It was the 22nd May 2019 when it suddenly appeared. Similar in size to a small bike wheel, with a glossy blue porcelain background and indecipherable white writing, it looked like a typical English Heritage plaque they put up on the outside of a building previously inhabited by a famous personality.
The ‘sign’ appeared on the outside of a second floor non-descript mansion block in the middle of Beresford Street, London; a long street, lined with tall elm trees and an enormous white marble cenotaph celebrating the great war.
On his normal commute to work Rob passed the sign on the other side of the street. Normally he would keep his head down and earbuds plugged in paying little attention to his surroundings. However, at 08.08 on that sunny morning he had a peculiar urge to look up at exactly the point at which he passed the sign. It’s at this point that the course of human history changed forever for it was, at that minute, on this average London street that Rob unwittingly became the instigator … the one who started it all.
As soon as the dazzling blue light from the sign hit the back of Rob’s retina he was transfixed. Imagine if you will locked-in syndrome where the sufferer is unable to do anything but stare, all physical movement becoming impossible, core body functions such as breathing remaining unchanged but actual muscle movement simply not feasible. This would be the closest way to describe Rob’s condition after he had gazed at the sign. He just froze in time, spellbound, beholden to it, no emotion but just complete paralysis.
At 08.11 people were still going about their business on Beresford Street with their normal nonchalant approach to others whilst Rob stood there motionless on the pavement. However, one 32-year-old woman, Emma, whilst staring down at her iPhone accidentally bumped into the statuesque-like Rob. Mumbling an early morning apology Emma swiftly glanced at Rob, noticed him looking up at something across the street and her curiosity also led to her gazing at the blue sign. Emma became victim two, paralyzed in her movement, eyes open, staring.
Within a minute of Emma’s incident Jimmy and his girlfriend Nat, holding hands, were walking up Beresford towards the transfixed pair. Like Emma, Nat was oblivious to her current surroundings, engrossed in a conversation around her latest box-set binge, and walked straight into the two ‘frozen’ pedestrians. Again, there was a mumbled apology, but Nat noticed something peculiar with these two bystanders and followed their gaze. By now you get what happens. Jimmy however, unaware of the signs impact, continued to walk holding Nat’s hand but given her frozen condition accidentally tugged forcibly on her arm, pulling her over. Shocked by her sudden fall and lack of noise or protective movements from his girlfriend he looked quickly at the original frozen pair for assistance but quickly became victim #4 with Nat lying sprawled on her side, wrist broken and blood trickling down her grazed knees.
Seeing Nat’s fall on the other side of the road Harry, a balding middle-aged man, hurried across the road and bent down to help Nat up but was unable to move her body from its twisted posture. It was as if she had been left outside in sub-zero temperatures, completely rigid. His brain was not able to comprehend the situation, perplexed as it was by the strange scene. Concerned and mystified as to everyone’s inactivity he looked to the other three for answers but became #5 … and so on.
By 08.22 that morning what was once an uninteresting street in a London suburb began to resemble a surreal mannequin storage facility. An elderly man, Pat, also fascinated by the scene began to cross the road at the zebra crossing. Slowly he made his way across the road to the small gathering to offer his assistance. Halfway across he noticed that the group he was approaching all seemed to be looking up in the air at something behind him. Turning back to look at what could be of such interest Pat froze stuck mid-stride in an almost comical rendition of the Beatle’s Abbey Road cover. Janet, stressed from this morning’s mayhem at home and fixated on dropping of the kids almost mowed Pat down, slamming on the brakes just in time and stared wide eyed at the sudden confluence of people acting strangely on the pavement. After three blasts of her that grow in their aggressiveness accompanied with some expletives (followed with a quick apology to the two kids in the back) Janet opened the door to reprimand this old man acting foolishly on the road. Following Pat’s gaze her motion immediately stopped. Three minutes later the two kids, strapped into their car seats began to sob. Charlotte, the eldest of the two looked out the window at what mummy was staring at and stopped moving. Her younger sister continued to cry in the confusion.
Perplexed by the honking of horns and commotion she had been hearing on her walk up to Beresford Street, Milly turned onto it not knowing what to expect … and unwittingly ensured the power of the sign went global. During the previous weekend she had recognized that her social updates had been poor to say the least, and with a ballooning number of TikTok fans for her catchy videos, was mindful she needed to post something soon. Turning into the street she saw a queue of cars and a large group of people seemingly transfixed. ‘Oh, this will be perfect, a prank video on my local street’ she thought to herself. Milly began heading to the group, grabbed her phone from her handbag, turned on her app and began to stream the event live for all to see. Milly panned the smartphone’s camera across the crowd of motionless bodies and the eerie chaos that was ensuing. As the director of her live feed, she naturally pointed it to where everyone was staring. As soon as the sign appeared on the screen, she became victim #17.
Although Milly herself thought she wasn’t doing too well, having 420,000 followers worldwide was no mean feat. As such within minutes of the ongoing broadcast Samantha in Newcastle, Jody in Leicester, Mark in Glasgow, Jen in Ohio, Wanya in Osaka and 32,312 others froze, staring at their screens. Sitting at their computer, on the train, in a car, walking through the park or watching intently in a downtown Brooklyn Starbucks, over 30,000 people across the globe just stared.
The majority of people who came across this now growing group of motionless strangers simply passed by, some found it funny, others shrugged their shoulders too busy to care, some decided to film (like Milly, thinking it a prank) whilst others decided to investigate and take a sneaky look at the screen broadcasting the sign on Beresford Street, they all succumbed.
It was now the middle of rush hour in London, which is never fun at any time … add crowds of seemingly stationary people and cars with frozen drivers and it doesn’t take much imagination to visualize the chaos spilling out into nearby roads with gridlock becoming an obvious consequence. Thanks to rubberneckers and an insatiable appetite for curiosity people began to check out the scene, film it, share it and spread it. Now, imagine this happening not just in London but also in the areas where Milly’s fans were watching. It was the same chain reaction – 1) something unusual occurs 2) people investigate 3) its shared … and so on. Anyone who saw even the smallest glimpse of the sign even if it were a few pixels on a screen were impacted by this phenomenon. The voracious way in which the sign’s effect spread took everyone by surprise. Along with photos taken and shared people filmed the crowds of human ‘statues’, posting the strange scenes on social channels unwittingly helping to spread the sign’s image further and faster.
Phil, an established reporter for SKY interviewing the environment secretary outside Parliament noticed a group of people acting foolishly next to The Old Mitre pub. Phil’s professionalism meant he could ignore the scene and focus on the interview but within a few minutes what had begun as a small incident soon turned nasty with those effected getting in the way of people going about their work. Shouting followed by a thrown fist and a car suddenly swerving onto the pavement knocking over several people, both frozen and unaffected meant Phil and his cameraman ran to the scene. Filming in glorious HD to the thousands watching SKY News meant the sign’s coverage went far beyond Milly’s influence.
Within a couple of hours news of the sign and the ensuing chaos became the main story across the globe. Glimpses of the blue sign recorded and recaptured on countless devices were being shared relentlessly and without care.
Governments around the world used to dealing with the likes of terrorism or viruses were simply not able to cope with this phenomenon. There was so much chaos and confusion that it took eight hours for a team in California to stitch the pieces together and understand it was the sight of the blue sign that caused the paralysis with the victims – naming it ‘The Medusa Effect’. But how do you go about stopping human curiosity? Stop people taking a bite from the forbidden fruit? Unlike any virus this couldn’t be controlled by a vaccine or pill. People continued to share the content, self-obsession to be the first to share leading to the sign’s rampant impact. Later in the afternoon most countries in Europe, Asia and the US sent out emergency broadcasts via text and live TV, warning users not to “watch, post, upload or share any content around ‘human statues’ however the population had become weary with their government telling them what to do, and with the rise in fake news, any warning not to view something unwittingly fed their curiosity … surely it was their human right to consumer whatever they wanted.
By 18.15 the question ‘what is Medusa?’ had become history’s most Googled search term and #mannequin accompanied with a photo of the frozen crowds overwhelmed Twitter’s servers. Half an hour later all social platforms were turned off but by this time 68.5% of the human population were now frozen in the pose they had first caught a glimpse of the sign.
Countries rushed to instigate curfews, take down mobile providers and halt data sharing but the speed at which the sign’s effect had already circulated meant key personnel from health and politics to infrastructure and military could not keep up. The global chaos caused over the next few hours cannot be over emphasized. Emergency services were stuck in gridlock, the financial world collapsed, key leaders immobilized, important drills missed, private and public vehicles crashed as their drivers stared at their phones and cases of disappearing jets grew in number. Utter chaos caused by Medusa threw the world into disarray. China with its ability to quarantine the internet had a breathing space of a few hours however Hong Kong’s concentrated population and high-tech society soon spilled out into the mainland resulting in millions of paralyzed people all over Asia. Even North Korea with its strict internet protocol was succumbed by ‘Medusa’ thanks to those accessing via the dark web.
By 22.11 approximately six billion humans had succumbed, and the world began to grind to a halt. By the morning of the next day almost 96% of the world’s adult population had frozen into their final pose.
During the next few days nothing really changed. Except for the elderly and infants who had not yet been affected by ‘Medusa’ (but still remained helpless in their condition/ situation) the world became an eerily peaceful place. The affected were still there, sitting, lying or fallen on the ground … breathing, alive, seeing but not moving. Liquids accumulated in the ankles and legs of those left standing resulting in hideous swellings and billions of severely bloodshot eyes remained open, night and day.
For the first few days’ nature overall maintained its respect of humanity with a couple of exceptions. In Whipsnade Zoo a lion pack had eaten two families due to one of the parks keepers checking his phone whilst locking the gate and an unfortunate boa constrictor owner in Manilla had been swallowed by his beloved pet. After a week however things turned from benign to rotten. Although mercifully most people had died through brain failure due to dehydration there were an unfortunate few who were still in the process of dying, slowly decaying, forced to watch the flies and other insects begin the feast of all feasts.
Within a month humankind was on the verge of extinction. Billions of corpses lay strewn across lawns, in offices, on roads, in supermarkets – rotting, being eaten and becoming one with nature. Given that mainstream electricity and power grids had completely shut the Medusa effect could no longer spread; the only true way for ‘infection’ was a visit to Beresford Street and to view the original blue sign with your own eyes.
Months and years rolled by. Tiny pockets of humanity who had managed to avoid the initial chaos due to isolation or lack of infrastructure continued to live on provisions that had been left however their reliance on modern technology, lack of medical care and dwindling gene pools meant their time on earth was to be short lived to a few generations.
Centuries passed and planet Earth soon became covered with thick, lush vegetation. The mansion block which originally held the blue sign was soon overcome with the brute force of surrounding trees and the bolts holding the sign finally rusted through bringing it crashing to the ground. Soon any sign that homo-sapiens had tamed nature were all but gone.
However, one small tribe, the Congreti, based north of the Congo delta had blossomed during this time. Although most of Africa had succumbed to Medusa this remote tribe did not and as such were oblivious to the events that occurred in 2019. The villagers had initially noticed a lack of airplanes but carried on with their life as normal; hunting, gathering and survival. One thing they did notice was that nature seemed to be more bountiful than any of their ancestors could remember, seas swelled with huge shoals of fish and forests were packed with densely populated animals.
It’s now the year 3126 when Zorento, last surviving member of the powerful citadel of Congreti felt a calling, a purpose, a mission and so he headed north. His civilization which had covered most of the land mass of Zoont (North Africa) had been totally decimated by an unstoppable strain of meningitis. However, Zorento had survived by being an outcast, a loner, living outside the citadels walls, remaining self-sufficient and poaching when necessary. Thanks to his isolation, and unknown to him, Zorento had become the last surviving homo-sapien on Earth.
Over the years Zorento had heard of stories and tales of strange objects being pulled up from the jungle floor, showing that once this land on which he now trod had been inhabited by another long lost civilization … but why was he heading the way he was? He couldn’t understand his urge and desire to head in a particular direction. To Zorento it felt like a gnawing hunger to complete a mission he could not comprehend. After a perilous sea crossing and month-long trek he finally crossed another narrow body of water and made camp on a stony beach under enormous white stone cliffs. Continuing north for a few days he finally decided to set up camp in a huge valley split in two by a large meandering river.
One morning Zorento woke very early and felt himself drawn to a non-descript patch of land. Movement through this undergrowth was awkward to say the least and he let out a curse as he tripped and smacked his leg on a large smoothly chiseled white stone peeping from the surface of the ground. At this point for no apparent reason Zorento had the urge to dig into the weeds and rotting vegetation under his feet. He created a make-shift shovel from a rusting object he discovered and began to dig in, one metre, two, three … finally he stopped and stared … at a shield-like object with one or two blue flakes of paint … and stared and stared.
Credit : Artbycooper
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