“Everybody's got the fever That is something you all know Fever isn't such a new thing Fever started long ago --- What a lovely way to Burn What a lovely way to Burn What a lovely way to Burn” - Norma “Peggy Lee” Egstrom
“Let me go on Like I blister in the sun Let me go on Big hands, I know you're the one” - Violent Femmes
And he ran. He ran so far away. He ran all night and day.
He couldn't get away.
The monster had killed everyone in his village, slashed their faces, ripped open their skin. Blood and pus poured through the streets as the monster moved from home to home.
He was the only survivor. He had to run. He had to get away from the monster.
Are the Gods crazy? Have the stars gone blind?
Are they cursed?
What had they done to deserve this carnage?
No time for think, he had to flee.
He ran for four days, along the mountainside, up peaks and through valleys. Fear ignited his feet into explosive leaps. He bounded over icy streams and jumped from ledges. He didn't know where he was going.
And then he saw it.
Growing beneath his gold ring, the sole thing of value he brought with him.
“Nooooo!” He howled.
How had the monster found him?
He heard no footsteps behind him or cracked branches beside him. But the demon had stalked him all these days. He held his hand to the firelight and saw it.
There the monster stewed. It had crawled inside him, denting his skin from within. In a day, the monster's telltale mark crept up his right arm. His whole body shivered as he felt the monster erupting through him.
He's hot then he's cold.
He burned like an inferno. Sweat poured from his brow as he scanned the snowy landscape. The monster coursed through his veins. And then a chill would rattled his bones.
Fire and Ice.
As day waned to night, he grew delirious. He built a fire nestled underneath a cliff. Sweating, shivering, shaking, he hugged close to the fire.
The flames flickered into figures that danced in front of him. Family and friends, gasping their last breathes.
His parents. Dead.
His wife. Dead.
His children. Dead.
His cousins. Dead.
His whole village. Dead.
Ripped through by the same boil that now grew on his hands, face and neck.
As the fire died down, coldness rushed through him like a madness. He couldn't die here. He had to run. Now!
The first blister popped, erupting in rivers of blood and pus. He stabbed and ripped at his skin, trying to cut out the demon before it took root.
So hot. As if the monster raced as a fire through his soul. He tore off his clothes. His fingers scoured his skin.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Three more burst. He felt like a vessel for the demon, to be used, eaten from the inside, ripped through and when done, cast aside.
Mad with fear, he ran to a cliff, screaming and wailing as he picked at the pox.
“Get out! Get out!”
Blistered, scarred, scorched, and exhausted, he dove into the snow. Trying to cool his body, to freeze out the demon. His temperature seemed to stabilize, and for a moment, he felt hope. He rolled deeper into the snow. This cold concavity slurped his naked skin. He yelped with joy.
And then the earth shook.
He rolled over, searching the darkness, as a rumble roared to him, growing louder, cracking trees, ripping up earth. The sound deafened as it approached in a 31-ton wave of snow that pinned him to the ground.
As he clawed under the avalanche, his heart rate slowed and his temperature dropped. Hypothermia set in.
For three days, he stewed, chewing the snow. A blister grew on the back of his hand, swelling as the monster's pus poured into it. Even as he approached death, his still-living skin cells callused over this bulging pox, hardening as a sheath over this bubble of humanity's destruction.
Waiting to pop!
* * *
There was no cosmic justice, no karma, no god wishing vengeance on these humans. What befell this hunter was just a breakaway piece of unliving DNA that is programmed to divide and multiply. It can only do this inside a living host. It has no feelings and wishes no ill will on humans. It just found a cozy home to hatch billions of its brood.
Viruses prove too perfect an example of how human hubris and human obliviousness combined to create mass extermination. Let me give you an anecdote from the first planetwide commingling of the species.
A bullet ripped through the neck of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, starting a local war between Austria-Hungary and the Kingdom of Serbia. But, since the human nations were all entangled in a deep web of diplomatic ties, these threads were yanked, pulling the countries into what was dubbed the War to End All Wars. Like so many human endeavors that reached such high levels of popularity, it was followed by a sequel years later.
From around the planet, 70 million humans were brought into war throughout Europe, North Africa, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East, fighting in trenches, in fields and along beaches. All told, this war lead to the deaths of 10 million humans during this four year period. But this conflict wasn't the deadliest threat at the time. Twirling past the tanks, skipping over the trenches, flowing through the fields was a horror more murderous than even a planetwide war.
As war raged around the world, the H1N1 influenza virus gleefully snuggled in the close quarters of the troops, hitching a ride with them as they moved through cities, countries and across continents, spawning in those hot, human bodies. As the war ended, the virus sailed with the winners and the losers alike to most every landmass on the planet. This flu was particularly virulent and hurt the healthiest humans the most, tricking their bodies into a cytokine storm which caused their immune systems to overreact until the host died, usually from pneumonia.
In total, more than 100 million humans died and 500 million were infected during a two-year period. That's 5% of the human population killed and 25% who became sick and teetered close to death. The mortality rate of the flu was ten-times the number of humans who died on the battlefields in that original World War.
And how did humans react?
Did they create songs of triumph and tragedy for overcoming the virus? Did they build large monuments in marble and gold to the deadly virus that humans had thwarted, which would stand tall in town squares and state capitols as reminders to all? Did they celebrate the brave work of the scientists, doctors and nurses who struggled against this scourge by giving them medals? Did they hold ticker-tape parades for the survivors of the flu pandemic when they stood up from their hospital beds, finally cured?
Humans ignored this threat.
It just didn't fit well into their narrative of what is brave and courageous. For thousands of years, humans had held firm to a myth of brave warriors who ran into the unknown for the greater glory of their family, their religion and their government. Boys were manipulated from birth to believe that war was the best way to show their manliness and valor. Movies, music, books and even art all celebrated war as a necessary and beautiful expression of human sacrifice.
Dying from coughing and sniffling until one reaches respiratory failure had no place in this story of sacrifice.
Humans were even embarrassed by how susceptible their bodies were to infection. This shame allowed the flu to spread further and wider than it ever should have. The military leaders recognized that there was a deadly disease raging through their troops, but since these nations were at war, the leaders hid the fact that there was an epidemic teeming in their midst. They didn't want their enemies to know that their troops were bedridden with the flu.
Only sissies and babies and old ladies were so weak to suffer the flu so severely.
The only nation that reported that there was a plague racing through their population was Spain. Spain was neutral in the war, so it had no enemies to hide the exploding epidemic from. Rather than other humans coming together to recognize the virus that rotted them all from within, they blamed Spain as the epicenter, named the virus the Spanish flu and sent heaps of shame their way.
Even long after the 100 million bodies were buried, humans, their governments and their militaries would not have a serious conversation about this deadly threat to their species.
Instead, they just built larger tanks, bigger warships, stealthier submarines, faster planes and more precise guns. All of which were powerless against the savage, ferocious, murderous piece of DNA that stands 10,000 times smaller than a single strand of human hair.
But humans should have known better.
Diseases and viruses had always stalked human civilizations. The moment human populations grew more densely-packed as they developed villages, they had become fertile breeding grounds for disease to replicate inside their juicy flesh and spread through the villagers.
No, this hunter wasn't cursed by any gods. He and his village had just become vessels for a version of the smallpox virus, Variola maximum. One of the side effects of its replication was a 100% fatality rate for humans.
As the saying goes, extinction-wide events come in microscopic packages.
* * *
And now back to humanity's end.
Mav'Rick Mandeville huffs as he heaves himself up onto the cliff's ledge. The melting snow, caused by climate change, unearthed new peaks along the world's tallest mountain range, the Himalayas, allowing Boujees a superb way to husk off the fragility that choked their masculinity. To discover and climb a new, never before touched peak!
He grabs his air tube and takes three huffs of oxygen mixed with amphetamines.
Sure, anyone with $32 million to spare could slaughter a mildly sedated lion with a super-powerful gun from a distance of 100-yards. And for $47 million, anyone could scuba-harpoon Earth's largest animal, a blue whale, and cut off its 10-foot-long penis to mount above their mantle. But his university chums A-Aron Storgerson and Ba'Lakay Tufwalderberg had already done these.
No, he needed to prove he could go where no man has gone before!
Behind him, his team of six sherpas hauls 200-pounds of his glamping gear on their backs, groaning their way through their third trek along this path that month.
This was a real man's sport for real men! Using drones and robo-sherpas would have been cheating.
Mav'Rick would summit with only authentic human help.
After every visit, the sherpas made sure to clear any sign of the previous paid conqueror. This meant removing each mountaineer's flag bearing the family's crest flying over the “new” peak, along with every empty bag of cheesy poofs. As they reached the summit, the sherpas knew they'd “discovered” this peak over 8 times that year. They carefully placed their cash cow at a different angle along this same peak. Since more snow melted daily, this created the illusion of a new mountaintop with new views. Perfect for social media bragging!
Mav'Rick stumbles through the snow, wheezing from the elevation and delirious with daydreams of how he'd laugh up this adventure at The Explorers Club beneath wooly mammoth tusks, while wearing jaguar fur pelts before a dinner of barbecued genetically rebred American Lion.
Mmmm, how he loves a hearty meal of reengineered megafauna. The 18-foot tall ground sloth was a bit gamey, and the 10-foot tall thunder birds and giant emus disappointed in that they were less tasteful than just genetically-optimized chickens. But he loved the virility he felt from noshing on the tasty testes of a saber-toothed tiger.
“I'm the King of the World!” He howls from what he's told is the newest, highest peak in the world. The sherpas had long learned that they would get a better tip if they dropped their bags and burst into applause whenever any whitey exclaimed this phrase.
As he bows, Mav'Rick trips and face plants into the permafrost.
The sun rays had just melted a new layer of snow and under this, a sparkle sprung.
As he struggles to get up, he sees this shimmer. He yells to his sherpas to dig it out. He couldn't possibly do it himself! His leather gloves are equipped with heating rods, restricting his dexterity. Plus he doesn't want his soft hands to get cold and wet.
How vulgar! He shudders.
They unearth a human hand clenched as a claw. As they dig, a whole body appears, perfectly preserved.
A gold ring reflects the sun's photons in hues of yellow. Mav'Rick dives for the ancient artifact.
Probably centuries old!
One of a kind!
How sad he had been when he realized that all the graves had long since been robbed, the pyramids pilfered, the sarcophagi snookered, the temples trounced, the castles kleptoed and churches churned through until nary a chalice or stain-glass window still stood. Everything that sparkled was dubbed priceless, tied to an alluring history and sold to the highest bidder. Even the vestigial Petty Boujee issues of European royals auctioned off their ancestors' tombs to be cracked opened, and let their jewels, crowns and scepters be ripped from their cold, dead hands.
This was different!
He felt like a raider of some lost ark. The stories! The fame! All his! He demands the sherpas cut off the hand and place it into a hermetically-sealed bag. They can use the bag that kept yesterday's underpants dry, starched and ready to be warmed before he put them on.
Oooo, nothing like the feeling of hot long johns hugging his scrotum, warming each testicle until they descended an extra half inch.
The Mandeville Ring! It could be a new sensation! He could tour the world as part of a promotion for Museums-R-Us and Trump Travels.
Dizzy in these daydreams, he took only a paltry 4,382 photos and 738 3D-videos of his summit so he could quickly descend and have the ring checked.
He raced to the base and found a hospital in Pokhara, Nepal. He waddles from office to office, screaming “Do you know who I am?!” while waving a wad of cash. Finally a pathologist who was a tad pathological grabbed the bag and promised to analyze its contents for the heavy-handed Boujee.
When the results arrived, she demands Mav'Rick pay her double before she divulges.
The hand is 2,842 years old!
From a 28-year old Chherti man.
As she begins to describe how odd it is that a human body should be found so far from known archeological sites, Mav'Rick snaps the finger and slides off the ring.
“Doc, I don't need a history lesson.” He slams the hand back into the bag and huffs out the door.
“Wait, on the hand! There's a pustule about to---”
He's out the door, down the hall and into the parking lot. Mav'Rick climbs into his Hummer limo. Before it takes off, he rolls down the window and tosses the hermetically-sealed bag into a dumpster next to the hospital. He thinks nothing of damning all of humanity as he turns to tap the aquarium inside his limousine.
“Here fishy, fishy, fishies!”