The onset of the epidemic had nothing to do with the weather. It also had nothing to do with the supposed degeneration of society, disrespect to any one of a million faiths (or any of the divine reasons they had been founded), or even hypothetical recent advances in cloning or archaeological studies.
The earth was still spinning on its axis. Water flowed, winds blew, storms broke, volcanoes simmered. Gravity still existed and electromagnetism still worked. All of these phenomena continued just as they always had.
In the meantime, though, the epidemic had reared its ugly head, and was spreading. Fast.
In the corner of the globe that was incubating it, when or where the current situation had first come to pass had already started fading in memory. The numbers of the dead and the dying apparently increased on a daily basis; as such, the times when there were only rumors of human extinction in some remote area seemed impossible, almost unreal.
Rumor had it that scientists, as well as doctors, had examined a settlement whose every resident had been found dead. Whether a comet had crashed, whether a revolution was involved, or whether bloody ritualistic sacrifices had been performed was unknown. No-one quite knew who had found them that way, or even how or when they had died. The police force had started an investigation as well, with a complete lack of detail to guide them. They then held the mandatory press conference, which was mostly ignored by the media.
They all returned to their lives.
And, almost immediately, death seemed to be everywhere.
The first researchers who had died only barely managed to log their research. A second set of researchers succumbed a few days later, trying to work out these very logs. A reporter got hold of a vague statement, put one set of dead bodies together with another… and soon enough, everybody around knew that something was very wrong. That was still all they knew, no-one quite knew what was reality. “The disease has spread to Australia, but there are currently no fatalities.” “No humans currently survive in the Americas, most animals dead as well. Fate of insects unknown.” The realization that an epidemic does not go global all at once was lacking. There is an incubation period, a time when a small region battles rampant disease spread using every possible measure: quarantines, pre-emptive slaughter, isolation chambers, gas chambers, mayhem, chaos, anarchy, religion. The world, meanwhile, continues revolving around the sun, largely oblivious to what is going on. Other than to ensure barriers were erected around that region that were tall enough to ensure nothing could get out.
Currently though, every single living human in this corner of the globe was trying their damnedest to cut themselves off from their local civilization. To get out if they could.
Not realizing that this would probably lead to a global epidemic.
Somehow the reasoning of a few prevailed over the mad panic of others. These few, perhaps foolishly, hoped that they could somehow isolate the epidemic… somehow ensure the planet would not be affected. That they could contain the disease, develop a cure and solve all the world’s problems in one fell swoop. Rudimentary screening clinics were attempted to segregate diseased carriers. The initial forays into setting up such clinics were quickly de-staffed by fatalities due to improper isolation procedures. Very little was known about the disease, but with experience, sputum became a major screening factor. As screening intensified, with concomitant isolation, it appeared that the spread of the disease was slowing. Who could tell? People could still be dying undiscovered; everyone knew that they might always be one step behind the epidemic.
After all, they did not even know what had caused it.
Were they seriously hoping that they could survive? Could they hold off the mind-numbing fear of death, that had driven so many others over the brink of sanity, long enough? “The sound of inevitability“, as somebody once put it: the deathly silence that pervades your every fiber… waiting, watching. Knowing that you were going to die and that there was nothing you could do about it.
One such clinic, though, would soon hold a key to the survival of humanity.
They did not know this either.
Part 2 of a serialized story: The Man Who Was