Eve of Destruction
Posted: 30 December 2013
Word Count: 1714
Summary: Reactions to a diseaese that threatens to wipe out all the women in the world.
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.
Eve of Destruction
Jack Simanski stopped digging. He pulled his wife’s body to the edge of the pit and gently eased her down. Then he cradled the slight frame of his daughter for a long moment before laying her in her mother’s arms. He paid no heed to the tears streaming down his face as he shovelled earth onto the bodies. When they were well covered he stepped down onto the soft soil. A robin, unconcerned, hopped by on the lookout for food. Jack took out his navy Beretta and raised the muzzle to his mouth. His cell phone began to vibrate against his chest.
He hesitated, part of him registering amazement it still worked, the robin was energetically trying to extract a worm from the pile of earth alongside the grave. He answered the phone. ‘Jack, thank God. Where are you?’ Jack recognised Sam Goldberg’s Texan drawl.
‘Er, how’s……’ the voice tailed off.
‘I’ve just buried Lorna and Carol.’
‘Oh Jack, I’m so sorry. There are hardly any exceptions so far.’
‘You mean there are some?’ Jack immediately felt angry, who were these people? How were they surviving when his family died?
‘Some women and babies were in isolation units, we had a few on nuclear subs and one in space of all things. We’ve fixed a place for them while we try and solve this.’
‘Solve it!’ Jack’s laugh was strained ‘come on Sam. Even if it was possible how are a few dozen women going to repopulate the planet? This is everywhere isn’t it?’
‘As far as we can tell. Everything I’ve seen says that all countries are affected and that it’s 100% fatal. The female population of the world has already halved and there’s no sign of it stopping.’
‘Exactly. You’re pissing into the wind Sam. This is it. So long – there’s nothing I can do.’
‘Wait!, Jack, listen. There’s a chance we can do something. The President has asked us to take this on and to put aside our personal despair. Listen to me Jack. I know how you feel. I’d been with Ina since we were in high school – over 40 years – she died in my arms two days ago.’
Jack was quiet for a moment. ‘I’m sorry about that Sam but I still don’t see how I can help.’
‘We’ve commandeered a small cruise liner and set up a quarantined area for the women. I want you to take her out to a safe haven. What have you got to lose?’
Only watching this horror unfold thought Jack, but sighed and said ‘OK Sam. I’ll be there in a couple of hours.’
He decided to drive through the main part of Seattle. If he used the freeway he could get hopelessly stuck. As he passed a park an ambulance was unloading body bags into a pit adding to the hundreds already there. In the hospitals 90% of the nursing staff had died, as well as half the doctors and patients. The incinerators couldn’t cope.
Jack gripped the wheel more tightly and drove on. Suddenly he had to brake. A small build-up of traffic ahead of him almost caught him out. A few men were out of their cars looking onto the interstate running beneath them. A phalanx of open topped sports cars raced along the freeway. Young men waved and shouted as they careered down the road. Someone said ‘They don’t give a shit – and can you blame them – what’s there to live for?’ Some churches had tried to answer but Jack had seen pictures of a priest hung for saying it was God’s vengeance for the sins of Eve. Men whose daughters had been swept away did not take kindly to that.
Jack took 4th Avenue through downtown weaving through the occasional patch of glass and debris where liquor stores and pharmacies had been looted. He stopped to call Sam. ‘I’m trying to get through town but it’s looking rough. I may be delayed.’
‘Hold on’ said Sam, there was a pause ‘head for Carl Anderson park –do you know it.’
‘Good. There’s a kids baseball field there. Wait there. I’ll send out a ‘copter.’
‘OK’ he said ‘I’ll be there soon.’
As Jack got closer to the park a man with a shotgun stepped in front of the car forcing him to brake hard. Jack lowered the window and said ‘What the fuck is this about?’
‘It’s about people like you. Fags, queers, you brought AIDS now you’ve brought this.’ Jack could see smoke coming from the next street. This was the main area for gay bars
‘I’ve been called to my base at Everett. Some people are trying to do something about this mess.’
‘Sure’ the man drawled. A few others had gathered in front of the car. ‘Just show us your ID and we’ll be happy to let a member of our armed forces move on.’ There were grins all round.
Jack knew exactly where his ID was – in the top drawer of the dresser back at his house.
‘If you want ID I’ll show you ID’ Jack leaned over and grabbed the gun beneath the coat. He shouldered open the door, fired a couple of shots at knee height into the crowd and started to run. ‘Stop the faggot’ he heard from behind him then a shot. He took what cover he could behind parked cars. The next street was East Pine – there was the park. A helicopter sat in the middle of the baseball pitch. He scrambled over a wire mesh fence and stumbled towards it. A marine appeared at the helicopter door and pulled him aboard.
They rose and almost at once were passing over quiet residential streets. Orderly gardens, a boy on a bike and a man washing his car. Washing his car! Jack supposed you were sometimes too shocked to do anything but carry on with ordinary daily life until the tsunami arrived and swept you away.
Sam Goldberg looked tired. ‘Look Jack, I’ll be honest, this is a long shot, but the President wants us to do anything that gives the world a chance.’ Jack shrugged ‘maybe this is Gaia getting her own back for us messing her around for so long and we should bow out gracefully.’
‘I like to think of it as more like Noah and the ark – a chance to do better next time around.’
Jack managed a smile ‘well, I said I would come in so what is all this about?’
‘We’ve found about 500 unaffected women and got them into quarantine here. There’s an island where we think the virus has not reached but has the capacity to support these women.’
‘Why me? You must have dozens of captains with more experience.’
Sam looked Jack in the eyes ‘you came out as one of the most stable men available.’
‘Psychologically. Not likely to try and make off to set up your own Garden of Eden somewhere, or sink the ship because Gaia ordered it.’ He said with a little smile. ‘There’s a briefing at seven and you should sail at around ten.’
‘We’re clear captain’ the First Officer looked across at Simanski who nodded an acknowledgement ‘half speed ahead’. The First Officer repeated the order and the ship shuddered slightly as the turbines pushed her through the quiet waters of Puget Sound.
Jack went down to the engine room. The engineer, Bob Watson, had known Jack for years – ‘Hi’ he said ‘how’s…’ and tailed off shaking his head. Bob sighed. ‘I’m the same as everyone. What’s to become of us? I check over the engines every five minutes just to stop myself thinking.’
Jack felt something brush against his leg and looked down startled. ‘That’s Star’ said Watson she’s been hiding down here because she’s just had kittens. Now she has most of my crew feeding her sardines and milk.’ Jack looked at the cat with its black fur flecked with white. Stars against the night sky.
‘Anything you need?’ Bob shook his head. ‘No, we’ve enough fuel and lube oil to get us to Sydney and back.’ Jack went back to his cabin to open the sealed envelope with his destination. It was way out near Hawaii. He was relaxed about the voyage, easy sailing into well charted waters. It would take about six days – he checked his whisky store – enough he thought.
They disembarked at night and the huge Chinook throbbing through the darkness looked alien as it hovered with its sun-bright lights focussed on the landing pad rising and falling in the gentle Pacific swell. The first set of 40 passengers started to climb aboard. They were shrouded in lightweight overalls to prevent any risk of contamination. Some of the crew had gathered to watch them leave. A child aged about six or seven waited with her mother to board. One of the sailors had a kitten and the girl smiled with delight. The sailor put the kitten on the deck and it trotted into her outstretched hands. The man was close to tears, he hoped the gift would bring the girl a little pleasure.
When they had gone Jack joined other officers for a late meal. A satellite TV newsfeed was, as usual, providing background noise. No one listened as the newsreader announced a breaking story – scientists had isolated the source of the virus – it was a species crossover like the bird flu of a few years earlier. But this virus had crossed from a more common source – the domestic cat.
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