Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Lost Light

IV.



But, it certainly didn’t seem like the end; even as the changes continued. Food seemed to become available at every turn. I remember one day I ate an apple, the last one that I had in my refrigerator. I remember this incident so clearly because after I finished it I really wanted a second one. I searched through every drawer and shelf in the refrigerator and throughout the kitchen and I was sure it was the last one. Well, what do you think; that night when I looked in the fridge there was a bowl full of apples. My first thought was that a friend had brought them by and left them without telling me, but after talking with others and hearing similar stories I suspected that it was something else.


So, in spite of having no work and no income I still lived a comfortable life. Food was no problem, as long as I was satisfied with fresh fruit and vegetables. I managed to keep myself busy, catching up on my reading, meeting with people that I hadn’t seen for years and just enjoying all the new things that were popping up all around. The bizarre occurrences certainly gave us plenty to talk about.


My old mentor, Dr. C, as we called him, was one of those people I visited with all the free time. He was 92 at that time and had been in failing health for several years. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Congestive Heart Failure had kept him in a chair or bed for the last eight years, the product of years of smoking Cuban cigars, I figured. I expected his wife to answer when I rang the bell at his home; but was only mildly surprised when Dr. C himself, looking tan and fit, answered the door.


“Great to see you, my boy”. He exclaimed effusively, grabbing my hand with a surprisingly strong grip. “It’s wonderful, don’t you think?”


“It certainly is Sir”, I responded with my usual respect. Although we had been friends for years and I had even fixed his hernia years before, I always treated the old boss with the greatest esteem and deference.


“I see these strange happenings have been very kind to you, Dr. C. You look thirty years younger”, I added.


“Certainly, certainly, that’s true. Come in, come in; have a seat and we’ll chat about it all; about old times and our current good fortune.”


I followed him to the living room; his wife Phyllis was sitting on the sofa, weak smile on her face. She looked a bit uneasy as she poured me a cup of coffee.


“Fortune seems to have smiled on you, Dr. C. You look like your twenty again”, I observed.


“Feel that way, too, my boy. All those parts that haven’t worked for years are humming along like well oiled machines, if you get my drift. I’ve been out of the house for the first time in years; looked up a few old friends and acquaintances. Phyllis still likes to stay here; some things never change.”


I suddenly realized why Phyllis looked to be upset. Dr. C. getting out of the house and “looking up old friends and acquaintances” meant that his poor wife was out in the cold, so to speak. All those years serving as his nurse seemed to have been forgotten. Her slightly bloodshot eyes told the whole story.


I turned to Phyllis and asked, “Has the boss been behaving himself?”


She looked as if she was about to burst into tears until I added, “Or is he back to smoking those vile cigars?”


She gave a heavy sigh before answering, “Oh, he’s been behaving himself that way. I guess he has learned at least one lesson, but some habits never seem to die.”


Dr. C gave her a sharp glance, but then changed the subject.


“What have you been doing with yourself, son. I suspect that these mysterious events have put you out of a job.”


“That’s for sure”, I answered, “No sick people, not even any trauma. I’m trying to get adjusted. I figure I’ll use the free time to look up some of my old friends; see how they’re getting along. But, I also figure I need to stay prepared, you know, just in case…”


He interrupted, “Just in case everything blows up. I suspect if that happens you’ll have more business than ever; or else…”


“Or else”, I interjected, “We’ll all be gone, nothing left but the rats and cockroaches.”


“Exactly, but, for me, I’m going to use this good fortune to catch up on the things I’ve been missing these last few years.”


He shot a glance at Phyllis, who suddenly stood up and ran out of the room.


“I don’t know what’s bugging her”, Dr. C stated.


“You certainly do”, I replied, my voice rising a notch. “All those years you’ve been wasting away in that chair, while she waited on you and tended to your every need. I know they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you don’t have to stay an old dog. You’ve been given a great gift; we’ve all been given a great gift, whether it lasts for two weeks or two thousand years. Second chances are rare in this world. I hope that you; that we all, use it wisely.”


Dr. C stared at his hands, but didn’t say a word. I couldn’t tell if his well known temper was going to show itself or if he was going to break down and cry. For the longest time he just sat and stared.


Finally, he looked up and said, “I think it’s time to go. Thanks for coming by to see me.”


He stood up and offered me his hand, which I took and he held it in his strong grip for almost a minute, but still remained silent.


“Good-bye, Sir. And, please be kind”, I pleaded as I the door closed behind me.


I never saw them again, but I began to wonder if these strange times were a blessing or a curse. As I walked through the streets towards my home I passed Meno and his two friends. They were with six women and, as always, Meno seemed to be in charge.


“Hey, Doc”, he called. “No more law school, times being what they are. Me and the boys here are starting on politics, if you get my meaning.”


I stopped and stared at what was a growing entourage.


“It looks like you’ll be leading us all before too long”, I answered.


He waved as he walked on and I made my way home, feeling more than a little depressed over what the world was becoming.



V.



No more illness, an abundance of food, lush plants springing up in dry barren desert; it seemed like a return to paradise to me and, for the most part, I sat back and enjoyed it.


As the months went by more and more people found it unnecessary to work. Things seemed to stop breaking; there was no more wear and tear; as a result, clothes and appliances and such didn’t need to be replaced. Large communes sprang up all over, composed of people convinced that it truly was time to drop out and commune with a nature that had become very accommodating. Cries from religious leaders continued, some calling it the hand of God, but many others saying it was Satan tempting us.


With nothing but free time I made it my business to continue catching up on visiting old friends and family. My brother, John, lived only about twenty miles away, but I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. He went through a nasty divorce the previous year and had shut himself off from most of his friends and family afterwards. His work as a software developer allowed him to work from home. I tried to call him as I drove to his home, but his phone went straight to voicemail. His home looked different than I remembered, but at first I wasn’t sure why. Then I noticed bars over all the windows and a tall, thorny hedge around the entire yard. I rang his bell and a disembodied voice answered.


“Who’s there?” I recognized John’s voice, although he seemed a bit distressed.


“It’s your brother, Dan”, I screamed into the air. “Open the door.”


“Put your right eye up to the scanner”, the voice commanded.


I looked around and then I saw a small cup shaped spot just below eye level. I stooped a bit and put my eye up against it and a bright red light scanned me back and forth. A few seconds later I heard a faint whirring noise and then the door seemed to relax and I was greeted by my brother, John, dressed in army fatigues and sporting what I was sure was full body armor beneath his military garb. He quickly grabbed me by the arm and ushered me inside.


“Quickly, we can’t let them in”, he said as he glanced around his yard and then slammed the door. I heard the whirring noise again, which I deduced was a magnetic lock, usually powerful enough to keep out the most determined intruder.


“You certainly look like Dan, but you can never be too sure. Morlocks can be very sneaky, you know. Still, there isn’t a Morlock that ever lived that could stand to have their eye scanned. Just a minute…”


He tore a sheet of paper, with a graph of some sort inscribed on it, from a device next to the door and perused it for a moment. It was the results of my scan, no doubt. After he had looked at it he smiled and then put out his hand.


“Dan, so good of you to come.”


“Well, with all that is hap…”


He didn’t let me finish as he started speaking rapidly.


“I’m glad you’re here, you’ll be safe here and two of us can fight them off; better than one and we can take turns being on guard…”


“On guard for what?” I asked, finally getting a word in.


“For Morlocks, of course. That’s why we can’t sleep. They can only come at night. But they will be coming, but it sure seems too soon. I didn’t think we’d have to worry about them for thousands of years. But look at what’s happening. There’s only one answer; we’re being fattened up, just like cattle. But I’ve got them beaten. They can’t get to me here and I can stay here for years if I have to. Look at everything I’ve stored up.”


He brought me into the next room where I was greeted by row upon row of cans, two different types: small cans of Spam and larger cans of Van Camp’s Baked Beans. At the same time I noticed his eyes, which were deeply blood shot with thick dark circles beneath them. His hair was disheveled and his finger nails were dirty and uncut.


“I’ve read that these two items provide all the nutrition an individual needs; all the vitamins and protein and calories. The only other necessary ingredient is water and I’ve got plenty. Beneath this house there’s a tank that is filled to the brim, over a hundred thousand gallons in an impermeable tank with lead shield, guaranteed to keep water fresh for over five hundred years. With all that and enough weaponry to stop a herd of elephants I think I’m safe.”


I looked into the wild eyes of my brother. His red hair went in every direction and there was a full beard; the product of at least six month’s growth.


“Do you think it could be anything other than Morlocks?” I asked in as non-threatening manner as I could. “I mean some people say it’s God or Satan.”


“Nope, no question, it’s the future come early. I’ve seen that movie hundreds of times. Everything done for us, food, good health, perfect weather. All right out of H.G. Wells. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rod Taylor parked his machine in my front yard. Of course I can’t wait for Weema to make her appearance. Nothing wrong with taking the good with the bad, if you get my drift.”


He threw a hand held rocket launcher over his shoulder as he popped open a can of spam.


“I always eat it straight out of the can. I figure I need to get used to it. It tastes pretty good…try some?”


I waved him off, not ready to give in to Morlocks or paranoia just yet. I walked over to the large, wooden closet set opposite his food stores. Inside was his arsenal: rocket launchers, automatic weapons, gas masks, hand guns, body armor and enough ammunition for a small army.


“How could you afford all this?” I asked. “You’ve got enough to hold off any enemy for years.”


“When all you eat is spam and beans you can save quite a lot.”


All of a sudden I felt the need to get out of there, Morlocks or no Morlocks. I didn’t think that my brother was dangerous, but something made me very nervous.


“I’ve got to go”, I lied. “I’ve got to meet someone, a woman”


“Is she blonde, is it Weema?” he asked, plaintively.


“Oh no, I haven’t seen Weema or any blondes for months. No, it’s my old girl Gwen, a nurse, brunette. She’s coming over to my apartment. But, I can see I don’t have to worry about you. You look more than prepared for anything. I’ll keep in touch.”


As I started to leave, he reached into his closet and pulled out a holster.


“Take this, you know, just in case. You never know what’s coming.”


He handed me a nine millimeter handgun, a box of cartridges and a powerful flashlight.


“If you come across any Morlocks, shine that light at them. They hate the light. They’ll be stunned and then you can shoot. Be careful.”


He gave me a hug as I waited for the door to unlock. I turned to wave back at him as I walked away and saw a look of sadness in his eyes, but only for a brief moment. He quickly slammed the door and I heard the faint whirring of the magnetic lock. I wondered if I was really the crazy one as I slowly walked back to my apartment.