Fiction: The GARS Blog

Author’s Note: About the Word “Exer”

On Tuesday, September 27th, 2016, the CDC used the name “Genomic Autoimmune Reaction Syndrome” and its acronym “GARS” in reference to the East Coast Epidemics, giving the affliction an official name. The WHO made this its official designation as well a few days later.

Later that week, on Saturday, October 1st, geneticist Ian Melo of Harvard Medical School used the term “Extragenomic Metamorphosis” for the first time publicly while participating in a panel discussion about the crisis that was broadcast live on PBS and National Public Radio. Dr. Melo used the term to differentiate between someone who had been transformed by the GARS vector but were no longer ill, and persons who were actively afflicted by the syndrome. The terminology made sense and took hold in the medical community soon after.

By mid-October the word “Exer” started to appear on the internet and news media as a label for the transformed, the presumption being that it was culled from shortening “Extragenomic”. It was certainly shorter to say and type. From there its use became common on the East Coast where GARS survivors were mostly congregated at the time. It also gained some very negative connotations in public use, being used to mean “Ex-Human” in the same way you would call someone your Ex-Boyfriend or Ex-Wife.

Someone who had undergone a Metamorphosis had “been exed” or “exerd”… and people started to say that they “don’t want to get exed”.

Oh, and terms like “furry”, “freak”, “mutant” and even “animal” were still popular too.

The name might not have stuck, but then an at-the-time unknown singer-songwriter called Aerin uploaded her song and self-produced video Rabbit Hole to YouTube in March of 2017. It got something like a bajillion views, and used the word Exer repeatedly in lyrics that were sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always catchy and about her life after her metamorphosis into a Lepus Americanus anthro.

After that, everyone called them Exers.

Exer is still a word that can be hurtful name-calling and an ugly slur depending on context. But many in the transformed community have also embraced it in a positive way similar to how the words “geek” or “gay” were adopted and empowered by those who once had those labels used against them. I use the word Exer rather freely because it is so commonly used both inside and outside of the transformed community that it’d be awkward not to use it. But I caution those outside of that community to be aware that if you use it casually, you will eventually offend someone.

Now I’m going to go technical nomenclature nerd on you to get this out of my system:

“Exer”, while used broadly to refer to anyone who has undergone any type of Expressed Metamorphosis, is technically only accurate when applied to someone who has specifically had an Extragenomic Metamorphosis. Some survivors and friends of the community get touchy about this. Although not as well known outside of transformed circles, Intragenomic (EIM) survivors who are public about their changes often prefer the term “Eemer” and a fair number of the rare Polygenomic (EPM) survivors have begun calling themselves “Eppers”.

Be sure pronounce the “E” strongly with that last one, because it sounds like “Leper” if you don’t… and that’s a bad scene.

***

Introduction to the Metamorphoses Section

My primary focus on The GARS Blog has been, thus far, on care and treatment to provide the best chance of survival for a GARS patient though the end of their fever. This is the time of the most imminent danger and need. From that standpoint, GARS transformations do not represent an immediate health threat in the same way the fever does.

But many of you — I’m sure — have been reading daily just waiting until I get to the “good stuff”, like how people end-up as real-life furries. With pictures. Or really bizarre cases, like the tree-guy in Australia.

With pictures.

For those of you like that, or first time readers on this post, please take a minute and read this first:

I worked through the Boston epidemic in the “Exer Ward” of a hospital. I assisted hundreds of people going through their transformations and adjusting to them after the fact. Ostensibly, I was given this task because of my background with veterinary science, which amounted to some veterinary education and a few years spent working part-time at animal hospitals though college while getting my nursing degree.

Privately, I don’t think my background had anything to do with it. I volunteered for the job, and the hospital was desperate for staff to work these cases. And even then, many of my fellow staffers in the ward were frightened of their patients.

And at first, so was I.

There was nothing I could do to stop or reverse their changes. In that way I was no better than any other nurse. But I listened. Listened to their fears about what they had become or might become. And I helped. I helped them lean how to use new hands to hold, and new legs to walk. And research. Oh man, was there a lot of research with the hospital’s sketchy internet as I tried to pinpoint which genus and species my patients had been crossed with, and we tried to work out the details of new diets, hygiene, allergies and dozens of other things together.

Eventually, I never saw monsters in my beds again. Just brave people learning how to live once more. And I would have stayed in that ward until every Exer under my care was discharged, if I had not come down with the fever myself.

Exers are people. They are survivors that have moved forward or are still recovering from the trauma of adjusting to their radically altered appearances, physiology and senses. This doesn’t mean normals can’t make Zootopia jokes (many of us love them). But please, always make them from a place of respect.

EXPRESSED METAMORPHOSIS 101

Let’s review what we already know about GARS:

GARS attempts to rewrite the genome, allele and other genetic information in the afflicted by blending it with the genomic patterns of another form of life. On occasion, those of multiple forms of life.

This attempted genomic rewrite, although systemic, does not appear evenly throughout the afflicted at first. The body begins to fight back with its immune system against the changes because it recognizes them as not part of itself. To the afflicted’s immune system, these are now an alien presence within the body that must be destroyed.

The body’s battle against its changing self will have one of three outcomes:

  • The most common outcome is death from massive autoimmune reactions or Terminal Genomic Failure.
  • The second most common outcome is that GARS withdraws and the afflicted recovers with no detectable change in their genome.
  • The third, and least common outcome, is that the GARS succeeds in overwriting the afflicted’s genome without killing them. The changes within the afflicted become universal, and the GARS rewrite of their genetic blueprint the “new normal”. This can manifest in an extremely broad spectrum of ways, only some of which being the Expressed Extragenomic and Polygenomic Metamorphoses that receive so much media attention.

Okay, now that we are refreshed and clear on that, let’s proceed to…

An Overview of the Types of Expressed Metamorphosis

By the numbers, a typical GARS survivor has roughly a 41% chance of developing an Expressed Metamorphosis of some sort (EIM, EEM, EPM). Explaining these transformations is difficult on a technical level: Not only does current science not understand how GARS works, but our knowledge of the genetics it alters was far from complete even before the first case of it occurred.

Science can, however, analyze the after effects of GARS even if we are clueless as to its mechanisms.

First, let me be clear that when I use the terms “Genomic” and “Genome” in the context of GARS, I am referring to not only the genome, but also the entire genetic makeup of an organism including DNA, Allele, chromosomes, etc. That said, what GARS is attempting to do is rewrite the genomic pattern in the afflicted by blending it with the genomic patterns of another form of life. If GARS succeeds in doing this, and the patient survives, there are three possible outcomes:

Sometimes, the “other” genomic form of life that is blended is the human genome itself.  This is called Expressed Intragenomic Metamorphosis (EIM). These kinds of transformations can be almost imperceptible… Every human on earth shares 99.9% of the same genetic coding with only .01% marking the difference between any two human individuals. However, changes to that 1/10th of a percent difference can have huge consequences, as I will go over in detail later. Because these changes can be so small and unobvious, how many GARS survivors have EIM is near impossible to determine at this point in time. Confirmed cases of EIM have occurred in about 11% of GARS survivors.

Then there is Expressed Extragenomic Metamorphosis (EEM). Roughly 25% of GARS survivors will develop EEM. These changes are usually quite visually apparent and even in the rare cases where they are not, simple genetic testing will reveal that the person with this condition no longer has the genomic patterning of a human being. In this expression of the post-GARS process, it has blended the survivor’s human genomic pattern with the pattern of one other form of life. Potentially, the other genome could be from anything, but the most common expressions by far are from mammals of all types. After mammals, in progressing order of rarity, are expressions of birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Then you get into really rare occurrences like insects, worms and plants where we only have a few examples. Overall, slightly more than 90% of all EEM cases involve genomes found within the Infraphylum Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates). 7% or so of cases involve genomes from other representatives of Kingdom Animalia and the remainder (a little under 3%) are from a wide spectrum of other kingdoms and phylums of life.

On rare occasion, perhaps 5% of GARS survivors will undergo changes that involve the blending of their human genome with the genomic patterns of multiple other life forms. This is called Expressed Polygenomic Metamorphosis (EPM). By definition, this will involve at least three genomes: the original human genome of the survivor and two others at a minimum. Sets of three genomes make up 74% of all documented EPM cases, and virtually all others involve four. Cases of five or six genomes are exceptionally rare. The appearances and physiology of survivors with EPM can be highly chimerical, or an equalized blending of form and traits.

In both cases of EEM and EPM, there is a tiny percentage (less than 0.25%) of individuals for whom the blended genomic patterns have no references found in our known taxonomy of nature. We just don’t know what they are mixed with, and their expressions can be baffling! These are termed X-Genome Occurrences.

There is great debate over what these handful of cases represent. Some argue that they represent undiscovered or extinct forms of life on Earth. Others claim that they could be highly integrated examples of EPM where the original component genomes can’t be deciphered. And then there is the popular fringe argument that they are genomes from forms of life from “somewhere else” like extraterrestrial worlds or other dimensions of reality. There is so much mystery with GARS that I don’t personally rule anything out at this point.

***

SG-ARCs

In addition to the three broad types of Expressed Metamorphosis (Intragenomic, Extragenomic and Polygenomic), there is a subset of metamorphoses that can happen in conjunction with any of the established types above. These are called Supplementary Genomic-Allele Reorganizational Complications (SG-ARC). While MVGR and BVGR classifications of these complications are fairly common, the BSR and CSR complications are rare.

The two most common SG-ARCs are Malignant Vector Genomic Reorganization (MVGR) and Benevolent Vector Genomic Reorganization (BVGR). Both MVGR and BVGR were covered in in my “Going Home” and “Recovery” posts, but to rehash what I said there: An MVGR will cause any of a number of health problems when they occur (for example, you could suddenly become diabetic or get cancer), and a BVGR does the opposite: curing a previous affliction you may have had (you’re no longer diabetic, or your terminal cancer is totally gone).

The other two classified SG-ARCs are far rarer than occurrences of MVGR or BVGR.

The first is Biological Senescenic Reset (BSR). To understand BSR you have to realize that how we age is controlled, at least to a significant degree, by our genetics. By design of our genomic clock we grow from embryos to adults, and then likely by a combination or genetic coding and damage over a lifetime it leads us to old age. In a BSR, the time on that “genomic clock” is reset to a new value. Usually, this something less than the survivor’s chronological age, and the body takes on the physical appearance, development and capacity of that age.

BSR might sound like a wonderful fountain of youth, particularly in cases of EIM where your appearance might otherwise be unaffected. But BSR can be just as traumatic as any exer metamorphosis. Imagine the reality of suddenly being physically twenty years younger while your friends, family and significant other are unchanged. And this does not take into consideration instances where the subject is reduced to a prepubescent child from adulthood, or the rare but terrifying instances where the BSR moves the genomic clock ahead of your chronological age, making you literally old before your time.

The second rare SG-ARC is Chromosomal Sexual Reassignment (CSR). You can probably already guess what happens here.

As our biological sex is determined by our genetics, it is of course fair game for the GARS vector to alter that X chromosome to a Y, or vice-versa. Given the scope of changes the GARS vector is capable of, it’s actually surprising that CSRs are as rare as they are. I and others speculate that there is something about the vector that generally stays away from sex assigning chromosomes, but there are many theories.

CSRs are almost always full and not superficial conversions… involving the complete host of structural-physiological changes you’d expect. Yes, this includes the normal reproductive capacities of a new sex. And it should go without saying that a CSR can be emotionally and socially devastating to survivors across all types of metamorphosis. The one silver lining is that CSRs seem to be biologically a “whole package” deal, and survivors often adapt to it without gender dysphoria given time.

***

That’s it for today, hit the comment or message button as usual if you’ve got questions. Next week, I’ll start expanding into the details of each of the Metamorphosis types, starting with EIMs.

Take care, and remember: We’re all people… even the furry ones.

♡ॢ₍^.ʷ̣̫.^₎

Calliope Fenmore

 

 

Copyright © 2018 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.

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