I’m deathly ill, shivering under a blanket in the dismal tent-crowded parking lot of a multi-plex that’s showing no movies. Sirens strobe off darkened windows. It’s been five confused days since my ambulance sprint to the hospital, since the tsunami of human misery that followed forced the staff to send us packing with flu shot prescriptions. Flu shots! Like doling out cheap cigarettes to dead men walking.
We’re waiting to get our shots at these ad hoc distribution centers because the pharmacies ran out. I spy a poster for The Good Dinosaur. There’s another for The Peanuts Movie. I took my almost 4-year-old to see that one a few weeks ago. It was his first film. We shared pink lemonade and a giant bag of cotton candy. He talked about it for days after.
Ok I’m actually staring at a browser center of my laptop screen, playing something called The Collapse, a promotional slice of meta-fiction and self-described “end of society simulator” that feeds into Ubisoft’s The Division, due March 8 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The latter, a new subset of the sprawling, military minded Tom Clancy-verse, takes as its premise that the world’s been thrown into darkness by a surprise smallpox plague.
In The Division, super-soldiers emerge in the virus’s wake, post-apocalyptic survivalists trained to operate independently to restore order after a government-toppling crisis. But the game picks up in midtown Manhattan after the virus has run its course and pockets of survivors are starting kick around in the rubble. The question is, what happened beforehand?
On my computer, I see a gunmetal map of my hometown in eastern Iowa awash in orange lights marking each infected as the soundtrack of chaos converges: explosions, shattering glass, chanting, sirens, gunfire. Cities becomes states become countries across a cascading sea of ungovernable death as airports and panic ensure the virus’s ubiquity.
The Collapse gives you a glimpse, drawing upon “real data” that lets you enter your address and step into the shoes of patient zero. You can try it for yourself right now. The apocalypse happens in no time at all: vaccine shortages, looters, rioting, financial markets buckling, exponential deaths, overwhelmed law enforcement, soldiers abandoning posts and the fall of national governments.
In my Midwestern scenario, it took just 26 days—less than a month—for the world to end. How long will you last?