“I tell you the proof is right here!”
To say that Marvin Graves was a maverick in the Hollingsworth University’s Department of Disorders and Cures was a gross understatement. He was always proposing research and spreading opinions that bordered on heresy. If his father hadn’t been the esteemed Grand Wizard Amadeus Graves, he would have long ago been expelled from the Order of Healers, if not put in prison.
“Oh, please!” Graves’ closest colleague, Mage First Class Linder Jilling, was actually quite fond of his quirky research partner, and had to admit, there was no finer mate to go pub crawling with than ol’ Marvy Graves. But while Jilling was inclined to tolerate Marvin’s eccentricities at times, today he had gone too far.
“I am not looking into that…that thing. I’m not even sure it’s legal to possess it.” Jilling wouldn’t even look at the device Graves called a microscope. He just waved his hand in its general direction.
“I tell you that I’ve found the cause of Childhood Breathing Inhibition and it’s not Draco’s Blood Magic as we’ve always been taught,” Graves insisted. “It’s not magic at all!”
Jilling abruptly turned and grabbed his friend, placing one hand over his mouth. “Hush, now! Do you want to get us both kicked out of the Department or locked up? Of course CBI is caused by Draco’s. All physical and mental maladies are caused by dark magic. Everybody knows that”
Graves was still and Jilling tentatively removed his hand in the hopes his friend would see the wisdom of remaining silent.
True, it was unlikely they would be heard since they were assigned to a small workshop, an office just large enough for the two of them, their spell books, their potion making equipment, and a collection of wands, unfortunately all second-hand, since they wouldn’t get a budget for better tools until they were promoted to Beginning Wizard status, but Jilling wasn’t taking any changes.
It was being allocated small and out-of-the-way quarters that allowed Graves to smuggle in such contraband as a microscope, centrifuge, oscilloscope, and some things Jilling didn’t have names for. This…medical equipment had been banned when the Age of Enlightenment blossomed over a century ago, and the world was discovered to be governed by magic and metaphysical forces rather than what was once called “science.”
Graves gently pulled Jilling toward the nearest work table, guided him down to sit on a stool, and then took a seat in front of him.
“Look, Jilly.” Jilling knew Graves was about to say something unreasonable when he started using his affectionate nickname. “We’ve been trying for six months, examining hundreds of child victims of CBI, looking through our arcane mystic lenses and weaving our most sophisticated diagnostic spells searching for a cause to this disorder which is fatal in almost 100 percent of known cases. What have we found?”
“Well, there have been some promising…”
“Stop it!” Graves interrupted Jilling using a particularly cranky tone of voice. “Those promising causes all turned out to be dead ends and you know it.”
“And you know what’s worse?” Graves drew very close to Jilling now and was whispering, making Jilling very nervous. “In reviewing the research, not the published articles the Department sends to the news agencies, but the raw data we’ve collected, going back decades, I haven’t found a single substantiated case of magic being the cause of any known disorder, nor magic ever having a cure…”
Jilling pulled back, slapped his hands over his ears, and loudly mouthed, “LaLaLaLa! I’m not listening. LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa…”
Graves grabbed Jilling by his wrists and forcibly pulled his comrade’s hands away from his ears. “Cut that out, Jilly. You sound like a damn fool when you do that!”
“Better than listening to all your insane nonsense.” Jilling lowered his voice again. “You can’t go around saying things like that. Why the consequences…”
“I know the consequences, but what about actually helping people? What about finding out the real causes of disease and even how to make effective cures? Why just the other day. Dr. Branson…”
Jilling slapped his hands over his ears again and loudly intoned, “LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa…” Jilling nearly panicked as Graves used the forbidden title of “doctor” when talking about that practitioner of the illegal acts. Probably it was Branson who gave Graves his science equipment, the person who was filling Marvin’s head with things like “germs” and “tumors” and “medication.”
Graves sat back, rolled his eyes, crossed his arms and waited for Jilling to calm down.
Linder finally ran out of steam and stopped making silly noises.
“Are you done?” Graves was getting impatient.
“Are you done?” Jilling just wanted the conversation to end. He never should have indulged Marvin in the first place. His “medical” research, once a quaint if hazardous hobby, had become an obsession, and one that was likely to get them both sacked, or worse.
“Just hear me out, Jilly.”
Jilling took a breath, let it out slowly, then, against his better judgment, nodded his assent.
“Of all those hundreds of children we examined, I…uh…I took some…samples.”
Jilling’s eyes widened at the implications.
“Blood, tissue…” Graves continued. “I’ve been storing them here, refrigerated, examining them one by one…”
Jilling was frozen in position, panic welling within his chest. If anyone should come in and find that Graves took actual physical bits from people, especially children, and used forbidden equipment and techniques to examine them in contradiction to doctrine…
“Marvin, it won’t matter who your father was if they find out.”
Ignoring that unpleasant thought, Graves kept talking. “Jilly, I compared the samples from the sick children with those who are well. I found something…something in the blood of the sick wee ones. Jilly, I think it’s the cause of CBI…something physical, not magical…”
Jilling began to raise his hands toward his ears but Graves was faster and grabbed Linder’s arms to stop him.
“Jilly, I’ve shown my research to doct…to Branson, and he thinks there may be a cure, a medication cure.” Graves avoided using Branson’s title, though self-appointed since no medical schools existed anymore, in hopes that Linder might not get too excited again.
Branson was the latest of a long line of underground medical researchers and practitioners. The role was usually handed down parent to child. Brandon’s mother was a life long practitioner and taught her craft to her son. Before her, Branson’s grandmother, and before her, his great-grandfather were also medical people.
Though the government didn’t want to acknowledge it, there was a substantial underground movement that were engaged in all of the ancient sciences, not only medicine, but astronomy, chemistry, physics, and so on. Being covert, they didn’t have a lot of resources. Certainly they couldn’t apply to the Academy of Magic for research grants. They had to make do with what they could find in the ruins of the old school universities and museums, which was the source of the equipment Branson provided Graves.
Branson had no children, but he found a kindred spirit in Marvin Graves, who was his cousin’s child. They both shared an intense curiosity about everything around, them, always asking questions, never accepting the doctrine of magic at face value (much to old Amadeus’ chagrin before he passed away). Branson introduced Marvin to his secret world. Marvin jumped in with both feet and never looked back. He only joined the University’s Department of Disorders and Cures to gain access to the ill in the hopes of using science instead of magic to help people.
But the use of science rather than magic wasn’t limited to Branson and Graves. Every so often, a small group of these “scientists” from different disciples would gather and petition the government to hear their case, to illustrate that science really was the better way to investigate the mysteries of life, the world, the universe.
They were usually dismissed as harmless lunatics and, after a week or so in jail, sent packing back to their lairs, or dens, or where ever they did their illegal deeds.
In worse cases, they were deemed dangerous radicals, guilty of heresy against doctrine, tried in court, and then given long prison sentences.
The very worst offenders were said to be executed, though this was only a rumor.
Linder was torn. He joined the Department of Disorders and Cures because he had a fair talent for magic, but more than that, he wanted to help sick people, especially the children. His little niece had succumbed to CBI a year before Jilling changed his major to Healing Magic. He was the one who convinced Graves to apply to study CBI in hospitals around their region.
And Marvin Graves said he might be able to cure CBI.
But medicine instead of magic? That was insane. Absolutely crazy talk.
Yet again, there were rumors, terrible whispers among Linder’s classmates, among the newly graduated Mages at a number of universities in their own Disorders and Cures departments…that people weren’t being cured.
The universities and the government denied these rumors and said they were merely FUD, fear, uncertainty, and doubt, spread through social media and the dark mystic web by these so-called scientists, designed to discredit the sound doctrine of magic.
But what if Marvin was right?
Jilling cleared his voice and murmured, “Even if your theory is correct…how will you proceed? I mean, even if you and Branson find a cure, what will you do with it? The children’s parents would have to give consent for treatment, and this is beyond experimental.”
A sheepish look came over Graves’ face. “You won’t like it.”
“Oh no! Now wait a minute. You can’t just…”
“Once Branson comes up with a cure, once I covertly administer it to enough children under the guise of follow-up visits…”
“You are out of your fracking mind!”
“It will work, Jilly. Once enough children are cured, they’ll have to admit the truth.”
“Hah! Where have you been? Do you even know how the government treats ‘truth?’ And don’t even get me started on Healing Ethics. Do you know the penalty for…?”
“I have a pretty good idea, but saving the lives of hundreds, potentially thousands or tens of thousands of children is worth some pretty big risks, don’t you think?”
“Only if you’re right! If you’re wrong, the best that happens is your treatment has no effect and you go to prison forever. At worst, you harm the children further, hastening their deaths and have to live with that on your conscience for the rest of your life.”
Marvin was almost standing, but then he sagged back onto his stool. “It probably doesn’t matter. Branson said there might be a cure, but we’d have to take all my samples, my data, and do further research. Jilly, we don’t have those kinds of resources. If only I could apply for a research grant through the Department.”
Linder reached out and patted his friend on the shoulder. A wan smile appeared on Jilling’s face. “You’ll never get the funding, Marvin. No Department of Magic anywhere in our nation funds any research contrary to doctrine.”
“Then these poor children, I’ve looked at all their faces, held their hands, watched their suffering. Jilly, all these children are condemned to death because of devotion to an ineffective doctrine and blind ignorance.”
This is really only a part of a story. It’s yet another dystopian tale where devotion to a particular set of ideas or ideals overrules free speech, open-minded thinking, and searching through all possible causes of particular conditions rather than only the ones approved of by the politically correct police in government, the sciences, news and social media.
I won’t tell you what inspired this story. If I did, it would probably start a firestorm of protests and hate comments. I merely suggest that how we conceive of the cause or nature of certain human conditions is held rigidly in place, and any research “outside the box” would never receive funding because said-research would violate the “sound doctrine” of the progressive narrative.
And in my own opinion, the result is that people, including small children, needlessly suffer under conditions that might be more effectively treated if we were allowed to speak “heresy” against politically correct doctrine and fund more broadly scoped research.
In this fictional scenario, to find a cure, Marvin and Linder would have to misappropriate their research funds (which Marvin has already been doing to some small degree), redirecting it to medical rather than magical research into a cure for a fatal childhood disorder in the hopes of finding a cure.
Assuming it was found, there are two options. The first is to hope that this disease can be injected into an adult. Marvin is heroic enough to test the cure on himself to make a point. The second is much riskier. Use the cure covertly on a sick child and hope they got it right the first time.
Either option, even if the cure works, will, in this world, result in the government quickly suppressing the news that a medical cure is even possible, and then Marvin and Linder would disappear into the lowest and darkest level of some prison, along with Branson…or maybe they’d just disappear.
Generations of children would continue to suffer and die because it serves political and institutional interests, and someone high in the corporations that produce magical procedures and equipment will continue to become filthy rich.