Lakeland used to be an extravagant town of rolling skies, dense forests, and clear, glistening lakes. However, after a disease strikes the area, ushering out the majority of surrounding population through migration or death, a small sect of leaders are left in charge. These leaders entirely reform the government, the workforce, the social conventions, the way of life.
Living in the Lakeland dystopia is like playing the lottery- a birth lottery. It's all about the skills God gave you. The gift
Within weeks, Lakeland had turned from a place of lilies and rolling skies to what could only be called a wasteland. Bodies of the dead littered the streets, bloating to the point of combustion. If you were unlucky enough to be walking by when a corpse burst, you'd have to duck for cover. If you were to come into any contact with bodily fluids of the dead or the infected, it was likely that the Suffering would spread to you.
No one could explain the Suffering. The summer that the illness reared its ugly head was a quiet one, just like every other summer in Lakeland. It was a small town based on a clearing in the center of lush forests overflowing with pines. A clear, glistening lake bordered the outskirts of the town's north side. The lake was used for recreation as well as all labor, and most importantly, for drinking water. The village was sleepy with a population floating beneath five hundred. Its people lived comfortably, spending the day completing chores and their leisure resting in the soft sun.
Never had the sun shone so glaringly, nor had the heat come in such miserable waves, as the summer that the Suffering began. Although explanations could not be found, the outbreak proved to be the most insidious calamity to strike the earth. It started from nothing, a mere fever and mildly annoying rashes. Within hours, that person would be sobbing on their deathbed.
The Suffering took its course over an interval of about five hours in three distinct stages. For the first hour after infection, a fever would fester and prick at the forehead, the throat would dry and inflame, and scaly red patches littered the skin. That was stage one, Crimson, they called it. The next stage involved an itch all across your body, but mainly eating you away on the inside and outside of your throat. Some claimed the sensation all but reached their intestines it was so far down their throat. Many couldn't help but scratch the skin raw, only worsening the already present hives. This stage was appropriately named Burning. The final stage was the most deceiving of all, the staged affectionately labeled Death. The symptoms would suddenly ease up, each effect becoming more bearable than before. After some time of this short bliss, the esophagus would swell to the point of closing off, leaving the victim to suffocate.
Asphyxiation was a common fear among townsfolk. Few things seemed more painful, more excruciating than gasping for air that could not reach the lungs. Consequently, certain men and women that identified symptoms of the Suffering would scramble for easier deaths. Many climbed the local courthouse, each dangling over the ledge for a time unique to them before falling to their end. Though they hadn't realized it, in doing this they contributed to further transmission of the disease. As gruesome as it may be, any airborne blood of theirs that landed on a passerby would infect that citizen.
The fact that it was passed on through bodily fluids such as blood and saliva was what kept the Suffering around. Lakeland was so quickly swallowed by the sickness that who it had come from was untraceable. The town's best guess as to how it was spread so rapidly was through the water supply.
Children were often called upon by their parents to fetch water from the nearby lake. Many used their hands to drink straight from it before filling their pails and buckets. An infected child must have collected water, drinking from the lake as they did so and contaminating the only source of water for the town. Other families used that same water for every task in the household as well as consumption. Within three days, a quarter of the population was dead.
Those who managed to stay healthy flocked to the woods in search of a neighboring town. What they didn't know was that surrounding areas had caught wind of Lakeland's epidemic and fled the region, leaving nothing but forest and abandoned clearings for over ten miles in every direction. The rest of the world had left Lakeland in a passive aggressive quarantine for dead.
Anyone who ran to the woods got lost in the terrain and died within a week from exposure. However, unlike the dozens upon dozens dead from the Suffering, those desperate souls hadn't passed in vain. Their bodies lay stiff and cold along a new source of water.
However, much of Lakeland wasn't there to see it. As much as three fourths of the original population had been wiped out, leaving behind eighteen families for a total of approximately one hundred and ten people. Although they continued to function as they had before, they built their subsequent society on the basic ideas of isolation and protection. They decided that following generations would never hear about the fatality of the Suffering, would never see the toxic waters of the lake, would know nothing of the world that had so purposely failed them.