A science fiction story about the end of the world, the future, water, hope, and everything else.
Episode One: The heart of a hero
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Depeche Mode, Never Let Me Down Again
The Book of Carrot
Book One: Principal Virtues
Chapter Two: Abandon all to hope
Episode Thirteen: Hannibal Ante Portas
Una e sã promiti si alta e sã faci.
It is one thing to promise and another to perform.
A Romanian Proverb
“Because of John, I now have a successful online advertising agency,” explained Nittin.
I do five figures in a month…”
Nittin wiped a tear from his eye.
“I enable exciting, direct advertising relationships on personal and small business blogs.”
It all started when I asked John to loan me $50 to buy school books. He told me that he’d give me $100 if I ran a banner ad on my blog for Hachi’s blog. Then he helped me make a price list for ads, showed me how to solicit advertising from my network, and later pushed me to help others get advertising going on their blogs.
John gave out hope like it was candy…”
Cristina held John’s cold, still hand as she watched the National Foods video tribute to John for the gazillionth time.
Rolf Goldberg’s video raised 12 Million Euros for the Cancer Ward in seven days. Mihaela’s clinic quickly became the best equipped medical clinic and lab in Bucharest. Volunteer doctors now staffed it 24-7 – they wanted to be a part of something that counted.
Lumi recruited a dozen people in game and they leveled up hard; her two favorites were Max, a 30-ish year old waitress at La Boehme, and Grace, a 16 year old graphic designer at Ogilvy.
“I think it’s time you come on out,” said Mother Washington as she threw bread to the ducks and swans.
“Ain’t you gots things to do!”
Mother Washington paused as the park lamps flickered and went out.
“Oh, you gots things to do, John. And time – time’s running out. So you open your eyes…
Don’t you make Mother Washington come into that hospital and shoosh you out of that bed!”
Mother Washington finished tearing up the last few slices of bread; she tossed the pieces to a pair of black swans.
“You better get soon. Soon enough, ain’t no one going to bring you a free supper. They’re gonna make a fine supper out of you – if’n you stick around.”
A bearded orthodox priest (dressed in black) passed by Mother Washington as she spoke to the black swans. He made the sign of the cross to ward off the evil spirit that possessed the old, black woman. His steps quickened and he clutched the cash in his pants’ pockets.
“You better run…” Mother Washington said to herself with a chuckle; her eyes full of light.
“You might catch something worse than a curse; mayhaps, a little, honest-to-goodness faith – if’n you tarry with us a while.”
A tall, black man approached Mother Washington. He wore a U.N. Peace Keeper uniform with the rank of Major.
Mother Washington turned to the man and lifted her shaking hands up to hold his strong, clean shaven face.
“You glory in your shame, child!”
Mother Washington’s son reproached her.
“Don’t start, Mau-mau…
“I was worried about you. You weren’t home when I arrived. It’s late and there’s no lights here…”
“If’n Mother Washington can outlive thre husbands, carry and raise 12 children and bury eleven…” Mother Washington replied as she hugged her son.
“… then Mother Washington can manage these old bones around this here little park – light or no light; riots or calm; hell or high water…”
“Yes, Mau-mau,” her son replied – he often considered his mother’s feelings; her insistence to take an apartment at Cismigiu Park, for example, was just one of the many surrendered disagreements.
Most of the officers’ families were at Unirea Square and their buildings had armed guards, house keeping and concierge. Mother Washington had a live-in house keeper – whom was rarely home or keeping house.
“Mau-mau, I need you to stay indoors…
Things are going to get hectic soon. That’s what General Advani was saying to me, today. The water supply is contaminated. People are going to get very sick and they’re going to get angry,” Mother Washington’s son explained to her as they walked back to their apartment through the tree-lined avenues of Cismigiu Park.
“Why don’t you fix it, Michael Alexander Roland Sanchez?”
“We’re observers, Mau-mau.”
Mother Washington scolded her son.
“That handsome uniform of yours is always coming up with nothing but sorry excuses. But just you remember, child…
Ain’t no honor in idle hands that don’t serve. And ain’t no service in snappy salutes or a clean trigger pull.
None, Michael. None.”
Mother Washington stopped and tears streamed from her eyes.
“I’m going to bury you, here, Michael… in this foreign land. That’s why I came with you to this place – far away from any kin, old friends and neighbors that know our story. You’re the last…
Just don’t you die not doing the right thing; don’t you make me despair for you; don’t you break your mau-mau’s heart; don’t do mau-mau like that – all I got to say to you about dying…”
George was fucking a brown haired nurse in a hospital closet. He held her up by her buttocks; her legs were wrapped around him. More than anything, he wanted to see her breasts bounce, so he pressed her back against the wall and tore her blouse open; buttons flew and her beautiful, pale breasts spilled out with hard pink nipples the size of big berries.
The nurse slapped George’s face hard and pushed him away.
“Idiot!,” she yelled at him.
“Did you forget I’m at work?”
George was confused.
“Go get me a shirt!” she yelled at him as she pulled her blue scrub pants over her bare ass.
George pulled up his pants and stepped out of the closet into the hallway.
“There you are,” said Cristina.
“And why does your face have a red hand print?”
What do you need, Cristina?” George said hurriedly, ignoring her question, and noticing a tee shirt in her hand.
“We need water.”
“I’ll go get some… can I borrow that tee shirt?” he replied as he snatched the tee shirt out of Cristina’s hand.
Cristina shrugged and went back to John’s room. George opened the closet door enough to push the tee shirt inside. Then he went to get a few bottles of water from the corner shop.
Today, the Mayor of Bucharest declared the contamination of the Bucharest water supply to be a catastrophic disaster. Residents of Bucharest are advised not to use unfiltered city water for any purposes. The failure of the French company maintaining the Bucharest water supply is under investigation as public accusations of corruption and intrigue mount against them.
Jacques Vincent, spokesperson for company, explained that the recent power outages caused damages beyond immediate repair, but they had four revolving repair teams working non-stop on the problem 24-7. In addition, they are collaborating with experts, observers and consultants from the French Ministry of Health and European Union Health Commission. The hope is to have it fixed within five days.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands beseiged public hospitals with complaints of diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The Romanian Minister of Health refuted suggestions of a Cholera outbreak. ‘Cholera is impossible – this is not Africa!’ the minister was quoted as saying to the Press.
In other news, the United Nations General Secretary Obama declared war on water-related diseases.
“The rising oceans and seas, extreme climatic changes, and other unfortunate factors have put great strain on the world’s supply of clean water,” said Obama.
“Low income communities all around the world cannot afford to provide safe drinking water or medical treatment for the overwhelming incidence of water-related diseases. That’s why we’re going to war against water-related disease. This is not a question. This is a commitment we are making to the world!
This is us saying to the world, we hear your cry and shout for help. This is us saying to those dying of water-related disease, the cavalry is coming! Hold on!”
John inhaled loudly and suddenly. Lumi turned to see and closed the news feed. Cristina leaned over him. His eye lashes seemed to flutter slightly.
John heard the explosive crackle of thunder, but he couldn’t see anything. Not at first. It was pitch black.
Slowly, a scene illuminated. It was the dining room of the cancer ward. It was filled with the dying. Among them were Cristina and Marian – everyone thin as skeletons, sunken eyes, drowsy, and shriveled skin.
“They die a worse death,” said Mother Washington.
“I’m sorry to be the one to have to explain it to you, child. Without you, they languish, starve, and shrivel up like zombies. Then, one day, they convulse violentyl and spitting blood – they don’t even have the mental capacity to know what’s happening. That’s how they die without you.”
The scene dissolved in blinding light and then Cristina’s face resolved as she leaned over John.
“Good morning, I love you…” Cristina said with a big smile as John opened his eyes. John closed his open hand around hers.
John wondered out loud if this was a dream.
“Say something important, John,” Lumi insisted.
“Love… never fails.”
Lumi uploaded the video to Hachi’s website.
Breaking News: Zombie Killer’s first words as he comes out of coma? ‘Love never fails!’
“You should stay here, John,” Cristina argued.
“It’s safer here.”
“Your apartment is still sealed,” said Lumi.
It’ll be resolved at the next trial date. Until then, it’s sealed…”
“I’ve been doing nothing for too long,” John resisted stubbornly as he looked for his tee shirt.
“You were in a coma for six days, bro. You woke up only yesterday. Take it easy,” said George.
“It’s crazy out there,” Cristina explained.
“The water is bad. A lot of people got sick and everyone else is desperate, confused and angry.”
“Check it out, bro,” said George as he looked out the window on to the street below.
An angry crowd gathered around a government water tanker. The tanker was out of water but the people weren’t letting the truck move on. John came over to the window to see what George was talking about. Lumi handed John his K-9s and he put them on.
John zoomed in on the scene. In front of the truck cab, a mother and father held their child. The truck lurched back and forth. The father held a sign:
Our child needs water.
John grabbed two bottles of water as he ran out of his room – K-9s, blue jeans, bare feet and bare chest.
“Stop him, George!” Cristina yelled.
George ran into the hall, but he didn’t see John. He went to the elevator and waited for the lift with Cristina and Lumi.
Outside, John ran to the family standing in front of the truck. The mother gladly took the bottles of water from him. As they moved to the side of the truck’s path, the truck inched forward.
“You have water for me?” yelled several angry people.
“Where’s my water!”
They were yelling at John as they pressed in on him. An old man slapped John in the face. Another man kicked John in the stomach.
John didn’t know what to say. A haymaker came in from the right (he didn’t even see it coming) and landed by his right ear. John went down on his knees and someone raised a shovel.
George saw John go down and the shovel go up. He pulled a Beretta Px4 9mm Storm Subcompact pistol from the small of his back and under his shirt, aimed at the old lady, and fired. The bullet went through the old woman’s neck, cut her jugular and blood sprayed across the faces of John’s attackers. The old woman’s blue irises turned brown in a blink. She dropped the shovel as she collapsed. People screamed and the crowd dispersed.
Lumi grabbed George and took him out of sight. Cristina helped John up. She wanted to take him back to his room, but he insisted that was a very bad idea.
“What the fuck just happened?” John asked over and over again.
Cristina, George, John and Lumi went in the back door of the cancer ward. They had called ahead and Mihaela had unlocked it for them. They took the stairs down several levels to a storage room where some cots had been set up. No one saw them enter or go down.
Lumi reviewed the faces of the crowd, analyzed the situation, and tried to identify the people through the national identification and voter registration database.
George drank from a bottle of Jack Daniels that he picked up along the way.
“We should keep a low profile for a few days so that no one accidentally recognizes us,” said Lumi as she worked.
“It looks like no one on the ground was looking at George when he fired on the old woman. But it’ll take some time for K-9 to process the footage to see if anyone was watching from a window in the surrounding buildings. And I’m monitoring the youtubes for home videos…”
“Not good deed goes unpunished,” said George as he took another long gulp.
“You saved my life, George…” said John as he laid down on a cot.
“No problem, bro” George replied and took another drink.
George sang the chorus to Bob Marley’s song, Bad Boys.
“Cristina,” John started to say something as he stared at the ceiling. He was exhausted – physically, emotionally, and otherwise.
“I’m still here, John,” Cristina answered him.
“Will you be here when I wake up, Cristina?”
“Forever and Always…”
Breaking news: Live at a press conference in Paris, newly appointed Managing Director of the French-owned water authority in Romania Loki Le Meur, is answering questions about the state of water in Bucharest and elsewhere.
“I just had a video conference with the chief engineers working on the water treatments facilities across Romania. We are on schedule to provide water to the Romanian people within six days. Given the circumstance and recent power failure, our people have done an amazing job.
“Will that water be drinkable?” asked a reporter.
“Is tap water drinkable in any country in Europe? In the world?” Le Meur shot back and laughed with the other reporters.
Le Meur continued.
“We are French, however. That is to say that we take our responsibilities very seriously. So I can say, authoritatively, the water in Bucharest Sectors 1, 3 and 5 will be drinkable in six days – assuming that the Italians can keep the power on. Ten to Fifteen days after that and Bucharest and all the other major cities in Romania will have clean water.
Beyond the traditional sedimentation, biological, chlorination, reverse osmosis, ozone, and ultraviolet systems at our Romanian plants, we are installing a seventh stage in our water processing – nanosystems. These systems deploy nanocomposites of silver-titanium to reduce extraordinary bacterial, viral and fungal loads in the water supply. This seventh stage will be operation in Bucharest in three days.”
Last week, we dispatched sixty tanker trucks to Romania to assist the Romanian government’s efforts to distribute clean, drinkable water. We’re also installing generators at all of our Romanian water processing plants to handle up to 72 hours of black outs – just in case the Italians get it all wrong. Agan…”
The next morning, Cristina, Mihaela and Lumi were changing bedsheets upstairs. John and George washed dishes in the kitchen. Everyone felt it; they felt like the world was spinning faster around them.
“Do you ever feel like the world is spinning out of control and there’s nothing you can do about it?” Cristina asked Lumi.
Lumi took a deep drag on her cigarette and blew a smoke ring. Then she answered.
“I don’t think the world ever spun the right way, sweetie. Not in my lifetime. Yours?”
Cristina shook her head no.
“It’s always been about facing what’s happening to me, right now. I stay focused on my now. Everything else is beyond my reach and control. Or, worse, it belongs to the imagination.
Myself, I like to keep it real. So imagination isn’t a place where I like to hang out. Know what I mean?”
Cristina and Mihaela nodded in agreement. After a few minutes, Cristina spoke again.
“It’s just things are getting worse. Things are getting worse, everyday…”
Tears spilled out of Cristina’s blue eyes.
“John and George… they’ve done things that I don’t think they would have done – if things weren’t getting worse. It’s getting crazy. All of it. Life, the Universe and Everything.
“What does Douglas Adams have to do with it?” Mihaela replied with a grin as she fluffed a pillow.
“Huh?” asked Cristina.
“That’s the title of one of Douglas Adam’s books – Life, the Universe and Everything,” Lumi answered.
“I’m serious!” Cristina stammered.
“I need to talk about this…”
Lumi stripped another bed and then she answered Cristina.
“What John and George did – it’s done. It’s the past. They didn’t like what they did. They aren’t looking for kills. But, really, things aren’t going to get better before they get worse. That’s where we are.
What we need to be thinking about is how we are going to carry our weight. We can’t expect the guys to make all the hard moves.”
“What do you mean?” asked Mihaela.
I was thinking I could teach you girls how to fire a pistol. Or a shotgun. Or both.
I have two other girlfriends that want to learn how to shoot – Grace and Max. You’ll really like Max. Grace – I’m not so sure.”
“Where would we do that?” asked Cristina.
“There’s a guy down the street. He has a shooting range set up in his basement…”
“How the hell did you meet him?”
“Is that a yes?”
Mihaela and Cristina nodded in agreement.
All Rights Reserved by Stan Faryna
31 October 2012