A casually-dressed but otherwise collected-looking woman, Frontal, sits contentedly on a wooden chair in a large, run-down hall. The "Retro Text The Nation" jingle from the Adam and Joe show floats quietly through the walls. Frontal strains to hear, and slumps dejectedly as she recognises it.
Frontal: Oh, God. Stuck on this again. I will be driven literally to distraction. (shouting) Shut up! I cannot think with this playing again and again! I'm trying to sum up my day and make new friends in just 140 characters!
Suddenly, a flurry of noise as a mostly identical but far shabbier woman, Limbic, bursts through the door, slamming it behind her and holding it shut, as if hordes of zombies are trying to scrabble through it. Frontal smirks at the sight.
Frontal: Ah, distraction. Right on cue. And what flight of fancy ails you today?
Limbic sidles over, looking around huntedly, and cowers by the chair.
Limbic: (hissing) It's already here!
Frontal: (dripping with sarcasm) Oh, poor you. What is?
Limbic shoves a well-thumbed copy of thelondonpaper into Frontal's hands. The headline screams "TUBE FEAR: SWINE FLU HITS CITY". Frontal scoffs and tosses it aside. Limbic screeches and pounces upon it, feverishly re-reading an article she's already memorised.
Frontal: Great. So you think we're going to die of a disease that is currently affecting 0.000000008% of the population of this country cos Murdoch has told you you will. More people have died in the last week sharpening pencils.
Limbic: No, no, no, this is the one. This is the big one. This is end of days stuff. Don't you remember that thing on the TV? That thing with that guy, and he was crumpled in the tunnel in the subway in New York, and then three days later every housing estate in Britain was like gulag redux?
Frontal: That was smallpox. And that other thing...oh yeah, FICTIONAL.
Limbic stares glumly into space. Suddenly she slaps a hand to her forehead.
Limbic: Oh, my head. My head hurts! Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God...
She frantically scans the article again and points to the list of symptoms. She stares imploringly at Frontal.
Frontal: Yeah, and how much liquid have you drunk today? Half a cup of tea. Why? Because you've been too busy staring at the computer, without your glasses on, compulsively updating the Guardian swine flu panic blog to go and get a drink. You don't have swine flu.
Limbic: (ignoring her completely, still reading paper) I've got a sore throat too!
Frontal: Your job involves you talking loudly, unnaturally and at length and you've had a very busy day. It's affected your throat as it often does. You don't have swine flu.
Limbic: (hand dramatically back on forehead) My head is hot!
Frontal: Your hand is cold. You don't have swine flu! Jesus, you haven't even BEEN on a tube!
Limbic: (screaming) People sneeze on buses too!
Limbic really quite upset with all this. Frontal sighs. Time to put a stop to it.
Frontal: (gently) Look...this is just a consequence of spending too much time watching 24 hour news channels. They hype this stuff up out of total necessity. They have to fill the time. You've been watching Charlie Brooker, haven't you?
Limbic: (warily) Yeah...
Frontal: We make a passably intelligent person between us. We know that we've not been near anyone who's been to Mexico, that our chances of catching swine flu from the few random people we've been in contact with are very slim, that it seems to be relatively benign in most people it affects, that modern medicine is more prepared than ever for a pandemic, and that it's more likely we'll die being flung joyfully under a bus by a passing murderer.
Limbic: (calmer) I guess that makes sense...
Frontal: Good. Now let's just get on with our lives, and not let ourselves get driven to a breakdown by sensationalist tabloid reports.
Limbic is thoughtful. Then a sudden startling revelation.
Limbic: Oh, sensationalist, is it? Well, answer me this. Has Ben Goldacre rubbished it yet?
A beat. Frontal is stunned. She wasn't ready for that one.
Limbic: Has. Ben. Goldacre. Rubbished it. Yet!
Frontal: (knows she's utterly defeated) No.
Limbic leaps up triumphantly and throws her hands in the air. Distant squealing fills the room. Triumph turns to horror, and they run away in a flap. Exeunt, pursued by a swine.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this, the WHO has raised the pandemic level, and we're certainly all going to die. And as you may be able to tell, Limbic has taken full control.