“Come on, it’s good,” said Chandler James Donahue Jr. He held out a joint to Sebastian Fraser Watts III who accepted it and inhaled.|
“Whoa,” Sebastian said. “I don’t do this much anymore. This is strong shit. Where’d you get it?”
“Eleanor in Customer Service.”
“I don’t want Susan to smell it on me.”
“When was your ballectomy?” laughed Chandler. “I need it to relax. Not much of that lately.”
“No kidding,” said Sebastian. “I’ve seen you popping Xanax. But who am I to talk? The way I’ve been going, I might have to attend AA.”
Chandler plopped into one of the Chippendale leather chairs facing Sebastian’s desk. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m a dope addict, but God, my nerves. This hasn’t been easy.”
“No,” agreed Sebastian. “I’m back to cigarettes again too. Susan is livid. All she needs is to catch a whiff of this now and I might be out on my ass.”
“She and Catherine would have breakdowns if they knew the actual truth,” said Chandler, mostly to himself. “Hopefully...”
“They never will,” Sebastian finished for him.
“We can’t let ourselves think about it,” said Sebastian.
He passed back the joint.
Chandler sucked hard, before exhaling a short, hard blast. He said, “I scanned my office this morning. Did you check yours?”
“Yeah, but as you’ve often said, who knows? Not with their technology.”
“Of course, we shouldn’t underestimate our own. We don’t really know the extent of it. Nor how much we’ve stolen from them by now.”
“Or from the others,” said Sebastian, coughing. He pounded his chest. “Damn pot,” he chuckled, then hacked again, red-faced.
Chandler shrugged. “Yeah, well. Useless to speculate. The Secret Government’s idea though, of the balloon mortgages, of bringing the country, the world, to somewhat of a standstill - let’s hope it works. I mean, it’s one thing to have people disappear here and there, but if we bring everything down for nothing...”
“Well, there’s the medical community to count on. I just hope they don’t let things get out of hand.”
“You had your shots, right?”
Sebastian nodded. “At least our families are slim on their own, so no need for unnecessary suffering. Want some decent scotch? Rathburn gave me a bottle of Glenfiddich yesterday.”
Chandler nodded and Sebastian got out the glasses.
“I had a helluva time convincing Susan. As for Jonathan, my God, you’d have thought I was asking her to cut off one of his fingers!”
“Catherine acted like that too. Real suspicious. ‘What’s this for? I haven’t read about any new virus other than Bird Flu and nothing came of that. Why isn’t this in the papers?’ How the hell was I supposed to get around that? She’s an armchair doctor, for crying out loud. She even gets email newsletters meant for physicians! I had to lie my head off, said Gregg warned me about it, that it wasn’t public knowledge because they didn’t want to start a panic and-”
“Yeah,” said Sebastian, “or she’d be telling her friends and what then?”
“Right. She’d go blabbing to her mother and Elizabeth and that crowd. I had to get uber creative. You would have enjoyed watching me squirm.”
“I was doing my own squirming,” said Sebastian. “I ended up telling Susan the same thing, even adding that Gregg could lose his position at the hospital if we said anything to anyone. She likes Gregg, in fact maybe a bit too much, so agreed to keep her mouth shut.”
“When do you think they’ll start the virus release?”
Chandler looked around rather desperately, then waved his hands as if to shut his friend up. “Sorry,” mumbled Sebastian. “Want to go out and walk around somewhere?”
“I have a client in twenty minutes,” said Chandler. “He wants a mortgage.”
They both laughed.
Sebastian leaned closer and whispered, “Do you know when the first release is?”
Chandler looked around again before whispering back, “I think he said this week. Thursday or Friday.”
“Manhattan, north and central Jersey. Later, the West Coast. That’s all I know.”
“I suppose they’re doing it simultaneously in Europe.”
“Asia too, undoubtedly, although Indians are already pretty wasted. On the whole.”
“The poor ones,” said Sebastian. He paused. “They’re going to drop like flies.”
“Not everyone,” said Chandler, grinding out the joint and tossing the scotch back. He popped a breath mint and offered one to Sebastian, who held out his hand.
“What do you mean, not everyone? You mean the inoculated, right?” said Sebastian.
“No, not at all. Didn’t you talk to Gregg’s associate?”
“Yeah. I thought he explained everything.”
“We never got together. Something always intervened.”
“Oh,” said Chandler. He checked his watch. “I don’t have much time.” He leaned close to Sebastian and resumed whispering. “It’s not going to kill many. Just people in bad shape already. People with half decent health will survive, but after a bout with it, they’ll be thinner and sickly for a while. They won’t have much appetite. This is a designer disease. It will cause them to lose their appetites for some time. People are going to get very thin.”
“And poor,” said Sebastian. “Anorexic and poor.”
“Well, let's hope just very thin. Thin and poor is what we want right now. If the disease doesn’t get the job done, maybe the poor part will.”
“I hope it works. I mean the mortgage fiasco, the stock market crash, I hope it all works because if it doesn’t, we’re screwed.”
“You got that right,” said Chandler. His cell phone rang and he dug it out of his pocket.
“Shit, this is the client,” he said, noting the caller ID. “Hello?” He hung up a minute later. “He’s running late. This bastard always runs late. It’s a power thing with him. Even when he’s asking for something.” He paused. “Where were we?”
“If it doesn’t work, we’re screwed?” repeated Sebastian.
“We need to toughen up, especially in this country. Maybe Europeans too, though I doubt as much as Americans. We’re weak, lazy, easy to carry off. We’re just waiting to be eaten.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Chandler. “If I let myself think about that even for a second, I almost go nuts. Especially when I think about the kids. I have nightmares. Catherine has no idea what causes them and of course I can’t explain.”
Sebastian shook his head. “I hate that part, that I can’t tell Susan.”
“I have knots in my gut 24/7,” said Chandler. “Had to up my blood pressure meds. The doctor kept pressing me about ‘problems at home’ and what could I say? Problems at home? That’s an understatement. How about we all have problems at home now? And on the street and everywhere else too?” His face was red; he was getting worked up.
Sebastian waved a hand. “Try to calm down or you’ll have a heart attack.”
Chandler dug a pill bottle out of his pants pocket, unscrewed the lid and popped a pill dry. They both sighed.
Sebastian said, “Have more people disappeared? Have you heard anything?”
Chandler shook his head. “Just what’s mentioned in the papers. A few in Australia, about fifteen in the south here. That was last week. I’m sure there is much more than reported.”
“Not all. But I am sure they were tender and plump. They seem to like woman especially.”
“I think,” said Sebastian, “that we need to do more to turn everyone unappealing than what they’ve got planned. The stock market melt down is good, the low key plagues will do their part, but what we really need is something people can take that will render them inedible.”
“When exactly did the Morbachians begin feasting?” asked Chandler.
“2008? It could have been going on for sometime. A lot of people disappear every year.”
“Do you think they were here in the eighties? The seventies?”
“I don’t know, maybe they were. Maybe the Zeens kept them down to a low roar for a while. But they can only do so much. Look what happened to their planet.”
Sebastian thought about it. “We’ve become more and more sedentary over the decades, less physical. People used to walk and do physical labor more. Kids played outside all summer and after school. They didn’t sit in front of computers all day and slouch in front of TVs for hours at night. Do the Morbachians just watch civilizations and wait? Does this time come for all of them? Maybe they even fed here before. Maybe Atlantis existed and ended on someone’s plate.”
“The fatted calves,” said Chandler. “It was only a matter of time.”
He stood up. “Well, my man, I’ve got that client.”
Sebastian remained in his chair. “Good luck with disappointing him,” he said. “I guess I’ll get to work on some foreclosures.”
“See ya tomorrow,” Chandler said sadly as he went out the door.
“If there is one,” said Sebastian, his eyes already on his paperwork.
x x x
A tasty debut tale for a snowy February. Chow down, AR readers, and leave a tip at our BBS. -GM