The reporter looked around curiously. He had heard tons of rumors about this strange family, but no one had ever had the chance to interview them in person, write a full report about their life - and their illnesses.
That was the key word. For generations, every child of this family had studied medicine or become a nurse or taken on another health-related job. All had done so to cure their own diseases. Which, in most cases, did not exist.
The family had been a town joke, a good story to tell on long winter nights, a famous rumor. On old photos the members were easy to spot. They all had pale complexions, hollow eyes and looked as if they really, really suffered from something.
The fact that these diseases only took place in their imaginations had probably helped them to not only not die at a rather young age, but mostly grow almost contemptibly old. Of course they all stayed healthy like young horses - no physician outside the family had ever found anything. But that was probably due to one of those world-wide conspiracies that were the latest fashion.
Carefully, the reporter stepped over a young, pale boy who was sitting on the door step with outstretched arms.
"Here, wanna see? I'm a leper."
Of course there was nothing to be seen.
"You have to come closer, it's quite fresh."
Politely, the reporter declined. Just in case.
Up to now there had never been the necessity for these people to let someone else into their strange and twisted lives. But recently, one of them had made it to the highest possible office they would ever dream of. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Gossip had it he had not been clever enough to be a "real" doctor, so he had tried something different. Male nurses had so many problems in this country, after all, with the complaints being filed against them and everything...
The Secretary was already waiting for him. "No photos, please. We will provide you with appropriate material from our archives. Splendid idea, this home story, really wonderful." He coughed. "You must excuse me, my poor condition makes this task so much more difficult..."
It was a very lively family, everything considered. Kids were running around - okay, some were limping, and one sat in a small box with wheels propelling himself with his arms (nothing seemed to be wrong with his legs, but who was the reporter to judge this?). The grown-ups were a little bit more civilized. They came in to complain about something, holding their hands over various body parts, moaning softly. But they were very friendly.
An old lady in a wheelchair brought them some tea. The reporter started feeling uncomfortable. He considered getting up and offering help, but the old lady - obviously, she was the Secretary's great-grand aunt - tsked him back into his chair. "There is nothing that can be done, but at least I am still capable to do small things around the house." She placed the cups on a tiny table between their arm chairs, smiled and left.
The Secretary shook his head mournfully. "She was such a great physician, you must know. Almost won the Noble Prize for her work on severe accidents in riders and possible cures. Many years ago."
The reporter thought he knew what this was about. The Sueperman curse and everything. "So, is that why she is sitting in the wheelchair? A riding accident?"
"Oh, no. She diagnosed poliomyelitis."
"You mean, it was diagnosed."
"No, she did it herself. We don't let any of those quack doctors near our family. When she realized she could not get up anymore, she conducted the tests. Must have been some thirty years ago."
The talked for another while, and suddenly there was a crash in the hallway. The reporter jumped up and was at the door within nanoseconds, but the Secretary stayed in his seat. "Be calm, nothing to worry about. It is probably just Henrietta. I guess she died."
"Died???" The reporter peered through the door and saw a tall, slim figure lying in a heap at the foot of the stairs, not moving. A cat came closer, sniffed the snow-white hair and stalked down the hallway.
"She does this all the time. Poor girl. Must be the third death this month. Trust me, she will recover from it."