June 2nd, 42 After Fall
Somewhere in the Colorado Mountains

They first caught sight of the man walking a few miles from the compound. At least it looked like a man. Faded jeans, white t-shirt, light jacket, rucksack. White skin, light brown hair. No obvious disabilities. No logos.

They kept him under surveillance as he approached. In other times they might have shot him on sight, but not now. They were painfully aware of the bounds of sustainable genetic diversity, so instead they drove over in a battered van, rifles loaded, industrial earmuffs in place. Once he was on his knees, they sent Javid the Unhearing over to bind and gag him, then bundled him into the van. No reason to risk exposure.

Javid had not always been deaf, but it was an honor. Some must sacrifice for the good of the others, and he was proud to defend the Sanctum at Rogers Ford.

Once back at the complex, they moved the man to a sound-proofed holding room and unbound him. An ancient PC sat on the desk, marked “Imp Association”. The people did not know who the Imp Association were, but they were grateful for it. Perhaps it was a gift from Olson. Praise be to Olson.

With little else to do, the man sat down and read the instructions on the screen. A series of words showed, and he was commanded to select left or right based on various different criteria. It was very confusing.

In a different room, watchers huddled around a tiny screen, looking at a series of numbers.

REP/DEM 0.0012 0.39 0.003

Good. That was a very good start.

FEM/MRA -0.0082 0.28 -0.029

SJW/NRX 0.0065 0.54 0.012

Eventually they passed the lines the catechism denoted “purge with fire and never speak thereof”, on to those merely marked as “highly dangerous”.

KO/PEP 0.1781 0.6 0.297

Not as good, but still within the proscribed tolerances. They would run the supplemental.

T_JCB/T_EWD -0.0008 1.2 -0.001

The test continued for some time, until eventually the cleric intoned, “The Trial by Fish is complete. He has passed the Snedecor Fish.” The people nodded as if they understood, then proceeded to the next stage.

This was more dangerous. This required a sacrifice.

She was young – just 15 years old. Fresh faced with long blond hair tied back, Sophia had a cute smile: she was perfect for the duty. Her family were told it was an honor to have their daughter selected.

Sophia entered the room, trepidation in her head, a smile on her face. Casually, she offered him a drink, “Hey, sorry you have to go through all this testin’. You must be hot! Would you like a co cuh?” Her relaxed intonation disguised the fact that these words were the proscribed words, passed down through generations, memorized and cherished as a ward against evil. He accepted the bottle of dark liquid and drank, before tossing the recyclable container in the bin.

In the other room, a box marked ‘ECO’ was ticked off.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I made a mistake – that’s pep-see. I’m so sorry!” she gushed in apology. He assured her it was fine.

In the other room, the cleric satisfied himself that the loyalty brand was burning at zero.

She moved on to the next proscribed question, with the ordained level of casualness, “Say, I know this is a silly question, but do you ever get a song stuck in your head?”

“Errr, what?”

“You know, like you just can’t stop singing it to yourself? Yeah?” Of course, she had no idea what this was like. She was alive.

“Ummm, sorry, no.”

She turned and left the room, relief filling her eyes.

After three more days of testing, the man was allowed into the compound. Despite the ravages of an evolution with a generational frequency a hundred times that of humanity, he had somehow preserved himself. He was clean of viral memetic payload. He was alive.


4 thoughts on “Quarantine

  1. spriteless says:

    Want constructive criticism? I noticed 2 things. The first is how is Olson not a meme? I don’t even know what to make of that in the context of the story. It is a weird detail that stands out.

    Second, the structure is weak; if you’ve figured out what they are quarantining, then the ending is nothing you don’t already know. (I figured it out at ‘No logos.’) I’d suggest either a little more journey by either describing tests more, or start out impersonal ‘it looked like a man’ but not describing human characteristics and gradually treat the quarantine subject more and more like a person, so the journey becomes seeing the subject as an object and threat to seeing them as a person with brown hair to seeing them as a fellow with eyes that have an expression of some sort relevant to the plot.

    Yep. That’s all I got. I came here from less wrong and wondered if the story belonged there, so I commented here instead. Email me if I wasn’t clear on anything I said.


    • Thanks for reading!

      In response to your points, the former is very deliberate. Perhaps it is more opaque than the rest of the story. The latter point you raise is a good one, and I’ll keep it in mind for next time. (It seems strange to make substantial edits post-publishing).


  2. Juan Peron says:

    Very interesting piece. Some cool ideas, some red herrings, and I’m still thinking about it a while after reading it. My biggest questions:

    What gave Olson his cult-leader status? I assume (after googling) that it’s the Olson of early IAT publications, but that doesn’t mean most people using the test know his name.

    What are those later IAT questions? I got FEM/MRA and SJW/NRX, but should I recognize T_JCB/T_EWD? Those strings are basically nonexistent online and I can’t guess what they’re acronyms for.

    Finally, what’s the deal with “generational frequency”? Do meme-havers breed 100x faster than non-meme-havers? That doesn’t seem like the right reading to me…

    Anyway, thanks! (I’m here from SSC, under the same name).


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