idol season nine | week 33 | 1177 words
The ultimate threat to humanity came not from the Ebola virus, or even from the Zombie Infestation of 2020. Those challenges were overcome, and after cleaning up and putting new protocols in place, life marched on. Even the increase in sea-floods and disastrous weather events caused by global warming were scattered over time and geography. No, the real global-scale danger to human life came instead from a completely unpredictable source: elephants.
Elephants—those peanut-snuffling ruffians of the Saharan stage. The problem began as a hormone-induced horror of aggression and rut-strutting mating rituals gone berserk. But once it jumped species and moved into the human population, it set off what became known as "The Rage-ocalypse."
Suspicions immediately focused on Africa, home both to elephants and to many of the world's deadliest viruses and diseases. Further investigation, however, revealed that Patient Zero's exposure came from a for-profit elephant-ride attraction at a roadside nature park in Texas.
How the condition spread from elephants to humans—and from one human to another—was unclear. The hormone surges might have been triggered by contact with sweat or airborne particles, or in response to increased pheromones from those in a rage-state. The condition was almost entirely limited to adult men, while 4.7% of them never exhibited symptoms at all. The onset might have happened suddenly or been delayed by several days.
The only obvious characteristic was that it spread easily. Within a week of the first human case of the condition, similar incidents were reported from around the globe.
Simply searching for a parking space could mutate into a scene out of a classic "Mad Max" movie, and street-corner haggling over goods and services often escalated into blood feuds over courage and honor. Football games devolved into gladiator events, and business board meetings resulted in tornado-like disaster areas of smashed furniture and broken bones. A rage-event could happen anywhere, and sometimes did.
The following is a transcript of a television interview with a key scientist from the Center for Disease Control:
Reporter: Dr. Angard, should the public be concerned about the so-called "Elephant Plague"?
Dr. Angard: It's not a plague of any kind. And those who become afflicted with it typically survive.
Reporter: But it creates significant danger. The people they attack are often maimed or killed.
Dr. Angard: What's your point?
Reporter: Doctor, are you feeling all right? You're looking—
Dr. Angard: Get that goddamned camera out of my face, or you'll be wearing it!
Dating and courtship transformed into pon farr-like battle rituals, turning bars and dance clubs into combat arenas. Officials tried quarantining all men in their own homes, but that proved dangerous to any women or children also living there. Jails were full, and the public was in an uproar.
Then, six months after Patient Zero first exhibited symptoms, scientists created a vaccine to prevent the condition from occurring. The world celebrated the return of civilized behavior, and began cleaning up the mess the outbreak had left behind. Three weeks later, an entirely different problem surfaced.
The vaccine had done its job too well. Scientists had created a remedy that targeted hormone uptake, but human physiology did not distinguish between normal and abnormal hormone levels. Men who had received the vaccine showed symptoms of extremely low testosterone production. Their initiative, competitiveness, sense of adventure, and sex-drive all but disappeared. Women had been stuck filling the gaps in schools and businesses since the outbreak began, but although most male employees returned to work after being vaccinated, they didn't stay. The solution was almost as bad as the original problem.
Businesses continued to be understaffed, and only the attorneys who churned out new forms to handle management and personnel changes were happy. The male population became divided into the immune, the incarcerated or sedated, and 'drones.' Productivity and public sentiment plummeted overnight.
When the President of the United States was asked to make an official statement on the matter, he was quoted as saying,
"Ask the Veep, she'll help you. My soaps are on."
Researchers tried without success to reverse the effects of the vaccine. Civilization went from being in jeopardy of exploding to running the risk of imploding, and the women of the world were overworked at home and in the office, and had lost all patience.
Many of the men afflicted with the new Entropy Syndrome tried to overcome it. They made to-do lists, set alarm clocks, and ingested hazardous levels of caffeine. For most, the pull of their beds or sofas proved too strong. They drifted into video-gaming, television-binging, or dreaming, with brief breaks for sustenance in the form of whatever happened to be lying around. The men who succeeded in overcoming the vaccine-induced slump had to fight that battle daily, but they did it. Researchers took blood samples and pondered whether those high levels of genetic willpower were worth harvesting to create test-tube babies, should traditional reproduction methods continue to be compromised.
It had been three years since The Rage-ocalypse had struck, and no one knew when or if society would ever fully recover.
The men who were immune and had never been vaccinated became extremely popular with women. Some created modern-day harems, which were less popular, but times were lonely and desperate. Only asexual and non-heterosexual woman remained largely unaffected. The men who had fallen prey to rage-events were periodically brought out of sedation to see if their symptoms were gone. Those who recovered were released back into society, where they were the targets of significant sexual interest despite their scars and badly-healed noses.
Economies were collapsing, and men were being displaced from their homes and warehoused in sports arenas and gymnasiums with big-screen televisions and rows upon rows of cots. Then finally, a medical breakthrough was announced.
A receptor-deceptor had been created, a new form of injectable nanite technology. It distracted the testosterone destroyers introduced by the vaccine, allowing male hormones to be processed again. The side-effects of the original vaccine would disappear in just a few weeks.
Batches were replicated and shipped all over the world, as humanity slowly crept back toward its normal routines, one household at a time.
"We have learned from this," the World Health Organization stated. "We must proceed more cautiously in the future. And also avoid contact with elephants."
Some things did not return to the way they had been before. There were men who had no homes to return to. Others refused sleep for so long that they had to be hospitalized, or banned junk food and television from their homes. Still, psychologists and civic leaders were confident that those issues would settle out over time.
India and Africa had the additional challenge of dealing with all of the elephants that had been shipped back to their countries when the outbreak began. While many officials argued for extermination, large sanctuaries and fortified walls were the solution of choice.
As for the elephants themselves, they were happy to return to a simple life of grazing and roaming the plains, where any sudden surges of violence would only affect themselves.
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