CORONA- An Interactive Story

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Chapter 1

The World into Which You Were Born

by: _Ripple_
It was in the early 21st century when the medical industry began to take control. Publically, it started in the early 20’s (although doubtless the cogs that clattered and creaked behind the scenes has begun to turn years earlier) with a crack-down on illicit drugs. The police drew out old files, interrogating anyone known for having sold or manufactured these poisons, beating down on them for any ounce of truth that they could bleed. Tents began to crop up on the streets, their bright colours glaring in the sunlight. In the shadows of these tents, gloved men and women would wait, poised, before pouncing on their prey like wildcats. They plucked from the masses seemingly at random, young men and women, those that seemed most delinquent, and ushered them beneath the sweating nylon. There, glass vials and wicked edges of steel gleamed in the filtered light, waiting to collect and store records of what chemicals could be found in the blood of their nervous victims. Those that were found guilty were forced to pay fines that would leave gaping holes in their finances for years to come. Casual users abandoned their needles and their bongs, while the addicts huddled in the safety of their homes, shivering fearfully in the darkness. What had been a roaring underground trade became a trickle, and then, for all intents and purposes, seemed to disappear completely. For a while, things were quiet.

In December, 2029, a new drug appeared in the stores. It was marketed as a casual anti-depressant, made available to the masses without need of prescription or regulation. It was harmless, without side-effects, and it produced massive bursts of ecstasy when swallowed. Best of all, it was so inexpensive that those who felt the need to, were able to buy and hoard them in bulk, like stacks of fat, sweet candy. At first, the drug was popular, primarily, amongst teenagers and young-adults. The news-stations ignored these trends, writing it off as being a side-effect of the ‘depression epidemic’ among adolescents. It was only those who were older, who been old already in the 2010’s and early 20’s, that questioned the change. Weren’t these very like the drugs that once, they had bought from peddlers in gloomy side-streets and alleyways? Hadn’t these once been scorned, banned and coveted in turn by youths of a generation now aging or passed? But before doubts could rise out of control, the drug’s influence had spread, through gleeful, mocking urges to ‘just try it’ and ‘it’s safe- it’s legal!’ it spread quickly in popularity to the middle-aged, and within a year, it had become the guilt-free pleasure of humanity as a whole.

After the drug, which they called ‘Mirth’ was accepted, new and innovative drugs of a different nature were introduced. First, there were drugs that made you strong. “They’re just steroids.” Some would whisper. “They don’t even try to glorify them.” But the pills made record sales anyway. Then, there were drugs that made you clever, opening passages in your brain and allowing you a small taste of ingenuity. There were pills that eased your hunger- these were especially popular among the women- and pills that made you feel warm all the time. By the mid 30’s, it was said that a person could shut themselves away from the world and live, in darkness and in pleasure, without ever needing to go outside or see another human being, as long as they had their pills to keep them safe.

It was a long time before there were any major changes in the sale of these new drugs. It was as though society was being given time to settle, to allow and to embrace these new ways into their lives. Within another three years, people all across the world had accepted the pills as mundane, and within six, had forgotten how they ever used to function without them. CORONA, the company that produced and sold the pills- had quickly become one of the world’s most successful businesses. Nobody quite knew how much influence the company had over the government. It was assumed that their influence must have been extensive, considering the way they had orchestrated the sudden and ruthless crack-down on the ‘old’ drugs, not to mention the laws that must have been bent and thrust aside to allow for the sale of the ‘new’, but people had stopped questioning such things long ago. The masses were of the opinion that ignorance was bliss, and if a lone soul found themself pondering such things, they could be sure that their next high would wash all concerns from their minds. Ignorance, after all, was bliss.

The next great step forwards in the world of recreational drugs- a term which had only recently been re-introduced- came in January 2040. They were coined ‘Spiritual Enhancers’, and their aim was to directly alter one’s perception of the world. They ranged from drugs that would cause you to see cascades of blindingly beautiful colours, swirling and cascading in an endless dance, to drugs that would make you feel as though you were very large, or very small- so that you thought you could crush your friends underfoot, or creep like a mouse beneath the furniture and traverse the hidden world of spiders and fleas. They slipped into society seamlessly; the new craze, and were soon loved by all. If some of the effects these pills were designed to produce seemed questionable at first- pills designed to create nightmare images, pills designed to make you angry or morose- then doubts were soon cast aside. Others could have their fetishes, and it was of no-one’s concern but their own.

In fact, in the following years, demand for pills with negative effects grew rapidly. At first, it was limited to manipulation of the mind- but soon, the desired results became more physical in nature. At first, people begged for pills that would make their senses go numb, that would make them feel as though insects crawled beneath their skin, pills that gave one the feeling of drowning, of death by fire or strangulation, of blindness or of deep, bitter longing for things which they could never have. Within a few short years, pills began to be produced that outwardly affected one’s appearance. Humanity longed to push the boundaries of their own bodies, to see how far they could transform themselves and still call themselves human. They changed the colour of their skin, took pills that burned or scarred their faces, grew extra eyes and limbs, they caused their spines to bend, their joints to move backwards so that they walked like giant carrion birds, and made their breath and skin stink like the fires of hell. They demanded disfigurement, each one more morbid and grotesque than the last, and CORONA complied with a smile and a bow. In the depths of their madness, nobody doubted anymore, nobody wondered whether it was the public’s demand that caused new drugs to be invented, or whether it was that the drugs had reached deeper than anyone suspected into the minds of their users, bending their wills and planting the seeds that would cause them to crave escape from their own bodies.

In 2070, a new pill was produced. More expensive by a hundred-fold than any that had come before it, although this hardly mattered to those who chose to take it. It was for those who had already pushed their bodies so far, who had so completely disfigured their minds and souls that they could go no further. Their bodies transformed beyond recognition, whether it be into creatures that towered, all angular bones and fire that burned behind their eyes, stalking the empty streets at night- or beasts that crawled on their bellies in the darkness, their many legs distended and greasy, what remained of their minds swirling in ancient mists. It was for those people, those that could push themselves no further, but that still wanted to escape from the dregs of that encasing, suffocating curse that they called humanity, that this pill was produced. It was the final leap, the final push, the last adventure that would allow them to be the furthest thing they could possibly be from human. When they had already come so far, the only untouched reaches were in the rotting fields of death, where black flowers bloomed under a sun that screamed its insanity. The final pill took them here. It wrapped its cold, sweet fingers around the hearts of those already so deformed, and like a lover, it plucked the swollen, pulsating thing from their chests, carrying it away into the void and the silence. They made it in cold, steel factories, with chemicals surging and flowing through their framework like blood, and they called it Suicide.

This is the world into which you were born; you, and a thousand others like yourself. You were formed without love, in any of its forms. You slid first through pale steel needles, so very like those which had once been used to collect the blood of the damned, and then later, between thin glass tubes, where you grew and fed on the oily liquids that encased you. When you were formed to the liking of your creators, you burst forth from the glass, conscious and seeing for the first time. Alongside you, beings identical to yourself in every way rose to their feet, their mouths gasping, their muscles bending for the first time. In harmony with the rest, you did the same. Blinking, finally, your body began to send its messages, your brain whirring within your skull. Through some trick, some manufactured biological alteration, you found that you knew your purpose; you knew what you were.

Clone: a being manufactured by CORONA, a test dummy for the chemicals that festered and boiled in steaming vats before they were pumped into the streets. With this word, your title and your purpose, you knew the inconsequence of your existence. It was the structure of your being, it was your fate- and it was with this word that your story began.

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