They hovered in the suburbs of downtown Hell. Pandemics and infections were a special Satanic delight. Hell’s outer circles were a chore to access, and this kept Beelzebub from overusing the viruses. He drafted them into service when circumstances aligned to make the effort worthwhile.
The muffled sounds of screaming souls from a few rings inward pushed through, but here, in Ring 8, only a low drone prevailed, like a space heater set to MEDIUM. Bathed in a pleasant, thick gruel that nourished the viruses, they floated, segregated from each other and pulsing in size proportional to the suffering they were causing up on Earth. Influenza held the size record, dwarfing the loathsome lot of them back in 1918 when it had taken out 5 percent of the planet’s population.
Technically, SARS-Coronavirus-2 Clade Variant delta-zeta, but here, among frenemies, plain ol’ ‘Rona. In 2023, ‘Rona was marching with purpose toward seven million deaths. The deaths were a nice perk, but the point was to reproduce, right? Sex sells! There were so many humans left to infect. And airborne droplet spread? Genius; ‘Rona was quite proud.
HIV, sensing ‘Rona’s braggadocio, put down its copy of King’s The Stand and chimed in, humbling ‘Rona.
“Hey, what am I? Chopped liver? I’ve taken out over 40 million people since my little reign of terror began.”
They lolled about in the soup and regaled with tales of past successes, each trying to top the others, recounting torment for their hosts, but, from their points of view, triumphant reproduction for their clades.
These humans were perfect hosts, their hospitality: legendary. They coughed, they sneezed, they fucked, they didn’t wear masks. The arrangement served the jaunty band of intracellular parasites just fine, thank you very much.
Terminalvirus had returned from a meeting with the Big Guy and was feeling self-important. “Fools! They aim so low. Those vile symptoms; of course, the humans are going to fight back.” Terminalvirus shuddered thinking of vaccines.
“Blood out of every hole? Nice touch but, come on Marburg… eww AND yuck!”
“Facial pustules! A good effort, Pox… but you were the vaccine poster boy. You birthed the whole concept. You almost fucked it up for all of us.”
Terminalvirus Clade-2024 was the new kid on the block, determined to make a permanent impression. A million dead? 40 million? Hell, there were eight billion people on the planet, 130 billion more mammals.
“Let’s blow this fucker out. Go down in a blaze of glory!”
“Use the rats,” Satan had advised.
Mother Nature watched with impartiality.