EotE1 – The Plague
This time, I’m a doctor.
I’ve been a doctor for thirty years, and this is the worst month of my life. Usually, I’d suffix that with “So Far” but given current circumstances, assuming the future is unwise.
(Simultaneously, I’ve only been here a couple of hours. It’s like that feeling when you’re daydreaming, and then you jolt yourself awake, and realise you actually have been listening to the teacher, and you know what they said, but before right now you were somewhere else entirely? It’s like that, except with fifty years)
The city is under quarantine, the roads blockaded by soliders on the exists, and surrounded by highly accurate snipers for anyone who tries to avoid the roads. Houses have been demolished to provide the blockades.
(Or sometimes it’s the reverse of a dream, where I start with a fragment of what I know and blossoms into an entire world with characters and history and stories. I’m almost positive it’s not a dream, though. Almost)
The hospitals are loaded, overflowing, bursting at the seems with presentations of the first symptoms. People with a blue rash on their limbs, circling their wrists and ankles like the chaff-marks of invisible restraints. Spotted at first, and then speckled and filled in as the disease takes hold, until the dark circle is complete.
I may have seen the first. A young boy carried in by his mother, who had found a strange rock (of a deep and beautiful blue) in a cave while on holiday, and was now presenting this strange rash…
Only the first stages end up in the hospitals, before the virus seems to hit the brain and the compulsive wanderlust kicks in. The streets are full of the infected, walking around, conversing, working, and for a little while it would look like the city has returned to normal, until you could see the changes of behavior. The couples walking along, touching at the wrists. More people greeting by kissing the back of the hand, but shifted towards the body a few inches. The absence of long trousers or skirts, or shoes or socks, and the faint blue marks at ankle or wrist height on walls and bushes, on dogs and doorhandles, on faucets and lips, on the edges of the city, and washed out by the rain, into the drains and the sewers.
Some people think the world has overreacted, that the disease rarely kills, that it should be accepted as a new fact of life.
But then spring came, and with it the flowers. The blue flowers, from trees that had been drinking the blue groundwater.
And the blue was lovely, everyone in the city said so. The flowers bloomed and their pollen flew on the wind, and it too, was the same deep and beautiful shade of blue, and the soldiers on the baracades started to notice that under their uniforms a blue rash was forming on their wrists.
Soon, the island country was under quarantine as the city had been.
Somewhere, an idea came up. A new concept out of nowhere. The infected seemed to agree, it was the new future, they could devote their lives to. They could build a space ship, the technology was almost here. Wasn’t someone saying they nearly got warp drives working? The top of the infected all agreed, and set to work immediately. Those who couldn’t help seemed content to die, starving themselves so the food would last for the others. They would take tickets to the coast, and lay down on the beaches.
The entire country, with their blue bracelets, began to work with a focus and drive beyond humanity. Metal was salvaged from buildings, no other industry existed. All the infected were either working to feed the ever shrinking population, or working towards the grand dream. The dream to get into space.
Those who died on the beaches didn’t decompose normally. Internally, the virus took over their organs and internals, recasting and rebuilding and breaking down anything it couldn’t use to produce energy it could. When the skin finally split, huge amounts of dust drifted into the wind, into the sea, and carried out over the waves.
Within a few months, other countries began to offer their assistance with the space program.
Leaves on trees across the world the next year were strange and crystaline, and a beautiful shade of blue. A gust of wind, a drop of rain would shatter them into dust.
The spacecraft was a large project, years in the making, even with all the humans on the planet dedicated to its production, or to their death if not possible. Billions shrank to millions as they sacrificed themselves, and with the trees and flowers turning to dust, the world began to darken with a constant and eternal cloud of deep and beautiful blue.
With drive and focus humanity worked together, advancing on their dream to cross the stars.
But with the trees turning to dust, and the darkness choking the plants from the sun, the food became scarce.
They never completed their goal, and the last of humanity, with the blue rash still encircling their wrists and ankles, died of starvation, slowly turned into bloated, crystalline forms, and crumbled to dust.
The world was incredibly quiet for a very long time after that.
Soon I was someone else.
September 27, 2012