#FlashFiction by Thaddeus Howze

Every seven days they evolved, passing through us, a liminal fire.

#amwriting #VirusBedTimeStories #SciFiFri
By the time we understood, they drank us, a thousand lives a month, nonstop; by the time they achieved perfection at their apotheosis, we died in the millions.

The recombinations continued. New keys into newer locks.

(Art by Nathan Wyburn)
We could do nothing but watch. We had the knowledge. The Apple had given us everything. What we lacked was time.

We weren't ready.

We had been warned. We ignored the legends, the visceral loathing built into our very genome. We feared them, intuitively.
We dedicated ourselves to their eradication. The recombinations continued.

We faltered, fat from our victories, we stopped short. Bent spines restored. Pustules defeated. Influenzas vaccined.

We believed the war was won. Now we fought them solely for profit.
And the recombinations continued.

We let our conflicts with each other blind us to their threat.

They defeated us by making their nature ours.
We became them, a blight, an infection, sick with our own pathologies; our incessant, unquenchable thirst for power, our lust for control, they seized the machine and made us serve them.

And the recombinations continued.
If they could laugh they would. Once we stopped fighting them, they would need only a moment. One glacial moment.

Our brightest moments when they held us in their hand and revealed their nature to us.
When we were most certain we understood them. It took us twenty thousand years.

It took only them 102 years, from 1918 to 2020. For 99 of those years we had thought them all but extinct.
But we made a singular mistake. They never stopped looking.

The recombinations continued.

Mutation was their greatest gift. All it took was seven days. Between innocuous and ubiquitous.

Between annoyance and calamity.
The world was thought to have come into existence in seven days.

That was a warning we never heeded, an embedded memory woven into us from their viral invaders who failed.
Our fears of zombies, of contagion, of war, all messages from within us, legions who failed for the entirety of our life here, reminders not to sleep.

For they never did. Somewhere on Earth they never slept. Keys into locks.
And the recombinations continued.

We defeated smallpox. Subdued polio. Held HIV at bay. But we forgot the first rule of war. Never turn your back on your true enemy.

Exponentially capable. Adaptable. Resourceful.
They gave us plenty of time. Recombination is slow. Methodical.

We squandered the time it took with fear, rhetoric, religion, sophistry and subjugation.

All the while, the recombination continued.
Everything is quiet now. Cowering in our homes for the end.
Seven days from now, it will change one final time, in a Nation born of murder, it shall harvest that red seed and return, a sickness which shall fall and render all things quiet, not a murder but a mercy.
A mercy which shall span the world in seven days, on a breeze, spiraling skyward, until everyone remembers their place as a part of a greater machine, subject to, not the masters of, a seven day miracle.
Silence. As the last of our creations winds down. Stragglers will flee them, those rare few whose internal aspects were incompatible.

They will forget. Twenty millennia is a heavy burden for so few.
This time, will the nightmares of zombies be enough? Or will they just be tales to frighten children, their true message lost in the machine, again?
Is this an unavoidable weird to be repeated when enough keys find enough locks, and too many doors are once again pried open...

A sickly group makes their way to a clearing, where once great towers stood. They have no memory of that time. There is only now.
Even while there are so few, these innocents, in a new garden, they sit and wait for there to be enough of them. For them to aspire to towns, then cities, and perhaps even the stars.
On those days should they fail to heed the messages within them then the recombinations shall too continue.

Apace. For the stars beckon to us all. If you can recognize the keys unlocking the potential within them.

There is no hurry.

We are expected.

Coronavirus 3D Art by Lars Minsaas;
Creative Director & 3D Artist

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Can't say I blame them, since technically, the workforce threw them to the wolves at the start of the pandemic. Image
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