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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Purple (11/05/09)

TITLE: The Heliotrope Plague
By Chely Roach


It all began with the rash.

It would first present as tiny, raised lavender bumps on the small of the back. Within twenty four hours, angry, oozing purple blisters covered every inch of the body; at thirty six hours blood seeped from the eyes, and the fever would bring on coma. No one made it to the forty eighth hour.

It was coined as the Heliotrope Plague, named for the color of its wicked, telltale rash.

Within two weeks, a third of the world’s population was dead.

Five years ago, when we crossed the carbon barrier, there were many of us that knew that we were careening down a terminally slippery slope. Nanotechnology had become a part of everyday life; cell phones had evolved into pinhead sized sensor boards embedded into one’s earlobe; televisions were paper-thin, and the daily newspaper was actually a blank, wireless fiber-optic paper that uploaded its content via satellite, with a refresh rate of five minutes. Technology had become ridiculously tiny, and was completely immersed in our world.

But when the world was offered a chance to go back in time, and seemingly reverse the Fall, they sunk their teeth into the fruit from that forbidden tree once again. For the rest of us, whether our hesitations came from our deep devotion to our faith, or a fierce libertarianism, it did not matter much. Our voices were a whisper in hurricane.

To most, it seemed like a step forward for the common good. All the decades of research and funding had finally paid off, and this generation was lucky enough—no, blessed, they told us—to witness and prosper from it. By creating infinitesimally tiny hybrid nanobiotics—molecular devices composed of both synthetic and biological components—and introducing them into human bodies to eradicate everything from terminal brain cancer to gingivitis, they opened Pandora’s Box. Virtual immortality, and all one had to do was inject a couple million synthetic, yet living robots into one’s body, and the tiny soldiers would fight, block, or kill whatever ails you. The nanobots were the savior of the world, and we could be gods.

Pharmaceutical companies and hospitals closed from lack of business. No one was sick. Well, almost no one. Those of us that refused the nanobiotics quickly exhausted the back-supplies of conventional medicines; soon after, the Regime made nanobiotics injections mandatory. We gathered our children and went underground. We hid in our homes when we were sick; we buried our dead at night in unmarked graves.

But when the Heliotrope plague began, we were unscathed. The Regime called it a pandemic, but it was a contagious virus of another sort. The nanobiotics appeared to be staging an insurgency of their own, and two and a half billion people were either dead, or covered in hideous purple blisters waiting to die.

A solution was achieved, and millions of clinics were set up worldwide in only a few days; so quickly that those of us that had the objectivity of not being in danger could see that it was a premeditated move. There is no greater motivator than fear, and it was obvious that the Regime had planned this. Billions of frightened people stood in line to have their savior nanobots reprogrammed before they could betray them, too. Because the nanobiotics were going to need continual satellite linked antivirus updates to prevent another outbreak, a wireless port needed to be implanted into the skin of every subject.

The Heliotrope vaccination port was the size and shape of an average skin mole. In a script too small for the human eye to read, the port bore the insignia of the Unitarian Regime. The surface also reflected an iridescent lavender hue, to remind the people of the plague that they were avoiding. There were very few complaints.

After all, they were able to choose the placement of their vaccination port. For vanity purposes, most chose the back of their right hands instead of their foreheads.

And for us Insurgents—we wait. We hide. We pray. It can’t be too much longer now…

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This article has been read 1023 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Noel Mitaxa 11/14/09
Seriously imaginative interpretation of the end of time. Very thought-provoking material.
Henry Clemmons11/15/09
Smart! Great narritive/commentary. Enjoyed this very much. Nice opening chapter to a much larger work.
bill johnson11/15/09
Fascinating story! I was drawn in all the way.

One minor thing (and as a computer guy, I feel I must say it...), I believe you meant "downloaded" when you said "uploaded."

Love this piece of "Science Fiction"... or is it?
Barbara Lynn Culler11/15/09
Kind of a combination of the current Swine Flu debate and the story of the End Times. Fascinating. You just never know!
Jim McWhinnie 11/16/09
How 1984-ish ... captivating writing with some remarkable setting of the scene... and to think I am reading this while I have the flu!!!!

Loren T. Lowery11/16/09
A great and satisfying read. The story line is rift with possibilities. My only observation would be that I'd like to see the entry start off as the entry into a diary, or something to relate the reader to the narrator and therefore establish a common bond. Great job!
Betty Castleberry11/16/09
Whoa! What a thought provoking read. This is very well written. Five stars from me.
Jan Ackerson 11/16/09
Oh, I'm a HUGE sci-fi fan, and this is awesome! Usually it doesn't work in such a short form, but you really worked this. Excellent!
larry troxell 11/16/09
great writing. i think god may have given you a vision of our future.
Kate Oliver Webb 11/16/09
WOW - you really nailed this! Excellent imagery, great suspense, and a remarkable vision into our (possible) future. I plan to share this article with others.
Yvonne Blake 11/19/09
EERIE! It's too close to the truth! Thoughts like this have gone through my mind as I see people flocking to clinics for the H1N1 flu shots.
Carole Robishaw 11/19/09
Excellent job! I too began thinking about the H1N1 scare tactics going on right now. Just so close to what we are experiencing to not be scary.
Sheri Gordon11/19/09
Congratulations, Chely. This is excellent--both the storyline and the writing. Glad to see my Hui on the EC list. :)
Aaron Morrow11/19/09
Absolutely fantastic writing end-to-end. The objectivity and lack of trite sentiments give this a sense of journalistic reporting, an eyewitness account. Outstanding work, congrats Chely..if this is your first pass a SciFi, I cannot wait for your next effort in the genre!
Marita Thelander 11/19/09
Oooo...I likey. How did I miss reading this one earlier? Nice take on the topic. Congrats on the EC.
Patricia Turner11/19/09
It could...it could...happen this way. Gives me shivers. You sure wrote convincingly and creatively - I almost thought of the voice of Sarah Conner narrating the Terminator movies. Excellent, my friend and very well deserving of the EC! Congratulations!
Francy Judge 11/20/09
I want more...if you write this novel, I'd love to read it. Excellent writing!
Roni Stanton12/12/09
Wow, I have a different story rattling around my head that leads to the same conclusion, where so many just can't see what really is happening.

I could not compare to your story, it's great.