A young woman was waiting at the pump. She introduced herself as Amy Blogg, an Illustrator for the River Weekly. She quickly let us know that she had been briefed by Mrs. Howitt.

I demonstrated the workings of the microscope on a blade of grass and an ant. It was met with the usual expressions of amazement by first-timer users. If I lost my job, I could set up a booth and make a living showing people the miniature world around us.

“Wait here, please,” I said.

I went to the tea shoppe next to Paul Bunyan. After verifying it was from the tap, I filled a glass with water and returned to Colvin.

“Tap water,” I said, and put a sample under the microscope.

“As you can see, there is nothing to see,” I said as Colvin fiddled with the focusing mechanism.

I placed some pump water in the glass and put a sample under the microscope. The ghostly animalcules were there, and I showed them to Colvin and Miss Blogg. “See them?” I asked.

“Those translucent beans dancing about?”

“That’s it,” I said.

“Those cause the Cholera?”

“That’s the idea,” I said.

“And just how do they cause the Cholera?”

“I do not have a clue.”

He looked unsatisfied. As we talked, Miss Blogg made a series of sketches of the animalcules.

“Just how small are these animalcules?” she asked.

“I don’t know. Given the magnification,” I paused and made a rough calculation, “maybe four 10 thousandths of an inch long.”

Colvin whistled. “That is tiny,” he said. “Teeny tiny. It seems unbelievable that such a wee beastie could cause so much flux.”

“Doesn’t it?” I said. “It still boggles my mind that such a small creature can kill a human in less than a day. This is new information, not even a week old. I have the what, the where, the when and the who. But the how of it is for another day. London was not built in a day after all.”

Next, I boiled a water sample and demonstrated that the animalcules had all vanished.

“The heat obliterates them,” I said. “All gone.”

“So,” he said. “You find these animalcules only in the pump water, and only people who drink the pump water get the Cholera.”

“No. Most people who get the Cholera have consumed the pump water. Most, but not all. And I can find animalcules in the slough water over there. Different animalcules. But not these animalcules, the swimming Cholera ones.”

“And you have seen these animalcules in the Cholera flux?”

“I have.”

As we talked, I looked over at Paul Bunyan, as Susan Tierney walked past.

I have a loud whistle, and when she turned, I waved. She waved back and walked towards us. After introductions, I asked, “What are you doing today. Old or new?”

“New,” she said. “I was just taking a break for a snack. I missed lunch.” She held up an apple.

“Great,” I said. “Can we come along for the next case?”

“Of course,” she said. “As if I could stop you.” She gestured at the microscope. “And what is all this then?”

“An investigation into the nature of water and the Cholera,” I said.

I quickly packed up the microscope, and we joined Susan. She ate her apple as I gave her the outline of what we were doing. She appeared nonplussed by the information that the Cholera was caused by minuscule creatures, but before she could ask questions, we arrived at our destination, a small house.

“Family of five, three reported cases today.”

She knocked on the door, and a boy of about 14 answered.

Both his parents and his older sister had the Cholera, but mild cases as the Cholera went.

Susan told the family, the Fontaines, about the quarantine, and when she was done, I asked. “How many of you drank water from the pump in the park?”

Everyone. But the two who did not have the Cholera drank the water only after it had been boiled for tea. I grinned at Colvin.

I told them about the saltwater cure. Susan offered them bags of salt and sugar, which they gratefully accepted.

“And I have a peculiar request,” I said. “I need a sample of the flux.”

Before I could explain why, Mr. Fontaine stood up. “Coming up,” said Mr. Fontaine, who darted to the bathroom. “Or out, I suppose. Whether you want it or not.”

“Eh. Don’t flush,” I shouted after him.

He didn’t.

I carefully fished out a sample of the rice water flux and, after setting up the microscope on the kitchen table, put a specimen on the viewing platform.

The same animalcules were there. I must admit I was more than a little relieved, as I had examined only one flux specimen before. I showed it to Colvin. He looked for a bit, then looked at me. “This is getting real.”

Miss Blogg also looked, drawing what she saw.

“What? What is it? What do you see?” asked Susan.

“The likely cause of the Cholera,” I said as she took her turn at the microscope. “But listen, and this is very important. Tell no one about this. No one. OK?”

She looked a bit taken aback by my emphasis. “OK,” she said. “But at some point, you are going to tell me why.”

“I will. But it will all be obvious in a few days. But for now, it’s hush hush. There may be more than one shit storm after this information is released.” I made a gesture of zipping my lips shut.

After finishing with the Fontaines, we said goodbye to Susan.

“Let’s go see the Atwood’s,” I said.

The Atwood house was only a few blocks away. We knocked on the door, and Mrs. Atwood answered.

“Mr. Bruno. What I surprise. I did not expect to see you so soon.”

I introduced Colvin and Miss Blogg. “Mr. Colvin is a reporter doing an in-depth investigation of the Cholera. Miss Blogg is an illustrator for the paper. But how is your husband doing?”

“Much better, I am happy to say. The saltwater cure seems to have helped quite a bit. The flux continues, but he seems to be keeping up with it better. Thank you for asking.”

“May I ask you a few questions?” said Colvin.

“Please do,” said Mrs. Atwood.

For the next fifteen minutes, Colvin confirmed all I had told him about the Atwoods.

“And he showed me those wee beasties in the microscope. Says they are the cause of the Cholera, but how something so small could cause such an enormous flux is beyond me. And I have told all my friends to avoid the pump in the park, I told them I thought it had toxins. No one is going to believe me if I told them it was wee beasties causing the Cholera.

“But I was very worried about Mr. Atwood and his tremendous flux. I did not think he was going to be able to drink enough to keep up with all he was losing out the other end.” She wrinkled her nose. “It was tremendous. But he seems to do a lot better with the saltwater and sugar drink. He tells me it really should be ocean water, but the substitution with saltwater seemed to do the trick.”

Colvin took notes as she talked.

“Looking good,” he said when she was finished.

It was mid-afternoon when we left the Atwood’s.

“I’m impressed,” said Colvin. “It is all consistent and, although the concept of animalcules is fantastical, there is nothing to suggest it is anything but real. It is hard to deny the evidence of my own eyes,”

“The next, and last, stop, would be the sisters.” I said. “They have all the information we have collected and analyzed. But first, I need to go by the office.”

We hopped the trolley back to downtown. Colvin was quiet for most of the trip, making notes and reviewing entries in his notebook. Miss Blogg was also quiet, staring out the window. The office was almost empty, everyone but George and Leo in the field.

“Where have you been?” asked Leo. “Mr. Bosworth has been here twice today looking for you. Twice. I did not know what to say, so I said you were out, maybe in Kenton or Lake Oswego. He didn’t seem happy.”

“Thank you, Leo. You were right. If Mr. Bosworth comes in tomorrow before me, tell him I will be here most of the day.”

“Yes, sir.”

I checked my desk and inbox, but there was nothing of note. Then I took Colvin to the cubby room. George was there, filing and organizing the reports.

“George,” I said. “This is Mr. Colvin. A reporter for the River Weekly. Could you so kind as to explain this to him and answer his questions?”

And for the next half an hour, George did just that, explaining to Colvin how the filing system worked and how it was interpreted. Colvin caught on quickly.

“This is amazing,” he said. “Once you know the language of the cubbyholes, the pattern of the Cholera is obvious.”

He stared at the wall for a few minutes. “This…” He swept an arm at the cubby holes. “Needs to be immortalized. Miss Blogg?”

“I’m already on it,” she said, glancing up from her sketch pad.

Colvin left briefly to send a telegram to the office. He was back in a few minutes. “Is there anything else here?”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“Then let’s go meet the sisters,” he said.

We sat in silence as we took the trolley to the sisters. I had sent a telegram to them earlier in the day, so they knew we were coming.

Colvin again spent most of the time reviewing and revising his notes, occasionally asking me a clarifying question. I could see he was convinced of all that I had told him.

We arrived at the sisters, and I did not even get a chance to knock on the door when it swung open. It was Cassandra.

“You certainly do take your sweet time,” she said.

I glanced at my watch.

“I never specified a time, and it is early in the evening yet,” I said. “It’s only 7:15.”

“I know,” she said. “But we have been expecting you ever since the telegram arrived around 3.”


“Yes.” She said. “Oh.”

I introduced Colvin and Miss Blogg to Cassandra, who led us to the sisters” workroom. This time I let Cassandra take the lead. She introduced the sisters and explained how they were using their private UKM to analyze all the information about the Cholera.

Then Grace and Allison took over, guiding Colvin through all the UKM graphics and what they meant, while Miss Blogg sketched.

Colvin was increasingly excited as they showed him the information. When they were done, he said, “This is going to the story of the century. The Cholera understood, complete with its cause and treatment. And none of the Societies had anything to do with it. If this approach can be applied to other diseases, it will revolutionize medicine and put the Societies out of business.” He gestured at the stack of papers and UKM graphics. “Is it possible for me to have copies of these?”

“Mr. Colvin,” said Grace. “Those are your copies. We made them just for you.”

“Thank you,” said Colvin, gathering the papers up like they contained the secret to tremendous wealth.

“Before we go on,” I said, “I want to emphasize something that Mr. Colvin said. When his report is released, there may be some strong reactions that may well kill my career. This has the potential to cause some real trouble.”

Allison sniffed dismissively. “We have independent means,” she said.

“And tenure,” Her sister added. “We are beyond retribution.”

“That may be,” I said. “But are you sure you want to be quoted in all this?”

They both nodded their heads.

“Cassandra, I suggest you stay out of it, at least as far as the newspapers go. Mr. Colvin has no reason to quote you, and it will be easier for me to protect your reputation and job if your name doesn’t show up in the papers. I worry that everyone is going to suffer guilt by association anyway.”

“I don’t know,” said Cassandra. “It feels cowardly to let you take all the heat.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Colvin. “I have no intention of quoting anyone outside of Mr. Bruno. You can only suspect how important this is and the political ramifications of spitting in the faces of the Medical Societies. Oh, you think you do. You think you know what it is going to be like to have a child until you experience it. Well, this is hyperactive triplets. What this could unleash, good for the people, bad for the Medical Societies, is likely to be world-changing, and changing the world always comes at a cost.”

He looked at all of us slowly. “Remember tonight,” he said. “Medical Philosophy will never be the same again.”

With that, Mr. Colvin bade us a good night and left.

His last words were “watch for a special edition by tomorrow afternoon at the latest.”

I said good night to the sisters and Cassandra and took the trolley home. The summer sun had set, and Venus was bright on the horizon. It was a beautiful night, and hard to believe people were dying of the Cholera just a few miles from me. If things were never going to be the same again, that was fine with me.



  • Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, from 1990 to 2023. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His multi-media empire can be found at

Posted by Mark Crislip

Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, from 1990 to 2023. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His multi-media empire can be found at