you?” I press the pillow to my ears. The room is hot; the AC has shut itself off again.
He has to tell me about all of the ailments raccoons are subject to: congestive heart failure, cancer, hepatitis, distemper, rabies, the common cold. They get more diseases than any other wild animal. Crazy Me has been googling them since I went to bed. The pathology of the intestinal raccoon roundworm baylisascaris procyonis is particularly nasty. The eggs are sticky and pretty much invulnerable and if they get into an aberrant host, which is anything not a raccoon, like us, the larvae get confused and wander around the body compromising the liver, eyes, brain, spinal cord, or other organs.
“Roundworms aren’t the flu,” I say.
“I know that,” says Crazy Me. “But this paper from the Centers for Disease Control says there are all kinds of influenza receptors in raccoon tissues. A blood survey found twenty-five percent of the raccoons in Wyoming had flu exposure. Look at the data for 2014; raccoon flu can easily make the jump to humans. It’s only a matter of time.”
I switch on the bedside light. We blink at each other and then I scan the printout he thrusts at me. “So what are we supposed to do?”
“Hoard surgical masks?” he says. “Drink pricier Scotch? Maybe buy AstraZeneca stock?” He yawns. “Anyway, I just thought you’d want to know. I’m tired now, so I’m going to bed.”
This is how it’s been recently. Crazy Me sketches some doomsday scenario in the middle of the night and then retreats to the garage. Me, I lose another night’s sleep.