Those who had survived the contagion described its throes as a descent into a personal hell: a sensation of fatigue and detachment eventually growing into complete dissociation from reality. They’d hear a roaring in their ears, like a distant waterfall, and then the colors of the world around them would change. Bright became dark and dark became bright; noise was amplified a thousand times, as was movement.

The worst thing, though, was the change sufferers perceived in human expression. The ordinary actions, words, and even facial expressions were suddenly suffused with menace, demanding violent–even lethal–retaliation. Sufferers would see themselves as beset on all sides by threats, and a sort of terrible paranoia borne of fever was the result. Curiously, this didn’t seem to extend to other sufferers, who seemed to see one another as erstwhile allies. At the very least sufferers would ignore each other while they turned tooth and nail, knife and gun, on their other fellows.

The contagion seemed to run its course in a few weeks, with something like twenty to thirty percent surviving if they hadn’t been killed in their violent frenzy. Those fortunates would gradually return to normal, though they were often emaciated and starving by that point and easy pretty for those that remained violent. The remaining seventy to eighty percent would eventually reach such an imbalance of activity versus caloric intake that they would simply shut down. Occasionally, heavy sedation had been shown to allow even the most violent afflicted to endure the course of their infectious madness, but the intense supervision it required–to say nothing of the medications and expertise involved–made it out of reach for all but a lucky few.

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