Wednesday, February 8, 2017

America The Brave, a reckless Presidential address...Has THE HERO VIRUS happened?

 Hoping my non-ancient Egypt novel, the apocalyptic outback adventure "THE HERO VIRUS" hasn't predicted a world gone crazy...
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 flashed through the sky around the globe, hitting the ground and spreading clouds of dust.
They brought something else…
The spread of a reckless new mood.
Unalloyed courage.
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.
Madly brave.
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.
I saw an example of this now.
The armed men flicked their eyes skywards as they heard a cry.
A faller from a building top.
People were standing on the ledges of buildings watching the confrontation down below and one had lost his footing and slipped.
They called these human missiles Perchers - people who took to standing on the ledges of tall buildings and sitting on balcony railings to watch fights and mayhem down below.
The body slammed into the street near the front of the van with the packed thud of a cement bag.
“Yuk!” our pre-teen daughter Tash said from the back.
“At least he missed us,” her little brother Toby said gruesomely. His eyes were alight behind his plastic batman mask. Toby was always playing the superhero, ironic since he had been infected like all the family, except me.
I seized the distraction. I slid the stubby automatic gearshift down to reverse and jammed the accelerator pedal down, sucking us back down the street, which brought boos and whistles from the onlookers above.
“You’re running away!” Belinda said, appalled. “Mike, run them down!”
A spray of bullets threw up tarmac as I swung the RV into a side street, lurching over a kerb.
The jolt triggered a crockery fight in our motorhome’s overhead cupboards.
I winced, but the kids in the back seat club-lounge cheered.
“Go, Silver Bullet!”
That’s what they called the RV, although it possessed anything but the velocity of a projectile; it was just a four-cylinder diesel engine, its rear-wheels driving a 7.5 metre Mercedes Sprinter van.
The reverse camera threw up a growing image of smashed cars jamming up the street behind us.
No way back.
We’d have to go forward again and that meant opening us up to a gauntlet of crossfire.
My hands were shaking on the wheel.
“Do you want them to come down after us?”
Caution paid off.
Gunfire erupted in the distance, first a few sporadic shots, then a full on fire-fight.
I went back into ‘Drive’ and jammed the accelerator, propelling us back into the line of fire. We crossed the street.
No bullets sprayed the van.
The attackers had their own problems now.
A group of heroes had appeared on the scene and taken them on and the two groups were busy blazing away at each other to the cheers of the Perchers high above.
I took us barrelling away, hammering through the area towards the highway.
I reached the feeder lane as a stream of traffic hurtled by.
Nobody feared traffic cops any more. They’d just as soon run them down.
I found a gap and went into the slow lane. Caution said ‘go slowly’. But caution was wrong this time.
Wrecked cars littered the side of the highway to prove it.
Go slow and I’d be rammed by a vehicle coming up behind.
I slammed the accelerator to the floor.
Belinda nodded.
“Good. Getting your nerve back. I hoped you weren’t going to crawl all the way.”
Getting my nerve back?
If only she knew, I thought.
Driving among this rapid-fire stream of hurtling steel and chrome – cars, trucks and motorcycles - was like being in the middle of an ambush, dodging strafing enemy fire.
‘I’m sweating bullets’, I thought.
An advancing truck swelled up in our side mirror, rode there, towering, inches away, a cliff face of chrome and glass, the truck driver glaring down on us. If I so much as touched the brake, the behemoth would crush through the club lounge at the back where the kids sat in their seatbelts.
But the truck driver was oblivious to risk. He absently poured steaming hot coffee from a flask into a cup as he drove, with only an elbow on the wheel.
Fearlessness was lethal.

Chapter 2
I switched on the radio to calm my nerves.
It was a sound grab from the United States… a Presidential address.
The swell of the national anthem inflated the long open space of the RV like pressure in a balloon.
The words held a chilling irony.

O, say, can you see?
by the dawn's early light?
what so proudly we hailed, at the twilights least gleaming.
whose broad stripes and bright stars,
through the perilous night,
oe'r the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there.
o, say, does the star spangled banner yet wave?
for the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

Home of the brave...
A male voice announced the President, who spoke after a pause.
“My fellow Americans, today our nation truly is the home of the brave, not just in name, but also in action.
Today our air and naval forces launched simultaneous strikes on the nuclear facilities of North Korea, Iran and Pakistan.
No longer will we tolerate fear, pacification and appeasement.
We are strong, we are brave and we are determined no longer to tolerate rogue states that threaten us. Furthermore we have put on notice the silent enablers of chaos, China and Russia, to desist in their support of lawless regimes or suffer the consequences.
America has never been stronger. America has never been braver.
Our economy and stock market are on a high and show record levels of confidence… we have nothing to fear, but fear itself. God Bless America, home of the brave.”
I stabbed the radio button, switching it off.
‘It’s all going to crash,” I said.
“The economy?” Belinda said.
“It’s about time we stopped pussyfooting around tyrants,” she said.
“Yeah, sock it to them!” the kids cheered on their mum from the back.
I despaired.
How could I, a frightened has-been hero, protect my family in a world infected by courage, a world where the brave ended up dead?
A movement on the side of the road snagged my eye. Oh no.
A Highway Dancer.
A woman stepped out onto the highway and my hands froze on the steering wheel. Before I could swerve, she skipped out of our path, coming to a stop on a painted demarcation line as our RV shaved her body, the wind of our passing raking her hair and dress.
“Wow, she’s good,” my daughter Tash said. “I wonder if I could do that?”
“You’re never going to try.”
Human road kill.
The remains of Highway Dancers littered the roadsides, food for crows.
Would she be another victim?
Trucks and cars planed her sides.
I tore my eyes away from the mirror.
I couldn’t bear to watch.