I was such an idiot then, but so was everyone else. We took our safe lives of convenience for granted. We slept peacefully in beds. Soft carpet cradled our bare feet on the way to bathrooms with real indoor plumbing. Cold or hot water fell easily from taps. We wasted so much of that precious resource just cleaning ourselves. Most of us spent our lives in climate controlled boxes–house, car, work. Electricity kept everything at a comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most of us had computer skills or people skills or skills that had nothing at all to do with survival. Only a small percentage really knew how to grow things and fix things, and even their knowledge relied on technology. Few of them knew how to plow a field without a tractor or fix things without electricity. Even fewer knew how to build and grow useful things. Those skills, so unnecessary in a world of climate controlled boxes, soon became invaluable and the majority of survivors didn’t have them. The box dwellers only knew how to build a fire with matches.
It all went to hell. The vast majority of the entire world population, over six billion people, died within a few weeks. Bodies piled up so fast, we had nowhere to put them. The greatest minds of humanity could do nothing. Many of them were exposed and died before their patients did. We estimate that only about half a billion of us were somehow naturally immune. No one ever recovered. No one figured out what the new plague, as it came to be called, even was. No one found a cure. Those of us who remained had to watch as everyone we knew and loved went away. We buried the dead in mass graves.
Most of the world died within a fortnight. Those of us left behind were not the best of humanity. The new plague took lives indiscriminately. It took brothers and left sisters. It left murderers and sociopaths, and took saints and scientists. There was no pattern. There was no reason that some of us were immune and others weren’t.
Even though we’re still alive, the survivors had our lives taken, too. We had any sense of security, order or comfort ripped away. Half a billion people in a survival free for all. Many more died, not from the new plague, but because they had something that someone else wanted. Murder became commonplace. No one came to our rescue.
But, that was long ago. We set up a new economy. We have rules. We work together for everyone’s benefit, or at least, most of us do. There are still people who choose to be outsiders and prey on us. There always have been and there always will be. Most of us play by the rules.
I don’t often think of the time before the new plague. I don’t like to think about soft carpet and indoor plumbing because it overwhelms me. It’s no use thinking about everything we’ve lost, because we’ll never get it back.
Yet, I’ve decided that it’s important to record what happened for anyone who survives after us. We’re getting to the point where there are adults who were born after the new plague. They don’t know what it was like before. We need to remember the past so that we don’t repeat it. The human race was dead before the new plague even came. We must never take it for granted again.
Written for the Weekly Writing Challenge: Great Expectations.