My Brother the Sensor

Whatever the Ministry finds in his weekly blood samples they will never share, but we've shared a room for the few years my little brother has been alive, and if his uneasy breathing worsened or improved I would notice at once. The health drone's visits are neither for him nor for us. His blood is for the epidemiological surveillance network - a stream in the red delta of hundreds of other kids with weak immune systems.

Canaries is the online word for them. They are hailed as anonymous heroes, young and fragile but still bravely moving through the city ready to get sick before everybody else, trawling nets through the city atmosphere, our weakest our human shields. In exchange they get treatments that keep them alive until their calling kills them. Healthy would defeat the purpose and it's carefully avoided.

"Sleep well, little hero," I whisper towards his bed, quietly enough not to wake him, loud enough that our phones will hear. I think I do a good job of keeping my bitterness from the software snitches, and hope this might help balance the way Mom had to pry him from my Dad's arms last morning so he could leave the apartment. They know enough to keep their arguments silent, but are too old-fashioned not to do dangerous things in front of the TV.

I think software pays more attention to the families of canaries. It would be easy for us to be angry and loud when our little ones die, as they often do, in the trenches of the pandemic wars. It would be easy for us to ask for justice, and the families of dead heroes have louder voices than most.

We are also canaries of a different kind. The most easily infected by the epidemic the government fears the most. When tomorrow's drone asks for my blood after my brother's, I hope viruses are all their laboratories can search for. I've kept my anger caged well, but I can feel it fluttering through my veins looking for a way out.