Vaccine apocalypse fiction

4 min

Here's a plot for an apocalypse-horror-fiction novel.

It's an inverted Children of Men scenario (the kids are alright), based on a worst-case Coronavirus doomsday scenario, with a slight resemblance to On the Beach (the psychology of inevitable demise), then finally devolving into a Lord of Flies like scenario (the kids run society).

Notes & Warnings:

  • Don't read if you're paranoid about dementia or vaccines
  • Faulty science ahead
  • This isn't a conspiracy theory
  • This isn't how I think the vaccine will play out
  • There is no political motivation behind this, just a thought experiment on "What's the worst that could theoretically happen?"


mRNA vaccines were distributed in 2021 and were extremely effective. They become mandatory in 2022, and life quickly shifted back to normal. mRNA was hailed as a medical breakthrough that would usher in a new century of medicine. Promising theories emerged on a cure for cancer. It was all theoretically possible. The issue is that the pandemic created an urgency to bypass the typical long-term testing we do with small groups. Instead, we deployed our first iteration of mRNA medicine on billions of people.

Think of mRNA as a script on a USB drive. In 2020, our breakthrough discovery was using a lipid to deliver this fragile script to our cells. It typically dissolves en route. But if we could deliver this script, then we could teach the cells how to produce antibodies without exposure to a live virus. It's produced synthetically, meaning mass-scale and rapid distribution (versus growing and managing live cultures). mRNA vaccines were theoretically possible for 30 years, but we hadn't come up with the delivery system. The pandemic forced us to focus and solve it. It worked. We only measured the vaccines efficacy to produce antibodies, and it was 95% effective. Ship it! The world is melting! We had no time to measure anything on a long-term time frame.

There is an action in protein-replication called "misfolding" which can lead to disease. This is pretty common, but we have mechanisms to detect and remove these abnormalities. The issue with the vaccine is that the code from the mRNA vaccine also changed some of the properties of the misfolded proteins that we naturally create. It made them more resistant to our natural defenses against them. It also enabled them to spread to adjacent cells more easily, and pass on faulty code. The spread is slow moving, but persistent. It's almost like a protein cancer. It has an incredibly slow incubation period, averaging 10-20 years. The symptoms of this are similar to the onset of "prions disease": difficulty walking and speaking, hallucinations, and a rapid development of dementia. There is a 100% mortality rate. Most people die within 12 months, but some can live up to 5 years.

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. It's typically found in the elderly, and it's only active in a small portion of the population at a time, meaning there is a support system to take care of them. The issue here is that an unforeseen protein replication process was accidentally distributed via vaccine to the entire population, causing the sudden emergence of dementia in everyone. It started appearing gradually. At first it was only a conspiracy that it was linked to the vaccine, but it eventually resulted in mass-scale hysteria.

Each person fractured into their own hellish version of reality that made less and and less sense. It's scary enough when this happens to one person. But since this was a collective phenomenon, there was nothing to anchor anyone to reality. Institutions crumbled, and public spaces would become filled with bizarre behavior and suicides. The 2030's started with hysteric madness, and ended with an "On the Beach" style decay, where people lived out their final days in their own homes.

Despite the apocalypse of madness, not everyone died. Once people linked madness with the vaccine, they immediately cut it off. There was a new religious movement that spread among those with temporarily sane minds on the importance of having kids. The madness wasn't a genetic thing. The children of someone with this protein replication error wouldn't receive it. The vaccine was like an external script that didn't affect our genetic material. Everyone born before 2030 died, but everyone born after was unaffected.

While the plot starts out as a vaccine distribution gone wrong, it ends in a kind of question about what it means for new generations to inherit society. 95% of the world's population dies from this disease, but a new generation is still alive (shell-shocked, but healthy). The catch is the oldest living person is 6 years old. What happens in a situation like this? Adults were around to raise them and pass down language, but then suddenly disappeared. There are no wise elders to guide them through the rites of passage to adulthood. A generation wakes up and inherits all of the knowledge, infrastructure, technology, and weapons from past societies, but with zero in-person guidance. Books become a holy source of wisdom. It's kind of like a Lord of the Flies scenario, but instead of being trapped on an island, they are trapped in a man-made civilization and given the keys.


Michael Dean


The Writing Studio