Pestilence paid John no mind, the human at once beneath and beyond it. Instead, it stared blankly ahead, its rheumy eyes focused on some invisible thing so small that only it could see it. John, meanwhile, watched as miles below the people withered, as the already-dead boarded planes and trains, piled into self-driving cars and buses, as they did Pestilence’s work for it and spread their diseases unwittingly. This was worse than the burning bodies, than the soldiers killing each other, the robots that slaughtered unseen from the skies. This was a killer that people didn’t even realize existed. They wouldn’t until it was too late.
Do you think there’s a higher plan, Pestilence asked. John said nothing, but it didn’t matter to Pestilence. Pestilence spoke only for itself, caring not at all for what John thought.
I do. I see the guiding hand of evolution. The invisible chains of cause and effect.
Science freed us from you in the past, John said, and it will again.
Pestilence turned to John and grinned, lips cracked from dehydration, mucus and blood dripping from the remnants of a nose consumed by gangrene. The bulky protective suit it wore hissed with every breath, expelling some new contagion through cracks and tears that had gone deliberately unpatched. What, you speak of smallpox? Of the hundred other diseases you eradicated that yet lived on in labs somewhere because it is in your species’s nature to let nothing go. Oh, but we must study it! Oh, but we could use it as a weapon against or enemies! Oh, but by understanding that which kills us we will understand ourselves! Such hubris!
Pestilence’s grin spread wider still. Hubris and complacency. You discovered vaccines and stopped using them the instant you forgot how deadly the diseases they prevented were. You discovered antibiotics and had overused them to the point of ineffectiveness within a century. It’s childish. Laughable.
Oh, yes. I see a higher plan in all this. The plan of life itself. From dry plains, you spread across the world, like bacteria in a host. But you were too virulent a strain. You have killed your host and burned yourself out. Perhaps something more mild will replace you, but you will never live to see it.