In the remote north of Kazakhstan there is a small village called Kalachi. Over the past few years, a quarter of its population has fallen victim to a mysterious disease that has yet to be explained by science.
‘The trouble started four years ago,’ one of the few remaining locals recalls. ‘At first, there were rumors but later, people we knew started falling ill. Entire houses would fall silent.’
The mysterious disease causes people to fall into a coma-like sleep that can last for days. It happens without warning and affects without discrimination. Yes, the unlucky residents of the small, half-deserted village are cursed with a sleep epidemic.
Mind you, their symptoms are much more debilitating than they seem at first. They range from constant dizziness and nausea to excruciating headaches and memory loss. Not exactly Sleeping Beauty stuff here.
Understandably, this situation has been a constant source of anxiety for scientists and government officials. Since 2013, more than 20,000 laboratory and clinical tests were performed, with minimal results. Meanwhile, people are falling asleep for days at a time and nobody can do anything about it.
The children seem to be hit pretty hard by this slumber sickness. Last September, eight schoolchildren fell asleep in class over the course of a single hour. Waking them up was difficult and caused unwanted panic attacks.
Another nasty side-effect has sufferers of the sleep illness become aggressive. Entire hospital wards had to be tied down to their beds because they posed a danger to themselves and the hospital staff.
Many believe the source of the illness lies within the abandoned Soviet-era uranium mines located outside of the village. However, many of the tests focused on this scenario but failed to detect any significant spikes in radioactivity levels. Another culprit could be radon gas seeping through the ground and acting as a narcotic but tests showed no presence of this gas.