The Scarlet Plague is a post-apocalyptic fiction novel written by Jack London and originally published in London Magazine in 1912. The story takes place in 2073, sixty years after an uncontrollable epidemic, the Red Death, has depopulated the planet. James Howard Smith is one of the few survivors of the pre-plague era left alive in the San Francisco area, and he travels with his grandsons Edwin, Hoo-Hoo, and Hare-Lip. His grandsons are "savage" and live as primeval hunter-gatherers in a heavily depopulated world. Their intellect is limited, as are their language abilities. Edwin asks Smith, whom they call "Granser", to tell them of the disease alternately referred to as scarlet plague, scarlet death, or red death. Smith recounts the story of his life before the plague, when he was an English professor. In 2013, the year after "Morgan the Fifth was appointed President of the United States by the Board of Magnates", the disease came about and spread rapidly. Sufferers would turn scarlet, particularly on the face, and become numb in their lower extremities. Victims usually died within 30 minutes of first seeing symptoms. Despite the public's trust in doctors and scientists, no cure is found, and those who attempted to do so were also killed by the disease. The grandsons question Smith's belief in "germs" causing the illness because they cannot be seen. Smith witnesses his first victim of the scarlet plague while teaching when a young woman's face turns scarlet. She dies quickly, and a panic soon overtakes the campus. He returns home but his family refuses to join him because they fear he is infected. Soon, an epidemic overtakes the area and residents begin rioting and killing one another. Smith meets with colleagues at his college's chemistry building, where they hope to wait out the problem. They soon realize they must move elsewhere for safety and begin trekking northward.
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