The Corpseless Plague
Where came the sickness, the shaman knew not. No herb, no smoke, no spirit dance could carry it away. What curse of heaven carried the plague, the sages and priests could not say. The gods struck, and no prayer, no elixir could save their victims. How the malaise spread, no doctor could know. With not even a body to spread the miasma, surely it must be a curse. And when at last, the right lenses were turned upon the pus of the suffering.
For all of recorded history, the Corpseless plague has afflicted mankind. It is a slow burning illness, taking months and even years to carry away the victim. It strikes seemingly at random, with no insect, miasma, droplet, or breath carrying it. In its initial stages, it is easy to confuse with a hundred other flus and colds and respiratory infections - Fatigue, a high fever, weakness, an occasional cough. As time passes, ever so slowly, the fatigue and fever grow, the body wracked with inexplicable chills, far beyond the nerve's normal ability to experience cold, and the fever is accompanied by hallucinations. Strange, bleak and terrible, the waking dreams are inevitably described as a dark and twisted place, where up is down, and tomorrow is a thousand years ago. In time, the hallucinations will progress, and the victim will begin to argue with thin air, at first in their own tongue, but as the black boils begin to form and progress, to an incomprehensible series of syllables, and eventually, this will be the only speech left to the sufferer. Soon after, they will die, and their body will dissolve and vanish into the void, from the boils outwards.
The early stages of the disease are treated symptomatically once the idea catches on generally, with more or fewer religious rituals, based on the time and place. Details will vary vastly, except for one: It is known, common knowledge not to lance the boils. They are not generally painful or exceptionally discomforting until they are broken open, which they do not often do on their own. However, once they break, whatever the dark fluid touches is not, disappearing to nothing along with the fluid. When this carries the living flesh of the host away, it is exceedingly painful, a rough knife of burning cold.
From time to time, the foolish have tried to weaponize the pus. At best, it tends to vanish too quickly to be used. At worst, the harvesters have infected a few unlucky souls, before catching it themselves, but other than this deliberate work, no cause, no driving agent was ever found. Not until it was possible for a curious doctor to finally flash freeze the flesh around a boil, excise it whole, and open the boil beneath the well focused lens of a powerful microscope. He stared into the inky black of the frozen void. And the eyes of the dark things, older than the gods, more terrible than the devils, they stared back into him. He wrote, the first, and to date, only clinical description of the microbe, the individual cells of the greater being, in roughly three minutes. It was not quite complete, for the madness took him in the process of writing it, and it is not worth repeating the indescribable horror of dark, oozing cells, with strangely crystalline pseudopods, beating and shivering with darkness, and clearly impossible, but clearly existent microscopic eyes that stared back along the lens path at him, and pulsated with something malign, yet indifferent to his life and existence. His death, in which his brain, an organ noted for, among other things, a paucity of self motivation, exited the back of his skull, fleeing his eyes, and his heart exploded, quite literally, followed within moments. Others have tried to replicate the experiment, with various precautions in place. All have died. None have lasted as long as the first. Some theorize that they are weaker men. Some theories that now IT is paying attention. In any case, the belief now is that IT is residing, for a time, in those who bear the plague. They are to be pitied, to be given comfort and mercy and absolute solitude. It cannot be allowed, after all, that IT should want to pay more attention to mankind...
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? Responses (4)
This is marvelous, creepy, and entirely horrific, thank you
I enjoyed your submission a lot. Interesting concept here, and well described. If I were to offer any criticism, it would be that the article is a little unpolished. I am as guilty as you of long, flowery sentences with lots of clauses, sometimes bound within one another like matryoshka dolls. However, such sentences can sometimes work against your overall readability. Take for example:
"It was not quite complete, for the madness took him in the process of writing it, and it is not worth repeating the indescribable horror of dark, oozing cells, with strangely crystalline pseudopods, beating and shivering with darkness, and clearly impossible, but clearly existent microscopic eyes that stared back along the lens path at him, and pulsated with something malign, yet indifferent to his life and existence."
I like this sentence, but it is long and has nine commas. It would probably be just as good as two sentences, but much more readable.
There are also simple mistakes like "Some theories that now IT is paying attention."
Anyway, really super sub. I look forward to using it in my campaign!
This is excellent. Could even be used easily in a modern era ala x-files. Also put me a little in mind of American Gods.
I would appreciate a little more description of what happens when the pus comes out. "whatever the dark fluid touches is not, disappearing to nothing along with the fluid" From the next it seems like the top layer of skin just disappears leaving the raw layers below open to the world. But I have to assume that.
I would agree that some of the sentences are really long and I had to stop and read a few lines a couple times because of the word choice. But this is a really nasty thing going on up there!!!