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The Story of Evolution, Spring 2005 Final Web Papers On Serendip

Evolution's Wrath

Austin Andrews

Rehni looked up at the smoldering sky and wondered what had happened to humanity.

The once clear, blue atmosphere she had seen in very old photos no longer existed. The fluffy white clouds and the clearness of the blue had disappeared. It had always amazed her how something so magnificently large could be so gorgeous. The whole world could once see that sky, she used to think to herself, they were all so lucky.

But those days were long gone. The formerly crystal clear sky was now dense with smog. It was no longer blue, but an ominous grayish-brown. It was the color of dirty dishwater - a color that had always disgusted Rehni. Now the entire world was steeped in its gloominess.

Rehni walked through the city and absorbed her surroundings. The houses she passed were in shambles. They were either deserted, covered in flies and maggots who were eating away at the dead bodies inside, or overflowing with sick people who were all grasping for the last strands of life they held within them.

The streets were overflowing as well, covered with bodies - dead and dying. Hospitals were much beyond capacity and doctor's offices were no better. People lined up wherever they could to get near someone in the medical profession. They all wanted medicine - something to take their pain away, their sickness away. They were willing to settle for anything. Everyone had learned to be so dependent on pharmaceuticals. They were miracle-workers, were they not? Fixing all of life's problems. Curing all of life's diseases. Making the world go round along with the people living on it.

Apparently no one had learned.

Factories worked away at synthesizing pills to try and cure the sick people. They worked day and night, releasing hundreds of different toxins into the air, giving it its gloomy and smog-ridden glow. Thousands of factories had been built across the country so that enough medicine could be made. People seemed to prefer a dirty and poisonous sky rather than dying from an illness. It's questionable whether their priorities were in line. The fear of death and disease seemed to have taken a hold over all of mankind.

The world was very different than the one Rehni immersed herself in through old photos and books. She longed for clean air, un-obscured sidewalks, and the tranquility that seemed to exist hundreds of years ago. She knew that even as long ago as two hundred years, the air was polluted and disease was prevalent. But that was nothing compared to what she had to live through. She was jealous of the people who could sit in the fresh salty breeze at the beach or camp in the sweet air of the mountains. She was jealous of the time when people could still function in spite of their disease.

In the year 2219, the present year in which Rehni lived, there were no such luxuries. The majority of people were sick and dying, only the lucky few remained healthy. Rehni was one of those fortunate few. She had a strong background of healthy family so her genes were hardy enough to withstand the mass epidemic of disease that was enveloping the world around her. She had seen friends and family die slowly and painfully, including her best friend who Rehni had known for 27 out of her 30-year existence.

Rehni had always had the desire to help people. When she was young, she daydreamed of curing all the diseases that swept the nation. She thought of how she would decline all the prizes and rewards, the hospitals and highways to be named in her honor, and the movie and book deals that would document her extraordinary life. She was going to solve all of the world's problems because she wanted to help the people near and dear to her as well as the anonymous ones on the street, not for the fame.

Rehni occupied her time researching and reading about what could have caused the epidemic and what could be used for a cure. The people on the streets and in the hospitals - almost everyone - were suffering from diseases. People were afflicted with every illness from the common cold and flu to hepatitis, AIDS, and cancer, and anything in between. Many were ill fated enough to have multiple ailments.

A strong believer in evolution, Rehni soon realized that it was evolution - or the lack thereof - that had caused the mass epidemic of disease. With the creation of medicine, and the strong reliance on it through the twenty-first and twenty-second centuries, evolution had basically been halted.

According to the theory of evolution and natural selection, the fittest animals within a species will be the ones to live a long enough life to pass on their genes to offspring. Only those animals with genes that enable them to stay alive in the current lifetime will be able to pass on these successful and adapted genes to their young. These offspring, then, have the capabilities and DNA to live a long, healthy life - if the environmental conditions stay the same, that is. The weak and non-adapted members of the species die off and the strong and adapted ones live.

The human species, however, was unwilling to follow these rules, and this is what had gotten them into such a tragic amount of trouble, realized Rehni. This, paired with a virus's own following of the biological process of evolution. Medicine was keeping alive the weak members of society, allowing them to pass on their genes to offspring who were then in turn also weak. Society was no longer made of only the strongest who were able to survive. It was composed of all members, no matter what their DNA encoded.

To worsen this already troublesome fact, viruses were at the same time evolving themselves to contain only their strongest members. Although humans had stopped evolution, viruses were continuing with a vengeance. They had even more to overcome and fight against with all the medications being used in the humans they inhabited. They were working to evolve into a super-strong strain by reproducing only the strongest and most resistant forms.

Each time a new immunization was introduced to the population, it would kill many viruses and therefore make it seem as if the human was now well. In many cases, however, the immunization would reach a particularly resilient set of viruses. They, in turn, would not be eliminated and the person would stay ill, infecting many other humans with the incredibly resistant strain. Because of these super-viruses, it became easier to weaken the immune system of the human they were infecting. These people, since they were unable to fight off the viruses, would then pass it on to the next immune deficient generation. It was an ongoing process.

The evolving and strengthening viruses also created new strands of new diseases. Because they were forced to generate resilient viruses due to the existence of medicine, they created new and different types that would send humans trudging to their deathbeds. Cancers, AIDS, hepatitis, influenza, measles, mumps, and all the rest of the critical diseases that appeared after the 18th century were created from that one wayward and evolving strand of virus.

Viruses were becoming stronger and humans were becoming weaker. Medicine was truly ceasing the process of evolution.

Rehni's desire to help people was still strong, even though she knew she would have to find another way to go about it. Clearly a panacea was no longer the solution. Cures were what had caused the epidemic in the first place. Something else was going to have to be done.

Rehni brainstormed and researched for months trying to find a solution. She desperately wanted to see the return of the fluffy clouds and blue skies, of the happy, healthy people walking through parks and neighborhoods. She wanted the pictures to be real - in her lifetime. She wanted to create her own photographs, to pass onto her children and other inhabitants of the once, and hopefully soon to be again, beautiful world she had grown up envisioning.

If only we hadn't started using medicine in the first place, thought Rehni. Then we wouldn't be in this predicament.

Unbeknownst to Rehni, for a few days at least, that was the answer to her own question. If she could go back in time and stop the creation of medicine and its mass use to cure the most basic illnesses as well the most complicated, starting with the common cold, then the fate of mankind would be much more prosperous.

Luckily for Rehni, time travel had been discovered in the late 2000s and perfected by the mid-2100s. It turned out that the process was really quite simple. It seems that time is actually a landscape, all laid out with any point in time always in existence. The past is not gone and the future is actually happening. All of history and all of the future are in existence, even today in what seems like the present. Our current selves are in existence now, along with our six-month-old selves and eighty-year-old selves. They are all on the ongoing canvas of time together and simultaneously - to be visited, revisited, and retrieved at any moment. We are simply a dot in the landscape of time, able to move back and forth with ease among our own different selves.

In order to travel through time, scientists had invented the Time Adjuster. A crown-like device placed on top of the head, it had two dials and a switch on the outside. The dials specified how far backward or forward in time the person would like to go. One of them changed the measurement of time - hours, days, months, years, centuries - while the other changed the numeric amount of time - one, two, three, etc. The switch was to choose whether the traveler was going back in time or into the future. Simply changing the dials to reflect the amount of time you would like to travel through, pushing down both dials to the locked position, and flicking the switch to history or future sent the time traveler plummeting through history or the future.

Not just anyone could gain access to the Time Adjuster, however. They weren't sold in mass amounts to the public, but kept to the scientific community who mostly used them for research or if other scholars had a good reason for its use. Luckily Rehni, because of her passion for science and research, knew a vast amount of the scientific community and had worked with one of the scientists who was on the Time Adjuster research and usage team at the local university.

A few days later, after formulating her proposal for use of the Time Adjuster, Rehni ventured through the dying masses to the university to speak with Dr. Fairmount, the scientist with whom she had worked.

Dr. Fairmount was also troubled by the epidemic of disease, just as Rehni was, and agreed to let her use the Time Adjuster in hopes of bettering the world. She was going to change the entire course of evolution and he was happy to assist. He placed the Time Adjuster on Rehni's head and flipped the switch to history. He then clicked one dial to centuries and locked it, then clicked the number dial five times and locked it. He wished Rehni luck and stepped back, taking in the last moments of what he knew and understood and prepared to disappear into the pages of time.

Rehni braced herself as she stood in Dr. Fairmount's lab while a tear rolled down her face. She was both excited and scared. She was going to change the world, change history, change the future. This was no small journey. Rehni, alone, on one seemingly normal and insignificant day in 2219, was going to save humanity. The world was in utter chaos and she was going to fix that.

She stood in the lab and watched history pass. Five centuries of time swirled around her at warped speed. She saw people talking, children playing, people building. Rehni saw everything that had happened over the past five hundred years in that one spot on which she stood. She was mesmerized.

Suddenly everything stopped. She looked around and it was clear that the Time Adjuster had worked. There was no doubt that it was the 1700s. The people, the clothes, the architecture - it was beyond obvious. Rehni couldn't help but smile. Here I go... she thought to herself. She stepped away from the spot where she had landed and carefully placed the Time Adjuster in her backpack. Now it was time to stop the detrimental creation of medicine.

After some wandering, Rehni headed for the antiquated scientific lab where the medicinal research was taking place. She had found the address in a medical history book she consulted before her journey. Rehni found the most brilliant scientific minds of the century all gathered in a room discussing their research. She immediately shared her story and explained her research findings with them after a brief introduction. She told them she was from the future and that the use of medicine had halted a process called evolution (a process that she had to explain in great detail since Darwin's work had not yet been published) and created an epidemic of disease. Rehni showed the scientists pictures and documentation and told them if they destroyed the medicine, humanity would be saved.

Completely fascinated, albeit extremely skeptical at first, following five long days of in-depth conversations and detailed evidence revealing, the scientists eventually believed Rehni. Only after she had successfully proven that she was a real person who had come from the future with accurate research and a strong desire to make the world right again, did their skepticism die. She had finally won the scientists over with arduous persuasion and they agreed to cease the research on and creation of medicines and immunizations. All the medicine they currently possessed was destroyed and the entirety of their research findings and experimental data were filed and locked away securely. Stored with them was a detailed explanation backed by data that justified why the use of medicine should not be employed in society, in case the files were accidentally uncovered one day in the future.

Afterwards, the scientists showed Rehni to an empty room where she could use the Time Adjuster to return to the year 2219. She smiled and thanked them again, reassuring the scientists that they had made the right choice and were changing the course of history in the most positive way possible. After they left, Rehni removed the Time Adjuster from her backpack and flipped the switch to future. She turned one dial to centuries and locked it, then turned the other dial five times. She placed the Time Adjuster on her head and slowly locked the second dial. She took one last look around and felt a sense of pride and excitement build up inside of her. She was only moments away from discovering what the world was like now, thanks to her efforts.

Time passed her by again at warped speed. The view was different this time, since she had made such an integral change. She was able to witness the new evolution of the people living in the spot where she was standing. So much was different and new. It whetted her appetite for the final result she would witness and the new world in which she would live in the year 2219.

All of the sudden, time stopped swirling. Rehni was left standing in an unknown place overflowing with objects she had never seen before. The room she stood in was made entirely of metal. It was very stark but full of what seemed to be scientific instruments and devices - nothing she recognized. Rehni felt unnerved and scared, yet overjoyed that clearly some sort of difference had been made. Just how big, she was soon to find out.

She exited the room and walked down the pristine hallway. Everything was immaculate, but the hall was beautifully decorated in gorgeous colors and paintings. Metal and white seemed to be two favorite looks, but the color that was spattered about was rich and clear - some of the most beautiful colors Rehni had ever seen.

She opened the large metal door of the building and sunlight streamed inside and blinded her with its whiteness. She lifted her hand above her eyes and squinted, stepping out of the door and onto the stoop. She looked around and gasped in surprise and awe. Her jaw dropped and she simply stood there taking in her new surroundings.

The sky was the most magnificent and clear blue she had ever seen - so much clearer and bluer than even her favorite photographs in which she longed to live. There were only a few clouds disrupting the clarity of the atmosphere. They were thin and wispy, almost translucent, but nevertheless a clean, cottony white.

The sidewalks were filled with people milling about. These people were happy and healthy. They were all tall and slender, strong looking. Many carried metallic, high-tech looking briefcases with LCD monitors on the outside of them. The monitors showed everything from the time of day in a decorative and interesting design to news programs informing the carrier of the daily happenings around the world. Most of the people looked as if they were talking to themselves, but were actually holding conversations using the cellular phone devices that were implanted into their heads. Robots wandered the streets doing the low-wage and simple-minded jobs that the uneducated members of society once held.

The cars on the road were compact and fast. They drove themselves using an automated system that followed laser rails in the roads. The people inside just sat back and relaxed, reading the paper or sipping their coffee. People were appearing and disappearing constantly. They were using travelable transporters that allowed them to move from one location to another with just the touch of a button. There were shops where people were plugged into computers and were downloading information into their brains. They were downloading books, mathematical equations, how to do karate, how to ice skate, and anything else someone could imagine having the desire to learn or know.

Rehni was quite taken aback by all of this. Everything was so different. Clearly mankind had evolved to an even better species than she could have ever imagined or hoped for. As she walked through the town, Rehni let the surroundings penetrate her entire being. She explored the whole city and talked to as many people as she could.

Rehni learned that humans had evolved into a super species. There had been no disease in centuries, only a few hospitals remained in existence since they were in general no longer needed. Medical records showed no existence of AIDS, cancer, hepatitis, measles, polio, influenza, or anything of that nature. Illness had ended with the common cold in the 1900s.

Apparently after 200 years of not treating the common cold, it had become extinct. The cold virus infected its host and eventually killed them, often before the host could reproduce. This was perfect for the process of evolution. In time, only the people with cold resistant genes passed them along to offspring. Slowly, the weak-gened humans all died off and left only those who were strong enough to resist the virus. Since the viruses no longer had hosts, they died off as well, becoming extinct and leaving no other strands behind to grow and evolve into other detrimental and deadly diseases. Although the process was somewhat lengthy, there was no epidemic of the common cold or any sort of dangerous or problematic occurrence that happened while the virus slowly killed off its weak hosts and then eventually killed its own self.

The human species was also extremely intelligent thanks to their new reliance on evolution. No one was unintelligent or disabled in any way. The advanced strides they were taking as a whole were practically unfathomable to Rehni and her prior understanding of what was possible, in the present and in the future. Technology, transportation, and the gathering of more knowledge were amazingly sophisticated. Robots had been invented and used for over a century. Computers were miniscule and could do just about anything asked of them. The entire country operated on wireless connection, and cars could practically think for themselves.

Every person was employed and jobs were plentiful. Education was revered and crime was nonexistent. It was a near utopian society, filled with supremely intelligent people and technology. It was exceptionally perfect.

Rehni had taken in all the information she could for one day. She would resume tomorrow. For now, she wanted to sit and relax - and take in the beautiful view of the world she had essentially created.

Rehni sat down on a self-swinging park bench in the center of the city, surrounded by bright green trees and under the surreal blue sky, and smiled with satisfaction. I've saved the world and changed the course of evolution, she thought to herself.

What should I do next?

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