Social distancing within a psychically intrusive society.
|There was never any sense of alone. The virus had seen to that. No one's thoughts were their own any longer, but it continued to mutate into ever so much more deadly variations. The fact was that no one could afford to be within ten feet of anyone else for fear that the variety of the virus they carried would kill those around them. Behind gloves and elaborate masks, everyone was physically alone, touching no other living being for fear of killing them or being killed. Still, there was no privacy. Worst enemies and best of friends all knew every thought or feeling anyone ever had.
They were all automatons each an arm of the psychic whole. Rebellion from the collective will was not permitted. People with dangerous intentions were stopped before their thoughts could complete themselves. Armored men and women in sealed environmental suits whisked dissidents away to prisons which cared little about social distancing. If you broke the social norms to the point of forcing society to act, as one society condemned you to die crowded into prisons without so much as three feet between you and the next prisoner. No masks or gloves were to be had. The food was delivered remotely. As there was only a way in and the only way out was cremation, there were no guards, just thick impenetrable walls.
For the first several decades, prison populations were kept in check by the virus, about fifty years in though, the population began to grow to dozens, then hundreds. It puzzled society, criminals were expected to die but they just would not. After a hundred years the most alarming thing happened. The thoughts of the prisoners went silent to the collective. It was so alarming that members of the thought police made the sacrifice of entering the prisons to discover what had happened. They entered unarmed and prepared to die. What they found was hundreds of prisoners existing as people had before the plague. They smiled freely, they embraced. Children were born without the benefit of scientific intervention, through natural means. The plague had been defeated.
The thought police attempted to deliver the news to the outer world, but could not communicate through the walls of the prisoners' thoughts. The prisoners still carried the psychic gifts of the virus, but somehow they controlled it in a way that those in the outer world could not. The thought police became alarmed especially as they were seized and infected with the new variety of the virus. Half of the investigators died within hours. The other half awoke truly alone for the first time in their lives, though dozens of prisoners were packed into cells with them.
The greatest of surprises was soon to come, the virus's deadly gifts did not stop with telepathy in the prison population. Telekinesis, pyrokinesis, healing, and other abilities had begun to pass through the population. Most alarming was the ability to teleport. The thought police spies were given the option of joining the prisoners or facing destruction with the outer world. They prisoners had their ticket back to outer society in teleportation. Loyally the thought police sided with their world, they were left behind in the prison as the prisoners freed themselves.
The clash of the two societies was brief. For the most part, the socially isolated outer world had no hope. The prisoners bore an especially deadly strain of the virus and the knowledge born of close combat. The rebellion lasted hours not days. In the end, the prisoners showed mercy of a type. They allowed the outer society to continue but removed their hope of scientific reproduction they had to choose between natural contact reproduction and dying out.