Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

OLWG#67 – Folding Syndrome

with 7 comments

Thom created a word cloud for last week’s New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts and I tried to include all of them in my fantasy that follows. I think I’ve only missed out one. Thank you Thom for another great challenge this week.



Folding Syndrome

It is hard to conceive of the silence that followed the Folding Syndrome epidemic. After all the voices that rang out, the choirs that formed and lifted the roofs off churches. After all the richness and resonance that united the world, the quiet was startling. The development of a collective activity where people worked and sang together instead of taking to war should probably have sounded alarm bells. It was the opposite of usual human behaviour after all. But the harmonies and spontaneous a cappella movements were soothing, enjoyable, and lulled all into a semi-conscious state. When it stopped no one could have imagined that singing would finish forever.

The end began with a singer on a television talent show. She faltered on stage, restarted, couldn’t find her voice, and stumbled crying into the wings. It was no great shakes, nothing to worry about; amateurs overstretch themselves. When the whole series’ cohort lost their crooning abilities questions were asked, investigations made. What could be causing the sickness? Initially throats swelled up and some thought it could be anaphylactic shock. Had someone poisoned the coffee? It had tasted off, a bit sour. When the symptoms spread to the church choirs, so too did the scope of enquiry.

In most cases the problems started with a change in pitch – a minor tonal variation up or down before the voice was all over the place. It was almost like being tone deaf, only the singer could hear they were going wrong, and no amount of repetition straightened them out. For those with newly acquired voices, it was easy come, easy go. For more established songbirds, and those whose voices were their careers, a dose of Folding Syndrome was an arrow to the heart. They began to avoid public appearances in case it was catching, but no regular activity was ever isolated as causal.

With other observed epidemics there was a recognised cycle, a flow followed by an ebb as infection peaks were reached and medicines introduced to alleviate symptoms. But not this time. Standard over the counter pills, herbal remedies, electric shock treatments direct to the vocal chords, all were tried. None could stop the folding of the chords, the minute rippling that gave the syndrome its name. Six months into the crisis the minsters of health of the world made a joint statement: ‘You will all know someone who has been touched by this. To date it is only singing that is affected. No one has lost their voice completely. That said, our scientists are at a loss. Research is ongoing but there are no grounds for optimism a cure will be found. We haven’t worked out the cause yet.’ It was a sad indictment albeit an honest one.

Years later there is no known cause and no cure, or at least none spoken of. And there is no singing. There may be people in the world who still sing, in the bath maybe, but no one attempts it in public. There’s a belief that if one is not heard singing then the sickness cannot fall upon them. There are conspiracy theories that it was an untraceable disease put about by AI because it is incapable of the human trait of singing. There are seeds of an idea that it was a superfast evolutionary process – after all what use is singing other than entertainment and who needs entertaining with so much work to be done. Folding Syndrome remains one of life’s inexplicables, left for great scientists of the future to solve.



7 Responses

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  1. “We are not worthy,” he said over and over.
    Masterfully done. Thank you.


    September 16, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    • Oh stop it. You are definitely worthy. I am sure this must be full of holes, but it was fun to write, and grew from trying to include all those words in not too obvious a way.

      Sarah Ann

      September 16, 2018 at 7:49 pm

  2. Clever idea. A world without song – I wouldn’t like that.


    September 16, 2018 at 5:28 pm

  3. And the sugarcane plantations and padi fields withered and died. Rice and sugar went off the supermarket shelves. Substitutes sprang up but could not replace the original, the authentic, the good stuff.

    You see, the labourers in the sugarcane plantations and padi fields are prone to singing to dull the pain and monotony of their back breaking work. Now, they don’t sing – can’t sing.

    It’s a conspiracy all right. To slowly kill the human race. Sugar. Rice.

    What next?

    Eric Alagan

    September 23, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    • Well, there’s a bleak consequence I hadn’t foreseen, and a sad one. I think we could survive in a world without sugar, just about, but not one without rice. You have me thinking what other terrible knock-on effects there might be in a world without song! 😉

      Sarah Ann

      September 24, 2018 at 11:58 am

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