A new idea was shaping in his mind and a new phrase with it—Secondary Kill. Of those that the Great Disaster had spared, many would fall victim to some trouble from which civilization had previously protected them. With unlimited liquor they would drink themselves to death. There had been, he guessed, murder; almost certainly there had been suicide. Some, like the old man, who ordinarily would have lived normal enough lives, would be pushed over the line into insanity by shock and the need of readjustment; such ones would probably not survive long. Some would meet with accident; being alone, they would die. Others would die of disease which no one was left to treat. He knew that, biologically speaking, there was a critical point in the numbers of any species—if the numbers were reduced below this point, the species could not recover. Was mankind going to survive? Well, that was one of those interesting points which gave him the will to live. But certainly the result of his day’s research gave him little confidence. In fact, if these survivors were typical, who would wish mankind to survive?
Earth Abides, George Stewart
One of my favorite parts from The Stand was the section in the expanded edition in which King tells all the stories indirectly brought on by the superflu: people getting locked in walk-in refrigerators, that sort of thing.
The thing that makes apocalypse stories interesting isn’t what caused the world to end (oftentimes it isn’t even explained), but what survivors are willing do to each other to keep living and what that says about our true inner selves.
Even if it is just fiction.