A weapon is a tool, wielded by those who intend to take the breath of life. No matter how many lives are taken due to the weapon, or the individual, the collective knowledge of those lost is continued and echoed throughout history. Memorials, cemeteries and the voices of historical prose preach their names so their sacrifices may never be forgotten. Even one hundred years later, we honor those who died in the blasted craters of The Somme, who drowned in mud and poison at Passchandele and the men who stood their ground as the machines of war trampled them. We have not forgotten.
But what is to be remembered, when your enemy holds no weapon and no tool. When the weapon is not aimed at you, but encircles you. The enemy is not content in taking away only life, it must consume everything. Your heritage, culture, essence, memories and even your very thoughts? To wipe away your very existence, leaving not a single echo of your past within the halls of time. The beast is coming, as it has before, as it always will. A hundred thousand years ago it came unto the galaxy, and when it finally receded, left no trace of either itself, or those it had consumed. Only a precious few relics remain from that era, the memory of those who built them, lost to the stretches of time. An enemy like no other, the history of which is as complex as it is frightening.
The Flood cometh, and with it, silence.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, a species known as the Precursors seeding the galaxy with life. Two of these species raised under their care were the Forerunners and Humanity. They grew quickly, advanced in their technology at a staggering rate and soon had immense stellar empires. The Precursors held the belief that those worthy of their role, should be tasked with The Mantel of Responsibility. To tend to the galaxy they had seeded, and so, Humanity was chosen. The Forerunners, angered by their dismissal, lashed out and destroyed the Precursors entirely. Wiping away their legacy as well as their memories. Save for a Precursor construct, The Domain, which held the collective knowledge of their entire species, the Precursors were a distant memory. The Precursors were not defeated entirely however, some survived in the cold sleep of the void, while others purposefully disintegrated into a fine powder. This powder, would later become known as, The Flood.
Humanity continued to advance throughout the Orion Complex, destroying Forerunner controlled worlds in the process. What was thought by the Forerunners to be an act of aggression, was actually an act of mercy. These planets had been infected by The Flood decades earlier. The Forerunners and Humanity nonetheless fought a long and costly war. The Forerunners finally stood victorious, devolving Humanity into a primitive state, destroying their memories, technology and culture in the process. This proved a killing blow for both for both species as The Flood swept across the galaxy, unchallenged. Until the Forerunners, desperate to stop the parasitic invasion, cleansed the entire galaxy of life.
Halo functions on one main, key motif. How the loss of past generation's memories, leads to an endless cycle of conflict. Because future species cannot learn from the previous' mistakes, the same endless cycle will repeat. Are we, in our own non-fictional society any different? World War 1 lead to World War 2 due to a poor handling of post-war reconstruction. We stood on the endless abyss of the Cold War, where ten nuclear weapons were not enough, but instead tens of thousands were developed. The Deep Water Horizon, one of the worst environmental disasters in history was followed by the lax preparedness and handling of the Fukushima meltdown. In Halo, every time I play the series, I see "us." I see a fictional universe that is content to make mistakes, and never learn from them. The boogeyman in the room is The Flood, and in our very real world, we are The Gravemind.
The Flood's history in terms of modern science fiction, is quite complex and storied. Many examples exist of a parasitic lifeforms, which devours all life while simultaneously turning their victims against the survivors. Perhaps the most well-known is John Carpendar's The Thing, in where an alien craft buried under the ice of Antarctica spawns a creature who has the ability assimilate the biology of others, mimic it, and continue the process indefinitely. You may have the inclination to point to this seminal work and agree with certainty that Halo's Flood took a great deal of inspiration from The Thing. In some regard, you would be correct. However the work in which The Flood was most crafted after was The Vang, a series by author Christopher Rowley, in which an alien parasite begins to quietly take over human controlled space. They are insidious, attacking human space-craft, assimilating the entire crew and then using their memories to plot and find other human controlled systems. It's classic science fiction which takes a familiar topic, assimilation and cultural dissonance, and turns it on its head to form a terrifying narrative driven work.
The Vang, were not just a narrative inspiration, but a philosophical one as well.  The notion of a unified, controlled biology has always been a centerpiece of fiction, and unfortunately our very own reality. Adolph Hitler dreamed of the perfect race, a species which had no flaws and was unified by common biology. Communism, at least the modern iteration, is a political system forged around the unification of class and social structure. A different form of control, but control nonetheless. The Vang was the first science fiction series which introduced an enemy not bent on the short-sided goal of extermination, but instead assimilation of one's entire species in order to take the genetics, blend them with countless other biological matter, and then merge them to form the perfect organism. Perhaps the most well known riff on The Vang, is Star Trek: The Next Generation's Borg. An android species which assimilates biological organisms, by forcibly taking their memories and heritage to create a more perfect being. 
This obsession with a uniform biology has pervaded Human interest, making its way into both fiction and reality. The psychology behind this is a complex subject, mostly relating to the human need of belonging and closeness. The extreme end of that spectrum is The Vang, Borg and Flood. In which the human need to belong, is replaced with the notion of a controlled biology in which freedom of choice is replaced by the will of the many, the hive mind. It is interesting to note that while most constructs of fiction depict this extreme end of the spectrum as evil, The Flood in Halo are actually quite passive about the idea. The Gravemind sees the unification of biology as the next step in evolution, and actively implies it is a positive direction. This makes The Flood, much more sinister than The Vang or Borg, based on the method in which is consumes. Passive compliance. The nightmare of The Flood is not in the method, but the psychology. Subverting both biological and artificial beings alike to join it.
The nightmare is not of the flesh, but of the mind. This is especially true within our own history, as many cultures have either been lost or desegregated due to either outside factors, collapse or the current trend of globalization. Indeed, just as The Flood may consume biomass, other, less insidious forces. can also consume an entire heritage. A prime example, currently, is the continued trend of globalization in which bridges various cultures from around the world. At first glance, this is a positive progression, the sharing and exchange of knowledge. However, as times goes on, we will begin to see the boundaries of identity and individuality fade away in favor of a singular, inter-connected society of varying cultures. It's not as insidious or apparently horrific as The Vang or Flood, but nonetheless it is a loss of cultural identity in exchange for a unification of individualistic societies.
All these themes and motifs are prime inspiration and material to further develop The Flood in terms of the future of Halo. Ironically, it is this broadening of horizons which will in terms make for a much more compelling and terrifying enemy within The Flood. As we see within out own society, so we also see within our media and fiction. Working within a vacuum or insular environment will inevitably lead to the watering down of an otherwise diverse and meaningful narrative. As we delve deeper into the maw of The Flood, we also delve deeper into out own society and cultural bias. Perhaps that is why The Flood resonate so deeply within the fandom. They are an inter-connected unified mass, of collective consciousness. Much like our own globalized society, The Flood feeds of the consumption of material to further its own existence.
The Flood are terrifying on so many different levels of narrative theme and motif besides the similarities to our own society. The fact you are fighting fallen comrades who are being manipulated against their will, the brutal way in which they infect and transform other species and their sheer numbers. But to me, The Flood are terrifying by way of action, as they take so much more than just your physical form and life. Perhaps the most sorrowful and gut-wrenching scene in all of Halo is found within a terminal in Halo:CEA; in which depicts Captain Jacob Keys slowly loosing his identity to the Proto-Gravemind. What is even more chilling, is the fact he knowingly gave his identity to The Flood, in order to hide the origins of Earth.
"Oh god, you don't want me, you want everything!
This is why The Flood are so horrific, they take everything from you. Your history, your culture and your essence. How many species in the Halo universe have succumbed to The Flood on some level? The Forerunners, Ancient Humanity, The Covenant, Present Day Humanity and possibly more. All species within the galaxy have been impacted by The Flood's mere existence. The Precursors are the only species whose legacy has passed on, ironically as The Flood. 
When the last White Rhino is killed or goes extinct, will their memory and essence continue? Sure, through us. We are in a sense, The Domain. We collect the essence of the species we have destroyed into our own history, told through our eyes. If the Great Barrier Reef does collapse, I suppose that too will be remembered not by the species which inhabited it, but by those who knowingly destroyed and consumed it. And therein lies the horror, the undeniable grotesqueness, that is The Flood. With their arrival they bring silence. Within the deep, dark wells of The Flood's biomass lies the silence of those they have consumed.
343 Industries would do well to follow the implications of this most perverse of acts. The silence which accompanies The Flood is deafening, almost inescapable. The Gravemind knows your species will fall, yet you resist. The Flood then convince you, that your efforts are against a greater good, of a new harmony and unified utopia. Slowly eating away at your doubt until you willingly render yourself unto the beast. Anyone, or anything which attempts to reject The Gravemind, is violently consumed. The records of history have no meaning to The Flood, there is simply no point. To The Gravemind, history is The Flood and The Flood is history. All minds converge unto it, and all thoughts are controlled by it. The freedom of thought and culture is removed, replaced by the cold and calculated logic of consumption. The goal of taking more, and more away from the universe and assimilating it into The Flood.
We can draw out own parallels from this, in our society and civilization. I doubt that the mindset of European colonists entering the Americas' was anything less than the total stripping of natural resources and the indigenous people's cultural identity. That was a concerted and planned effort, as it truly is a horrifically effective tactic. Subverting one's culture by way of destroying the land and pillaging the resources has the domino effect of producing a kind of hopelessness within the culture on the receiving end. I'm certain, as The Forerunners witness their planets being consumed by the Flood, had that same pang of hopelessness wash over them.
Showing The Flood consume is one thing, but showing the process of which they take their victims is much more effective. As Keys slowly lost himself to The Flood, so we also lost our hope for Keys. Narrative writing is a daunting art, one which commands the craft to be perfected by the meaningful strokes of the artist's literary brush. Within those brush strokes lies to nightmare of The Flood, waiting to be unleashed once more. How much more frightening would it be, for them to be set free upon not our bodies, but our minds. To be fearful of The Flood not because of what they do, but what they represent.
Think of everything you are, everything you have been and everything you may yet be. Your entire future lay ahead of you. Now, imagine a monster so wretched that it seeks to remove your future from you. But that isn't enough, it never will be. It must remove your present, your past, your memories and thoughts as all becomes just another mass of organic flesh consumed within The Flood's endless maw. "Who will remember me,?" you wonder as your final thought leaves you.
As your last human action, you look around. Everyone you have ever known is now one with you, every memory you held dear now but one in a sea of lost souls. It is dark, silence envelopes you. You are The Flood, and The Flood is you.
And that, is what is absolutely the most horrific, frightening and gut-wrenching aspect of this enemy. It is, you. Or more specifically, what you were and will never be again.
Sourced Materials Utilized For This Article
Bear, Greg. Halo: Silentium. N.p.: Pan, 2014. Print.
Featherstone, Mike. Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization, and Modernity: A Theory, Culture & Society Special Issue. London: Sage Publications, 1990. Print.
Halo Mythos. S.l.: Egmont, 2016. Print.
Lindholm, Charles. Culture and Identity: The History, Theory, and Practice of Psychological Anthropology. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill, 2001. Print.
Scott, Jill. A Poetics of Forgiveness: Cultural Responses to Loss and Wrongdoing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Print.
A Halo fan since the beginning, 2001. Also a games industry consultant, writer, and educator. These are my thoughts, praise and advice concerning the past, present and future narrative of the Halo franchise.
Halo, all assets within, characters and merchandise are property of the Microsoft Corporation and is developed by its subsidiary 343 Industries.
I do not own, claim to own or retain any rights to the Halo franchise. This is a fan based work, and is strictly non-profit.
All other images, articles linked, materials and franchises that are not strictly specified as my own are property of their respective owners.
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