(This is part two of a story I am serializing. In part one we were introduced to Rupert and his wife. Also a brief explanation was given of the destruction that had occurred on the East Coast of the US. The public has come to call the disasters The Three Punch. Pt. 1 can be found here. Any comments or suggestions you may have would be welcomed. And sorry for the delay.)
Post-Amherst pt. 1
A keyboard clicked as familiar fingers compressed the keys, until an excited knock at the door broke the concentration of the journalist. A fit but shabby man rose from his workspace and answered the door.
– Ah Mr. Literature out on one of your getaways from the Duchess of Amherst.
– I think this time it’s for good, Rupert said.
– What has she done this time, ordered a summary execution in front you on the street. Is that the straw the broke the camel’s back, Winford laughed at his own joke.
– So how can I help you?
– We’ve supported a beast. This constant marshal law and the contracts. It all hit me tonight when I was reading.
Winford collapsed in a chair – Well I’m happy your eyes are open but if you talk like that on the street even the poor guy without a job isn’t going to warm up to you. What are you actually going to do with this information Mr Wool-Button-Down-Suit.
– That’s a good point, do you have a change of clothes, some jeans and a t-shirt maybe.
– Ha. You think I’m going to give you blue jeans and a t-shirt. You should have planned your escape better. Don’t tell me you don’t know those are rare items now-a-days.
Now, dear reader, I need to put away the guise of impersonal medium to exaggerate this point. You are sitting in a place of relative comfort with a digital screen before you, I imagine, a screen that is the accumulation of hundred of thousands of years of technological advancement, you are, perhaps, relatively wealthy. Perhaps not as wealthy as you would like, but you are able to buy the clothes you like and eat three times a day. The abject poverty of the peripheral world is alien to you. Perhaps you have more than enough clothes, you may even have more than enough food in the refrigerator (how about what’s packed around your waist?). Dear reader do not take this as a reproach (perhaps you live in abject squalor and I’ve gravely offended you?), only I come here to emphasize the circumstance of our heroes; – t-shirts and blue jeans are rare items. The two pinnacle of mass production and comfort are unavailable to them. Yet, that is only the beginning of their woes. Surely, dear reader, you’ve experienced a plugged up toilet and you were unable to use it for a day. Here, the poor wretches on the street haven’t had working toilets for years. The entire North Eastern sea board has made the most vulgar of private acts on the streets or in buckets for years. Sheltered, poor Rupert is oblivious to this. The wonderful powers that be, in this story, who awarded the contracts for electricity, too, managed to repair only elements of the power stations. Weeks of public excrement combined with an unending blackout and now, even t-shirts are a rare commodity. What a life, dear reader.
– A doctor diagnosed Sally and I with affluenza. He said we were disconnected from reality.
– You must not have been at her private doctor, ha. So straight off the diagnosis you’re changing your ways and going to join the revolution.
– I can’t stay in that house one moment longer, with its scented air and her precious Chastity. Can I stay here for a while? I could help you organize your works or help you edit. I’m pretty good with a pen myself.
– Whoa, whoa I don’t need Count Leo Tolstoy editing my state endorsed articles concerning how well the lords are turning what was once the wealthiest part of Massachusetts into a fiefdom.
– I know you also work on stories for the counter-news.
– I have neither heard nor could I condone the existence of such a thing.
As Winford said that he mouthed – What the hell?
– Do you have some music, Rupert said.
The apartment was strewn with books, dirty rags hung off the couch, in other words the general disarray of a man of letters. He put a Tallis choir piece on his music player and approached Rupert.
– You can’t talk like that in my house. The state knows I have connections to the counter-state, but they let it pass because of my day to day reporting. Plus I think, they think I am something of a mole for them.
– Are you?
– Of course not. I have one connection in the counter-state and it’s strictly because I’ve known her and we’ve been friends since, well forever.
– Don’t get touchy.
– Don’t come to my house with your affluenza and start fucking up my life because you married the queen of the east coast. No one would even look at you in the counter-state. You’re a stereotype to them: the caged beau. They wouldn’t like you very much.
Winford went over and turned the music off.
– I don’t think I like me very much. What am I to do?
– You can stay here and make yourself useful. Clean up or something but don’t bother me when I’m working.
– Do you want to go out for drinks?
– Are you kidding? You want to go to Neon-Corner with all the other caged beaus moping about their rich wives? Or now that you’re a supporter of the counter-state you want to visit Skull-F road?
– Oh Winford, I’m so lost what am I to do?
– If you’re interested in helping me. I’ve collected some information on the water processing plant and it’s inefficiencies. Read through that and write up a piece. We’ll talk about it tomorrow or the day after. But if you’re going to stay here you have to stay busy. I don’t care if you’re cleaning or what but you can sit around playing with a pleasure inducer…
– Disgusting I won’t touch one, they give me the willies.
– You can sleep in my office. There is a couch and some pillows in there. I do all my work in the living room these days anyway, so don’t worry.
– You’re a true friend Winford.
– I do have to go out this evening to meet a colleague.
– Is it your lady friend in the…
Winford stared murder at him.
– No it’s Rodolfo. The CEO of water restoration Corp. He’s going to give me the outline for what he wants reported this quarter. Even though there is only limited running water in public buildings. It’s a success.
– We’ve not had water or electricity problems in ages at Sally’s.
– Alright… I’m heading out.
Winford slid a black trash bag over his shirt.
– Ha, it’s my turn to laugh at you Winford. You look like a street-crawler.
Winford stepped into Rupert’s space and grabbed his jacket – You won’t be calling anyone a crawler while you’re living with me. You got that straight? We haven’t all been lauded like you by a system that can’t afford to manufacture stitched rain coats. Now read those papers I gave you. If you want to be useful you have to wake up.
Winford left the apartment.
Rupert thought – I don’t see why he acts like he’s under such catastrophic circumstances.
He turned on a light.
– Indeed, electricity. He should have been an actor instead of a journalist with his flair for the dramatics. Now where is this document he wanted me to read.
Rupert settled into the Winford’s office kicked up his feet and began to read.
As Winford made his way to his meeting he thought – How could I let the idol of the state leadership into my house. He is the pinnacle of what’s wrong. An overfed, over read, ignoramus. You hear about the elites and their disconnect from reality. But to see him in all his ignorance is more shocking than any state sponsored report I’ve read. It’s shocking to see the reality of such disconnect. To live in an insulated bubble where they sample the misfortunes of us, like a desert buffet… Oh we better not expose ourselves too much to the reality of collapsed of civilization. It might upset my stomach. We’re really doing all we can to make their lives better. Fuck. It’s not like I know how to build a multi-conductor or a computer, but I’m not living in a mansion, that has regular running water. He could take a shower whenever he feels, stand under the water and enjoy all its warmth and refreshment….
As he made his way he had to show his ID to various checkpoint officers. As angry as Winford was about the man in his home, Winford had more access to the city than the average citizen. His role as state reporter afforded him the benefit to live in a tower with rationed water and electricity. The cubicles of the sky, a tenant of these apartments was expected to work at least fifty hours a week. Various state employees filled the tower, from surveillance operators (to guarantee that tenants actually did their fifty hours), to the secret police. Winford often thought how the money to found to support the police state but the essentials were still in want.
He made his way through the upper-class bar district and waited in an alley off the side of an old parking lot beneath the highway bypass. An average height woman approached from the other end and said his name.
– Lillie you won’t believe who’s holed up in my house.
– The Duchess of Amherst?
– Her beau.
– No. You’re serious?
– Mr. Literature himself landed at my door, flustered, he said he had been diagnosed with affluenza.
– That must have as quite a shock to him. What if he is a spying on you to get to the counter-state?
– Honestly, he doesn’t even know how to tie his own shoes. The likelihood of him being a spy… I just can’t see it. So do you have the papers?
– Look all of this… there are maybe five people in the country with the know how and the means to hack into the automated bookkeepers. This information is a death warrant for one of us.
– It’s either die doing this or some other offense. I think they hired me exclusively as bait for counter-state.
– And you are playing into their hands?
– What am I supposed to do? It’s not like anyone reads the newspaper anyway. At least I have an apartment where I can work and write. What are the alternatives?
– Why don’t we both just go over to the counter-state.
– You know them better than I do. But honestly, I think they’re a myth, or it’s like three of the contract barons’ children playing rebel-anarchist. There has never once been a demonstration or any organized call to action, Winford said,
– I have no idea who they are. I work through a go between.
– Can he be trusted?
– Maybe I’m in the same position as you and this is all a set up to get the two of us arrested.
– The last two curious minds on the East Coast were executed yesterday…
– If only we had radio broadcasts, Lillie said.
– Some of this goes beyond lack of ability. Radio broadcasts, they’re the classic state propaganda. We pumped Radio Freedom to the North Koreans for fifty years, and now, there hasn’t been a single broadcast since the Three Punch… Anyway, So you think I should just toss this report then then?
– Well you already requested it. One of us is going to be dead within a week. Is my only point.
– You don’t seem worried about that?
– It’s like you said this or death by malnutrition, she responded.
– Happy times. We should meet up for drinks some time.
– You’re a funny guy. If we don’t hear from the other in a week I guess we’ll know I was right, Lillie said.
He saluted her with the paperwork – In the event of my absence, congratulate yourself on your premonitions.
– Likewise smart-ass.
Winford returned to his tower. He saw two lights on in his apartment – Shit.