Better Than Others
A novel by Curtis Saretske
See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
U2 “Beautiful Day”
“I don’t like either!”
Chairman Deng Xiaoping -
When asked if he was more a Beatles or Elvis Presley fan,
at a Central Military Commission press conference in 1981.
The much-hyped “End of the World and All Civilization” arrived on
a Tuesday in America, and a Wednesday in China. And as far as Tuesdays go, all was generally proceeding as normal.
Everything was normal.
Celebrity life went on.
In The UK, Sir Paul McCartney was at home making lists.
Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon
McCartney and Lennon ✓
Paul McCartney and John Lennon ✓
Paul with The Beatles ✓
Bono had broken his favorite pair of wraparound rose-tinted sunglasses, made especially made for him in Rome. It was a simple thing: he set them on the dining room table (casually like he had done a million times before), read The New York Times and ate breakfast with his wife, Ali. The conversation somehow started off with “Have you read such and such book, number three on the Hardcover Fiction list?” and ended with something like “How the fuck am I supposed to save the world, Ali, I’m just a fucking Rock Star?!” A gesture, intended to make a clear and concise point to his wife, instead knocked his glasses clear across the marble floor. The acetate was so scratched to hell that nothing he could do would bring them back to their previous pristine (although rather oily) condition (he even rubbed flax oil on them, which just made them more oily). In the end, he tossed them in the recycling bin. It was a horrible way to start the day. The world was not as beautiful without his pretty pink shades, thought Bono. It was drab, dreary, and gray.
Ireland looked cold without pink sunglasses. Just like Africa looked warm without his violet tinted shades. It was a matter of balanced perspective. He put on his tangerine Bulgari’s and set about to have his rose shades fixed when he ran into the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland (who incidentally lived directly across from him, on a much larger and nicer estate).
This disturbed Bono further.
Why should the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland have a thirty million dollar estate? What the hell did he do anyway?
Does Canada even need an Ambassador to Ireland?
Even if Canada did, should the Canadian Ambassador live on a bigger estate than a rock star? He thought not. As far as he could tell it was only occupied by the Ambassador and his wife. And from what Bono could determine, the Canadian Ambassador did not even play a musical instrument. He must remember to bring this up at the United Nations the next time he spoke to them. He should invite the Canadian Prime Minister over for dinner to discuss the matter. He could fly the PM here on Thursday.
Better yet, Bono could fly there.
In Hollywood, Britney was planning her comeback. She had spent all weekend dancing on tables, half-naked. This, she knew, was sure to get a response from The Globe, The Sun, The Enquirer; she anxiously awaited them to be delivered, poolside at the Chateau Marmont, by her overly gay manservant. She liked gay men. They were cute.
It was hard going through a divorce. Without K-Fed to walk Lacy, Lucky, and Bit-Bit, and do all the dishes, and clean the pool (she fired the pool boy because all he did was chat with K-Fed), and change Jayden James, and feed Sean Preston, life could be really really tough, so she checked into the Chateau Marmont - just to relax and have a bit of ‘me’ time.
As she lounged in her Tom Ford Bikini, she saw her manservant had just entered with the tabloids. She waited, not moving a muscle. Come to me. Come to me. He came.
“Goody. You Rock!”
“Thank you, sweetie, but I’m afraid I didn’t see anything.”
She flipped though them quickly. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. What the hell?
“What the fuck!” said Britney, “What about fucking People Magazine?”
“Just another cancer patient on the cover, Miss Spears.”
“Nothin’, FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!”
“Darling you’re in US as worst dressed.”
“Oooh, can I see?”
She looked at the photo spread, and indeed she was pictured, her ass bare, and her breasts visible through a shear black negligee dress. She thought she looked hot.
“What the fuck does US know anyway?”
Christina [Aguilera] was on the next page, wearing some elegant Versace thing. She looked good, even for Christina, thought Britney.
She then threw the whole pile of newspapers into the pool with a high-pitched, orgiastic “Unngghh.”
Somewhere a flash bulb went off. She stopped. Good, she thought. She smiled. Posed.
Everything was working.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Lindsey Lohan. She smiled at her. Next week they were booked at the same rehab center. Bitch.
“Let’s go turn on Extra.”
She marched off into the hotel, her manservant following. Tomorrow she would try something different. Maybe a lap dance at the MTV awards. She could sing ‘Fever’ by Madonna. She knew what dress to wear.
Everything was normal.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had gleefully come up with the same idea that green should be predominant in their new killer Apps.
Charlie Manson studied for his parole review.
Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen were thinking clever thoughts.
Salmon Rushdie had just arrived at Heathrow Airport in London, where he proceeded to change cars four times, take three different cabs, use a body double while he stopped off and grabbed himself a Starbucks Grande Caffè Mocha (skinny, half-sweet with extra whipping cream!), then proceeded to drive to a parking garage, get out on the third floor, run down the stairwell to the second floor, get in the car (of a different make and colour) and drive to his heavily secured and fortified home.
In the United States, the bombing campaign was going quite well overseas. CNN was covering it live. The President was keen on numbers. He liked his staff to be descriptive with the casualties. He liked to be told how many bombs were dropped on a particular target. He liked the footage from the missiles fired from his F-16’s. Sometimes he’d get to pick a target. He loved that. He liked watching the little roads and towns of America from Air Force One.
Everything was normal.
Women made less money than men.
Cancer was still being cured.
Coke was Pepsi.
Pepsi was Coke.
Somewhere, another GAP Ad was being erected on an apartment building. A bad TV show was being written; a car commercial filmed. A baby cried. A cat mewed. A woman screamed. A man surrendered. A children’s baseball game was lost.
Jin Cheng was delivering a 40-megaton warhead. He wasn’t sure if it was a hydrogen bomb, a neutron bomb or an atomic bomb. He never knew. He only knew it was heavy. His forklift was having a bit of trouble with the weight as he moved it to Warehouse One-One-Seven-B. Warehouse One-One-Seven-A was completely full, so he knew he’d have to bring it into One-One-Seven-B. It was late September and cold. He had just worked for twelve hours for the last twenty days in a row. He could use a rest, but not until he put the warhead away.
Cold rice again for dinner.
He would turn thirty-seven next month, he thought. It would be his ninth wedding anniversary soon after that. If he could get a pass he could take his wife to Taiwan, and then perhaps, if his papers were good enough forgeries, fly to Seattle. He’d like to fish in Seattle and drink coffee all day, watching The Mariners on TV play at Staples Stadium. His wife could buy a good Japanese car like a Toyota Camry. Maybe he could work for Boeing, building 777’s. He’d like that.
He lifted the warhead off the forklift with a bridge crane. He thought it was about three A.M. If the moon was full he could ride home fine. Was the moon full? He’d have to check. No, it could only be half full. He was sure of it.
Where the hell was he going to put this damn thing?
Warheads were piled to the ceiling like beats stacked in a pyramid. They had run out of packing crates a few years ago and they were never reordered. Everything was like that. His pencil was worn down to the point of being the tiniest stub of a writing instrument, but he dared not ask for another. Besides the lead always broke in the new pencils, usually right after sharpening. He wished people would care more for their work. He despised the Japanese, but sometimes wished he had their work ethic. Not that it mattered in his line of work. Last week, he was sure he’d seen a warhead on the bottom of the pile that was cracked. It must have been older than him.
Jin lifted the new warhead to the top of the pile. He held the controller of the bridge crane high in his hands. It was bright yellow, like a newborn duckling. He kept pressing the green button. Up. Up. Up.
Cold rice again for dinner.
The warhead was raised to the height of the ceiling now. He moved it West, over to the top of the largest pile of warheads.
It was three in the morning.
He placed it down gently next to a big fat warhead, labeled ‘NIXON’.
The tip was painted blue. It was near another that said “Omaha or Bust.” The moon would be full at the end of the month. Cold rice again for dinner. It would rain in Taiwan just like it would rain in Seattle. He had never tried a Decaf-Double-Tall-Vanilla-Soy-Extra Hot-No Foam-Latte.
The warhead wobbled. Jin could see it begin to roll. He put his hands to his mouth. He knew accidents happened. In all probability nothing would happen. Nuclear warheads just didn’t go off. The warhead began to bounce as it gained momentum.
Workmen ran over quickly, yelling
“Catch it, Catch it. Quick!”
Jin just watched it bounce and spin. It dislodged others and one by one he could see the warhead pyramid collapsing. He would not be going to Taiwan anytime soon. He’d probably be re-educated. He knew what that meant.
No lattes from Starbucks for Jin.
No Seattle Mariner games at the Staples Stadium.
His wife’s car would not be Japanese.
Jin didn’t bother to close his eyes.
He didn’t have time to.
Eight Hundred miles away at the Xi’an Satellite Monitor and Control Center, Tommy Li Cheung was drifting off in front of his radar scope. A white flash woke him up followed by a large tremor. He was scared. He knew what it was: it was a nuclear detonation. People were running all around him. An air raid siren went off. He was sure it was incoming. He was half asleep. He was sure he saw a missile track across his screen. It could only mean one thing:
“The Americans! The Americans are coming!” Tommy yelled.
He was sure of it.
Phones began ringing.
“Yes, Sir, we saw it, too. We’re determining what happened.”
“It was the Americans. I saw a missile at the last moment. I’m sure of it”
“One of our radar operators is sure it was a missile. I saw it too. It just came in. Fast. The Americans must be attacking.”
“The Americans! The Americans!” people began to say.
They were afraid.
Tommy Li was afraid. He knew if the Americans took him alive, he’d be tortured for information. He’d seen the pictures in the paper of imprisoned Iraqis, helpless as the dogfaced female laughed.
He was told this. He believed it. He saw things, and he knew.
At Party Headquarters in Beijing, a decision was made. They would have to live with it.
At NORAD, the Generals too had noticed the blast in China.
“All indication is it was an accident.”
“Jesus, Jesus. An Accident? Jesus,” said the man with four bronze stars on his epaulet.
“Satellites are coming in line now.”
The men watched the satellites in real-time. Not fake time or delayed time. In real-time. A large black crater and billowing smoke and fire could be seen in the middle of the Chinese territories.
“Had to been an Asteroid for Godsake. Somebody get me the local info ASAP.”
“Nuclear Warhead Production Facility at Xing Ping Pau.”
“Dumb Fuckers. Blew themselves to hell.”
“Sir, were tracking an ICBM launch from the Sea of Japan.”
“Two Tracks, sir.”
“I’ve got seven. Eight.”
“Fourteen, sir. Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen.”
“I count twenty-five.”
“We’ve got over forty tracks.”
“Seventy-Five, sir. Oh, my God. Oh, My God.”
“Hundred Tracks sir. They’re breaking apart. Doubling. They’re doubling.”
“Oh, my God!”
“Where’s the President?”
“Air Force One, sir.”
“I can’t count them. I can’t count them.”
“Call your wives and husbands. Tell your children to pray for Jesus.”
The President was not to be disturbed. He was getting his back rubbed. He waited all day for this. The press was at the back of the plane. He didn’t talk to them. They thought he would. He hated them. They were Un-American. They asked questions he couldn’t possibly answer. He thought of his ranch. His cows. His herd. His horses. He liked horses. Horses were good.
Lucy could get any knot out. She was good that way. Pretty enough too. If he were a Democrat, he’d sleep with her. He wished he was a Democrat. Kennedy and Clinton had all the fun. He had to be a Marine’s funeral tomorrow in Salt Lake City, though. He would feel bad. And it would be inappropriate. She had nice breasts; they were large and firm.
Some bastard knocked on his door.
“Tell them I’m busy, Lucy.”
“The President’s busy,” said Lucy.
“This is important,” the man said. He was known as the Architect.
“I’m naked here, so just wait a minute,” the President said to Lucy.
“The President is not to be disturbed!” Lucy was adamant.
More knocks. The bastards.
He put his trousers on. He opened the door to see the Architect: a balding man with a huge brain. He was sweating profusely.
“What the fuck is it, Karl!?”
“You’ll love this, Dubya. It’s Dubya Dubya Three.”
“Do I get to press the Big Red Button!?” said the President. He felt like a kid on Christmas morning.
The END went something like this: China launched missiles against the USA. While they were at it, they thought they might as well send Taiwan some neutron bombs. The US retaliated - the President getting to press THE BIG RED BUTTON (equipped in all Air Force One’s), and launching everything they had. Of course, the USA had its missiles pointed at quite a lot of countries. It takes time to punch in new coordinates, and, in a sneak attack, there is no time to adjust ones sights. So, Russia (for old times), China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, North Korea, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Khakistan, The Philippines, Mexico, Georgia, Belarus, and France were all targeted. In retaliation, North Korea attacked South Korea and Japan. India attacked Pakistan. Pakistan, India. Israel attacked Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, and reclaimed the West Bank. Germany attacked France, Hungary, and Poland. France attacked Germany, the USA, and Britain. Russia attacked the USA, Germany, Britain, Afghanistan and Chechnya. Britain attacked Ireland. Ireland attacked Britain. Scotland sent a large mass of yobs to burn down Buckingham Palace. The Danes sent a polar expedition to claim the Canadian arctic. The Italians wanted to attack the Brazilians, but Brazil was too far away, so they marched right into Switzerland.
Extra was between commercials. Britney kept flipping channels drinking a Pepsi in her bungalow.
“Nothin’ on at all,” she flipped a channel.
“Ooh! Extreme Makeover is on! Hurry!”
“I’m coming, honey,” her manservant flushed the toilet placing the seat down.
“Is Y and R on yet?”
“Commercial. Oprah’s on, too.”
“Let’s watch Oprah!”
“Wait, this girl is getting new breasts and a new schnoze,” said Britney.
“Oh? You’re kidding me?”
“Eeeiii!” he squelched just like he heard teenage girls do.
“Uhhg. Look at that!” said Britney.
Outside, a large boom was heard just for a millisecond as a secondary A-bomb exploded, triggering the explosion of a primary H-bomb four megaton thermonuclear warhead over Rodeo Drive.
After that, no one heard anything.
In Las Vegas, Death was ahead of Jesus. Jesus was notorious for being wishy-washy around Nevada. Death liked the slots. He liked the Mustang Ranch. Jesus was nowhere to be found in Nevada.
Jesus tried to skip California too since it was the first to be obliterated, and there really weren’t a lot of believers. They’d say they believed; but in California, Jesus knew they’d say anything.
Jesus preferred Montana.
Good strong believers in Montana, Idaho, and Vermont. He had a lot of time to pick and choose there. Ohio was iffy. He just plain avoided the South. The middle states were a problem, too, and the East coast was all Catholic and Protestant. He skipped that, too. New York was rubble, and it was just really just hard to find a good man on Wall Street. Jesus had a hard time with the United States of America. God was on the dollar bill.
In God we trust.
He tried to take as many good people as he could. He left the rest for Death, Famine, and Disease.
Jesus thought there weren’t a lot of believers in Canada either. Bunch of atheists, they were. Except Canadians were generally more rational, so Jesus tried to take as many as he could. Heaven needed sensible souls.
He liked Mexico and Brazil.
He liked Rio.
He was worried about Israel though. What could he do there?
He’d see how the four horsemen made out first. It would buy him time.
War was having just a grand old time. War enjoyed sight seeing in Virginia. He liked the CIA. The Pentagon. He liked military minds. They had caused all this. The military establishment. He was grateful. It’d been a long time since he’d had this much fun. Cambodia was nothing compared to this. He wondered if he could find Henry Kissinger and Robert McNamara and have a little chat about the good days.
And so it came.
It was Tuesday in America and Wednesday in China.
Bono was on a flight bound for Toronto. He would then fly over to Ottawa to meet the Prime Minister in the morning. He didn’t take too many private jets anymore. He’d do it with the band, but domestic was good enough just for him. As long as it was first class. He couldn’t get first class. That’s what you get for spur of the moment.
He only got executive club.
It was alright.
It would do.
He could see, when he looked back, that the people behind the curtain were cramped and stuffy. It oddly amused him when the curtain was drawn while meals were being served. He knew that people wanted to know what he was eating. He put in the white ear buds of his special U2 Black and Red, Apple iPod. Etched on the silver backing was his signature, with Adam’s and Clayton’s and the Edge’s. It came equipped with the “complete U2”, which he listened too once or twice when he first got it. Sometimes he got sick of himself. Sometimes.
He pressed play and it went on random. He had already read his copy of William Butler Yeats A Vision. He loved Yeats.
He scribbled some notes for what he wanted to say to the Canadian Prime Minister in between the lyrics of a song he was developing.
Planes taxis / Concrete with grass
People sit / The tired and the young
A newborn baby cries / And cries / And cries
All through the day / The day and the night
The rain falls / And I / And I keep saying that I love you
The stewardess calls / The skies fall
And all I have to do / All I have to do is just sing
Just sing to you / And you
Mr. PM / What are you gonna do?
Mr. PM / What are you gonna do?
About the guy / The guy that I live next to
Mr. PM / How much is that property there worth?
Mr. PM? / Couldn’t you feed the women /
The women and children /
The women and children of the earth?
Yeah Yeah Yeah
Mr. PM? / Oooh oooh oooh
What are you gonna a do? (x2)
About the guy / The guy I have to live next to /
Mr. PM / Ooooh oooh oooh / (x4)
Just what can you do? /
About Africa (x2)
Some days the days / They get the better of you (x4)
He had to use the washroom. He had been in the air since noon his time, flying from Dublin to Heathrow. He’d been on this plane for over five hours, and he had no idea what time it was.
He wasn’t wearing a watch.
He got up and headed toward the bathroom. There was a line sohe turned around and looked down the aisle through the curtain.
Why not? He had to go. He walked through the curtain, and down the aisle. The flight wasn’t as packed as he’d thought it was. It was Tuesday. He strode down the aisle, trying not to feel too self-conscious. Every time someone looked up and recognized him, he felt he had to acknowledge them.
“Hello. Hi, hi, hello,” he smiled and nodded as he went down the aisle. It wasn’t that hard. Someone you’ve never seen before has known you for years, he thought.
On his way back, he signed autographs.
The [fasten seatbelt] sign flashed, and Bono looked up to the air hostess by his side. She was forty - and a wonderful sight that caught him off guard. He smiled to let her know she was beautiful and that it was alright to be beautiful if she wanted.
“Sir, Mr. Bono. Please fasten your safety belt.”
She was taken back by his accent. She could hear his voice in her head, like she did a thousand times before but it never quite sounded like it did when he spoke to her just now.
Bono did up his safety belt.
“Thank you,” she said.
He turned away from her beauty and looked out the small window to his left. The sky was beautiful over the Atlantic.
And then he looked again.
It was the coast of North America. He was near Nova Scotia he knew and he looked at what he thought was possibly Boston. It had a warm hazy glow. It was hard to tell.
A white light lit up the world, like ten thousand camera flashes on a British Princess. He felt it pass through his body, through his soul. In an instance, it was like every molecule in his body was rearranged for a different purpose. It passed through him, and he was still alive.
Then the shockwave hit them.
It was not unlike really bad turbulence.
The wing of the plane was on fire. He gripped his seat. He felt sick. Nausea. He thought he was going to pass out.
Stay awake. You need to stay awake.
The plane dropped 200 feet in a second. He had a lot of songs in his head he’d never committed to paper. Songs he’d never had the chance to record. Melodies no one but his wife had ever heard.
The captain came on and tried to reassure him. He tried to reassure the whole cabin and the flight crew but Bono knew this was abnormal.
The [fasten seatbelt] sign came on and off again and again. He looked at the man beside him: thirty, a business type, and young- looking. He exchanged a fearful glance with him. He could see into the man’s eyes, and they were looking for direction from an idol - an idol he’d never met, but had seen in countless interviews and rock videos and even once in person from the twenty-second row.
Bono regained himself. The nausea left for a moment.
“It’s going to be alright,” Bono said very softly. He just had the feeling that it was.
“Thank you,” said the man, “I saw you once.”
“I saw you once. During Achtung Baby. I flew down to New York with my girlfriend at the time. It was amazing. The Edge. I love him. He’s the most awesome guitar player ever. Don’t you think?”
“I love The Edge, too.”
He did love The Edge, thought Bono. And then Bono turned against the window and looked in horror at the darkening sky, and at the fireball scorching the land surrounded by complete blackness, that was the coast of North America.
Wednesday morning. The middle of the Pacific. Jayson Travis Morton was twenty-six. Everything he had ever asked for, he had. Life was good to him that way. He always had a bit of money here and there. All he had to do was ask. He asked a lot.
And why not? Fuck the fuckers. It wasn’t his fault. You can’t help being born, can you?
No, you can’t help being born. And so it was. One can only try to fix things. And as Jayson saw it, getting off the continent was the next best thing.
He hadn’t had a Coca~Cola in a year. It was true. He hadn’t even smoked weed in a month, and the last time he had sex was four days ago.
So he was doing pretty well. And today was Wednesday morning.
He had been up early to see the sun rise.
He felt noble.
He strolled along the beach. White sand. Blue water. Like the brochure. He was far enough away from the resort now. Micronesia or Micro Asia or Polynesia or wherever the hell this atoll was.
He’d studied Maritime anthropology once. He knew about a bit about Kinships. He could draw a chart.
He wanted to go to Venezuela. He wanted to meet the Yamamano. Get away from it all. Be Napoleon Chagnon. Instead, he came here.
He wasn’t Napoleon Chagnon though. He was more like Rupert from “Survivor”: they could both grow a beard. And so he did.
Down the beach, he walked. Miles and miles now; stroking his beard. It would take him a good hour or so to walk back to the other side of the island.
He liked exploring the falls, and he liked kayaking.
The people were nice.
He looked at the sun and knew what time it was. He would miss happy hour at the hotel if he wasn’t careful.
That’s where the pretty girls would be.
Chief Master Sgt. Sonny Davies finished off his coffee and ate the rest of his breakfast (2 eggs, over easy on white toast) in the kitchen of a small duplex he’d rented on Paradise Drive in Fleming Heights, a subdivision attached to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. He had a hangover. He was drinking till late last night, at the NCO Club with a couple of buddies. Eventually, they left and he kept drinking, got home around midnight, and was up again at just past four AM.
Today was his fortieth birthday.
He had been on Guam for two years, and before, he’d done four years at Hickam AFB in Hawaii. He was sick of the Pacific. His wife left him in Hawaii for a pilot. She loved flight suits. She took the dog - a Golden Retriever named Sasha.
He missed the dog. Sasha was a good animal.
He missed her more than his wife.
Sonny was a career military man, but wasn’t much interested in being an officer. He liked being Chief. His pay grade was E9. He commanded a group of men and one hard-ass woman. He was with the 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron out of Ellsworth. He was good at his job. and so were his men (and hard-assed woman).
The forecast was rain. September 26. Typhoon season on Guam was on it’s way. He expected it sometime soon. He dreaded it. Typhoon Pongsona knocked them on their asses a few years back. Apparently, 200 mph winds blew apart Hangers 2 and 3. Or so he was told. It was before his time. Turning forty during torrential rainfall. It seemed apt. He had been depressed for months. The sides of his dark hair had turned gray. Women thought he looked like George Clooney. He played it up.
Lordy, Lordy, look who’s forty.
He looked at the temperature outside his kitchen window as he cleaned the dishes. Already it was 81˚F. It smelled like rain. The sun wasn’t even up. The Air Force had taught him never to leave dirty dishes in the sink.
He packed his things for the day: his lunch, and Dragon, a Clive Cussler paperback he was a quarter of the way into. He was forty. He didn’t feel much different. He locked the door and went to hisred Ford F-100.
He took Ponape Blvd down to Santa Rosa, on to Marianas, and left on Perimeter Road. Traffic was bad. Everybody was heading to the base. All the buildings had red roofs that reminded him more of Hawaii, not Guam. Another reason he was sick of Guam.
After finding a parking spot (never and easy thing for an NCO) Sonny walked into a hanger with a lone B52 they’d nicknamed Martha Stewart. They were repairing her, before sending her back to the States to be put in a museum. She built before he was born.
He forgot to book the day off. He was going to go diving, but the weather was looking like that wasn’t going to happen, and then the work piled on heavy and he forgot. Maybe, if he had time before his shift tomorrow, he’d drive down to Capehart Pool and swim laps. It was never too hot on Guam for some reason. Sonny thought it had to do with the airflow of the Pacific. He wasn’t a meteorologist - he was a mechanic. It didn’t make much of a difference in the overall scheme of things. A contingent of marines had just finished doing survival training on the base. People never stayed too long on Anderson. The 13th Air Force had left to Hickam in Hawaii. All together they had six B-2 Spirits on loan, a few dozen B1B Lancers, and B-52 Stratosphere’s just sitting around, waiting to be decommissioned. The humidity wreaked havoc on machinery. He was always busy. He was looking forward to being employed to Alaska for a change of scenery. It wasn’t humid in Alaska.
North Korea had sent a missile into the Sea of Japan, and that had caused some interest, but other than that the region was stable. He kind of wished it was the seventies and he was part of project Arc Light or Operation Linebacker II, bombing the hell out of Vietnam and Cambodia for Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. The base had a memorial he often walked by.
He wondered if he’d ever be part of anything big enough to have a memorial. He wanted to have some good stories to tell his grand children, should he ever have any.
Senior Airman Jordon Roberts was crouched under Martha Stewart’s belly inspecting the landing gear. He seemed to be the only one around, which made the hanger seem all the emptier.
“Roberts,” said Sonny, his mood slightly improving as he looked at Martha. He was proud of the work his men did. She was as clean as a whistle. “Where the hell is everyone? I thought Kelly was on duty.”
“Oh hey, Sonny. Well, Thompson started shit this morning, talking to Collins about how good he was at basketball, you know, typical Thompson, right? And they started arguing - you know what Thompson is like, all talk, right? So, Collins bet him a hundred bucks he couldn’t beat her team five-on-five, and Thompson said his team would kick her team’s ass. They almost started fighting in Martha Stewart. The Sarge told them to settle it. They went over to the rec centre.”
“Jesus, what are we, in the Army?”
“That’s what I said, Sonny. What are we, in the Army?”
“Did they all place bets?” Sonny enjoyed a good bet.
“I believe so,” said Roberts. He looked tired.
“How’s the bird?”
“She’s clean, but might as well be scrap metal, Sonny.”
“No, not Martha. You’re going to a museum, aren’t you, Martha?” He rubbed her fuselage. He’d miss her.
“Roberts, you know, it’s my fortieth today,” Sonny said, very matter of factly. He figured he’d better get this out now, before it came out later.
“No shit?” said Roberts, “Happy Birthday.”
“Thanks, Roberts,” said Sonny. He felt a bit better.
Bono had this image in his head. He was stuck in a moment, and he couldn't get out ofit.
On stage in the spotlight, thousands of hands reaching up to touch him. But, he was in Africa and these were the hands of noble men and women, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, out stretched before him. It was like everything was black, silent, except the arms around him.
He knew he was different than he was the moment before. Something had changed within him. Every atom changed. He wondered if he was dead, like those horrible out of body experiences, Meridith Grey walking around in a hospital corridor, dead to the living, living to the dead.
He saw outside his window the plume of cloud of ash and dust and earth and flesh roll up toward the heavens. He'd seen this image before. So had anyone who ever watched Dr. Strangelove. Vera Lynn singing "We'll Meet Again," as the Pacific islands evaporated in mushroom clouds. This wasn't the Pacific though. He was above the Atlantic, and he wasn't exactly sure what island he saw in the distance. Nova Scotia?
He could feel the heat of the breath of the man beside him looking out.
"Halifax," he said. "Why would anyone hit Halifax?" Bono's heart sank.
The Chinese-made, Soviet-engineered, with stolen American ingenuity, modified Dong Feng 41 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), with a 15,000 Kilometer range, and a payload of four individual 100 kiloton warheads had hit the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) in Halifax, and its surrounding area.
This is what Bono saw from his window seat.
The nausea came again and he held it back. He saw the wing was now completely covered in small blue flames. Part of it sheared off.
He could see another hostess walking back and forth checking all luggage compartments were sealed. The closed the curtain that separated First Class from Coach.
He saw a woman throw up in the row ahead of him. He thought about how nobody ever survives. He prayed as he gripped the arms of his seat. The man beside him tried to make a cell phone call. His head felt like it was going to implode from the air pressure.
He knew Jesus was on his side. He thought of ten new songs.
The oxygen masks fell around him and Bono watched as people tried to put them on. He had once heard, this was the worst thing you could do - inhaling that much oxygen all at once in a panic only calms you down and puts you into a state of euphoria. He knew he wouldn’t survive if he did that.
The power went out in the plane.
He closed his eyes. God help us.
Some people screamed the type of scream you scream when you know, this is the last scream you'll ever scream.
Bono gripped his seat. He was breathing fast. He was going to pass out, he was sure. He didn’t want to die like this. He didn’t want the people around him harmed.
“Please Jesus, save these people.”
His head was about to explode. He was afraid.
“Please Jesus, please. Save these people.”
"Please Jesus, please Jesus."
He was suddenly calm and aware of everything. He shut out the horrible sounds of the aircraft falling, of people crying. Dying. The nausea left.
Everything was calm and peaceful. This is what death feels like.
He was ready.
He was good.
He was Bono.
The cabin lights began to flicker and everything became alive. The squeal of the engines consumed all thought. He saw the ailerons on the wing move, and the flames were out.
The pilots had control.
“Thank you Jesus,” said Bono gratefully. The man beside Bono stared at him.
Was this a miracle? thought Bono.
God was with him.
>“This is your Captain speaking. Please put on your life vests, and take off your shoes if you haven’t done so already, and give them to the air hostesses. I'm going to make an emergency landing... <
“You have to take off your glasses, sir. I’ll make sure you get them back,” said the terrified hostess before him. She had trouble standing in the isle. Her cheeks had trails where her foundation was washed away by streaming tears. Her skin below had a soft, beautiful shine.
He looked into her eyes and handed her his tangerine glasses in their mock turtle shell case. “Its okay,” his eyes said to her.
“Do I really have to take off my boots?“ They were Edun’s. They were a part of him.
She shook her head, yes, and proceeded down the aisle.
He sucked air into his diaphragm. He had breath control few people had ever had. He knew what he had to do.
He undid his safety belt and stood up in the cabin.
He looked around at the passengers. Children. Men. Women. Sons. Daughters.
He began to sing.
"The heart is a bloom," the first word was lost in the volume of the room, but he compensated. "Shoots up through the stony ground."
"There's no room. No space to rent in this town. C'mon people. "
People quieted. He expected the flight attendants to raise hell, but they were just as happy to hear him sing, as was everyone else. He smiled.
And, for some reason, this was calming to the other passengers around him. They all knew the song, and to hear Bono sing the catchiest lyrics ever sung, while their lives were in the precipice of death, was soothing.
"You're out of luck, and the reason that you had to care. The plane is stuck
And you're not moving anywhere"
A teenage girl laughed.
"You thought you'd found a friend, are you listening?"
"To take you out of this place, it's a horribleplace."
"Someone you could lend a hand," he held the hand of and an older woman. " In return for grace,"
"Okay, youallknow this." He raised his hand into the air, still holding on to the woman who griped tight enough for Bono to lose circulation. He was alright with that. "Sing along ma'am"
"I don't know the words," she said. Bono knew she felt foolish.
"Yes you do"
He opened his mouth and the chorus of the plane sang out with him, "It's a beautiful day"
He was ready.
He was good.
He was Bono.
The pretty girl got up late and couldn’t get any reception. “What the hell?” she thought. No reruns of Cheers and Friends. She couldn’t even get the news. No CNN. Kylie came down to the bar. It was unusually empty.
“No TV down here either?” she said.
She was from New Zealand. From Cromwell.
“No TV, Miss,” said the man behind the bar.
“It’s a shame, Miss,” the bartender said. “Something to drink? To cool you off.”
“A G and a T.”
“Yes, Miss. More G than T?” He was polite because she tipped well. He knew she knew he knew.
“Yes, please. More GEE Than TEE. And ice, but only if it’s from bottled water.”
“Natural spring water, just for you, Miss. Froze them last night.”
“None of that stuff that’s just London tap water.”
“Just the natural spring water, like you told me last night.”
“That’s right,” she said.
She tipped well.
He liked the taste of frozen spring water ice cubes. So did she, and for that, she’d tip well. Five dollars. USD.
She sucked on an ice cube as he walked into the bar.
“Where is everyone?” said Jayson.
“Still Happy Hour?”
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“A G and a T.”
He got her her G and T. He ordered a Belgian beer brewed in Czechoslovakia. He talked to the bartender.
“You don’t look like you’re from around here,” said Jayson casually as the bartender made her another G and T.
“No sir, I’m from Yap.”
“Yes sir,” said the Yapesian.
“Yap’s pretty far away from here, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir. They had typhoons, so I moved.”
“You had typhoons, so you moved?”
“Do you like it here?”
“Yes sir, I like it here a lot.”
“Do you miss home?”
“Yes, I do. Do you, sir?”
“No. No, I don’t miss home. I like it here - no cell phones in movie theaters.”
“Yes, sir,” he said, not understanding as he passed the drinks. He didn’t know much about cell phones and he had never been in a movie theatre. Jayson tipped him well. He could afford to.
Kylie was lovely: long, sun-bleached brown hair, with a braid in that Temptation Island, around the bonfire kind of way. Her skin was naturally tanned, and she never wore make-up (except around the eyes and a bit of lip gloss). She didn’t need to. He bet she could cry those green eyes out if she wanted to, and he was sure she would to get what she wanted. Whatever that was. She had that look about her. Her thighs wore some of kind of cotton army-coloured skirt - not too long, but just short enough - and she had on a teal halter that fit her real well, even though her breasts were small. She was Australian. He’d met a lot of Australian girls over here. They all had to get away from Australia.
“New Zealand. A Kiwis, not a bloody Aussie. Get it straight, you fucking Yank!”
“Sorry! What’s a Kiwis again?”
“Kind of little, flightless bird. Like an Emu.”
“I always thought it was a fruit.”
“You mean a kiwi fruit?”
“We’re not named after fruit!”
“No. I really thought you were.”
“Nooo!” She thought he was really kinda cute. Especially if he shaved.
“Doesn’t matter,” said Jayson, downing a beer.
“It’s important,” she said. “You know, there’s no TV.”
“Yeah. Fucking hell.”
Once they drank and were drunk, she said, “Do you want to go back to my room?”
She bit her lip for effect.
Sonny had a smoke and walked over to the Coral Reef Fitness and Sports Center. Sure it was a large facility run by the 36th Services Squadron, and had a pseudo Greco-Roman feel with its façade of columns and arches. It looked like everything else on Guam – tan with a red tile roof. Still, who were they kidding, it was as functional as everything else on Andersen. For a while Sonny was into a personal fitness trainer who was certified in kick boxing and taught step. She was thirteen-years his junior, tanned, fit and beautiful. A gorgeous smile all the time. And they had some good times. When he could they’d hike along the island and he showed her how to dive amongst the coral. He showed off his culinary skills with a bit of Polynesian-Japanese cooking he learned in Hawaii. He bought new sheets and she stayed with him plenty of nights. And then he lost interest and had a very public blow-out. She knew something was up and drank a little too hard that night and tore a piece off him in a bar they used to frequent. He said some things he probably shouldn’t have said. Maybe it was part of his mid-life crisis. He didn’t really know. She was just so full of life and ambition and he couldn’t keep up. He was tired. And that was that. Now, he’d avoided the place like the plague. All her co-workers were her friends and he felt awkward around them, even the ones he grew to know well. Death by association he called it. He heard she took a transfer two months ago.
He entered reception and saw Christina manning the desk. She was 5’4” 109 lb twenty-something brunette with less than an ounce of fat on her body. Her hair was up and she wore a two-piece pink and black Lululemon yoga outfit. On the other side of the counter was a 5”6, 215 lbs knuckle dragger, an airman he didn’t know and immediately didn’t like. His lats were flared when he was relaxed. It looked like he shaved the hair on his legs. He was drinking a protein shake and eating chicken and rice out of a Tupperware container.
“Hey, Sonny!” said Christina, all bright and cheery. She thought he looked like George Clooney, only more real.
“Yo, Chief,” the airman said and did a little man nod which must have been awfully hard to do thought Sonny, given that he had no neck. He was forced to do a little man nod back.
“Oh, Hi Christina. Are my boys here?”
“They have court 2.”
“It’s been forever since I’ve seen you.”
“I guess,” he said. “The 36th keeps me busy. After Calli and I broke up...”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. Why don’t you give me a call Sonny?” She wrote her home number down on the back of her personal fitness card. She had great penmanship and put a smiley face next to her name with a heart.
“Maybe I will,” he said. He needed company, he was lonely.
“Anytime,” she said and meant it.
“Okay, I should – I was thinking maybe of having a couple people over for my fortieth. Today is my birthday”
“You’re forty? Wow,” she said. “You look great for forty!” He was old, but she liked older men. “Happy birthday!” She gave him a big toothy smile. She had braces when she was eleven and wore them till she was fifteen. She had to have four teeth removed to have a great smile. “
“Happy birthday Chief,” said the ape finishing his rice.
“Thanks,” said Sonny. He didn’t like knuckle draggers.
“So, you’re doing something tonight?” She was working tilltwo, but had to get up early to open the center at four am.
“Well, I was thinking something like around six-thirty-ish.”
“That’s be really nice.”
“Yeah? I’ll write my address down.” He jotted it down on her schedule. She smiled. “I should find out what the hell is going on here, I guess.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Happy Birthday.”
“Okay. See you later.”
He left and felt a bit better about himself.
Forty wasn’t so bad.
Women liked forty.
To Sonny, the recreation facility felt like it could have been in back in the States. It had everything: tennis courts, a weight room, volleyball and basketball courts, an Olympic-sized pool, racket-ball, anything to make Guam seem like home, except it would never really be home, and home would never feel like this.
His maintenance crew played a strong game of 5-on-5. The score was 41 Skins and 48 Shirts. Senior Master Sgt. Sean Kelly (the only black man in the bunch) was playing referee. Sonny stood beside Kelly as he blew the whistle.
“That’s traveling Davidson!” Kelly said sternly. He took the ball and tossed it to Cummings. Cummings threw into the play and passed it to Shawna Collins, his hard ass woman. She was five foot three, but man, she was hard as nails.
“Hey, Sarge, it’s kinda early for this, ain’t it?” said Sonny.
“It’s good for them. Besides, there was no way I was going to spend the whole day listening to Thompson.”
“Do you have any money on this?” said Sonny.
“That wouldn’t be fair now would it.” said Sean concentrating on play. Then after a pause he said “Twenty bucks on Collins.”
“I knew it,” said Sonny.
The team was divided this way – Skins: A1C Holman, Amn Thompson, SrA Cummings, SrA Emerick and SrA Price. Shirts: A1C Collins, A1C Davidson, Ssgt Payne, SrA Richards and SrA Chuvalo. It was the final quarter with seven minutes on the clock.
Collins passed it to Richards who passed it back to her and she made lay-up for another two points. She was on the Girls All Star team in High School.
Holman playing point guard, dribbled the ball down the court and passed the ball to Thompson who proceeded to try to deke out Senior Airman Chuvalo, who was six-foot-three, Ukrainian, and twenty pounds heavier than the five-nine, 150 pound Airman Thompson. Thompson talked shit to Chuvalo.
“Chuvalo! You borsht-eating pinko! Look at this!” Thompson dribbled like a hot shot back and forth between his legs. “I bet you like to eat sausage, Chuvalo. I bet you like long thick sausages.”
“You shut up.” Chuvalo said determined.
“Chuvalo!” taunted Thompson.
“Five seconds, Thompson, Five seconds,” Kelly had said this too many times already this game.
“Pass me the goddamn ball Thompson!” yelled Cummings.
Thompson looked over. His team was clearly annoyed at him.
“I’m gonna give you my Kielbasa here if you don’t pass the ball,” said Davidson. He thought it was funny. Thompson passed it to Cummings who had to pass it back to Thompson when Emerick blocked him.
“What?” said Chuvalo.
“Your momma likes eating my sausage!” said Thompson and he moved to toss the ball before dribbling it back and forth to himself in front of Chuvalo. Thompson took a shot and missed.
Chuvalo took the ball went to the side lines. Thompson stood in front of him.
“Chuvalo!” taunted Thompson. “Chuvalo!”
“Don’t listen to him Chuvalo, he’s just all talk,” said Shawna Collins. From what I hear his sausage is more like pierogi.”
“You want to see my sausage Shawna!”
“Ha! Show me it big boy.”
“You want to see it!”
“Ain’t nuthin’ I ain’t seen before.”
“Thompson pull your pants up!” yelled Kelly. “C’mon, here. Now! You too Collins”
The game stopped, and Chuvalo and Holman passed the ball between themselves.
Kelly grabbed Thompson by the ear.
“We are civilized. Do you hear me!”
“Ahhh. I hear you, sir, we are civilized, sir.”
“Are you going to behave?”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
What about you Collins?”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
Kelly let go. “Alright, Give me fifty, now. You too Collins. Hurry up you have a game to play.”
She rolled her eyes. “That’s seventy-five Collins.”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
Thompson and Collins dropped to the floor and began doing push-ups, counting them out. Thompson struggled as Collins took the pace. Her arms and shoulders were sculpted, the heads of her triceps clearly defined. She liked manual labour. She liked beating the boys at their games. She liked being able to kick Thompson’s ass.
The siren continued.
“Don’t stop Thompson, you owe me fifty.”
Thompson counted out “Thirty-one”, while Collins said “Sixty-eight.”
“Seventy-one, seventy-two, seventy-three”
“It that a drill, Chief?” said Holman, staring at the ceiling.
“I dunno, Holman. Keep tight.” Sonny didn’t know what was going on.
Just then the PA came on. It was the Colonel, The Commander of the 36th Wing himself. He said in not so many words that they were in a shooting war with China.
So much for a birthday party.
Everyone on British Airways Flight Boeing 777 survived. It was a miracle. Many were injured. Small fractures. Cuts. Sprains. The beautiful woman who served Bono in Executive Club was not in her jump seat, she was off collecting high heal shoes, eye glasses, mini wine bottles. Anything that might become a projectile during a crash landing. Grade nine physics. She had collected Bono’s tangerine sunglasses, promising him she’d return them. She lost footing, hit her head on the bulkhead and hadn’t yet regained consciousness. She needed medical attention sooner than later.
He came up on her in the aisle. She was collapsed on the ground. Her name pin read “Angela.” He never paid attention before. He and the fellow seated beside him helped carry her out the emergency exit and onto the slide. It was important that everyone get off. In Bono’s section, he stood by the door using his voice as a guide for them as he motioned them onto the inflatable slide and into the inflatable life raft.
When everyone was safe, it was his turn.
In the life raft he looked back at the plane as it began to sink. The sun was setting fast and sky held a soft blue glow. The jetliners blinking lights disappeared into the water. Bono held Angela’s head. Blood soon covered his hands. He took his tie off and wrapped it around her the back of her head. Her hair held the scent of rosemary and mint. He spoke to her gently telling her that everything was ok, she did her job and saved lives and now it was his turn to save hers.
Bono made it ashore and kissed the ground beneath his feet. The first thing he noticed, there was no one to greet him. The explosions must of scared the people off. Or maybe they were all dead. He didn’t like that thought. His people were cold and hungry. They would get hypothermia soon. Day had now left them behind.
He helped as many people as he could. An old woman broke her ankle. Two men volunteered to carry the comatose flight attendant and he volunteered himself to help the elderly woman. Bono carried her weight in the procession of passengers. They were mostly British, Irish, Irish Canadians or Korean.
“What’s your name?”
“Doreen. Doreen Asquith.”
“Well Doreen, my name is Bono.”
“Just plain old Bono,” said Bono.
“Doreen put all your weight on me. I can take it.”
She did. She was heavier that he thought she was.
“We’re going to make it Doreen.”
“I know we are, son.”
Bono’s name meant good. Bono Vox. Good voice in cockney Latin. A girlfriend called him that once. His name was Paul once. He liked Bono.
Bono meant good.
The fires burned in the distance. The land was on fire and the breeze off the ocean had only allowed the fires to gain in strength. From bank he could see the plane sinking in the water. He didn’t know why he was still alive. The last couple hours had spanned a year in his mind.
He remembered something he read about nuclear war. It wasn’t as bad as they made it out to be. What were Oppenheimer’s words?
“I am become death: the destroyer of worlds,” he said this out loud.
It frightened people.
“Sorry. The Bhagavad-Gita. Robert Oppenheimer, the Trinity test...” He tried to explain.
Fuck. Stop being scary Bono.
He was cold. He couldn’t find his shoes walking in socks wasn’t all that pleasant.
He thought about the radiation. He told people to cover their nose and mouth. He knew the human body could regenerate cells if they were not continually exposed by radiation. He worried about his thyroid. He knew that body couldn’t take radiation exposure for too long. He hoped there was a doctor among them. He hoped he knew something about fallout.
He wrapped his tie around his mouth and nose. He helped the woman do the same with a shawl. He told others. He spread the gospel. He liked helping people. Funny enough, it kept his mind off his music and his pain. He was scared as hell.
They walked along a road in a procession for the longest time.
Bono saw a church ahead. It was a sign.
It was vacant, cold, empty, Anglican and called Saint Margaret of Scotland. Established 1898. It seemed the services were only on Sunday’s at 10:30 am for the Holy Eucharist. The pastor, a Reverend Henry McKenzie was nowhere to be seen.
God would help them though. God was there for Bono. God would get these people through this ordeal. If he knew anything about people, he knew they were resilient. And among the hundred or so people, men, women, children, elderly, pilots and flight crew, he was lucky and found a retired doctor among them. His name was Giles. He was in his late sixties. He had a bad heart. A chain smoker, he never followed his own advice.
Giles told Bono that they needed bandages, fresh water, food, basic medical supplies. He wasn’t sure Angela would make it the night, but until they knew where they were, it was unsafe to move her.
Giles told Bono about radiation.
He told them to seek Potassium Iodide. Except any pregnant women. It wouldn’t be good for them.
There were lots of questions.
“Who did this and why? What happens if there is no place to go to? What happens if this was the end of the world? Would there be governments? Are we at war? Was it terrorism? Was this an accident? Why attack Canada? Did the United States do this? Is this The End? What about nuclear fallout, nuclear winter, nuclear holocaust? How long could they live like this? Would they get radiation sickness? How would they get in touch with their loved ones? Do you think people are out there blogging about this? Could they find a working computer and create their own blog to help people find them? Would The New York Times website still be up? Would there be any more TV or music?”
Bono knew as long as people lived, there would always be music. He didn’t know those other answers, but he would try to find out. He said so. America had lots of enemies and Canada never kept its promises. How many countries had long range nuclear weapons? USA, China, Russia, Britain. Russia was inept and corrupt. Britain would never do anything intentionally morally wrong. The USA. They needed Canada for their oil. Maybe they did attack. Maybe he was now standing in the 51st State. Probably not. Which left China. He wasn’t much interested in living under their rule. The Americans were bad enough. The Chinese Government didn’t much like things like free speech and Rock and Roll. He knew America would fight this with all their might. So would Britain. If they hadn’t already been completely destroyed.
He surmised that most likely any government would go underground if they had warning, assuming this is a full scale war. There would be people still running the show. He knew aid organizations would rally and help the people. The Red Cross was everywhere and probably the most organized. They had to find them. They would be the most organized and have plans for food, shelter, and fresh water. Greenpeace had to be in Halifax. All those Nuclear vessels in the harbour. He knew they needed to work together. Together they could change the world. They would have to go to Africa. He was sure Africa would have no nuclear targets. Maybe then could act as one to end finally the AIDS, poverty and world debt. Bono realized there would be a massive world movement to provide everyone with clean water, basic education, food and hope all in Africa.
Maybe this was a good thing though. Maybe this was new beginning. Maybe people could finally live sustainably off the land. There would be no need for corporations. Maybe we wouldn’t fuck with the food chain anymore. This could be positive. People needed to hear a positive message.
Right now though the people had to seek out food and fresh water. This is what they needed the most next to heat. He needed shoes. He couldn’t just walk around in his socks.
And he knew somewhere out there, there were a lot of people that needed help. It was one thing to survive a plane crash. It was quite another to survive a thermonuclear weapon. They found candles and matches. Candlelight would keep the fear away.
The blood of Christ and his body to eat.
Thank God for his churches.
Bono found someone had several extra pair of wool socks, and he doubled up on them for protection. It would have to do. Bono rounded up three men to come with him. Not strong men, but brave men. Alan, Dick, and Liam. They knew there was a danger. He told the people he would bring back food and water. He told the people to keep warm, huddle for body heat. They listened to him.
This time it wouldn’t be rock and roll that would save the world.
He wouldn’t just be a rock and roll star.
He was Bono.
Saint Bono of Dublin.
Night on the first day of the end of the world fell across America. Air Force One went down with the President over Arkansas.
He didn’t survive.
Neither did the White House Press Corps that were with him. THE BIG RED BUTTON though, unleashed fury on the world and he died knowing his resolve was justified, and he would be with Jesus soon enough.
Jesus couldn’t find the President in the wreck. He made an effort.
He thought that was good enough.
He left it at that.
The Vice President was sworn in as the NEW PRESIDENT once confirmation of the death of the old President was determined. The NEW PRESIDENT was shielded in a bunker deep beneath the earth. He was disappointed that the room he was in didn’t look like the war room in Dr. Strangelove. He was disappointed that they didn’t even have a war room. Instead they had something similar to the room in Fail Safe, a huge bland concrete bunker under the five-star Greenbrier Resort Hotel in West Virginia.
The big board of the world hadn’t even been updated since the late 1980s.
He would change this. His resolve was firm. He already had workmen busy dismantling the former Soviet Union on the board and had a current atlas to reconfigure the Baltic States.
This was an historic moment.
Time Magazine had Gorbachev on its cover.
Someone though had the foresight to freeze some good coffee beans and once his assistant unthawed them, he enjoyed a fine cup of coffee.
He was lucky he had an assistant. He was awful lucky she was attractive. He found out her name was Eve. Somehow he thought it was appropriate. He would be the new Adam. He would make sure she would bore his children and begin populating a new America.
He hoped she was nice. She was good looking with nice calves, firm breasts and blonde hair.
He liked that about her.
After Kylie and Jayson fucked and showered and were bored, they scrounged food from the vending machines. Jayson couldn’t get any room service. He tried. He couldn’t get anyone on the phone at all. He tried hard at that too. Eventually he found the bartender, the Yapesian. He was cleaning glasses, and stood where he stood before.
“What’s the deal?”
“The deal? What’s up?”
“Where is everyone?
“Don’t know, sir. They left.”
“Yes sir. Everyone. They left.”
“Yes. They’re gone.”
“Where?” Jayson was getting a bit pissed off now. He was hungry. A snickers or two were not a meal.
“Home, sir.” The man from Yap put away a glass.
“Can I get you anything?”
“Something to eat?”
“Can’t, sir. The kitchen is closed.”
“Well what the fuck? Goddamnit! This is a hotel, right?
Okay. So if this is a hotel. Where are the managers? Where’s the concierge. The cleaning lady’s. Where did they all go? The bellboys?”
“And the cooks, sir.”
“And the cooks. Yeah. Where are they? They can’t just leave, can they? What is this?”
“Don’t know, sir. Never happened before. People just left. That’s all.”
They went home.”
“Why didn’t you go home?”
“I have things to do, sir. Some days there are a lot of dirty glasses.”
“Give me a beer will you. Something imported and low carb.”
Kylie came down the elevator. She crossed the lobby. It was empty. She noticed the dining room was without a soul as well. Come to think about it, she hadn’t seen anyone for hours.
She saw Jayson sitting on a stool drinking a beer in front of the Yaplander. Thank God.
“Jesus Christ! Where is everyone Jayson?”
“Ask the man.”
“Where is everyone?”
“Don’t know. They just left.”
“They just left? What the fuck?”
“That’s what I said,” said Jayson. “What the fuck?”
“Where are the rest of the guests?”
“They left after the announcement.”
“The one this afternoon.”
“What did it say? This announcement.”
The Yaplander paused. He thought carefully. He spoke.
“It said the end was here.”
“The world, sir.”
St. Bono, Alan, Dick, and Liam and made it into the historic town of Lunenburg at 12:30 Wednesday morning. It took them almost two hours to walk. They were cold and the temperature was hovering around five degrees Celsius. They weren’t there to see the Blue Nose in the harbour. They were there for medical supplies and food so the first pharmacy they saw, they broke in (after knocking loudly).
Bono enjoyed the look of the town. It oddly felt like Ireland to him. He felt bad breaking into the small shop, but he told himself and the other three men, this was for the good of mankind.
The proprietor didn’t agree with them.
“Whoa! Put the gun down old man,” said Dick.
Bono stopped collecting vitamins and minerals from the aisle.
“Sir, please, sir. There has been a plane crash and we need medicine and food.”
“Who are you?”
“That’s who I thought you were you sonofabitch. Get out of my store before I blast your pretty face off, Rock Star.”
“Listen,” said Bono very calmly. “I’m here to help. We’re here to help.”
The man had shotgun pointed a Bono. He turned the gun on Alan as he pocketed some Tums.
“Put that back, young man. Now! Just because the world is ending doesn’t mean I’ll let you rob me.”
“Yes, sir,” said Alan putting the Tums back on the shelf.
“Mr. Please. I’m here to help. We need Potassium Iodide.”
“You need what and why Rock Star?”
“The war” said Liam who was a tall skinny man. “The nuclear war.”
“We need it for our thyroids”, said Bono.
“Our thyroids,” said Alan.
“Our thyroids,” said Liam.
“Our thyroids,” said Dick.
“What do you need it for? Rock Star. Is this the rest of U2? Is that The Edge?” He pointed his gun at the man he thought was The Edge.
Dick looked scared. He didn’t even look like The Edge. He kinda always thought he looked a bit like Larry Mullen Junior, the drummer.
“Thyroid, sir. And no, they aren’t my band. “This is Dick.”
“Hi”, said Dick.
“And this is Alan.”
‘Aye,” said Alan.
“And he’s Liam.”
“And you’re Bono.”
“And I’m Bono. And this isn’t U2. We need the medicine, sir. You should take it too. If what I think happened, happened then God rest our souls. We have to help people. Sir. Please.” Bono could beg when he wanted to.
“Help us,” said Bono in his best voice. “Help us. We’ll pay for them.”
The man put his gun down and the they all relaxed.
“All right,” said the proprietor. “You can buy it.”
“Do you take American Express™? It’s (Product)Red™. It for a good cause, it help AIDS in Africa.”
The proprietor raised the shot gun at Bono.
“Uh - I don’t really carry cash? What do you guys have?” He turned to Dick, Alan, Liam. “I’ll pay you back, I’m just kinda short at the moment. I’m good for it.”
Bono did not to want to die this way.
Neither did Alan, Dick, or Liam. They would like to be in U2 though and meet The Edge and just maybe, Brian Eno and then he would introduce them to David Bowie who was way cooler and demigod like.
They carried food and medicine back to the church. It was morning now. The beginning of a new day. Bono did his best, and then he slept.
He missed Adam, Larry, and The Edge. He missed his wife Ali and Memphis Eve and Jordan and Elijah and John. In his dreams he dreamt of them. He dreamt of The Fly and Mister MacPhisto. He dreamt of his father. He dreamt of peace on earth. Lastly he dreamt about Paul David Hewson. He wondered where he was right now. He hoped he was safe with his wife and children at their home in Dublin and not lying on a cold hard church pew in Nova Scotia. And lastly, he wondered if the Ambassador next door would sell his property now. It was a good piece of land, and it was right next door to Paul David Hewson.
“Shut up,” Kylie said. “Shut up.” She was crying. These were not crocodile tears. They were real tears. They were the tears she cried when she was eight. When her tears could still flow freely when she was sad. She could cry then, when she was eight and nine. When she was ten, but not eleven. By eleven she learned she could cry when she wanted too. That she could control it. She could think of something bad, and a tear would flow. Just like that, down her cheek one at a time.
Drop. Drop. Drop.
She practiced a lot. An hour a day between scripts. She didn’t want to let the make-up girls use glycerin. So she learned to cry on demand. “Action! And Cry! And Cut! Thank you.”
They make bad TV in New Zealand. Just like everywhere else.
He consoled her for an hour, her face wet with tears and her breasts pressed close to him. He could feel her nipples were hard, and he tried not to think about them for too long. So he thought about other things, but those thoughts disturbed him and he thought he’d rather think about her breasts.
“It’s true,” he said.
“How do you know? How do you know, huh? How?”
“It must be true.”
“It’s so horrible. I can’t even get a plane back to Auckland.”
“I don’t think you can get a plane anywhere. Unless you find one, and even then you’d have to fly one, and where’d you fly it to?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you fly?”
She cried some more pressing her breasts into him. And then the thought occurred to him.
“Oh, God, no.”
“Oh, Jesus no. Oh, fuck.”
Jayson began to pace the room. His eyes were teary. His heart was beating fast. He felt his mouth dry. He wasn’t thinking about sex.
“OH GOD! GOD NO.” He wailed. “Why? Why?”
“Jayson, calm the fuck down.”
“My trust fund is gone! Everything. I had stock options in OLED technology. I owned a part of Google! I fucking lost everything.”
“You must have something left?”
“Let me show you something.” He went to his bag and took out his new Apple Macbook Pro with 15.4-inch widescreen display 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1GB (single SO-DIMM) with 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 100GB hard drive, 5400-rpm Serial ATA hard drive and a 4x Superdrive. The keyboard was backlit, had a scrolling Trackpad, Airport Extreme, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, ExpressCard/34 slot, dual-link DVI video out, Gigabit Ethernet, and optical digital and analog audio in/out. He was proud of it. He opened it up, turned it on and connected it to his satellite phone. He opened the Safari web browser.
“See! My webpage doesn’t even come up! Nothing. Nothing at all. No CNN. No MSN. No Google.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing? You know?”
“It’s not a good thing, Kylie. It’s bad. Really bad. Fuck!”
He put the Macbook Pro away. He still treated it like a newborn baby.
After all he could still mix and burn cd’s and make a DVD. If he wanted too.
He felt like music.
“Thank God, I have my iPod”, he said pulling it out.
“I have one too. Mine’s pink, not white.”
“You have the mini one. Mine’s a real iPod.”
“Well excuse me for living. Fuck wad. Look I’m just trying to make best of a bad situation.”
“I know. I’m sorry. You know, I think if things ever get back in line, oil stocks will be up.”
“And gold,” she said. She liked gold.
“And gold,” he agreed. He liked gold as well.
Most of the villagers had returned home to their loved ones. They didn’t need to work or live in a big hotel. They didn’t care about air conditioning.
The German and Japanese tourists did though. They liked air conditioning. They liked being comfortable. They tried to get off the island and when they couldn’t - when the last plane with the last pilot left them stranded on the island - and the one’s who didn’t want to steal a boat or for that matter, couldn’t sail one - they stayed.
And so Jayson and Kylie were not alone anymore. The hotel had guests.
Guests without staff.
Jayson didn’t have any reservations though. He liked cooking. He rummaged through the hotel’s freezers and made a feast for him and Kylie.
The rest of them, well they’d have to fend for themselves.
They found the complete season one of ‘Survivor’ on DVD and watched it on Jayson’s laptop while sitting on the beach. They had taken wine, Champagne and beer and ate their feast.
They were both vegetarians but they liked seafood.
Fish didn’t have any feelings.
“Go back. Rewind it Jayson.”
Richard Hatch was nude all the time. Jayson and Kylie both agreed it was gross.
“You know he went to prison for tax evasion.”
“Good,” said Kylie. He probably deserved it with his body. She wore her favorite red California Zip Fleece Hoody, from American Apparel™ over her halter. She couldn’t stand being cold, and she was always cold, especially at night – even if it was 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
“There! See how Rudy does that, we have to do that.”
“Alright,” He hoped he didn’t have to do what Rudy had to do.
He hoped he didn’t have to meet a tribal council somewhere
“Fuck, pin dick, put some clothes on,” Kylie was adamant about this. “Uhhg. I’m glad you shaved. Men are sexy for two days then they’re hairy and gross. You’re not going to fuck me, if you’ve got a beard like that.”
“Alright,” he was glad he shaved. He really liked fucking her.
“You know, in ten days I’ll look like Richard Hatch.”
“I know. If the power goes out, I’ll make sure you have scissors.”
“I really like Gretchen.”
“Did you watch after the first season?”
“Who the fuck cares. Bring back a good sitcom.” As she said it she realized, they never would bring back a good sitcom.
“Yeah. I liked Cheers. What about M*A*S*H. Magnum P.I., The Simpsons.”
“I love the Simpsons.”
“Yeah. Me too. Me too.”
Then they were quiet.
What else could they say. They would probably never see Bart, Maggie, Lisa, Marge or Homer Simpson ever again.
The white sands and the blue waters weren’t as pretty as they once were.
When there’s no TV, nothing would ever look as pretty.
During the night, the rains came. Kylie and Jayson hurried to get dressed, their naked bodies being caught in the down pour.
“My laptop. Kylie get my laptop!”
She ran back to grab Jayson’s silver PowerBook. The power light breathing faintly brighter, then dimmer as the machine slept.
“Ah!,” Kylie squelched as the torrential shower hit her.
“Come on, girl, hurry up, you’ll melt.”
“I’m coming, hold on for Christsakes!”
“No, way!” Jayson ran as fast as he could. He carried his bag and a bottle of Domaine Larouche Chablis he aimed to drink very slowly back in his room.
In the entrance of the hotel they were met by a concerned Japanese man enjoying a drink as he watched the rain.
“Oh, no good. No good,” said the Japanese man, waving his hands at the couple.
“No good. No good,” the Japanese man said.
“What’s no good,” Jayson said.
“You all wet. No good. That’s what no good.”
“So what? It’s none of your concern fellow.”
“Ah, but it is. It is. Lain no good.”
“Why is it no good?” Kylie said.
The Japanese fellow took a sip of his drink and then leaned in close to Kylie smelling her scent.
“Fuck off!” She pushed him away.
“Lain smells bad. Farrout,” the Japanese man said.
“Far out. What?” Kylie was confused.
“Not far out. Fawout.” The man tried hard to say.
“Fallout?” Jayson sounded worried.
“You mean the rain? The rain smells no good.”
The Japanese man spoke very slow, so the very slow American and very slow Australian girl would understand him.
“Yes, yes. Falllllllllllll-ouuut.”
“Faaalll-out,” She pronounced.
“Fawout. Yes. You better wash up quick.”
“What is fallout?” Kylie wasn’t sure.
“Nuclear particles. Radiation, ash.” said Jayson.
He looked at his arm and could see a fine powder on his skin.
“Yes, ladiation. Ladiation. Fawout!” The Japanese man was drunk.
They left him and showered, separate and for a long time scrubbing the rain out of their hair and pores.
Jayson decided to leave the wine for a better day and hoped as he went to sleep that tomorrow would be it.
Kylie put on her white head phones to her pink iPod, and went to bed listening to the beautiful repetitions of Philip Glass.
The People’s Liberation Army of China was bent on conquering. They knew that this was their time. Sure a lot of their cities were destroyed. Hundreds and hundreds of millions of their people had died. They still had hundreds and hundreds of millions of people left.
They took Taiwan first. This was calculated. Neutron Bombs had left little structural damage and all those pesky Taiwanese were now dead. The one’s that weren’t had two options. Become part of the People’s Liberation Army or die. Quite a few people took the bullet instead.
Admiral Zheng-Li was pleased with his fleet.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) didn’t have a large fleet, but the Admiral knew it was more than adequate, even with the damages they suffered during the initial American bombardment.
The damn committee’s. The Central Military Commission had seen to it that PLAN wouldn’t be seen as an aggressor creating a political or a diplomatic statement, potentially creating unbalance in East Asia.
It took a long time before they’d let him have an aircraft carrier.
When he finally got one, it was converted into a casino and a tourist theme park. The Varyag, a 67,500 tonne, Russian Kiev-Class attack carrier, complete with baccarat tables, slot machines and roulette wheels was at his command, and he knew that it’s removal from the harbour in Macau would come as quite a surprise to the Americans.
It was a clever tactic he thought. They had the combined North Sea, East Sea and South sea fleets. The sneak attack had paid off. First strike was theirs.
He walked along the hallways. Past the gift shops, the change machines, the discotheque and bar, surveying and saluting to the men. He had a fine crew, he thought. Eager. Young. Fearless. They were ready to set foot in the New World. He was felt like Columbus with 65 calibre cannons, missiles and atomic weapons. He couldn’t wait to roll out his fighter jets.
He thought about this as he dropped Yuan’s into a slot machine.
He knew somewhere a history book was being written about this event. The accident that spawned the war was taken to their fullest advantage. He knew: Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, Nashville, Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, Annapolis, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Boise, Boston, Salt Lake City, Miami and Denver were completely irradiated. He saw THE BIG BOARD. Their victory would be glorious. The Chinese had waited since 1776 for this.
He was closing in on the Marianas. He’d always wanted to set foot on Guam.
They’d blast the hell out of the American imperialists.
He rejoiced at the thought of landing on the shores of America. He wanted to see Graceland. He hoped it was still standing. No nuclear warheads had targeted Memphis that he was aware of. He hoped he could shoot out one of Elvis’ TV’s and get a white jump suit for himself.
Shake, Rattle and Roll.
Viva Las Vegas.
Don’t step on my blue suede shoes.
I can’t but help falling in love with you.
You ain’t nothing like a hound dog.
I’m so lonesome I could just die.
Thank you, thank you very much.
Elvis has left the building.
Admiral Zheng-Li would like it in Memphis all right.
He already had a map on how to get there.
Above the English Channel, a one megatonne DF-5A missile hit a flock of seagulls. The ICBM missile built in 1983, and launched from Tongdao, Peoples Republic of China, was originally on course to hit the address at 3 Abbey Road, St. Johns Wood, London England (NW8 9AY). This of course is the home of Abbey Road Studios, where The Beatles not only recorded the majority of their music, but also where their master recordings are kept locked in a vault.
Deng Xiaoping despised The Beatles. Deng had personally authorized the destruction of their work, if and when they could ever launch an all out nuclear attack. He especially despised John Lennon for all his revolution, free-love paranoia nonsense. He had spent long nights trying to decipher Revolution No.9, and could only guess that it had a hidden meaning which was not good, and certainly against the Party line. Revolution No. 1, the single, and the White Album track had some disturbing lyrics about Mao. Even in death, the man was dangerous as he was more popular than ever (although he really enjoyed Imagine, especially the “imagine there is no heaven, no possessions” parts and often found himself humming away a few bars in long Party sessions).
So, for over twenty years the co-ordinates of Abbey Road were sitting snug inside the telemetry systems of this particular doomsday device just waiting for the day when it could unleash hellfire on their particular brand of “love.” Around the tip was stencil painted in Revolution Red: “To John George Ringo and Paul with love – Deng.”
All you need is love.
Happiness is a warm gun, indeed.
The missile veered off course and plummeted down on the outskirts of Ware, Hertfordshire. It hit a huge pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, the explosion sending a massive cloud of irradiated chemical compounds a thousand feet into the air. The cloud slowly drifted southward toward London. Along the English coast it began to fall back down as rain.
Thursday. Dawn in the pacific. Sonny had been awake for over twenty-five hours. He was considering taking Go-pills.
Speed. Dexedrine. Amphetamine.
Call it what you will. Elvis Presley came home from Germany in 1960 with a bottle of a thousand of the little suckers. The Army gave then to him during Tank maneuvers. Sonny loved Elvis Presley. Christmas wasn’t Christmas without him. He loved the moment each year when he first heard Blue Christmas, or Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) on the radio. Maybe it was something about being in the pacific. The only signal that it was the Christmas season was Elvis on the radio and the odd string of Christmas lights framing a kitchen window or on a small palm. He was nine, turning ten when Elvis died. He still remembered watching the TV on Tuesday, August 16th, 1977 with his parents. His dad cried. That was thirty years ago. He guessed it was the same way people of different generations remember where they were the day when President Kennedy (Friday, November 22, 1963), Martin Luther King Jr. (Thursday, April 4, 1968) or John Lennon (Monday, December 8, 1980) were shot. He had this conversation once before with some younger men. His dad was more of an Elvis fan than a Beatles fan, and so as a result, Sonny didn’t remember when John Lennon was shot; he remembered the day Elvis died. For a lot of the young guys he was serving with, it was when Kurt Cobain’s body was found (Friday, April 8, 1994), and of course 911 (Tuesday, September 11, 2001).
By now Sonny was sure half of his crew was on the pills. The Air Force practically encouraged it. Thompson was the first to take one amongst his crew. Sure enough, Thompson had barely two hours of sleep the night before. Fatigue hit the crew seriously two to three hours ago. Emerick and Roberts hit exhaustion, and they popped the little orange pill. By now, everyone but Payne, Collins, Kelly and himself seemed to be on them. He could tell because everyone else was jittery. Their skin was blotchy. Thompson wouldn’t shut up. Adrenalin kept him upright, but he wasn’t doing much better. He was hungry but they would eat later as a crew.
They had been preparing sorties non-stop since the attack. Now every F-16, A-10, B1, B2 or flight worthy B-52 was in the air. The only aircraft left was Martha Stewart and she would soon be fitted for armaments. Roberts was preparing her along with Davidson, Cummings and Payne. He was glad Payne went.
Raymond Payne was from Fort Worth Texas. Air Man First Class. He was twenty-six and was handy as hell. As a kid he helped his dad fix the Plymouth, taking the engine out and rebuilding it, then doing the transmission. His forearms were developed from using manuals screw-driver and wrenches to fix anything even slightly loose.
“Alright, people!” said Kelly. “We’re gonna, get Martha Stewart some firepower.”
“Fuck yeah! said Thompson.
Fuck yeah was right, thought Sonny.
The ordinance storage was located three stories down and Sonny had to take the hanger elevator (one that could bring up 10,000 lbs bombs). It was slow and took forever. Even Thompson stopped talking.
“Sean, I’m gonna have to ask you for one of those little orange pills now,” he said to Kelly.
“One pill makes you larger,” said Collins laughing. She was clearly bent. She began to sing “One pill makes you smaller. And the little orange pill doesn’t do anything at all. Go ask Alice.”
“Knock it off Collins.”
“When she’s ten feet tall. Go ask ALICE!”
“Knock it off I said,” said Kelly.
Collins smirked at Emerick and they shared a little moment together. Kelly looked like he was going to puke.
Sonny took Kelly aside. “It’s okay, Sarge. Let them have their moment. Everybody is exhausted. It’s been a hard day.”
“They want hard,” Kelly raised his voice. “I’ll give them hard.” Everybody was immediately silent. They knew what Kelly meant by hard. They’d be doing push ups and laps of Andersen like they were in boot camp if they were not careful. Kelly wasn’t above it. He was harsh, but fair.
Sonny had to give them the look that it was okay but it was hard to see their expressions. Sodium halide lamps illuminated the hairlines, and cast complete darkness across faces. The elevator sank, and he felt their hearts sink lower as their thoughts caught up with them.
To Kelly ear he said “Go easy. Ok? I mean it, Sean.”
“Chief, you think I don’t know how they feel? Huh? My whole family is back in Michigan. Shit, I got a kid going through college. I haven’t stopped thinking about him all day, and you tell me to go easy on these kids? We’re the ones who have to save the day.”
“I know. Give me one of those little fuckers.”
They hit the bottom and Davidson and Collins opened the cargo doors.
Kelly took out the vial, took two Go-pills out, one for himself, and one for Sonny. He handed the pill to Sonny and together they downed them with a bit of water from Sonny’s canteen.
“Taste worse than I remember,” said Sonny.
“Oh, Lord, I agree,” said Kelly.
Some of the villagers began to get sick. They were not used to Gamma waves and microwaves. They were not that used to fallout. Not anymore.
Maybe in the fifties. A lot of H-bombs were exploded in the fifties. They had names like: Able. Baker. X-ray. Yoke. Zebra. Dog. Easy. George. Item. Mike. King. Bravo. Romeo. Koon. Yankee. Nectar. Lacrosse. Cherokee. Zuni. Yuma. Erie. Seminole. Flathead. Blackfoot. Kickapoo. Osage. Inca. Dakota. Mohawk. Apache. Navaho. Tewa. Huron. Yucca. Cactus. Fir. Butternut. Koa. Holly. Wahoo. Nutmeg. Yellowwood. Magnolia. Tobacco. Sycamore. Rose. Umbrella. Maple. Aspen. Walnut. Linden. Redwood. Elder. Oak. Hickory. Sequoia. Cedar. Dogwood. Poplar. Scaevola. Pisonia. Juniper. Olive. Pine. Quince. Fig.
They had operation names. Crossroads. Castle. Sandstone. Greenhouse. Ivy. Redwing. Hardtack.
Jayson awoke nauseous with a bout of diarrhea. So did Kylie. They slept off and on, their music on random repeat drowning out the rest of the world. It was around three before Jayson made it down to Kylie’s room.
She was in her pajamas (Adidas sweats and a t-shirt). She felt like shit.
“I feel like shit,” she said.
“I know. So do I.”
“Fucking runs. Gross. I feel like throwing up. I really need to eat, Jayson.”
“What am I supposed to do about it? Huh? Fucking hell Kylie, I’ve been shiting all day as well. I’m sure It’s the fallout. Although, we could of just eaten something bad.”
“Maybe. I dunno,” she said. She didn’t know.
“We need fresh water is what we need,” he said.
“Uh huh,” she held up a large bottle of Evian water. “No shit, Sherlock. But what do we do?”
“I don’t know.” He didn’t.
After a long pause she said “Do you think America is still there?”
“I really doubt it,” said Jayson. “Look, okay, at the height of the cold war the USSR alone had over 40,000 nuclear devices. The USA over 25,000. That’s enough to kill everything on the earth a 1000 times over.”
“How do you know all this?” Kylie said. She was impressed.
“I used to watch a lot of James Bond films and that started me to look up things,” he said, matter of fact. He liked James Bond.
“I think Pierce Brosnan was the best Bond,” said Kylie. “What do you think?”
“Well, I think he was good. He looked the part better than anyone else, but the writing was complete shit. Sean Connery will always be the best, but I grew up on Roger Moore.”
Jayson thought back to when he saw View To A Kill in the theater with his mom. He still had a soft spot for the movie even though every time he watched it he played ‘spot the stuntman.’
“I guess. I still like Pierce the best,” she really did.
“You should watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. George Lazenby. He only did one, but he was pretty good. Certainly it was the best story. He gets married and his wife gets killed.”
“Really?” She had no idea James Bond was so deep.
“Yeah. It was really sad, but it would of been amazing if Sean Connery was in the role. It’s like the new guy in Casino Royale, Daniel Craig. They waited forever to make it, add a bunch of character development, write one of the best Bond movies in years, and then what? The have a guy who doesn’t even look like James Bond. His hair was fucking blond! Tall, dark, cruelly handsome. That’s Bond. That’s the formula. I mean the guy was built like Sean Connery, and he was cold, and tall, and actually, a really good actor, and I guess he resembled Sean, so I get that, and he was cruel looking and tall, but I mean, still - it’s like giving Clark Kent contacts. It’s not the character anymore, doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s no longer iconic.”
He didn’t realize he felt so strongly about this.
“I never saw it. The trailer was blah.”
“Yeah, it was ok. I dunno. Actually, I saw it a couple times, it was interesting in many a way, and it made me re-read the novel, so that wasn’t too bad. The parts they did do from the book were pretty good, the card games, and when Bond gets tortured.”
“What? That sounds very unBond like,” said Kylie.
“No, he got tortured in the book. Bond gets tied naked to a chair and his buttocks hang out, and the bad guy Le Chiffre uses a carpet-beater to bash his testicles to pulp.”
“I bet that hurt.” She was imagining Daniel Craig naked. The one bit of the trailer she really liked was when Daniel Craig walked out from the surf and his body was so hard and taunt, and he had this really skimpy blue skin tight swim trunks that showed his package.
She started to blush.
“Yeah, I sucked them up in the theater watching it happen. In the movie, the bad guy used a thick knotted rope. Swings it. Looked like it would of hurt a lot. The ending sucked though. Not the book.”
“I didn’t see it. I really don’t go out to many movies.”
She was still pretty flushed.
“You’re really not missing much Kylie. I really hate going out to a movie now. TV commercials before the feature. What why didn’t I stay home and watch TV? Why would I want to go out? Everybody talks like they are sitting at home watching it on DVD. You go see an R rated movie. A late show for a date. Fucking little kids running around or a baby crying. Get a babysitter for Christsakes. What’s the point of going out to see it? I don’t think you missed that much.”
“Yeah, if I want to see something,” she said. “I’ll just download it. Why give them money if they can’t even present the movie properly.”
“Exactly,” he said. Exactly what he was thinking. Amazing. Anyway. I guess I just wish Brosnan was in it. Quentin Tarantino wanted to make it with him.”
“Oh my God, that would of been so amazing!” Kylie was thinking about the potential of this. ”And you know he would have been so faithful to the material.”
“I know, one of cinema’s great what ifs?” Jayson said solemnly.
They sat on the bed in silence.
They decided to stay in the hotel till they felt better. They needed the rest, the food and the alcohol. Kylie was wondering how good it was to have re-circulated air conditioning on all day bringing in fallout and continually exposing them to it. She couldn’t come to a firm decision on weather it was best to have it on or off, she just thought they should turn it off.
Finding it was another matter. When it came to practical things
Kylie was never much good at anything. She survived by ordering take-out or eating out. If she had too she’d stock up on microwavable foods.
So finding the power to the air conditioning was no small task for her.
Without out Jayson around (he was sick on the toilet) she had to manage on her own and make it into the bowels of the hotel.
At first she thought it’d be in the basement. But it turns out, the hotel was a sea level and having a basement wasn’t a good idea. She learned this by talking to a German man who said he was feeling quite fine. His name was Jürgen and she persuaded him to help her on her quest to turn off the air conditioning. With his help, she located the air conditioning power and turned it off. She was pleased that she’d done it by herself (and with Jürgen’s help of course).
The rest of the residents, aside from Jürgen, Kylie and Jayson, began to complain once they realized they were no longer in the comforts of home.
“Jesus Christ!” said Kylie, backed against a wall surrounded by angry guests.
“Do you people think that I want the air conditioning off? Do you? No, I don’t. No, I don’t, but desperate times calls for desperate measures. How good do you think it is to have re-circulated air all day when God knows what’s being re-circulated. I mean, what the hell are we breathing? Huh? What are we breathing in? How do I know radiation isn’t seeping in through the air conditioning vents and making us all sick?”
“How do I know? Yeah, it’s stuffy and hot in here now, but we’re in the middle of the Pacific. What did you people expect? You know? Do you, think that you can just go back to a where ever you came from? Germany or Japan or Italy or Brazil, huh? What’s left. We got no TV here. No reception. FUCK! How do I know the Chinese aren’t planning on invading? How do I know? Jesus fucking Christ, people. We have to get it together here, we have to survive. Just ask Jürgen.”
They asked Jürgen, and within a little while the air conditioning was turned back on.
The NEW PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA was getting used to his new surroundings. He found there was a modish part of the complex, with a sixties and seventies groove. He had a large room that he felt was very clean and modern. Lot’s of teak. A king size bed with 220 thread-count linen.
He found some more recent magazines. A few months old. He found out that there was a basic policy to replenish the supplies twice a year to make sure they’re always was enough fresh food.
A huge amount of administrative staff was able to make it under the earth. Someone had brought a lot of Apple computers in. They were everywhere. A small technical staff was wiring them together. Networking the tubes or whatever together. He was told when he asked a techie that they didn’t want to start a new world having to deal with Windows.
He didn’t know. He hadn’t used a computer much.
He thought they just looked pretty.
He hated email.
He liked being the President in the New World.
No congress, or senators.
That made him laugh.
“Ha.” He chuckled about that one.
He talked to the Generals. He told them that from now on, the room they met would be called the War Room. They liked the idea. They liked Pop culture and Dr. Strangelove.
So did he.
A roll call determined that they had just eleven-hundred forty-eight people. They were part of THE NEW PLAN. Civil engineers. Administrative staff (all female). Advisors (all men). Several chefs, sous chefs, cooks, line cooks, bus boys and dishwashers. They had a large supply of waiters and waitresses. Military men. Generals, Colonels, CIA advisors and scientists. Enough for the NEW WORLD. The NEW AND IMPROVED AMERICA™.
Eve Kendal didn’t want to sleep in the same bed as the President. There was no way she would. The night before she slept on a makeshift cot.
She didn’t like him that much. He was old and from Nebraska. He would pinch her ass when no one was looking. She just tried to smile. They would be in a conference and the scientists and generals were explaining post war America and he’d have his hand on her ass. She knew people noticed. She could feel them glare at her. Other women too. A power struggle was beginning.
She looked like the proper good conservative girl from Washington with her hair done up with a million bobby pins that made her head ache.
She could kill.
She stopped wearing skirts along time ago and only wore pant suits now. That was the Katherine Hepburn in her.
She held her binder full of notes close to her breast in case he tried something funny.
It was her resolve.
The bad dream will end and you’ll wake up like Bobby in the shower in Dallas. Everything was just a bad dream.
He goosed her ass and she knew she was not dreaming.
She wanted out.
The marines would let her.
“Sorry, ma’am,” the cute marine said. No one was allowed out for three months minimum.
She would just pretend it wasn’t her.
Like she was an actress on TV.
Just a role.
Just a bad actress on TV.
In a re-run, during the summer on NBC.
Bono awoke refreshed. Stronger. It was if his life force grew within. He had re-grouped his thoughts. He wanted to change the world. There was no doubt he could. He was Bono.
“All right, people. How are we feeling today. Is everybody having a good time?”
There was a resounding “No!”.
“Well, c’mon, people. Get lively here. Get up. Lots of things to do today.”
A young girl was crying and a man of thirty was comforting her.
“What’s the matter miss?” She wouldn’t talk.
“Her mother died in the night,” said a man of thirty he didn’t remember ever seeing before. The man needed a shave. Bono always looked better unshaven.
“She’s over there,” the man said, and he pointed to a woman lying on the floor, a coat draped over her head.
Bono walked over and stood by the pilot.
“Mr. Bono,” the Pilot said to him.
“Just Bono,” said Bono.
“Okay. Bono. My name is Colin, I was your Pilot. My co-pilot, Antoine, isn’t doing so well. The doctor told me he may have brain swelling.” Bono looked over at the co-pilot. He was laying down and a female flight attendant was talking to him gently.
“Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that. What can I do?”
“We need medical supplies, and since you’re the most recognizable person, you’ve become the de facto leader.”
“Am I?” Bono was a natural leader. Well that wasn’t true, it took a lot of practice to become Bono.
“Yes, and that woman, I think she should be taken outside. Maybe not buried, but removed so that people don’t have to look at her.”
“I agree. Bad for morale.”
He walked over to the dead woman and pulled the jacket away and looked at her face. She looked peaceful. She was in her mid forties. Thin. Her face was pale but the slight make-up she wore seemed to give her life. He had wished he could of done something. He was selfish and didn’t realize the woman needed attention. He honestly couldn’t remember anything about her. He tried to remember. When he got back with the medical supplies the night before he delegated the task to a doctor.
Bono touched her forehead, and covered her.
“She’s with the angels now, honey,” he said softly to the young girl.” Her eyes were big and blue and full of tears. Tragic.
”It’s okay, God will take care of us. You’ll see. I promise,” he did promise. He just needed some time.
Big blue eyes full of tears.
“If I know anything, I know that everything happens for a reason. Everything happens because God wants it to happen. It’s the only way.”
“Why would God want my mother to die?”
“I don’t know sweetie. I don’t know. You have to believe she’s in better place.”
A man scoffed behind him.
Bono turned around.
“Something you would like to say to this girl, sir?”
“No, forget it,” said the man. He looked tired and was dressed like he was in the media business. An editor or something. Nice jeans, print t-shirt, orange scarf and a smart grey and white pin-striped blazer. His hair was a little long at the back and short and mussed up on the top. Almost a mullet, which, Bono thought, he invented. Party in the back, and all business up front.
“No, I won’t, sir,” said Bono. “I won’t forget it. If you have something on your mind let us hear it. Speak up. Introduce yourself.”
“Chris. It’s Chris,” said Chris.
“Okay Christopher,” said Bono. “You have something to say? Say it.”
“Okay. Go ahead.”
Chris cleared his throat and looked around at everyone and drew strength from their gaze.
“You think that you can save us? Bono? Is that what you think? Save our souls. You think, God, here is going to save us!” Chris pointed at the chuch. At Christ on the crucifix.
“You think, He, that, He cares? What has He done. Tell us Mr. Super-star. Tell us.”
“I don’t think I can save anyone who doesn’t want to be saved. But pessimism is going to get us nowhere,” said Bono. “Look, I know. I know I look ridiculous preaching. I know this. I am not a fool. I understand my image. I’m a Rock Star. Yes, I am. I admit it freely. You think because I play rock and roll and have screaming women baying in my presence that what I have to say, doesn’t have any merit? It’s just hollow?”
“You’re not on tour, here. This isn’t Pop Mart,” said Chris.
“I wish it was Christopher, I wish it was.” Bono did. He liked Pop Mart.
He enjoyed coming out of the big lemon.
He liked the muscle man shirt he wore.
He liked starting the concert coming out like a boxer.
Like Ali. Like Ali Vs. Foreman.
Like Ali Vs. Frazier.
The Thrilla in Manila.
“You know it’s very easy to by afraid. It’s easy to fear, because fear is the opposite of faith.”
“No. WE are going to survive. That’s all of us. I’m even going to make sure you survive. That everybody here does. We have a responsibility now. To mankind. If you don’t want to be a part of it you can leave, but I assure you what you’re going to find out there is not going to be very reassuring.”
People were listening to him. It took him years to develop his voice. He almost destroyed it once by smoking too much. He wished he had a cigarette now.
“Do you want to live?”
Chris looked away.
“Do you want to live?”
“Of course, I do.” Chris looked at Bono and saw his chin was beginning to become filled with silver whiskers.
“Then you’ll have to trust me. I don’t care if you believe in this.”
He stood and looked around at everyone and looked everyone squarely in the eyes. He commanded their attention.
He motioned to the church surroundings. “There’s a lot of hypocrisy here. And that means a lot coming from me. You don’t have to believe, but you do have to believe in yourself. You do have to believe that you will live. And that goes for the rest of you. All of you. You have to believe. You have to trust in God. And you have to trust me.”
He walked over to the co-pilot, and touched his hand. He was unconscious. He smiled to flight attendant next to him and said “It’s going to be okay. Do you trust me?”
She said “yes,” and smiled back at him.
He stepped up on the soap box. The pew.
“People. You have to believe!” he sang out. His voice filling the room. They were all looking at Bono.
“You have to believe. That will be your salvation.”
They looked up to Bono. They believed. Bono meant good. The young girl smiled. She believed in Bono.
So did he.
Jürgen was sleeping under a palm on the beach when he noticed on the horizon a frigate of some kind. He watched for thirty minutes or so as it came closer and closer. He stood up, took off his shirt, a white pique polo he ordered from J-Crew, and began waving it back and forth in the air.
He was jubilant. He would get off this Gott verlassen island.
A smaller boat, much faster approached.
It was like a military speed boat he thought.
Jürgen waved and waved his white J-Crew pique polo.
Like the bull to a red flag, the squad of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) solders, armed with brand new 5.8mm Type 95 Assault Rifles, opened fire on Jürgen as he waved what they thought was a white flag of surrender.
There would be no surrendering here today.
There would be no prisoners of war.
There would be no Geneva Convention.
Who need’s a Geneva Convention when there’s no Geneva?
The squad landed on the beach. The quickly took control. They rolled Jürgen over and just for good measure shot him a few times more.
They didn’t even notice his polo t-shirt.
It was J-Crew.
Jayson hadn’t eaten much. He was making a new playlist for himself in iTunes. Some Reggae, downbeat and classical. He found some Arvo Pärt, Fratres, in his library and made a mix with RZA, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, Coldplay and some old U2, from War.
Then he heard the guns.
“What the fuck is that?”
He ran to the window. He could see down below on the street Asian men in fatigues shooting at the villagers. A woman died in the middle of the street. She didn’t do anything and they shot her.
He never saw anyone get killed before.
Just in the movies.
Just on TV.
Just on the news.
He grabbed his stuff, his laptop and iPod and pushed them into his bag. He had to find Kylie.
Kylie was reading. The Tears of Eros by Bataille. A muffled knock on the door interrupted her. She had her white headphones on. Mozart, K511 Rondo in A minor.
“Fuck off! I’m reading.”
“Kylie Goddamnit, open the fucking door. The Chinese have landed!”
“I’m reading Jayson. Please this is good.”
“I don’t care, the CHINESE have landed!”
“Open the door Kylie, we’re under attack! The Chinese have landed.”
Kylie walked to the window. She could see a Frigate nearing the beach. Down below she looked. She saw a woman dead, a blood pool underneath her.
She took off her head phones.
She hadn’t seen a dead person before.
Only on TV.
And in movies.
And in news boxes.
On the front page.
She didn’t know what to do. She unlocked the door and saw Jayson. She began crying. He held her head.
“Kylie? Let’s go. C’mon. Time for tears later.”
“Okay. Okay. Yeah,” she said softly. She grabbed her stuff and they left the room.
They ran down the corridors banging on the doors as they went.
“The Chinese are coming! The Chinese are coming!”
“Goddamnit, the Chinese are coming!”
People awoke from the dream they were dreaming.
“The Chinese are coming?”
“Yes Goddamnit! The Chinese are coming! Get the fuck out of here!” Jayson was flailing his arms to make his point.
They were stunned, and then they heard gun fire and they ran out of their rooms. They didn’t know where to go, but they ran just the same.
In the distance Kylie could here rockets and cannon fire.
It was a first for her.
It was a first for Jayson.
Jayson held Kylie’s hand tightly. They went down to the kitchen and grabbed as much food and water at the could carry.
And then they left.
Quickly and quietly.
Scared little mice.
Across the island the Chinese were making short order of the villagers. They didn’t even have weapons, and so it made it a lot easier for them.
Everyone surrendered. They rounded up all the men and shot them.
This would make an example. An example to be followed.
A man walked across the tarmac of the airfield to greet the Chinese men who had just landed in an amphibian craft.
He was shot and he fell and he died.
So Kylie held Jayson’s hand as he led her away. She ran and hurried and slowed and stopped and waited and watched and looked and knelt and stood and then ran some more.
Jayson had explored a lot of the area for the last few weeks. At the time he had very little else to do. Now he was glad he did. It would buy him some time. It would buy Kylie some time.
They made there way up into the hills and under breadfruit trees.
He didn’t care that he hadn’t eaten all day.
He didn’t care that his skin itched when he was outside and his hair felt like he had sand all in it.
He didn’t care about that.
He cared about Kylie, and saving his own ass.
Bono led the wounded away in a procession along the Nova Scotia hillside. He had new life in him. He would help these people. In all there were twenty-eight people who needed some sort of medical attention, Antoine probably the most. They carried him in a makeshift stretcher constructed of boards taken from the pews, and excess clothing found in suitcases that washed a shore. God wouldn’t mind. The rest he left waiting. He said he’d be back soon with help and he meant it. He said wait and he would return.
He learned their names. All twenty-eight.
Susan. Thomas. Doreen. Abraham. Jay. Ryan. David. Fakir. Gregory. Ahmad. Hayden. Shoshana. Larissa. Kat. Sook-yin. Trevor. Jan. Lisa. Shauna. Michael. Teresa. Brenda. Jin. Fumiko. Eiji. Shane. Kathy. Antoine.
And he was Bono for twenty-nine. The pilot Colin for thirty. Between Colin and him, they managed to carry Antoine.
He was in better shape than he remembered. A little out of shape, it was tough no doubt about it, but the country was beautiful and he listened to what people had to say around him.
He found that once people got used to the fact that he was a celebrity and just like them, they opened up. Besides they were used to seeing him everywhere anyway.
Shauna was from Oakville and wanted to buy a new Volkswagen.
Lisa was going back to Calgary to work as a legal aid.
Shane was supposed to meet his fiancée at Pearson Airport.
Ahmad was visiting a friend in Montreal. He lived in Cornwall for the last twelve years.
Fumiko was shy.
Brenda just didn’t shut up.
He couldn’t understand Jan, or Sook-yin. But he could make them smile and feel at ease. And that made him feel at ease. He hated apologizing for being a Rock Star. He wasn’t an apologist. He was Bono, and that’s what he tried to explain to them, to tell them that he was here for them.
“The guy I live next door to, well, he lives in this great big place, and until now I, thought he shouldn’t be there, and I was going to discuss this with your Prime Minister. That’s why I flew here. I was selfish. I’ve helped a lot of people. Or I’ve tried, at least I hope I’ve tried to help people. You never can tell if you’re helping or hurting someone. And I lost my way. I lost my way, but I’ve found it again. Whatever you need, tell me, I’ll get it for you.”
“I need a Ferrari,” said Jay, only half joking. Jay was thirty-eight now, divorced from his wife in London. A Ferrari would have helped him.
“If that’s what you need, then you’re far beyond my help, Jay,”
“I was just kidding.”
“You could probably walk into any Ferrari dealership in any city in the world and drive away with one tonight. No one would stop you,” said Shane thoughtfully.
“But you wouldn’t be able to fill it up with gas,” said Abraham.
“Wouldn’t matter. I’d just drive it as fast as I can. I just want to hear the pistons on the V-12 firing. Just once.”
“Who cares,” said Brenda. “Who cares about Ferrari’s or Volkswagens or anything. There’s nothing left at all any more. Anywhere.”
“We’re here” said Bono.
“Yeah, so what though? Like, it doesn’t matter at all,” said Brenda.
“Well –,“ Bono was about to say.
“Do you think we’re going to have a good life anymore. I mean, I went to school for four years and have a bachelors in marketing, but I’m never going to use it because there’s nothing to market. They’re nothing to sell. What are they gonna do, make a product that they can’t sell. What about TV?“ said Brenda. She was 5’3” and a hundred and thirty four pounds. Dark curly hair.
“Well TV will always come back,” said Bono. He hoped not.
Bono wanted to get away from her.
“Yeah, like, TV is ever going to be the same. Who’s gonna star in it? Who’s gonna be in the movies? I’m sure Brad Pitt isn’t around anymore.”
“Don’t say that!” said Lisa. It upset her.
“That’s right, a terrible thing to say. Who knows where Brad Pitt was.” It occurred to him, that Brad and Angelina Jolie were probably quite safe in a third world country helping children in an orphanage. He knew that for once, Africa, or Cambodia was probably a safe place to be in.
“Who’s gonna sing? Oh, I forgot, you are.”
“Okay, Brenda. Alright, now. I know you’re tired and what’s wrong with you again?
“My arm has a cut, see?”
“Oh, yeah. Well, uh. I hope that doesn’t hurt too bad.”
“Great, Brenda, I’m gonna see how the others are doing. Who’s feeling strong and wants to give us a break here?”
Colin looked up, he was deep into the rhythm of carrying Antoine.
“It’s alright, mate, really, I’d rather not,” said Colin.
“You need a rest too. You can’t bear all of his pain for him.”
“Yeah, but really it’s fine.”
“Colin, ten minutes. The exercise will do someone good.”
“C’mon Doreen, you can carry this man all by yourself.”
Doreen smiled and waved Bono off. She was walking in between Gregory who jammed the fingers on his left hand, hitting the seat in front of him on landing.
Trevor and Hayden volunteered. Both had minor injuries to the face from flying objects. Hayden was just a teenager. Perhaps fifteen or sixteen. Bono knew they would both carry deeper scars then the ones they wore today. Cuts would heal.
It turned out, Colin had lived an interesting life. He had been a NATO pilot during Kosovo and they talked for a long time about the conflict. Once they had sufficient rest, they took Antoine back.
“He’s looking better,” said Colin.
Bono noticed it too. The color had returned to his skin. He thought only an hour before that were carrying the man to his grave.
It would be a hard road ahead to save them all, thought Bono. He might have to kill Brenda when she was asleep.
He chuckled at the thought.
“Ah. Yes, some days are better than others,”
“Some days your plane lands on a runway,” Bono hummed.
“Some days it doesn’t.”
“Some days the world ends, and they forgot to tell you about it.”
“Some days you’re in the middle of nowhere without even a cigarette.”
“Some days you sing a cappella.”
“Some days you mustn’t.”
“Some days you wake up in Lunenburg.”
“Some days are better than others.”
He could see the town up ahead. It wouldn’t be much further. He wanted a smoke and a Guinness.
Eve took notes all through the meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She doodled. She’d been down this hole for over a day now. She’d had enough. The NEW PRESIDENT, as she liked to think, SAME AS THE OLD PRESIDENT, hand was on her knee. His wife didn’t make it. She was in New York, New York fundraising for disabled children, and thus obliterated. The President was taking it well. Too well.
She cleared her throat loud enough so that every man in the room understood very clear and succinctly that she was uncomfortable.
Generals shifted in their chairs. She glared at the men behind he glasses. They looked at the table or their notes instead of looking at her. All but the Prez. He was fucking oblivious.
“Mr. President, sir, perhaps I can pour you some more, cold water to cool you off.”
She leaned over, and she knew he was looking at her breasts. The other men were too, but they hid it better.
She picked up the water jug and began to pour.
“Oops! I’m so soooo sorry, Mr. President.”
“Goddamnit. Sonofabitch, that’s cold. Jesus H. Christ.”
The President stood up and walked toward the table in the back and grabbed a napkin to dry himself off.
“Ball breaker, is what she is”, he muttered. “A Goddamn ball breaker.”
Eve had a tinge of satisfaction on her lips.
The President walked back.
“God damn, I’m sorry about that. Continue what you were saying, General.”
“All right,” General Martin began. “From what we understand, and the intelligence that we’re gathering and let me remind you how early it is to be coming to firm conclusions, but it looks like we’ve been hit hard.”
“This is your fucking intelligence, General? Course we’ve been hit hard. Had the shit right kicked out of us. It’s been a tragedy, a tragedy of epic proportions. Worse than Korea. Worse than Iraq and those Tsunamis. A historic loss, General. This makes Nine Eleven look like it was a Goddamn fender bender.”
“Yes, Mr. President, but if I could continue.”
“Go right ahead, I’m not stopping you.”
“Thank you, Sir. Our, ground intelligence indicates that while we may have lost our major cities; New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Dallas and Minneapolis; our smaller cities and towns were mostly left untouched but airports, telecommunication and military targets in the surrounding areas seem to all been hit. Reports from Memphis say that aside from the fall out from Nashville, the city was perfectly intact.”
“Well Thank God for that. Now what about this EPM stuff. The power. Electrical stuff. What’s happening there?”
“The electromagnetic pulse from a series of high altitude stratospheric explosions caused a ripple effect, knocking out most of North America and Europe before multiple thermonuclear strikes hit. Power surges have caused major fires and explosions. We have reports that Taiwan looks like it was hit with Neutron devices. So was Japan.
“Well that’s almost a good thing. Right?”
“I highly doubt it would be good, sir. I doubt the Taiwanese or Japanese would say it was good. What’s left of them.”
“And what about the Middle East?”
“Well, most of our army was in Iraq and Israel pretty much attacked the whole region before it was lost.
“Hmm. So we lost about a hundred fifty thousand troops.”
“Hard to tell, we’re not getting any communication. We have analysts looking at the satellite imagery.”
“Least I won’t have to deal with unifying the Palestinians and Israelis. I’m happy about that. Troubles me about Iraq. I hoped we would of won.”
“Well, the way I look at it, we did win, Sir.”
“How do you suppose?”
“Well, Sir,” said the four star General. “I say it’s like it was a tie game and we just have to kick a ball, but nobody could because the game was called for rain, but because we were the defending champions, the probability was, we would have one, so the way I look at it, we kicked the home team’s ass.”
“Damn, that’s a fine good way to look at it, General,” said the president.
Eve was bored. Men and their military might. Ha.
She’d known a lot of military men, very few were mighty. Why did she ever go to Washington in the first place?
She wanted to help people.
She wanted to change the world.
What an idiot she was.
She wished she’d had just stayed home instead of heading out to Camp David with the Vice Prez.
She could have got it in her sleep.
Quick and peaceful.
Now it would be long and agonizing.
She heard the rumors that all the women were to do their “duty” and “provide” a child or two for America.
She hoped she was sterile.
As barren as the arctic.
“Ha!” she laughed a bit too loud. “Sorry, sir.” She looked down at her drawing in embarrassment.
She liked drawing.
She could draw pretty good.
She liked drawing faces and hands.
It helped her faze out the bullshit.
The NEW PRESIDENT stood. Everybody facing him could see the outline of his penis through his slacks. It was disconcerting to say the least.
“Well I think what we need here people, is to reach out to Americans, the survivor’s. To let them know my resolve. To let them know that they’re not alone out there. That we’re going to be there for them and rebuild this great country of ours. That it is imperative for every American, no matter what color or religion, to do their duty; to help our great country unite and squash the motherfucking yellow bastards for ever trying to obliterate my country,” the NEW PRESIDENT said with his resolve.
The thought of walloping those yellow commie sons-of-bitches gave him a hard on the size of Texas. Eve could see it starting to form. She gagged.
The Generals gave him a standing ovation.
Eve clapped as little possible.
Jayson led Kylie to the other side of the island. He knew of a beach with ocean kayaks. He had used one before and he knew the Tribal Chief who rented them to tourists. They had to get as far away from Kolonia Town the capital. They avoided the small community of Danipei. They took hiking trails that steered away form the main island arteries. At one point they passed below a ridge where Japanese anti-aircraft guns had been. The island had been bombed in the Second World War.
The Complete History Of Pohnpei Up To This Moment
Pedro Fernandez de Quirós landed in Pohnpei in 1595 when Magellan missed every Micronesian island with the noted exception of Guam in 1521. Alvaro de Mendaña was on a mission for the Solomon Islands but died before he every got near them. His ship, San Jeronimo, was left to be helmed by De Quirós who took it on to Manila. On the way back he spotted Pohnpei and anchored off shore. Pohnpeians paddled out to greet the Spaniards but De Quirós was a coward and quickly left before going to shore so intimidated was he by the locals.
He decided he’d name the Pohnpeian island after himself and called it Quirósa. The Spanish didn’t care about this little atoll, they wanted Guam. The Guamians kicked them out in 1695 after a long protracted bloody uprising.
Now, the American empire began, and like all of the other Imperialists: The Portuguese, Spanish, English, Russians, Germans and Japanese, they would find their way to put their little mark all over the world and on this little atoll in 1787.
Captain Thomas Read sailed in on the Alliance (formally the Hancock), America’s great frigate of the Revolutionary War on his to China. He found Pohnpei and soon renamed it “Morris Atoll,” after his old Captain Robert Morris.
What a guy.
Fedor Lütke, a Russian, the Captain of the Senyavin found the lost Pohnpei in 1828 and claimed he was the first to visit. He was wrong. He named Anhd Island (Ant) and Pakeen. The cluster is still called the Senyavin Islands. He called Kolonia’s inlet, “The Harbour of Bad Reception,” of course, he never set foot on the island.
In the 19th century it was called Ascension Island.
Next, the American and English whaler’s arrived. They liked their fresh water and easy virtue women. They started prostitution. Fed them liquor. It was their way.
There was an Irishman, a liar named James O’Connell. He escaped from an Australian convict ship. Or he fled the whaler, John Bull, probably at shore or if he’s to believed, he floated about the open ocean with five companions, finally hitting the atoll after five days at sea. They were instantly attacked by the cannibals (so he said) but O’Connell thought fast and quick and hard and danced an Irish Jig to appease the hungry natives. The men were fed roast dog in return. A Chief of the state of Nett adopted him as a son and had him tattooed head to toe.
He fathered two children with the chief’s daughter. He escaped captivity on the trading ship Spy.
He moved to America to become a circus freak called the Celebrated Tattooed Man.
With the white man came massacres. Disease: smallpox, influenza, measles and syphilis.
It was the same in the Pacific Ocean as it was in the Americas. Cortez fell the Aztec empire.
Around then the US Calvary was working on the Indian problem. If you can’t kill them assimilate them. The Spanish took over and created an administration. Pohnpeians took up guns to fight for their lives.
The Spanish lost a war to the Americans so the Germans moved on in. They loved administration. A bureaucrat named Albert Hahl wanted their guns. Germans don’t like to be shot at.
A typhoon destroyed the island in 1905. The Pohnpeians handed in their guns for food.
Hahl was replaced by Berg who was replaced by Fritz.
Old Fritz made the men work for the Germans fifteen days a year. From Fritz came Boeder. He made them shave their heads. He was a man who liked handing out corporal punishment. He made them wear western clothing. The Pohnpeians hacked Boeder to pieces. They shot him three times.
Three warships shelled the island for over an hour. Seventeen conspirators were executed for uprisings. They dug mass graves.
Mass bodies need mass graves.
The people were exiled and put into work camps. The Germans always were efficient.
They like their work camps.
When the Great War broke out the Japanese came. They found no resistance. They wanted a permanent imprint. They built roads, hospitals and schools. Then came the next Great War. So they built gun emplacements, bunkers and airbases. The Japs tore down a German Church and left the bell tower. The Yanks bombed the hell out of them. We all know what happened to the Japanese. They lost the war greatly.
So came the Americans and their H-Bombs.
And now came the Chinese.
Birds rose into the air and flew from the trees. An explosion sounded across the island. Kylie looked up at her paradise lost with its large coconut palms.
She hoped the vegetation would cover them. She hoped they’re weren’t soldiers on the beach on the other side.
Some type of parakeet or parrot flew past her with crimson and purple coloring. She thought the bird was pretty. She wanted to own one.
She thought that would be cool.
“We have to get an ocean kayak,” said Jayson. “There’s a island I know of and we should be safe for a while. It’s uninhabited, just outside of the main atoll. This is really big atoll. A huge coral reef surrounds all these islands. The Japanese used to use some of them as air strips during the war.”
He held her hand tight. He could feel it was moist with perspiration. She was a scared as he was. She didn’t know which war he meant. She didn’t really know much about history.
“It’ll be okay, Kylie.”
“I promise,” said Jayson. He hoped everything would turn out all right. He thought Kylie’s face was too pretty for disappointment. He wondered how many times, if ever that her dreams didn’t come true.
His always had.
The trees and mangrove forests cleared and they were once again on white sand. The clear azure waves breaking on the beach were always a beautiful sight. The row of yellow rental kayaks was even prettier.
“Get in a kayak. And quick,” he said.
Kylie was doing her best, lagging behind him. Not all girls from New Zealand were athletic.
The owner of the kayak, a middle aged Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian walked slowly toward him. He was a tribal chief.
“Hi, Jack, borrowing a kayak. The Chinese are here to kill us.”
Jack smiled warmly and held out his hand, not to shake but for money.
“How much money do you have on you, Kylie? American dollars.”
“Bout couple hundred.”
“Give me a twenty.”
Kylie rummaged through her bag and pulled out her wallet. It wasn’t leather. She didn’t wear, or own anything leather. She gave him a twenty in USD.
“Here ya go, Jack, thanks for the kayak. Better hide your wives and daughters.”
The man nodded and took the money.
“Okay, we got to go Jack, because the Chinese will KILL us, and we don’t want to die, and neither do you.”
“Okay,” said Jack, the tribal chief who rents kayaks.
The man smiled and walked away slowly.
“Hurry up and get in,” said Jayson. He watched the man go back into a thatched roof rental shop with a sign that read, ‘Rent Jacks Kayaks.’
Kylie got in the yellow polyethylene ocean kayak.
“Where do I sit?” she said looking around.
“In front. And put your life vest on. There should be one lying-”
“I got it. Bit big ain’t it?”
“Give me it,” he said examining her blue life vest. It was huge. He put it on. It was big on him but he could adjust the straps. He found another and threw it to her.
“Here, try this”
“No good. It’s still way to fucking big.” She felt like a little kid with the vest twice her size and barely filling her breasts.
“Put it on anyway. Just in case.”
“Just in case of what, Jayson.”
“You never know.”
Jayson walked the kayak out into the shallow water. When he was far enough out he climbed in, sat down and grabbed the paddles.
“What do I do?” Kylie said.
“Grab a paddle. You’re going to have to help. It’s a long way take us an hour or so in this. I’ve done it before but I want to get there as quick as possible. Okay?”
“Okay.” She hoped she could do it. She would try.
“Oh, bugger,” she said. “Chipped a bit of a nail on the boat.”
He hoped she could to.
Sonny had the shit kicked out of him by that little orange pill. It took about fifteen minutes like a strong cup of coffee to hit him, but when it did, praise God, he had a lot of stamina. He had trouble walking. He felt jittery. Nervous and anxious but full of shit. He had ten thoughts a second. Down among the munitions and found himself leaning on some heavy ordinance for stabilization.
“Load this fucker up too Collins.”
“Yes, Sir, Chief!”
He walked over to Collins and Emerick who were inspecting a cart of GBU-38, MK 82s warheads fitted with JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition). They were thin and black with a cerulean stripe around the nose but you wouldn’t want to drop one on your toe. They weighed 510 lbs.
“Everything cool here?” said Sonny.
“Rockin’” said Collins.
“Good.” Collins had a good body on her. He didn’t know why he just thought that but he did. He gave her a George Clooney smile. He didn’t like to think of his people as sex objects.
“You okay, sir?” said Collins. Emerick just made notes on a clipboard.
Airman 1st Class, Shawna Collins was a 5’3, 118 pound, twenty-four year old brunette with brown eyes. She had an Irish name but looked like she was Cuban, thanks to her mother. Her grand parents had left Cuba when Castro took over. Her mother tried not to speak Spanish at home, she was too proud to be an American, and ashamed of her Cuban past. Shawna that was a shame. She grew up in Jacksonville, Florida in a poor part of town. She lived there till she joined the Air Force. She had never been any further west than Las Vegas (for a friends wedding), and no further north than Washington, D.C. (on a school trip in Grade 10, no less). She was good in school, but didn’t know what she wanted to do. She liked sports and was always one of the boys. She wanted to be a cheerleader. Instead she hung out with the football team. Just platonic although she had a crush on all the guys. That’s why she liked the Air Force. It felt very similar.
“Did I tell you last night was my 40th?”
“No? You didn’t.”
“It was.” Sonny felt all suave.
He noticed Shawna was rubbing her fingers along the tip of the warhead in a circular motion. He suddenly felt uncomfortable.
“You look good for forty,” she said.
“Ye-eah you think so?” Sonny’s voice cracked. He thought he sounded like Thompson.
Emerick looked up for a second as he heard that. He made eye contact with Holman who wasn’t too far away and a decidedly safer distance from the conversation he was hearing. He walked away.
Sonny was watching her fingers along the warhead.
“Can I go back to work?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, work. Right. Okay. Resume, Airman.”
“Yes, sir,” she said.
He cleared his throat and walked away. He heard Shawna snort a little.
Then the air-raid siren began to sound. Everyone stopped and looked around at each other.
“What the fuck? Is that incoming?” Shawna said.
The lights flickered twice and Sonny stopped and looked up and then everything began to shake and a horrible wailing piercing rumble ripped through his ears and then all the lights cut out and he was in the dark with eight of his men and a young woman he had a hard on for and thanking God every second for forgetting to go through with his resolution to quit smoking on his fortieth birthday like he had said after hacking his lungs out first thing every fucking morning and praying to God that a butane lighter and the presence of thousands of weapons of mass destruction wouldn’t send his body and soul any closer to Him.
“Hello, uh, I have some people here that need some medical attention.”
“How many people? Cause we got a whole city that needs help.” A plump nurse of forty-two said at the admittance station of the Fisherman’s Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg.
Bono looked down the hallway.
It looked bad.
People had been brought in from far away Halifax. Mother’s and father’s with children. Radiation sickness. Terrible. His plane crash didn’t look so pressing. He had to help these people though. He had brought them here. He was tired. Hungry. Just like them. Scared. Just like them. Holding a brave face isn’t so easy to do. He felt disarmed without his tinted sunglasses. Some how he felt he wasn’t Bono anymore even though he was, and always would be. He just wanted to be home.
“Twenty-eight,” he barely let out a sound.
“Well have them wait.” The nurse had a tag that said ‘Gloria’.
“Well, Gloria, is there anyway you can speed it up. Our plane crashed.”
“Well a nuclear bomb went off. Please have them wait. We have no power so were kinda winging it here.”
“Gloria, I have a young woman here, Kat, and she needs a doctor as soon as possible. We also have to do something about our co-pilot, Antoine. Head injury.” Gloria called a nurse over promptly and he and Colin helped get the man on to a gurney.
“I’m going to stay with him.” Colin said as a matter of fact.
“Go with the nurse,” said Gloria.
Bono saw Colin was welling up.
“He’s going to be fine.”
Colin nodded. “Thanks, Bono. I appreciate it.”
“You should go with him.”
Colin nodded again, and then quickly left and caught up with the nurse taking Antoine down the hall.
“Kat. Come here,” said Bono.
Katherine was sixteen. She was a sk8ter girl. A punk princess. She didn’t like to be compared to Avril Lagvine but she stole her style. Her hair wasn’t straight until she straightened it. She wore plenty of black eyeliner and mascara and just a touch of pink lip gloss. She was glad she wore jeans even if they were a bit tight and a bit low. It was cold out. It showed her belly button ring with a red imitation ruby bauble. She wore a white rocker belt, the sort with metal squares all over it. She had a sweat band on her wrist. Red, white and blue even though she was born and raised Canadian, a red, white and red country.
She was making a statement.
She like living in Canada but she thought it was lame. There were no good Canadian TV shows other than the CBC news. She’d never seen a single Canadian film she ever liked.
It was true.
She hated Crash, the Canadian film, not the one done by the Canadian in Hollywood that won an Oscar™. She thought the other was pretty good.
Bono had removed her pink argyle tie she wore with her white tank top shirt and wrapped it gently her arm. It was fractured in several places. She was not feeling good, although she liked looking bitchy. She liked it when Bono called her Kat. He was so cool.
Bono had laid his hands on her arm around the tie. Her pain had lessened. She felt better when he smiled at her. Her arm fucking hurt, and was all numb and tingling, she even thought it felt better since he touched her. It was stupid, Bono said it was fractured. She knew what fracture meant, the bone split, cracked. Shattered. It was just the cold and the shock getting to her. She hadn’t eaten much on the trip. She hated airline food and forgot to by something better. An apple would have cost her something like two dollars fifty cents Canadian in Heathrow. The stewardess said it was lasagna, but it was just beef ravioli with cheese and a little bun, some mixed vegetables and chickpeas for Godsake, she flew from London, like, England, and that’s all she got, just some crummy ravioli with meat and cheese and chickpeas and a bun, and she never even finished it cause it wasn’t very good, and on the TV they played some movie with Kirsten Dunst who she really really liked, cause she was cute and hot, she even had a little crush on her and she wished she could be her, with shorter hair though cause she thought her hair was too long in that movie, whatever it was, she forgot already, and surprisingly she thought that just about everything Kirsten Dunst was ever in was really actually quite surprisingly good, even Spider-Man and The Virgin Suicides, which she watched more than one, both Spider-Man and The Virgin Suicides, and come to think of it, wasn’t her first onscreen kiss with Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire? Too bad the story was stupid, of what ever it was she was in on the plane, her crappy little head phones never worked right so she never really knew what was going on, and that might be why the movie was bad, cause, come to think about it, Kirsten Dunst movies are always good but her ear phones to her iPod Shuffle wouldn’t play the movie in stereo when she put it in the port in the arm rest, which was just dumb, cause every stereo she ever had, had always had a little stereo port that she just put one prong thing into and not two, like only on fucking airplanes where they have to give you these really cheap disposable shitty head phones that fit behind the ear, with two special prong things that fit into the special ports in the armrest, so she just pulled them out and watched the movie silently.
Kirsten Dunst is cute and hot even without sound.
Even when her hair is too long.
It’s the smile thing she does with the half closed eyes, and the hand thing, fingers in her mouth, kinda chewing on them, but really sexy like she wasn’t even thinking about it.
She tried to learn how to do that in the mirror.
The guy next to her who she figured was dead now cause she hadn’t seen him again, ordered the chicken. He said it was cold.
Cold chicken is gross.
“It’s all right Kat, come here,” Bono said.
He was so cool for an old guy.
She walked over to Gloria. She chewed Extra bubble gum. Winterfresh.
“Hey. Uh, my arm hurts, like seriously a lot.” Said Kat.
“All right. Sit down miss.”
She did. Bono stood by. He held her hand. Fucking Bono was holding her hand.
“What’s your name?”
Kat sat down.
“Katherine Julia O’Reilly.
“Do you have your health card with you?” said Gloria.
“Yeah,” she said taking out her wallet which was attached to a silver chain. She handed it over.
“Is that really necessary, I mean, like, if this is a war, you know...,” said Kat.
“Of course. Until we know more, I’m afraid we have to oblige by Canadian laws. Where were you born?”
“And you’re in school?”
“Well, yeah, like, I was until World War Three, like started.”
“Winnipeg is gone now because of NORAD isn’t it? Isn’t it.”
Gloria looked up at Bono, she didn’t know what to tell the young girl.
“I don’t know, sweetie. If it was part of NORAD, maybe,” Bono said solemnly.
“It was. There was a big station there.”
“It’s okay. I didn’t like it there anyway.”
“Just the same. Neil Young was born there.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she didn’t like Neil Young. He was old.
She thought Bono looked so good, for a guy over forty. Bono thought this girl was looking at him a bit funny.
“I think you have to look at it this way. Why would anyone attack Canada?” said Bono.
Kat thought long and hard. “We have a really poor environmental record,” she said.
“That’s true. It’s deplorable. But, I don’t that alone is reason enough to wipe Canada off the face of the map.”
“I dunno,” she mumbled.
Bono didn’t know either.
“I’m gonna go Kat, I’ll be here waiting for you, okay?”
“Okay,” she said. Her voice cracked. Bono was going to wait for her.
Like oh, my God!
He was so cool. He didn’t look that old.
Bono smiled and walk away. Jesus, he thought. Young girls with their crushes.
“How are you doing Fumiko?”
Fumiko blushed and looked away.
“Okay, Mr. Bono. Okay now.”
“Good. Good. How about you Sook Yin?”
Sook Yin smiled and nodded.
“And you Jin?
“I am pleasant now. Thank you for saving me.”
“I didn’t save you Jin, you did.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
Bono didn’t want to talk to Brenda so he walked back to the admittance desk to see you Kat was doing.
“Everything okay here, Gloria?”
An Asian doctor came out.
“Okay, Kat. Go with this doctor. You’ll patch her up as good as new Doc?
The doctor looked at Bono. He couldn’t believe it. U2. What next?
“Yes, Sir!” wow, the doctor thought. Bono.
Kat went with the doctor. She waved to Bono.
Bono waved back.
She thought he was soooo cool.
“Yes, I am.”
“I didn’t even recognize you.”
“Without the glasses? It’s my alter ego. I’m Clark Kent now.”
“Can I have your autograph?
She took out a piece of paper and handed him a pen.
Bono signed it and gave it back.
“Who’s Paul Hewson?” she said.
“Superman,” said Bono. “Superman.”
Superman waited for Susan and Thomas and Doreen and Abraham and Jay and Ryan and David and Fakir and Gregory and Ahmad and Hayden and Shoshana and Larissa and Kat and Sook-yin and Trevor and Jan and Barbara and Lisa and Shauna and Michael and Teresa and Brenda and Jin and Fumiko and Eiji and Shane and Kathy.
A doctor was fiddling with a radio running through the channels back and forth and back and forth.
“Any Rock and Roll?
“Any Jazz?” said Bono half amused.
“No Jazz,” said the doctor.
“Uh, uh. No Pavarotti.”
“How about country. Some Johnny Cash?”
“No Johnny Cash,” the doctor looked back at Bono.
“No U2 either.”
“Well I can always fill in.”
“That’d be nice.”
“Yeah. At the big party.”
“What big party?”
“Well with all the fireworks, someone must be throwing a party.”
“Oh, that big party.”
Just static and more static.
“Yeah, she’s a real sad tomato,” said Bono.
“That’s for sure.”
And then he caught the message. It was full of static and the doctor nuanced the dial. He was surgeon after all, and he knew something about nuance.
“This is an Emergency Action Notification requested by the White House. All broadcast stations will follow activation procedures in the EAS Operating Handbook for a national level emergency. The President of the United States or his representative will shortly deliver a message over the Emergency Alert System. This is an Emergency Action Notification requested by the White House. All broadcast stations will follow activation procedures in the EAS Operating Handbook for a national levelemergency. The President of the United States or his representative will shortly deliver a message over the Emergency Alert System.”
It repeated over and over.
“It’s not a good tune”, said Bono. “Elvis wouldn’t even sing it.” Bono wouldn’t either. Patients, doctors, nurses, orderlies, anyone within earshot moved closer to the voice.
“We interrupt our programming; this is a national emergency. Important instructions will follow. This is an Emergency Action Notification. This station has interrupted its regular programming at the request of the White House to participate in the Emergency Alert System. During this emergency, most stations will remain on the air providing news and information to the public in assigned areas.
This is W-H-Y-N FIVE SIXTY AM, Springfield Massachusetts. We will be discontinuing programming. You should now tune to stations providing news and information for your Local Area. This station will be discontinuing programming. Do not use your telephone. The telephone lines should be kept open for emergency use. The Emergency Alert System has been activated to keep you informed.”
“Okay, so this thing is set up now?,” said the New President.
“Yes, sir, just speak clearly in the microphone.”
“Okay, and I’ll be on the idiot box, too?
“Yes sir, radio and television all at once.” The man setting up the microphones thought to himself that at least the old president knew how to be on TV.
The cameraman stared blankly at the President. Doesn’t this guy know what he’s doing? How’s he supposed to save America.
“And you are on, Mr. President. In five, four, three-,” the man made the gesture two and then one with his hands.
The New President cleared his throat.
“Good evening, my fellow Americans. This is the President of the United States talking to you. As you may well be aware, the United States and most of the known world came into a state of nuclear war last night at approximately seven o’clock eastern standard time. If you are listening to this right now, then you’ve survived, and that’s the main thing. Survival.
“Nuclear war is a terrible thing, and something that we’ve never wanted to do before, but, I’m afraid the actions have taken place and, well you’ve probably seen the consequences. Scientists have told me that the most important thing to do is to remain calm; to find clean sources of water; to find adequate shelter and medical attention and to help as many people as possible. Nuclear fallout as you may, or may not be aware, is not a good thing. Continuous exposure has long term side effects depending on the radiation levels. You must stay calm. We will rebuild America with your help. With your resolve.
“The Chinese have taken up themselves to declare war on the rest of the world. It is our duty, and your duty, as an American to fight the free-market socialist commie bastards. You must not let them on our soil. We will prevail. We are Americans. If you are able bodied, you must help those around you, and you must report with the United States Army and fight for your country. For America. For your freedom. For our way of life.
“Keep tuned to you televisions and hi-fi systems for further instructions from your local governments. This is the President of The United States of America. Good night, and God Bless.”
Every one clapped, except Eve.
“Hey, not to shabby for my first address. What do you think Miss Kendal?”
“You forgot to mention your name,” she said dryly.
“I’m the President.”
“You’re not the elected President.”
“Yeah, I know. But I’m the President. The President of the United States. They swore me in.”
“Don’t you think people will just be a tad bit confused about the new President they just saw on TV or heard on the radio.”
“They’ll figure it out. I was the fucking Vice President for seven years! Send out a press release! You can handle it. I trust you.”
“Okay. Sure. No problem, sir.”
Eve watched the President walk away slapping people on the shoulders and saying how much he liked being the President. She wondered how she would do a press release. Were there any press left?
Would she be allowed to deliver it outside of this hole?
If she could, she could escape.
She didn’t like it down here. It was cold.
She was surrounded by rock and concrete and testosterone.
She heard the president say to his aides, “Hey, somebody get me the fucking Chinese President on the phone!”
“Mr. President, I’m afraid we can’t contact the Chinese Government. Congress was doing a study on whether we should have a direct hot line to China’s military.”
“And, China never got back to us.”
“Well what the fuck is that red phone in my bedroom for?”
“Goddamn it. Fuck. I want a yellow phone installed in my room.”
She had to get away. Her skin felt greasy from the re-circulated air. She headed to the women’s restroom to check her make-up and dab the oil off her t-zone.
She looked into the mirror. Ug. Her eyes were a bit puffy and she felt like she was breaking out on her chin. What she needed was a shower.
A nice hot shower. A nice hot shower and a Starbucks coffee.
And a masseuse. They must have a masseuse down here.
She blotted the oil off her face.
Jesus. She was twenty-eight. Was she going to die down here?
She needed to dye her hair soon. She could see the roots.
“Excuse me honey,” said a black woman of fifty. with a slight southern accent.
Eve had seen her before many times. She was with the National Security Council.
“Sorry, my roots are showing. It’s a bad day.”
“Oh, God honey. Just you wait.”
“I know. That’s what I’m afraid of. I had this nice platinum dye job a week ago and now I’m stuck a mile underground. I think I’m gonna cry.”
Tears started ruining her mascara.
“Now just look!” cried Eve.
“Listen, we just all have to buckle up. There has been a lot of tragedy in the last thirty six hours. A lot of good people made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. And the country needs us. America needs us and the President needs you,” she handed Eve some Kleenex.
“Thanks.” She wiped her eyes.
“You’re right. I’m sorry for acting silly. You’re right. The President needs me. America needs me. Um -- you wouldn’t by chance know if there’s a steam room and a masseuse around.”
“On the fourth floor, by the gymnasium and swimming pool.”
“Yup, hard to miss. Just follow the smell of chlorine,”
The woman just nodded as she left.
The President needs me.
She exhaled loudly.
She was right.
And she knew what she had to do.
First she needed to go pee.
“What’s your name?” said Jayson. He steered the kayak and paddled hard as Kylie sat in front.
“Kylie. I told you this.”
“I know your name is Kylie. What’s your full name?”
“Oh. Kylie. Mari-Lynn. Novak.”
“Like Kim Novak?” said Jayson.
“Who’s Kim Novak?”
“She’s an actress.”
“What’s she been in?”
“Ok. Anything I’ve seen?”
“Have you seen Kiss Me Stupid?”
“It wasn’t very good. Dean Martin was in it. He wasn’t very good either.”
“Have you seen Vertigo?”
“No. She was in that?”
“Yeah. Twice. With Jimmy Stewart. Have you seen The Birds?”
“A little bit on TV. Was she in that one?”
“No. That was Tippi Hedren. Have you seen Marnie?”
“No. She was in that one as well?”
“No. Also Tippi Hedren. She just looked like Kim Novak in that one.”
“You’ve seen a lot of movies.”
“Uh, Jayson shrugged. “What else are you gonna do?“
“When I find a pen I gotta write some of these down,” she said. She watched her paddle split the water and create a line that soon disappeared. The water was growing darker beneath her. It was less pretty blue.
“You should,” said Jayson. “Did you see ‘Hell in the Pacific’?”
“No.” Kylie hadn’t seen any of these movies. Really, she didn’t care.
“It’s a John Boorman film and Conrad Hall shot it.”
“Uh, huh.” God, Boorman is right.
“Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune, from the Seven Samurai.”
“Jayson, I really don’t watch many movies.”
“Sorry, anyway, in Hell in the Pacific, Mifune, who’s Japanese, and Lee Marvin, he’s an American, well, they get trapped on this island in the pacific during World War Two.
“Yeah?” Read my mind: shut up already Jayson. She was exhausted from paddling and let Jayson do all the work for her. She didn’t even think they were any more than a kilometer or two from the shore. And maybe not even. She had trouble telling distances over water. She wondered how long this was going to take.
“Yeah. And Mifune, he’s a Japanese solider and Marvin is a American pilot, and anyway, they’re on this island, the only two people, anyway boom, like three minutes in they see each other and try to kill one another, right? Cause they’re enemies. They’re at war. American against Japanese. And well they fight and capture each other?”
“How do they capture each other?”
“They just do, listen.”
“Okay, whatever.” God.
“Yeah, so anyway, they bond over survival. They both know they have to get off the island or they’ll die. There is little food and no fresh water other than rain water they slurp up from plants. But there is bamboo, and bamboo floats, so they tie it up and make a raft and they had to go over the reef.”
“Like in Cast Away’.” She saw Cast Away.
“Yeah, exactly. But they stole that from ‘Hell in the Pacific’. Cast Away was pretty stupid. Just a huge Fed Ex ad.”
“Oh, I totally agree with you,” totally agreed Kylie. It was a big Fed Ex ad.
“Anyway, we have to cross a reef like that.”
Kylie looked ahead of her and she could see the waves breaking. Even though she thought Cast Away was a big Fed Ex ad, she thought the part where Tom Hanks had to go over the reef was pretty scary.
And that was on DVD.
The doctor looked at Kat’s arm. It didn’t look good, but it didn’t look bad either. That’s what bothered him. He knew from what the girl told him that her arm had been like this for less than twenty-four hours. Sure it hurt when he touched her forearm. And it should, it had been shattered in multiple places. At least most of it was when he checked it an hour before. The emergency generators had just come online and she needed X-Rays. He had to see what was going on. He could see it with his own eyes, the angulation. He knew it was a comminuted compound fracture. He felt it softy, not enough to move the nerves though. A fractured radius. The skin had swelled.
He needed X-Rays.
He had left her for a while a nurse gave her pain killers and he did rounds.
It had only been maybe and hour or two since Bono brought her to him. Maybe just over an hour. He wished he checked the time.
Kat was lying on the gurney, barely awake as the doctor spoke to her.
“It’s Doctor Lee. Do you know how long it was since I left you?”
“No, I don’t wear a watch. Maybe an hour. I think.”
“Hmm. That’s what I thought.”
“Is something, like wrong?”
“No. Nothing’s wrong. Don’t worry. How does your arm feel?
“I dunno, its just doesn’t hurt as much.”
“But it still does?”
“A little, yeah.”
That wasn’t surprising since her damn arm was nearly all healed. He was sure the bone was set as well. The angulation was gone. The bone was protruding before. He was sure it was under the skin now, which was quite pink and blue still, but not an open wound like before with the bone all popping out. He could still feel it was broken under the skin, but not like it was just an hour ago. It had healed, here in the hospital without any help. He needed to find a digital camera and get an X-Ray. He needed a glass of vodka and lime. Stat.
Eve tried to relax in a steam room deep beneath the earth but after a whole fifteen minutes of sweating it out, she was bored and tense. So she took a swim (in an Olympic-sized swimming pool), and felt refreshed and invigorated but was still bothered by her current posting. After about half an hour of swimming back and forth doing the frog stroke and the back stroke, and even a couple butterfly strokes, she got out, dried herself and hit the weight room.
Sometime when she was on the leg curl machine doing her hamstrings she decided she would try to make the best of it. She would make it a daily routine. Work on her body, make herself hard and lean. Sweat out all the shit she put in her body. This was her chance to really go clean. Stop drinking coffee. Stop drinking alcohol. Stick to a low carb diet high in protein and full of leafy vegetables. On her third set of fifteen repetitions, she got off and started doing her calves, stretching them first and then going to muscle failure after twenty-five reps. She increased the weight and did another set, her calves burning from exertion. She started wondering about how long she could live down her. How much food is down here? Could she really live for a year down here. What if she had to live the rest of her life in this matchbox.
She didn’t see anywhere they could grow anything although she didn’t put it past them to have a small farm on one of the levels of the complex. She figured most of the food was actually frozen, possibly stored for years. She thought about a book she read on the Franklin expedition across the Arctic for the Northwest Passage.
The Tale of The Franklin Expedition
One hundred and twenty-nine men set out for a three year expedition with Sir John Franklin aboard the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus in May 1845. After eighteen months they disappeared. They sent out search crews year after year but found nothing. Years later they found some graves and artifacts. Canned goods. The men had enough food for their journey for five years. 61,987 Kg of flour, 16,749 L of liquor, 4,287 Kg of chocolate, 1,069 Kg of tea, 8,000 tins of soup, meat, and vegetables, 3,215 Kg oftobacco, 1,673 Kg of soap, 1,225 Kg of candles, 4,200 Kg of lemon juice for scurvy. Wolf skin blankets to keep them warm. The men didn’t starve though, well not initially. It was the canned goods, so they say, tin made of extremely high amounts of lead with lead soldering and poor preparation that did them in. Can goods had to be boiled for ten hours at two hundred degrees Fahrenheit.
Stephen Goldner, the man who prepared the cans, boiled them for a half hour at two hundred-twelve degrees to save time. The men would have been sick first, miss diagnosed as scurvy, fed more and more soup and canned vegetables, spoiled with bacteria and botulism, poisoned with lead. The men had a hundred times the acceptable limit for lead in their systems. They went delusional, made bad decisions. Eventually they probably mutinied and left the boat. They would die of exposure and starvation.
Inuit in 1850 said forty men starved to death on a island, their boats crushed by ice, they found them dead in groups, some in tents and under smaller boats overturned for shelter, a heap of canned meat in a pile. One of the Inuit wore a hat with the band from a naval cap.
In 1858 searchers found on King William Island a small group of the missing men. There were bodies lying face down in the snow, signs of cannibalism, abandoned heaps of clothing, decapitated skeletons insides a whale boat lashed to a sledge of oak planks and full of useless artifacts the men must of felt they needed, for God only knows what. Silver teaspoons, carpet slippers, the “Student’s Manual”, some prayer books, the New Testament, in French, a book of Christian Melodies, and a copy of The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith published in 1766, about a clergyman’s strength of character in times of despair.
They left a brief scrawled cryptic message:
25th April 1848. H M Ships Terrorand Erebus were deserted on the 22nd April 5 leagues N NW of this, having been beset since 12th Sept. 1846. The officers and crews consisting of 105 souls under the command ofCaptain F.R.M. Crozier landed here in Lat. 69o37’ 42” Long. 98o 41’ ---- Sir John Franklindied on the 11th June 1847 and the total loss bydeaths in the Expedition had been to this date 9officers & 15 men. [signed] James Fitzjames, Captain H M S Erebus, F.R.M. Crozier Captain& Senior Officer, and start on tomorrow 26th for Back’s Fish River.
It’s easy to picture them lugging the whale boat, the Vicar of Wakefield in hand, heading for Back’s Fish River. The mouth of the river was twelve hundred miles from the nearest Hudson’s Bay Company outpost, and they would have had a hard time even in the best of weather. They lugged the whale boat to their death, apparently decapitating and eating each other singing Christian melodies along the way.
No one has ever found the wrecks.
Eve knew that that would be her fate of a sort. Stuck deep beneath the earth, forgotten about with a bunch of testosterone cases. Eventually they would run out of food, go mad and begin killing and eating each other. She figured these chumps would be singing Christian melodies along the way as well. They were that sort of bunch, all neoconservatives.
The thought sickened her as she lay on a mat, her thighs slung up on a workout bench. She grinded out another fifty crunches, alternating from side to side to work her obliques equally. She liked her stomach. It felt really hard and looked pretty sexy, even if she herself didn’t feel that way. Tomorrow she’d do her back and biceps.
She was determined to kick some ass. Kicking ass relaxed her. Of course so would masturbating. She found a shower with a pulsating head.
She resented them trapping her in here. She had to get out. She got off on the idea of doing some serious damage to these people. She could picture herself running down the hallways with a machine gun shooting at will. She could picture herself killing the president with her bare hands when he tried to fuck her. He would try to play all coy, and she’d get on top of him and begin squeezing the life out of him. For some reason all she could think about was Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye, writhing her thighs against James Bond, crushing him to death. She fantasized about being her. She was going to climax. She gritted her teeth. She wasn’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of hearing her. She could feel the stress leave her body, her shoulders loosen, her neck untie.
She would kick some ass like Xenia Onatopp.
God, that made her hot.
The swells grew larger and larger as they reached the outskirts of the reef, breaking as they reached a depth of less than half its wave length. They were ideal for surfing thought Jayson. From above the atoll would be a beautiful sight, deep blue water surrounded by a white outline, the crests of waves breaking forming a barrier around the atoll, following the contour of the reef below. The beach a sandy white and with the lush deep emerald forests. He’d seen it on the flight in.
“Jayson!” Kylie screamed.
The noise of the waves crashing was drowning her out. She was terrified.
He looked back at her, she was clutching the paddles.
“Kylie, just don’t worry, I’ve done this before.” He had, but not in a kayak this size and not with a girl who was mortified, in a kayak with him.
“Just don’t panic!” Fuck, he could just see the kayak flipping and getting dragged down on the coral waves pummeling them under.
“No you’re not!”
He could just see how it would all end up. He’d make it, he was sure, but be scarred for life by the coral. Kylie of course would get all mixed up under water, hit her head or swim the wrong way. She’d probably get knocked unconscious and get thrashed along the reef. He could picture it clearly. Her body, as tight and tanned as it was, with her supple breasts and nice ass and her cute Aussie glow, floating in the water above him. He was beginning to see the likely hood of getting stuck in the reef himself, all cut and bloodied, probably, just close to the surface, inches away, but his foot would be caught on something (like her knapsack) and the waves would keep pushing him under while Kylie’s corpse floated in the lagoon just far enough away for him to grab on too. He’d probably be able to see her, but his nose and mouth would be under water. He would be forced to suck in water and die all because of this girl. Just because he liked getting laid.
“Paddle for Christsakes, or we’ll capsize and die! He was scared now.
“I’m trying,” she said, crying.
“Fuck! Try harder! Paddle! Paddle! Paddle the boat!”
Kylie was completely exhausted. This was too much. She hadn’t eaten right. She was tired. She was sure she was getting her period. She felt a bit bloated. Jayson was being an asshole. Maybe he should just get shot by the Chinese. But where would that leave her?
The waves poured over the tiny kayak as Jayson and Kylie mustered all the strength in their bodies to push through the line of crashing surf. It was cool today, about 84 degrees. A south-east breeze. Rain clouds were forming.
Jayson could see this because he was alive. They past the reef and now were in open ocean. Kylie was noticeably quiet. He turned back. She paddled from side to side, her expression distant.
Jayson smiled at her. She was soaked through and sad looking.
“We’re, okay now. Not too far now. Pretty soon you’ll see the next atoll.”
She said nothing.
“No”, she said. “I don’t want to die Jayson.”
“Neither do I.” He didn’t. “Oh, fuck!”
“What?” She didn’t know what the hell his problem was.
“My backpack!? My laptop was in it. It’s not here.”
“We can go back,” she said softly, so maybe he wouldn’t hear her. She didn’t want to go back.
“Wouldn’t matter. Salt water. Even if I could find it, It’s fucked.” It was just his PowerBook but he felt like his best friend just died.
From here on they paddled in silence.
Sir James Paul McCartney (former Thrillington, former Quarryman, former Beatle, former Wings member), MBE recipient (Member of The British Empire), Grammy™ Award Winner, the most successful popular music songwriter of all time by The Guinness Book Of World Records, BPI Award winner (Best Male Artist), Freedom of The City Of Liverpool holder, American Music Awards’ Award Of Merit recipient, inductee into The Guinness Hall of Fame, BPI Best Video Award winner (Pipes Of Peace, 1983), winner of Best Selling UK video of 1985 (for Rupert And The Frog Song), honorary doctorate of Sussex University holder, Music Therapy’s Silver Clef award recipient, the World Record Holder for the Largest Stadium Concert Attendance ever (184,000 Brazilians), winner of the Nobel-prize for music (the world’s first recipient of the Swedish Polar Music Award), BAFTA prize recipient for the Best Short Animated Film (Daumier’s Law, co-producer, composer), Fellow Of The Royal College Of Music (Britain’s highest music honour), Knighted by Her Majesty The Queen of England herself for his services to music, three time Grammy Award Winner (The Beatles, for Free As A Bird, and The Beatles Anthology), Guinness World Record Holder for most amount of questions asked during a live broadcast (3,000,000 questions, he answered 200), Grammy™ Award Nominee for Album Of The Year (Flaming Pie), inductee of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, “The Composer of the Millennium” in a poll conducted by the BBC, the NME readers’ award winner as a Beatle for being “The Best Band - Ever”, the 2001 Arts Award winner at the Men Against Violence world awards, recognized for his lifetime support for the freedom-fighting organization by Amnesty International, a Golden Globe Nominee™ and Academy Award Nominee™, was sitting in the dark of his 160 acre farm mansion at Peasemarsh near East Sussex, staring out the window.
A fire he had made earlier to cook scrambled eggs and veggie bacon on, brew a cup of hot cocoa and keep warm, had just died down. He had a good supply of fuel (a few weeks) left in the generator, but waste not, want not. He figured he should get some candles for some light. He put a flash light somewhere but he couldn’t remember where. Outside he could just barely make out the shape of his sheep grazing in the distance.
He had been a nervous wreck since The Divorce. Heather was off teaching Bea to ski in Slovenia, or somewhere equally drab this week. The past two days had been long and possibly the scariest he had ever experienced (with playing in the Philippines
as a Beatle being a close second, and that whole time he spent in a Tokyo jail for pot being third).
Still though, these were grim days. He hadn’t heard much of anything from his children: Stella, James, Mary and Heather (adopted but loved equally). Stella had been staying with him until just the other day. He figured they were fine until he heard else wise. No need for negative thoughts. All lines were down. Not like there was a postman working to deliver a letter.
He had a radio with a battery broadcasting somber news from a makeshift BBC. It reminded him of stories of the War. Fires still raged across England from the multiple air bursts designed to wipe out military installations (Heathrow Airport was gone he had heard). He wasn’t sure about the radiation, but the emergency system was broadcasting, and the good old BBC were doing their best.
Damn the English were a resilient lot.
Reports were the PM and the Queen were in hiding.
Vapourized more likely thought Paul.
It was reported a bunch of Scottish Yobs burnt down Buckingham Palace.
He decided to wait a bit before running out like a mad man, like everyone else trying to get fuel and food. He had a healthy supply right here, although he wondered about the milk his cows would give. Best to stay away for a while, he supposed. All in all, for the end of the world, it wasn’t too bad. Mind you, he was waiting to hear from Neil Aspinall from Apple. He was wondering how safe his master recordings were at Abbey Road. Everybody knew everything The Beatles ever recorded was kept at Abbey Road. Neil knew everything. The poor bloke was probably headed to see him on a bicycle at this very moment. It was only 120 km from London.
Yes, when Neil arrives, he would sort this all out.
Macca, as he was called since he was a Quarryman (John was Lennie, George was Hazza and Ringo was Ringo cause his name was Richard and he wasn’t a Quarryman, just a Beatle), found some good ganja he had stored away, rolled it tight and began to smoke. Heatherdidn’t like him to smoke cannabis anymore and he quit for her, but this was the end of the world and he was divorced now, so he felt he was justified in having a puff or two.
He had spent most of the day doing chores on the farm; milking the goats, milking the cows, collecting fresh eggs from his chickens, shearing wool from the sheep. This kept him busy and was menial enough for him to come up with a whole slew of great new songs, which he whistled and sang while he worked. Now the sun had set and he was without gas for cooking, just a generator he had going with the minimum of lights to conserve fuel. He began to think dreadful thoughts, like what if he never was able to record an album again, because the world did end. But that was silly. He was alive and power would eventually be restored and there would be the inevitable tribute concerts across the globe to raise money for the survivors and memorial concerts for the dead. Actually he thought this would be interesting because how many good bands were still around? Would the survivors of say R.E.M. and The Who get together? Why not? He could reform Wings with all star members and he could have an all star band to upstage Ringo. No that wasn’t a pleasant thought. He’d maybe ask Ringo to join his All Paul Star band. Maybe there weren’t any surviving members of R.E.M. He wondered if the members of Oasis were finally dead, not to say he didn’t like them, just he could do a better Paul McCartney song than they could. After all he was Paul McCartney.
The rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated.
He inhaled deep. He was getting pretty high already.
That’s something he thought about. It always bugged him to think a large core audience of The Beatles, thought he died in a car wreck and was replaced by some wanker named William Campbell on some Wednesday (they never have an exact date) although he did hear is was November 2nd, 1966 at five o’clock in the morning. That was pretty exact actually. He had written She’s Leaving Home with lyrics saying the time. Five o’clock in the morning. Like he was supposed to be riding around on his motor in 66 staring at some pretty meter maid, Lovely Rita, and wallop, he got all smashed up, apparently the car (or was it a motorbike) caught on fire and he lost his teeth (horrible, horrible) and hair (horrible, horrible), and died of head trauma (horrible). He also heard he was decapitated (horrible! horrible! horrible!). So, some chap who won a Beatles look alike contest named William Campbell took over. They said he was from Ontario, Canada a member of the OPP. Ontario Provincial Police. On the inside of Sgt. Peppers, Paul could be seen more clearly. He was wearing a patch on his uniform which had the letters OPP. Others said it read OPD, Officially Pronounced Dead. He didn’t like that. The doppelganger Campbell was supposed to explain Sgt. Peppers (a bloody great album, if not one of the all time greatest albums ever made, and he came up with the concept!) and everything after, which was all pretty bloody great, even Wings. Then John said, just out of nowhere, “I buried Paul” on Strawberry Fields Forever, but what he really said was “cranberry sauce”. Even John said so himself. On Anthology he made sure a cut was there with John saying clearly and unmistakably, “cranberry sauce.” But there were other rumours, some very convincing even to Paul.
All this thinking about it annoyed him even further. He scrounged around and took out all the late Beatles LP’s and laid them out on the floor. Peppers, Revolver, White, Let it Be Naked (the deSpecterorized version), (Magical Mystery Tour was a UK EP [ a double EP, the worlds first] and an American Capitol LP release that was only a UK import and didn’t come out till 1976, so not a real Beatle LP, just an EP). He took out the poster from the white album. On the bottom left was a picture of William Campbell they said. It was bloody him with glasses. It was so stupid. I did kinda look like someone else though, like it could be William Campbell. Maybe it was. Bill had a small scar on his lip, just like Paul.
He put on the White Album on the player and played Revolution 9 backwards. On it was supposed to be a clue about his death.
“Tuuuurn meee oooon deeead maan”
Eerie. He played it slower. It was John’s voice from the beyond.
“Tuuuuuuurnnnn meeee oooooooon deeeeeeead maaaaaaan.”
“Tuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurnnnnnnnnnnnnnnmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ooooooooooooooooooooonnnnnndeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan.”
“Turnmeondeadman,” John Lennon’s backwards voice said, over and over again.
“Tuuuurn meee oooon deeead maan”
Paul turned it off. Go to bed, conserve fuel. Think old man.
He took a look at Pepper’s album art, a landmark in album cover design. The whole cover was a funeral for The Beatles laid in flowers. Paul could see when he stared at the flower bass guitar it actually said PAUL? On the inside cover, yep, sure enough. On his arm OPP, OPD. Whatever it was. It looked like OPD.
Officially Pronounced Dead.
He couldn’t remember, it was incidental at the time. Just a part of the costume.
On the back cover George is pointing to the lyric: Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins.
That’s when he was supposed to have died.
Did George know? How could he?
He reread the lyrics to the whole album. He found references all over the place:
by a parking meter when I caught a glimpse of Rita
people running around it’s 5 o’clock.
Watching the skirt you start to flirt, now you’re in gear.
Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins.
He blew his mind out in a car, he didn’t notice that the lights had changed.
A crowd of people stood and stared they’d seen his face before.
They’d seen his face before. They’d seen his face before. Cranberry sauce.
I buried Paul. Officially pronounced dead. Wednesday morning; five o’clock. He blew his mind out in a car. Parking meter. Rita. Skirt. In gear. People running. Five o’clock. I buried Paul.
They’d seen his face before.
Sugar plum fairy. Sugar plum fairy. Isn’t that what John saidduring the count in to A Day in the life? Which take was it? George Martin would know. Sugar Plum Fairy. Sugar Plum Fairy? What did it mean?
Wednesday morning. As the day begins.
He was officially pronounced dead.
Turn me on dead man. Turn me on.
Sugar plum fairy. Sugar plum fairy.
What if he was really William Campbell? Think about it. What did he remember? Nothing that hadn’t been photographed or filmed. Nothing that wasn’t collective memory. Just because he said he James Paul McCartney, a.k.a, Macca, it didn’t mean that all his memories couldn’t have been studied and absorbed by William Campbell. It was all collective memory. Campbell wouldn’t have been on The Ed Sullivan Show, but he could picture it because it was on the tele, because it was bloody collective consciousness. He could have easily seen and listened to all the early Beatles music, heard the stories, been coached by the other three, and became Paul.
“Was it that easy?”
Of course it was.
“Well then dear boy, how do you explain what I remember about Linda?”
Easy. You knew Linda when you were William Campbell, dear boy. All your great memories of Linda would have been from this period and you would have been William Campbell. You met her as Paul.
“But I remember Jane Asher as well. It was twenty years ago today.”
Of course. It was twenty years ago today. You were William Campbell. Paul had been dating Jane, so when you became Paul, you were with Jane. You had to fill in, take his place, take his girl. Jane left you because she knew you were Billy Shears, not Paul.
“Rubbish. I wasn’t Billy Shears.”
It’s true Paul. What would you think if I sang out of tune?
“Well you might need a little help from your friends.”
Of course. I would need a little help from my friends. Didn’t you know how to be Paul? No? So you slept with another girl, and she caught you, wasn’t that right?
“The girl with kaleidoscope eyes?”
Yes. The girl with the sun in her eyes. It was Lucy. She knew you weren’t Paul.
Not The Paul, just a fake Paul, filling in on bass as every one smiled, Paul. Old George Martin probably had you dubbed and waited to take you away. Have you listened to those albums? Do you remember if what you heard at the time, turned up on the album?
“I remember. I’m sure I’ll have to give it another go.”
Of course you should. Do you remember Jane?
“What about Jane?”
She’s getting better all the time. She took her time but she found out. She found that out This was in 68 wasn’t it. Before you married Linda.
“It would have to be.”
Don’t you remember, it’s getting better all the time?
“Yes, of course, it’s getting better, it can’t get no worse.”
Of course it’s getting better all the time. And what does Jane do now? Is she fixing a hole?
“For the rain?”
Yes, for the rain.
“She makes cakes now. Handcrafted cakes for weddings and eating. She fixes a hole for the rain.”
Of course she makes cakes to fix the hole where the rain gets in. You’re hungry aren’t you?
“I am, but It’s Wednesday morning at five o’clock. Did you hear that?”
“I thought she went down stairs to the kitchen.”
Quietly turning the back door key?”
Yes, of course. We gave her everything money could buy. She’s leaving home now, Paul.
I said are you hungry?
“I’m hungry, yeah. Starving. But how could she do this to me? She’s leaving home?”
Jane? After living alone for so many years.
She met a man from the motor trade. We didn’t know it was wrong. Fun is something you can’t buy. She’s leaving.
Where should you eat?
“On a trampoline. With the Henderson’s.”
With the Henderson’s?
“Of course. With Henry the horse?”
Yes, of course, with Henry the horse.
“But the band begins at ten to eight.”
Of course it does but you should eat all you had was eggies.
“Just eggies. I know.”
You want some more eggies, don’t you?
Meeew. You should get some more eggies. They’re fresh, meeew.
“Can you put the sitar out first, it wants to go out, if you would luv?”
He found himself standing in front of the fire, skillet in hand making scrambled eggs, listening to “Within you, Without you,” blaring through the stereo, George’s bloody sitar tripping him out.
He looked down and one of the cats, a big gray one, was rubbing against him.
“Hello. Want to go out, Mr. Cat?”
“Yes Paul,” said the big gray cat.”
“Whatever you say, Mr. Cat.”
He walked over to the glass door, pulled it open, balancing the skillet so as to not overturn it and pour scrambled eggs all over the place.
The cat quickly ran out into the night hunting.
As Paul put Sgt. Pepper back into its sleeve, he thought he should just lay off the bloody grass. He bought this shit from some kid down the block and he was sure something else was in it. His eggies sure tasted good.
“Why of course they do Paul,” said his eggies.
On the island Kylie and Jayson found a place to rest. They pulled the kayak in to shore and covered it beneath the large leaves of a fallen breadfruit tree. Each foot print and drag mark had to be erased from the view of prying eyes. Jayson left nothing to chance. At the very least a cursory inspection from a boat would yield nothing and they would be safe to live another day.
Jayson gathered breadfruit, a few coconuts and dug wild sweet potato and taro. He found pandanus tectorius, a screw pine. He chewed on it as Kylie slept fetal style in the cool eighty-five degree shade on short grass in an area he deemed suitable to camp. It cleaned it teeth as well as Crest™. Rocks had to be gathered for a fire pit. He would let the breadfruit, taro and sweet potato bake against them. He was getting hungry thinking about it. He had a five piece Coleman™ Economy Mess Kit (5 piece nested aluminum set with an 8 oz. plastic cup, 8 inch fry pan, 16 oz. pot with cover, 6 in. plate. Wt. 9.5 oz.), and a Gerber™ knife that would cut through bone that he dragged all over the world with him.
He was glad he had the knife.
The fruits in Micronesia didn’t like to be eaten.
Kylie was beautiful tired, dirty and exhausted. He was falling in love with her. He no longer wanted just to be inside her for the pure conquest. The sport of it. He wanted to be inside of her because he needed to be close to her to feel safe. He wanted to be inside her now at the molecular level.
He let her sleep and took a swim in the nearby lagoon, naked. It was freshwater fed by a waterfall. He tried to rinse the radioactive particles from his skin.
“This would be paradise if I wasn’t so scared shitless,” said Kylie. “Mmm. This is so good. What is this?” she said as she scooped the mash into her mouth.
“Its pretty traditional Kylie. What have you been eating?”
“Christ they really are ubiquitous. I hadn’t even noticed they moved in.”
“Uh huh. I crave their cheeseburgers. It’s the pickles.”
“Yeah, it’s the additive in the pickles.”
“I’m sure it is,” he said, tasting the Pohnpeian comfort food. It wasn’t bad. “Maybe I could add some sakau for flavour. I saw some wild sakau plants.”
“Can you make sakau?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’ll make some late on and we can sit a round a fire.”
“Good I need to get relax and get stupid. It tastes like peppered furry mud though.“
“Who cares. It works better than gin.”
“I don’t think I need a panty remover with you Jayson.”
“Yeah. Suppose not. I don’t think this will be too bad.” He swallowed some taro soup.
“So how’d you learn do this,” she said. Finally, she had a man who could cook.
“Well the taro I cubed and blanched in salt water for a bit of flavor. Then I cooked it in coconut milk. For the rest, I put banana, breadfruit, and papaya wrapped in banana leaves, filled with coconut milk. You bake it against the rocks. Nothing to it really. At one time I wanted to be a chef. I took lessons, went to school learned all the basics. Sauces and shit. Pretty well all French cuisine cause they start you off with that. I even learned a bit of pastry, not a lot, but I made a few croissants. Then I got bored, quit. Went to India and Tibet. Studied Buddhism.”
“Mmm, I did that as well in Phnom Penh. Just seemed like the thing to do.”
“Yeah, I know. It made sense.”
“Anyway, after that I took up botany. I went to Madagascar. I was there for a year and was studying different recipes with diospyros fruiting, you know, I was trying to see if I could form a thesis and do my masters on Madagasgarian culinary. Then I fucked off to Africa because I thought gun running would make a quick buck so I could get here. Well I was wrong. Africa is a fucking mess, and I never want to go there ever again. I’m not a very good criminal. I got involved with UNICEF in the relief effort and I left to help with the clean up in Sumatra.”
“I was in Phuket.”
“Yeah. We were in Bangkok for Christmas and it just seemed like we should help.”
“Yeah. I know,” he said solemnly.
“I left my fiancé. He’s probably still in Thailand.”
“And you came here?”
“I needed to veg.”
“Me too. I don’t ever want to think ever again.” said Jayson.
He really hoped he wouldn’t have to, but they both knew that they’d have to return home some how to their respective worlds, and start rebuilding from scratch. A lot of people would need a lot of help and two more hands would always be appreciated. What they felt now was untranslatable.
The world would never be the same ever again.
“Do you ever watch any old James Bond?”
“You mean like Sean Connery and Roger Moore flicks?” she said.
“No. I told you I don’t really watch a lot of movies.”
“You sounded so sure about it though. Sean Connery and Roger Moore flicks. You said it with authority.”
“I’m from New Zealand Jayson, what do you expect. Its force fed like Peter Jackson movies. Who the fuck cares.”
“Can I finish what I was going to say?”
“I’m not stopping you.”
“Another time when you’re in a better mood.”
“Maybe you need a nap.”
Maybe he did.
Green-blue waters with white foam and spill out over the white sand like a bath tub over flowing. Kylie walks out of the ocean wearing a white bikini with a three inch white belt and gold buckle. A knife is attached to her belt at the side of her stomach tight and golden brown. Her hair loose and wet with scuba goggles pulled back on the crown of her head. She sings “Underneath The Mango Tree,” and sets down two large conch shells. She takes off the mask upon her head, and wrings her hair. She is Honey Ryder from Dr. No.
She smiles at him and he moves in and kisses her.
Her lips are as soft as her skin.
She runs a way, turns and laughs at him.
“Honey,” he says.
She laughs again and again. Her face is turned in a smile, but her laughter cuts through him, castrating him. He feels her smile and it hurts.
“Don’t laugh,” he said.
“I have to, you’re silly,” she says.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes you are. Look at you.”
“I can’t there isn’t a mirror.”
“I’ll show you.”
She took him by the hand and led him to the water.
“Look at yourself.”
“Kylie. Please. I don’t want to.”
“You’re such a little boy. Do as mommy says.”
“I don’t want to. I can’t.”
He knelt down and looked as Kylie said. The sun burnt a white hole in the water and he saw himself as James Bond. Nothing to fear. He pulled his lips back and tried to smile but the face was cold without emotion, a plastic mask of immovable expression.
“Shhh. Did you hear that?”
He turned around glad he didn’t have to see what he she wanted him to. He heard it. A boat.
Kylie began to run.
“Honey, don’t run. Don’t run!”
She hid under their ocean Kayak covered under breadfruit tree leaves. He followed her and let the kayak protect him.
“Okay folks, come on out here and you won’t get hurt. Stand up and show yourselves or we’ll be forced to open fire,” a megaphoned voice stated.
They looked up and a naval frigate was in the distance. It had Chinese flags flying.
“Come on out we know you’re there! We’ve been expecting you. Just walk out with your hands up and you’ll be okay?”
They were not so certain.
“This is your last chance!”
“He’s bluffing,” said James Bond.
“Alright you’ve been warned!” said the voice unseen.
“Lie still,” he said. “They don’t really know we’re here.”
Fifty millimetre machine gun bursts hit the beach throwing the sand in the air all around him.
“Don’t worry this will hold them off,” he said.
“I know,” she said.
He looked and they were gone.
“See I told you.”
He kissed her again and she ran away from him down the beach. He followed his feet making soft prints in the sand and the sea water filling them up.
She stopped running down the beach and turned to look at him. In front of her was a conch shell, silver and white and smooth. She knelt down to pick it up.
“What do you hear?”
“Come here. You must listen.”
He walked down the beach toward the Kylie as Honey, holding the shell to her ear.
“Listen Jayson, its for you.”
She handed him the shell. He took it and brought it to his ears.
It started faint at first but gradually it grew louder. The sound of the ocean grew and grew becoming a deafening white noise of water thrashing and building. Kylie looked into his eyes.
“I know what it is.”
“Yes. I love you.”
He couldn’t hear anything anymore, not even her voice which was speaking to him in the silence. The wall of water took her away and he was submerged deep upside down and everything was green not blue and he thought down was up and he could see the sun shining through and he climbed up into it to breath and saw Kylie speak and everything was calm and perfect and real.
“Hey, get up I heard something.”
He opened his eyes. She was crouched low over him looking out to the east.
“I heard something, Jayson, I heard something.”
“What was it?” he said. “Did you hear water?”
“No? C’mon get up. You need to check it out for me,” she said because she was scared and she wasn’t going to go find out but she really needed to know anyway.
“Please Jayson. Just go take a look,” she whispered.
He got up and grabbed his Gerber. He would take no chances, not with his or Kylie’s life. They would get off this bloody island no matter what happened.
Kylie hid herself and watched him go. She was thankful she had found Jayson. She’d be dead without him and he wasn’t too bad in bed. He rushed a little and she faked it with him but she faked it with most men, and the one boy who could do it for her, she left in Thailand cause he was an utter slob and a complete bastard to her, yet he tried to be nice to everyone else, and so humanitarian as if being nice and helpful to orphans, and widowed women would make up for all the past girlfriends whose life he had made an utter hell.
He looked back at her, and she pointed and waived her finger flicking her wrist and scrunching her mouth and nose to tell him to go on, take a look in that direction. He couldn’t hear anything, and didn’t know what she was going on about so he opened the three and a quarter inch heavy-duty surgical stainless steel “tanto” style blade with the Limited Lifetime Guarantee™, which he firmly held in his right hand gripping the tough stainless steel with glass filled polycarbonate nylon scales, his index finger safely protected by the patented finger guard. This was to reassure her, and sure enough he saw Kylie was relieved, her eyes wide and happy that he held such a sharp knife. Deep down he knew she wanted him to kill for her. All girls deep down want their man to kill for them. He held the knife out in front of him, and hoped he didn’t trip and fall and stab himself.
Jayson moved his way through a palm forest and walked through dense ferns. He was careful as hell. He could no longer see Kylie and that bothered him. The white sand peak through leaves, and he knew he was near shore. He walked slow and deliberate now, easing his way into a vantage point to view the beach and water. The ocean was flat except for the breaking waves, and he saw no frigates or otherwise hostile boats. He saw nothing but the odd sea bird. Then he looked down the length of the beach.
Walking in the sand away from him was a girl wearing a burgundy bikini with low rise swim bottoms, a line of ivory outlining the contour of the shiny fabric. She wore a straw cowboy hat. Her hair was pitch black and skunk striped blonde cut below her the nape of her neck. She was bronzed like Kylie and built similar. She had a nice ass from here. He couldn’t see her face. He wasn’t sure it mattered with an ass like that. He wore a big stupid grin. Alone on an island with two girls. His mind was calculating the possibilities.
Fuck the fucking Chinese. This girl was hot.
Then he felt a tad bit guilty.
He thought he loved Kylie and he was sure he did. If anything the last twenty-four hours had solidified that in his mind. But now he was thinking about this girl. Who was she? He needed to know. Maybe she was American. She looked half-something. Half-Asian, half-white. The best of both worlds.
He followed her carefully from tree line. On the beach she had a bag and a stripped towel all laid out. He saw her now, she was quite the girl from a hundred feet. He surmised her breast (for he only saw her profile) was a 34C. He had to get closer.
She laid down on her towel and put her hand out blocking the sun. She looked off down the beach like she was crossing a street. She reached behind her back and undid the bikini top she ordered especially online from American Apparel™ pulling the straps off her shoulders.
Jayson felt like a ten year old boy finding his dad’s Playboy’s.
The girl set the top down, and rolled over on her stomach her head cradled into her arm and closed her eyes. A book lay open in front of her cover-up. Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky. Heavy reading for a girl on a beach at the end of the world.
“Why don’t you take a picture, it will last you longer,” the girl said to Jayson.
He liked her voice, it was rounded off by years of smoking and drinking.
“Uh, Hi,” he said to her and not as suave as he liked.
She laughed slightly at him. He could feel it in her eyes.
“Oh, G-Day,” said the girl bored of Jayson already, she was barely looking up at him. She had an odd accent and her lip had a ring through it that made her twice as hot as she was five seconds ago.
Silence followed and awkward at that.
He really hoped he would have frightened her just enough so she would have looked up at him and flashed her breasts for a second before the inevitable cover up.
He could be such a slime sometimes and he knew it.
“I really hate to disturb you, Miss, but World War Three broke out and the Chinese have attacked us.”
“Yea, right” she said. Her accent was not unlike Kylie’s. “That’s the worst come-on ever. Next your going to tell me you’re going to save my ass.”
He would like that.
“No really,” he said.
“You like Chomsky?” He said noting the book.
“Why are you reading it?“
“What do you think?”
“That you like Chomsky.”
“Uh huh. What do you read?”
“I only read manuals.”
“What? How to repair garbage disposals and such?”
“Yeah, something like that,” Jayson said dryly.
He was getting no where fast with her.
When she paused she played with that little ring of hers like she was playing with him.
“I thought I was alone on this island,” she said, bored of the boy. On her bag was a digital camera and a good one at that. A Nikon D100 with a wide angle lens. 6.1 Megapixels.
“Are you Australian?”
“Bingo. You’re smart.”
“You bet. My names Morton. Jayson, Morton.”
“Anyone every call you Morty?”
“Hmm. Well Morty, it was like, nice to meet you and all, but as you can see I’m kinda busy.”
“I see that. You not reading Chomsky and all.”
“That’s right. Me not reading Chomsky. Good-bye” she said. She had grey eyes, cold and bright. Like a kitchen knife.
The small of her back had a some kind of Arabic writing that he couldn’t translate. She caught him looking. She smiled.
“Is that Arabic? Your tattoo? What’s that mean?”
She made eye contact with him and he had to look away before she burned him.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” she said. She lowered her hat over her eyes.
When he realized his chances were zero with her he said this: “Look, I’m serious here. I’m with a girl, Kylie, she’s over in the trees a bout three hundred yards in.”
As he said this she looked over at the trees.
“The Chinese landed and have taken over the island. They’re killing people over there. I’m not making this up.”
“You don’t sound like you are.”
Jayson saw her trigger finger twitched. He knew she liked the action.
“So you have to come with me and hide.”
“Oh, yea,” she said. She could see where this was leading. “I don’t think so Morty.”
“You’re not safe.”
No kidding she thought.
“I can take care of myself, thank you.”
She had to get her top on without having this guy slobber all over her. He wasn’t bad looking, very American Ivy League. He has five o’clock shadow. It occurred to her that she really was alone on this island. She was sure he was either going to try to rape her by getting her off into the woods or whatever those trees were called, or she’d end up sleeping with him eventually if he was ok and didn’t act like an asshole. Probably if he did act like an asshole she would end up sleeping with him anyway just for something to do this week. She often found guys that were assholes sexy.
“Can you turn around, while I –“
“Yeah, no problem.’ He turned around and looked in the reflection on his TIMEX™ of her but saw nothing as she put the top on. From her bag she put on a grass coloured jersey leisure dress (also ordered online from American Apparel™) to cover her near nakedness.
“You can turn around now.”
He did and was disappointed to see her in the dress but it was still pretty short so her legs showed plenty enough.
“Are you done” she said not mean but very flat and very direct.
He looked away from her toward the sea.
“What’s your name”, he said.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” said the girl.
Her name was Twyla.
“When they come, and they will, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
He walked away from her and she watched him leave.
When he disappeared into the treeline Twyla laid back down, opened her Chomsky and pulled her Nikon a few inches closer.
It was getting late and the sun was starting to set behind the trees. It had been a long day of walking for Bono and the site of the small white wooden church with black trim in the distance, its steeple cross raised to God, looked beautiful, humble and inviting. From where he stood he could see the Atlantic. It gave away no secrets.
Bono returned to St. Margaret’s and found his flock had flown. This perturbed him as he told them he thought very clearly that he’d be back and to wait. They had not. After a while he rationalized that either they would be back because he had told them to wait for him and after all he was Bono, or that they had left in search of him. He was sure they must be all headed back to the Hospital in Lunenburg to look for him because after all they needed him to guide them to safety, and once there they would find the rest of the survivors of the air crash and surely they would tell them that that Bono had indeed left to go back and look for them. He was sure they would all have a big laugh. He was sure. His group at the hospital decided that they would wait for the others to get treatment before turning back. He didn’t blame them. In the safety of the hospital, amongst other survivors, they would feel like they belonged to humanity. For each of them, home was something they were scared they would never see again, and for the first time since this ordeal happened, Bono felt completely utterly alone.
Would he ever get home?
Bono stood inside and considered his options.
1. He could return to Lunenburg and look for them, after all he wanted to see how Kat and the others were doing and hopefully they found a way of sedating Brenda so they all would have some peace and quiet.
2. He could continue calling out their names of the ones he remembered still being here: Liam, Dick, Alan and Christopher being some of them. He loved the acoustic resonance in this beautifully sounding church and continued to call out there names which he had now been doing for about five minutes (his voice did sound good in here, but not better than it did in Slane Castle in Scotland where they recorded The Unforgettable Fire, although good enough that he would consider recording his next album, if there was a next, here in this church – he), and since he could only remember just a few name at this point he was really just yelling, actually chiming out “Hey, everybody where are you? It’s Bono!”
3. He could wait for them to return.
4. He could see if he could spot there tracks and pick up which way they might have wondered off in, as if he was some sleuth from Scotland Yard and he could just pick up their trail, or a North American Native American Aboriginal First Nation person and track them through the hills.
5. He could fucking forget them, which was on his mind as well but not very humanitarian of him.
6. He could save them all. He liked this last idea. They needed help and he was the one to help them. He kind of felt quite a bit guilty just thinking of this sitting on pew staring up at HIM up there on the CROSS.
Bono knelt down in front of His image. He felt a bit strange; it had been a while since he last did this. He believed in faith, but not religion. He often thought that religion was the enemy of God. When you grow up a child in Dublin you saw first hand the effects of organized religion. Bloody protestants. Bloody Catholics. His father was catholic. His mother protestant. No where else but Ireland does that make a difference. His mother died at his father’s funeral; he grew up fast. He grew suspicious. He wondered if the SPIRIT was really here, in this church looking down on him. He wondered if God had forsaken them. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? If there was a God. He wasn’t sure, he had faith, but faith is different than God. What difference would it make if he did or didn’t believe in God? Just because he, who was made with God’s eyes, in HIS image, couldn’t see HIM, didn’t mean that God did not exist, nor that God would forsake him. He was a good man. Wasn’t that enough? He had to have faith. Faith.
And as he stared up at HIM he thought, or that isto say, he had this nagging feeling, this voice in his head that what if this was THE END of EVERYTHING and EVERYONE and despite being in HIS presence he felt very cold and alone for the first time since this whole thing had happened. He had tried his cel phone; he couldn’t reach Ali. The lines were dead, but he knew for sure in his heart that she and his beautiful children were safe with her. But what if this really was The End? What if the time of Tribulation had come and he had to wait for the Rapture. He had checked the Rapture Index on the web a few weeks back as a lark, but who knows – floods, famine, AIDS, WORLD DEBT, THE USA, maybe these factors had caused the end. To be honest, he wasn’t sure he believed in the rapture. It was more of a silly protestant concept than any fact, wasn’t it? Now this whole tribulation thing was starting to scare him. Was it seven years of tribulation before the rapture? He wasn’t sure but seven years, and while the nineteen nineties had been a bit topsy turvy, he disliked the thought – fucking hated it really, because it was such a terrible, terrible thought, that what if it was like the worst of those years, but ten fold, maybe a thousand times worse than the most horrible years of the nineteen nineties. What a terrible, terrible thought this was, much worse than releasing Discotheque as the first single off of Pop. They should have put out If God Will Send His Angels or The Playboy Mansion, even Staring At The Sun or Miami or Mofo as a first record, anything but Discotheque a song he was fond of. The album was called Pop and the first record was Disco. The audience was left bewildered by what was ostensibly a classic U2 album. Their HUGE tour PopMart didn’t come off well. The audience just never showed up. Gigs were canceled. A lot of people lost their jobs from PopMart. During recording he thought he had throat cancer. He had no power in his voice. He could feel it. It scared him. He never told anyone.
1997 was a bad year. Pop was a failure – U2’s first, although on tour he loved coming out of the big LEMON. That was pure Rock & Roll. Elvis would have done the same had he the choice. He’d never give up that experience as long as he lived unless somehow PEACE ON EARTH could be achieved; only if AIDS could be cured and all the National Debt of The Third World had been forgiven. If that were to happen he’d gladly give up all of the PopMart memories (although that big cocktail olive in the sky was choice) – Yeah, if PEACE ON EARTH were to happen, he’d give it all up in a second.
And he was just the man to do the job.
With that in mind he read the piece of paper addressed to him pinned in plain sight on the pulpit.
Reverend McKenzie’s wife dropped by and has wonderfully told us that we shall have food and shelter at their home (see map on back).
Bono read the map on the back and Reverend McKenzie’s home wasn’t too far, perhaps a kilometre or two up the road. For the life of him he couldn’t remember a girl named Marcy. Did he just not see her? Maybe she was shy like Fumiko.
“Oh Lord, forgive me for my selfishness and guide me on my journey, for I am but a humble Rock Star.”
And as he looked up at His face he knew that He forgave him for he was Bono and Bono meant good.
Eve walked back to her room going a different way. She was determined to know the layout and not get lost in here. She passed a door that had two soldiers, a kid barely 22 from Omaha she was sure, and a black kid (from Virginia she bet). All the soldiers were from the Bible belt or the south. No one in their right mind would sign up for the Marines. Two recruiters in a mall parking lot promised them something one time. It wasn’t pussy. There wasn’t a lot of pussy in the Army.
“Hey boys,” she smiled.
‘Ma’am.” said the white boy. Hughes, Eric R. Private 1st Class was stitched on Velcro tag on his chest. He was a The other boy was Clark, Isaac M. Lance Corporal..
“What’s behind this door that’s so important.”
“Can’t tell you, Ma’am, its need to know.”
“Oh, I see. Where are you from Isaac? We’re going to be stuck down here quite a while.”
Isaac could see the white girl liked dark meat.
“Lynchburg,” said Isaac.
“That’s in Virginia, right?”
“I’m only twenty-seven I’m not quite a ma’am yet. Least I hope not.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m only twenty-one and Isaac ain’t even twenty but we’s got to say that,” said Eric.
“I wouldn’t want to get you in trouble, see I’m the Presidents Executive Personal Assistant. Eve Kendal.”
“Oh, shit.” said Isaac. “I mean, sorry, ma’am. Miss Kendal.”
“It’s alright. I just would like to know what’s behind the door, the President wants me to brief him, on the facility.” she lied.
“It’s the armory,” said Isaac.
“Yah, where all daweapons are kept, like grenades and M-18’s and shit.” said Eric.
“Really? Can I see?”
An engineer of some type walked by with receding hairline and glasses in overalls with a roll of yellow wire. Everybody carried wire around here.
“We’re on duty, Ma’am, sorry, we can’t help you with you packing” said Isaac loudly. He wanted a little bit of that that white girl .
‘That’s okay. I’ll get some one else, thank you.” she said playing along.
Once the coast was clear, the boys relaxed.
“Can you please show me inside. I never told anyone this, but guns make me hot,” she said to the boys in just the right tone of voice that she knew all men liked and specially young men with their unlikely porno über fantasies.
“How about one of us go in with you and the other will stay outside on guard,” said Isaac. He was going in for sure.
“Yeah, that’s a good idea. You wait here.”
“Man. I’ll pull rank.”
“One at a time boys, Eric, you show me.”
She winked at Isaac who smiled.
Inside the armory was everything she ever wanted. It was a large fluorescent lit room that wasn’t wide, but long.
“Show me something Eric and not the gun in your pants.”
He was a bit disappointed.
“What’s the one you have? Everybody is carrying them.”
“This, this is a M16A2. 5.56mm. You can use it semi-auto or three round bursts. 90 rounds a minute. It’s sweet.”
“I don’t think so, its loaded.”
“Show me an unloaded one, honey.’
“I can get in shit for this.”
“I’ll make it worth you’re while.”
A short pause as he calculated the possibilities of that statement.
“Use your imagination. What’s this one, it’s bigger.”
“That’s a M-4. Also 5.65 mm. Has a pump action single shot rocket launcher. Paq-4 Infra-red sight.
“And that one?”
“That’s a M-249. Mean mother fucker that one. Belt fed platoon gun.”
There were at twenty of them in a rack.
“I want to hold it.”
“It’s pretty heavy.”
He pulled one out of the rack and gave it to her. It was the first time she ever held a gun. She liked the cold steel in her hands.
“Oh wow, it is heavy. You feed bullets through here, right.”
“Yeah, you know we should get going.”
She pressed the trigger and winced, but nothing happened. She tried to point it but she needed to do some weights.
“Here,” she said handing it back to Eric. “Give me an M-4.”
“Don’t worry Eric, you won’t get in trouble and I told you I’d make it worth your while.”
He handed her an M-4.
“That’s much lighter. This is unloaded right.”
“It’s not live, but let me check before you kill us both.”
He checked the weapon and she watched how he did it.
She practiced pointing it at the cases. Click. Click. Click. She liked this one.
“That’s so cool.”
She walked over to box with dozens of drab olive grenades in it, fit individually snug like eggs in an egg crate.
She put her hand on one and Eric stopped her.
“I don’t think so. Let’s go.”
He was a bit scared of her.
She let go. If she wanted to she knew she could put her French nailed finger tip with around the pin and pull it out and end her misery.
The pin was dullish metal.
She could read “FRAG Delay M67” stamped in Army yellow.
“How long is the delay?”
“Miss Kendal. Time to go. Now.”
She took one last look around the room before she headed for the door Private 1st Class Eric Hughes behind her. He stopped her before she went out and tapped twice on the door. Isaac opened it and she went out quietly.
“See you boys,” said Eve as she walked on down the hall.
“See you later Ma’am.” Isaac had a big grin on his face. “Man? Uh-uh. She’s fine. How was she?”
Eric didn’t have a smile at all. “Dangerous, man. She’s dangerous.”
Eve entered her room and broke down. She washed off her make-up and tore the pins out of her hair.
Her bedroom was large and had its own bath. She negotiated it as being part of the Presidents staff. It was the First Wives room and it was far away from the President’s suite so that the mistresses could be brought in casually and not ushered in hushed silence and the First Wife who was usually separated by the third year in office could still be kept around for appearances. Jackie O would have slept in this room, as would have Hillary Clinton had the moment presented itself.
She had a good mattress with a 180 count sheets that smelt damp and moldy like everything else down here. The room was cold no matter what she did and they didn’t have the foresight of natural gas fireplaces. Some idiot designed seven and a half inch ceilings in the bedrooms like he thought he was Le Corbusier creating his modulars using the golden section.
(the square root of five) –1) : 2 = .618034 : 1 (= 1 : 1.618034).
She hated math.
She hated Le Corbusier and his International Style.
He spawned concrete slums all over North America.
It was Brutalism.
Just like living in here.
And that’s something she thought about for a moment while lying in bed. This place had to be built, well poured, it was concrete after all, post 1945. Igor Gouzenko a Russian cipher clerk defected on the 5th of September 1945 just months after the war ended. The 109 documents he stole from the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa detailing a spy ring in Canada of all places, started the cold war.
Soviet spies within The Manhattan Project collected the goodies for Operation ENORMOUS.
The NKVD had two dozen agents in New Mexico.
Theodore Alvin Hall stuffing secrets into Lona Cohen Kleenex boxes for Sergei Pavlovich Korolev.
It must of come as a shock to Harry Truman when the USSR exploded their first A-bomb in 1949, four years sooner than American intelligence predicted. Was American intelligence ever not an oxymoron?
She wished she had been obliterated with the rest of her friends and her cat, Monster.
Poor little Monster.
The fuckers. She couldn’t even go to her condo to get him.
“Poor little Monster,” she said, tears welling up in corners of brown eyes.
She took a picture out of her purse.
In the photograph the little gray and white kitten with white paws and brown eyes looked up at her reaching toward the camera as she took his picture. She had a soft spot for animals.
“I’m sorry.” She wiped away the tears. “Don’t worry, I’ll make them pay. I’ll make them pay.”
She was sure of this. She even started drawing out a map so she knew how to get around this place. She had to know where all the Generals slept and kill the all silently. She had to get them first before they did more damage to the world.
She had to find the President and castrate him.
She went to sleep and dreamt of things to come and a little grey and white kitty named Monster that used to curl up tucked in her chest and purr quietly as he watched her sleep. Her minds eye traced her steps from the armory and she held an M-4 rocket launcher all the way.
Gunfire ricocheted of the walls of Anderson airbase.
“Kelly. Suppress fire! Suppress fire!” yelled Sonny. “Keep those little yellow bastards out of here!”
“What do you think I’m doing!” Kelly mowed down a Chinese kid who he knew was under eighteen.
“The slants keep coming Sarge!”
Since all hell broke they’d been shooting up Chinese boys who weren’t old enough to shave.
“Holy fuck!” said Sonny as he shot bursts of searing 5.65mm lead at a boy who just made it through the hole blasted at the end of the corridor. It used to be two doors to the outside world. He shot off the boy’s face exploding it all over the concrete walk outside. There was a mass of bodies piling up.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” said Sonny. “I’m going to hell for that I know it.” He had never had to kill before other than in training exercises. “We need to seal this end off, now!” His adrenalin was going. He didn’t want to die.
They were at a T. A long concrete corridor on both sides with doors between them. Straight ahead for fifty feet was the usually the entrance door to this wing.
“Where’s Chuvalo, Thompson and Richards? We need some cover here? Who’s got the blow torch and acetylene?”
“Chuvalo! Thompson! Richards! Move ass!” Kelly shouted down the hall.
“Payne has that, Chief.”
“Get him here!”
Peter Chuvalo, a tall broadly built Ukrainian ran up first. He was 29 and but his face looked twelve.
“Chief, you called?”
“Jesus Christ Chuvalo, take your position and keep those Chinkers out of here!”
“Just do it!”
Chuvalo hid behind the wall and put out the barrel of his M16A2.
“Where’s Richards and Thompson?” said Sonny.
“Richards is dead, Sir.” said Chuvalo.
“Thompson was with him. He’s coming.”
“Don’t get yourself killed too Chuvalo. Keep alert.” Sonny didn’t know what else to say.
“Yes, Sir,” Chuvalo nodded and aimed his gun down the hall.
Sonny saw Thompson and Payne came up the hall with the welding cart and he lowered his gun. Bout fucking time he thought. Paul Thompson was only 19. He’d been in Guam three months. The poor bastard. He was a skinny kid that kept his hair in one of those faggish faux-hawks, even though it was against regulation. He hid it under his service cap except on leave so he wouldn’t get harassed by the boys. The girls loved him. He’d been out drinking a few times with him since he arrived. He was a good kid. Crazy and stupidly brave.
“Hey, Hey, Hey,” said Thompson dragging the cart as Payne pushed, looking exhausted.
“Jesus, Airman,” said Sonny.” “Jes-us.” He liked Thompson. “You fucking guys.”
“Richards bought it Sonny,” said Thompson matter of fact.
“I know and so will we soon if we don’t shut up. We need to weld this corridor shut to give us time.”
“Payne hide that acetylene! A stray bullet and we’re all dead,” said Kelly.
“Al-right, will do, Sir,” said Payne in his usual laboured manner of speech.
“Where’s the other six?” said Sonny.
“Well Price thought he could seal off the west wing, so Collins, Holman, Davidson and Cummings went to add covering fire,” said Thompson. “I would of went with em, but I knew you’d need me, and Emerick said he’d go instead.”
“Is that so,” said Sonny.
“Take position, Airman. Make sure no yellow slant eyed bastard gets in here.”
“Come on Chuvalo, seal that corridor off. Payne, give him a hand.”
“What about the rest of them?” said Thompson.
“Hopefully we’ll meet up later, until then they have to fend for themselves. Seal it all off.”
Sonny watched as Chuvalo welded shut the steel corridor doors and Payne set a tripwire at the far end of the hall, in between a mess of young Chinese bodies. The arclight fucked up Sonny’s vision but he did his best to look for any movement in his peripheral. After the first doors on the left were welded shut, Chuvalo dragged the welding cart and Payne the acetylene to the next door. They moved inside the east wing corridor, closing the double doors behind them, welding them shut and sealing off their exit in that direction. They all knew a proper placed charge would blow the door, but for the time being it would give them a bit of safety.
Inside an office they found a map of the complex and solidified their bearings.
“Get over here, Thompson, this is important,” said Sonny in the stern dad voice he remembered from his childhood.
“Sir, I was trying to see if I could make some coffee.”
“Alright, yeah, you do that, make me some coffee, but keep an ear open, cause I hate repeating myself.”
“Payne? Where are you going,” said Kelly when he noticed the Texan was making his way toward the head in the far end of the room.”
“I don’t feel so good,” said Payne, who rarely had been sick in his life.
“Forget about it and listen to the Chief,” said Kelly.
“Its alright, Payne,” said Sonny.
“Thank you, Sir.”
Payne was all white and sweaty. He thought it was the heat, but he knew it was something worse. He felt it too.
“Get back here, like quick though. Hear?”
“Yes, Chief, said Payne. The men watched as he scurried to the restroom, his bowels liquefying.
“Thompson, make me some coffee”, said Sonny changing the subject.
“Yes sir,” said Thompson scooping eight tablespoons of Folgers Classic Roast into a drip machine. The Navy never had Starbucks. The one thing about the Navy though, he knew that the machine was clean of grit and grim so he wouldn’t get no ugly aftertaste.
“Make me a cup too Thompson”, said Kelly. “Make it strong and black. If it’s going to be my last damn cup of coffee, I want it to kick my ass.”
“Yes, sir,’ Thompson smiled. He added another two tablespoons.
Macca fell asleep on the floor next to a pile of Wings LP’s. He was laying on London Town, having played it several times in the night. He thought it got better with age, and definitely with psychotropics. Ram, his second solo effort, was underneath the couch, he could see it from under the coffee table, upside down and turned over, like him.
“Ram on”, said Paul.” He laughed. “Paul Ramon.”
He used to gig as Paul Ramon. It was a bit of a teaser for the fans. He was still a bit high.
“Mr. Cat? Are you still here?”
He couldn’t find Mr. Cat.
It was just dawn, a flat grey English morning light filled the room taking all the edges off the shadow. Outside a morning mist had settled onto the farm, and his animals were just dark brown blobs in an otherwise sheet of white that hung over his land. It looked like his sheep and cattle were restless, moving back and forth. They needed to be fed, like he did. The thought of another scrabbled egg made him queasy.
He must of eaten two dozen eggs last night, and nibbled on everything else because the fridge was near empty. Better to eat it then spoil of waste. He wondered when the power would kick on again. It would be homemade twelve grain rye (untoasted) and marmalade this morning.
It was while he was relieving himself, that he heard the distinctive sound of glass breaking downstairs.
He stopped mid pee.
Glass crunching underfoot.
Somebody was inside.
“Hello? Heth, baby? That you?” Paul peeked out from the bathroom, and pulled his body to the wall like he’d seen British SAS commando’s and James Bond do it the tele. He looked out down into the stair well when-a skinny pasty unshaven scary ‘Thom Yorke’ look alike with bad teeth, body odour, and wearing ripped jeans, a suede blazer, and underneath a black t-shirt with “The Beatles” written in the same white font that was on Ringo’s oyster black pearl Ludwig drum kits - lurched at Paul.
“Pauuuuuuuuuuuuuuulllllllll,” moaned the Beatles fan.
Paul was a lover, not a fighter. Johnny used to be the tough one in the group, before he became a pacifist. Not Paul. Paul was a bassist.
He was Macca.
He wished he had his Hofner in reach to hit him with.
“Get out of here young man, before you’re in serious trouble.”
“I mean it. Go home.”
The man grabbed Paul’s blue-grey Stella McCartney t-shirt and began to pull.
Paul was scared. He always knew he was next. First John, then George. Now it was his turn.
His shirt ripped and Paul turned, hitting the man. He tried to make a mad dash to the bedroom but was dragged down. He turned over, scrambling.
This was it Paul, this is really The End.
Not The End on Abby Road.
But The End.
Paul knew Her Majesty wouldn’t play on after this end.
“You bloody bastard!” howled Paul as he reached up with all his might to grab the Beatle fan as he reached out to choke him and the next thing he knew he was tumbling down the stair well.
When he awoke, the man was dead, and Paul was alive. He took the man’s pulse and tried CPR for five minutes.
Paul cried for a long time sitting on the stairs looking at the man who some twenty minutes earlier had tried to snuff him.
“Why?” He asked over and over.
In the man’s wallet his I.D. read: Cuppington. Thierry, Ryan. Age 29.
“You silly git, Thierry,” said Paul.
He didn’t know why the bugger had tried to do him in. Gone bonkers over the end of the world.
Paul needed to smoke some more grass.
Reverend McKenzie lived on a small farm a few kilometers north of St. Margaret’s. Bono wished he was in a black Lincoln limousine. This had been more walking than he was used to.
Thank God for the iPod.
Without it he would just be alone with his thoughts which he liked but was much more of a pleasant journey drowning them out with the pod. The landscape became cinematic; a yellow bellied flycatcher swooped through the air to the synthetic rhythms of Eno’s Over Fire Island, finally landing as the fade out randomized Another Green World and took off into flight as the brass of Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra broke out full swing with a rendition of Blue Skies with old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra at the microphone and the Pied Pipers on barbershop back-up.
Yes, walking in nature was a joy when you had your own soundtrack.
Bono’s U2 iPod Special Edition died just after playing Coldplay’s Scientist. His charger was in the Atlantic with the rest of his belongings. He pulled the earbuds out, and walked the remaining way in his own thoughts.
His own thoughts troubled him though. He felt so alone, and his loneliness wasn’t helped by the fact that he feared the rest of the world had finally did it; destroyed itself, and he might not ever be able to get back to his family, to The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., and Adam Clayton. He might never tour again.
But there was always Africa.
In theory, he thought, Africa should be left relatively intact. He was sure not one single cruise missile, not one multi-stage thermonuclear ballistic missile would have scorched earth in Africa.
He and Sir Bob Geldof, if he was still alive could do another Live 8 or whatever it would be called, but this time it would be a real rocking concert, and really sincere, not that Live 8 wasn’t sincere, it was just too quickly assembled, so as to send the big GEE-EIGHT a MESSAGE. Sir Bob – Bono laughed at this, this time they would probably have to move to Africa because the Rest Of The World (ROTW) would be too heavily polluted with radiation, and they would do a star studded (who ever was left from the ROTW) grass roots concert to help the survivors of the end of the world. It would be huge, a love-in to rival Woodstock 99.
Bob would love it.
He felt good, limber. He enjoyed a good walk.
And he enjoyed a better bike ride.
A bicycle was left on the bank of the road, autumn grass poking through the spokes, and the left brake was pushed into the ground. It was purple, a girls bike with the cross bar on a 45 degree.
He took his earbuds out and looked around.
“Hello?” he called out, but not too loudly.
He saw no one, not one young girl in sight.
“Is this bicycle anyone’s? No?”
“I’m going to borrow it then.”
He put the music back on. A U2 song. ZOO STATION. He skipped it. Thom Yorke came on.
The chain took a while to place on the gears and his hands were full of grease. He rubbed them on the melting snow until they looked clean, but he could still feel the oil sucking into the pores. His finger tips were getting soft, the calluses fading.
If he didn’t play soon his hands would bleed the next time he played guitar.
He saw he was chewing his nails when he wasn’t looking.
Who would have known the world was ending with a day as bright and beautiful as this as he coasted down the road on the purple girls bike. Thank the Lord! The tires were solid, filled with air.
Behind him a young girl, not yet fourteen scrambled out of the woods and into the field where she left her bike beside the road.
Her tiny bladder was empty and she swore, however unlikely it was, that Mick Jagger wearing an iPod stole her bike.
“Fuck you, Mick, you scrawny-big-lipped-English-millionaire-prick!”
The girl who was named Erica screamed at the top of her lungs but she knew Mick’s ears were stuffed with music, no doubt stolen from the Internet, the cheapskate thief.
“Kylie, you asleep?”
“You?” she said.
“No,” said Jayson. “Do you think that girl is okay? I mean, you know, the Chinese haven’t killed her, or anything.”
“What do I care?”
“I dunno, I just thought,” said Jayson.
“Yeah, well, don’t.” Kylie was really irritated about this. Some dumb Aussie girl was now the only thing occupying Jayson’s mind, when she should be firmly be occupying his mind. He probably needed sex. That was all. She hadn’t slept with him for a while now. At least twenty-eight or twenty-nine hours or more. The semen was backing up into his brain.
“Hold me Jayson,” she said in her helpless voice.
He put his arm half heartedly around her.
“Tighter, I’m scared.” She touched his face. Already it was bristling with whiskers.
“Yeah?” she said like she said a hundred times before. Light and slow, barely moving her lips. A slight pause.
Just enough air through her mouth so he could feel her warm breath on his ear, and the sound of the word on his eardrum. She knew it should make him aroused.
She reached her hand down his thigh to check.
“Kylie?” He said it as if it was a bad word.
“What?” She knew, he knew, she knew damn well what. ”Kiss me?”
She locked her eyes on his. Her pupils were dilating, his were constricting. She rubbed him more.
He thought of the girl on the beach with the Nikon, the lip ring, the cowboy hat, and Arabic tattoo.
He wondered if she really was alright.
He suddenly started to shrivel up.
She pulled her hand away.
“Oooh, you make me so goddamn mad, I could just kill you right now.”
“I’m sorry,” said Jayson. It was one of the few times he had ever refused sex.
He felt like he wasn’t a man.
“Jesus,” Kylie said, half scoffing, “You didn’t fuck her did you?”
With that, he walked away.
Eve took notes all day as the New President was briefed on the situation above ground by a team of physicists, two geologists, a meteorologist, biologist, an expert on water, the director of the tunneling and resettlement expedition that consisted of an architect, structural engineer, a naturalist and an archaeologist. They met with doctors from John Hopkins explaining radiation sickness.
It wasn’t pretty, and made her more depressed and claustrophobic.
This had all been after lunch. The salad was just iceberg lettuce (and brown too!), cucumber, onion, tomato and ranch dressing. She avoided the onions, but not Mr. President. She could just smell his breath from the uncomfortable nine feet away from him where she had managed to place her chair as she filled pages with shorthand.
The morning had been filled with a quick succession of meetings on how to get the economy moving with surviving CEO’s and representatives from: Big oil: BP PCI, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. and Kuwait National Petroleum Co.; the big three the Big Three (DaimlerChrysler, Ford and Chevrolet); and the major defense contractors who were called in alphabetical order: Aerospace Corp., Alliant Techsystems Inc., Allied-Signal Inc., Analysis & Technology Inc., Atlantic Richfield Co., Avondale Industries Inc., Bath Holding Corp., Battelle Memorial Institute, Bechtel Group Inc., Bell Atlantic Corp., Bergen Brunswig Corp., Boeing Corp., Booz Allen & Hamilton Inc., Canadian Commercial Corp., Carlyle Group, Charles Stark Draper Labs, Coastal Corp., Computer Sciences Corp., Cubic Corp., Day & Zimmermann Inc., DynCorp, Electronic Data Systems Corp., European Utilities Cos., Federal Express Corp., Foundation Health Corp., Gencorp Inc., General Dynamics Corp., General Electric Co., Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., Halliburton Co., Harris Corp., Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Honeywell Inc., Humana Inc., International Shipholding Corp., Johnson Controls Inc., Jones Group Inc., Litton Industries Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., Mantech International Corp., McKesson Corp., MITRE Corp., Mitretek Systems Inc., Motorola Inc., Motor Oil Hellas, Nassco Holdings Inc., Newport News Shipbuilding, Nichols Research Corp., Olin Corp., Peter Kiewit Sons, Oshkosh Truck Corp., Philip Morris Co., Procter & Gamble Co., Renco Group Inc., Rolls Royce PLC, Sabreliner Corp., Science Applications Intl., Soltek, Southwest Marine Inc., Ssangyong (USA) Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Services, Sverdrup Corp., Teledyne Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., Textron Inc., Thiokol Corp., Tracor Inc., Triwest Healthcare Alliance Co., UNICOR, Unisys Corp, United Technologies Corp., University of Texas System, Vanstar Corp., Westinghouse Electric Corp.; all the three and four letter word companies: AT&T, BDM, BTG, FMC, GTSI, ITT, MCI, OHM, TRW, UCCI, and VSE.
Tomorrow was booked up with reports from Citigroup, American International Group, Bank of America, HSBC Group, the big Pharma companies and NASA, who she figured would remain committed to space exploration during this troubling time. It was enough to make her want to blow her brains out in the room while everybody was watching.
“I think the thing is,” the New President leaned back in his chair as he said this and began to clip and light up a cigar from the Dominican Republic. “We need to have things moving for Christmas.”
Eve watched as a young man of about, thirty-four, with sandy blonde hair, a firm jaw, and newscaster features that could have been beamed to households every night on ABC, cocked his eyebrow just slightly as the President said this. He was sitting at the far corner of the huge slate conference table, with the President on one end, Eve to his right, his closest hawks sitting beside and across from her nearest to the Prez. All the men had damp armpits as the air conditioning was being repaired.
The newscaster as she thought of him was from what she knew a civilian with MIT credentials and had PHD in chemical engineering, graduating Summa Cum Laude at twenty from Harvard. He had done work for NASA, and the Skunkworks department of the Department of Defense. His name was David Kellerman. She caught his eye, and so did he President. You could be a complete idiot and become elected President of the United States of America, but if you couldn’t read people and understand the minute body language and backwards, cryptic, understated logic of your opponents, you were a dead duck in politics.
“David, you had a concern about Christmas?” said the President.
The newscaster, recaptured his thought clearly in his head.
“No sir, Christmas seems like worthy time to set the country back in motion, what maybe a delay in that estimate, would be the lack of solid fact on what obstacles lie in front of us. Without a proper survey, it seems improbable, to say the least.”
“Yes, but with one, we could do it by Christmas,” said the President, now filling the room with blue cigar smoke.
“I’m sure, yes, but I’m not an expert in economics, nor an expert in infrastructure. I’m just a chemist.”
“Oh, you’re more than that Dave,” said the president.
“Yes, I suppose that’s underestimating myself.”
The gallery laughed. Eve was left out of some insidious joke known to all. She hated being a girl sometimes. She felt like she was waiting outside a locker room while the coach gave a pep talk to jock strapped players.
“But our odds look good, Dave.”
“Oh, favorable, I should say. Very favorable,” David said. “The first test stage should be completed in a week and we should have immediate results providing all goes well. From there we should have a practical solution to the problem by Christmas.”
This was the first Eve had heard about any tests. What where they testing? Solution to what problem? The Chinese problem?
“Good. I want to see goddamn Santa Claus this year. No commie yellow bastards are going to take Christmas away from American children.”
“You can rest assured, Mr. President, if all goes well, this will stop war forever.”
11 men remaining.
The Chinese army had swept though Anderson Air Force bases residential neighbourhood. The impact of the neutron devices they exploded by cruise missile flooded the area with neutrino’s killing damn near everything. It wasn’t a big bomb, they didn’t want to ruin the runways, but it was enough to put a quick end to the residents of Fleming Heights Housing. Such are the horrors of war. The young boys who were the first soldiers (after all – send in the least experienced if you think that radiation is still a problem) wandering in and out of the houses of Anderson’s finest, past swimming pools, through garages. Up New York Avenue, and Santa Rosa drive. They looked in the tents set up in grassed backyards for children to spend the night with their pals. They were empty, and when they weren’t, the sight was too horrible to describe. The grass they walked on and flower beds had dried up roses, and grass that felt like it was scorched by the summer heat. All the plant life was dead, or dying. Still, the young soldiers who gripped their type 95 assault rifles and PF-97 grenade launches dressed in specially made camouflaged suits, that looked like neoprene and would minimize the radiation. They wore hoods with gas masks and goggles, and dreamed that when this was all over, they could settle here with their wives and children. This after all would be an important base for the Peoples Liberation Army Navy.
The soldiers had also been told to wait it out. The first stream of men (mostly, just young boys) that went in were knocked down by heavy resistance by a few stragglers. The first wave would have been dead anyway, since they arrived so soon after the attack without the proper protection. They only had so many anti-radiation suits to go along.
Men were cheap to the PLA but they needed Anderson intact, so the next wave of men wore proper protection. They came on shore to Paradise. They had trained longer.
They wanted to see America and visit John Ford’s monument valley. They wanted to drive a type 98 Main Battle Tank down Pennsylvania Avenue and crush the White House and all its occupants. They wanted to surf in Hawaii and watch Magnum P.I. and compare the two. They wanted to fly fish in Montana like Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. They wanted to shop at Wal-Mart and buy a Sony TV. They wanted American Freedom, but a Chinese State controlled Capital Hill.
Sonny drank his coffee. It was good coffee, and probably the last cup he would ever have. It would be the last with the boys, that was for sure. He felt he was getting sick, he was sure of it. The men didn’t look so hot either. His stomach hurt. Payne had the shits soon after they came into the room and he knew it wasn’t Thompson’s coffee. He would be a goner soon. He knew the dangerous particles had penetrated his own cells and most likely, the dose was fatal. He knew that his body could regenerate diseased cell if the exposure was minimal each day. He also knew that these men around him were the lucky ones, and in all likelihood, they would die just like everyone else. But if Sonny was going to go, he was going out in style.
“I wish the other boys were here,” said Sonny.
“They’ll be here, Chief. Don’t you worry,” said Thompson.
“Thompson, shut up and listen to the Chief,” scoldedKelly.
“It’s okay Sean.” Sonny rarely called Kelly by his first name. “Listen, we’ve been hit hard here. Real hard. We’re all Anderson has left. The PLA caught us with our pants down around our ankles. No doubt about that. This is World War III. If we fail, and let these yellow bastards take control of this base, they will be able to gain hold of the entire Pacific. You know this, and I know, aside from basic, you’re all pretty green in the field. So am I. Now I have a plan, and it’s not a good one. It’s a kamikaze mission. Let’s face it, either we high tail our asses of this island, or we die defending it. If we go, it will be completely undefended. Now, that isn’t to say that the Calvary won’t come in to save us. But it appears to be unlikely. So: I want to go get Martha and drop her on the tarmac from a B1.”
Sonny saw the fear in their eyes. Even Kelly was scared.
“Drop Martha from a B1” Chuvalo said softly to himself.
“That’s right,” said Sonny. “18 Megatonnes should do the trick.”
They all laughed, sort of.
The reality of the situation sunk in to his men.
“If you can think of another way, I’m all ears,” said Sonny. C’mon, come up with something better he thought. Something inspired.
“What if, what if we, uh,” Thompson stuttered. “I’m sorry, Chief, I can’t think of anything that will get us out of this mess alive.”
It was the most somber he ever saw Thompson.
“I can’t think of anything better either, Airman. I’m sorry.” Sonny was sorry. Was it the coffee bothering his stomach, or the neutrinos?
“Chief,” started Kelly. “I can’t think of a better way to wipe those fuckers of our island.”
“Me either chief,” said Chuvalo.
“Hey, what else do I have to do today,” said Thompson. “Let’s do it.”
“Alright. Lets get a map and figure this out.”
They found a schematic of Anderson and laid it out on the table.
“Okay,” said Sonny. “Nukes are kept over in Special Ordinance here at hanger D. I don’t have today’s code, so we better get that first.”
“Payne?” Sonny knocked on the door to the head. “We got to go. You alright?”
Payne opened the door and looked ghastly. The men looked at Payne, knowing that the growing discomfort in their bowels, the itchy skin, dry throat and eyes, that they felt, would overtake their bodies just like it had with Payne.
“I don’t think I’ll make it Sonny,” said Payne.
“None of us are going to kid. But we have to try.”
“Alright, we all know what to do don’t we?” said Sonny.
“Fuck yeah” said Thompson.
“Well lets get it done,” said Sonny.
“You heard the Chief, move out,” yelled Kelly, his primary duty.
“Hold em off, for us,” said Chuvalo. Chuvalo gave him a couple spare clips.
“You keep em, Chuvalo,” said Payne.
Chuvalo nodded and moved through the door pointing his rifle where his eyes moved.
“See you later Ray”, said Thompson.
“Later.” said Payne.
Payne knew that as he watched the men go through the door out into the corridor, later, meant forever.
When Sonny was halfway down the North corridor, he heard a single shot behind him and he knew Payne did himself in. Thompson, Kelly and Chuvalo had clearly heard it as well. Hard not to hear an M16A2 discharge into a man’s head at close range.
Danny Price had heard the shot as well. He was nearing thirty and had spent what seemed like forever in the Air Force. It had been eight years since basic, and then Vandenberg AFB in California.
It beat Waukegan.
It beat being in Korea.
It beat being in Iraq, or Iran.
He was happy to be stationed in Guam.
It was fucking paradise.
Or it was.
He spent two years failing English Lit and Sociology. He was in the community college parking lot smoking Dunhill’s shooting the shit going nowhere fast on his way having a kid and a mortgage and wife with a big ass and sagging titsworking on the Burlington Northern as a yardman trying to get seniority on the spare-board and being bumped off days working nights the rest of his Goddamn life like his old man and then sleeping with the hairdresser because she leaned in and her blouse smelled good and her large breasts touched his chest when she leaned in to clip the hair on his crown and she would know what he would want she wanted out and so would he so he would do what he would do and then get fat and depressed full of guilt and die of a Goddamn heart attack at forty-seven because it takes a train with a hundred cars of coal over a mile and a half to stop but a family of five in a Volvo never seem to understand that and always want to try to beat the crossing and everyday he would go about wishing he had done something else with his life and then thank God and Jesus for the life insurance to keep his family good when he was gone that was where he was headed that’s for sure when he met the NAVY recruiter in the college parking lot smoking Dunhill’s and shooting the shit.
He still kept his hair clipped like a recruit. He hated long hair in the heat. It was 81 degrees. The humidity, 86 percent.
He looked good bald. The girls said so.
Eve doodled behind after the conference was finished, just long enough shuffling and re-reordering paper and jotting down notes in her agenda for the President Nouveau to move along back to his office. As she flipped a few months ahead she saw notes on events that would never happen:
November 8, 4 PM - ‘Monster’s annual check up’
November 14th, Dad’s 62nd B.Day – Call at 6:15 pm.
She looked at the upcoming December. God forbid she was spending it down here, singing “Silent Night” and “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.”
When the NEW PRESIDENT left the room with his armada of advisors, he turned and had that look.
‘Come drop on by later, Eve, the wife’s dead.’
She closed her agenda. No way.
This year would be the year to end all years. She didn’t have to keep her job. She didn’t care. But she wanted to go on her own terms, and Dr. David Kellerman was worrying her. What was that man up to? She could see that he was in conversation with one of the security men just up the hall.
“Dr. Kellerman? May I have a moment with you, if you will,” she said as she caught up to him.
“Sure, just a moment,” David said to her. He then turned back to the security guard, another boy she thought. The security guard was blond and built well for a soldier, very strong with a barrel chest and thick legs. The boy would have been hot had he not looked cruel and serious.
“Don’t let anyone in my study, no one gets in my lab without my approval, and that goes for the Secretary of Defense and the President. Wake me up if you have to. Nobody gets in.”
“Yes sir,” said the soldier boy. His name tag read Garver, K.
Garver looked at Eve, thought little and left.
“Now what can I help you with miss Kendal,” said David.
“Well, I was kinda of intrigued by what you said earlier.”
“What was it I said, exactly that was intriguing?”
“You said,” she said carefully. “What you were working on would stop the war forever.”
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
“Now I was wondering how. I mean, can you explain it to me, or maybe I could just come by your room later and you could tell me over dinner.” She locked her eyes with him.
She bet David was either gay, or the type of man who repressed his sexuality so deep, he could reproduce by mating with himself. He didn’t even bother to look at her tits. Even Garver, K. took in her body with a quick glance.
David knew her game. “Miss Kendal, I don’t know what you think you are doing here, but let me tell you this; its nothing to trouble that pretty little head of yours, so go play nice with the President and stop asking silly questions. Is that all?”
“Yes,” she said taken aback.
“Good.” He walked away.
He probably wasn’t gay, she thought when she regained her composure. She found that attractive.
Dawn. Kylie awoke, alone. The trees were full of birds calling and chirping to each other. It drove her nuts. She liked sleeping in – she needed the rest. She missed AC. And she missed Jayson.
She was completely useless by herself. It actually made her mad, because she knew Jayson was aware how useless she actually was. After a quick pee (no tp, only leaves – YUCK!), she headed off to find food.
Everything looked edible and everything looked poisonous. God. She would kill for Special K, a granola bar, yogurt, or a banana – and she hated bananas (who needs potassium anyway?). Some bright red berry tasted sour. She spit it out (a pillar of grace she was). There was some type of coconut-fruit-thingy up in the trees, but she wasn’t about to climb one to get it. She looked for a mango (doesn’t this part of the world have mangos?).
She couldn’t find mangos.
At this rate, she’d die. She’d be voted off survivor that’s for sure.
On the main island she no problems eating. Japanese food was everywhere – sashimi, miso, rice, yakitori, rice – she could always find a bento box. Or, junk food. The island was full of it (blame the America for that). All the Pohnpeians were fat(it’s true) or in ill health. And, no wonder, she couldn’t even find a pineapple (and she knew there was pineapple everywhere).
She saw a plan that looked like it had orange-pink bananas. She hated bananas. On her tour to see Nan Madol some yuppie-fuck was eating something like this. He said they were “carrots, with a k.” Karots. They looked liked bananas to her.
She pulled one off the plant (don’t banana’s grow in trees?). She peeled it and ate it.
It was ok.
It was food and she found it.
She waited for Jayson in the shade and read her Borges. She was reading “The Immortal,” a beautiful tale, which she just couldn’t finish. It wasn’t very long either, only a few pages. Jayson would be by soon with real food – and she would tell him she loved him. Well, eventually, depending if he brought with him a big breakfast with mangos and pineapple.
She tried to sleep for a few hours and she dreamt, lurid sexy dreams.
Kylie’s SexyLurid Dream
Jayson was a Greek warrior, and she a Goddess. He chased her down a stream (he was naked under his armour - so hot!). She teased him and splashed water into his face. He kept after her. He grabbed her wrist but twisted it and easily escaped his grip (so firm!). She laughed at him and he drew his sword (so long!). She ran away into a cave. This was all part of her plan.
The walls were smooth and earthen clay lit with torches. Jayson entered after her. She laughed and mocked him as he failed each attempt to tear her gown away from her body (a fantasy, for sure). She lost a sandal, and took off the other and tossed it at him – he evaded. She ran past wall paintings of the Minotaur, and with each curve, each turn, she knew she was approaching the end of her labyrinth.
She found the enclave – the end of her journey (and no Minotaur in sight!). There was an alter where she would let Jayson make her mortal. Dried myrtle branches filled vases around the perimeter of the room. She would be Aphrodite, Jayson her Adonis.
Jayson’s footsteps were slowing and then – nothing.
She listened. Not a sound.
“Jayson?” she said carefully and quite so she would not ruin the game.
She stepped out into the passage. The walls curved toward a torch and fell into the darkness.
“Jay-son,” she sing-songed. Jay-son.”
And then he grabbed her forcefully and kissed her, long and deep. She backed up against the alter. He ripped open her Delphos gown (blood red). She crushed her breasts into him and wrapped her arms around his muscular back (no hair anywhere!). He ran his hand down her spine - traced its arc to the very small of her back. With the other, he caressed her breast (swollen to a 32c). His hand was soft and smooth (no calluses or hangnails). She loosened the strap and pulled the battle scared chest plate away. His chest was hard, lean, tanned – hairless. She kissed and sucked ever so delicately and so very very slow, down his pectorals, her mouth taking in his nipple.
He moaned. His long golden hair fell across his face. She licked his stomach (six pack).
Achilles placed her on the alter. She wrapped her legs around him, and she felt his kisses upon her neck. His face was perfectly smooth shaven (unlike Jayson). His warm breathe on her ear. “I need you Kylie,” said Achilles. “You are the most beautiful woman in all of Greece, and you are mine, all mine.”
She gazed into his blue eyes, and slowly, very slowly he kissed and licked and caressed her body, down her neck, to her chest, his findings gliding down her arms. She could feel his hot breathe against her skin, moving down over her breast – her nipples hardening as he pulled at the flesh with his teeth. A soft moan fell from her lips.
“I want you,” she beckoned.
He ignored her pleas and each kiss sent a shiver down her spine, beads of perspiration rising on her skin. His soft kissed moved ever so teasingly lower. She thought she was going to die.
“I want you inside me.”
“I need –“
“Oh God Oh God Oh God, Brad, Oh-un-un-unn-UHHNNnnghhhnmmmmmmmm.”
Her Brad Pitt Troy fantasy always did it for her.
Kylie knew nothing about movies, but she knew Troy was unbelievably atrocious. It was boring as hell (she fell asleep even!) and the writing was bad. It was so pompous she broke out laughing at the screen – and the real skinny guy, Orlando – why was he a sex symbol? She had no idea. But, Brad, boy – when he wanted to he, he could be so sexy when he looked like he bathed (sometimes he looked well, like he needed a shower). His bod was so hard (and firmest in Fight Club [Did you see his washboard abs?] – YUM!). Just the thought of those thick forearms around her, oh my God. Pure orgasmic bliss.
She also had a Christian Bale fuck fantasy, where he was naked and chasing her with a chainsaw (like in American Psycho), and the Christian Bale Batman swooped down (out of nowhere!) and saves her, and the two Christians fight, and then they all make up and kiss, and well, it got pretty steamy, her and the two Christians (double yum!) all naked and touching each other, the one Christian touching and kissing the other Christian, all while she watched. Yeah, that was a good one. She thought she better save it for later.
Jayson looked and smelled awful. He was no Brad Pitt. He hadn’t slept, and stayed up watching the sun rise from the other side of the atoll. His face went from sexy to scruffy over night. Women confused him, and he gained no insight. He was sure he loved Kylie – they had been through a lot. But that new girl through him for a loop. The tattoo, the lip ring, the cowboy hat. She was the dangerous rock-n-roll girl from a Guess™ fashion spread, where Kylie was more Nylon Magazine material (both equally good, just different). It really did a number on him.
He had fashioned a spear and was standing in shallow water hoping to impale a crab or tortoise. He wasn’t much into it though. He half-heartedly plunged the spear into the water at a passing crab. He missed and he watched as it hid under a rock.
Why did he want this other girl so much? Mystery? The chase? Was it just because he’d slept with Kylie already? He was so pathetic. But what kind of life would there be with Kylie? They could settle down, maybe open a restaurant. Fuck. He had no idea what he would do now. He had no money. The States was probably in ruin. The Chinese were everywhere – even paradise. They wouldn’t be able to run for ever. Would they be jailed? Shot? Interned? He didn’t know what the plan was.
He saw a sea turtle.
He threw his spear into the water. The turtle dived and his spear floated away with tide.
“Fucking hell,” said Jayson.
It was probably for the best. Who knows how old the turtle was. It could have been eighty-years old. What right did he have to kill it?
“You win turtle. This time.”
He walked onto the beach, where he stashed his worldly belongings. He grabbed his iPod, unraveled the earbuds (Why are they always in knots?) and put them on. He pressed the Apple Click Wheel™, and absolutely nothing happened. The battery was dead.
The iPod made a minute splash in the water because of stellar industrial design. It was like it just slipped in, and spread the water around itself. Good design or not, it didn’t float. It sunk just like any other object Jayson had ever thrown into water. It would look pretty amongst the coral.
Twyla rolled onto her stomach. Her tan, she thought, was becoming perfect (although she couldn’t tell if her strap line across the back had disappeared – she needed two mirrors and only had one).
She watched the ocean and thought – nothing. Not of food (she was kinda hungry), not of the American boy (who was scruffy in a sexy dirty way) and not of the sound of a distant diesel (which seemed to be getting closer judging from the continual rise in volume).
Yes, it was wonderful to think of nothing.
And incredibly boring.
She reached over with little effort and dragged her camera over by the strap (something she should never do). She took a look. She needed her 200mm. Really what she needed was a 600mm. Her 70-200mm was useless. She opened her case and put on her Nikon 1.7x Tele converter. She popped on the 200mm. With the converter she now had a 340mm lens. Not too bad.
Now she could see better. Out in the ocean was a gray-blue vessel approaching fast. It had a square-shaped pontoon and two large air propellers on the back. It looked like a toy her brother had as a kid from G.I. Joe. Except this wasn’t a toy, and the men carrying submachine guns were not Real American Heroes.
“Oh my God,” she said as she took a picture.
Jayson was standing in water holding his iPod and wondering how much damage the salt water did when he heard the turbines of the landing craft approach.
The craft would land at the other side of the atoll within minutes. This was not good. And then he only had one thought in his head. “Kylie.”
He moved toward the shore and then suddenly his whole body erupted in fire. He screamed. He wasn’t sure if he had been shot. All he knew was he was experiencing the most incredible pain he had ever felt. He dropped the iPod into the water and had no urge to find it. His back was burning. He turned.
Goddamn thing. He hadn’t been so preoccupied with the iPod its tentacles floated into his back. He was sure they were still stuck to him but he wasn’t about to rip one off and sting his hands.
He swam away from it and made it to shore. He ran up onto the beach and into the treeline. He was crying from the pain. He had to find Kylie and that other girl, the girl in with the tattoo and the lip ring, the one that kept rolling around and around in his head before the Chinese did.
He hoped they were still alive because he needed one of them to urinate on him.
Eve had the whole layout of the bunker in her head. All six floors. She liked to run down the halls past the people. They always moved out of her way. She did laps this way. She knew the armory code (085-647-923-1). It reminded her of playing Sodoku.
She just put on her iPod and ran. She watched for patterns. When people left their offices. Who was where, when. Areas that would do the most damage. Obstacles that would stand in her way (like Marines). Her Nike shoes told her how far she went. She ran five miles before she hit the gym.
She did 3 sets of 20 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, arm curls (3 sets of 20 lbs), shoulders raises (4 sets of 10 lbs) and seated triceps presses (25 pounds, 8 times!). She was getting hard. Her breasts were down a cup size. Her forearms had veins for the first time ever. Her legs were solid and her stomach was looking the best it had ever. She liked the feel of a bicep. It was the size of a tennis ball when she flexed. She liked posing naked in the mirror, flaring her lats. She was becoming muscular, and somehow more feminine than she’d ever been. She started tanning for definition (some UV light was recommended anyway so they had multiple tanning beds). She took a self-defense course on Wednesday nights for an hour. She broke a Marine’s thumb (he wouldn’t let go of the plastic knife). In the cafeteria she ate as much protein as she could (the food was all terrible anyway) - she needed the muscle power if she was going to get out of here alive.
After her workout she walked to the steam room. Her body was sore, but it needed to be used to the punishment. After all she was preparing to play in game seven of the Stanley Cup final against a team on home ice. She thought she hated sports, but the physical activity invigorated her. She played basketball against some of the marines (they wanted her on their team – no deal).
She opened the sauna door and startled a young woman. She was small, not unattractive, a redhead with freckles that were not limited to her face and probably went under the towel she was holding tight. Eve had seen her before. She was a breeder. Somebody’s secretary. Army, she thought.
“Oh, I thought I was alone,” said the woman.
“Evidently not,” said Eve.
“You’re the President’s assistant are you not?”
“Yes. I’m the executive assistant to the president, Eve Kendal.” Eve really hated speaking to other people.
“I’m Stephanie. I’ve been assigned to Brigadier General Andrews.”
“Ah, that’s who you are,” said Eve. It wasn’t hot enough so she poured some water on the coals and sat back against the cedar walls. She could tell Stephanie was uncomfortable with the rise in heat.
“You look like you’re keeping fit.”
“Nothing else to do down here.”
“I know what you mean. It’s driving me nuts. Sometimes I think I’m going to kill somebody.”
“Really? You too?” said Eve.
“Well, not really. Just an expression,” said Stephanie clearly thinking she wasn’t going to hurt anyone. She couldn’t help but admire Eve’s body. She didn’t have an ounce of fat. Suddenly she felt heavy and bloated beside her.
“Oh. I thought you meant it. I’m claustrophobic. It really bothers me being down here. The ceilings are so low. The hallways feel narrow. Like they are closing in on me. I feel this pressure,” Eve pressed her chest. “Here. I can’t get rid of it. It’s like I’m being slowly crushed to death. My lungs are collapsing with every breath of recycled air. Every meeting. I feel like I’m dying down here. I would kill to be outside in a park. To see the sky.” She was welling up with emotion. She felt like crying, but held back. “Really.”
“Well,” said Stephanie in a measured way. “I think we’re going to be down here for a while until it’s safe to go outside. You just have to be patient and wait. We’re all in this together.”
Eve had heard this talk before. It was bullshit.
“Yeah, we’re all in this together.” She poured more water on the coals. It was ten degrees hotter now. She was sweating good sucking the moisture out her body. After a cold shower, she’d be a half-a-pound leaner.
“Are you dating anyone?” said Stephanie.
“You mean besides The President?”
“Well, actually, there was this guy I found terribly hot.” Eve hated this type of talk.
“What’s his name?”
“You mean Dr. David Kellerman?”
“The same,” Eve said. Who the fuck else was she referring to, honestly.
“Isn’t he gay?” said Stephanie.
“I don’t know. What do you know about him.” C’mon, spill the beans bitch.
“He’s in RND doing a Top Secret project for the President. You haven’t been briefed?”
“Just the basics. I’m sure I’ll find out sooner or later, but I just met him the other day. He’s really good looking and so refined.”
“That’s why I kind of thought he was gay,” said Stephanie.
“Me too,” said Eve.
“He’s got a great little ass,” said Stephanie who thought this was a shocking revelation from her expression.
Eve laughed at her and they laughed together the way Eve had seen other women laugh together.
“Ha-ha-ha-ha-Yeah, but he used to work for GSK.”
“GSK?” Eve had no idea what she was talking about.
“Glaxo-Smith-Kline.” It took a minute to register with her. GSK was a multibillion dollar pharmaceutical. They made Paxil. She had a girlfriend who was on it for years after a nervous breakdown.
“You mean he made anti-depressants?”
“Yeah, I guess. He’s our top chemist. He was apparently in RND at GSK for years before he became a defense contractor.”
“If you go for a drink with him, I wouldn’t drink the Kool-Aid if you know what I’m saying. God, who knows what he developed for personal use, you might wake-up, you know-.”
Eve had to think about David a bit more. She was right. He was more dangerous than she thought.
“Yeah. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t of said that. I’m sure he’s nice.”
“It’s alright, thanks for the warning.”
“Anyway, I’m dying in here. Gotta get back to the General. He keeps talking about babies.” She rolled her eyes into her head.
“Nice talking to you Stephanie.” It was nice talking to her.
“You too, Eve, Good-night.”
Stephanie opened the door and left. Cold stale air sucked into the room. Eve pulled the door shut and ladled more water. The coals seared with heat.
Eve could relate.
A phone began to ring just outside the sauna. The whole complex was wired with telephones. Eve ignored it. The phone rang ten times, then stopped. She relaxed. She was tired now and dripping in sweat.
The phone rang again.
“Fuck off,” she said. This was pissing her off. The phone rang ten more times and once again stopped. A knock on the door and an aide, a tall skinny fellow in his late twenties wearing a three button dark grey wool suit, pale yellow shirt and a matching striped tie (in a double Windsor knot), entered.
“Miss Kendal. The President is on the phone.”
She raised her eyes into her skull.
“No time for rest or play down here,” said the aide. He wore a nametag that read: Weaver, A. He was polite enough not to look at her body for too long.
“You got that right.”
The aide nodded and left once he saw the receiver was in her hand.
“Eve Kendal speaking.”
“Where the fuck are you? said the President.
“In a sauna, sir.”
“A sauna? Jesus H. Christ, I’ve been calling you all fucking day.
“You said that was all for today.”
“You pick up the phone when I’m calling you. I don’t want to tell you again. We’re at war. I’m the President.”
A long pause began. She could hear him puff on a cigar. She could smell it through the phone.
“Eve, you get that pretty little ass of yours to my office ASAP.”
“Yes, Mr. President,” said Eve through a clenched jaw.
“Fuck!” said the President and the receiver went dead in her hand. She punched the wall and headed toward the shower.
10 men remaining.
Go go go go go go go go,” yelled Sonny. His men ran past him down a corridor and he provided covering fire. They were all tired. Hungry. The Chinese were everywhere. Just when they thought they had one area sealed, it was breached. He had shot a lot of young Chinese men. It would bother him later.
Sonny had a list in his head:
Paul watched the hard rainfall. The rain smelled odd to him. He’d been in England all his life, and he knew all the different of English Rain. This rain smelled of chemicals. He supposed it was the fall out. He was out of pot. Thierry was dead. He put a blanket on top of him. He would have to bury him if Neil didn’t show up soon.
He couldn’t figure out why the man attacked him. What would provoke such a lad?
Mark David Chapman was a Beatles fan.
Was Michael Abram? Was he a fan of George, or just out for publicity when he put a knife through his lung? George wouldn’t hurt a fly. George was a good man. He missed George. God be with him.
He wondered if Ringo was all right.
It was a myth that Ringo was the most popular Beatle.
Paul heard glass break. It was unmistakable. The cat took off. Something large was thrown through a window in the kitchen. The front door was being kicked in. He heard snarling. Had everyone gone bloody mad?
He ran through his family room and caught a glimpse of men coming in through the windows in the living room.
He heard a slow “slump, shhhhhhhhhh, slump, shhhhhhhhhhh,” as something moved across the kitchen in the opposite direction.
He moved quickly upstairs and ran to the master bedroom. He closed himself in the huge walk in closet. On one side neatly hung his blazers, trousers and shirts. A custom wardrobe fitted his ties, socks and unmentionables. The other side was bare aside from one pair of suit pants he had moved so it would not seem so bare without his wife’s clothes. It made the room feel emptier.
He wished he wasn’t a pacifist.
He hid behind a suit his daughter made for him.
He heard the slump coming up the stairs. He heard growling, a low gargling sound. A putrid smell filled the room and made him gag.
He reached along the wall and found a tennis racket. He unzipped it from its case and held it tight within his left hand.
He could see a figure move through the cracks in the door. He hid tight against the wall between suits.
The closet door opened. The slump entered.
Dear God! NO!
“Maccaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa,” said the slump inside the room. His breath filled the air with rotting fish.
Paul was getting nauseous. His heart began to beat so loud he couldn’t think.
Get that smell away from me.
Get that smell away from me.
Get that smell away from me
The smell was going to ruin his suits.
Paul saw the man. Pale skin, bad teeth, gash in the forehead. He foot was near severed and he dragged it behind him. The man had once had a mop cut.
He knew a Beatle fan when he saw one. Who else would know his nickname? And he knew a zombie when he saw one.
He leaped out with a forearm swing and hit the zombie across the cheek shattering its face. The zombie fell and Paul ran out of the closet.
He looked back. It was still moving.
He didn’t feel that stoned. He was fairly certain (although not one hundred percent), that he wasn’t hallucinating.
They were Beatle zombies and they wanted Paul dead. He could feel it. Zombiefied Beatles fans.
He was sure they were all over the estate. He could clearly hear them now (he had perfect pitch) and the stench filled his home. He quickly grabbed a small suitcase and threw in a good suit, a couple long sleeve cotton shirts with really cool prints, three undershirts, a pile of socks and clean underwear. He had to kick the body in the closet a few times as it kept moving.
He took a good pair of leather boots from the bottom of the closet (kick kick kick). He put on a pair of navy blue cotton socks. When he put his right foot in the boot he found an ounce of Mary Jane he tucked away a long time ago. He was very pleased with this. Now he had his zombie kick ass boots on.
From the bathroom he took: soap, his tooth brush, dental floss, organic toothpaste, some organic hair balm and a brush (he was a public figure after all), plus nail clippers and a file in case he had a hang nail.
Now, he had to get to the car park. He held on tight to the tennis racket. He peered around the corner. The stairs were clear. He moved quickly for his age (lots of yoga). He reached the bottom of the stairs and he saw four zombies lingering in his living room rummaging through Paul’s memorabilia. Two of the zombies were middle age men, the other just a teenager. They all looked and smelled like death. The last zombie was Thierry. He hadn’t killed him after all.
“Thierry! Go home!” Paul shouted. This alarmed them and they began to drag themselves after him.
“Go home!” Paul once again shouted to no avail.
Paul needed a distraction. A framed platinum record of “Band on The Run” was on the wall. He threw it at them, and sure enough they moved to get it, fighting each other until one of them clung to it until they saw it was of Wings and not the Beatles. One of them threw it away.
So it was like that.
“How would you like a painting?”
They stared blankly, like zombies are prone to do.
He threw a nice abstract piece he painted.
They ignored it.
Even the undead are critics.
Paul began to grab anything off the wall he thought they might want. Framed photos of the Fab Four from the early sixties. A candid photo of Paul as a teenager. He left a photo of him with Linda. He found his MBE.
“Hey! This is my Member of The British Empire medal I received from Her Majesty as a Beatle in 1965! Who wants it?”
They became excited reaching up in the air and waving their torn limbs.
He threw it in an awkward place and they clamored together. Thierry began to eat it.
Paul made it to the car park without incident. He was soaking wet as he decided it would be best to go around the estate. He wasn’t sure what auto to take, the Rolls or The Lexus. He settled on the black hybrid Lexus RX 400L luxury SUV Paul McCartney Special Edition. Paul had worked a deal with Lexus and donated one to Adopt-A-Minefield. They had made a special Sir Paul McCartney Signature Edition and it was so pretty he couldn’t resist it. It was one of a kind and he had them make an exact duplicate of the give away. Beautifully hand painted on the sides was his 62’ Hofner Violin Bass. The face being on the left hand, the rear of the Hofner on the driver side with his signature, he was after all, a southpaw. The bonnet had a hand striped flaming Hofner insignia.
It was all very tasteful and it was environmentally sound and custom made for UK driving (the driver on the left side).
He went to open the door. It was locked. He checked his pockets and realized he didn’t have the key. He didn’t want to go back into the house. He looked inside the tinted windows and saw that he had locked the keys in the ignition.
“Oh Bloody hell!” he said all too loudly.
In frustration he hit the SUV with the tennis racket, but his grip was too loose, and he knocked it out of his hand onto the oil stained floor.
He looked around for something to break the glass. He found a pry-bar.
Now which window would he break? This could be a serious problem if he didn’t think this properly though. He didn’t want to get wet, so it couldn’t be a front side window. The boot window had the head of the bass; he couldn’t break that (he really thought it looked rather cool). The rear passenger doors had the outline of the Hofner. So that was a no. He decided on the smallest window behind the rear passenger seat. He smashed it and safety glass went all over Bea’s baby seat and setting off the car’s alarm system: WoooooooooeeeeeeeeeepWooooooooooeeee eeepWoooooooooeeeeeeepeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepWooooooooooooeeeeep!
Paul was frantic trying to open the door through the small window. He realized the window wasn’t going to open because it had a child safety lock to it. The sound was driving him bonkers.
He smashed the boot window, tossed in his suitcase and crawled in through the back cargo area over the seats, which had Vox AC30 Amp inspired diamond pattern fabric and trim that matched the Hofner pick guard. He pulled himself though to the driver seat grabbing onto the custom Shure 55 Microphone shifter. He shut the alarm off and cranked the 3.3-liter V6 engine. Immediately the car began to beep at him.
“Now what?!” He saw the seat-belt sign was on.
He put his seat belt on and the sound ceased. The VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) warning light illuminated on the dash briefly after starting, noting to Paul that it was active (He hadn’t a clue what it actually did). Paul looked over, and saw a face pressed to the glass of his driver window. He recoiled in horror. The man began to hit his window hard. Another began to crawl across the bonnet.
He turned on the headlights and pressed the automatic door opener. He revved the engine. Someone was behind him. He looked in the rearview mirror and saw a middle-aged woman with large hips and dyed black hair (wearing jeans and a tan blouse) crawling into the cargo space.
“Pauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuulllllllllllllllllll, Iiiiiiiiiii loooooovee youuuu” she said.
Paul put the Shure mic shifter in reverse and sped backwards hitting the back wall shearing the woman’s legs from her body. He changed gear quickly into drive and the woman (both halves) fell on the drive. In front of him was Thierry.
Thierry had that look, that chew his own face off kind a look. Paul didn’t like it one bit Thierry’s head lolled about and his jaw moved back and forth like he was one of Paul’s cows regurgitating grass and chewing cud. Paul was pretty sure he was eating one of his paintings. It was hard to tell. He could of been chewing his own tongue. He thought it looked liked Boxer Lips, one of his red Francis Bacon style portraits from 1990. “You bastard, Thierry.” He really liked that painting.
Paul gunned the Lexus and Thierry bounced off the bumper into the windshield, making a spider-web impact in the glass as his body tumbled back over the bonnet and was dragged below. He was compacted under the front and rear tires. Paul felt the bumps, and saw in the rear mirror, the body strewn across his drive.
“Sorry, Thierry,” Paul said without any remorse (he knew he would feel really terrible and it was probable that he would feelvery guilty later on, but for now, he felt rather satisfied).
He left his property and looked back at the main house. He hoped when he returned everything would be normal and right again.
He headed southwest along Brede Lane toward Sedlescombe for fuel. After that, he would bear north toward London, to Abbey Road.
Reverend McKenzie was without a doubt, a very old man. Bono was surprised about this immediately, and he certainly wasn’t expecting it. It caught him off guard. The man was about eighty-one, or ninety-five, if was hard to tell. He was ghastly thin, and the he seemed to have been a tall man, and that was evident even in this frail, withered state sitting down at the head of long modest, dining table, where Bono now quietly sat sipping on an English breakfast tea.
The elderly priest wore his frock with a worn green hand knitted wool cardigan draped around him. He wore thick glasses and when ever Bono looked at him, he thought: glaucoma. His skim milk eyes reflected light in the exact same manner as a cat, and certainly like Harrison Ford’s Rick Dekard in Blade Runner (the director’s cut, not the original, although Bono was fond of both, but certainly the director’s cut was superior). Reverend McKenzie may have been a replicant. A very old one. His voice was very soft though. Tender. Reverend McKenzie reminded him of William S. Burroughs when they were doing the video for Last Night On Earth. He just needed a good suit, the right fedora and heroin.
Bono didn’t have any problems with age, or at least he didn’t think so (he certainly wasn’t and ageist). There was something very wonderful about growing old and wise. He looked forward to it. It saddened him further to think that so many elderly are neglected.
Neglected though, the Reverend was not. His wife Margot, doted on him and seemed to be everywhere at once, which was a considerable feat given that the small two-story farm house was now home to the refugees of flight BA0092. And that’s what got to him the most – Margot reminded him of Ali in almost everyway. Margot had to have been around Bono’s age (late forties). He initially assumed she was Reverend McKenzie’s daughter, but through listening to the conversation with the rest of the table, he learned, no, they were in fact married, and had met each other twelve years ago at the Church, and had been inseparable ever since (age and love have nothing to do with each other).
Bono had entered the house to find that everyone for the most part was in pleasant spirits. A kind of communal bonding had taken place between them, and in everyway Bono felt that he was a stranger intruding. Bono asked if he could do anything, but was quickly told “no,” just to sit down, and that’s what he did. Two women, Christine and Mary-Anne had taken over the kitchen along with Madge (as every one called her). So he sat without a word and listened and watched how everyone around him seemed like they were apart of a family. Bono was served soup by Mary-Anne (a domineering, bulky woman who was attractive in her own way, just terse). He buttered a slice of rye, and then simply ate his soup.
“How’s the soup, Bono?” asked Margot.
“It’s very good. Carrot and ginger?”
“That’s right, do you need anything else?”
“No, no. I’m fine. Thank you so much for your hospitality,” he said.
“Don’t you worry about it,” she said.
She smiled at him, and the smile formed just like Ali’s smiles formed. He felt hollow.
Bono soon found out Reverend McKenzie was a veteran and evidently had seen combat.
“Anyone here ever see anyone get crushed to death by a T-34 Soviet tank?”
Bono looked over at Reverend McKenzie. Mark, the young fellow beside him whispered to him. “Stroke.”
“WWI?” said Bono?
“Korea,” said Mark leaving the table.
“Christ! It’s a horrible and cruel way to go. They weigh thirty-tons. Thirty-tons! It’s like getting run over by a cement truck but with treads and a drive train made by sadists. Their Goddamn armour was seventy millimeter’s thick! We’d always find bodies of South Korean’s all mashed up, because their bazooka’s couldn’t penetrate the armour, and then they’d just get rolled over in their dugouts.” After a long pause he added “I can’t stand the smell of diesel.” He said this all very softly, and even when he was excited, his voice was contained like a cricket trapped in a bell jar.
“Henry, love. That’s enough Korea for today, your soup is getting cold,” said Margot. Reverend McKenzie looked down at his soup as if he’d never seen it before, and then began to take small delicate spoonfuls. Bono was mesmerized.
Margot exited to the living room to bring tissues to a young woman in tears, as Liam and Mark sought to console her. She was worried about her husband in Ottawa. Reverend McKenzie watched his wife leave the room.
Everyone was silent for a moment and then a male voice cut through the noise like someone walked up behind him and placed a pair of Sennheiser headphones on his ears.
Obviously If Ottawa was hit by a nuke, which it most certainly was, he wouldn’t have felt anything. Just instantaneously vaporized. Lucky bastard.
Bono looked over and sure enough it was the young man, Christopher, the eternal cynic sitting on the couch, legs crossed reading Maclean’s Magazine.
“Why did you say that?” said Bono.
“Sorry, what did I say?”
“Don’t play games?”
“I’m not playing games.”
Jesus Christ I can’t even read without being bothered by this guy. What a primadonna.
“I’m not playing games,” said Chris.
You’re not crucifying me, I can tell you that.
“I’m not going to crucify you Christopher, but what a hurtful, mean spirited thing to say to this poor woman.”
“Bono, really, it’s okay,” said Margot. “Really.”
“It’s just okay for him to say that her husband was vaporized by a nuclear weapon.”
A chill hit the room. They all stared at Bono.
“I never said that,” said Chris. “I never said anything. Honestly, man.”
How could you say something so cruel to Marcy?
Margot’s eyes bored into him.
Oh, so this girl was Marcy, thought Bono. Her note was so full of energy. Marcy look liked her heart dropped out of her ribcage.
Both Mark and Liam just looked at him with an expression of wonderment.
“Well, that’s what he said. You heard him Liam, right.”
“No,” said Liam.
“Bono, I wasn’t listening. Sorry,” said Mark.
“I--, how could you!”
I love you. I’ve loved you for years. Why do you have to hurt me so much?
Marcy broke down and ran off.
“Good going Saint Bono,” said Chris. He left the couch and walked into an enclave where stairs went up. Marcy was crying in the washroom. “Marcy, it’s Chris, he didn’t mean that. Okay.”
Bono felt faint, his head began to pound. All sounds came together. He could hear his heart. People walk. Water running. Each slurp of soup from the Reverend. His quiet voice reverberated through his head with verses from the Bible.
Listen to my words Bono: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. You think this is hell? Korea was hell. Let me tell you about Korea. The DMZ. I was there and I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions in an M4 Sherman tank breathing fire with 75mm shells. Hell smells of diesel fuel.
“Oh Christ, I need to lie down.”
And then everything went black when he hit the floor.
His garden needed watering and tending. He look around but his gardener was nowhere to be seen. He was probably off having tea with His Excellency, the Ambassador and his wife. It was the third time this week. Everything needed weed-wacking.
Enough of this. He stormed off his property and came to gates. They seemed higher than usual.
He heard music. Through the gates he could see the Canadian Ambassador’s home. It was much larger than he remembered. The gardens were perfect along the walk ways. The grass was trim under the horse chestnut trees.
He saw his gardener watering imported dogwoods and trilliums.
“Hey! Over here!” said Bono.
His gardener looked at him rather peculiarly, then resumed his duties.
“Hey! Cut my lawn! Not his. It’s me! Bono!”
He would have to climb the bars. It wasn’t that high. He was fit. No need for fake muscle shirts here. He then saw the security camera turn toward him and he climbed down.
Best not to get in any trouble.
There was a party inside. He was sure it was for the Canadian Prime Minister. He heard U2 playing and himself singing.
It was live.
This was really bothering him.
He found a buzzer, and pressed it.
“Canadian Ambassador To Canada’s Residence, how may I help you?”
“You have to help me. It’s Sir Bono. I’m singing inside right now and I think I’m late.”
“You realize of course that the Canadian Government must keep with the protocols of The Commonwealth of Former British Colonies because you are from Dublin, and are therefore barred from receiving British Pomp and Circumstance.”
“I am aware of that.”
“That’s good. We wouldn’t want to call you by the title Sir, inappropriately.”
“It’s okay, really, call me Sir, I don’t mind and I won’t tell anyone.”
“We can’t. I’m dreadfully sorry.”
“Let me in!” He pounded on the bars. It seemed like a good party. He saw The Edge and waved.
Just then he saw himself inside the compound. He wore his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses. It was certainly him.
“Sir BONO! It’s me! Let me in.” The music was too loud and he couldn’t hear him. Mick Jagger and the boys were filling in while he was drinking a Cuvée Brut Rosé Champaign and talking to his wife and Bob Geldof. He saw the British PM and he just grinned at him like an idiot. The fool. If only he could get his attention and then he’d let him in. The British PM liked musicians.
He really needed to get into this party. Why did he have to miss all the fun?
A servant in black tie walked down toward him.
Oh goody. He was going to let him in. Thank God.
“Hurry up, man, I’m on after Sweet Virginia.”
“We apologize, sir, but you seem to be missing your rose tinted Bulgari wraparounds, and we can’t let you in without them. You just wouldn’t be you.” He had the voice of Douglas Rain.
“You let him in!” He pointed to himself.
“Yes, and he’s wearing his glasses, where are yours?”
“I can’t find them. I looked all over. Even in my carry-on.”
“Did you look inside your house? On the kitchen table? Next to the New York Times?”
“No! Is that where they are?” He was jubilant. He’d been looking for them for eternity.
“No, sir, just plain old sir.”
“If I get my Bulgari’s can you call me Sir?”
“We’ll talk to the Queen.”
“Is she here?”
“Oh yes, sir, she adores U2.”
“Can you wait here while I get my glasses.”
“Well, then I’ll be missing the party.”
“I know, but I don’t want to have to ring the bell and wait for you to come down and let me in. I’ll just be a moment. I promise.”
“Be quick,” said the servant. “I don’t want to miss Bono coming out of the giant olive.”
Bono didn’t want to miss that either.
He ran into his house and sure enough as he walked into the kitchen, he saw his favorite sunglasses sitting on top of The New York Times. On the front cover was Brad and Angelina in Darfur. He reached for the newspaper not realizing he should have picked up his glasses first. He saw them slip and he was helpless. They fell and fell and fell and fell.
He saw them hit the marble and shatter.
“NO! Now, I’ll never get in.”
It was a benefit for Africa.
He began to weep.
Then everything began to rumble. He could hear tracks rip apart his yard, and then he saw it though the patio windows.
An M4 tank.
It swiveled its turret and closed in on him. He was paralyzed with fear. His heart was beating.
It grew closer and closer.
He saw the main gun about to rip through his kitchen and crush him. He closed his eyes and was hit by a wave of water and he began to scream, but it was if there was no sound whatsoever.
Jayson thought he was going to fall unconscious from the pain. Tears ran down his face. He had trouble seeing where he was going. He just thought of Kylie. He had really fallen for her. It was undeniable, and he was scared to death that the Chinese had found her first. He blocked the thought out. He had no idea what they would do. He knew they wouldn’t just hold hands and do each others make-up underneath the mango trees. They would be taken as prisoners of war, shot, or worse. It was the “or worse” that bothered him the most. He cut through the forest as fast as he could. Everything looked the same. He couldn’t get a good bearing. He found it hard to even raise his head to look ahead of him. He felt his arms being scratched by small branches as he tore them. He hoped he knew the way.
He saw Kylie.
“Kylie, oh God oh God oh. Shhh, shhh, shhhh,” Jayson mouthed quietly.
“What? What is it? You’re crying?” Kylie lowered her voice.
“They’ve landed,” he said.
“What? What’s wrong with you?” She was suddenly worried.
“The Chinese, they landed. I need you to pee on my back. Oh it hurts so much.”
“WHAT!?” There was no way she was going to do this.
“No, please Kylie, I need you to pee on my back. Please!”
“I don’t think so Jayson,” she said in a disgusted tone. “I’m not that kinky. I mean, I’ll do some things, you know, like most girls, but not that. And, I don’t think this is the right time-”
Jayson was breathing hard. His whole torso was covered in sweat (Kylie actually thought despite the tears which made him look unmanly, he looked kind of hot all wet and all, and she’d never done golden showers before).
“No!” He didn’t want to raise his voice. “Kylie, it’s not a fucking sex thing. I got stung by a goddamn jellyfish!”
“Oh my God, Jayson,” she said as she reached to touch him.
“Don’t! If any tentacles are stuck to me, you’ll get stung.”
She moved her hand back quickly.
“Does it hurt?” she said.
“Of course it fucking hurts! Hurry up and pee on me before the Chinese kill us both.” He was going to die.
“Jayson, I can’t”
“Well, I can’t either!”
“Kylie, please. It hurts. You gotta do it. Do it.”
He laid down prone.
“I’ll close my eyes.”
“I don’t think I can. I just went to the dunny.”
“Just-fucking-try-Kylie!” Jayson barked.
“I can’t!” She stomped her foot.
“C’mon, fucking hurry up!”
“Shut up, Jayson. I can’t think.”
“Don’t fucking think! Pee!”
“Don’t swear at me, or this will never happen.”
“I’m sorry. Please.”
“Oh god.” Kylie was stalling for time hoping Jayson would miraclura. She held her hands to her eyes to make Jayson go away. This was soooooooo embarrassing. She could hear the advertisement in her head and she said it out loud nervously. “Come to beautiful Micronesia, she the sights, eat mangos, swim with the turtles, urinate on a boy.”
“I’ll piss on you Morty.”
Kylie turned her head. It was the girl that Jayson described: half-Asian, lip ring, ugly Skunk-dyed hair, beautiful skin, large breasts (well, larger than hers). She wore a straw cowboy hat andan Olive American Apparel™ Fine Jersey Leisure Dress that looked really good on her. Kylie owned something similar in Heather Grey. She disliked girls in cowboy hats. The girl was standing beside a tree, her camera slung across her shoulder (it was big, black, and professional). She looked like she already owned the place. Who the fuck did she think she was?
“Hey,” said the girl to Kylie.
“Hey,” said Kylie.
“Kylie,” said Kylie.
“Twyla?” said Jayson lying on his stomach.
“Yea, that’s my name. Do you want me to piss on you, or what?”
Kylie looked at Jayson as he nodded at her.
“I’ll do it,” said Kylie.
“No, really, I really want to,” said Twyla. “You a kiwi?”
“New Zealand, yeah. You’re Ozzie?” said Kylie.
“Yea, from Perth.”
“Who the hell cares! I’m dying here!” said Jayson crying.
“You better turn away and close your eyes you pervert,” said Twyla to Jayson.
“Just hurry up!” Jayson did was Twyla told him to do.
Twyla watched as Jayson shut his eyes, and put his head to the ground. Twyla put her index finger to her mouth (her nails were chewed down – gross!), and made the universal “Shhhhhh” gesture to Kylie. Twyla went quietly into her pack, a two-toned powder blue and black, 45l women’s backpack. Her other bag was black and held her camera gear and three lenses.
Twyla took a small clear bottle out.
“Jesus Christ, pee on me already!”
“Look at my mappa tassie, and I’m gonna stab your bloody eyes out.”
“She’s just being snarky. She doesn’t want to gawk at her whisker box,” said Kylie with a smirk.
“That’s right,” said Twyla.
“Oh God!” said Jayson.
Twyla walked over to Jayson, straddled him.
“Ready?” said Twyla.
“Yeah-yeah-yeah.,” said Jayson. He winced.
She opened the bottle and poured it on his back.
Jayson shot up immediately, and Twyla bust into laughter.
“Ahhhh! Christ,” he saw that Twyla was holding a bottle.
“What? It’s vinegar, you didn’t actually want me to urinate on you, did you?”
“Yeah, if you had to. Oh, Jesus that feels better. Take the strings off my back.”
“I’m not touching them,” said Twyla.
Kylie walked over and Jayson turned his back to her.
“Use your fingers, you’ll get stung,” said Twyla. “I’ve got gloves in the hospital kit.” Twyla took out the gloves and passed them to Kylie.
“I like your pack. Is it MEC?” said Kylie.
“Yea, bought it in Calgary.”
“What were you working in Banff?” said Kylie.
“Yea,” that’s right.
“The Banff Springs Hotel?”
“Yea. What? You work there?” said Twyla. She was surprised as hell.
“Was a server in the lounge.”
“Which one?” said Twyla.
“Good tips, right?”
“Oh, yeah. Saved a bundle. What about you?”
“The Rundle Lounge.”
“Oh, I’m envious, that’s was so sweet” said Kylie. “What year?”
“02,” said Twyla. “You?”
“Ah, 04. Did you snowboard at Sunshine Village?” asked Kylie. She’d actually only tried it once, but all of her friends lovedit. She despised sports.
“Yea, of course.”
Jayson had no idea what they were talking about, and had no idea what MEC was, and couldn’t locate Alberta, or Banff, on a map of the world if he was held at gunpoint. Which he was thinking was probably going to happen fairly soon. “Hey, can somebody, take the tentacles off me. So we can get away from the Chinese Army.”
“Sorry,” said Kylie. She was in a better mood.
“You don’t have to worry about them. They’re not looking for anyone. They just came for the R&R,” said Twyla.
“What, are you serious?” said Jayson.
“Yea, take a look if you want,” Twyla took out her Nikon and started showing him the pictures she took on the back of the camera. There were about a three dozen of them of various Chinese troops in different states of undress as they ran on the beach and swam in the water. Twyla showed them to Kylie as well.
“Are you a photographer?” said Kylie looking at the camera. She knew very little about cameras. She had a little Canon digital jobby that seldom used.
“No, I mean, like a professional.”
“Oh, yea, I’ve been filing with Reuters for the last couple years,” Twyla said. She was proud of this. “I don’t think we have to worry about the Red Chinese Army though,” said Twyla “but, it’s probably such a wonderful idea to hang around about all day. Not with Ms. Human Target here.”
“What?” said Kylie.
“You look like little red riding hood.”
“Fuck off,” said Kylie. She didn’t know what to do with the jellyfish strings, so she wrapped them in a breadfruit leaf but their were a few she couldn’t get off.
“No, I gotta side with Twyla on this, you do.”
“Whatever.” She loved her hoody. She couldn’t believe this girl could turn on her so quickly.
There were a few strand that she couldn’t get off. Kylie had a bottle of fresh water she gathered from the waterfall (Jayson said don’t drink any stagnant water – malaria!), and started to splash it on his back.
He suddenly froze in spot and began to dance around in pain. “Ssssssssssssssssss. Christ! Was that fresh water!?” he whined.
“Yeah, from the falls,” said Kylie. She hated when he whined.
“Ahhhhh. You can’t use fresh water on a jellyfish sting! Don’t you know that?” he said. His back felt worse.
“No. How could I know that?”
“Well, you’re from New Zealand, you should know better.” said Jayson rather maliciously. He didn’t like being in pain.
“The fresh water reactivates the strings and the poison,” said Twyla as she started to rinse down Jayson’s back with the vinegar.
Kylie stepped away. She felt like a fool. She unzipped her red hoody, and put it away in her bag. Underneath she wore a Ocean Pacific™ OP Brasilla Stripe Bandeau top in she bought from an Urban Outfitters™ in London. The stripes went from white, to various progressive shades of aqua blue, to black, and then through to tints of red, salmon, and pink to white again. A strap was tied around her neck. She thought she looked really great and sexy in it. The swim suit completely suited her, and she had matching bottoms, but at this moment, wearing it she felt stupid, unattractive, and flat. She put on a light green tiered camis. It was the only thing that she had that wouldn’t attract gunfire. She didn’t remember where it was from. Maybe Old Navy™. Wearing it, she felt cold and bare. She saw Twyla give her a look over her shoulder. A self satisfied smirk as she helped Jayson.
Kylie closed down her eyelids into a slit, and stared back at Twyla. She wasn’t going to let some Aussie, bush-bitch skank, take Jayson away from her.
The 24-valve, 3.3-litre, 268 horse-power, 6-cylinder, Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle(SULEV), Hybrid Synergy, Signature Edition Lexus, coasted almost silently. Paul shifted up the Sequential Shift Mode on the steering wheel, and the Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) moved into third gear. The Lexus Hybrid Drive transferred the electric motor into petrol power seamlessly.
The crisp, clear, luminous Optitron Technology display, with illuminated white needles indicated that the petrol was well into reserve. A warning light came on, and a readout on the odometer read [CHECK FUEL]. He flicked the indicator light with his left index finger a few times, and it continued to remain steadily on. He would run out soon if he didn’t fill up. He was completely unconscious the last time he had driven. He had spent hours with his lawyer discussing The Divorce and parked the vehicle on vapors.
“Lexus,” Paul said, using Voice Command to operate the DVD- Based Navigation system. “Please, find nearest petrol station, thank you.”
Paul’s exact spot was pinpointed by GPS on the seven-inch (17.78 cm) LCD panel, and found that the nearest petrol station was a kilometre-and-a-half ahead of him.
“Lexus, turn audio on. Lexus, play CD.”
The Beach Boys Pet Sounds began to play very softly, as the seven channel, 210 watt Discrete Analog Power Amplifier, quietly sent Wouldn’t It Be Nice through the eleven speakers (6”X9” Subwoofers with neodymium magnets, 65mm metal close midrange drivers and 20mm titanium dome tweeters) of the Performance Enhanced Edition Mark Levinson Premium Sound System
“Lexus. Track nine, please.”
God Only Knows
“Lexus, turn up volume, please.” The volume raised slightly, and Carl Wilson’s voice filled the interior compartment and Paul’s heart. The sound of each note was so clear and beautiful. Paul had listened to this song so many times he could place each instrument - The string and electric and danelectro basses. There were two violins. A viola. A cello. Brian’s falsetto in the chorus. He could here the baritone saxophone. Two types of clarinets, one a bass. Two separate flutes. A French horn. A harpsichord. A piano. An accordion. Sleigh bells. He loved the clip-clop percussion, and tapped it out on his pant leg as he drove.
The mono mix of the sound was brilliant within the Lexus. Brian Wilson was ninety-six percent deaf in one ear and preferred recording in monoaural. Even with only four percent in one ear, Brian could hear better than anyone else. Brian had told Paul that when he heard Rubber Soul, he wanted to make the greatest album ever. So, he created Pet Sounds. Paul heard Pet Sounds, and knew he had to do Sgt. Pepper, which was even greater than Pet Sounds. They even added a fifteen kilohertz-high frequency tone at the start of Pepper that only a dog could hear.
”Thank you,” said Paul. He wasn’t sure if he was saying it to Brian Wilson, or the Lexus.
Brian Wilson was twenty-three in 1965 when he wrote Pet Sounds. Paul knew this because he was two days older than Brian (Paul was born 18 June 1942, and Brian on 20 June 1942). Brian could have been his twin, or his younger brother, if he didn’t already have Michael as his younger brother, which he did. Brian even played bass guitar.
Brian had said recently that he only plays Paul McCartney and Phil Spector albums at home. That was awful nice of him to say. Unfortunately, Paul had to deSpectorize Let It Be. It sounded much better without Phil Spector’s work on it.
It was the true.
As Paul listened to Pet Sounds, he wanted to run down to Abbey Road and make another Pepper. He knew he could, but he also knew Abbey Road would never be the same.
As God Only Knows ended, he was starting to cry.
“Lexus,” Paul said. “Repeat track, please.”
It was something about driving at night that made one so bloody introspective, thought Paul. The passing lines of the road in the helped him fade into contemplative thought.
Paul suddenly realized he drove past the petrol station on the right. He wiped his eyes.
“Lexus, turn volume down, if you will.”
Paul looked into the rearview mirror as he decelerated. Already he was well past the petrol station. The transmission automatically shifted down into second, and the Lexus Hybrid Drive relocated the energy back into the electric motor.
He woke, his mouth open and no sound coming out. He could feel his heart still beating and he was covered in beads of sweat. He was lying on a bed, on top of the covers, in a simple, tasteful country style bedroom. There was a single window in the room and it was clearly evening.
“Do you want some water?” It was Margot, she was sitting on a chair knitting under a lamp.
She handed him a glass and he drank.
“Thank you. It’s Margot right.”
“Yes. Don’t worry about it.”
He gave the glass back to her. The water had tasted far better than any Champaign ever would.
“What time is it.”
“Yes. You’ve been out since seven. How do you feel.”
“Like I was hit by a tank.”
“Ah yes. Tanks. I’m afraid my husband, the Reverend, that’s all he’s been interested in since the stroke. He went to Korea when he was nineteen.”
“A lot of men did.”
“Yes, they did. After the war his convictions were changed and he became a clergyman. He was quite brilliant,” she said and trailed off into thought.
“I’m sorry,” said Bono. He truly was.
“I’m used to it now. Henry was quite a different man though.”
“When did it happen?”
“Spring. It was a Sunday. He had given communion and I was expecting him home for supper. He never showed. It grew late. I thought it might be some late ontological argument with a one of his parish. He tried to walk home but forgot where he lived. I got a call from the hospital.”
“Oh dear God,” said Bono.
“Indeed. He’s lost so much weight now. You’d never believe it but he was a large man. Not overweight mind you, but robust.”
They were silent, and thankfully Bono couldn’t read her thoughts.
“How are you doing?” Margot asked.
“Better, I guess, I still have a bit of a headache.”
“Do you want something?”
“No, I’ll be fine. Is everybody asleep?”
“You really didn’t have to give me a bed. I’m fine on the floor.” Really, Bono was. “I prefer the floor to be honest.“
“You need your rest as well, even if you are a celebrity. I heard what you did for everyone. It’s a huge role you’ve given yourself.”
“Sometimes it’s easier that way,” he said.
“I guess it is,” she said.
“Henry didn’t name the Church after you did he?”
“I’m not that old.”
Bono laughed. There was something sweet about Margot that he found very pleasant. Something nurturing and good.
A long pause.
“I need to uh, use the facility.”
“Oh. Across the hall,” she said. “If you need a clean towel in the morning you can grab one from the hall closet. Don’t be shy.” Margot picked up her knitting (a blue cardigan for Henry). “Good night,” she said.
“Thank you. I’ll see you in the morning.”
She closed the door behind her and he heard her step down the stairs.
Bono needed to pee.
Somebody spoke and he went into a dream.