The arms race spirals out of control as the world’s super powers push the limits of science to obtain superiority. Science fiction becomes fact with the breakthrough of the Sekhmet Serum. The dawn of the super soldier is on the horizon thanks to a common parasite: Toxoplasma gondii.
Eric Lawson, a fervent protester and opponent of the United States government, is broke. With graduation at hand, he faces an uncertain future. When approached by a representative of "The Man," he’s offered a chance to fulfill his lifelong dream of changing the world.
After being injected with the Sekhmet Serum, Eric embarks on an epic journey of the body and the mind. He learns that "The Man" is much more than he was led to believe. Things born from the shadows rarely come into the light. Eric will have to question everything he believes and sacrifice more than he can imagine to escape and stop the Army of the Man.
The story behind The Army of the Man began as a discussion between myself and a friend. My daughter was acting like a fool. My friend, Kathy, made a joke about our poor cat "Fats" infecting my kid with toxoplasmosis (the cat is a bit eccentric...okay full on crazy). She went on to explain that she had just heard a piece on NPR about the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, and how some scientists have postulated that it may be responsible for schizophrenia in humans. That mental health disorder was rare in people until the late 18th century. It was around that time that cats began to be kept as pets.
Cats are integral to the life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii. They are the only creatures in which the parasitic protazoan can reproduce. So the theory goes that cats incubate the parasite. It’s then expelled through their feces which allows the organism to enter soil, water, and foods. Rodents consume the cat’s feces, ingesting the parasite.
Here’s where things get interesting. The parasite hijacks dendrtitic cells in the rodents. This allows them to avoid immune system detection and enter the rat’s brain where they alter the behavior of the creatures. Rodents are hard wired to avoid cats. Even if a colony of rats reproduced for hundreds of generations without ever seeing a cat, they would still be genetically programmed to avoid them. Rats infected by the parasite lose their fear of cats, become less averse to the smell of cat urine, and demonstrate increased reaction times. Some scientists even believe that an infected rat may become sexually aroused by the smell of cats.
What does all that mean? Basically the parasite re-wires the rodent’s brain to make them easier targets and more likely to be eaten by cats, which then ingest the Toxoplasma gondii protazoan, starting the cycle again.
Toxoplasma gondii can and does infect humans as well. It’s estimated that 1/3rd of the world’s population is currently infected. Humans become infected in the same way as the rats. The question is how does the parasite effect people? Many scientists believe that the effects are similar. People who carry the Toxoplasma gondii parasite have been linked to increased rates of mental health disorders like schizophrenia as well as risk taking and impulsive behavior. Is the guy jumping off a cliff brave, or has his brain been rewired by the parasite? Studies show that people infected are 2-4 times as likely to die in a car accident. That’s crazy ... and makes for a great story!