CITY ON THE EDGE OF NOWHERE
PART 4 × THE WATCHFUL PEACE
For some, the official story of the Gothic disaster
doesn’t bring satisfaction,
and only raises more questions.

Army helicopters patrol a rural section of the GQZ. Pexels/Somchai Kongkamsri.
A four-part series on the Gothic Disaster,
the Arkansans still living in its shadow,
and the wide impact we'll be witnessing for years to come.
City on the Edge of Nowhere is a fictional longform article written by the real-life Fiona van Dahl. It summarizes (and spoils) the events of her scifi/horror novel, Eden Green.

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The 2010s were already paranoid years. Conspiracy theories abounded around incidents as grievous as school shootings and as mundane as the color of a dress. Authority was widely viewed as untrustworthy, incompetent, and malicious. Humor tended toward ironic, sarcastic, and dark.

The Gothic Disaster sent ripples across every facet of pop culture and human interest, its every aspect explored in detail by fascinated, half-terrified people. Some theories rose and were swallowed up again in the endless stream of dissection; others have not lost steam.

Paranoia intensified once it was announced that many of those displaced by the operation would be housed in FEMA trailer camps — long suspected by extremists to be a front for the mass-kidnapping and concentration of citizens. Few trusted the CDC after years of health panics, and the predominantly military presence inside the quarantine was a source of discomfort for many. Even the Red Cross felt the brush of distrust.

What follows is a summary of the major Internet theories regarding the Gothic Disaster. If any sound laughable or offensive, please remember that the people who proposed, discussed, and believed them were terrified. Many of them were Gothic evacuees. Theories promised understanding, and with it, closure.

That said, I have decided not to link to any blogs or discussion forums where these theories are commonly discussed. I do not wish to unleash a wave of trolls on them. Also, some of said websites also cover unsavory topics — white supremacy, ‘false flag’ theories on school shootings, and religious extremism.

False Flag

One of the most extreme theories posits that the entire disaster was outright faked by multiple US government and military branches working in tandem, with or without support from the state of Arkansas, the city (and citizens) of Gothic, and/or a major Hollywood studio.

The scale of preparation necessary pushes credulity, which is why believers constitute the outer fringe of the Gothic Truth movement. Those who do believe tend to view most or all world events as manufactured. Their paramount question is always, ‘Who benefits from the intended response to this event?’ And in the case of the Gothic Disaster, the possibilities are multitude.

The Disaster may have begun as an unannounced multi-branch military training exercise similar to (or even in concert with) Operation Jade Helm, which was being conducted across several southwestern states at the time. The operation then either got out of hand or was always intended to result in a city-wide quarantine.

The bellicose resolution arguably encouraged a pro-military culture in which National Guard and Army forces could be called in to quell citizen uprisings, with little protest from those unaffected. Surprisingly swift and effective responses from the CDC and FEMA wiped away bad reputation left over from their recent ebola and Katrina debacles.

It is often noted that the city of Gothic had been struggling through a years-long recession on par with that of contemporary Detroit or Chicago. City leaders, the theory goes, might have been bribed with golden parachutes in exchange for their cooperation in the Gothic ‘disaster’. State government would then be able to fence off a ‘problem city’ that had been marring their statistics and good name, paving the way for fresh resettlement and investment elsewhere in Arkansas.

It is also speculated that the land in and around Gothic may be of value to secret government testing projects, hence the desire to fence it off.

Congress now has a blank check to authorize spending and action regarding the Gothic Quarantine Zone (GQZ) with little oversight. Funds and personnel could easily be earmarked for the GQZ but then rerouted elsewhere.

And, as with all ‘false flag’ conspiracy theories, there have been a smattering of photos supposedly picturing Gothic’s dead living normal lives in other cities, presented as proof that they were paid actors that have since been relocated. Some theorists have attempted to make contact with the families of the dead and confront them with these photos, only to face (completely understandable) backlash.

But while it’s tempting to look at motivation for a possible cover-up, the overwhelming body of evidence (video, photos, testimony) of the existence of sharps simply cannot be written off as a combination of costumes, CGI, photo manipulation, and paid or intimidated witnesses. The vast majority of the Gothic Truth movement agree that the monsters are real and the dead are truly lost.

Image Prevention

That said, it doesn’t help that since the GQZ’s inception, the city has been closed to media, researchers, and the public. The Army has threatened legal action against anyone caught attempting to capture footage of the inside of the GQZ. Exploratory drones sent in by hobbyists and media are immediately destroyed, their footage confiscated.

In the first months after the Disaster, evacuees and locals complained of a strange, uneasy ‘glow’ emanating from the city. It eventually emerged that a skyscraper near the city center has been rigged with a device that pours infrared light into the sky all around, blinding and even overheating cameras on drones and satellites. However, infrared light is invisible to humans, leading some to believe the glow is a clue to the origin of the sharps.

What Are The Sharps?

Based only on footage captured early on in the Disaster, researchers have concluded that the ‘sharps’ — the black, needle-based monsters that flooded the city — cannot possibly have evolved from any creature in the known history of life on Earth. They are alien, though whether transported to the city from above our atmosphere or through a door in space-time itself, no one knows.

A few species have been picked out and given pet names by the Internet — exes are ‘swastikas’, worms are ‘Taxxons’, the long-necked lamprey-mouths are ‘giraffes’. But since none of the hastily-filmed footage showed the monsters mating, producing or rearing young, or taking shelter, very little is known about them. (I included a basic guide to the sharps in Part 1.)

Science fiction has, as of yet, stepped back from the tragedy. The idea of addressing the Gothic Disaster has been batted around in writing circles across the world, but usually ends up compared to writing a thriller about 9/11. In other words, we’re still a few years away from a primetime drama about young people using special powers to fight needle monsters.

The Modern Arachne

Where did the sharps come from? One oft-cited clue was found in public-domain National Weather Service records. Starting roughly a year before the Gothic Disaster, meteorology enthusiasts noticed an increasing number of unexplained errors and glitches in readings taken in the northwest Arkansas area. Attempts were made to locate the source of the interfering signal, but there was no way to predict from whence it would next originate.

One major theory proposes that the US government was already conducting experiments within Gothic — possibly inside the defunct Gothic University campus — which created the unpredictable atmospheric interference. The sharps — either their crime-against-God creations, or invaders à la the video game Half Life — broke containment, escaped underground to the sewers beneath the city center, then erupted upward and outward.

The main argument against this theory is that the sheer estimated tonnage of sharps present in Gothic in the worst days of the Disaster could not possibly have been stored inside the university campus, even using every square foot above ground and below, including parking decks and covered bus stops. Further, there were very few sightings on or near the campus throughout the Disaster.

End-Times Prophesies

The years preceding the Disaster saw a drop-off in apocalyptic prophesying, as the American public grew weary of the End Times narrative and instead became concerned with climate change. But when hellish needle monsters emerged in a city on the edge of the Bible Belt, more than a few charismatic preachers took the opportunity to revive their popularity.

Many biblical End Times requirements were supposedly already in place — nuclear armament, the reestablishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land, the formation of the European Union, movement toward a single world currency, and so on. Sharps were characterized as ‘demons’ emerging from the gates of Hell. Gothic was retroactively painted as a Sodom-esque hub of drug use and homosexuality, the tolerance of which had invited the city’s destruction.

Predictions of similar disasters were pinned to Washington DC, Las Vegas, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, and countless other cities worldwide. Governments prepared disaster plans, but as the months wore on, it became apparent that Gothic alone had been chosen for a hellmouth. Thus the apocalyptic theories quieted to a simmer, though many online promised to watch for signs.

Extraterrestrial Attack

The worst-case scenario — and the one most likely to be made into a movie barring new information — is that the sharps were deposited on Earth by an alien race that wished to weaken or even wipe out native life on our planet, paving the way for eventual colonization.

Where zombie apocalypse scenarios were the stuff of hobbyists pre-Gothic, more and more groups across the nation now engage in ‘sharp-pocalypse’ preparation — stockpiling weapons, training in the woods, and building shelters away from population centers.

According to them, the next wave of alien troops could come any day, and there’s no way to know how advanced their technology is or what new surprises they’ll bring.

The Blue Pulse Press Conference

Which brings us to Sgt. 1st Class William F. Drews of the Army Special Forces. Not much is known about him, besides his rank, race (African-American), build (tall, muscular), and attitude at the July 31, 2015 press conference (brief, rehearsed).

After getting separated from his squad during the height of the Disaster, Drews wandered for several days, was nearly rescued, then was lost again. Unbeknownst to anyone in his immediate chain of command, he had been secretly carrying an experimental anti-needle weapon thrown together in the first two days of the Disaster. Upon its activation (the ‘blue pulse’) at a strategic location, every sharp in the city was destroyed.

Sergeant Drews has not been seen in public since the press conference; despite being widely hailed as a hero, he has given no interviews or further statements. It is suspected that he, too, has been swallowed into the top-secret miasma of the GQZ. In absence of more detail, his testimony has been endlessly dissected, timelined, and compared to parallel accounts.

In wake of the CDC’s controversial decision not to release the bodies of those killed in the Disaster, some have accused Drews and his fellow soldiers of covering up the killings of Gothic citizens, whether accidental or deliberate. As with any last surviving member of a highly-trained squad, there has also been speculation that Drews abandoned or even murdered his squad-mates and first group of rescuers in order to conceal the existence of the secret anti-sharp weapon.

Of course, the ‘blue pulse device’ is the object of much fascination. It doesn’t sound plausible for the device to have been designed, built, and shipped to the scene in only two days, making some think the sharps (and the mechanism for destroying them) were known to the US government for months or even years before the Disaster.

That is, assuming the ‘blue pulse’ even worked as intended. Initial (non-military) eyewitness reports confirmed that all sharps within the city had collapsed into piles of black needles, but this mass die-off may have been unrelated to the ‘blue pulse’. The CDC and partnered agencies have yet to release numbers on the sharp population before or after, fueling paranoia and speculation.

Conclusions

I will continue to monitor all news regarding my lost hometown. If you would like to receive future updates, please sign up for my no-spam email newsletter. In the meantime, I hope you’ve found this series enlightening, and that it inspires compassion for the many refugees of the Gothic Disaster.

The world begins to draw away from Gothic, and interest begins to wane. Even those who once protested, shouting as loudly as they could, have lost their voices. The fences blocking off even sight of the city still tower, still topped with ample rolls of razor wire, still manned day-and-night.

To date, there have been no attempts to breach the fences, though there are always rumbles about domestic terrorists getting bright ideas. But if an attack does come, whether from within or without, it will occur at the exact moment everyone stops caring about the city behind the fences, and all the secrets it hides. —FvD

UPDATE! March 2016

Writing this on March 10. A FEMA refugee camp on the outskirts of the GQZ (outside the fences) has been attacked by sharps. At least three civilians are dead, including the camp’s security officer — though, as usual, no bodies have been released. Survivors have been moved to Fort Smith; FEMA is planning to forcibly rehome them in other cities/states.

GQZ military forces (who moved CDC personnel to the fences in February) claim to have the situation under containment. There was a mass panic in the nearby small town of Shire, and at the rate people are requesting relocation or outright moving away, it may become a ghost town.

That’s literally all the information I can find. As soon as more becomes available, I will update this guide.

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