The day that humankind dreamt of for so long, and was so terrified of, had come with barely an announcement in the back-end section of some obscure scientific magazine. A frequency had been found. And hidden within it, extraterrestrial life.
Things that are not accompanied with much pomp and glitter seldom catch the attention of human eyes, for they have been trained to ignore the mundane. It takes a lot of noise to get someone’s attention to break off from their personalized universe of digital distraction; a pity, then, that the frequency discovered was above the human ability to hear.
Nobody knew how long they'd been among us, wandering around our planet as we still held sharpened sticks in our hands and praised the gods of fire. Were they here, even then? Or did the invention of the radio prompt them to come? We will likely never know.
Of course, our machines’ ears had warned us about them in advance; signals coming from deep space, frequencies powerful enough to travel the cosmos. Most of those were quasars, pulsars, magnetars… objects and phenomena we deem natural to the cosmic environment. Funny, how much we presume to know, even though we have never been there ourselves. Maybe these things were natural and the Whisperers were their indigenous inhabitants. Our notion of life has always been limited to what we know - just as with art, nothing we come up with is truly original.
So nobody gave much attention to the frequency. Not at first. Labeled as some ‘background noise’ or ‘corrupted audio’. Corrupted indeed. When the pomp and the glitter finally came, people’s heads started turning.
It took over a million individual reports coming in from all over the world for us to start connecting the dots. Similar symptoms shared globally, regardless of geographical location, genetic lineage, age, lifestyle, or anything that could help explain the commonalities. Everyone seemed to be getting it as if it were distributed randomly amongst the whole of humanity.
The Clarity is what people started calling it. It was this sense of stillness in your mind, of seeing things clearly; the ability to assess your situation and respond to it appropriately, without the usual knee-jerk reactions that often led to more problems in life. Many compared the Clarity to a kind of ‘zen state of mind’, where you had control over your thinking and your emotions, being their master instead of their puppet.
For the first time in history, human beings appeared to be gaining mastery over themselves on a mass scale. This resulted in successful individuals sprouting all over like mushrooms after the rain. Entrepreneurs, social leaders, political leaders, scientists, artists, humanitarians, economists, environmentalists, gurus, life coaches… People who were happy with themselves and their life. In a few decades, society had transformed more than it did in millennia of existence.
It had happened so gradually and subtly that at first only the most astute of observers saw the changes occurring - and as remarkable as they were, none would attribute them to an external influence. As it had seemed, humanity was finally growing up, developing its emotional and intellectual maturity, which it had been lacking so far.
Then, the first of them started losing their minds.
Mental breakdowns, panic attacks, psychopathic behavior. Hearing whispers in the silence. The first giants started to fall, their minds crumbling like the empires they had built with their former genius. People said it was stress. Bad luck. The way of the world. Perhaps we still weren’t as mature as we thought we were, perhaps business was still cutthroat, society still selfish, politics still scheming.
Then, the first empty shells appeared. Zombies, as pop culture called them.
But unlike any zombie from a movie, these weren’t mad brain-eating monsters, infecting the whole population. These were humans who just stopped thinking, yet somehow continued living. Mindless, motionless, they sat or stood where you left them, oblivious to their environment or any kind of stimuli. Though clinically alive, they appeared dead otherwise.
You couldn’t talk to them. They never ate, never slept, never did anything. Some even died because they forgot to breathe.
Hospitals soon filled up with them; hooked to transfuses and breathing machines. A pandemic that didn’t spread via any virus or bacteria that scientists could point at. It just struck.
Then, the world decided to panic. Started looking for answers. What was previously discarded as unimportant or trivial was now brought back from the shelves, dust blown away and re-examined. With seemingly no reason for this pandemic, every possibility had to be considered, no matter how bizarre or unlikely.
The search for answers was like tracking down a molecule of water that you once drank when you were five years old. We knew it existed, but we had no idea how to find it.
When the first ‘wave of geniuses,’ people who got the Clarity, turned into shells, Clarity sparked the second wave of actualized human beings. And it happened in a span of only a few years this time. Since these newly Clarified people knew what awaited them, they joined forces to work on finding a cure for humanity.
But like most of humankind’s great breakthroughs, the discovery of the Whisperers - as they came to be called by the public; or frequency-based mind parasites, as science named them - happened by accident. A doctor who was treating a shell patient happened to pick up a signal coming from that patient, via an app on his smartphone.
The discovery shook everyone, as three weeks later, another scientist confirmed it was the same frequency as they’ve picked up from deep space some 50 years ago. It took another week before the news was released to the press; due to the severity of it, repercussions had to be carefully considered.
The titles on every news media said; We are not alone! Alien life found!
As it turned out, the Clarity - which caused abnormal levels of high performance in humans - was the side effect of the Whisperers feeding off the human mind. The Whisperers were themselves a frequency that was somehow alive, sentient. They fed off the monkey chatter in the human mind, taking away mental fog and emotional fatigue that would normally clog up a person’s capacity to perform well.
It was astounding. A lifeform unlike any other, one that defied our wildest imaginations of how life could or should look like. The Whisperers worked as a parasite, and at the first stages, they even improved human functioning. In effect, they made us happy geniuses for a while. But as they consumed all of the excess ‘brain fog’, the damage to the mind began.
Those infected would snap overnight, their minds invaded, parts of their psyche consumed by an entity living in their mind. How does one combat something like that? How does a surgeon extract a parasite which has no tangible, physical form?
The success of the discovery was short-lived as it soon became apparent that we did not possess the knowledge of curing this condition - if it even was curable. The Whisperers left millions of human shells in their wake, broken remains of once genius people who often died in the span of a few days due to lack of water, oxygen, or sudden cessation of inner organs.
Humanity was running out of people. Each wave of geniuses that emerged with Clarity was inevitably followed by a wave of shells, as the Whisperers feasted on these people’s minds. And the cycle was accelerating, with each new wave occurring in half the time of the previous one.
A few years became a few months, a few months a few weeks.
Society collapsed, bodies of shells littered the homes and streets as there were not enough people left who would have the time to bury them. Food production, energy, industry, it all came to a grinding halt. In addition to the mind pandemic, starvation, common diseases and violence broke out. Waves of people with Clarity worked to keep humanity from tearing itself apart, and what little power they could muster they used it for research. The computers and machines had to keep running.
Until one day, they stopped.
The power ran out. Not enough people left to keep the systems going.
And in the darkest moment of humanity, another breakthrough had come. An unlikely one.
A group of individuals with Clarity had conducted research of their own, independent from the global scientific endeavor. They ventured on paths that everyone else dismissed and labeled as ineffective or even dangerous. This group experimented with psychedelics.
Psychedelics have been used by humanity since its early years. Shamans and spiritual seekers had discovered that certain plants or animals had the potential to expand the mind, should one use and prepare them properly. And since the Whisperers had occupied the realm of the mind, the group figured that the conventional way wouldn’t work to solve this problem.
So, instead of trying to bring the Whisperers out of the mind, they decided to go into the mind themselves instead.
The group consumed a homebrew psychedelic and let it remove the blocks to their minds, thus expanding it far beyond what a human being was capable of in everyday life. Physical reality melted around them and they entered into a heightened state of awareness to which even the Clarity could pale in comparison.
They gained access to a mystical experience. And were able to communicate with the Whisperers.
What they found out shocked the group. The Whisperers were not an evil alien race, hell-bent on destroying humanity. They weren’t even wild animals who just fed to survive. No, they were a peaceful and harmonious community of beings that inhabited an unimaginable dimension. And they were here to help.
In fact, humanity had called upon them to come. We had called for them with our wars and suffering, our hatred and anger, our selfishness and pettiness. The Whisperers had heard the cries of billions of suffering souls and followed them; the cries echoed through the cosmos, shining a path for the Whisperers to follow directly to Earth. They wanted to help humanity alleviate its suffering. But in their good intentions, they had gone too far.
The Whisperers weren’t of the physical and therefore they did not understand that humans could die - they assumed that life was something we wanted to get rid of. So the group explained to the Whisperers that life was something humans valued most and that we wanted to live it fully - joys and pains included. The group said that humanity didn’t really want a solution to get rid of our suffering; what we wanted was a way to deal and make peace with it, to transcend it. Suffering was as much a part of life as joy was, so to get rid of one would mean getting rid of the other - and it was what the Whisperers initially did, before they consumed the mind too, leaving shells of people.
The Whisperers were confused, they did not understand. But they respected the group’s wishes; if humanity wanted to endure its suffering, they would not try to take it away anymore. Still, they wanted to help. And the group of humans knew all too well how agonizing human suffering could get, even if it was necessary to experience joy too.
So, they made a deal. The Whisperers would leave the human minds and watch them from afar, learning. Now and then they could come to one’s heart and whisper thoughts of encouragement, remind the humans that there is joy also and that without suffering, they could not experience it.
Though if the pain got too much, the Whisperers could eat it away, but only a little. Only enough for the human to get back to their feet.
The Whisperers agreed.
After that day, no new wave of Clarity came. The ones already infected lost their Clarity but not their minds and no new infections came after that. Instead, the hearts of men and women filled with a soft voice, telling them it was sorry for what it did and that all will be well now.
Half of the world’s population had died. Society was in shambles. It would take a long time and a lot of effort to rebuild, and the world would never be the same again.
But for all the sorrow and all the suffering that had happened, humanity’s hearts felt strangely at peace. Perhaps this was an opportunity for a new beginning. Perhaps, somehow, they had averted a far greater disaster, and all this was a blessing in disguise.
Most never knew what the group learned from their mystical experience. They did not tell of it to many, because people wouldn't understand. They would not believe it. Instead, they simply said that humanity must have developed an immune system strong enough to fight off the infection. Just like the flu.
Humanity was left to deal with the loss, listening to the frequency of their resolved hearts.
It was almost as though they could hear it whispering encouragement.
Without knowing pain, how can you cherish joy?
Without knowing joy, how can you endure pain?