Radio Ga Ga: Ticks









Track 12





                         “Cause I'd like to see you out in the moonlight
                         I'd like to kiss you way back in the sticks
                         I'd like to walk you through a field of wildflowers
                         And I'd like to check you for ticks.”
                                         - Brad Paisley


                         “I only wanna die alive,
                         Never by the hands of a broken heart
                         Don't wanna hear you lie tonight
                         Now that I've become who I really am.”
                                         - Ariana Grande



Immediately after the Disney ruling, Britney's younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, the former teen mom, teamed with Amanda Bynes and Ariana Grande, of driveway-igniting and doughnut-licking infamy, respectively, to file a similar lawsuit against Nickelodeon, their employer through their tweenage years, for emotional damages. Actuaries for Nickelodeon calculated that the risk was too great to be victorious and convinced the studio it could save 75% if it settled with these former rugrats. This would also save the pain, misery and all that a protracted trial would bring.

The Disney damages were split by the lawyers based on lifetime earning potential for each star, giving hundreds of millions to Britney, Milez and Raven-Symoné, while doling out only $10,000 for each of the Cheetah Girls. No longer connected by litigation, these stars shot apart, never to see each other again. But their lives were still shaken by the same force that throbbed, ready to topple all humanity.

* * *

The fryolators sizzle in the kitchen of Justin Timberlake's southern seafood restaurant in New York City. As the owner of Fry Me a River, this bubbly bon vivant circles the tables and croons for his customers.

On this unfortunate night, a table of beauty queens in town for the Miss America pageant beckon him over. As he saddles up, the ladies slurp their last bites of the fish salad, pat their lips and prim for their wealthy host. Miss Minnesota Amber Atkins jumps up to give JT a hug. A tightness grips her stomach and she stumbles. Justin swoops in to grab the queen before her crown flops to the floor.

“I'm so sorry. I'm so---” Her body buckles and she projectile vomits onto Justin. “Oh god, oh crap. Oh god. Oh crap. Oh crap, Oh crap.”

She turns away from him to grab the table. Her body convulses violently. Tears fill her eyes as she whimpers to the other sash-clad queens. She cups her mouth. But its no use, her body flails forward and she vomits all over the table. Miss Nebraska and Miss Alabama are the first to rush to her aid. They sit Amber down and begin picking the pieces of lutefisk, cod and salmon from her face and shoulders.

“Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” Bending from the waist, Miss Alabama feels an electric pain shoot from her gastrointestinal tract. Her hands cup her mouth, but its not enough. Her heaving stomach shoots a days worth of food and water through her fingertips and onto Amber's curly, blonde hair.

“WHHHYYYYYYY?!” Amber sobs as the other queens circle the table.

The stench of half-digested seafood wafts through the restaurant. Justin turns to see a table of Wall Street bankers upchuck on each others' $8,000 Zegna suits. One shits his pants as he crawls to the bathroom, leaking feces from his embroidered hem. He rolls past a family of tourists from West Virginia retching into their NYPD hats and M&M store bags.

“What the FUCK is going on!?” Justin shouts as he kicks open the kitchen door.

Drone news cameras circle the restaurant fifteen minutes later. One customer who's bowels survived the onslaught turns to the cameras as he exits.

“Fuckin' beauty queens blowing chunks everywhere!”

Fry Me a River is shuttered and quarantined after this mysterious mass food poisoning. By the time the state health regulators, Warren Gi and Nate Doge, had discovered the answer, the news and public had long stopped asking. Harmful algae that produce ciguatoxins had spread rapidly up a warming east coast. Local fish would gobble up these toxins and poison the humans that feasted on them, including the customers on that fateful night.

* * *

Zac Efron opened a high-intensity outdoor gym and obstacle course resort in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico. These wildcats in training flew into Albuquerque International Sunport. At baggage claim, burlap sacks are thrown over their heads and bodies. Muscle men drag them to awaiting vans and berate them while the drivers chug down Zac Efron's other invention, Purple Sunny-Delight protein energy drink. After four hours, the unmarked vans roam down dirty and dusty trails. The men are pushed from the back hatch onto the desert floor and told to claw their way out of the bags that trap them.

Through the blistering sunlight, they see Zac standing before them in full Conan the Barbarian loincloth cosplay.

“Gentlemen, Welcome to Hell! We're gonna scorch the last pounds of fat from your pudgy, weak bodies.” Zac grabs one man by his hair and lifts him to meet his eyes. “And your gonna pay me royally to do it. And give me five-star Yelp reviews! Now hit the obstacle course before I'll even think of giving you a glass of water.”

In the middle of the desert, he created a complicated and copyrighted methodology for wealthy men to loose weight and reach their Swole Goals TM. Efron had purchased an old military field used for testing atomic bombs and turned it into this resort-cum-torture field. Efron had repurposed set pieces from American Gladiators and American Ninja Warrior. When he purchased the land, the temperatures would reach 110 degrees during the hottest summer days. But after remodeling and construction finished five years later, temperatures regularly spiked to 115 degrees. As he dragged these new recruits around, the area had been in its most dramatic heat wave, hitting 120 degrees for the entire week.

Efron had already sold these trips. He wouldn't cancel on them now, no matter how hot it got. He'd have to return the $20,000 each paid for this torture. Plus, he assured himself, these men yearned for this abuse. They savored the physical punishment that would break them out of their cushy desk jobs and feel their bodies.

The first trainee dropped while carrying a 50-pound sand bag on his shoulders. The other men hurdled him, eager to finish the death march before swinging across the piranha pool. It was Efron that found the man 30 minutes later while riding his razor scooter. The man was breathing slowly, but unresponsive.

“Oh shit!” Efron zoomed him to the medic tent. In an hour, he was dead from heat stroke. Three other trainees died of dehydration that day, forcing Efron to shut down his He-Mens World. The negligence claims would eventually bankrupt Efron.

* * *

With her damages, Christina Aguilera set up a dozen domestic abuse shelters throughout central and western Pennsylvania.

Each year, the increasingly hot summer days bled into sweaty, stinky nights. Tiny homes turned into fetid saunas for the economically-stressed inhabitants. This heat and the ravages of poverty quadrupled instances of domestic violence. The flux of women and children escaping this violence grew exponentially. In a decade, Christina would establish thirty more shelters, but she could never keep pace with the growing need.

* * *

Britney opened a waterpark in rural Louisiana, just north of her hometown of Kentwood, hoping that this would bring tourism to this economically-hurt area. The park was built on swampland, leading the slides and concrete pools to sink. Construction workers were on call to buttress what they could. In its first five years, the only problem they encountered was when the top of a slide broke off and hurled three kids 30-feet in the air. Thankfully, each landed safely in the lazy river. Britney continued to sink tens of millions of dollars into emergency construction.

But the end came when a hurricane tore through southeastern Louisiana. The rains and winds weakened the Lake Tangipahoa Dam. The dam breached the following day.

Britney and her youngest son, Jayden James, stood atop the log flume, surveying the hurricane's damage, only 15 miles south of the lake.

“Mostly just downed trees and power lines.” Britney assured her son. “We can rebuild.”

In the distance, Jayden sees something.

“Momma, what is that?”

“Honey, its just the Tangipahoa river.” She turned to descend the flume's stairs. The raging river roared towards them, swallowing up its banks.

“Don't you think the river looks angry, Momma?”

“Hush child, Hush!” Britney looks and sees this bulging river coursing towards them and panics. “We gots to run and get the hell out of there.”

In thirty minutes, the waterpark was flooded. The aquasaucer was submerged. The lazy river and tide pools converged. In a day, the moist swampland soaked up much of the water. With the ground as far from solid as a rock as possible, the entire structure sank.

* * *

“TIMBEERRRRRRRR!” Milez shouts as they hack into a tree on the one-hundred-thousand acre farm and forest they purchased with their damages in Montana. Part elderberry farm, part genderqueer retreat center, Milez had built their idea of paradise.

“It's going down!” They shout to the gaggle of radical faeries twirling through the forests around them. Clad in only wings and body glitter, these faeries frolic through the forests on a psilocybin trip.

“I'm yelling timber! You better move!”

One recognizes the warning and corrals the others back to the faerie nest, a giant hammock hanging from eight trees, for a mid-afternoon cuddle puddle.

Out of harm's way, Milez gets back to hacking. Their final thwack comes in like a wrecking ball, toppling the final tree standing in the way of the retreat's moon path.

Back at the farmhouse, they kick off their Timbaland boots. They strip out of their overalls and make their way to the fire pit out back. Barefoot and smiling, they join the group of revelers dancing around the flickering flames.

The evening winds down with an 84-person massage circle. Lyam works on their right calf and notices a hard lump under their curly brown leg hair. A black hard lump. As Lyam pulls it closer, he realizes what it is.

“A TICK!” Lyam shouts.

Milez jumps up and cries for any tool to rip it out.

Sunshine throws the first instrument she finds.

“SPOON!” Sunshine hollers as she hurls the utensil at Milez.

Carlton shuffles out of the farmhouse with a pair of tweezers. He heats these in the fire and rips out the tick.

The next day, Milez wasn't concerned when they noticed a large bullseye rash growing on their calf while bathing in the river behind the farm. Even the bears, half-submerged, lazying themselves from the summer heat, thought nothing of it. The bruise could be from tackle Calvinball or from an extra-rough cupping session. This telltale sign of the bacteria Borrelia compromising their skin and infiltrating their body would go unrecognized until the disease had already spread too far.

Concern welled in the bronies when Milez would fall fast asleep after only ten minutes into their My Little Pony singalongs. “Rainbow Rocks!” was their favorite song and they couldn't even rouse them for this. Something has to be wrong!

After a week of joint pain and exhaustion, they knew there was a problem. A group of queer doctors was using the compound for a retreat and one of them diagnosed Milez with Lyme disease.

They started antibiotics immediately, but it was too late to stop the disease. Instead, Milez spent the rest of their life struggling with fatigue and a low hum of pain that ached through their body. Lyme disease hadn't been found in this area when Milez had purchased this land. The planet's warming climate allowed the ticks to reproduce faster and spread the disease farther west.

* * *

Across the planet, a warning cry wailed. The mammoth glaciers cracked and ripped apart. Large chunks roared like thunder as they rolled into the ocean. Torrents of rain beat down on homes like bullets. Starving cattle gasped their last breath before thumping on the parched dirt. But humanity did not listen to these calls to action.

And soon, their species would pay the ultimate price.




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