The Madness

From the pen of Drear

There is an affliction that has plagued the animals in our world for a thousand years. It is known only as the Madness. It was a common occurrence back in the days of the events I’m sharing with you, though it’s rarer now. At the time, we didn’t know what caused it. We only knew that it was a battle every time we sent militia units out on Madness runs.

The Madness affected wide populations of wildlife, not just in Pithea, but all over the earth. The symptoms of Madness in animals included faster aging and higher rates of reproduction. Thus, the competition for food, territory, and even mates became fiercer, so animals often abandoned their normal habitats and behaviors.

The Madness spread quickly, and even crossing between different species did not slow it down. In an individual animal, the Madness would run its course and then be gone. However, by the time that happened, it would have infected so many other animals, that it would have spread out and away from the original animal like a wide ripple in a vast sea. It knew no boundaries, and if not stopped, would presumably continue until the whole world was affected. Therefore, the more quickly it could be dealt with, the better. And the only thing that could be done was to eradicate the entire population of afflicted wildlife.

The first signs of an outbreak were normally docile animals acting aggressively, or animals venturing outside of the territory they normally inhabited. Once someone noticed any behavior that may indicate an outbreak, they were to report it to the nearest town immediately.

Pitheans dealt with Madness outbreaks by forming a unit from the militia of whatever town was closest, and sending them on what was called a Madness run. The militia unit would identify the extent of the outbreak, and then proceed to kill every animal infected. It does sound like a gruesome business, but it was the only way we knew to deal with it. And it was a way of life for us—as natural as a blacksmith waking up every morning and firing up his forge. The Madness had been around for hundreds of years, and Madness runs happened on a regular basis. Because we were enjoying a time of peace in our region of the world, these runs comprised the main business of the militias in Pithea.

In order to ensure that the ecosystem would not be thrown off more than it already had been, we would always replenish the population of animals after we were sure the Madness was gone. Throughout our region of the world, there were various Madness Reserves, in which every animal that was native to that region was bred in expansive, but contained, habitats. After the outbreak was over, several of each animal that was indigenous to the respective location would be brought in from the proper reserves.

When the Madness first appeared, no cause could be determined. Now we know exactly what causes it, and in many parts of the world, it has been completely eradicated.

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