Credit: Paul Yoon

Three things brought me to the hospital. In my first month, in the library, I wrote it all out on sheets of paper and pretended I was telling someone a story.

Number one: the sickness itself. The first  case was reported in June, in Bakersfield, California, when a fifty-year-old woman named Clara Sue Borden stumbled into the ER with a constellation of silver blisters on her face. She couldn’t walk a straight line. She pressed a hand over her right eye, claiming everything she saw out of that eye had a funny look. She couldn’t tell anyone her name or date of birth or where she lived or how she got to the ER. If there were relatives to call. She remembered nothing. “I am me,” she kept saying.

For as long as I could remember, the weather had felt apocalyptic. Y2K fever and the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. The death of bees and the death of bats and radioactivity in the oceans and ravenous hurricanes. I thought the country was like a fire that would rage and rage until the embers lost their heat, but instead the sickness appeared and within two weeks it had burned through the borders of every state in America. It was everywhere and it was so fast. At first, the Centers for Disease Control thought it was a highly contagious strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob. Autopsies showed prions eating through brain tissue, leading to sudden neurological collapse, but once they got everything under the microscopes, they realized it was something different, something new. We were awash in theories—biological attack, apocalypse, environmental meltdown—and no solutions. Our brains, our greatest human asset, were disintegrating.

—From Laura van den Berg’s first novel, Find Me, about a mysterious illness that spreads rapidly across America, and what happens to the few who seemingly have immunity.

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