Get Sick

The virus is an overwhelming success. Psychopathy gone, humanity is flush with good-will. People go caroling, and stop to ask you how they might help. Cities are surreal witness to disease, then poverty, then crime, all evaporating into a calm, cheery splendor. Dinner parties that aren’t awkward. Interesting conversations with people you meet in the park. Life enriches us, now.

It was simple. The technology had been around for decades. Use a retrovirus, which inserts its genetic material into the host’s cells. Alter it, so the genetic material that it adds changes our response to cuddling, oxytocin. Oxytocin is what bonds mothers to their children, what holds tribes together, what we crave when left alone.

We normally don’t release oxytocin. It happens in spurts, when triggered by important socializing events — a smile, and we smile back; inviting a hug; holding hands. Oxytocin is a special treat, teaching us to be receptive to others, and to wish for acceptance. Psychopaths are different.

They call it an ‘ overactive nucleus accumbens’. Psychopaths are constantly seeking self-serving rewards, never bonding, never caring. They are self-satisfied. And those sorts of people will do anything to get what they want.

If no one wants to do a dirty job, you’ll have to offer higher and higher pay, until someone is willing to accept the task. Psychopaths, heartless, commit crimes, lie effortlessly, slithering away with a bundle of cash. They were disproportionately CEOs, lawyers, surgeons, police, and criminals. They ruled the world.

The virus gave them a longing for compassion and intimacy. And, it inadvertently increased oxytocin response in the rest of us. We are constantly making contact, sitting close to each other, commiserating about the times when we struggled under the rule of the psychopaths. Now, there’s plenty to go around, and life dwells in our listening, our perspectives, arts. Virtue isn’t really so hard, once the rotten ones are gone. We are all glad for that nameless one, who changed us despite ourselves.