Dirty Bomb

I remember the morning. Do you? It was around 8am, at least in my lazy corner of the world. I was in my local coffee shop; writing. I still had a fantasy I would be a writer. Like everything else, I was too cautious and the moment passed. As it passed for everyone.

I’d slept poorly the night before. There were strange imprecise noises, distorted by the clear, calm air of 2am. Popping. Banging. Pffts of air escaping. I thought it was animals; the small scurrying foraging kind. Or neighbours banging around, perhaps.

I checked the house. I checked the car. Nothing. So I went back to bed and had strange dreams of evil, choking winds shut out only by my flimsy windows.

When my alarm went off at 5:30am I wanted the sleep-in I was never able to achieve. But I got up anyway, had some Vegemite toast and a cup of tea, packed my bag, went to the gym and now I was in the closest cafe. Scribbling half-formed thoughts onto the page, drinking strong coffee and pretending I was a writer.

It was a cool, clear morning: the kind that put the beautiful and the perfect into Queensland’s old tourism slogan. I didn’t have a preferred cafe; choosing one depending on my mood, my budget, the weather. A hundred different unacknowledged things.

Often I launched myself from my bed and onto the mainland early so I could get to work at a decent hour but today I’d decided to stay on my island and sip my coffee and watch ink flow impotently from my pen with a view of Moreton Bay.

When the first one fell, I thought it was rain from a cloudless sky: not uncommon on that coastline where winds could blow droplets from clouds well out of sight.

It hit the compact sand, fine like dirt, and let out a small burst of air like a gasp. It didn’t smell. Don’t let anybody tell you that it did. The fancifists who speak of sulphur fumes or flowery perfumes or formaldehyde are guilty of the same human flaws that led us here. I have no more time for them. I have no love left for anyone.
They dropped from the sky like rain, although they were not rain. They spit their cargo into the air like breath, although it was not breath. And then they dissolved into almost nothing, although they were not nothing.

Some fell near underfunded universities or neglected public research institutions like CSIRO. Some small specimens were quickly scraped and stored to be studied. And then those areas were defunded and the samples were handed to the private labs that acquired them and they determined there was no commercial value to the research and the samples mouldered in storage.

Is mouldered even a word? For that matter is fancifists? I’m not sure I care anymore.

It made the news, of course. You remember. Morning television dubbed it TERRORISM and immediately trotted out every wild-eyed Islamaphobe they could find. They tried their best to whip up a fear frenzy but, as the day progressed, they had to acknowledge the truth: the small translucent missiles had rained down upon everybody. All at once. And they had pelted the ISS and some now-damaged satellites on their way to the surface.
And that was when the fun really began.

The Daily Mail could do headlines, although they rarely bothered to underpin them with journalism.

Alien Invasion?
Space Balls Change Human DNA, Scientists Claim
Chinese More Susceptible

The last wasn’t even in the scientific paper the sensationalist article was pretending to discuss. It was a quote at the end by a Doctor Wakefield who claimed the findings showed we were inside a genetic Trojan Horse of alien design.

He claimed the subtle genetic changes attributed to the spheres were more significant in people of Asian descent – specifically those with an epicanthic fold – and more prevalent in Han Chinese.

The epicanthic fold was found across Asia and in other populations as well, including the Berbers and Indigenous Americans. So why were the Chinese singled out, I mused in a terse and sarcastic tweet on the article. And why did the Daily Mail include this racist addition from someone who wasn’t even a geneticist in its headline, I asked in a follow-up quote tweet. They do know that people with Down Syndrome have an epicanthic fold as well, a follower tweeted back. We were united in our scorn. The Daily Mail doing what they do best.

A former CSIRO scientist I knew – newly unemployed of course – was scathing of the claim.

“The substance released by the spheres does seem to be implicated in several epigenetic changes across the population. However, there’s no evidence these epigenetic changes have any effect on people’s health. The new genes expressed have no identifiable impact on anybody in which they have been observed. We need to do further studies of course, especially into the intergenerational consequences of these changes being passed down. But for now the changes seem inconsequential.”

His comments were reported in the Herald Sun as:
Alien Gene Manipulation Could Be Passed To Our Children
Three exclamation points.

I turned off the television for good after one too many What Are the Aliens Planning? special news bulletins. Andrew Bolt interviewed Alan Jones on why we should all be scared. They all agreed the aliens had a plan. Why were the lefties and femininazis suddenly quiet about a real threat to our sovereignty? They were obviously alien sympathisers who hated humanity.
And so it went on. And on. And on.

And so I had a drop out day.

A drop out day was when I closed the blinds, grabbed a good book, brewed the coffee in quantities sufficient for an IV drip and pretended the world didn’t exist.

I’d spent the week in my normal routine of work and complaining about the increasingly-insane world I lived in. It was Saturday and refugees were still in hellhole concentration camps where people were being beaten and raped. Domestic violence was at epidemic proportions, something which was apparently a man-hating beat-up by the feminists. Climate change was marching quickly; destroying slowly the lives of billions and our government was still committed to actively making that happen. Universal healthcare was being sliced to an ugly death. Trump had been elected President of the United States.

It was too much and I was exhausted.

With my connection to the outside world severed and my brain in the world of a Jasper Fforde novel, I drank my weight in coffee and, after 3pm, gin and didn’t hear about it until Sunday.

By then the horror was so well-advanced, the inevitability of it hit me like a dirty brick to the face and my drop out day seemed as selfish and as self-indulgent as it had been.

That previously-laughable rabble known as Border Force had quietly rounded up hundreds of Australians of Chinese descent and sent them to Nauru and PNG: sliding them across the border before the law could stop them.

In retrospect, that heinous act had been a culmination.

There had been rumours on quality new organisations like Al Jazeera for a while.

A mob in Malaysia burning Chinese businesses. An Islamic group in Pakistan declaring Jihad on those who were no longer God’s Children. (You remember them: the Australian media insisted on mispronouncing their name as a type of soup).

The American pastor who claimed the Chinese were now a fifth column for the devil, working with the communist United Nations to take away his guns and make him pay more tax.

An anti-vaxxer in Britain who said the genetic changes were actually caused by vaccines and the government was in league with the pharmaceutical companies to cover it up. Those companies, he proclaimed in a peculiarly manic manner, were somehow both Zionist and Chinese.

In Japan, the Chinese population had quietly been interned, causing what was euphemistically called an “international incident”. The Japanese declared their population free of epigenetic changes; a fact that couldn’t possibly be true but that was accepted by the international community for reasons I found baffling. The Chinese government insisted on their release and rattled some sabres. This was reported in the Australian media as further evidence of Chinese aggression.

After all, we’d been nervous about China before G-Day. Han Chinese made up 20% of the world’s population. And now – the papers and Murdoch news increasingly told us – it was possible they weren’t even really human anymore. And if they were, well, those genetic changes meant something. Otherwise, why would the aliens have wasted resources making them happen?

I wasn’t the most avid reader of popular news but even I couldn’t miss the subtle change in language we’d achieved by the second anniversary of G-Day. Suddenly these scattered epigenetic changes were referred to an ‘alien infection’. Humans were ‘infected by alien code’ and who knew what instructions our genome was now following.

Extremist groups were beginning to force the government to refer to these changes as ‘Alien DNA’ and no amount of rationality or logic could stop the terminology from spreading.

There had been a growing clamour for the genetically infected to be removed from the population for our own safety. But I had retained an instinctive belief that sort of thing simply didn’t happen here. Even though my country already had concentration camps with people they considered no more than detritus rotting in them.

And yet. I woke up to a world where people with any Chinese ancestry were in jail for the crime of being born. And, I discovered later to my horror, those with Down Syndrome were among them.

Paralysed by the shock and outrage, I didn’t know what to do; lost in a rage so large it was rendered impotent. Protests were organised but I did not go. Julian Burnside mounted an extensive suite of legal action, only to have the law washed from beneath his feet. Aliens couldn’t be citizens and, even if they were still human, they harboured an alien genetic time bomb deep inside them that could blow up our species. The law, the High Court concluded, didn’t apply. And if it did, then the law was changed. Quickly.

As a government employee, I was one of the first to find myself subjected to mandatory genetic integrity tests to determine the extent of my genetic damage. The few remaining public scientists – those not forced into the private research firms benefiting from the testing regime – protested. They said these kinds of epigenetic changes were seen at a population level. Individuals could easily have acquired them naturally. There was no way a single test could distinguish which changes were environmental and which were caused by the invisible substance the spheres had expelled so quietly.

As an Australian of English, Irish and Scottish descent, my genes were almost unaffected or so the test showed. To this day, I have no idea what criteria were used to assess this and I resigned in protest.

The scientific evidence was clear. There was no evidence these changes made any real difference to the human genome. These genes were in all of us: they just expressed in different ways. And our environment was just as likely to switch certain genes on as alien intervention. By the fourth anniversary of G-Day, genetic testing had stopped. It was expensive, after all, and we had definitively proved the changes were more prevalent in those people of Chinese descent. Or so we were told.

By now, logic was gone. All that was left was the long screeching cry of human territorial instinct.

Nauru and PNG were not large enough, of course, for the detention of the 1 million Chinese in Australia. As you no doubt remember, the largest camp was established on Norfolk Island. Norfolk residents were horrified but the now extra-legal, paramilitary Border Force could not be argued with and the Island found itself repeating its neighbour’s colonial history in real time.

China had broken off all diplomatic ties. It had forged an unlikely alliance with North Korea and, in an historical quirk, South Korea too. Countries in South-East Asia, determined to assert their non-Chinese heritage while struggling with the reality of the widespread genetic anomalies in their own populations, formed a bloc to insist publicly that it was the Han Chinese that were the problem.

It was the loose conglomeration of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Burma that had begun the first state executions. I think. By this time, Al Jazeera was off the air and Al Arabiya had been stormed; their stations trashed and journalists indefinitely detained. Every other international network had fallen into line with their country’s editorial policies. News was patchy and inaccurate and finding real information became increasingly difficult, even for those of us with first-world internet access.

News trickled out that Cambodia had set up refugee camps; throwing open their borders to the fleeing Chinese and defying their neighbours with every fibre of their impoverished, traumatised being. I do know that stopped when Vietnam invaded. After that, my knowledge of international developments was almost completely overtaken by propaganda and outright lies.

The Turnbull government had lost the last election in a landslide to the ultra-nationalist Australian Liberty Alliance who had quietly swapped out Muslims for the Chinese in their campaigning. They had almost immediately declared a national emergency, cancelled elections and choked off local access to social media. We were now the ‘voice of the Alien Invasion’: sympathisers and traitors and fifth columnists aiding and abetting an enemy. A VPN and proxy blocker worked for a small time before that small measure of anonymity was stripped away. We were alone.

Australia’s camps were overflowing. Everyone’s camps were overflowing. The Chinese were the most populous group on the planet. You may be offended by my choice of words but it remained a fact. The executions were the natural result of simple logic.

They could be sterilised and returned to their homes but the legal problems that would stem from mass sterilisation would come back to hurt them. They knew that. Those old white men with their hands gripped white on their pens. And who knew if they weren’t just sleepers, ready to activate for their alien masters on a secret, silent command.

I don’t remember exactly when the Human Standard was published. Maybe you do. Sometime around the 4th anniversary, I think. Nor did I ever find out where I would have rated on it. After all, my blonde hair, blue eyes and round eyes meant I would never be tested at all. I was automatically assigned an Alien Infiltration Level of 1.

The Standard Genetic Framework for Determining Members of the Human Species became a recognised international standard not long after the fourth anniversary of G-Day. An administrative and logistical way for them to begin to categorise the burgeoning camp populations outside of China.

I’m sure independent scientists would have pointed out there was no such thing as a standard genetic framework for determining humanity. But they were now all in jail or silent with fear. After all, this was a time of war.
Logic and science had taken the last plane out of Canberra and we were just left with this. This senseless hate. Like an existential slap across the soul.

I was thrilled to be assigned an Alien Infiltration Level of 1. Completely human. And my rating didn’t even require a new set of genetic testing. Although an old friend in the new Department of Genetic Integrity quietly told me I’d been put on a watch list as a suspected Alien Sympathiser for my now-defunct Twitter account. If you’re reading this, no doubt you were ranked low on the scale as well. A 1 or 2. Genetically unassailed. I bet you feel as special as I did. That was sarcasm, in case the art of irony has died along with everything else.

They call it the banality of evil for a reason. What could be more banal than a meaningless standard on a meaningless framework deciding whether you lived or died? I lived. And that seems just as meaningless now as everything else.

They started with the AIL5s. Alien Infiltration Level 5 meant noticeable epigenetic changes that had been passed to the next generation. Our invaders, we were now told, were playing a Long Game. It was becoming clearer the changes had no discernible effect, even to those with an epicanthic fold. It was becoming clearer the hate and the fear and the atrocities were pointless, directionless, irrelevant. And so it was becoming clearer they needed to be justified, even more than they were before.
I have no doubt there were special secret reports stamped with special secret codes filed in special secret rooms that admitted there was no real threat. But when you hop a freight train, you can’t expect it to stop for you just because it’s gone off the rails towards a cliff.

It was not this generation they were targeting, was the conclusion, but the future generations of humanity.

The Third Generation: Why We Will Cease Being Human by 2100 was a book by Doctor Wakefield published in the lead up to the fifth anniversary of G-Day. It become mandatory reading in school curriculums and I tried to do my civic duty by wading through it myself. I’m sure you did too. After all, it was must-read literature. It was a pseudoscientific work of fiction that nonetheless formed the basis of many of our government’s policies in that awful year.

Consensus, the new publication aimed at those concerned about the assault on the human genome drew on its themes heavily as did Pure; the journal by Humanity for Humanity.

The AIL5s were murdered. Worldwide. Quickly and systematically yet somehow slowly as though there was just enough time for this madness to end but not enough time for us to even recover from the shock. Nearly 10 million. Dead. With 20 million AIL4s to be next.
And that was when the world ended.

My island home was far enough away from the blasts. Brisbane did not get hit and we had power and water and a ferry service to the mainland. At least we did for a while. I suspect the Collapse would have eventually destroyed us too but at first our corner of civilisation still functioned – albeit without gin or a caffeine drip.

I’m glad I took that drop out day. It was my last.

I believed, like most, that it was the Chinese-Korean Security Partnership that struck first. Pre-emptive self-defence. Or orders from their alien masters as some still tried to claim after the fact. But there were rumours it was Israel – using their illegal arsenal to enact Infiltration Eradication on a larger scale – that pressed that big red button first. And that they fired on Tehran and Riyadh as well.

Israel’s Chinese population was negligible and most had left for the safety of the Chinese mainland long before the AILs were mandated. Israel had been waging a strong propaganda campaign that it was Arabs who were the greatest threat, despite no evidence the Arabic population had a greater genetic infiltration than their Semitic cousins.

Regardless of who fired first, by the time China’s nukes were in the air, others were fired in response. How many cities were hit? How many billions dead? Did the India and Pakistan Common Area pact save them or did they turn on each other in the end? I will never know. Maybe you do. If you’re reading this then you too were a survivor; a lucky one. No mushroom cloud. No radiation. No electromagnetic blast smashing your technological life back to the stone age.

You are also one of the few. As am I.

And so, like me, you’ll have seen them. Now, after the literal smoke has cleared, flying above us in their ships; hovering sometimes over the survivors still struggling to keep the scraps of internet alive: sending messages into a dying world.

Their numbers are small. I’m sure you’ve noticed. And I’m sure you’ve realised that doesn’t matter anymore.

If they could speak, those launchers of small harmless balls into space. If they could be bothered to communicate with the vestiges of pure humanity clinging to the planet they coveted for reasons we will never know. If they could read my diatribe, now ending, as I plan to throw it into that void where vibrant life danced for a brief moment.

I think they’d say.

Thank you.

We couldn’t have done it without you.

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