In September of 2025, little Suzy La Montaigne, age seven, came home from her elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana, with a headache and sniffles. Three days later she was dead. Ten days later, so were all but three of her classmates and her teacher. A week after that, only a handful of the students in her school were still alive, and people of all ages were dropping dead on the streets of the community her school served.
When scientists first began fooling around with genetic engineering in their labs, real conservatives warned there would be consequences. When man plays God, bad things happen. But companies perceived that money could be made, so genetic engineering took off. It quickly permeated the food supply. As the technology continued to be developed, word of how to do it spread. Unlike nuclear weapons, genetically engineered diseases did not require much in the way of facilities to develop. Kids could do it in the basement – and soon some were.
No one ever figured out whether N’Orleans flu, as it came to be known, happened as an accident of genetic engineering or was deliberately created as a weapon of war. If it were the latter, we never determined who used it on the American South, or why.
People did figure out, fast, that N’Orleans flu spread easily, like other flu, but it had a mortality rate of about 80%.
The Plague was back. Contrary to what Americans had been taught, the Middle Ages were a highly successful society. What brought them down was disease. Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down. Dead. It’s an old rhyme about the Plague. You still hear children sing it, not knowing what it means. When N’Orleans flu hit, they found out. In response, people did the only thing they could. They panicked.
To understand the Great Panic of 2025, you have to realize that by that time, no one trusted any American institution. The hyper-inflation had destroyed what little remained of the federal government’s legitimacy. The media was equally mistrusted. People had figured out what it called “news” had been reduced to another form of entertainment. The culturally Marxist academics and mainstream clergy were taken seriously only by each other.
The average American’s life was dominated by one emotion: fear. He feared crime, he feared for his job, he feared the government, he feared for his children, and, most of all, he feared the future. His fears were realistic. They reflected the reality that pressed in on him from every side.
So when this new fear arose, the fear of plague, of a new Black Death lurking in every bus and elevator, shopping mall and office building, he panicked. The Establishment tried to reassure him, to deny the evidence, to damn those who had warned about genetic engineering as “Luddites.” But it was all lies and he knew it. He knew the Establishment lied about everything.
People simply fled. They gathered up their children and ran for the country. It was the only reasonable response, the only possible response. It didn’t work, because the country soon filled up with people, which is what other people were trying to avoid. So they fled further. Woods and fields became gypsy camps. Like the gypsies, when they needed food or clothing or weapons, they stole them. Their money wasn’t worth anything anyway.
The woods were pretty in autumn that year; the East had one of its most spectacular seasons for color, the maples decked in brilliant oranges and scarlets. Soon, there were less attractive sights under the trees.
At first, the country people welcomed and helped the refugees. Rural areas were still largely Christian. People there helped each other, and felt it their duty to do the same for the newcomers. But too often, the city people brought their ways with them – crime, drugs, noise, and dirt – as well as N’Orleans flu. The rural folk caught the scent of fear, and feared themselves. Soon, militias were being organized in church basements, and bends in country roads became the settings for ambushes. The red and yellow leaves, dying, offered themselves as cheerful shrouds for human dead; no one would bury the bodies for fear of contamination. The carrion-eaters had a feast that winter.
The panic was finally suppressed in 2026 by two old Russian generals, General January and General February. The winter was a harsh one almost everywhere. Just another sign of climate change, the experts said. As the snow fell and the mercury plunged, people started walking home. The risk of a rapid death by disease seemed preferable to a slow and agonizing death by starving and freezing, or murder. By Spring, the country people had their woods and fields to themselves again. However, they did not disband their militias.
Citizens demanded that the government do something, now that they couldn’t run away. And government did. It got a ruling from the Supreme Court that said people with disease were “disabled,” so that any preventive measures like a quarantine would be illegal discrimination. No one was surprised. And they all knew there was nothing they could do about it.
In Maine, of course, things were different. The government in Washington was merely a polite fiction for us, and we paid as little attention to its Supreme Court as to a headline in a supermarket tabloid. We moved promptly to protect public health.
Anyone who showed early symptoms of N’Orleans flu was quarantined, along with all other members of their household. We had very few cases because we also put controls on entry into Maine. The lack of motor traffic due to the price of gas meant most people coming in came by train, and there weren’t many of them; the American tourist was an extinct animal. All trains had to stop while passengers got a quick blood test; those who didn’t pass were put on the next train back. The airports and the Interstates had a similar rule; the rest of the roads we closed. Washington squawked, of course, but we didn’t bother to reply. Vermont and New Hampshire soon joined us, which reopened the border roads. The deep South states also adopted a policy of quarantine; they too were starting to act in concert.
The fact that we learned early how to control our borders and who and what crossed them was central to our survival. As the 21st century moved on and the world was engulfed by wars, every surviving state had to shut their borders down tight. Anyone who had the slightest laxness in border controls was quickly hit by a genetically engineered disease. Those growing parts of the world where the state had disintegrated were depopulated.
It’s funny how all the “experts” in the early 21st century were predicting a future of “globalism” and “international economy,” where people and goods moved freely throughout the world. The reality is, it now takes two years to get a European visa, and when you get there, you face two weeks of medical tests at your own expense followed by six weeks of quarantine even if you pass. And that’s if you’re coming from another state. If you’re from someplace where the state has disappeared, you can’t go there. Illegal immigrants are shot on site.