Solutions: A Man's Dilemma
Dedicated to those of us that wonder what the future could look like.
BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
The Dawn of Misery
Dim pinpoints of light were visible out of the few passenger windows of the small jet. The pilot had announced there was a problem powering up the runway lights and had been instructed to a holding pattern until the pathway was alit for landing.
But Stephen did not care. Long before takeoff dreaded thoughts of having to deal with just one more reluctant relocation sapped the motivation for the job. The world-wide pandemic, however, made his personal feelings insignificant. The emergency plan, seemingly devised on the run based on dire events, took precedent.
Finally the landing strip was flooded with light. The jet circled one hundred and eighty degrees to line up for the landing approach and quickly touched ground.
Stephen had become accustomed to the debarking process. Planes no longer taxied to terminals. There were no more airline personnel to assist anyone off the plane. No more baggage carts were needed. The lone pilot did not need help either. Just pick up your bag lying in the seat next to you, open the door, and step out.
All along the tarmac and parked in front of the dark and empty terminals of the international airport sat countless planes of all sizes and shapes. Private craft mingled among commercial craft mingled among military craft. Most looked relatively new and shiny, but a few had the look of the desperate measures that called them into duty.
The runway lights were extinguished and darkness descended onto the scene. Everything in sight under the moonless sky turned into ghostly silhouettes. They were mere relics of an era gone by.
Stephen just wanted to stand there as a tombstone in the field that had become a lifeless function compared to the once vibrant past, but duty called.
“Hello,” a voice called out from the darkness.
Stephen turned around and spotted the silhouette of a figure emerging from the background of the only lighted structure around.
The man did not speak another word as he faced Stephen. Stephen just took the envelope from the man’s hand. He spotted the lone car parked close to the plane that flew him in and begrudgingly made his way to the government vehicle.
Stephen sat idle in the driver’s seat and contemplated the next step. All he had to do was tear open the envelope, input the destination into the vehicle’s navigational device, and drive away. But he longed for just a few moments of peace and to contemplate what had happened to the known world.
He closed his eyes and imagined as best he could the once hectic setting of the bustling airport. Sounds and sights and smells flooded the thoughts with memories in the controlled chaos in moving passengers as quickly as possible from one point to the next. He visualized the various workers abiding to the rule that time was money as they scurried about. He could see the mayhem coordinated and directed with the mastery of a conductor’s baton; a dance choreographed with fine precision.
The face of his wife and children popped into the scene as his imagination had him step into the terminal. He could see his children gleefully running at him for hugs and kisses, a warm smile and welcoming embrace from the wife he missed so much. But the memories had to reluctantly come to an end as reality took over. He stopped the tears from rolling down the cheeks.
His wife and children were now listed as victims of the flu pandemic. Relegated to his thoughts and heart, nine loved ones lived now as permanent memories that would sadly fade over time. Mother and father, all but one of his siblings, nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and cousins were all gone; them too victims of the virus that plagued the Earth.
As the pandemic spread throughout the world killing its victims one by one, he eventually would be notified of the death in his family. Every time a notification made its way to him in whatever location of the states he was in at the time, all he could do was grieve for a moment before duty called him back to the reality of the situation.
Stephen searched frantically for his younger brother on every database still available in the chaos of the disorder brought about by the pandemic, but it was as if he had vanished into thin air. The last contact from him him was in the form of a cryptic message. It was a package that contained The Holy Bible translated into the Spanish lanuage. The package was delivered from some mysterious location, but the message from his brother was understood.
As a former forensic psychologist in local law enforcement he was used to extracting clues from that which was seen and heard and read. Recruited by the FBI to interrogate serial killers, he learned to see the sentences in written text as the space between sentences and the space between sentences as the sentences. By use of inductive reasoning in the cryptic message from his brother, Stephen knew he had finally found a home and was happy. Yet, he longed to know of his true fate.
Stephen wanted so much to assign the blame for the horrific situation on the Lord he loved, but he resisted the urge to do so. He begged his God to alleviate the pain buried deep in his heart, but it was as if his cries fell on deaf ears. He cried out so many times for intervention, a simple word to wipe away the tears of the world, to send to the pit the virus that plagued the existence of his brothers and sisters, but there was no miracle from above. Life, as heart wrenching the events were, marched on to the cries of suffering and hopelessness.
But now the dreaded duty called his attention. He had allowed himself enough time to satisfy the imagination and escape from the nightmare, enough time to consider his Lord’s silence in the matter. If it were all just a nightmare he could just simply wake up, but it was no nightmare.
The instrument panel came to life as the sedan started. The destination was keyed into the navigator and the step by step routing information flashed to life on the display.
Traveling the empty interstate seemed more ominous from previous times. It was not often Stephen was dragged from one location to another at night, and the sheer stretch of darkness offered a challenge to his driving abilities. How strange it all was in the absence of illuminating highway lights, lighted directional signs, and any light from businesses and houses sitting of to the sides of the major highway. And though the highway was made wide by numerous lanes, Stephen needed to be especially vigilant with each turn in the vast stretch of emptiness.
After hours of driving, signs of the sun had yet to penetrate the star filled sky. The scheduled time was seven in the morning so he figured one last chance to stop and cater to the imagination was at hand.
The sedan came to a stop in the middle of the deserted highway. In the sparse light provided by the stars high above, he could see the silhouettes of the houses left vacant and personal cars abandoned in lieu of the large scale government transportation vehicles. Eyes focused on the lifeless scene. Stephen told himself that everyone was just sleeping in the quaint and peaceful suburban setting. That come morning parents would be seen shuffling their children off to school. A husband, a wife, late for work would hurriedly jump in their car and race away. Sprinklers would come alive and spread water all about finely manicured lawns and gardens. A paperboy would cruise down the streets tossing newspapers to waiting readers. They’re just asleep. They’re just asleep.
Stephen could finally see the madness of it all. He found it hard to believe that a virus, tiny, lacking intelligence, could bring down man and send fear and terror throughout the world. He could not see how the virus could be more powerful than any force of nature. There had been no plague, hurricane, tornado, flood, or volcanic eruption of such destructive force that even came close to the destructive power of the flu pandemic. There had been no war or conflict that had the mighty force of the tiny virus. In fact, thought Stephen, you could combine all the wars and plagues and natural disasters through the history of the world together and they could still not approach the devastating power of such a tiny virus.
In the latest update of those eradicated, the count was nearly six billion. Stephen knew the number was based on those they had evacuated to safe zones. All others, they concluded, were dead or would be dead soon.
So here he was again, alone on some deserted highway somewhere in the United States sent in to convince one more reluctant survivor to voluntarily move or be moved. He sighed, looked to the stars above and wondered when it would end.
Resurrection of Hope
Stephen had witnessed the horrific effects of the pandemic over the last couple of years, but this time it was different. The town was deserted. In the light of the morning overgrown brush and lawns strangled with weeds came into view. Torn and tattered pieces of paper littered the streets and sidewalks. A thick film of fine dirt and dust covered cars parked on the curbside and in driveways of abandoned houses. Once alive and vibrant, desolation now dominated the suburban landscape.
His sole purpose for being there was a few miles ahead on the outskirts of the town. He had yet to take a look at the woman’s name, let alone look and see what state he was actually in, but the name meant nothing; duty called for quick and decisive action.
Up ahead, parked on the street, was the usual military vehicle he had grown accustomed to seeing. It was plain and gray with black lettering identifying the branch of the armed service. And as usual he expected to see the same people but with different faces. The attitude and purpose, however, were always the same.
Stephen pulled into the vacant driveway and spotted the two armed soldiers standing guard on the front porch of the neatly groomed house. He walked past them without a word and entered upon the scene of an army captain standing behind a woman sipping from a cup amidst the sounds of some nostalgic song humming from the speakers of a stereo.
“Good morning,” said Stephen realizing that there was nothing good about the morning at all.
The woman sat silent.
The captain took Stephen aside. “I will give you fifteen minutes. If she does not voluntarily leave then we take her by force.”
Stephen was sick of hearing that same old speech. At first he took it as matter of fact directives obeyed by the military men, but now the words sounded void of any emotion except anger.&