Dread hung thick in the air, enveloping the entire city like a noxious humid mist. You could actually see the silky-seedy haze swirling around in the light of the dirty, faded yellow halogen street lamps. It gave the night a creepy, sepia-hued familiarity.
Both familiar and fitting for the waking night terrors of humanity.
For years had scientists, scholars, philosophers, and ethics professors alike rallied on and on about the condition of the planet, the state of our collective future as the human race. All these leaders, all this “intelligentsia” had seen it coming long beforehand. A projection of “not too far ahead” had been set. If we didn’t stop things from being the way they were, we were all going to die.
The governments, not just the United States, but all governments worldwide, shrugged it off with clever cover-ups, fake wars, poisoned food and water, economic collapse, and terrorist threats. They propagated the lies of stability, safety, ample food, housing, and healthcare by keeping the people's heads in the sweaty sand that lay between the legs of hopped up, crazy pop-stars and their faux, Richie Rich sex appeal. They told the people that vaccines were ample, that the oil was not drying up, and that toxic wastes could indeed be safely disposed of. They said there would be jobs, healthcare, “going green” . . . that everyone would be taken care of. They swore the best interests of their people at the heart of every crisis issue.
Fabrication, all of it.
Around 2010, the first serious changes began. The water was beginning to taste different, like bleach, only more chemically infused. If you paid close enough attention, you could hear the open air whispers about higher fluoride concentrations and pharmaceutical waste run-off. If you opened your eyes you would notice the “no swimming” signs posted in every public park, creek, river, and psychotropic runoff- fortified reservoir. You could see the oily, gritty, gray foam that gently, silently began to collect on the shorelines. A terrible color. Little rainbow bubbles of slow death.
Within the next year, people were beginning to get sick at an alarming rate. They grew ill from a strange and new fungal virus they called the N.E.C.R.O. The creepy, cryptic anagram stood for Necrotizing Enderma Cystic Respiratory Organism. There were two distinct types of the condition. One affected the brain, and set in within a few days. Disorganized thought, irrational behavior and speech, headaches, Parkinson’s-like twitching, and a “brain itch” were the most common symptoms. When the fungus finally ravaged the brain, leaving the victim in complete disorganized and painful lunacy, the brain itself would begin to liquify, and slowly pour out through the nose and ears. Depending on the fungal gas-pressure buildup inside of your skull, the eyes could even be dislodged during the leakage phase. Your body was consumed from the inside out, though not quite like an hemorrhagic fever. No, this was something entirely new. The other form was mainly respiratory, and took much longer to incubate in its host. The end result was the same, only it began in the lungs and not the brain.
Hospitals began to suffer severe emergency room overflows and were forced to refuse patients. They turned away those with the N.E.C.R.O. and those without insurance, women and children alike. Barricades with high-voltage electric fences, barbed wire, and armed guards with attack dogs were commonplace at any “functioning” hospital. If you didn’t have insurance and somehow made it onto the grounds, or even into the hospital itself, you were zapped with a tazer for trespassing and literally kicked to the dogs or the street. It all depended on the armed guard's level of sadism.
The civilian public at first displayed a wee bit of anger, when they could pull themselves away from this week's live T.V. nipple slip or ultraviolent sporting event, or the most recent teenage mega-vixen superstar's latest cocaine-fueled sex tape scandal. Then it became full on outrage with protests and misdirected lashing out. Confused and misguided intentions began to spew forth in abrupt flashes of everyman rage. Poorly informed, already angry, broke and hungry masses, all wanting someone to pay for this, and not willing to take any rational accountability for how things had gotten the way they were.
Average Joe was afraid for his family, for his way of life. Average Joe had taken to the streets with the same rage and looter/hoarder mentality as the ghetto crack kids and the back alley squatter junkies. People panicked, acted out. In time, no one really knew who the enemy was, as everyone was out for themselves. Drugs, rape, and murder in the streets had, over time, become commonplace. Full on Martial Law had finally been declared.
Cities, towns, and communities began to secede themselves, and trap their citizens in with barbed wire and fear.
That was the easy part.