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Kystlich Syndrome

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The first known case of Kystlich Syndrome occurred in Bonn, Germany on June 27, 2014. The media was all over it, of course, due to the grisly and disturbing nature of the event, but stayed with the story due to the unraveling strangeness that emerged as more details emerged. On that day, police initially responded to a report that a mob of people had attacked and seriously injured a person on a side street in a shopping district. When first responders arrived on the scene, they were shocked at what they found. Over a dozen people scattered around a wide side walk in various stages of shock. They were all covered in blood and gore, covering their shirts, arms, face and especially on their hands and around their mouths. Some of them were weeping openly, some were catatonic, and a couple appeared to be trying to induce vomiting by sticking their fingers down their throats. However, this was not the most unsettling aspect of the scene.

Lying roughly near the center of the assembled group was a human corpse, though this wasn't immediately obvious. The corpse was in tatters, with its chest cavity torn open, most of the face shredded, and several limbs mangled and broken, with the right arm actually having been separated from the rest of the body and dragged several yard away. The most disturbing aspect of the victim, however, was the nature of the wounds. Cursory inspection revealed that most of the wounds to the body had been inflicted by human teeth.

Several eyewitnesses would later recount the same story to the police. The victim had been walking down the street, doing nothing out of the ordinary, when he stopped to check a bus schedule. It was then that several people passing by him had suddenly stopped, and turned their attention to the man, who seemed oblivious to the sudden attention. A few moments later, witness claim that the passersby leapt at the man, knocking him down and tearing at him with teeth and fingernails. The attackers made animalistic grunts as they rent the man asunder, some tearing flesh free with their teeth and eating it, while others shoved large handfuls of organs into their mouths and devoured them. By far the most disturbing aspect was the account of several patrons of a shoe store directly across from the site of the attack. One person had left a nearby shop, screaming and brandishing a long pipe at the attackers to drive them off, but when he got within a couple yards of the attack, he suddenly came to a halt, as if dazed. Several seconds later, he had dropped the weapon, and joined the attackers in their savage dismemberment of the man.

What startled the police most, however, was the behavior of the attackers after the attack. After the attack had been going on for over a minute, the attackers suddenly stopped. Some witnesses described it as though they appeared to be coming to their senses, and then they began screaming. Many of them scrambled away from the body, retching, while others simply fell back and went catatonic. One attacker, an elderly woman, lost consciousness and would later pass away from heart failure. The police rounded up all the attackers, and carted them off to the police station. Several hours of interrogation and background investigation would only deepen the mystery.

The people were all complete strangers, unrelated by any factors other than their proximity to the victim when the attack occurred. They were mostly coherent now, and as coherent as you could expect given their circumstances. Most showed deep revulsion at what they had done, but couldn’t adequately explain what had happened, only that they had been overcome by an uncontrollable urge to attack and devour the man, and how his flesh had tasted delicious to them, right up to the point when they had regained control of themselves. This led to the investigators nicknaming it Kystlich Syndrome, after the German word for "Delicious". Eventually, they were all quietly sent to mental health institutions for treatment of their 'temporary' psychosis.

News organizations speculated wildly about the attack. A thrill kill gang, a secret cult of cannibals, a viral marketing stunt for a new zombie movie and other theories floated around for most of the following weeks, right up to the second attack. This attack occurred in a small village in China, this time involving several people in a street market attacking and devouring a vendor whose stall they'd been near. The same pattern was described, the people suddenly freezing before attacking the man, the same gory attack, and the same sudden cessation of hostilities followed by horror on the part of the attackers. The government media was quick to cover up the attack, though stories of it managed to leak out through the usual internet channels.

By now, several multinational agencies had become involved, looking for a pattern in the attacks, the main suspect being some here to for unknown religious cult or gruesome drug cartel. It wasn't until the third attack, ten days later, that the true nature of the attacks would start to be uncovered.

The third recorded incident occurred in London, in a heavily monitored portion of the downtown area. The footage of the attack, which eventually leaked out to the internet, showed the same pattern of attack as the previous two incidents, though this time, a string of events would shed further light on the true nature incidents. The attack occurred along a busy street, and this time, the victim, a young man in excellent physical health, managed to break free of his attackers and run out into the street. His attackers pursued him, but the man and those following closest were struck by a bus as they entered a bus lane. Those behind them pulled up moments after the bus struck and dragged their intended victim several yards down the road, and this seemed to cause whatever had come over them to release its hold, and they seemed to regain their senses, though they were clearly in a state of shock. The young man himself was apparently killed the moment the bus struck him. This footage and a subsequent autopsy would lead to the discovery of the horrific truth behind the incidents.

An autopsy of the body, complete with chemical analysis, showed an unknown chemical in the body of the young man. This chemical was present throughout the body, but mostly in the blood and on the skin of the deceased. This chemical was determined to be a previously unknown aromatic hydrocarbon compound that had been produced by his bodies own glandular system. This chemical would then begin to waft off the person, become airborne, and would enter surrounding people through the mucus membranes of the nose and mouth, finally accumulating in the olfactory and cranial nerves. When present at a high enough concentration, the hydrocarbons would begin causing something akin to a ‘short circuit’ in those nerves. What followed was cascade of neurological reactions would then ‘supercharge’ the part of the brain associated with hunger, quickly overwhelming the conscious mind , banishing higher thought, and causing them to go into an animalistic state where they needed to devour the source of the ‘smell’. The hydrocarbon itself was unstable, and once it came in contact with air, it would begin to break down. This was what had limited the radius of the attackers. It also explained why they had ceased their attack after the death of the victim, as exposing the inner workings of the body would expose the chemical to air without any source of replenishment, causing it to disperse and release its hold.

The chemical had only been detectable in the accident victim due to the circumstances of his demise.  By the time stunned onlookers had rushed to aid him, he had already passed away.  The chemical present in his spilled blood and on his skin had diminished enough to not affect those who approached the body.  However, with the cessation of vital functions caused not by consumption of said organs by other humans, enough tissue to sample was still present and find traces of the chemical.

Needless to say, the governments of the world worked quickly to keep these findings under wraps. They began looking for a source of the change in the glandular system. Bioterrorism was suspected, and across the globe, intelligence agencies worked overtime to try and find any signs the disease had been manufactured by the usual rogue’s gallery. Researchers worked feverishly to try and find a food or airborne vector, but to little avail. The incidents continued to occur, but did not accelerate in frequency, nor did a geographic common point emerge. It wasn't until late 2015 that the answer emerged.

In early 2014, astronomers had begun to register an unusual subatomic particle burst originating from deep space. They had no clear source, and were not particularly plentiful, but it did make some news for its quirkiness about how little we understood about subatomic particles. Researchers continued to gather data on these particles, but in September 2015, a Spanish government researcher noticed a correlation between these bursts and the attacks, with bursts being recorded in the general area the victims had been in hours before the attack. Studies would reveal that these particles, passing through the human brain, would spark the process to alter the human glandular system.

This information led to a flurry of activity from the governments of the world. The announced to the world the existence of Kystlich Syndrome and its cause in February 2016, and assured the citizens of the world they were working on a solution. Till then, they advised people to wear air filtering devices when going around in public and to wear newly designed devices that would detect when your body began to emit the hydrocarbon so you could make your way to a hospital for isolation. But this was where the problems began.

It soon became clear, thanks to tests on victims who managed to reach isolation before it was too late, that the alterations in their glandular could not be reversed without causing fatal reactions in the human body. Furthermore, the high energy particles turned out to be impossible to block without extremely expensive and difficult to produce materials. Several years of fruitless experimentation couldn't change these two factors, and the bursts showed no signs of stopping. Some people suggested developing the particle detection system further, but it finally decided that it wasn't worth it, since knowing it had occurred was akin to closing the barn door after the horses had gotten out. One of the few pieces of good news was they also didn't show any signs of increasing either.

Meanwhile, governments had begun to enact mandatory respirator laws in order to prevent attacks, but these were met with surprising resistance. After all, the chances of a given person being exposed to a person experiencing the peak of Kystlich Syndrome were very slim, less than 1% of 1 % of 1% for a given person's lifetime, less than the odds of being struck by lightning, one famous statistician showed. And so, the laws were eventually repealed, replaced at first with campaigns urging citizens to wear them, until these were eventually defunded. Furthermore, it was argued, that it was unjust to punish those who had perpetrated these attacks, since they had been overwhelmed by the foreign chemical in their body, and couldn't resist. Soon, laws began to spring up making Kystlich Syndrome an acceptable defense in court, and the attackers would often receive government aid in order to help them recover from the trauma of the attack.

That was all years ago, and here in 2037, we don't really think too much about it. It's like getting struck by a car or attacked by a wild animal; it's just something that can happen. Oh, we have taken steps as a society to deal with it. Young children are taught about the condition in health class at a young age, in order to engrain in them the necessary tools to avoid being traumatized by it. It teaches them what the sensation of hunger would be like, and that, scientifically, it's no different than eating raw meat. These programs, in place since 2020, have been designed by experts, and have been largely effective at helping avoid long term psychological damage. It's not something they can control after all. We don't even really monitor for the bursts anymore. Just some spot checks to confirm they are still occurring.

It was just last week, however, that news has begun to circulate around the internet about an attack in New York City. A pair of teens attacked a homeless man in an alley, and devoured much of his body. They had passed lie detector test that they had been overcome by a tremendous urge to eat him, and that he looked delicious. However, enough was left for a Kystlich compound test. Apparently, no sign of the syndrome was found in his body.

Attacks have been higher this year, actually.  And it turns out, most of the attackers have been teenagers or younger. All of whom have stated that they were gripped by an overwhelming urge that someone simply looked "Delicious."

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