In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.
There’s this mobile game called Plague Inc. that I’ve been addicted to lately. Its basic premise is simple: you create a disease and try to spread it across the globe, eradicating humanity as quickly as possible. The game’s customization ability is one of its biggest strengths; you can genetically enhance your made-to-order death bringer, buffing it against antibiotics and extreme temperatures, worsening symptoms to include nasty treats like total organ failure and hemorrhagic shock, tweaking your little plague’s distribution methods until it’s capable of running wild.
And if it sounds morbid, that’s because it is. Again, you’re designing a disease to ERADICATE HUMAN EXISTENCE. For fun. Forget moon bases and shark lasers, that’s some real mad scientist shit. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s easy to find immense perverse pleasure in sending the human race to an early extinction. It’s cathartic. Because deep down inside, we’re all scared that that’s how we’re going to die, wiped away by an invisible killer, a virus or bacteria evolved to lethal perfection, our lives gone before we even knew what was there.
Now I’m not an epidemiologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve seen the movie Contagion, so I’m pretty confident in my ability to say that a mass epidemic is exactly how the world is going to end. Oh that’s a fictitious movie you say? Well I say there’s a lot of truth in fiction. Because for every imaginary crusade against humanity we’ve created, from The Walking Dead’s TS-19 to Edgar Allen Poe’s Red Death, there’s an equally scary, real disease waiting to pop out of our nightmares and into our bloodstreams. Spanish Flu. The Black Plague. Ebola. And it’s not going to matter how disaster ready your apocalypse bunker is; we’re all doomed. Because people are above all two things: stupid and gross. It’s just true. Have you seen a men’s public bathroom? Have you spent time out there? In the world? IT’S FULL OF IDIOTS! It doesn’t matter how smart our scientists are, people will always be the biggest inhibitors to their own survival. That’s why the Darwin Awards exist.
I’ll never forget the experience of watching Contagion for the first time, an impulse decision to catch an afternoon matinee while I was living in uptown Minneapolis. As I sat there, watching a fictional account of a fictional disease rip through a fictional block on the very real street I actually lived on, I felt sick. I couldn’t stop looking around me, anxiously shifting in my seat. The idea of disease had taken root. I heard every exhale from every theater patron. I smelt every last dying skin cell in the air. I felt every sticky germ, every microbe that had previously sat in my seat. And I panicked. I went home. I showered for far too long, scrubbing away at an invisible, fictional, non-present disease that I could feel worming its way through my skin. Because I was scared. Because I was consumed by it. Because that movie might not have been, but disease is, very real.