What Is It?
Telo is a highly contagious retrovirus. First symptoms are those of a typical rhinovirus—sniffling and sneezing, sometimes accompanied by a cough or low-grade fever. The infecting virus releases Telo into the bloodstream, where it either lies dormant or goes to work immediately, killing the host with Ebola-like symptoms within seventy-two hours.
The trigger for whether Telo lies dormant or attacks the host is the length of the host’s telomeres—the genetic markers at the end of each DNA strand that shorten as cells replicate over time. The approximate age at which the telomeres become short enough to set Telo in motion is eighteen, although individual differences vary widely and some Telo victims die as young as seventeen while others remain asymptomatic until nearly twenty-one.
How Is It Transmitted?
Telo can be transmitted through contact with an infected individual or by contact with something the infected person has themselves had contact with. The virus can travel through the air via water droplets from sneezing or coughing and it is not necessary to touch a Telo carrier to become infected. The virus can live on most surfaces for forty-eight hours, and can survive much longer under optimal conditions. Persons showing no Telo symptoms are themselves carriers, capable of spreading contagion. Once one is infected, there is no cure.
Origins and Spread of Disease
The origins of the disease that has come to be known as “Telo” are unclear. The first documented cases appeared simultaneously in China, South Korea, and Japan. Cases in Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, and the United States appeared soon after. Because of the speed of infection and the disease’s universal mortality rate, the exact origins of the pathogen were never determined, but in the final days of the die-off, the most widely accepted scenario was that it originated in a North Korean biomedical lab and was released by accident. Government secrecy prevented quick action and carriers managed to slip out of the country, infecting hosts in the countries to which they fled.
Telo infected all known populated areas within a month of the first cases becoming known. While it is possible that isolated pockets of humanity remain uninfected today, as soon as they make contact with the survivors, they will themselves become infected. Any surviving adults are of no help to the teens and children who must now find a way to cope with the aftermath and with the disturbing knowledge that they are only just marking time until they themselves die.
The Future of Telo
In the last days of the die-off, a group of biomedical researchers made an interesting observation. It wasn’t a cure, but it did hold out hope. None of those scientists has been seen since they made their discovery, although they are all surely dead by now. There is a strange and persistent rumor that data on the laptop owned by one of those scientists holds the key to a Telo cure, but no one with any sense believes it.
Hope and desperation sometimes wreak havoc on common sense, though.