An old man walks along deserted railway tracks, long since unused and overgrown; beside him a young, feral boy helps him along. It has been sixty years since the great Red Death wiped out mankind, and the handful of survivors, from all walks of life, have established their own civilisation, their own hierarchy in a savage world. Art, science, all learning’s been lost, and the young descendants of the healthy few know nothing of the world that was, nothing but myths and make-believe. The old man is the only one who can convey the wonders of that bygone age, and the horrors of the plague that brought about its end. What future lies in store for the remnants of mankind can only be surmised – their ignorance, barbarity and ruthlessness the only hope they have.
Jack London’s dystopian vision of the future was first published in 1912, a century before the Scarlet Plague he envisioned destroying the human population. The deadly virus, which kills in a matter of minutes in some instances, remains a terrifying prophecy of the perils of globalisation, which are all too pertinent today.