At the beginning, nothing really seemed out of the ordinary. In The Digital Age, people all over the world were constantly receiving exposure to breaking news updates and viral media content on a vast range of topics every day. We had all heard of the “Apocalyptic Fiction Genre” that seemed to be only beholden to conspiracy theorists and melodramatic English majors. As it permeated film and cinema, works like “The Walking Dead,” “Warm Bodies,” “San Andreas,” “The 100,” “The Host,” “Doomsday,” “I Am Legend,” “The Matrix,” “The Hunger Games,” “The Divergent Series,” and so on entertained audiences with the notion of a global pandemic, a sentiment that could only ever be met with empathy during brief bouts of international news coverage over episodes of global distress ranging from topics like the “Swine Flu” epidemic to the ever-evolving effects seen around the globe of man-made Climate Change. It seemed like, in this fast-paced society whose shifting social constructs, political ideologies, and cultural perceptions about the human experience were rapidly evolving, inciting conflict and debate in even the most remote corners of the world, the actual prospect of an impending apocalyptic event, or series thereof, was improbable: outlandish, if you will. But, once it began, it became difficult to overlook the subtle changes that were taking place in our communities as the earliest symptoms started to present.
It didn’t stop there.
Slowly, we began to see people we’d known all our lives changing right before our eyes. A sudden onset rise in instances of unpredictable temperamental behavior and rage-fueled interpersonal interactions, automobile accidents, and a dramatic incline of crime in virtually every major city and surrounding areas in the world started to advance the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists, religious extremists, and apocalyptic narrative enthusiasts everywhere. It still seemed surreal – almost as if it was just unusual enough to be unnerving, but not crazy enough to incite real global panic.
It wasn’t until physical manifestations of the virus began to manifest that the overlapping reports around the world actually began to intersect. With the shocking onset of physical anomalies appearing in previously completely healthy individuals going viral through viral social media awareness campaigns and press releases on what was slowly evolving into a mass public concern over possible DNA-altering substances and/or technology, the speculations of previously overlooked parties began to solidify in the realm of public opinion.
People everywhere were demanding answers for their toddlers shocking new tail or their best friend’s new super strength or their co-workers newfound ability to sprout wings on demand. Whether or not all of these reports are confirmed is still unclear at this time; over the period of just days, several billion reports flooded news stations, social media, CDA tracking facilities, government reports of pathogen tracking and journalistic efforts to pursue the evolving controversy. These reports varied in nature, some citing the growth of extra limbs or the altering of their epidermis to reflect the exterior of many fish, reptiles, and feathered creatures, and others citing the agonizing and unwilled replacement of body parts like eyeballs or limbs with what appears to be non-organic materials. With everything from cyborgs to angels to super heroes being reported around the world, much of the world found it altogether too easy to cast aside what seemed like “rumors” and “hoaxes” reflective of the common and culturally encouraged pursuit of internet virality.
Then, suspicions of a global threat were confirmed when an emergency broadcast warning of a viral biological weapon resembling a pathogen or virus of some kind had been confirmed interrupted television, radio, internet streaming services, WiFi providers, and cell phone updates in virtually every satellite-accessible privately-owned digital device in the world.
Transcript of broadcast: An unprecedented flu-like infection of unknown origin is being monitored in nearby human populations. The virus acts upon previously undetected genetic material (inaudible) infected individuals, resulting in unpredictable behaviors. Mutation seems to fall into at least four categories, each expressing themselves differently. The origin of the original genetic material continues to be a mystery, though the CDC and CDE confirm confirm that mutation expression can be deadly or dangerous to the infected individual and those nearby. If you have experienced any abnormal symptoms in the last 72-96 hours, you are encouraged to report to the following (inaudible)- *end broadcast*
Amidst the practically immediate panic and global outrage rooted in confusion and fear, the CDE released the following memo. The rapidly evolving rumors of government testing on citizens, extra-terrestrials, and experimental technology prompted a series of public statements, press releases, follow-up interviews and basic crisis management initiatives from both the CDC and the CDE.
Breaking CDE Interview!
The inadequate explanations, lacking advisory content, and vague language used in this rhetoric backfired as billions of people around the world were succumbing to the virus. Small citizen democracies formed as a strong sense of distrust towards governing bodies advanced conspiracy theories about the virus. Rumors of deliberate genocidal population control, alien technology, extra-terrestrial pathogens, foreign invasion preemptive strikes, Artificial Intelligence overreach, humanity-ending-pandemic, etc. spread rapidly as video footage of the infected circulated. Rumors of such footage or images being removed from social media within hours or sometimes minutes advanced concerns of cover-up efforts and government conspiracies. The following excerpt is from one of the most-shared articles concerning such matters. Over 700 million people are projected to have seen and/or shared the original blog post, often vocalizing connections between their personal experiences and expertise in relevant fields.
Government Made Virus
The Eagle Report of Galesburg, IL. featured a harrowing segment on the pandemic, encouraging callers to directly describe their own symptoms and any information/events/experiences they may have been witnesses to in lieu of this matter. Citing the CDE memo, host Lorraine Baxter sought to shed light on the ambiguous nature of the rhetoric that is being used to inform citizens around the country of the situation. The broadcast specifically focused on themes of censorship, transparency, citizen autonomy, and the need for clarification of recent events and of resources that are available to citizens at this time. This controversial broadcast was interrupted by a nerve-wracking interruption warning listeners in her area of the extent of the pandemic.
Around the time of the broadcast, the following infection maps were leaked by WikiLeaks from the CDC headquarters. The first thing journalists reporting on this issue noticed is that these maps seem to indicate that the CDC knew about the pathogen almost a week ago, several days before it became public knowledge in any capacity. Secondly, seeing how quickly the pathogen was being distributed across the continental United States, seemingly from major population centers and densely populated cities, prompted a call to action that was supported by private councils, small government leaders, private citizens, special interest groups, doctors, law enforcement, and professionals in relevant fields that was entirely supported by public opinion in un-infected regions to close all long-distance public transit services to prevent further advancement of the virus.
As journalists on all media platforms reported on the public outcry in uninfected regions to shut down all highways, airports, train stations, etc., there was an uproar from populations within the affected communities, panicked about losing any chance of escaping the infection zones. Major population centers descended into near absolute chaos (note the clip featured in the radio show broadcast). Rioters, protesters, and looters alike took to the streets despite the countless warnings against defying quarantine regulations. Footage taken from private quarters and buildings of infected citizens and protesters being shot dead on sight in quarantine zones took the internet by storm.
Lorraine Baxter, host of The Eagle Report, escaped with two of her colleagues from the studio to take shelter at her home before the quarantine fell on Galesburg, IL. In the time after her city was engulfed on the map by red, she escaped with her camera, voice recorder, tablet, and extraneous supplies, vowing to document as much of humanity as she could before it was “gone forever.” Traveling town to town, hunting down survivors in the aftermath and compiling footage she had taken throughout her career, she started a VCSO account for supporters around the world to turn to in moments of despair or hopelessness.
Within five years, every living human on earth ceased to exist. Countless documents, footage, and evidence obtained during that time indicates that the virus was indeed created and covered up by American government officials. Due to the nature of the cover up, before the cease and desist on foreign and domestic travel was put in place, it is estimated that roughly 35 infected individuals were able to discreetly leave the country; almost all of whom were unaware of their infected status at the time of their travels. The rapid spread of the virus, which may forever be unidentified outside of the conspiracy, through those 35 people is presumed to have led to the very preventable death of the over 7 billion people inhabiting the rest of the planet.
Lorraine, traveling by herself and maintaining strict personal rules for avoiding contamination during her travels, lived to be one of the last 500 people alive. At that point, she had shifted her focus in her photography from documenting humanity for what it was to documenting the tragic kind of beauty in the monuments to our lives we left behind. The second half of her account is mostly photos of abandoned hospitals, schools, government buildings, cultural sites, etc. Some of the sites were pristine and quite well-preserved, while others were quite bleak in nature.
The remaining people of earth had mostly colonized into smaller factions ranging from roughly 50-90 people scattered around Europe by the time she died. There was one larger group of almost 140, though there seemed to be a general consensus that the smaller the groups were, the better short-term democracies would work, and the less likely they were to become exposed to the virus.