Bruce McAllister, "The Boy in Zaquitos"

A man discusses his previous life doing horrible things for the government.

(from The Best American Short Stories 2007)
Some people — maybe one in one hundred thousand — can get infected by an epidemic disease and not get sick and die. They don’t even get the symptoms, but they can carry it and they can give it to others. They’re called “chronic asymptomatic carriers,” or CAC’s. You’ve heard of Typhoid Mary maybe, in health class or history. She was one. Not to the degree that the history books say she was, but she was. She didn’t even know she was one until they told her how many people she’d probably killed; but she was one and it drove her crazy to find out. It drove her crazy and the government dropped their case against her. That was about 1910, I think, and it was here in America, during an epidemic.
That’s how hard it can be on a person when they find out they’re a carrier. That’s what I’m saying, I guess.

What first looks like a spy/conspiracy story — it did originally appear in Fantasy and Science Fiction, after all — ends up being a touching and frightening story of phobia and anxiety. The story’s kind of a amazing at that, actually. And because it ran so much deeper than its situations, I don’t think it’ll hurt to tell you that the guy’s job was to carry diseases to which he was immune into foreign countries to kill many and destabilize the government. Great story. I think having something like this in BASS shows you the upside of giving Stephen King the keys.

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