By Conrad Altmann, January, 2020
In the year 2024, doctors’ warnings of the increasing severity of the flu virus and the growing movement of non vaccination came to a head. In January, cases of a new strain, colloquially dubbed “bat flu” (from the original carrier), exploded overnight. Doctors compared it with the swine flue of 1918 in mortality rate. However, due to its longer incubation period, and easier and faster global travel, cases were reported mere days apart and on opposite sides of the globe.
Once the pandemic had run its course, in an excruciating eight weeks, populations globally were crippled. the final tally came two years later at nearly 29% of the world’s population, some 2.7 billion people.
Governments of many of the leading nations of the world introduced a yearly required quarantine during the months of January and February for everyone.
For the first five years, economies took a huge hit for the two months that people were required to stay home except in emergencies. Supermarkets were stripped clean weeks in advance of the lock-in, and there were protests in the streets running up to and during the months of January and February.
Eventually, economies adjusted, and most people saw the two months of no travel, less as home arrest, and more of an opportunity to develop careers based online.
Drone delivery services boomed in the following years, and traffic in some of the most crowded areas of the world just disappeared due to the lack of need to commute.
The video game industry perhaps saw the biggest growth of all. In the year 2040, profits from online based MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing games) subscriptions and in-game purchases surpassed the Petroleum industry. This perhaps was aided by the already declining demand for petroleum products, and the sudden dip every winter as people stayed home.
Schools shifted their curriculum online, and even joined the growing video game industry in including virtual schools within popular video games, offering bonuses and in-game credits in place of grades. School “attendance” for grades 5 through 12 haven’t dipped below 98% since.
The Northern Hemisphere, particularly those countries in temperate zones and more North, adjusted more readily, January and February are generally the colder months of winter, and staying inside was generally accepted (needless to say, the winter sports industry was decimated). Countries in the Southern Hemisphere, namely Australia and New Zealand, given their geographical remoteness opted to allow people to continue working as usual, but completely closed their borders during those months.
Environmentally, the relentless march of human aided global warming slowed to a crawl. A combination of many factors assisted this; the drop in demand and burning of fossil fuels, more than twenty-five percent less traffic (road, sea and air) in many countries, and the fact that for two months each year, people (mostly) weren’t wrecking nature in any other way.
As of 2045, the flu still has not been eradicated, but given the global efforts of governments and their people, global pandemics have become a thing of the past. Seasonal strains have continued to increase in resistance to medication and potency, but flare ups within populations have grown rare.
This piece of speculative fiction was first published on Altmannhaus in January of 2020. Read it again, and more of Conrad Altmann’s writing here.