by Sarah K. Krenicki
I have taken great pains to procure the attached CDC documentation as proof that the deadly listeria outbreak in the fall of 2019 was an elaborate cover up, and that the public is currently still at great risk. I believe the documents enclosed, most taken from a highly classified file documenting the Connecticut Mycelium Mutation, speak for themselves. I understand that you may be skeptical of what I have here, but I assure you I can provide proof of identity and additional factual verification upon request; however, I will only do so with the agreement that my identity will be kept safe.
For my own peace of mind, I have not provided my contact information. I will contact you.
Internal CDC communication log, dated 10/8/2019 11:18:52. Date of last update: 10/9/2019 12:09:18
We received the following from the head of pathology at [redacted] hospital in [redacted], Connecticut on October 8th 2019 at 11:18 PM, EST:
Patient, 42 year old Caucasian female, arrived in ER on 10/8 at approx. 12:52 pm with a series of raised fleshy growths along her right forearm. Upon closer inspection, the growths led all the way up and around the biceps and culminated in a cluster which was concentrated in the patient’s armpit.
Initial hypothesis was severe contact dermatitis; however, it soon became apparent that the growths were indeed foreign and not raised welts or boils. A biopsy was requested and the results indicated that the growths were fungal in nature. Additional tests are being done to determine the type and origin of this parasite. No one on our staff has seen anything of this sort before; please advise.
CDC response, sent 11:38 PM, EST:
Quarantine the patient immediately and take all necessary precautions to avoid possible transmission. Send the results of the tests as they come, and prepare a biopsy to send to CDC.
Follow-up from [redacted] hospital, received 12:02 AM, EST:
Patient is secure and every known precaution is in place. Blood tests have returned as highly abnormal: patient’s blood is completely saturated with some sort of fungal material. The fungi in question is as of yet unknown, but is most similar in genetic makeup to the common shiitake.
Patient has confirmed she has ingested shiitake within the last several days, but this does not look like any allergic reaction we are familiar with. It appears to be more of a colonization.
Patient’s entire arm and collarbone are now covered in the fruiting body of the fungi, and it is continuing to spread.
CDC: 12:09 AM, EST.
We are dispatching a team. Please stand by.
The following has been recovered from the case notes of Dr. [redacted] [redacted], head pathologist at [redacted]:
October 9th 2019, 6:15 AM EST:
The patient’s upper body is now completely covered in what can only be described as mushrooms. Despite their close genetic relation to the shiitake, they do not look like any shiitake I’ve seen; they are the same color and texture as the patient’s flesh. These mushrooms are now expanding and lifting upward and outward from the patient’s body, exposing stems. Attempts to cut them for analysis has been easier than expected, as the mature fruits tend to drop off.
The lower body of the patient is covered in a fine labyrinth of mycelium, and we expect her legs to begin fruiting soon. We are administering high doses of intravenous antifungal medication; however, it seems that her entire body has already been colonized with the parasite. Her organs are beginning to shut down as the mycelium impede their function.
8:51 AM EST:
The antifungals seem to be delaying or halting the progression of the mycelium. The legs have not yet fruited, and we may have successfully prevented them in doing so. We are trying to regulate the patient’s body temperature and keep her skin dry, to prevent further colonization.
9:07 AM EST.
A second patient, 31, Caucasian male, was admitted to the hospital at 9:02:14 with symptoms similar to that of the first patient, above, who will now be identified as Patient X. This new patient, who will be identified as Patient Y, has the same fungal growths, though these are lining the neck and the inside of the throat, creating the appearance of overly large lymph nodes. We are collecting samples to compare with that of Patient X, as well as sending a team to Patient Y’s home in order to collect the leftover mushrooms in his refrigerator for analysis.
9:52 AM: EST
Third patient, Patient Z, 64 year old Hispanic male, growths located in the spaces between each toe. We have tracked both his and Patient Y’s food consumption habits to “The Mush Room, Inc.,” specifically their prepackaged fresh shiitakes.
11:12 AM: EST
Lot number 1794 of The Mush Room, Inc.’s product is the common thread linking each patient.
11:21 AM, EST
Patient X is in critical condition. Her organs are shutting down and it appears the initially affected arm is beginning to break down. Perhaps focusing on preventing fruition was a red herring here. Focus is shifting to keeping Patient Y and Z’s vital organs stable.
12:01 PM EST:
24 hours after first admitted to the facility, we have lost Patient X.
Official transcript of interview with Edson MacGunn, CDC investigator
MacGunn: We arrived at The Mush Room’s packaging plant at around 11:52 that morning, October ninth. We spoke with the plant foreman, asked if anything weird happened recently, specifically with Lot 1794. We were told we should check with the farm…
Tape fades in and out
MacGunn: …We took back some samples and swabbed their equipment, and made the order to sterilize everything. They put out the recall order for Lot 1794, and also threw in the lots immediately before and after as well, just to be cautious. No farm wants to get in trouble with the CDC, and it’s not like this is a simple case of E. Coli or whatever. Like, we’ve got fungus eating people…
Tape becomes muffled
MacGunn: ..So we got to the farm around 12:30, I didn’t note the exact time. This one guy shows me a few logs that… didn’t look so hot. They seemed to be covered in dark stains, so we took some samples. The logs were incinerated, as were any logs within a six foot radius, to prevent contamination.
Interviewer: And the stains?
MacGunn: The substance tested positive as human blood.
Interviewer: Did you locate the origin of contamination?
MacGunn: Yes. After some digging, we were able to uncover the details of the accident with the driller.
Interviewer: The driller?
MacGunn: The machine that drills holes into the logs so they can be filled with the spawn. It drills a few rows of holes down each side, and it seems someone got a bit too close, slipped, and, um, had multiple holes bored into his body, like this.
The sound of paper being slid across the table.
MacGunn: Yeah. His blood- and a lot of it, mind you, got onto the next few logs in the production line, which were swept up onto the conveyor belt, filled, plugged, and sent down to the fruiting chamber.
Interviewer: Like nothing had ever happened.
MacGunn: Like nothing had ever happened.
MEMO, stamped “internal CDC use only: restricted access,” Date: 10/17/19
General Update on the Status of Case #02734:
The bodies of patients X, Y and Z have been properly disposed of. The hospital has been sterilized accordingly and released from lockdown as of 9:00am this morning, local time.
All remaining individuals exposed to the contaminants in Lot 1794 are currently being held under quarantine at CDC headquarters and are receiving heavy intravenous doses of antifungal and antibiotic medication. Of the twenty-six people taken in for observation, fifteen have evidence of the mutated fungi in their system.
As of today, October 17th, 2019, eight of these fifteen people continue to show no symptoms and are expected to recover fully.
Of the remaining seven individuals, four have exhibited mycelium growth along segments of their skin. Their prognosis remains unknown.
Those three individuals who have already progressed to sprouting the fruiting bodies have a less than 1% chance of survival. We are confident that once the colonization hits this level, the mortality rate is close to 100%.
The latest toxicology reports indicate that the victim of the “driller” accident at The Mush Room, Inc. had been on a mixture of four different prescription and over the counter medications as well as one illegal controlled substance. We are running tests and replicas of the various scenarios in which these chemicals could have altered the shiitake spawn. [Those interested in model replication of this data should contact the pathology lab for details. Proper clearance is required for access to raw data files.]
MEMO, stamped “internal CDC use only: restricted access,” Date: 10/24/19
General Update on the Status of Case #02734:
Three of the four individuals exhibiting outward mycelium activity with no fruiting bodies are now testing at significantly lower levels of contamination and continue to respond well to treatment.
Patient 4 was lost at 12:56am.
The pathology lab assures us they are close to replicating the chemical and atmospheric conditions which gave rise to this genetic anomaly.
Scanned Image: newspaper clipping dated 10.27.19
Listeria in Littlewood?
LITTLEWOOD — At least two people were hospitalized this weekend in response to what hospital officials are calling an isolated case of food contamination. The origin of the contamination and the names of the individuals affected have not been released, but health officials stress this is an isolated incident and the public is not at risk.
Scanned Image: Discarded Grocery receipt:
[10/25/19] REG:6 Your Cashier Today is: Hannah
Thank you for shopping at Shop-A-Lot! ☺
Happy Herd Milk, 1 Gal: ………………………………………………………….$4.50
Italiano Linguine Pasta – 2 @99¢/box:……………………….$1.98
Feather Farm Eggs, 1 Doz: ………………………………………………………$2.50
Shittake ½ lb,(Lot #1794 T.M.R):………………………………………$9.50
50% DISCOUNT (Out of Date/Disc.):…………$-4.75
TOTAL: …………………………………………………… $13.73
[Bottom of image, hand written: Beth’s Pot Luck – Saturday]
Sarah K. Krenicki’s short fiction has appeared in Lumina, Gemini Magazine, and Syntax and Salt. She lives at the edge of the woods with her husband, who grows shiitakes in their backyard. He assures her they are not up to anything.