For the first time in weeks, I slept in. It was 10 a.m. when I awoke, feeling remarkably rested and still oddly at peace. My anxiety ball was still gone, besides a residual twinge of guilt over the deaths of the heads of the Societies. I assumed I was going to lose my job, but I was OK with that. I remembered what my grandmother would say: “A job is what the dog does on the carpet” and smiled.

I took my time wandering into the office and went to the cubby room. It was impressive: twenty-two new cases of the Cholera and ten deaths. At this rate, the outbreak would be over in a week.

“That is really looking good,” I said to George Webster.

“Yes,” he said. “The Cholera seems to be going away. I have done all the data organization for the day. There are a few new cases downriver, but the cases in the Kenton neighborhood are falling fast.

“I wonder,” George said, “just how long after you drink contaminated water it takes to get the Cholera? That would be a hint as to when the Cholera will be over.”

I thought for a moment. “I guess there are two answers. What is the shortest and longest time after drinking the water that it takes for the Cholera to develop? It looks like a minimum is eighteen hours, at least to judge from how long it took the Society Heads to get symptomatic Cholera. And the maximum time? Well, the pump was shut down Friday night. If we assume this was the only source of the Cholera in Kenton, when the new cases stop, we will know the maximum.”

I paused, considering. “Maybe. If people have pump water stored at their houses, it will depend on how long the animalcules can survive in a jug of water. If it is a long time, we may be seeing sporadic cases for days or weeks. And does developing the Cholera have anything to do with how many animalcules you drink? If you drink a lot of them, do you get the Cholera sooner? Or is the Cholera more severe the more animalcules you drink. And how do the animalcules even cause the Cholera? I have to agree with the Societies, it seems inconceivable that something so small can cause such a horrific disease. I know that it is what our investigation demonstrated, but still.” I shook my head.

“Can’t argue with success,” said George. “Cases and deaths are plummeting. We found the what and the why. That is all that mattered to stop the Cholera. There may be unanswered questions, but they are more for curiosity than any practical application.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” I said. “I have to also wonder how broadly applicable our results are. How many diseases are due to animalcules? Are they all spread by water? Or air? Or food? Or something else? We are told that Diseases of Venus are spread by sexual congress and are the result of licentious humors from France. Are Lues and the Clapoir also due to animalcules? I can come up with a dozen more questions with little effort. This may not be the end of understanding the Cholera, but the beginning of understanding all diseases. And don’t I have delusions of grandeur? I sound like a Society Head. The Animalcule Society: the one true cause of all disease.”

“You have to start somewhere,” George said. “It doesn’t mean you are going to become the corrupt leader of a sham Society.”

“I suppose. But there is always an end. Somewhere.”

I shook George’s hand.

“Thank you for all the work. It’s been a tough two weeks, and everyone in the office has been first-rate. It is nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“And it’s not the oncoming train,” said George.

I was not so sure. I was still waiting. No good deed goes unpunished, and I had accomplished many good deeds in the last two weeks. There would be consequences from humiliating the Societies, and, arguably, causing the deaths of two of their leaders. Not really good deeds, I realize, but the unintended result of good deeds. For me, the light at the end of my tunnel was a train heading in my direction, despite the assurances of others.

I looked around the office, but it was a quiet Sunday, as it should be. Nothing to see here.

I took the trolley out to Kenton to see how things were going. There was still a barrier around the pump, but the Bobbie was gone. There was a large sign warning people that the water from the pump was dangerous and the source of the Cholera. In smaller letters, it was noted that the pump was not to be repaired.

Booths were selling boiled water “Guaranteed Cholera Free” and “Real saltwater, fresh from the ocean. The best remedy for the Cholera.”

The park and the city were fairly busy, a Sunday afternoon of families shopping and playing in the park. Many more people out than last Sunday. The fear of the Cholera was fading fast.

I found Helen walking from the park towards Paul Bunyan, working on the quarantine. She smiled as I approached.

“My favorite person,” she said. “The man who decreased my workload.”

“My pleasure,” I said.

She had a small pram that was filled with sacks of sugar and jars of table salt. I looked at it and raised an eyebrow.

“The baby does not resemble his mother at all.”

“The cure,” she said. “I quickly ran out of the bags of sugar and salt you provided. It was the right idea but the wrong amounts. This stuff goes through people like the Cholera. So, I went to the grocers and bought salt and sugar. The stuff is dirt cheap. I have been giving it to those who can’t get their own. It is hard to get to the store with intractable diarrhea or when taking care of the same. But sugar and salt are heavy. Therefore, a baby carriage.”

“Does anyone pay you?”

“Most. If they can afford to. Otherwise, I let them have it free.”

“Save the receipts and submit an expense report. I’ll see you get reimbursed.”

“It’s not that much,” she said.

“I know. It’s the principle. You should not have to spend your own money on work-related projects. Just get it in as soon as possible.”

“Why? What’s the rush?”

I shrugged.

“I fully expect to be fired in the next few days.”

She actually sneered.

“No, really. I made the Societies look like fools. And contributed to two deaths. They will not let that pass.”

“Bloody bullshit,” she said.

“Karen,” I said, shocked.

“Alright. Bloody Cholera effluent. Is that better for your sensitive ears? No way. You obviously do not know it, but you are a hero. The man who discovered the cause of the Cholera stopped it in its tracks, found a treatment that works, and then gave it to the people. For free. Everyone knows it was Jordan Bruno, even if no one knows what you look like.”

“And how is that possible? My name was never mentioned in the papers.”

She smiled, looking slightly guilty.

“Oh, word gets around.”

“Word gets around?” I replied flatly.

“People ask. I see no reason not to answer their questions truthfully. Some of us probably go so far as to brag about your exploits, and, who knows, stories grow in the telling. I would not be surprised if they replace Paul here with a statue of you.”

She struck a Napoleonic pose and smirked.

“The Hero of the Battle of the Cholera.”

“Please,” I said. “That’s nonsense.”

“Oh? Nonsense, is it? Let us see Mr. Bruno.”

In a few seconds, she had climbed onto Paul’s feet.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” she shouted. “May I please have your attention?”

Dozens of heads turned her direction.

“Allow me to present to the people of Kenton, Mr. Jordan Bruno. The discoverer of the cause of the Cholera and its treatment you have all read about in the papers. The discoverer of animalcules and the seawater cure.”

She pointed at me and then jumped down by my side.

“Watch and learn,” she said.

There was a five-second pause, then everyone within the sound of her voice surged forward, and I was surrounded by people clapping me on the back, shaking my hand, thank me for saving their lives, the lives of their family members, asking for my autograph and in general treating me like some sort of, well, star. It was quite overwhelming.

It lasted for about ten minutes until Helen climbed back upon Paul’s feet and again addressed the audience.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Mr. Bruno and I thank you for your kindness and good wishes, but we still have work to do. The Cholera, while in retreat, is not yet completely gone, and I need Mr. Bruno’s assistance to continue the work of the Ministry. But he, and I, thank you for your generosity.”

With those words, the crowd quickly departed, with many thanks you’s and bless you’s as they left. But even as the crowd left, people continued to talk and point in my direction. Except one older woman who walked up to me and pushed her index finger, hard, right into my sternum. That hurt.

“You, sir, are a disgrace. A spy for the Continent and a spreader of lies. Thanks to you, two brave Medical Philosophers are dead. It’s Homeopathy for me, forever.”

She spat on the ground next to me.

“I hope you die of the Cholera,” she said with remarkable hatred. That took the wind out of my sails. I was speechless as she walked off. I was not going to be everyone’s best friend.

Helen stared after her with pursed lips.

“Didn’t expect that,” she said, turning to me, “Is there anything you would like to say, Mr. Bruno?”

“I’m sorry. You were mostly right. Except for that whole wishing I would die thing. And that was one of the more uncomfortable experiences of my life,” I said. “I prefer anonymity.”

“I suggest you get used to it. You now have notoriety, and people will have expectations, expectations you will need to meet or exceed. Just like an admiral who won a great battle, you will be expected to be gracious, kind, and wise to all people at all times.”

“Even those who wish me dead? Good luck with that,” I said. “But a step up from being pickled in brandy.”

“Mr. Bruno,” she said. “I fully expect you to live up to my expectations. Now, if you are done wallowing in the adoration of the masses, we do have work to accomplish.”

And she pushed her pram towards the south. I hurried to catch up.

The rest of the day was spent following up on quarantined victims. There were no deaths, everyone was on the mend, and all were happy to receive the sugar and salt refills. Going to the grocery was more of an inconvenience than I had supposed when a family member had the Cholera.

And almost every time I was introduced by name, I was received like royalty, with profuse thanks and deference.

I say almost. While polite, several households were adamant that the idea of the Cholera caused by animalcules was unbelievable and remained committed to their Medical Philosophy of choice.

One was almost belligerent.

“Animalcules? Bullocks. All invented to discredit the Medical Philosophers and protect the French. But they are right, aren’t they? False news. This broadsheet says it all.”

He handed me a single sheet of newspaper.

The Battle for Truth

The War Never Ends

An Independent Broadsheet

The Crown Lies

The One True Cause of Cholera Suppressed

The Crown, through its puppet the Ministry for Public Hygiene has been actively suppressing the one true cause of the Cholera, putting countless lives at risk.

The Big Lie: The Cholera is due to animalcules, unseen and unseeable creatures, spread by water from the Kenton Park pump.

Conclusively proven rubbish by the head of the Homeopathy Society, Maxwell Pettenkofer, who remains unscathed after drinking the same water.

The true cause of the Cholera? It is a spread by the new lighter than air ships that have been recently spotted on the East Coast. Invented in Germany by Count von Zeppelin, these Zeppelins have unknowingly been flying over the city too high to be seen. Proof of their existence is the cloud trails that mark their passage.

They are not clouds. Clouds cannot appear out of nowhere on a clear day. Rather, these are vapors left behind by an airship as it seeds the air with a poison that can turn the bowels to liquid.

Who is behind this widespread poisoning?

The Continent. The French and the Germans.

Our enemies for over 200 years.

But why are the Crown puppets inventing a ludicrous cause of the Cholera?

To help the Crown Prince, who has, unbeknownst to his father, invested heavily in Continental Industries.

By causing an epidemic of the Cholera and discrediting the Medical Philosophies, it opens the door for the invasion of the Empire by Continental Philosophies, to the financial benefit of the Crown Prince.

Do we need any more proof of this than the microscope used to find these so-called animalcules? It is of French design and construction.

Do not be fooled.

The Cholera is not due to animalcules, but a poison from the Continent.

Only Homeopathy can protect you.

Stay safe.


The War Never Ends

I took the broadsheet and placed it in a pocket.

Not surprisingly, our offer for help with Cholera was met with contempt by that family.

But he had no choice with the quarantine. As I have noted before, no one crosses the quarantine.

Most of the others, unfortunately, reacted with excessive respect and deference. It was awful. I kept asking Helen to stop, to introduce me using another name, but she refused.

“Consider it training for your future fame and fortune,” she would say. “And don’t forget us, the little people, when you become high and mighty.”

I could only roll my eyes.

The day finally ended. Helen gave me a hug, which was rare, indeed, and we parted. It was Sunday and that night was a meeting of the Skeptics in the Pub,

I decided to go early to get a bite at the Lying Husband and relax on the patio with a beer.

When I arrived, unlike last Sunday, the pub was packed. I took the only seat at the bar.

“Hi, Agnes.” I gestured at the crowd. “Why the crowd?”

“Hi yourself. They are celebrating the end of the Cholera. Or so says the evening papers. Some chap name of Bruno is evidently responsible. Everyone is singing his praises, louder with every round of beer.”

She gestured at a newspaper on the bar. I glanced at the headlines. In “peace is declared” type, I read,

Cholera Conquered

Epidemic Ended

Jordan Bruno Discovers Cause and Cure

I did not read the text, only turned the paper over.

“Know him?” Agnes asked.

She grinned maliciously at me.

“Please. Agnes. Don’t. I’m Jerry,” I pleaded. “Jerry.”

“OK. Jerry.” She said the name slowly. “What will it be?”

“A pint of bitter and fish and chips. And thanks.”

“My pleasure. I’m just happy to have my business back. I guess I owe you one. Jerry.”

She poured the beer and left me to my own devices. The pub was busy. People were evidently making up for lost time.

I finished the beer as the food arrived and ordered another round as the pub continued to fill up, spilling out into the street.

I took my time eating the fish and chips, then took the third pint upstairs to the meeting room.

I had a pleasant buzz as people wandered to the room. Cassandra and the sisters were the first to show, followed by Mary Walker, who looked less haggard than the last time I saw her.

Then to my surprise, both Colvin and John Bonham arrived, pints in hand. I walked over and shook their hands.

“Welcome,” I said. “I did not expect either of you here tonight.”

“It would appear this is a group of kindred skeptical spirits,” said Colvin. “There are not a lot of those around.”

“Indeed,” said Bonham. “Like-minded thinkers are few and far between. We need to stick together.”

“And organize,” said Colvin.

“Organize?” I asked.

“You bet,” said Colvin. “The Medical Societies are at the beginning of the end. The Cholera demonstrated they are Philosophers who have no clothes.”

“Ew,” I said, “I did not need a mental image of a naked Pettenkofer. Thank you so much for that.”

“My pleasure, Colvin continued. “The future of Medical Philosophy lies with the techniques used to solve the Cholera. We need the MéthodeEmpirique.”

“By the way, just how did you find out about the MéthodeEmpirique?” I said.

“I’m a reporter. I find things out. Information that is often secret. Maybe we will just call it the Empirical Technique. Make it ours. More English.”

“OK,” I said.

He held up his pint.

“To the Empirical Technique.”

We clinked glasses.

“Look,” Colvin said. “There is a twisted relationship between the Crown and the Medical Societies. They support each other at the expense of the people. But now we know differently. We have methods at our disposal to understand and defeat the Cholera. And why not apply these methods to other diseases, other problems?”

“Individually, they can beat us down. But collectively, we can present a unified front, and we are all that much harder to suppress. It is what allows the press to survive and prosper. We can do the same thing by applying the Empirical Technique to disease—strength in numbers. We can start as a Guild. The Crown is reasonably lax about what Guilds are and what they do.

“Yeah,” I said. “If they don’t cause any trouble. Keep out of sight.”

“That’s how you start,” he replied. “You just have to grow to the point of being too large to be killed. It works for the other players in the field. And with time, we can supplant the Societies.”

“Good luck,” I said.

“What?” said Bonham. “Aren’t you going to join us?”

“This is the first I have heard of it,” I said. “I haven’t said either yes or no, although I’m intrigued, I need to think about it a bit. But it would give me something to do once they fire me.”

It was Colvin’s turn to be surprised.

“You were fired?”

I shook my head. “Not yet. But consider what I did to the Societies, killing two Society heads. Someone is going to pay. And I bet you are looking at him.”

Colvin shook his head. “The hero of the Cholera? I doubt it.”

“I’m no hero,” I said.

“Sure, you are. Don’t you read the papers?”

“I saw it but seeing is not necessarily believing. By the way, have you seen this?” I took the folded broadsheet out of my coat pocket and handed it to him.

He looked at the Battle for Truth and winced.

“Yes. Unfortunately. These one-pagers have been proliferating recently. The price of a printing press has fallen, making them widely available. Those with a niche opinion they want to share with the world are starting their own broadsheets. Topics vary. Music, literature, horses, politics.”

He wrinkled his nose as if he smelled rancid fish and raised the Battle for Truth.

“And madness. Unironically they are called bee-ess, short for broadsheets. They can be quite popular. And there are dozens of them, more every week. I do not think they are a threat to the established papers, but the popular ones can sway public opinion. They can be quite creative in their arguments.”

“Do you know who is responsible for Battle for Truth?” I asked.

“Nope. It would not be hard to discover if you really want to know.”

I shook my head no. He handed the b.s. back and I put it in my pocket.

As we talked, the room slowly filled up with people, all with a beer, and the room and the noise level had gradually grown. Everyone seemed in a particularly happy mood, laughing, and talking. As I looked around the room, Cassandra stood on a table and loudly asked for silence.

“Hello, everyone. Thank you all for coming. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Cassandra Wherton. I work with Jordan Bruno.”

“This,” she continued. “Is not a typical gathering. We are here today to celebrate the end of the Cholera.”

She was interrupted by loud applause.

“But none of this would have been possible without Jordan Bruno. He was the guiding force behind all that we have accomplished. He is too modest to brag about his achievements, but Jordan. Get up here.”

The crowd erupted into loud cheers and a chant of ’speech, speech.”

I made my way over Cass and climbed on to the table.

“I will get you for this,” I said in her ear.

She just smiled back.

“Thank you,” I said. “I do not have much to say except to quote Isaac Newton: If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. It is because of everyone in this room, their hard work, and dedication, that we have defeated the Cholera. I thank you all.”

As I climbed down off the table, there was another burst of applause, and the crowd transitioned into a round of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, much to my continued embarrassment.

The rest of the night was a celebration, and I probably had a few too many beers as I remember less than I should. The last night before the execution. But I do remember the laughter and camaraderie with my friends. Good times with good people.

I arrived home late and fell right asleep.



  • 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