Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chapter #2

The discoveries I’ve made since I came back from my leave are truly disturbing. My neglect of the task of finding a replacement for myself has now truly begun to weigh on my mind. Up to this point I’ve simply been hoping that such a person would naturally present him or herself, but no such luck has come along.

The last thing I wish to do is settle in my decision, but if things continue the way they have, I fear this is what I will have to do. After seeing how quickly things tend to deteriorate in my absence makes this a truly scary predicament. The person I choose, whoever he or she may be will have years of difficult work ahead of them.

It seems that there is almost a compulsion in the minds of those who run the rescue effort to do things in a new way. Obviously this is needed at times, but the instructions are so clear about the necessities of what we do. I simply do not understand why the first things to be questioned are the very things that hold our effort together. The task before us is difficult, but it is not complicated. So often the tendency is to fix things that are not broken and to break things that have not even begun to falter.

What I need is someone with a passion for the finishing of the effort but also one who understands the process that we must follow to get there. They need patience, but they also need drive. They need respect for the system, but they need to be innovative in how they apply it.

Oh that someone like this existed. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever find them.

~Peter’s journal, the day of his return to headquarters

Paul opened his eyes and began to look around the room. He was on the floor in the middle of his kitchen. He slowly tried to remember how he got there. What time was it? How long had he been unconscious this time? It slowly began to come back to him. He had tried to start cooking breakfast when he began to feel his muscles fail again. He always knew this meant trouble.

His days had been growing shorter. He would need sleep for longer and longer periods, not including when he would sleep at night. He would stop to sleep several times a day, sometime voluntarily, sometimes not. Life was exhausting, not only physically, but emotionally. Many of his friends had died. He knew he didn’t have long. He was only a child when the incident occurred, but he remembered it well.

Many died right away. His parent were fortunate enough to grow accustomed enough to the changed air to survive for several more years. It wasn’t the usual, slow death that eventually took them though. Their minds had been taken captive by yet another of those who offered a false cure. The man would string his victims along until he would either say there was some way past the quarantined boundaries of the city, leading to their inevitable demise, or he would offer them some kind of poison that would put them out of their misery. It was poison for his parents. He hadn’t even gotten a chance to say goodbye.

He began to finish preparing his meal and continued to look back at all that he’d been through. He wished he could have done something to prevent all that had happened, but he had been too young at the time. After he lost his parents, he slowly began to lose his friends, some by the same deception, some by the inevitable course of time. It was strange, as some of his friends drew closer to the end, they would often forget the incident ever occurred. They would behave as if life was in its prime, and they would stop looking for a cure. This was disturbing to Paul, but sometimes he wondered if it was simply for the best. At least they were happy as the end drew near. This only happened to some, however. Most would see the end coming right into their final days.

Paul was glad that he was one of those who kept his wits about him, at least up until this point. As much as he wished things were happier, there was a certain security that came with knowing the truth, even if the truth was not a happy one.

***

Clive had just finished his rounds on the street he used to live on. Up to this point there had been no luck. Most weeks, he would recruit two or three people, so this was no surprise to him. There had been three or four false cures created in the past year, so this made his work even harder. Some were clever enough to disguise themselves as government officials who were spreading word that the quarantine had been lifted. Those who fell for it would then run towards the border, only to be killed by those guarding it.

As little luck as he had, he knew he was one of the better recruiters. He not only was a sincere person, but that sincerity came across to those he spoke to. They truly could see in his eyes that he could get them out of this place. He could present them with this news, but also bring them to a place where they could accept the burden of joining the rescue effort for the years that would be required of them.

As he turned onto the next street, he began to look at the houses. He remembered the friends he used to have. Some had gone with him to be cured; some had stayed behind out of skepticism. He decided to take the risk and he had never regretted it.

Today had been a difficult day. He had run into a great deal of people who were reaching the end of their sickness. Most that he spoke to that day wouldn’t acknowledge they needed rescuing at all. This was odd in that they could barely stand at the time they said it.

He hoped this next street would hold better results. At least he hoped he would talk to some people who understood the gravity of all that was going on in the city. He knocked on a few doors, no one answered. He knocked on a few more; one or two would open and then be slammed in his face as he began to explain who he was. He resisted the urge to grow frustrated. Of course they wouldn’t listen, many of their friends and family had fallen victim to liars and murderers. Why should they trust him? He approached the next door, not expecting anything incredibly different.

***

Paul heard a knock on his door. He went to open it, having to stop in the process of cooking to do so. He opened it to see who was there. “Hello, my name’s Clive, what’s yours?” Something in his face made Paul know that he was nervous about saying what he had to say. “Paul. Can I help you?” “Well, can I come in, Paul? I’d like to talk to you about some new developments in the city in recent years.”

Paul was slightly annoyed, but he wasn’t in the mood to argue. “Fine, but I’m about to eat, so I don’t have very long.” “That’s fine; I won’t take up much of your time.” Clive came into the house and sat at the table. He was glad he had been let in at all. “So, how have you been feeling lately?” “Fine.” said Paul, lying. “That’s good. Do you have any idea why I’m here?” “Let me guess, you have a way for me to get cured?” “Well, you get straight to business, don’t you?” “I deal with this every week, Clive. I know the look of someone who’s trying to sell me.”

“I understand. I dealt with the same thing before I decided to give escaping this place a shot.” “Escaping? Well, I haven’t heard that one in a while. Most of the guys that have come to my door had some weird medicine for me to take.” Paul was getting a bit impatient now, but something kept him from growing angry. As he looked at Clive, he could see that there was no desire to harm. He must have just been a follower; just buying into the lies of someone with a real agenda.

“Look, I know this is hard to listen to, but this isn’t just some crazy attempt to sneak out of this place, or to get you to drink some weird concoction some maniac cooked up in his basement. The founder of this city constructed the system himself. I’m not asking you to buy into some quick fix, I’m asking you to help us. We need people to keep this thing going.

Paul had to admit, Clive was at least respectable enough not to insult his intelligence. He turned from the food he was preparing while Clive had been talking and began to think of how to get Clive to leave. He was about to open his mouth when suddenly he felt his muscles begin to weaken yet again. “Twice in one morning?” he thought to himself. He tried to go to the table and inconspicuously sit next to Clive when he began to lose his balance. He thought he could catch himself but before he knew it, he was on the floor.

“Are you okay!?” asked Clive, in shock. “I’m fine.” said Paul, lying yet again. “No you’re not!” I’m telling you Paul, I can get you out of here. Come with me! We can help you, and then you can help us.” Paul quickly began to try to stand so that he could get Clive out of his house and out of his life. The problem was, he couldn’t stand. His strength was completely gone.

His mind began to race. What could he do? He didn’t want to fall asleep. What if this guy took him out of the house and did something crazy while he slept. It was right then that Clive seemed to read his thoughts. “I won’t take you out of here if you don’t want me to. I’ll leave you here to die if that’s really how you want it. But I’m telling you, we can help. Now you need to make a decision, and you need to do it now. I can tell that you don’t have much longer. Do you really want to finish off your life in this lonely house, or do you want to have a full life that will eventually get you out of this dying city?”

Paul tried to bring himself to turn Clive away, but he couldn’t. Something in him kept him from answering until he had thought it through first. Something in him broke. He finally decided to be honest about what he had been feeling for years. He hated this old house. He was sick of living from day to day, waiting until his body failed him.

He missed his parents and he wished they hadn’t been deceived, but at least they tried to save themselves. At least they didn’t give in to the delusion that nothing was wrong with them or with the city. He looked up at Clive, he knew that at least he wasn’t lying, though he couldn’t speak for those he would be bring him to. “All right.” he said. Get me out of here. I can’t take waiting to die anymore, I’d rather let you kill me in some warehouse than wait around in this house breathing in something that will kill me anyway.” “Well, now neither of those things needs to happen” Paul smiled, and then fell asleep.

To be continued…

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