CHAPTER THREE – THE SCARLET PLAGUE, by Jack London

 

Language modernized

Section One:






 The old man wiped the tears away on his filthy knuckles, and he continued to tell the story in a shrill, shaky voice that soon strengthened, as he got into the swing of his story-telling.   

 “It was in the summer of 2019 that the Plague came. I was twenty seven years old, and I remember it like it was yesterday. News had spread across the Internet … ”   

 Harrison loudly spat on the floor, obviously disgusted, and Getty immediately tried to apologize for him  

 “We communicated via cyber-space in those days, instantly going viral, over thousands and thousands of miles. There was news of a strange disease that had broken out in New York. There were nearly nine million people living there at the time, in the most international city in the U.S.”   

 “Nobody thought anything about the news. It seemed to be only a small thing. There had been only a few deaths. It appeared, though, that they had died very quickly, and that one of the first signs of the disease was that your face, and then your entire body, would turn a vibrant red.”   

 “Within twenty-four hours, a report followed that alerted us to the first case in Chicago. And on the same day, it was also made public that London already had been secretly experiencing the plague for two weeks, but that they had been censoring any escape of the news by very carefully quarantining the victims.”   

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Section Two:


“It was beginning to look somewhat serious, but in California, like everywhere else across most of the country, we were not yet alarmed. We were sure that the medical science community would find a way to overcome this new virus, just as they had quickly overcome other powerful killers in the past.”   


 “But the biggest problem with this new threat was the astonishing speed at which the virus infested the entire human body, and the fact that it inevitably killed anyone who became infected with it. There was no known cure.”    

“In recent years, similar devastating diseases had hunted mankind. For instance, there had been the horrific Haitian cholera outbreak in 2010, and the dangerous African Ebola scare in 2014. But both containment and cure followed, in both of those cases, relatively quickly.”
  

“Those situations had not been like in earlier centuries, when you might eat dinner with a perfectly healthy friend in the evening, and the next morning, if you got up early enough, you would see him beneath your window, being hauled away in a death-cart.”

“But this new global plague wasn’t like the recent cholera or Ebola outbreaks. Fall to this new invader’s infection, and death followed within hours of diagnosis.”

“From the moment of the first signs of it, the majority of victims would be dead in an hour. A very lasted for several hours. But many died within ten or fifteen minutes of the appearance of the first signs!”

“The heart began to beat at a rapid pace, and one’s body temperature quickly increased to a dangerous level. Then came the scarlet rash, spreading like wildfire over the face and body. Most people barely noticed the increase in fever and heartbeat, and the first they knew was when the scarlet rash appeared.”

“With no warning, convulsions occurred simultaneously with the appearance of the rash. But these convulsions did not last long, and they weren’t very severe. If one lived through them, the victims typically became perfectly quiet.”

“But this was like being in the eye of a hurricane. The storm soon reengaged. One would then sense a numbness swiftly creeping up their body from the feet. The heels became numb first, then the legs, and hips, and when the numbness reached as high as his heart, death was instantaneous.”

“In these final moments of life, the individuals didn’t rave or sleep. In fact, their minds always remained cool and calm, up to the moment that their heart finally numbed and stopped.”

“Another strange effect of the disease was the rapidity of bodily decomposition. No sooner was a person dead, than the body seemed to fall to pieces, to fly apart, to melt away, even as you looked at it. That was one of the reasons the plague spread so rapidly. All the billions of germs in a corpse were so immediately released.”