Twinkle Plague
Threat Level
Active Status
Other Names
The shining1, Rock Candy Disease, Glitter Plague

Compiled by the Mojave Outfit

Description: Twinkle Plague is hard to miss — it shows up as splotches of bright colors that twinkle and glow in low lighting, like whatever it's affecting is turned into a cross between it and a gemstone. Some people think it looks like an oil slick. In the literal sense, what happens is that tiny crystals of all sorts of jewels will become embedded in whatever's affected, like they grew there naturally. If it's caused by some kind of virus or bacteria, our microscopes can't see it.

Twinkle plague kills animals 100% the time (typically through internal bleeding), plants most of the time (woody plants manage alright), and can make inanimate objects brittle and unstable.

Twinkle Plague can infect any solid object (except rocks, or anything that's mostly rock) through physical contact, so long as it's old, worn-down, or broken. It goes about a foot per minute in all directions from the point of contact, but that figure can get higher or lower depending on just how decrepit the thing is.

If you're in good health and you haven't hit middle age, it's basically safe to be around, but given that the only recourse if you're infected is to amputate, most warders prefer to start wearing protection around age 30.

Background: Rock Candy Disease has shown up on three separate occasions, from seemingly unrelated sources. Anything past that can be traced back to one of those outbreaks — typically, it'll spread from mishandling of infected materials, or from accidents.

The first time Rock Candy Disease showed up was in 1849 in a riverbed in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Records of the event are vague — a 49er's journal mentions a miner's pan glimmering in the light after he scooped up sediment from the riverbed, and when that man's father picked the pan up for a look, he went stiff, started sparkling, coughed up blood, and then died. The remaining 49ers cleared out as soon as they could.

It's assumed that the riverbed carried Rock Candy Disease for some time before it was dug out, presumably contained naturally by the rocky sediment below and water above. A few expeditions have been sent to find the place — not to mention the miner's body, which for all we know was left exposed — but none have born fruit.

The second time it showed up — and this is the one that put it on WS's radar — was in May of 1881, about 75 miles outside of Yankton, South Dakota2 After the snowdrifts from an unusually harsh winter melted, a patch of land about 2 miles long and 1 mile wide was found covered in Rock Candy Disease, which apparently stopped along several natural boundaries (the Missouri river on the west, rock outcroppings in the east, sandy soils elsewhere).

The only thing of note in the infected area — apart from a lot of petrified grass and dead animals — was the homestead of a recluse who went by "Johnathan". By all accounts Johnathan was in good health as the winter began, so it's assumed that he starved to death after his food stores were rendered inedible, or that he tried to eat them anyways and got internal lacerations, fell ill, and then became susceptible. Hundreds of pages of writings were found in his house, but they'd all become infested with Rock Candy Disease, so the pages became brittle and fell apart once they were picked up, and they couldn't be read.

The third source isn't known exactly, but it's assumed to be responsible for a few outbreaks in 1967 in eastern Massachusetts. A few of the places affected — an unmarked laboratory in a Lexington suburb, an aging apartment building in downtown Boston, and a stretch of farmland outside Salem — had connections to the Irish mob and local real estate developers, but whoever was responsible covered their tracks well enough that we couldn't figure things out. Not our business, anyway — we're not a detective agency.

Location and Population: All told there's about 75,000 acres of land affected by Twinkle Plague, or about 115 square miles, plus about two tons of material that're stored separately, that we know of. Most of it's concentrated along the the South Dakota side of the Missouri River and in miscellaneous places in eastern Massachusetts. The Mojave outfit also has a warehouse of the stuff out in the desert, where it can't do much damage.

There's a complicated and mostly irrelevant history of mishaps and foolishness that've spread the Shining to other places, most notably a 30 square mile stretch in the Yukon where we take Warders who think they can be lax with the stuff. I'd recommend visiting some time while you're still young — if you can stand the cold, there's nothing quite like a herd of dead deer shimmering in the sunset.

Hunting or Procurement Methods: To actually destroy Twinkle Plague, you have to melt it, which can be ridiculously hard to do without a furnace, since some gems have a very high melting point. Burning the surrounding material away can be useful sometimes, but that leaves behind the gems, which are still contagious.

Containing it is more practical — bury it in sand, since sand is just tiny rocks. Anything can hold it in the short term as long as it's in great condition, but over time it might become susceptible; plastic bins are just about the best choice here, since they don't really degrade.

If the Twinkle Plague has spread enough that you can't just scoop it up, things get dicey. It's important to know how deep the bedrock is and how it's distributed, because bedrock forms the lower bound for the infection. The second issue is the soil — anything less than 70% sand or so can transmit Twinkle Plague.

If you have a handle on these two, you should be able to figure out which areas are susceptible, and consequently where to focus your efforts. Dig a trench down to the bedrock so that the Twinkle Plague can't leave the area you're sealing off; sometimes you'll be able to cut it off at one or two chokepoints, while other times you'll need to dig a whole circle around the place. Just make sure to map out a perimeter you know you can handle with the manpower you have.

Obviously you should make every effort to evacuate whatever humans you can (though if they're already affected, you'll need to amputate or euthanize), but besides that, kill any animal that leaves the area and toss its carcass back in. Local wildlife will usually succumb before they can leave if they're susceptible, but sometimes they'll panic and run off in an inconvenient direction. It's safest to just dispose of them.

Once you're confident that the outbreak has been contained, cover it in a big pile of rocks and sand (rocks are cheap filler, but you need the impermeability of sand) and cordon the area off. Local and state governments are usually pretty happy to help with this, and they don't want their citizens to find out about it any more than we do.

Encounter Records: N/A

Additonal Notes: You'll notice that nothing here is foolproof, and that without a good way to destroy Twinkle Plague, we're fighting a losing battle in the long run. Odds are that one day — maybe after you and I are long gone, but one day nonetheless — there'll be an outbreak that'll grow faster than we can find a way to stop it, and it won't stop at natural boundaries like it has before, and it's downhill from there. I doubt we have more than two centuries before this happens, the way things are going.

Whatever futility you perceive in this task does not change your obligation to do it — the motto is "I know, therefore I act", not "I know I will triumph, therefore I act". If you have any concerns, my office is always open.

- T.

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