Chapter 3 - Looking Back
Unknown to the world and before things finally came to a head, Doctor Peter Ericson had mailed out thousands of ‘invitations’ and letters all around the world well in advance of his own confession. As a result a brand new contagion was spreading like wildfire in every corner of the world. It was already known to be completely unstoppable and yet no authority in the world had to the courage to admit that they couldn’t cope. What would be the point anyway, other than to panic the population, most of whom were doomed to die?
The first responders and hospital staff succumbed quickly because of their well-honed and selfless instinct to move into the path of danger to offer assistance to those in need. The symptoms in children were different to those of the adults. The little ones collapsed in fits, vomited blood and died quickly, some in minutes, the rest within twenty four hours. All the while they remained highly contagious, passing the infection on to anyone caring enough to come into physical contact. Jumping from child to adult through almost instantaneous infection, the adults unwittingly behaved like virulent carriers, skin to skin contact being as deadly as anything more intimate. Because its behaviour started in such a benign fashion in adults it took time for specialists to realise just how the infection was being spread hence giving it the ability to disseminate so quickly and widely. Never had there been a more infectious and dangerous strain of unknown, new infection released upon the world than this, and because of its passive transfer and slow incubation period people carried on their normal lives traveling, working, loving, hating and generally being human.
A small number were correct in believing it had been engineered to transmit in this fashion and yet this information was of no value in stopping it.
Meanwhile those in receipt of the impregnated invitations and letters were clueless as to what had happened for the first twenty four hours, carrying on their lives as normal and mixing with others in their personal worlds.
In the end all it took to end our current civilisation incarnation was a simple conjugation between a common bacterial strain and a parasitic organism prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The original parasite, Schistosoma, had no prophylaxis - as a result the new strain was guaranteed completely unstoppable, perhaps the epitome of the World Health Organisation’s ‘Disease X’. In Joe Public’s mind it would be the most unthinkable piece of science imaginable, and yet it was undertaken as might have been anticipated, by a madman.
For adults the resulting infection was mostly non-fatal; it led to massive temperature spikes in their brain which effectively left them lobotomised and without motor function or ability to react to their surroundings. They became zombies without the rabid hunger for human flesh so espoused of novels. It took a little over four weeks to infect over ninety percent of the world’s population. Because authorities on the scene were first to succumb, warnings to the general public were slow in coming, and combined with the appropriate authorities’ reticence to activate emergency protocols, it was too late.