(Fiction) Decontamination Failure (YeahWrite Round 3)

I made it to round 3 – the top 10 contestants – in the YeahWrite Super Challenge #4. While I didn’t win anything, it was still fun to stretch myself, and to get three stories out of the contest. 

For this last round, I was charged with writing a story that married two genres: Science Fiction and Epistolary (telling a story through letters or email messages.)

It was my first time writing anything like this, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you will too!


Decontamination Failure

To: Elena <EllieJ***@***.com>
From: Steve <StevenM***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 02:37 AM
Subject: Virus

Ellie, I’m freaking out right now… you’re not answering your phone…

I watched the local news last night… there was some kind of “decontamination failure” at JSC on Tuesday.

I just read online that 5 NASA techs are sick – mentally ill because of this… of course the mainstream media isn’t saying anything.

My flight home tomorrow will probably be cancelled… I’m guessing all the planes will be grounded… of course this crap unfolds when I’m 2,000 miles from home for work.

Can’t sleep… I’m hunkering down in my hotel room for now. At least the minibar is fully-stocked (ha-ha.)

To: Steve < StevenM***@***.com>
From: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 8:29 AM
Subject: Re: Virus

Hey babe. Sorry I didn’t see this earlier. My phone was charging.

Wow, that’s intense… can you get out of there today instead of tomorrow? Gotta go to work now, but I’ll call you later.

Keep me posted, and be safe!


To: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
From: Steve < StevenM***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 8:31 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Virus

DON’T GO INTO WORK, Ellie… what if this thing is airborne?!

The news media STILL isn’t saying anything other than NASA had a “minor issue” that’s been “resolved.” Even that’s just local news here in Houston… none of the cable channels have the story…
The real story’s on the web… one site says the NASA techs’ families are losing their minds now too… they’re calling it “Mars Madness”… paranoia and hallucinations… then violence.

Read this: https://exposethetruth.net/mars-madness-houston-08062021/

I’m really freaking out here, El… Someone was just screaming in the hallway and I heard sirens outside… I put a towel under the door, closed the blinds and covered the air vents. I think I’m safe…

To: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
From: Steve < StevenM***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 02:42 PM
Subject: Hunkered Down

OMG, Ellie… NONE of the news channels are covering this, but this thing is BAD and it’s spreading…

There’s more info online… NASA techs didn’t follow protocol for those rock samples that came back from the Mars mission last week… whatever contaminant was on those rocks is now loose here in Houston… hell, it’s got to be halfway around the world by now.

It’s ironic… we were so afraid of space aliens destroying humanity… it’s happening, but instead of little green men, it’s rocks. Goddamn Martian rocks.

Get somewhere safe, Ellie… please…

Someone’s at the door…

To: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
From: Steve < StevenM***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 02:56 PM
Subject: Spreading

I wouldn’t let the maid in to clean… she may have been exposed. I can’t risk that…

It’s getting worse. I just read one of the NASA techs DIED… this thing is causing both mental and physical symptoms.

I heard machine guns in the distance… HOW CAN THIS NOT BE NEWS?!?!

Let me know you’re safe, Ellie…

To: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
From: Steve < StevenM***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 04:51 PM 
Subject: Doomed

OMG, OMG… people are DYING, Ellie. DYING… more sirens outside now…This is so bad…

I have to figure out how I’m getting out of here… how I’m getting home to you…

To: Steve < StevenM***@***.com>
From: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 06:07 PM 
Subject: Re: Doomed

Steve, baby, you’re really scaring me. I just got home from work. Your phone is going right to voicemail and you’re not answering the phone at the hotel.

Joan called and left a message. She’s worried; said you never showed up at the Houston office today.

I turned on CNN and looked at their website & a couple others, but didn’t see anything like what you’re talking about. That link you sent me doesn’t work.

What’s going on??? Please tell me you’re on your way home!!


To: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
From: Steve < StevenM***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 06:10 PM
Subject: Re: Re: Doomed

OMG, Ellie… of course I didn’t go into work… haven’t you been reading my emails??

Mainstream media is HIDING this from people… it’s too late though. They can’t contain it…

Can’t talk on the cell… they’re probably monitoring it… they don’t want the truth to get out… unplugged the hotel phone so I can think…. more later.

To: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
From: Steve < StevenM***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 09:27 PM
Subject: Screwed

Maybe the contamination wasn’t intentional, El, but the coverup is… they’re using it… they’re trying to weed us out… thin the herd.

The web says people all over the country are dying… still NOTHING from the CDC or the government.

I know what’s REALLY going on… Goddamn government coverup… the people have a right to know…

To: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
From: Steve < StevenM***@***.com>
Sent: 08/07/2021, 11:14 PM
Subject: Justice

The hotel “staff” are NASA lackeys… they’re trying to get in the room now. They’re trying to silence me.


The people have a RIGHT to know about this!!! Get somewhere safe while you still can…help spread the truth… Unless they’ve gotten to you too… OMG… is that why you’re not answering me, Ellie??!! THEY’RE LYING!!!!!!

To: Elena < EllieJ***@***.com>
From: Joan <Joan***@***.com>
Sent: 08/08/2021, 06:18 AM
Subject: Steven at Memorial Hospital (Houston)


Thanks for calling me back last night; sorry I couldn’t answer. Lots of people out sick this week; had to put out some fires at the office. I’m feeling a little out of sorts myself.

I have some bad news: There was an incident last night at the Houston Marriott – Steven experienced some sort of psychotic break. They notified me because the company booked his room.

Hotel management received numerous noise complaints from other guests about Steven. He was screaming obscenities and nonsense, and banging on walls. He also threatened hotel employees and became violent. He’d barricaded himself inside. Law enforcement eventually had to break down the door.

Steven’s been taken to Memorial Hospital for mental health observation, although there aren’t any open beds in the psych ward; I guess they’ve had a rash of incoming patients this week.

On behalf of Steven’s work “family,” we all hope he’s feeling back to normal soon.


Joan Andrews



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