Speculative Science Fiction Horror

I remember green trees. To be specific, not just green trees, but trees in a myriad of colors. Autumn brought leaves of red, purple, and a beautiful golden yellow. Some trees stayed a beautiful deep green year-round. Spring was the best time to admire the trees. The bright green buds of newly forming leaves were a sight to behold, and the blooms of colorful flowers were always beautiful. I did not appreciate them then. They were the most mundane thing in the world that I took for granted. I never thought I would wake up in this dreary future. If I knew I would have made different choices. 

In the first few years following the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the world seemed to be getting back to normal. New infections tended to be mild, with fatal cases becoming less commonplace. I was four years old when I caught a mild case of the virus. I barely had a sniffle. Little did we know, a storm was brewing. 

In 2030 things began to change. Teenagers and young adults began to have major health issues similar to those who were diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, (CJD). It wasn't uncommon to see someone in that age group become extremely violent or have a serious grand mal seizure in public. Emergency rooms and hospitals soon became too overwhelmed to cope with the influx of patients, far worse than at any point during the height of the pandemic.

Before 2030 there were isolated clusters of patients in small communities who didn’t have a lot of contact with the outside world. Most of the clusters were attributed to heavy metals or industrial contamination. A few were even speculated to be caused by radiation from previous nuclear testing in the 20th century. When young people everywhere started showing the same sickness the government took notice. Finding the cause became the top priority.

Almost all governmental spending was directed to finding the cause and a cure. Scientists from every country worked day and night to find the reason this was happening. Blood, tissue, and cerebral fluid samples were taken from every patient suffering from the disease, but no apparent cause was found. In 2031, against ethical advice, a worldwide moratorium was enacted. It made an autopsy with a brain dissection a requirement when a patient died of the disease. It went against many religious beliefs and cultural traditions.

It didn’t go unnoticed that only people between the ages of eleven and twenty-five were affected. There were some outliers such as those who entered puberty early or were behind in sexual development. The two things all patients had in common were a previous infection of COVID-19 and a never before seen pathogen. Those older than twenty-five also showed evidence of infection with the unknown pathogen, but it could not affect a fully mature brain. Scientists and the general public began to push for the declassification of documents relating to the early days of the pandemic.

After more than a decade of denial, various governments and the WHO finally released documents that proved that the virus had been genetically modified. The Chinese government had been officially cleared of wrongdoing. It was a biological terrorist attack by an unknown terrorist organization. Though an unmodified version of the virus was pinpointed in a bat-infested cave in the Chinese wilderness. While the virus naturally mutated on its own through normal transmission, there was documentation proving several variants had also been modified and reintroduced into the population. 

One unnamed variant had been modified to behave like an incomplete prion. On its own, it was harmless after the body fought off the infection, but when coinfection was present the leftover proteins became a full-blown prion infection. Doctors were at a loss because this variant had been around for almost a decade with little to no evidence of causing additional disease. Running out of time to find a solution, doctors looked into those isolated clusters. Bodies were exhumed against familial wishes and autopsy reports were examined with a fine-toothed comb. Except for one area suffering the aftermath of a horrific case of industrial contamination, every case showed the same evidence as in current cases. 

Governmental agencies spared no expense in rushing to test the soil and water in those communities, as well as the water in major cities. Nearly every sample contained the unknown pathogen. It was determined that the pathogen could only be transmitted by drinking contaminated water, but it only caused harm to those previously infected by that exact COVID variant. Evidence strongly pointed to another biological attack. This one was far more insidious.

The only certain information was that the terrorist organization had to have ties in nearly every country in the world. When the news hit the mainstream media almost total anarchy ensued. The world’s economy tanked almost overnight and countries placed blame on everyone else. The world was on the brink of war. 

In 2035 when I was seventeen I began experiencing extreme bouts of rage and had my first grand mal seizure. I knew my days were numbered. Very few resources were allocated to finding the cure and only a few private companies still cared enough to search for one. I could feel my body and mind deteriorating by the day. I had less than a year before I would become bedridden and less than two before dying outright. When BioFlame sent a letter in the mail giving me a chance to participate in a medical trial for a cure, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Convincing my mom to sign permission was one of the hardest things I had to do. She was reluctant to allow me to take part, though she never gave me a reason why. With permission secured and after a lengthy application and screening process, I was flown to BioFlame’s medical spa facility in the Colorado Rockies. Infusions and tests were daily and were hard to deal with, but it was like staying in a luxury hotel so the time between treatments was bearable. Other people my age were also taking part in the trial. Everyone came from different racial, cultural, and national backgrounds, but we found common ground and became a close-knit group.

It wasn’t long before we all showed signs of improvement. Something didn’t feel right though. Questions we asked the medical team was often met with answers like “That information is classified” or the question evaded outright. Those who questioned too much tended to suffer relapses and had to be removed from the trial. I decided to keep questions to myself and just observe. The staff was also very tight-lipped about what was happening in the outside world. To keep us out of the loop we were given college-level courses to distract us from worrying. 

Many courses were scientific and mathematical based, but we were also given fun courses such as gardening, cooking, and crafting. On rare occasions, we were able to camp on the grounds far away from the main campus. On those camping trips, we fished, learned how to forage, and learned to prepare meals by campfire. Our days were full and we were kept busy, but life was better than any of us could have hoped for six months before.

On the day it happened every participant was woken with extreme urgency. We were used to being woken up before daybreak if we had a test that needed to be performed early. It was normally just a few of us, but this time all of us were woken up and ushered to the auditorium. They told us there was a serious breach of security and the facility was in danger of a terrorist attack. We were given the option of returning home or being transferred to another facility. Only sixteen out of twenty-five chose to be transferred. The others were taken to be discharged while the rest were walked to the main campus building.

This building was where the offices and labs were located. Every lab or office we passed was devoid of people and looked to be cleaned out in a hurry. It took a while to reach our destination. At the end of a long hallway was a door that had an obvious high level of security. It required a key card and retina scan. We were given one last chance to back out but none of us took it. Before entering the door each of us had to have our retinas scanned to make sure of our identity. That was strange but we didn’t have time to ponder it, because as soon as we walked through we were met with armed soldiers. 

The soldiers escorted us to a large elevator at the end of the corridor. It was already filled with crates and there was very little space for us to squeeze in. The soldiers ordered us inside and followed. The doors closed and as the elevator began to move it was rocked by a large explosion that knocked us all to the floor. I saw a soldier swipe a card that caused the elevator to descend fast enough to make everyone sick. It seemed like the ride lasted a lifetime. When it finally stopped a voice spoke in a foreign language and the elevator was filled with a cool mist. I’m pretty sure it was filled with a calming agent because none of us should have been as calm as we were.

When the mist settled the doors opened to an underground train station. We were instructed to wait until our names were called. When my name was called I was led to a train cabin with two sets of bunk beds. I was assigned to one of the bottom bunks and told to wait for further instructions. Soon enough another person, Samir, was led into the cabin. He was assigned to the other bottom bunk. We made small talk and speculated what was happening, but we had no real clue. A little while later workers in coveralls brought in two crates with our personal belongings and had us check that the contents belonged to us. 

After what seemed like hours a nurse and soldier entered our cabin. They would be our cabin mates. The nurse gave us a quick exam and our IV infusion before allowing us to eat a little bit. When the train started to move she told us the journey would be long and to ease our discomfort would be given medication to prevent motion sickness. She injected each of us and I felt a haze settle over my eyes as the nurse helped me to lie down the soldier did the same for Samir. The soldier never said a word.


Two days ago I woke up in a small room with only a hospital gown. I was completely confused about my surroundings, the only familiar sight being Samir, who looked just as confused. My legs completely collapsed when I tried to stand. I couldn’t get up and just as I was about to cry I heard a door opening from another direction. I couldn’t move enough to see from where. Two nurses entered the room asking us to keep calm. Samir seemed to be able to move better than I could. 

The nurses gave us a few injections and then wheeled us to a cafeteria. We were fed the blandest meal I’ve ever tasted. Eating helped to clear my head a little. Looking around I saw other familiar faces, but many others I did not know. There were around fifty of us. They all looked as confused as I felt and the room was almost silent except for the sound of clinking silverware.

After a little while, someone came out to clear the tables and left each of us an envelope. When everyone received it a vaguely familiar man walked to the podium in the front of the room. He began to speak and everyone’s attention became focused on him.

“What I am about to tell you will come as a shock to everyone in this room. I apologize but the food you just consumed was laced with a mild tranquilizer” the man said. That explained why everyone was extremely quiet and barely moved.

“You were selected by BioFlame to be our future.” He continued “The world was sick and needed to heal”

“We set events in motion to make the world a healthier place, but the governments thought they knew better.” There was a sharp collective intake of breath. Most of us likely came to the same conclusion at that moment.

“In 2002 we closely monitored and studied the SARS virus. We learned more about virology than anyone had in a century. For years we searched for another virus we could use to implement our plans” He sounded almost giddy.

“In late 2018 our search was over. This one was almost identical but we knew it needed to be weaker, or it would be noticed too soon. We tweaked it just a tiny bit, just enough where it would take a while to leap to humans.” he pauses to take a sip of water.

“Neither bat nor pangolin was the vector we used. It was the common stray cat, an animal everyone overlooks and would never suspect. It finally made the jump sometime in the Summer of 2019. A very smart scientist at the Wuhan lab caught on fast, but we silenced her before she could alert Chinese officials.” He laughed a little bit.

When I looked around I saw mostly horrified faces but a few were nodding along agreeing with every word. Everyone I knew looked as sick as I felt.

“The Chinese almost halted our plan in its tracks, when they took control in Wuhan. That’s when we made a small tweak and released infected cats into Italy and New York. You know how it went from there.” Taking another sip before continuing

“We started to see our world rapidly healing. Fish returned to Venice and pollution levels were at a century's low, but people are stubborn and corporations are greedy. Once things started to return to normal we knew we had to shift everything back on track” he sounded grave.

“A decade before we found COVID we stumbled upon a prehistoric virus in the melting permafrost. After some serious experimentation, it was easily modified to suit our needs. We first tested it at the beginning of 2021 and it worked perfectly if a little too fast. Trial and error in other places solved that issue.” 

Dread filled my entire body. Knowing it was the fault of this man that so many died. Knowing he was the reason I hated my entire existence. I wanted to scream and throttle this man, but the drugs kept me from doing anything other than breathing.

“Before we inoculated the water supply, a cure was already developed. We watched each of you before giving you the chance to be cured. You were chosen for several reasons. First, each of you had a relative within BioFlame, the second was your level of intelligence and drive to succeed, and finally, your lack of criminal record. The last step was for you to make that call” He proudly boasted.

“Several didn’t make it here. Those who were ejected or chose to leave still received the cure, so do not worry for them.” I was still reeling from information overload and almost missed the last bit. I quickly refocused my attention.

“When the situation became known to the public we knew we had very little time. We cryogenically froze you to bring you here today in 2060. Don’t argue that it is impossible, with our resources we worked out the kinks by 2005. Other groups have awoken in the last few months. They adapted and so will you.” He demanded.

“When I leave this room you will be shown films to catch you up on major world events. Every accommodation will be provided to you to help you adjust. We have given each of you a packet detailing your role in our society and what is expected of you. Relax and settle in the best you can. People who have been in your place will be here to assist you when the film finishes” He then left the room.

Everything was overwhelming and I didn’t know whether I was insane or having a nightmare. The films were enlightening but horrifying. When the other people entered the room I caught other familiar faces, some I thought to be dead. They were very helpful, but most of them looked as dejected as I felt. Feeling too overwhelmed to even glance at my packet, I asked to be shown to my room. I went directly to my bed and slept.

Yesterday passed in a blur. Every part of our lives was assigned to us. We only had the illusion of free will. Our chromosomes were even modified to only be able to have children with our assigned mate. Today I am just processing it all. I wish I had chosen to go home.

The compound was beautiful but you couldn’t miss that it overlooked the barren wasteland that used to be Raleigh. War had ravaged the area. Once upon a time, I bet it was beautiful. Tears filled my eyes as I stared at the landscape. A hand settles on my shoulder and I look up to see Samir, my friend, and assigned mate.

“We have to make the best of it and be careful” he whispers

“I miss the trees,” I say with a tearful voice

“Me too” he agrees, settling beside me.

April 05, 2022 02:28

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