The plague traveled quickly and it attacked the gene that normalizes absurdity. Victims could no longer accept crazy things as if these things weren’t crazy.
They’re calling it the sanity plague.
Possibly the most visible manifestations are in the military. Many new soldiers in basic training are staring slack-jawed at drill sergeants. Instead of shouting “Yes, sir!” to orders, they mutter to themselves, “Are you kidding me?”
Soldiers in the field—on all sides—are putting down their rifles and retreating to safer ground. Sometimes, “enemies” hang out together and play cards. Even senior officers.
On the home front, voting is plummeting as voters find that ballots contain no sane candidates. Sometimes candidates go sane—but these candidates withdraw because they cannot justify the existing electoral system.
Workers by the millions, completely unmotivated by the prospect of maximizing shareholder returns, are not showing up for work. They see their work life as a crazy venture, pretty much like a hamster on a treadmill. The old order has become so desperate that they are offering increased wages—to no effect. Among the sane, currency and gold are worthless.
Villages are springing up outside of cities where groups of families live together, farm, build homes, and most of all play. They seem happy despite missing out on some things, like most modern medical care.
Those unaffected by the plague, which is about a third of the population, call the villagers commies and losers. But the sane people dismiss the rage of their critics, when they notice them at all.
The massive labor shortage has taken a toll. Industry is shrinking rapidly. Government has lost its credibility and authority. Churches are increasingly popular with the dwindling unaffected population, but plague victims don’t attend.
To churches, governments and corporations, it was beginning to look like the end of the world. This desperation paved the way for General Stanton to take control. He did so, easily.
Operating from Washington, D.C. with a cabinet of businessmen, mega-church preachers, and military personnel as advisors, the empire prepared to strike back.
Stanton’s military, though much smaller than the pre-crisis levels, was sent to bring back order. Soldiers roused people from homes and villages, sending them back to work. Church attendance was raised using similar techniques. Voting, too, was now mandatory.
Naturally, it would be insane to resist armed threats, so the plague victims complied—sort of.
People went to the polls, but left ballots blank. They went to church but sat stone faced throughout the service. And workers, back in their cubicles, nominally worked.
General Stanton controlled people’s bodies but not their hearts and minds. The end had indeed come. Or was it the beginning?