Three armed looters stood in front of our silver RV motorhome, unafraid that the engine was running.
“They want our van,” my wife Belinda said.
“I’ll talk to them.”
A soft answer turneth away wrath, my father used to say.
But would it be enough to save my family?
“You can’t reason with them. Just run them over. Quickly, before they come around and stick guns in our faces.”
Belinda did not need to be infected with courage. It was the high tensile core of her nature.
But that didn’t make her wrong.
Courage agreed with her and said I should do what she said.
Mow down these looters.
But fear… fear whispered something else.
Fear said ‘stay alive. Seek safety.’ Fear revved the muscles for flight, keyed up hearing, sight, smell, reasoning - and the drive for survival.
And I was one of the very few who still had fear. An anxiety sufferer and so-called Afghanistan war hero suffering PTSD, I’d been hiding from the world with my family and now I was out in the open after buying supplies in town, trying to flee with them to a safer place where we could bury ourselves, literally... in an opal mining town in the outback of Australia where the people lived in dwellings dug underground, a place of sanctuary called Coober Pedy.
The looters were expressionless.
Their confrontation reminded me of a fire-fight in Afghanistan, where a pair of insiders, Afghan soldiers, coolly turned their weapons on my comrades, blowing away four in front of my eyes.
After a moment of paralysis, I squeezed the trigger that killed the turncoats with barely a twitch of fear, but later, when there was no reason to be afraid any more, a quake zone took the place where my courage used to be and it moved incessantly setting up weakening tremors night and day.
The quake now brought on a tsunami of nauseating adrenalin.
The looter on the right hand side of the windscreen lazily waved his gun barrel to tell me to get out of the vehicle. No fear in the face. As wooden as a bored traffic cop’s.
Petty thieves had grown to become daredevil criminals.
I thought: ‘what will we do if they take away our escape machine?’
The contagion of the population began with the arrival of meteorites that hit the ground in sites around the globe, flashing to the ground, spreading clouds of dust.
They brought something else…
The spread of a reckless new mood.
It swept through the population in the form of a contagion that destroyed ‘caution’, the basic survival switch in the amygdala, a pair of almond sized regions deep in the brain.
Was it a prelude to some attack?
I’d wondered why, if an unknown assailant lay behind the viral outbreak, they would choose to spread courage rather than fear among the population.
But the reason became evident.
Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.
Fired with courage without the caution of fear they fronted enemies they once feared, sparked reprisals, conflict and bloodshed in the streets - and raised the threat of reckless wars between nations. And for those that remained after the carnage? History had shown that it was harder to kill a shadowy enemy, the terrorist, the guerilla, the coward, those who shrank into the cracks like spiders.
Bring them out into the open instead.
In this new world of courage, the brave ended up dead...