Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Short Story: Pandemic

Today's story was inspired by the prompt "plague" from Jay. I wasn't really sure where it was going when I started and it ended up a little bit Serenity and a little bit George A. Romero, with just a dash of science from my degrees. And I called it Pandemic cos I fucking love that game. Enjoy!

The virus was perfect. Unstoppable.

Professor Mills and her team had created the ultimate biological weapon, and it would mean the end of all warfare.

Designed to target proteins producing hormones associated with aggression and violence, it would suppress the function of those proteins, thereby calming any population it was released in. It did its job admirably, and with far fewer side effects than anything else that had been used. And if the virus had a tendency to target men more than women well, who was to say that was a bad thing?

But Professor Mills and her team, despite their wisdom and intelligence, hadn't reckoned with Mother Nature herself. They couldn't anticipate every possible mutation and so they hadn't tried. In the end, the mutation they got was their worst nightmare.

Their synthetic virus somehow ended up taking on characteristics of the HIV virus, possibly acquired when someone ended up infected with both viruses at the same time. Specifically, the synthetic virus acquired HIV's accelerated rate of replication and mutation. It very quickly became an entirely different monster to the one that had been designed, and since the majority of governments were dosing their populations with it, the mutated virus rapidly became widespread.

Soon almost everyone on the planet was infected with the mutated virus, or as near to that as to make no difference. That wouldn't necessarily have been a problem if the virus had maintained its original characteristics, but it hadn't.

People who were infected by this new version of the virus ended up hyper-aggressive, the virus stimulating production of the hormones it had been designed to inhibit. Violence escalated beyond any government's ability to control. The planet fell into anarchy.

And then other symptoms of the virus began to appear. Extreme thirst. Neuropathy and loss of sensation in the limbs. Muscular degeneration. Necrosis of the skin. People were wandering around unable to control their violent tendencies, unable to feel pain and with bit of their bodies literally dying and falling off.

They had literally created a zombie virus.

The only plus side as far as anyone could tell (those lucky few who suffered milder forms of the virus or whose immune systems had successfully fought it off) was that when you killed these zombies they stayed dead. And they didn't seem to crave the flesh of the living so much as they just wanted to bash your brains out, which was equally unhelpful.

Those who were left were vastly outnumbered by those affected by the virus, and they knew that humanity as they knew it was essentially over. That didn't mean they were going to go quietly into the night. Some of the younger generation, those who still had hope, fought back, mowing down the zombies wherever and when ever they encountered them. Others set up walled settlements where people could live in relative safety, watching each of their residents carefully for signs they too had succumbed. humanity staggered along, refusing to acknowledge it's own death throes.

For a while it looked like there might be a chance of recovery; people were having children, and the babies seemed to mostly be immune to the virus. (There were one or two stories of unborn babies literally fighting their way out of the uterus, but it was difficult to confirm given the general state of communication between settlements and groups. The stories persisted though.) The population expanded again, and most of the existing zombies had either been killed or had literally fallen apart, the virus having run its course. People started believing in the possibility of a future again.

And then the virus hopped species. There was nothing humanity could do to save itself.

If you enjoyed this story feel free to purchase one of my books either here, or here. Or you can buy me a coffee here.

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