The plague of 2015 was first reported in the news as “the Chinese Zombie Apocalypse”. This was, of course, ridiculously incorrect, but it’s easy to see why the mistake was made.
Induced Systemic Necrosis — ISN — came to be known as the rotting plague, for good reason. Once contracted (which 25% of humanity did), your body’s tissues began to die and rot. Without a course of treatment, all patients eventually died of multiple organ failure, usually within a month of first symptoms.
ISN patients remained ambulatory for two to three weeks after developing the first symptoms, able to move about, speak, and take care of themselves as their bodies slowly rotted. It isn’t hard to see why people thought they were zombies, especially those patients who suffered dementia or psychosis (from brain degradation).
Gangrene is a particularly ugly condition. (Don’t google images of it. Trust me.) The sight of rotting flesh, and the smell of rotting meat, is overwhelming and nauseating. And the condition is excruciating in the extreme.
The disease was horrifying. It spread via means unknown. There was no vaccine, no treatment, no cure. It was 100% lethal. And in the summer and fall of 2015 it swept the globe, killing 1 and a quarter billion people.
Society broke down.
People fled each other. Nearly all abandoned their jobs and quarantined themselves. They grabbed what food and water they could, barricaded themselves in their homes, and waited the disease out.
Commerce ceased. Policing halted. Medical services were interrupted. Armies disintegrated. No one was harvesting food, processing the harvest, or bringing it to market.
The power company. The water company. Trash. Sewage. All stopped.
When the foodstuffs in the cities were consumed, millions fled. They spread out into the countryside, finding food where they could and, sometimes, taking food. Famine followed the disease, and violence followed the famine.