The small plane hovered on the horizon, mostly obscured by the trees in the full fall foliage. The plane was festooned with yellow, gold, and green paint, a sort of camouflage intended to allow it to drop unseen into rural areas. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it had been making several trips daily to all the mountain towns, towns with exotic names like Mexico, Peru, Sweden and Norway, towns once filled with immigrants from those same countries, where folks shared genetic commonalities like skin color, eye color, bone structure and speech patterns. “Ah, the good old days”, she thought every time the plane taxied in and flew out again. “The towns were in better shape when were all the same”.
She learned how to fly small aircraft while serving in the armed forces. Military life agreed with her – everyone’s hair was cut short, everyone wore the same uniform, everyone pledged allegiance to the same flag. Back in those days, it was unusual for a woman to be trained as a pilot. Her initial interview for the job nailed her a spot as the interviewers hear “the right stuff” in her answers. Now, fifty years later, she still flew planes, flew those who could afford it to their vacation homes in the mountains or the tropics. Sometimes she thought about the ones who got away, or she let slip away – the kind nurse who courted her for years and still sends flowers annually on her birthday; the mechanic who fixed her plane, her car, and her melancholic days; the MP who made her feel safe – she thought of all of them and the difference they made in her life, differences that now seemed at odds with her mission.
It started out experimentally, to coincide with the pandemic, just a little experiment to see if it could work. Back in the 80’s cloning was a fad. It nominally carried forward into today, but the art of cloning and the process of mixing cells seemed tedious. “What if”, she mused, “the viral load from his pandemic can include a homogenization factor” – “like milk”, to make everything standard, the same.
She pulled what she considered to be the best assets, strong hands, kind eyes, dark eyebrows, tan, not-to-dark-not-too light skin, short gray mottled hair, brown eyes, medium build, elegant feet – criteria amassed from a lifetime of mirrors and lovers, and developed an easily ingestible, invisible, highly contagious vapor that could be spread by small aircraft to small towns. She contemptuously considered the current residents of the once homogenous towns to be small people, people who exercised their freedoms, which she had fought for, to live, love and reproduce with whomever they chose. She longed for the towns of her childhood, where sameness, and order, equaled security.
The carefully planned contamination project, or de-contamination as she preferred to call it, started in Cuba, a small town founded by refugees from that country, now home to a diverse and growing population. Cuba had been hit hard by the pandemic. Many residents worked in care homes and brought the virus to work with them or brought it home to their families. Either way the town rivaled the fictional viral scenes from a Stephen King novel.
She took care to fly at the horizon line, using a crop-dusting system to spread the droplets. Three times a day she sprinkled the town with the homogenization fluids and by the end of the second week her dreams were realized,
At the grocery store, as she reached for her favorite snack, another hand reached for the same bag and her own face stared back her. She smiled, knowingly, at the reflection.