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© Chris Goebel 2010.

First published in all territories by Chris Goebel 2010.

ABN 41 267 250 059

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved.

Without the prior written consent of the copyright owner, this publication may not be:
-reproduced in any form (electronic or mechanical),
-stored in a retrieval system,
-lent or disseminated in any form or by any means.

This publication is a work of fiction. Any similarity to events or people (living or dead) is
unintentional and purely coincidental.

Get the full version at
(Paperback, PDF, ePub)

ISBN: 978 0 9806819 4 9


I feel so alone.
You are.
I don’t want to be.
You did it to yourself.
I didn’t choose this, it just is.
You expect too much from people. You judge everyone.
But look at what they do!
So? Who are you to sit in judgement?
Leave me alone.

You’re just a cynical little princess.

No! I’m trying to find hope.
By running away?
I’m not running away. I’m trying to find the answer.
What’s the question?
I don’t know.
You’re so far up your own arse.
Shut up!


2020 – that most targeted of years, when all wrongs would be righted
and the world would be a better place. In years now past, that date had rolled
off their tongues, snappy and smart; an easy number on which to hang their
promises, when its coming seemed so far away.

From the safety of her perfect metal bubble, she looked down on it – the
glistening culmination of all those years of promises. Tiny through the thick
safety glass, shiny people bustling through their shiny new world.
You fucking idiots!
The helicopter continued to rise.

Ten years ago, 2010 had dawned to the alarm calls of climate change, peak
oil and the financial crisis. Yet in that calamitous gathering there seemed a hope,
for now, surely, as the seeds of two hundred years of greed began to bear their
terrible fruit, all had come to see the need for change.
Offer a man a future for his children, if he’ll but sacrifice his plasma television, or
inspire and inflame him with visions of a golden future where prosperity would
be bound only by ingenuity. They took mankind’s last opportunity for change
and created the Global Trade and Development Agreement. The GTDA.

She rose above it all, thrumming hypnotic into the wide clear blue. Below,
they receded, the sparkling glass and steel towers of Auckland’s harbour. Risen on
the profits of carbon trading: twinkling lighthouses across a far and rising ocean
It’s not my problem anymore!
She hunched and turned in her seat as though she could escape it. Without and
within; contempt, despair and a low, slow, sucking doom.

At the start, there had been so many voices – a clamour of dissent – crying
out their warnings. Journalists, economists, scientists and political thinkers:
rebels in a time that had lost the word’s meaning. But then, as the deal was done,
they went quiet.
They disappeared.
One by one – not just fading into obscurity, but vanishing completely.
The greatest minds and all they had to offer, lost to a world that didn’t even care
to realise they were gone.
And no one ever asked.


As she scanned the scene below, she spotted the five‑star hotel where she’d
spent last night, tossing and turning in anticipation of what she was about to
undertake. She’d closed the blinds early on her spectacular harbour views to
retire to her bed – enshrouded and ruffled in the highest thread‑count Australian
Cotton sheets money could buy. The Egyptian government had refused to sign
the GTDA.

She peered into the front of Stinky’s cage, trying to see how her only
companion for the next twelve months was coping with their journey. Seven
kilos of resentful tabby stared back at her from the gloom.

Her plan had been met with eyebrow‑raised scepticism at best and threats of
sectioning at worst, but eventually everyone had grudgingly accepted her ‘crazy
quest’, hoping that it might, as she claimed ‘help her find herself ’.
Fuckin’ hippy.
Shut up.

They flew on toward the edge of the city. Ten years ago the scenery below
would have been a shabby, dilapidated belt of low‑income suburbs, plagued
by crime and dysfunctional families as the Maori and immigrant islanders
struggled to find themselves a place in the modern world. But now it was an
urban chic of medium‑density housing and well‑tended public amenities.
Cranes and earthmovers were scattered throughout, trying to keep pace with
the demand for a spot in this new utopia. A large steel and glass shopping
complex rose in the centre – a towering beacon, perfectly formed to funnel the
residents of its catchment into its carefully maintained, 18° womb. She saw the
billboard battened to the side of it. A fifty‑metre tall, blond model, green eyes
smouldering above starved cheekbones. Guilt surged and smothered her peace
as she remembered the shameful farce in which she’d participated to create that
towering seduction.
I did what I had to.
You’re a fucking hypocrite.
I had to eat. I’m never going back to that.
Yeah, no. You’re going to ‘find your peace’.
Shut up.

She searched for another focus along the horizon, trying to get away from the
memory of her old life.


Ad‑land they called it, like it was some other world; some mysterious and
esoteric paradise, inhabited by wise and all‑powerful beings weaving their
mystical arts. But they, its creators, were its biggest victims. Ghostly husks,
only visible to the human eye by the make‑up plastered to their moulded faces
and the lustrous fabrics stitched to their frames by the fingers of some faceless

There she was, right in the middle of it. Kate Shaw: Freelance Creative
Director. Marching into the immaculately manicured park, the over‑paid leader
of a rabble of vacuous twits. To her right, the account manager and her six
inch heels – jerkily staggering and sinking across the lush lawn like some badly
managed marionette.
Stupid cow.
And to her left, the photographer, oh so edgy in his $500 trilby, jauntily cocked
back over pencil brows and glow‑in‑the‑dark teeth.
Wanker dick.

Then coming in front – flying at her, all flapping arms and wild eyes – the
stylist was freaking out. ‘They broke into the set! Homeless people! Drug addicts!’

A six­‑foot fence around a stand of trees in the middle of a public park. Two
bedraggled strangers excluded from paradise, hurried to pack meagre possessions
and flee.
The bullshit‑swaddled clamour overwhelmed her.
‘Call the police.’
‘They’re leaving.’
‘They’ve ruined the set. Call the police. I want them charged.’
‘With what? Sleeping in a public park? Calm down, we’ll sort it out.’
‘There was a fence! I’ve spent weeks styling...’
‘Ahhh! My ankle!’
‘Fuck! Serina!’
‘Fuck. It hurts. My ankle.’
‘Call the police, they’re getting away.’
‘Shit! My dress is ruined!’
‘Here, let me take a look.’
‘Don’t touch it. Call an ambulance!’
‘At least take this shoe off before it swells.’
‘Hello. Yes. Police?’


‘Jesus Paula, stop, that’s unnecessary. Get an ambulance for Serina.’

‘Kate! The model has arrived. She doesn’t like the trailer. She needs natural light.’

You could have left any time.

And been poor?
You made the choice.
Well now I’m making another choice.
Yeah! Now that your pockets are full.
Fuck off!

As they flew on toward the outskirts of the city, the sprawling farmlands
came into view. Romantic pastures, an undulating patchwork of perfectly formed
squares, their varying crops making a giant rumpled quilt as far as the eye could

‘I still don’t really understand what you’re trying to achieve.’

‘Jude! Be gentle. We don’t hit our sister. I mean how is cutting yourself off going
to make you happier?’
‘She took my Thomas.’
‘Susan give your brother back the Thomas and you can play with this.’
‘I already live pretty cut off. I guess I hope....’
‘No! I want Thomas!’
Kate continued through the familiarly disjointed four‑way conversation, ‘...hope
that actually physically removing myself...’
‘Mum, she won’t give it back!’
‘Ok, look you two, I think it’s time for some lunch. Yes? You guys hungry?’
‘I want egg!’
‘No bake beans!’
‘Keep going, I’m listening.’
She gave up.
‘Nah it’s fine. I’ll help you feed them.’

She watched as Fiona, her best friend since high school, moved to the
kitchen with her three and five‑year‑old children clamouring for their pick of
menu. She felt like she was losing her. Six years ago, this lunch date would have
been at a café over a glass of wine and all of the problems of the world would
have filled the afternoon, as each glass made them far more capable than all


those dim‑witted and corrupt politicians. Fiona lived in a different world now,
far from those days of careless ease and lofty ideals. Now her reality was these
two sticky‑handed, dirty‑faced angels. Every minute of the day and all of her
happiness was this family that she had created. A perfect unit moving through
the future together.
Oh poor lonely little Kate.
Shut up.

Stinky gave a loud yowl from his cage lashed to the opposite seat.
‘Oh poo‑poo!’
Unbuckling herself she crouched awkwardly in front of him, poking straining
fingers through the grate at the front. He let out another heart‑rending cry filling
her with pain at her inability to explain and comfort. ‘Hey there little noodle. It’s
ok. It’ll all be over soon.’
Her heart begged that he could at least understand her soothing tone, but
crouched at the back, he didn’t give any indication if he did.
‘Ssshhh. It’s ok.’
Oh god, I’m sorry!
You’ve no right to drag him around like this.
It’s just a couple of hours and then he’ll love it.
He’d have been just as happy staying with dad.
Shut up.

‘We’re about half an hour out, ma’am.’ Her pilot’s voice came through.
Oh crap this is really happening.
She moved back to strap herself in and looked out to see that the farmland had
disappeared and been replaced by the two‑thousand hectare forest in which she
would spend the next year.
By myself.
Hey you wanted this.
I DO want it. But it’s scary.
Yeah well deal.

She studied the scene below. Strange, it didn’t seem real. After all those
months of staring at it on EarthView, she had to concentrate on the fact that
what stretched below was solid and touchable, not an image on a screen. There


was the river, the one that wound its way north west and fed into the estuary.
She’d be camping, Living princess, just above a smaller river that fed into it.

‘We’re coming in, ma’am.’

‘Ok. I’m all buckled up.’
Can he hear it in my voice?
‘Hang in there Stinky, it’s almost over. Dean, could you put it down on the right
hand side, near the spring?’
‘Sure ma’am.’
Looking down, the small clearing at the base of a low rock overhang, came into

The chopper slowly descended into the clearing, snuggled in the middle
of the native forest. It was one of only a few flat patches, about fifty by twenty
metres, hemmed in on three sides by forest. It ran longways west to east, walled
at its northern edge by a five metre cliff that overhung a raised stone platform.

They landed.
Oh god Stinks, this is it.
The rotor blades wound down and she could hear her pilot open his door.
It’s really happening. We’re really going to do this.
She quickly unbuckled herself and drew in a deep breath.
No going back now.
Dean opened the door as Stinky gave an angry yowl. ‘He doesn’t sound too
‘He’ll be fine as soon as I get him out of the cage.’
‘Won’t he run away?’
‘No. He’s had worse journeys than this. Wherever I am is home to him.’
‘He loves you.’
‘I don’t think it’s love.’ She laughed. ‘He just knows where the food comes from.’
‘Yeah cats. I’m more of a dog person myself. Loyal.’

With Stinky’s cage unbuckled, she carefully passed it out to Dean who took
it and laid it on the grass, looking in on the angry, slightly overweight tabby.
He turned back as she moved to grab one of the chests, watching her jean‑clad
behind as she bent amongst the expensive cases. He saw her standing in the
middle of a palatial, marble‑floored apartment, dressed in high heels and fancy
black lingerie. Dripping diamonds, she put her hand on her hip and brandished


a black feather duster at the cat on his velvet cushion. ‘Oh, dear cat, I’m so
dreadfully bored! What shall we do?’

He banished the unbidden image, quickly averting his stare as she handed
him a large plastic crate, but she caught the strange flicker in his eyes.
What’s he thinking?
What do you reckon?
Why can’t they just leave me alone?
Delicate princess coming through.
Shut up.

They continued the unpacking until they reached the items at the back of the
load. Nine wooden crates – $5000 worth of wine.
‘It’s not as bad as it looks.’ She attempted to justify herself, unable to gauge from
the back of his head what he was thinking. ‘It’s got to last me a whole year. That’s
only two bottles a week, so you know, that’s pretty average. Isn’t it?’
He just smiled politely.
Thank god he can’t see the coffee!
Organic, fair trade. $900.

The helicopter’s contents lay piled on the grass. She looked over her months
of lists and planning.
You’re a fucking hypocrite.
Shut up.

9 x Cases Wine 10kg x Ground Coffee 1kg x Salt
3kg x Sugar 7kg x Flour 5kg x Rice
Crackers Biscuits 30 x Tins Spam
30 x Tins Beans 30 x Tins Various Stew 2kg x Lentils
Dried Garlic Dried Rosemary Chilli Flakes
Pepper Dried Sage Bay Leaves
Condensed Milk 5l x Olive Oil Vegemite
Chocolate Biscuits 25kg x Dried Cat food


Shovel Plane Stone Chisel
Wood Chisel Hand Saw Wire
Pliers Wire Cutters Hammer
Chicken Wire Nails Hoe
Axe Hatchet Machete
Pocket Knife 3 x Tarpaulin 100m x Rope
200m x Twine Wooden Stakes Sewing Kit
Sail Repair Kit Scissors Secateurs
Corn Seeds Tomato Seeds Carrot Seeds

Shotgun Shotgun Shells Fishing Rod
Net Tent Camp Latrine
BBQ Grate Camp Cot Sleeping Bag
Blanket Pillow 2 x Bed Sheets
2 x Towels Bio Dish Detergent Bio Laundry Soap
Scourer 3 x Teatowels Sponge
100 x Toilet Paper 2 x Canteens Trestle Table
Camp Chair 2 x Buckets 10l Water Container
Large Backpack Small Backpack Matches
Lighter Flint Set

Camp Pot Camp Pan Coffee Pot
Filleting Knife Large Knife Paring Knife
Spatula Ladle Chopping Board
2 x Wooden spoons Aluminium Foil Tongs
Spit 5 x Plastic Containers 1 x Cutlery Set
1 x Tin Plate 2 x Tin Bowls 2 x Tin Cup

Compass GPS Emergency Beacon
Satellite Phone Backup Satellite Phone Laptop
Solar Charger MP3 Player Digital Camera


Collapsible Crutch Adrenaline Fibreglass Bandages
Butterfly Bandages Wrist Brace Ankle Brace
Knee Brace Bandages Adhesive Plaster
Gauze Oxazepam Codeine
Multi Vitamins Ibuprofen Antibiotics
Antiseptic Solution Antiseptic Cream Sling
Anti‑inflammatory Gel Aloe Vera Gel Calamine Lotion
Safety Pins Tweezers


10 x Soap 7 x Deodorant 10 x Moisturiser
3 x Shampoo 3 x Conditioner 15 x Boxes Tampons
2 x Boxes Sanitary Liners Hair Brush Toothbrush
5 x Herbal Toothpaste

10 x Undies 5 x Bras 10 x Socks
2 x Jeans 2 x Shorts 5 x Long Sleeve
5 x Short Sleeve 5 x Singlets 4 x Long Johns
2 x Jackets 1 x Steel Cap Boots 2 x Hiking Boots
3 x Thongs 2 x Hats 2 x Polaroid Sunglasses
Woollen Hat 2 x Scarves 1 x Rain Jacket

Calculator 20 x Books 10 x A4 Note pads
10 x Pencils 10 x Erasers 1 x Packet Cigarettes
Playing Cards

This was it. Everything she had access to for the next twelve months. If it
wasn’t here or wasn’t in the forest around her, she wasn’t going to have it, except...
‘Ok Ma’am, I’ll be back in about four hours with the chickens.’
The chickens, the final part of the plan. Rabbits and mice were the only fauna in
the forest except for eels.
I don’t do eels!
Chickens would be her protein. She was going to discover free‑range for real.
‘Cheers, Dean.’ She couldn’t hide the tremble in her smile.
‘Are you sure... that you’ll be ok?’
‘Yeah. Really. The worst that can happen is that I fail and I have to call you in
and go home.’
Hmmm, I called it home.
Yeah, sugar.
Shut up.
He looked dubious, eyeing up the pale‑skinned, delicate‑handed city girl. He
imagined her sitting in the middle of a muslin draped camp as she carefully
worked a can opener. A long and painted fingernail snapped and she screamed in
horror before fainting daintily to the ground.

He thinks I’m a dumb, rich cow.

‘Really. I’ve taken every precaution. I’ve got an emergency beacon and a backup
phone. I’ll be fine.’


‘But how are you going to survive? I mean like, what if stuff goes wrong and
food?’ He gestured toward the pile of goods. ‘This isn’t enough for a year.’
‘Wild foods and corn!’ She answered confidently. ‘I’ve spent the last year taking
lessons, courses, reading books. I came out from Melbourne just a few months
ago and trained with this guy Jerome. He’s a wild food expert. I’m prepared for
every contingency. I know how to farm chickens, grow corn, all the local flora I
can eat, fishing, paua diving.’ She searched and began pointing to items that had
come off the chopper. ‘First aid, gun, tools, emergency food. Everything I could
possibly need!’
‘Ok.’ He pulled in his chin at the rapid fire she threw at him. ‘Sounds, um, like
you’re totally prepared.’ He paused, pushing tentatively. ‘You don’t think you’ll
get lonely?’
‘Yeah. I will. But I guess that’s kind of the point.’
You’ll be talking to a basketball within a week.
Shut up.
His brow crinkled. ‘Ok. I’ll leave you to it then. See you soon.’ With an
awkwardly pinched smile, he turned toward the chopper.

Squatting by Stinky’s cage, her long dark hair whipped around her face as she
watched the helicopter rise. She’d see him one more time when he returned with
the chickens, then that would be it.

‘Ok, first thing’s first. Let’s get you freed, you little monster.’
She pulled back the clips and let the cage door swing open. Stinky emerged
immediately, slow and cautious, but not afraid.
‘Mrreow?’ He threw his foot‑and‑a‑half frame against her leg. She laughed and
grabbed him, happily hugging him to her. ‘This is our new home.’
And he was off, tentatively exploring, sniffing, surveying and rubbing against
everything that had just come off the chopper.

REPORT ID:KFP‑3472‑435648‑34
10 October 2020
Advantage Advertising – New York City, USA.

Gary Rees: Head of Product Development – Infinity Cosmetics

Anita Koh: Head of R&D – Infinity Cosmetics
George Themistokleous: Creative Director Cosmetics –
Advantage Advertising.
Sally Kent: Head of Legal Dept – Advantage Advertising.
George: Is the room secure?
Security Guard: Yes sir.
George: Ok, you can leave us.
Security Guard: Yes sir.
George: Ok everyone. NanoRad.
Sally: Did you bring the research?
Anita: Yes, there’s a copy here for everyone, but it can’t
leave the room.
Sally: Give us the headlines.
Anita: Ok, we have confirmed that the product does indeed
absorb seventy‑five percent of free radicals that it comes
into contact with.
Sally: That it comes into contact with?
Anita: Yes. As it is taken orally it only travels through
the digestive system. So technically it only absorbs
seventy‑five percent of free radicals in the digestive
Sally: So it has no effect on the rest of the body, the
Anita: No. We’ve experimented with other delivery methods to
spread the particles throughout the body, but at this stage
they would be unpalatable to the consumer.
Sally: Ok. Well we can work with that. I’ll get Legal onto

the disclaimer. We should be able to work something out. How
about safety?
Anita: Yep. All the tests have been completed and it is
safe. Once taken it is passed through the digestive system
and is excreted.
Sally: What about passing into the sewage system?
Anita: Well the concentrations would be very low and for all
intents and purposes, it is an inert substance.
Sally: Yes, I suppose once it gets to the plant it’s their
Anita: But, before we move on, I’d like to see if we can
squeeze in another couple of weeks for some more testing.
George: For what? You said it’s all been completed.
Anita: All scheduled tests, but I’d like to run some more.
This is a very unique product and I think it would be
advisable to take some extra precautions.
George: We simply don’t have the time. The marketing plan is
in place and my source at Visage has told me that they are
weeks away from completing their own free‑radical product.
Gary: We spoke about this Anita! We’re only a fledgling
company, we’ve thrown all our resources at this.
George: We have to be first to market or the last two years
was for nothing.
Anita: I really don’t feel comfortable with this.
Sally: May I suggest a compromise? How about we start
manufacturing and packaging, but in the meantime you can run
your extra tests in the background.
Anita: I suppose.
Gary: And how about Marketing?
George: All ready to go. The initial packages are ready to
ship, the celebrities have been booked. Um, I believe it’s
thirty‑one, covering all markets world wide. They’ll receive
their complimentary packages simultaneously on the tenth
of November. They will use the product for two weeks and
then provide endorsements. All the media coverage has been
organised. It’ll be the story of the week, the beauty story
of the decade.
Gary: And how much, for the celebs?

George: One twenty to five hundred k, depending on their
Gary: Excellent. Well done.


*No further observation warranted*


An hour later, with Stinky still exploring but hanging close, Kate began
hammering in the first pegs of her $16,000, custom‑designed, eight‑man tent.
‘Fuuuuuck!’ She rolled on the ground, kicking out her legs and cradling her
smashed thumb to her chest.
‘Fuck. Fuck. Fucking fucker!’
Eyes squished tight against tears of pain, she squeezed her thumb to her breast.
She could feel it was bad, but didn’t want to look.
Oh nice! What a patient!
Fuck off.

Groaning in pain she steeled herself to expose the injury. Having hit her
thumb on the side, crushing it between steel peg and iron hammer, the nail was
cracked down the middle almost all the way up to her cuticle.
This is bad. It’ll take ages to heal.
You said it sister. You’re down one opposable digit for the foreseeable future.
Shut up.
She went to search out the First Aid kit while Stinky sniffed around the spring
to the right of their camp.

Three hours later, right on schedule, she heard the chopper approaching. She
looked around the pitiful start she’d made. Interrupted by bandaging and slowed
by pain, all she’d managed was setting up the tent. Everything else was exactly
where Dean had left it. Her thumb throbbed, a huge bulbous bundle of already
dirty bandages.
Hide it?
Yeah right!
Shut up.

‘What happened to your thumb?’

‘Um. Smashed it with a hammer.’
‘Is it bad?’
‘It’s not good, but I’ll be fine.’
‘You can’t use it?’
‘That’s gonna make things pretty difficult.’
‘Tell me about it.’ She laughed as they both looked around at her meagre
progress. ‘Oh well, I’ve got plenty of light left to get done what really needs


‘Do you want me to stay for a while and help?’
‘No!’ She jumped. ‘It’s fine!’ She paused to take the sting off with a smile. ‘I want
to do it myself.’
‘Ok. Well let’s get these noisy buggers out then. Man, for birds they sure don’t
like flying.’ He winked at his cheesiness and climbed into the chopper to unstrap
the two large cages. Two cockerels and six hens. These cages would be their
temporary homes until she built a coop for them.

She awkwardly grabbed the cage, fiddling to find a grip that didn’t involve
her injured thumb. Dean patiently bore most of the weight as they moved the
cages up against the embankment from which the spring emerged in a gentle
one‑and‑a‑half foot wide gurgle.

‘Where’s your cat?’

She pointed up to the overhang where Stinky squatted watching. ‘He didn’t like
the chopper.’
‘S’pose not. Ok, you sure you don’t want any help before I leave?’
‘Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks heaps for everything.’
‘Thanks for an interesting job.’ He smiled. ‘I really hope you’ll be ok. Don’t...
don’t let your pride get in the way of calling if you need help.’
‘I won’t.’
Yes you will.
Shut up.
‘Well, good luck then. See you in a year.’
‘Yeah.’ Her smile trembled.

She watched him leaving, getting into the chopper and powering up. The
wind from the blades buffeted her tent, whipped her hair and sent the chickens
squawking and flapping. He rose up, she could see him looking down, a strange
expression on his face. She stood there. After five minutes Stinky came down,
sitting at her feet, rubbing against her leg. The breeze sounded like rain in the
leaves of the forest that surrounded her. The spring gurgled. She began to cry

By eight and with one hour of light left, everything was mostly where the
plan had dictated it should be. The chickens against the embankment by the
spring. The tool and food boxes next to them for a windbreak and then her tent a


few metres away to escape the squawks and clucks. The wine was all piled against
the embankment to shade it during the day. The fire pit was just in front of the
tent, ready to go and the toilet, a frame over a bucket of soil, was at the edge of
the clearing.

She was completely exhausted and her thumb ached. Stinky, suffering his
own exhaustion from a hard day of sniffing out his new territory lay nearby, flat
to the ground and watching her through half closed eyes.
Feed the chickens. Feed Stinky. Go have a wash. Light the fire. Feed myself. God I’m
so tired.

She dragged herself back up on aching legs, tired and not used to the physical
labour and went to fetch the chicken feed. She had enough to last a few weeks
and then the chickens would be fending for themselves on the insects and seeds
in the forest. She sprinkled handfuls into their cages and with their trauma long
forgotten, they went into a frenzy of pecking.
‘Yes, yes, you’re next.’ She ruffled up Stinky’s fur as he threw himself
demandingly against her leg.

Everyone fed but herself, she grabbed a towel and her toiletries bag and
headed down to the river for the first of three‑hundred‑and‑sixty‑five cold baths.
Stinky, not yet sure enough of his surroundings to let her out of sight, left his
food and bounded after her. She smiled and lightened at the sight. ‘C’mon then,

She picked her way through the dense undergrowth of the drop‑off,
following the path of the spring down to the river. Though the river only lay
fifty metres away, the steep incline, dropping four metres down through tangled
growth, made the going slow.
I’ll have to do a bit of clearing here.
Several minutes brought her to the river. Around this section the forest stood
back allowing the setting sun to sparkle on the shallow ripples of the gently
flowing, six‑metre‑wide river. She stood, taking in the scene.
This is so cool!


‘Mrrrt.’ Stinky sniffed tentatively at the river’s edge. She smiled at his
sniffings and began to undress, unable to help a quick glance around to make
sure she was alone.
Yeah be careful, a hedgehog might see your big, pale arse.
Shut up.
She stepped tentatively into the cold water with only one thing on her mind.
Jerome had fought to get her to consider trapping eels as an easy source of
protein, but she had steadfastly refused to let go of her phobia. As far as she was
concerned, the horrible black creatures with their monster‑like fanged mouths,
belonged strictly in old re‑runs of The Mighty Boosh and nowhere near her
person. But now it was bath time and this river most likely teemed with them.
They’re not the least bit interested in you.
They’re disgusting!
She resorted to squatting in knee‑deep shallows, throwing handfuls over herself
and constantly eyeing the water as she froze in the cool breeze.

The fire crackled merrily along, heating up her beans as the light finally
disappeared and the huge blackness of a quarter moon surrounded her. Chickens,
covered in a tarp for the night, ceased their clucking and put heads under wings.
In the silence everywhere around her, she saw it above her, the most vast expanse.
Stars, bright in their tiny millions, hung in the endless black.
You’re going to go mad from loneliness.
I was going mad anyway.

She rose and addressed her only companion curled contentedly by the fire. ‘I
reckon I’ve earned a glass of wine.’

She sipped her wine appreciatively, noticing it more than usual; savouring it
in the silent dark. The soft breeze rustled through the leaves of the forest, so big
and real, echoing out forever.
The city sheltered you.

Finishing her meal she made no attempt at cleaning up. She let exhaustion
shamble her into the tent, where followed by Stinky, she crawled into her cot and


sank to stillness with a soft, purring, ball of fur pressed up against her under the
sleeping bag.

It had been hard to sleep that night. The quiet was almost overwhelming as
the tinnitus of too many loud gigs whined and rang without any noise to cover
it. But there was no time for bemoaning a sleepless night, she had work to do.
Feed Stinky. Feed the chickens. Feed yourself. Deal with your idiot thumb. Build a
chicken coop. Cut path to river.
Aren’t we just the expert little survivalist?
Shut up.

She looked around her little clearing. A beautiful day in her

forest‑surrounded oasis, spring bubbling away, tent, chickens, crates of gear, fire
pit and Stinky rolling on his back for attention.
‘Yeah yeah, I’ll feed you in a sec.’

She wandered and skipped through the first few days, swinging between the
giddy thrill of novel adventure and unwanted pangs of emptiness.
Experiences that can’t be shared.
The day she finished the coop and herded the chickens in for their first night,
she’d been bursting with a sense of pride and achievement. That sturdy but
clumsy looking contraption of wood and chicken wire seemed like the first
thing in her life that had been created to serve an honest purpose. It was real and
hard‑won with pain, frustration and sweat.
But no one to share it.
Stinky likes it.
Yeah, it’s a great claw sharpener.

Her hands were becoming calloused, proper farm hands with dirty, ragged
nails, lots of scratches and ignored splinters. Her fair skin, bruised, banged‑up
and tanning to freckles. Her long, dark hair had fallen victim to an attack of
machete enacted frustration after getting in her face one too many times and
now sat tucked firmly behind her ears in a hairdresser’s worst nightmare. It felt
good. All of it. And then at night, as she ate her beans, she would open her
laptop. Mellowed with a wholesome exhaustion, she’d sink back into her camp
chair and watch downloaded TV shows or cruise the ‘net.


Can’t hate the world that much.

Oh, go away.

‘Oh is it dinner time is it?’
‘At your service fatso.’
She filled his bowl before grabbing a bag of corn to go see to her brood of
squawkers. As the light mellowed into evening, the chickens were already
gathering near the coop after a day pecking through the clearing and forest.
She moved in a large circle around them, gently herding them toward the door.
‘C’mon my little roasts, off to bed.’
Once the door was secured, she threw out a small handful of corn, the final step
in programming them into this night time pattern. She watched them peck and
scratch as Stinky came up to rub her leg.

Tonight was call‑in night. She had already emailed photos to Fiona and Sal
ahead of her calls but now she was nervous with excitement to speak to them;
to babble out all this stuff that only Stinky had been around to hear. Building a
coop, cooking on a fire, bathing in a river – she couldn’t translate the simple joy
of it, pure and unmarred by any guilt. Nothing she did or used was at the cost
of another. Her wallet didn’t offer mute acceptance to the atrocities committed
daily in her name, for her comfort.
What about the laptop, the phone, the wine?
Shut up.
You couldn’t quite be that honest could you?
Fuck off.

From far out there, it ended up being a strange and stilted conversation.
She doesn’t understand.
She’s trying.
All of the usual interruptions, somehow more sharp as lives moved on,
effortlessly and uninterrupted...
by your absence.

It was easier with Sal, her sister, whose life and work in wildlife biology made
Kate’s experience more relatable. But what she craved...


is what you’ve always craved.

And will never find.

But still, even then, she felt their love and that bond, that despite all her
rejections of the world, she so desperately needed.

REPORT ID:QUP‑7473‑435131‑79
11 October 2020
Starlight Cafe – Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr Hans Schwernk: Science Officer, WHO.

John Henry: Journalist (Science/Technology) INNTV.

John: Hi, thanks for coming.

Hans: It’s wonderful to see you, it’s been years.
John: Sorry.
Hans: How’re Susie and the kids?
John: Good. Jenna’s at college now.
Hans: Expensive!
John: Yeah, we’ve had to take out a second mortgage.
Hans: Well at least I don’t have to worry about any of that.
John: Still a devout bachelor then.
Hans: So what’s on your mind? You said I might be able to
help you with something.
John: Yes. Look, I’ve been asked to do a puff piece on this
new NanoRad thing and well, I’m worried.
Hans: What about?
John: Well remember that article you helped me with in 2008
on the rise of nano–tech?
Hans: Yeah.
John: I showed it to my editor and suggested that we should
investigate further before doing the piece.
Hans: And he said no.
John: Yeah. The nano industry is throwing so much into
advertising. He said he wouldn’t even consider it unless I
could bring him reputable sources who were willing to go on
the record with evidence.

Hans: Good luck.
John: Exactly! What’s going on? I’ve been trying to get in
touch with my old sources and I can’t find anyone. It’s like
they’ve all vanished, you’re the only one left. I tried some
others and well, no one will talk.
Hans: They’ve got too much to lose. It’s all private now.
I’m one of the few left in the public arena, the rest are
all fresh out of school, putting in their time while they
try to land a job with a corporate.
John: How? Ten years ago the universities, research centres,
government labs, what’s happened?
Hans: It’s the GTDA. It’s changed everything. R&D is purely
private now and everyone’s running to where the money is.
They have to, just look at yourself.
John: I’m really worried about this.
Hans: So am I. Not just about that, but all of it. There’re
too many developments and almost no regulation.
John: What do you mean? That’s what you’re there for.
Hans: That’s the theory, but we’re completely
over‑stretched. Ninety percent of our resources are going
to combating all these new diseases. It’s gone mad. With
so many people shifting, land being lost to the sea, huge
populations and people going into remote areas that have
never been touched before! We had fifty‑nine outbreaks just
last year. Fifty‑nine!
John: Shit! But surely they recognise the kind of health
risk that it could pose? I mean nano particles are smaller
than the shit that makes up our DNA. How can they not be
Hans: Yeah, but it’s almost a legacy product now. It’s been
used extensively in everything from cosmetics and sunscreens
to bandaids since the nineties. It’s everywhere.
John: So there’s just no regulation at all.
Hans: There’s as much regulation as anything else - we rely
on the developer’s reports to approve products for release.
John: But wasn’t that always the case?
Hans: Yes, but we at least studied the studies. Made sure
that trials had some semblance of propriety. Now it’s just
rubber stamping. And what really worries me is interactions.
We just have no idea how all this new stuff is going to

affect things. Especially nano.
John: Have you talked to your supervisor? Tried to get more
Hans: There aren’t any! Anyone with any talent is in
private. And with the way the laws are now, any attempt
at serious regulation can be seen as interfering with the
natural flow of markets.
John: Christ! Would you go on record with this?
Hans: No. No way. If I speak out, just me alone, your
editor won’t think it’s enough and even if he did, they’ll
come after me. They’ll smear me, link me to a pedo ring or
something. It’s pointless.
John: What about the others? You must be in touch with
people, we could get a group together.
Hans: No. It won’t happen. Anyone that cared is long gone.
John: Oh my god! You know something about it!
Hans: About what?
John: About where everyone’s gone.
Hans: Drop it John.
John: No! Where are they? Why aren’t they speaking out? Are
they being threatened?
Hans: John, just leave it.
John: No! Where are they?
Hans: John. Just trust me. Leave it. Please.
John: Why? What’s going on?
Hans: I’ve got to go.


*Both parties warrant further observation. Priority 1.*


Day eight. Corn planting day. She planned to start off with a small crop at
first, just fifty plants to see if she got it right. If it worked, then she’d plant the

It took two days of back breaking labour, pulling up the grass, breaking and
turning the earth, but partially formed calluses softened the blow on delicate
hands. Once the ground was sufficiently worked, she mulched it using fertiliser
made by emptying her latrine bucket into a trench and mixing then turning it
with soil and leaf litter to make a compost. She thought the idea repugnant, but
Jerome had assured her that it was safe.

She lay on her back in the breeze‑blown grass, too exhausted to get the lunch
she had promised herself. It was already three in the afternoon of her second day
of digging and she still had to plant the seeds and build a rabbit fence around the
patch. She watched the chickens pecking near the edge of the clearing and rolled
over in the grass to spy Stinky lying in the cool shade of the overhang. In the
distance over the ocean she saw a band of darkening clouds. She smiled.
You can water my babies.

At seven she stood back dirty and sweaty, to admire her day’s efforts. Five
neat little rows with their seeds carefully tucked inside and the three‑foot‑high
chicken wire fence. As she watched, the light suddenly dimmed as the distant
bank of clouds – now black and moving fast – engulfed the setting sun.
Shit, where did that come from?
She’d been too consumed in her work to notice the storm’s deepening approach.
Looking at the dark clouds, she started to wonder if she should have set up
her camp in the overhang. But it had a hard rocky floor, it was further from
the water and it was a much more pleasant spot down here. Her tent was built
to withstand up to 180 kmph gusts and was utterly waterproof, including a
rubberised bottom to deal with any ground water or run‑off.
I’ll be fine. Just a bit of adventure.

The chickens, having long since sensed the storm, were gathered by the
coop as she moved to shut them in for the night. At night the coop was covered
by a large tarp to protect them from rain and wind, but as an afterthought she
dragged the tool and food crates over to it to give them extra protection. A crack
of thunder gave warning that she hadn’t much time before the downpour started.
Shit! What do I have to do?


She looked around.

Chickens secured. Corn, nothing to do there. Latrine, maybe I should lash it down so
it doesn’t blow away.
The tent, all the stuff inside and I’m filthy.
Ok. Lash down latrine. Bathe. Pack up electricals, just in case.
You are so paranoid.
Better safe than sorry.
You’re a control freak.
Shut up.

After lashing the latrine to the largest tree, she hurried to grab her toiletries
and headed for the river with Stinky following as usual, but seeming a little on
‘It’s ok poo‑poo, it’s just a storm. We’re all prepared.’

She climbed back up to the camp as the wind started to pick up and huge
raindrops splatted onto the leaves around her. Breaking onto the clearing, she ran
to the tent through the building rain and crouched her way into it.
Cold beans tonight.
Her phone started ringing. She scrambled for it. No one was supposed to call
her, unless it was an emergency.
‘Hey it’s me.’ Sal sounded anxious.
‘What’s up?’
‘I just saw about the storm, are you ok?’
‘Yeah, it’s just starting now. We’re all battened down for the night here.’
‘They’ve issued gale warnings.’
‘That’s ok, I’m all good for up to one‑eighty‑k winds.’
‘Are you sure? What about trees falling.’
‘I’m in a clearing. There’re no trees.’
‘I’m high up.’
‘You sure you’ll be ok?’
With a sudden gusting sheet, the rain started in earnest, forcing Kate to yell her
response above the roar and hiss.
‘I’ll be fine, nothing to worry about.’
‘Call me in the morning.’


‘Call me in the morning!’

‘Sure. Don’t stress.’
‘Ok. God, you make me worry.’
‘C’mon, I’m fine, I was prepared for this. It’s part of the experience.’
‘Ok. Talk to you tomorrow.’
‘Talk to you tomorrow!’
‘Ok. Love you.’
‘Love you too. Bye’
Kate closed the phone and looked at Stinky crouched on the cot staring at her.
It’ll be fine.

She moved over and unzipped the tent to peer outside. Clouds blocked
out the last of the sun and the rain, coming in huge gusting sheets, made
it impossible to see very far. She could barely make out the chicken coop.
Withdrawing, she zipped herself in again to pack all of the electricals into their
waterproof crate. A sudden gust buffeted the tent, the walls sucking in and then
ballooning out again, flapping and shaking. She decided to pack everything up,
all her clothes and stuff, into the backpack.
Just in case.

By eleven the storm showed no signs of easing and the torrential downpour
was testing the rubberised bottom of the tent. She could hear water running
under the eastern, spring‑side of the tent but everything was holding up. She’d
managed to eat her cold beans but the thought of sleep was far away. Instead, she
perched on the edge of the cot, lamp burning, torch at her side, listening to every
gust, watching them buffet her tent as the rain sheeted down.

It had gotten very cold, she’d put on jeans and a jumper and couldn’t help
but put on her boots.
Just in case.
Occasionally a distant crack rang out from the forest.

What’s that?
She strained her ears to make out the unfamiliar noise growing under the roar of
the rain on her tent.
It sounds like the river.
It can’t be, you can’t hear it from here.


What if it’s risen?

It’s four metres, it can’t rise that high.
It’s definitely running water.
The spring?
It’s a spring. They come out of the rock. They don’t flood.
What else could it be?

She strained her ears, perched stiff‑backed on her cot, unconsciously

clutching the torch. There was a strange, muffled, thudding, crash.
What was that?
Then another. She stood, her head butting the sloping side of the tent.
What is that?
She heard a low rumble begin and then rise to shake the ground beneath her.
What the fuck! An earthquake?
The rumble suddenly roared and the faint sounds of chicken uproar came faintly
The chickens!

She extricated herself awkwardly through the wind snapping tent door.
Instantly soaked, she ran towards the coop, sweeping the torch in front of her.
There was ripped earth and nothingness where the spring had been. The whole
edge of the clearing was gone, washed into the river four metres below. Rocks
and earth from the embankment that led up to the overhang were smashing
into the coop as torrents of water flooded down. A rumbling rip indicated that
another slip was forming right over her terrified chickens, her food, crates of
wine and her tools.
Fuck! What do I do?
The food!
What about the chickens? They’re terrified!
Food first!

She ran forward grabbing the handle of the food crate to drag it away from
the forming slip while the chickens squawked and flapped.
No, I’ll let them out of their cage first, they’ll have a chance then.
No time, the food!
They’re terrified!
She undid the latch and held the door open against the wind. They wouldn’t
move. They just shrieked and tripped over each other in frenzied circles.


‘Come on you little fuckers, get out!’

She crawled in and grabbed the nearest, flinging it out the door. Crawling,
she tried to shoosh them out, but the door kept slamming shut in the wind. A
loud, ominous rumble shook the earth as stones started to zing down from the
Get out now!
Adrenaline screamed as she felt the ground move. She shot from the coop and
scrambled away, falling in the mud as a torrent of rock and earth cracked and
slid down in a giant, sodden, mass. She scrambled to her feet, lurching out of
its path, but the edge of the slip slammed into her shins, knocking her flat on
her back. Catching her in its wake, it dragged her toward the edge of the newly
formed cliff that overhung the rain‑swollen river. She struggled, screaming
and flipped herself onto her stomach to clutch with clawed hands at the earth
beneath her. Everything was moving, sucking and slamming her inexorably
toward the cliff. Unable to get any purchase, she began flipping herself, rolling
side over side, like a swimmer moving diagonally across a rip. Each roll brought
her closer to the edge of the giant suck that was pulling her toward a deadly fall.
Choking on inhaled rain as she sucked for breath, she broke free. Coughing, she
staggered to her feet. A crack of lightening illuminated the growing disaster. She
could only stare through its pale after‑light, as her crates of wine, the chickens,
still in their coop, and all of her tools and food, disappeared over the edge.

One lone chicken stood fluffed up and confused by the tent.

There were now only five metres between the landslides and her tent.

She ran for the tent. Another ominous rumbling began as she strapped on
her pack with fumbling fingers. She moved over to Stinky who sat up on the cot,
ears back and tail fluffed in alarm.
‘Hey it’s all good buddy.’ But her trembling, wet embrace only further alarmed
her mate who struggled and scratched as she grabbed him. Bursting from the
tent she ran through the rain. Scanning the embankment she spotted the easiest
path up and ran for it with Stinky scratching at her in fear.
It’s ok baby, you’re safe.
She tried to climb while clutching the struggling cat, but staggered backward at
the sodden weight of her pack. She only made it a few steps before stumbling
and losing her charge who yowled and bolted away to the overhang.

REPORT ID:NMP‑7572‑756890‑21
15 October 2020
Naturotics Headquarters – Miami, USA.

Kendra Thwaite: Founder and Owner of Naturotics.

Tyler Rimmington: Senior Microbiologist, Naturotics.

Kendra: Oooh, this is so exciting! Well c’mon tell me!

Tyler: It works!
Kendra: So, no side effects? It definitely can’t breed?
Tyler: None and it can’t replicate. The genetic modification
means it can only be replicated – essentially, manufactured
– in the lab. Once in the gut, it simply feeds on the
unwanted nano silver particles. Once there’s no more silver,
it basically starves and dies, all the while allowing the
naturally existing bacteria to replenish themselves.
Kendra: So the silver definitely won’t kill it?
Tyler: No. It’s completely unaffected by it. (laughs)
Kendra: Oh thank goodness! Ever since I heard that we all
had this silver stuff in us and that it might be killing our
good bacteria, I wanted to find a way. I swear that’s why I
always feel so off. Not enough good bacteria in my tummy.
Tyler: Now we have the cure!
Kendra: Yes! Oh Tyler, I’m so glad I found you. So many
people will benefit from this. How long before we can start
Tyler: Not long at all. Your Legal said we don’t have to
go through any red tape because it falls into the vitamin/
supplement category, so I’d say we could be shipping within
a few weeks!

Kendra: Oh, wonderful. You’re a genius! I’ll go rattle
Marketing’s cage!


*No further observation warranted*


The sounds of the forest merged into her dreams. She was standing by the
corn patch, now tall and bearing a bountiful harvest. Chickens pecked around
her as Stinky leapt and pounced through the grass, chasing a field mouse.
She opened her eyes as he poked his wet nose against her cheek. ‘Mrroew!’
The false plenty of her dream fell away as the reality of the previous night sucked
in, convulsing her in an involuntary sob. She threw her forearm over her eyes to
block out the bright day and the loss it would reveal.
It’s all gone.
The light said it was well into morning and Stinky continued his demands for
breakfast as she heard her phone dimly ringing from inside the waterproof crate.
‘Shit, Sal!’
She scrambled from her wet sleeping bag to grab it. ‘Hey!’
‘Hey, you were supposed to call, I got worried.’
‘I’m sorry. I... I slept in.’
When did I go to sleep?
‘Are you Ok?’
Kate looked out over the clearing blearily as she sat on the lid of the crate. ‘I’m
After what she’d been through last night, she expected to see devastation, but it
looked peaceful, wet grass and leaves sparkling in the sun. The forest showed no
signs of harm and her tent still stood, though now only a metre from the edge
of the clearing as the land had disappeared. The site of the landslides had been
smoothed by the rain and didn’t look out of place, except for the absence of all
her stuff.
My food, the chickens, tools!
‘I’ve got to go. Can I call you later?’ Her voice choked as she fought off tears.
Don’t tell her.
‘I slept in, heaps to do, I’ll call you later.’
‘Oh. Are you sure you’re ok? You sound funny.’
‘Just woke up.’
‘Hm, ok.’
‘Look I’ve got to go, ok? Love you. Bye.’
‘Love you.’

Stinky threw himself against her legs. She looked down at him. All his food
had been in the crate.


She burst into tears. ‘I don’t have anything for you noodle.’
Everything’s gone.
Not everything.
She looked around at the possessions which she’d dragged through the rain.
Clothing, electricals, First Aid kit, some of her kitchen gear and the cot.
My food, tools, wine, coffee. My fucking chair!
Fine! We can end this stupid experiment then.
Fuck off.
Well stop being such a girl.
Fuck you. I just lost everything..
Hardly! Just your crutches.
Shut up!
She surged to her feet in anger, startling Stinky.

Stepping carefully, she made her way down from the overhang. Reaching
the edge of the clearing’s new drop‑off, she peered into the brush that used to be
the spring and her path to the river. It was a tangle of debris and mud, with the
spring now running further back toward the overhang and washing widely across
the earth, having not yet cut a new course. She thought she saw a glint of metal.

On her backside, she inched herself down the slippery slope. It was her
toolbox, half buried and wedged up against a large tangle of roots. Her heart
surged with relief, it was intact.
I can just dig it out and pull it up!
The shovel and ropes are inside it.
Keep looking, get the lay of the land then make a plan.

Reluctantly she moved past it, inching her way down toward the river which
she could hear roaring and swollen from the night’s downpour.
‘Bk bk bkawk.’
Her heart surged.
A chicken!
She hurried forward to find a hen and one of the cocks pecking amongst the
scattered remains of her food, strewn around the land near the river’s edge.


Excitement slackened her care and she her lost footing, sliding the rest of the way
down to the pecking creatures, scattering them into flapping, indignant squawks.

The remainder of her planting corn, that hadn’t already been pecked up, was
scattered around in the mud along with jagged shards of green glass. She spied a
few cans around as well, some where she sprawled and a few farther down.

Hey c’mon, you’re up two chickens, several cans of food and a toolbox.
Great! Two chickens without shelter. A buried toolbox and enough food for a couple
of days.
C’mon nerd, grab what you can from here and let’s figure a way to get the toolbox.
Stinky had followed her, still not getting the message that breakfast wasn’t
coming. She burst into tears again, sitting on the rock with her stomach growling
as he threw himself impatiently against her leg.
‘I don’t have anything for you.’
He jumped into her lap nuzzling her face as she sat crying in frustration.

There was too much earth covering the toolbox to hope that she could use
her hands to dig it out. Instead she figured on using the cause of last night’s
destruction to do the work for her.
I’m such a genius.
She smiled wryly to herself.
To prevent it from falling as its prison washed away, she lashed the handles of
the box to the roots against which it was wedged using the ropes from her tent.
She then built a channel of rocks to divert the spring’s flow three metres across to
where she needed it. If she could at least wash the earth off the top of the toolbox
and open it, she could get out the ropes and shovel.

After a couple of hours of labour she finally stood ready to roll the final rocks
into place to start the new flow.
Here we go.
She rolled them in and stood back.
Please, please, please.
The water started to well up against the low walls of her new channel before
washing along its new course. But gravity defied her plan. Finding nooks and
crannies between the rocks as it went, most of the water never reached the


intended target.

Dropping to her knees she scraped up handfuls of mud, frantically trying to

plug the string of new streams that gurgled out from her poorly made channel.
But the mud quickly washed out again as the spring found more and more holes
in her diversion.
Fuck it!
Tears of tired frustration squirted from her eyes as she stood stamping her foot
and clenching her fists like a denied child.
It’s not fair!
Fair? Don’t be an idiot!
It’s too hard!
Don’t be such a fucking girl!
Fuck off!

Fifteen minutes later she returned puffing and grimacing as she carelessly
dragged the tarp that had once covered up the coop from the stream. Working
with the jerky movements of resentment and defiance, she hauled the tarp into
position and slammed down rocks to waterproof her channel wall.

Exhausted, bloody‑nailed and chagrined at her petulance, she slumped to the

ground to watch as the spring slowly uncovered her tools.

With nothing above to use as an anchor, she attached a rope to the toolbox
and tied it around her waist. She tried to crawl up the slope.
There was absolutely no give.
She strained.
It’s too heavy, you’re going to have to take the tools out one by one.
No! That’ll take ages.
She pulled hard, bent over and reddening.
There’s no other way.
It’ll take the rest of the day!
So be it. There’s no other way.

More tears to sting scratchy eyes as she scrambled up and down the steep
slope, bringing up the contents of the box one by painful one.


Covered in mud she topped the slope carrying a bag of chisels and her planer
to find Stinky eyeing her with a small rabbit between his paws. It squirmed.
He bit into its neck, not really that hard, he was toying with it. A surge of
resentment ran through her.
Fuck you!
She threw the tools down and turned her back on him to climb down for the
next heavy load.

By seven in the evening she had finally freed the toolbox and its contents –
all now safely up in the overhang. It had taken five hours. She’d only stopped
once to eat one of her precious cans of beans.
You’re not done yet.
I know.
She completely emptied her tent, moving the cot up to the overhang before
spreading the rubberised bottom with leaf litter from the forest. She would
move it tomorrow but for tonight it would house the remaining chickens. After
herding them in, she set out to gather wood for a fire.

Even twenty‑four hours later, the storm still seemed to challenge her every
move. All the wood was wet. Not even the tiniest bit of kindling was dry as the
forest gave off last night’s rain in a humid steam. Too tired to cry anymore, she
bore her fate with petulant acceptance that slowly bled into despair as night
closed in.

Huddled cross‑legged on her cot with her damp sleeping bag wrapped
around her shoulders, she could just make out Stinky as he finally gave up on
being coddled and tore into his rabbit with horrible wet crunches. She picked up
the torch from her lap and shone it on him. He looked up, bloody‑whiskered,
chewing, his reflective eyes observing her casually. She flicked the light off again
and sat listening as new tears slid down her cheeks.
What am I doing?
C’mon! What’s a camping trip without a bit of adventure?
This isn’t some weekend getaway! I’ve got fifty more weeks of this!
Well then go home, sook!
To what?! Just fuck off and leave me alone!
She threw herself into a sleeping position, her growling stomach left as a gnawing
self‑flagellation as she pulled the damp covers over her head.


The morning sun on the open overhang woke her early. Half asleep, decades
of habit took her several steps toward the fire pit before she realised there was no
Tears immediately began to well up at the injustice of being robbed of such a
simple thing.
A necessary thing!
She slumped to the ground, full of self pity.

Woken by his human’s sobbing, Stinky emerged from under the cot where
he had spent the night – an alternative to sharing the damp covers. Carefully
arching his back in a long, satisfying stretch, he wandered over to signal his desire
for breakfast with a loud meow and a purring rub. She pulled him into her lap,
hugging him.
I can’t go back!
Why not?
Cos I won’t!
You’re an idiot!
Her stomach growled, nauseous with hunger.
You need to eat.
I need to keep the food for emergencies.
If you don’t eat you won’t be able to do anything.

Stinky continued to pester her for breakfast as she sat slowly screwing the
can‑opener around the rim of another precious can of beans.
‘I don’t have anything for you.’
‘Please Stinky!’
He threw himself against her as she pulled the lid off. ‘Mreeow!’
Dipping into the can she offered him a spoonful. He stood and tentatively
sniffed the beans before sitting back down to meow demandingly.
‘Well there’s nothing else!’ She stood in frustration and stalked away from him to
sit on her own and eat in a guilty sulk.

After eating half a can and carefully stowing the rest, she grabbed her phone
to call Fiona while Stinky wandered down to the clearing.


‘Hey! What are you doing calling?’

‘I... I just needed to chat.’ She burst into tears.
‘Hey, what’s up? Are you ok?’
‘I’m fine, I just, I’m so tired. Please don’t tell anyone. Promise?’
‘Of course.’
‘No really, swear not to tell.’
‘I won’t tell anyone Kate. Please, what’s happened?’
‘There was a storm. I lost everything.’
‘What do you mean?’ Fiona’s pitch rose. ‘Are you ok?’
‘I’m fine. But I lost most of the chickens and the coop and all the food. And I
can’t camp down there anymore in case it happens again and I can’t put the tent
up here ‘cos the floor’s rock. I’ve got nothing to eat unless I forage and if I forage
I don’t have time to build a shelter and I don’t even know how I would build
one and the chickens are living in the tent but I have to take it down and they’ll
ruin it and I should keep it in case so I need to make another coop and the fence
around the corn came down and the rabbits will eat it if I don’t put it back up
straight away and Stinky has no food and he doesn’t understand.’ She stopped
with a ragged inhalation.
‘Hey, hey, it’s ok. We’ll sort it out.’
Kate sobbed with the relief of calming contact.

A couple of hours later and much calmer, she followed through with the
plan that Fiona’s calm had precipitated. Her first priority was food, the easiest
and most nutritious, to give her time and energy to start rebuilding. Stinky had
shown that there were rabbits in the area, so she built a trap using one of the old
chicken transport cages baited with a quarter of her remaining corn seeds. Once
it was set, she tramped off into the forest to gather fern shoots.

With food at least partially sorted, she set about repairing the corn fence
and taking down the tent. The chickens would have to spend their nights in the
remaining transport crate until she built their new coop.

By two in the afternoon, all was completed and she sat on the edge of the
overhang staring back at the small cave‑let on the eastern side of the overhang
while she nibbled a fern shoot.
No way to anchor it to the rock.
You’ve got stone chisels.


But no hooks. Plus need a bit more insulation.

Mud brick?
You’ll be back home before the bricks have even dried!
Some sort of lean‑to?
She looked around the rock walls that partially enclosed the small space.
Yeah, maybe thatching, over a frame.
Yeah, chisel out indentations in the top and lean logs against it.
Yeah and then wire up branches like cross beams.
She surged to her feet.
And then thatch the mother!
Yes! Wicked!

A loud squeal and racket from the edge of the forest interrupted her growing
excitement. She froze at the frightening sound of an animal much larger than a
What the fuck is that.
Get the gun.

Mind scrambling with fear, she moved toward the edge of the clearing, her
gun pointing out in front of her with shaky hands. The squealing and thrashing
continued. Stinky, who’d come running in at the start of the noise sat up in the
overhang looking down on her. She approached the area where she’d set her
rabbit trap earlier. Clearing the under‑brush she saw it – a feral pig, about two
and a half feet at the shoulder – had somehow gotten into the trap and now
crashed around inside it, too large to even be able to even turn around.
How did it even get in there?
Shoot it quick, it’s going to break out.
I can’t!
Shoot! It’s really angry.
It’s scared!
Fucking shoot it before it breaks the cage!
It’s gonna charge at you!


She pointed the shotgun hesitantly and tried to take aim with shaking hands.
You have to get closer!
From here you’ll either miss or just hurt it.
She stepped tentatively forward as the beast thrashed and squealed. From three
metres away she tried another shaky aim.
Shoot! It’ll break it.
The gun slammed into her shoulder and the pig squealed and slumped to the
ground convulsing.
Quick. Again! It’s hurting.
She ran forward and pointed, squishing her eyes shut as she pulled the trigger. It
went silent.
Thank god.

She stood, electric and zinging with adrenaline, staring down at the rough,
black‑haired body. Its head was a bloody mangle. She turned, staggered away and
threw up.
‘Mrreow!’ Stinky rubbed her leg.
‘Yeah thanks for your help.’ Wiping her mouth, she sat down to pull him into
her lap.
‘That was messed up.’
‘I’m glad you understand.’
She snuggled her face into his purring fur. He squirmed out of her hug and
stalked over to smell the pig.
That thing could feed you for a month.
It’ll be off by tomorrow.
Smoke it.
The interweb honey.
Oh, yeah.
It’d solve a lot of problems.
Food for weeks!
She jumped up and ran for her laptop.


Typing in ‘smoking meat’ yielded a bewilderment of articles, blogs and

opinions. She sorted through, trying to find what seemed the most credible
authors, but the more she read, the further her optimism fled. Everyone had a
different idea and it wasn’t just smoking the meat, she also had to butcher the pig
and even that was a massive complication of things which she had no idea how
to do – skinning, boning, what to eat or not. She was losing time and the meat
would spoil before she could even figure out which of these people to believe.

I need help.
I’m alone!
Yeah right! Little miss digital.

She grabbed her phone and dialled while heading back down to the dead pig.
‘Jerome! Hey, it’s Kate, Kate Shaw. Don’t s’pose you have a few spare hours?’

Many billions of satellite transmitted bits later, she had managed to skin and
gut her pig under the pixelated gaze of her instructor. With her laptop carefully
perched on a stack of boxes and its camera angled down on her work, she held
up strips of pork for his approval. Hurrying against spoiling meat, he reinforced
his instructions for building a smoker and signed off with a promise to stay by
his phone in case she needed further assistance.

Moving quickly, she set about building a large teepee‑like construction from
green wood and her tarpaulin. She then built two stone ringed fire pits, one
under the teepee and one beside it to make coals. She’d make coals in the open
fire and then transfer them to the teepee. Above the coals would sit her barbecue
grate and on top of that, hardwood branches, high enough to singe and smoke,
but not catch fire. Jerome had told her: the slower and longer she smoked it, the
longer it would last. If she could keep it smoking for two and a half days, then –
properly stored – it should last for a month.
This is awesome!
Maybe there is a god after all.
She snorted to herself, smiling sarcasm for no one.

Once she was satisfied that the smokehouse was smoky enough, she started
hanging thick strips of pig. It was eight thirty by the time she had finished and


only half the carcass was in the smoker.

That’s so much waste!

She sat watching the fire as she cut bits of pork to put in her mouth. Nothing
had ever tasted this good.
I was crying this morning.
She smiled and started giggling, choking on her mouthful and waking Stinky
from his post‑dinner snooze. She threw him a big greasy kiss.

She timed the burning of the fire and then set her alarm to wake her every
ninety minutes.
This’ll be exhausting.
Yeah, but there’ll be food for at least three weeks.

Over the next two days, while the meat smoked, she began scouting the
forest for suitable logs with which to frame the lean‑to wall of her cave. Once
spotted, she made a note of their location and began cutting the tall grasses of
the clearing, laying them out on the overhang to dry. Every ninety minutes she’d
return to the camp and transfer coals into the smokehouse and set more wood to
burning. In an open­‑kneed squat, she tonged the coals across, absently tucking
ragged hair behind her ear with a scratched and calloused hand.

REPORT ID:SER‑2124‑75321‑98
11 November 2020
Turner Residence – Los Angeles, USA.

Polly Turner: Actress and GT0/WHO Goodwill Ambassador.

Chandra Gupta: Personal Assistant to Ms Turner.

Brad Anderson: Senior Partner – WWT Management.

Polly: I’m so tired from the shoot, I don’t know how I’m
going to get through the tour.
Chandra: Don’t worry, you have a week to rest. We’ll take
good care of you.
Polly: You’re such a darling, I don’t know what I’d do
without you.
Chandra: Oh hey, I picked this up, thought it might help
your indigestion.
Polly: What is it?
Chandra: Some new supplement. It’s supposed to restore the
good bacteria in your stomach.
Polly: Sound’s cool. Oh hey Brad!
Brad: Hi Pol, how’re you feeling?
Polly: Exhausted.
Brad: Well we’ll get you all ship–shape before the Goodwill
Chandra: Is it all coming together?
Brad: Yeah. There was a bit of wrangling with dates and
locations to make sure that Pol had decent hotels but it’s
all sorted.
Polly: So where am I going?
Brad: Hmmm, let’s see. Ok. We start off in South America.
Bolivia, Ecuador and Guatemala. Then Eastern Europe, Siberia
and Latvia. Then Fiji, Samoa and home!
Polly: How long?

Brad: A week.
Polly: And what donations?
Brad: Buckets.
Polly: Buckets?
Brad: (laughter) This company has been donating these
buckets and stuff that have some like purifying effect and
their donations have finished ‑ it was a publicity thing. So
we are going to donate twenty thousand worth of this new
gear at each location to give awareness of the need for
Polly: Oh ok, I suppose that makes sense. Not like the last
one, god that was a debacle.
Chandra: I think they killed more people than they helped.
Polly: It was awful. I wanted to quit.
Chandra: Is that the NanoRad?
Brad: Yeah. Nearly forgot. It came yesterday.
Polly: Fancy packaging.
Brad: Yeah, probably cost more than the stuff itself.
Now, you just take it for two weeks and then sign the
endorsement. It’s already written up.
Polly: Cool. How much?
Brad: Five hundred thousand.
Chandra: Nice!
Polly: That could buy a LOT of buckets.
Brad: Yeah sure. Just remember what we discussed.
Polly: Yes boss!


* Further observation warranted on Polly Turner *


After a month, she’d settled into a routine. She didn’t run from chore to
chore but moved steadily through the day, a constant motion of things that
needed doing propelling her through the daylight hours and depositing her with
a deep and satisfying tiredness in front of the fire as night fell. Eating a meal of
fern shoots and smoked pork, she’d forage the internet for scraps of ‘real’ news,
usually from anonymous blogs which she suspected to be written by former
journalists of now defunct papers and sites like The Guardian and Democracy

A new chicken coop occupied the middle of the overhang with her
completed lean‑to on the left, looking like a shabby homage to medieval times.
Down below in the clearing, little corn plants poked their way up to the sun,
now almost two feet high.


The sun rose on a clear day as she squatted by the fire simmering a piece from
her dwindling supply of smoked pork. Stinky joined her with his own breakfast
of large rat. This morning she planned to make her first trip to the bay. Her food
was low and she hoped that a day of diving for paua in the shallows, would, with
smoking, build up her stores for another round of building and cultivating.
Oh, go away!

After eating she set off on her mission, packed with her GPS, compass
(in case the GPS broke), goggles and snorkel, food for the day, machete for
undergrowth, the shotgun slung over her shoulder and the emergency beacon
strapped to her ankle.
Just in case.
Yeah, yeah. Paranoid.
Shut up.

She climbed down the drop‑off to the river and sat on a large rock to take off
her boots to wade across. Stinky sat by her, carefully sniffing each boot and sock
as they came off.
‘Do you wanna come on an adventure?’
‘Yeah right.’ She scratched his head and stood to roll up the legs of her long

Once across, she sat down to re‑boot herself as Stinky let out an unhappy
yowl from the other side.
‘What? I’ll be back in a few hours!’
‘Noodle! If I try to take you across you’re going to scratch my face off!’
She bent back to her boots.
‘Rreow!’ Stinky stood at the bank staring at her.
Shit, he’s really stressed.
You haven’t been apart for weeks.
Fuck! He’s not going to come across.
Give it a go.
Fuck it.
‘You’re such a little nerd!’ She stood again and waded back across. As soon as she
stepped from the water he threw himself against her leg meowing. She squatted,


scratching behind his wet ears.

‘Ok whimp‑features, I’ll give it one go, but if you savage me, I’ll drop you in the

As soon as she stepped back into the thigh‑high water he tensed up and after
a few steps his claws dug in and he started to struggle.
‘Oi! Ow!’
She grabbed at the scruff of his neck trying to control him.
‘Hey, hey, it’s ok.’ She hurried across, clinging to him as he squirmed and
scratched. She finally neared the other side and let him loose to launch himself
off her chest and onto land.
‘Hey, you wanted it you little idiot!’

One hand held the machete, which she occasionally slashed through the
sparse undergrowth to ease her passage and the other held her GPS. She kept
it in almost constant use, watching as the red dot that represented her, inched
slowly across the satellite photo on the screen. Even though she only needed to
follow the river for an hour or so to arrive at the bay, the small palm device was
never out of her hand.

Stinky, having forgiven her, wandered along behind, stopping occasionally to

smell some exotic find before scampering to catch up. After about half an hour
he began catching up less and less, preferring to stop and roll on his back in a
patch of sun that made its way through the dense canopy. Eventually she walked
alone. ‘Fatso.’

As she came to the estuary, the forest began to change, more sparse and
lower to the ground. Finally she broke through. Under the bright light of early
summer, the calm blue waters sparkled and sparked. Gulls wheeled overhead and
dotted the curving, three kilometre shoreline. She plonked herself down in the
fine, black sand.
Oh god this is beautiful.

When Jerome had first suggested the idea of paua diving, she had
baulked, not liking the idea of swimming in wild waters that might contain
god‑knows‑what. But the hand‑sized, snail‑like creatures were the most easy and
abundant source of seafood in this area and she’d eventually had to acquiesce. It
was time to swallow her nerves and put her lessons to use.


She grabbed her goggles, snorkel and net bag before tentatively wading into
the water by a craggy outcropping of volcanic rock.
It’s too shallow for sharks.
I don’t like it.
Fine! Eat fern shoots.

Drawing in a breath of courage, she slipped the tight goggles over her
eyes and put in her snorkel before lowering herself into the waist‑deep water.
Crouched under the water, she turned toward the rocky outcropping, making
out the dark shape a few metres away.
C’mon mermaid, lets go.
She pushed herself forward, breast‑stroking along the surface as she nervously
approached the rocks in deeper water. As she reached them, she quickly scanned
around, assuring herself that nothing lurked beneath her in the greenish shallows.
Even after hours of lessons she could not overcome her fear of what might lie just
out of sight in this alien world.

The area teemed with paua. Like strange crawling rocks, they snailed their
way over the hard surfaces a few metres down. Spitting out her snorkel she dove
down, reaching out her hand to pick one off the bottom. She lacked stealth and
the shy creature sucked itself onto the rock. She pulled on its shell, but it clung
too tightly, forcing her to give up and resurface.

She bobbed gently at the surface breaking into a smile and chuckle.
Jeez, you can’t even sneak up on a snail!
Sucking in a deep breath she ducked down again, trailing the net bag behind her.
As she approached the bottom she slowed and glided forward toward a cluster of
them. Quickly reaching out, she snatched one up before it had time to suction
itself. With the creature triumphantly in hand, she pointed herself back up to
the surface and kicked out her legs to rise. As she ascended a dark shape loomed
out of the not‑too‑distant gloom. The fear exploded, snapping every muscle into
taught rigidity. Her mind blanked.
It swam by – grey, sure and powerful.
It disappeared as her head broke the surface.
A spasm tightened her chest further as she splashed, the instinctive gasp sucking
water into her lungs.



Her lungs choked at the sharp drops. She loosed everything in her hands as she
flailed, coughing, her mind screaming.
She pitched herself at the outcropping, desperate for a handhold, grasping and
clawing at the sharp and ragged. She hauled herself – adrenaline against gravity –
never minding the sharp shells of dead oysters that sliced into her abdomen and
thighs. She snatched the last of herself out, curled onto the sharp rocks, clinging
with bleeding hands.

She scanned, hysterical eyes bulging beneath hair‑matted goggles. It rose near
to the surface, gliding across, several metres away. She hauled herself upwards
away from the fearful water. Another came. Suddenly to her eyes, they were
everywhere. The surface was breached, a gentle crest and arc – a frolic and splash
– followed again and again in rhythm and pace.
Her eyes and mouth widened.

She lay cut and bleeding on the rocks as the smiling mammals moved past in
their playful pod.
Jesus christ!
She smeared the hair from her goggles leaving a bloody swipe in its place.
The conscious fear receded but her body was slow to catch up, her heart still
hammered and adrenaline masked the pain she should have felt.

Fear was an argument she could never win. Her dropped equipment was an
easy sacrifice along with a slow and painful crawl along the rocky spit, back to
the sand. She wouldn’t enter the water again.

REPORT ID:QER‑597‑235746‑41
18 November 2020
Puratech Sewage and Water Recycling Plant – Los Angeles,

Xavier Juarez: Technician, Puratech California.

Bob Johnson: Facility Manager, Puratech California

Bob: What is it, Juarez?

Xavier: We’ve discovered a new bacterium in the distilling
pond, sir.
Bob: Shit, what is it?
Xavier: Well it’s new, there’s no name for it, but it
seems to be eating the nano‑silver in the final stage of
Bob: Eating it! That’s impossible, it’s supposed to kill it,
that’s why we bloody put it there!
Xavier: Well sir, it’s immune to it and it’s eating it.
Bob: Shit! Is it harmful to humans?
Xavier: No, doesn’t appear to be. It’s just eating all our
Bob: It’s not multiplying?
Xavier: It doesn’t appear to be.
Bob: It’s coming in from the sewage?
Xavier: Yes.
Bob: Have there been any reports at all of any new illnesses
or anything?
Xavier: None at all. Nothing.
Bob: Have you contacted...
Xavier: Already done. Of all our facilities, only Sydney,
Paris and New York have been affected.
Bob: The most affluent areas. Strange. And they have no
reports of illness there.

Xavier: None.
Bob: Ok. Well we have to keep a lid on this, if it gets out
we’ll lose those contracts.
Xavier: But sir...
Bob: Look, we have the best brains to deal with this anyway.
What would the WHO do? We’ll just get ourselves in trouble
for nothing.
Xavier: I’m worried it’s getting out into the water supply.
Bob: You said that it didn’t pose a risk.
Xavier: That we know of.
Bob: Look, just monitor it and add extra silver to
compensate. I’ll get onto headquarters and make sure it’s
being dealt with.
Xavier: Yes sir.
Bob: Just remember, there were five other companies bidding
for this contract.
Xavier: Yes sir.


*No further observation warranted*

REPORT ID:KFP‑3472‑435648‑34
18 November 2020
GTO/WHO Field Hospital and Treatment Centre – Magdalena,

Polly Turner: See REPORT ID:SER‑2124‑75321‑98.

Catherine (Cate) Thurston: WHO Humanitarian Aid Coordinator


Gareth Petersen: WTO Media Liaison.

Polly: So these are the buckets.

Cate: Yes. They’re impregnated with a new nano‑silver
particle that acts as an antimicrobial.
Polly: Like in bandaids and stuff?
Cate: Yes, but this is a new, even more powerful form of it.
Polly: So how does it work?
Cate: Well you fill the bucket and then stir it. Simple!
Polly: Why not just give out water purification tablets and
Cate: We were finding it wasn’t working very well. Tablets
run out and people can’t get back here to get more and
also it’s a cultural thing. It’s easier to give them this
bucket that will last for up to three years and tell them
that it’s basically ‘magical’, that any water drunk from it
is protected, than to try to teach them about bacteria and
quantities of water purification and stuff.
Polly: Seems a bit condescending though.
Cate: Well it’s a reality. We tailor the story to suit the
community, but some are so insular and have had so little
education that sometimes a fairy tale is the most effective.
Polly: I s’pose.
Gareth: It would probably be best not to discuss that part
of the process, it could be easily misunderstood by the

Polly: Of course. As long as it’s getting out there, I
suppose what you’re saying to get them to use it doesn’t
matter. Oh hey, how are you? Oh she’s so cute!
Cate: This is Sophia.
Polly: Hello Sophia. Can I hold her?
Cate: Of course.
Polly: Is she here alone?
Cate: No she came with her parents, the mother needed
treatment for cholera.
Polly: So they’re from one of the hill tribes?
Cate: Yes, it took them three days walking to get here. Her
mother was almost dead.
(Ms Turner sneezes repeatedly)
Gareth: Are you ok?
Polly: Yeah fine, sorry, allergies, they’ve been just
terrible lately. So is her mother ok now?
Cate: Yes, they’ll be returning to their village tomorrow.
Polly: With buckets?
Cate: Of course.
Polly: You’re a very lucky little girl aren’t you? So how
many people do you have here at the moment?
Gareth: Right now about one hundred and fifty, but it’s in a
constant transition. By next week most of these people will
be gone back to their villages or to the refugee camp and be
replaced by the next lot.
Cate: We treat about seven thousand people per year.
Polly: So many! What happened? I thought Bolivia was one of
those countries defying the odds, you know before the GEC,
that Morales guy, I thought it was peaceful here?
Cate: It was and then the climate refugees came. Populations
pushed together, different cultures, too many people
fighting over limited resources. The country started sliding
backwards rapidly and they were forced to turn to the IMF
who made them sign up to the GTDA in return for aid...
Gareth: Cate!
Cate: No! I’m sick of this. This is our fault, this country
was doing fine, on their road to a peaceful democracy.

Gareth: You’ve been warned!
Cate: No! She should know the truth. They owned themselves,
their resources, they were the masters of their own
destinies. Now they just crawl here, begging for aid like
the victims of some monstrous rape.
Gareth: Come away Ms Turner. Cate is suffering from fatigue.
I’m sure you can imagine this is stressful work.
Polly: I’d like to hear more of what she’s saying.
Gareth: Cate will be returning to her quarters now. C’mon,
this kid is so cute, it’d make a great photo. Jon, get over
here. Can we grab the kid one of those little mini buckets?


*Catherine Thurston may warrant further observation*


Stinky came galloping toward her in a greeting reminiscent of her old life and
returning home from work.
Yeah, but you didn’t usually come home quite like this.
Tiredly, she tried to squat to greet him, but her thighs sang with pain as the
gashes pulled open.
Just get home and safe.

At the camp, she stripped down to fully examine the extent of her injuries.
A large gash on her right thigh, several deep cuts, each hip bone was raw and
bloodied and a 10cm wound ran ragged up her midriff.
Oh my god!
This is really dangerous.
With raw cut hands and stinging fingertips, she doused herself with antiseptic,
gritting as she bit back revulsion to pull open the worst gashes and flush them.
After tightly taping and binding herself to constrict any wound‑opening
movement, she took the first in a course of antibiotics.

After a sleepless night of limited positions, the morning brought a churning

hollowness and the faint herald of a coming headache.
I need some proper food.

Fishing was a game of time and patience and now her only option to put
something substantial into her sore belly. As the ripples gave off their flinty
sparks she struggled to stay awake under a blanket of sun, fatigue and codeine.

A sudden tug snapped up her nodding head.

She scrambled awkwardly to her feet, struggling to grip the bucking pull with
painful hands.
Must be huge!
She wound in the line against the erratic strugglings of her catch. Within two
feet of the bank it thrashed out above the water. She yelped and stumbled
backward as the three foot long, black grotesquerie lashed out toward her.
Gaining traction in the shallows, the eel thrashed and wound between rocks
showing glimpses of the sharp teeth in its monstrous head. She staggered back as


it flopped toward her and fell, losing the rod. Caring for nothing but distance,
she scrambled away from the angry black writhing.

Sensing freedom, the eel wound back into the waters. Eyes wide, her heart
hammered as she sat watching it leave. Running out of line it started dragging
her rod after.
She sat paralysed between two fears as her rod clattered toward the briskly
flowing waters. It jammed between two rocks.
Grab it!
She stood. Phobia fought necessity as she watched her rod twitching precariously
near to the water.

REPORT ID:KQP‑7959‑325798‑12
23 November 2020
INNTV Offices – London, United Kingdom.

John Henry: see REPORT ID:QUP‑7473‑435131‑79

Clive Beckett: Features Editor INNTV.

John: The NanoRad piece is ready, just waiting to insert the

grabs from the celebs.
Clive: It’s on hold.
John: What? I killed myself to make the deadline!
Clive: Polly Turner is in hospital with acute liver failure.
It’s doubtful she’ll make it.
John: So what?
Clive: She was their main endorsement. They don’t want any
association with someone who’s dying.
John: What, they think that NanoRad did it?
Clive: No, no. It’s just that it’s such a new product, they
don’t want any doubt in consumer’s minds. They’re working on
a strategy now. I’ll keep you informed.
John: So what happened to her?
Clive: Don’t know all the details, but my sources at the
hospital think it must be poisoning due to the sudden onset.
She was fine, then she collapsed on the flight home from her
Goodwill tour.
John: Who would want to poison her? It sounds a bit off.
Clive: It may have been terrorists trying to make a point
about the GTDA.
John: By how much would your rates rise if it were
terrorists as opposed to some stupid overdose or something?
Clive: Thin ice, John!
John: Whatever. Can I look into it?
Clive: You’re Tech John, not Entertainment.

John: I’m also the only decent investigative journalist you
have. Let me look into it, not her, the cause. You might get
yourself a scoop.
Clive: Fine, just don’t put any noses out of joint. And you
have to make your deadlines, especially that stupid new
washing machine thing, they’ve increased their booking.
John: Can I have an expenses budget?
Clive: No! You want to go digging around, do it on your
own dime. If you bring me something interesting, I might
reimburse you. Oh and hey, don’t go near NanoRad, they’re
paying your salary and mine. They’ve nothing to do with it.
John: I’ve got a piece on it!
Clive: Yeah, well just keep it within the parameters.


*Continue surveillance of John Henry. PRIORITY 1.*


Kate moved slowly through lilting days of soft sun and gentle ease, as
wounds healed and spirits revived. Necessity had become pleasure and pleasure
had become pride as she overcame her phobia and enjoyed her new bounty.

One of the chicken crates, wedged into a small niche in the back wall of her
lean‑to cave, sat full to the brim. Strips of smoked eel hung, in proud, neat rows.

Her hen sat in a nurturing fluff on a clutch of eggs.

The corn grew tall.

A newly found patch of kumara was tended.

Food was no longer a concern but rather a peacefully steady purpose and a
growing content.

Squatting by the coop, she threw Big Mama some scraps from the night
before, along with worms and seeds which she’d painstakingly collected, to keep
the empress of her chicken empire, happy and sitting for the last few days before

She was excited about the chicks coming, not just for the food they’d
eventually provide, but also for the memories of her childhood. It would bring
more life to the camp, a bunch of little cheep‑cheeps scurrying around after their
Have to make sure Stinky doesn’t hassle them.
You mean eat them.
She giggled out loud and looked to Stinky sniffing around a few metres away.
‘You wouldn’t eat the little baby chickens would you?’
‘Big Mama will peck your arse.’
He threw himself onto his back, rolling around to entice her over for a belly
rub. With a quick stop for a furry scratch, she made her way over to the fire to
prepare dinner.

After bathing she came back to her freshly caught eel, roasting slowly in the
coals with a large kumara.
Might call Fi after dinner.


It’s not call‑in night.

I feel like a conversation that extends beyond meows and squawks.

Dinner done, she went for the phone which she’d left on the solar charger.
Unplugging it, she called. ‘Hey!’
‘Hey Xena! How’re you going.’
‘Awesome! It’s so good to hear you.’
‘You getting a bit lonely?’
‘Yeah, I s’pose. Not usually, but I dunno, it’s hard not being able to talk to
anyone or I dunno, show off what I’ve done.’
‘Have the chicks hatched yet?’
‘No, couple more days.’
‘Make sure you take photos of them for the kids. And could you put yourself in
the frame this time, I want to see how you’re looking.’
‘Pretty scruffy I imagine.’
‘Hey’d you hear about Polly Turner?’
‘You dag. Polly Turner, Flight to Heaven and The Healing.’
‘Oh yeah. What’s she done?’
‘She died.’
‘Mum I’m hungry.’
‘Just a minute honey, Mummy is talking. Yeah, liver failure. They reckon it was
some sort of poisoning or contamination. A bunch of other people like Kelly
Hurstbridge and Julia Lenning are in hospital too.’
‘Just the last few days. They’ve arrested some people from a couple of companies
that make cosmetics or vitamins or something. They reckon some of the shit they
were taking was contaminated.’
‘Good old Global Trade Agreement. Surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.’
‘Probably did, but this time it was too high profile to cover up.’
‘Pity it had to be her. I mean she was a bit of a dipshit, but at least she was trying
to do something good.’
‘I’m gonna have to go, it’s the witching hour here.’
‘Once they’re sixteen hopefully we can talk for longer than thirty seconds.’
‘We’ll see! Bye.’


Kate hung up, disappointed but used to their abruptly cut‑off conversations. She
wriggled her arse on the hard rock, staring out to where the stars met the far,
dark forest.
I might try building a bench or seat or something tomorrow.

REPORT ID:GVC‑7239‑482967‑07
27 November 2020
WHO Headquarters – Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr Hans Schwernk: See REPORT ID:QUP‑7473‑435131‑79

Dr Elizabeth Cox: Head of Communicable Diseases – WHO.

Eli Schneider: Coordinator Disaster Management Section – WTO

Commander Harold Smith: Defence Secretary – United Nations.

Hans: I don’t understand why I’m here.

Dr Cox: Because you are the most qualified nano–tech expert
we have.
Hans: Nano–tech! This was caused by nano–technology!
Dr Cox: Partially, yes.
Hans: I told you! I told you we needed more research. We
can’t just go blundering off into god know...
Commander Smith: Now’s not the time for recriminations.
Hans: Fine. What’s happened?
Dr Cox: We’re not entirely sure at this stage but we’ve
found a new bacterium. From what we can tell it’s a mutation
of an antibiotic and nano‑silver resistant gut bacterium
developed by a health supplements company.
Hans: Jesus! You aren’t serious? Does the term Grey Goo mean
anything to you?
Dr Cox: The bacteria were genetically engineered so that
they were unable to multiply.
Hans: Still! I can’t believe this! This should never have
been allowed, if we had controls, oversight...
Commander Smith: Dr Schwernk!
Hans: What happened?
Dr Cox: It appears, and we still don’t have all the facts,
but it appears that when it encountered a new nanoparticle

created by...
Hans: A new nanoparticle! Are you...
Mr Schneider: Dr Schwernk. Something is happening, something
very bad. Your constant interjections and accusations are
not helpful. We all understand the issues that you have
continued to raise over the last decade, however now is not
the time to be point scoring.
Hans: I’m not point scoring. I’m just aghast!
Dr Cox: Are we ready to continue?
Hans: Yes. I’ll try to contain myself.
Dr Cox: Thank you. Now. This new nanoparticle, created
to absorb free radicals was taken orally. We’re not sure
how, but it seems that it caused the mutation in the
bacteria that now enables it to multiply in the presence of
Hans: Mutation? So there’s a patient zero. Why have the
others gotten ill?
Dr Cox: Well maybe mutation isn’t the right word because as
far as we can ascertain, eighty percent of people who took
both substances hosted the mutation.
Hans: Oh god! How many people?
Dr Cox: Eleven that we’ve found. They’re spread around the
world and most, being affluent, have travelled extensively
between first taking the substances and falling ill. We know
that the bacteria, while it cannot multiply outside the
human body, can live for up to two weeks on surfaces if
nano‑silver is present.
Mr Schneider: Well that should help us shouldn’t it? How
much silver would be just lying around out there?
Hans: You don’t understand. It’s everywhere. We’re obsessed
with hygiene. Public handrails, toilet seats – impregnated
with silver; cleaners, commercial and household are full of
it. Your socks, your deodorant, the filter that this water
came through! The world and our very bodies are infested
with the stuff.
Dr Cox: Dr Schwernk is correct and that’s initially why the
bacteria were made. Apparently the owner of Naturotics read
an article somewhere and became obsessed with the idea that
we all had silver in our systems. Her product was supposed
to rid us of it and then simply flush down the toilet.

Mr Schneider: Instead it’s killing people.
Dr Cox: The mutation is.
Hans: Oh my god, what have we done!
Commander Smith: Dr Schwernk, we understand that this is
a very bad situation, but you must try to control your
Hans: I don’t think you do understand. You’ve turned a blind
eye while corporate greed created a monster that will surely
wipe us off the face of the earth.
Mr Schneider: Hysterical over‑statements are not going to
help, there aren’t any journalists here.
Hans: Over‑statement! We have a bacterium that is completely
resistant to ANYTHING that we can throw at it, including the
holy grail last defence of nano‑silver. It has a long period
of incubation and can last two weeks outside the human body.
And we have absolutely no immunity to it whatsoever!
Dr Cox: He’s right, Commander. It’s very bad. I have charts
here to show where we think it has spread to date.
Mr Schneider: How can you know? The second wave haven’t
fallen ill yet?
Dr Cox: We only know the tip of the iceberg by charting the
movements of the infected since their infection as well as
those that may have been exposed.
Mr Schneider: Oh my god! How can it have spread so far so
quickly? How did it get into the third world?
Dr Cox: Polly Turner, the Goodwill tour.
Mr Schneider: But wait, the bacteria need nano‑silver to
survive right? So, the third world, they wouldn’t have
access to it, I mean, they wouldn’t be buying fancy socks,
so they’d be safe.
Dr Cox: That’s correct except for, well...
Hans: Oh god, the hygiene campaign. You got those buckets
from Silutions didn’t you? What have you done!
Dr Cox: The other methods weren’t working and they gave it
to us for free. We couldn’t have known this would happen!
Commander Smith: Dr Cox?
Dr Cox: Silutions came to us about a year ago. They proposed
to donate seven-hundred and fifty thousand nano‑silver
purification buckets to the WHO for use in the third world,

we just had to give them some publicity on how well their
new silver formula worked.
Mr Schneider: So even the third world is now infested with
Dr Cox: Unfortunately yes.
Hans: We have to impose a quarantine immediately! Save
anyone who hasn’t already been infected.
Commander Smith: I am told that is not an option.
Dr Cox: By who?
Commander Smith: By the WTO.
Hans: Billions of people are going to die!
Commander Smith: We cannot risk the panic and we cannot risk
the world economy collapsing.
Hans: The world economy! What about the world’s people?
Commander Smith: Quarantine is not on the table. We do
however have an alternative plan which we believe you can
assist us with.


*Continue surveillance of Hans Schwernk.*


Stinky’s cold, wet nose woke her. ‘What noodle? Just give me five more
minutes.’ She rolled over sleepily pushing him away.
‘Cheep cheep cheep.’
‘Baby chickens!’ She sat bolt upright, threw off the covers and jumped from her
cot to run out the lean‑to’s rickety door. Running along the overhang she came
to the coop and stood with hands over her mouth, beaming with pride and joy as
though she herself had hatched the little bundles of yellow fluff.

The hatching must have been very recent as the chicks were still unsteady on
their spindly little legs. Six of them, running after their mother as she did her
head–bobbing chicken walk around the perimeter of the coop, impatient to be
let out to take her brood to food. Sperminator, the cockerel, stood in the centre
of the rabble looking unamused as he bellowed out his morning greeting.
‘Oh Big Mama, you’re a genius!’ She bent and unlatched the coop door and
watched her new tribe emerge. Stinky squatted, watching, before walking over
to sniff one of the strange new creatures. Big Mama immediately erupted into a
wing flapping, squawking frenzy that sent him jumping away.

Throughout the day she couldn’t help constantly interrupting her chores to
go and check on the chicks. Through the edge of the forest, they followed Big
Mama running to snatch up the bugs and seeds she revealed as she scratched
through the leaf litter. Occasionally Kate would pitch in, lifting a large rock to
reveal a bounty of fat bugs underneath, sending the little squeekers into a flurry
of pecking. Stinky kept his distance, eyeing the brood suspiciously.

At the end of the day that had consisted mostly of replenishing her firewood
and following the chickens around, she sat down on her rock to pick splinters
from her fingers with a pair of tweezers.
I was gonna make a more comfy seat today.
Do it tomorrow.
Looking down to the clearing she saw Big Mama emerge from the forest and
head toward the overhang with her chicks.
I wonder if that contamination scare has made anyone think?
She finished her de‑splintering and grabbed her laptop.

There was one blog in particular that she followed religiously. She was fairly
certain it was written by John Henry, a former Guardian journalist. From the


tone, writing style and the kinds of events he covered, the blogger who called
himself thisisnotradical fitted the bill. Much to her joy, his latest blog was calling
into question the story that the sick and dying celebrities were the victims
of contamination, pointing out that these people had been recruited to be
spokespeople for the new product and that it was in NanoRad’s developer’s best
interests to go to any and all lengths to keep them healthy. He also pointed out
the level of secrecy that surrounded the actual autopsy findings and the fact that
those still alive were being held in quarantine. He ended his blog by promising
more information in the coming days as he contacted sources.
It’s a pity that only two people and a semi‑literate chimp will ever read this.
Deregulation meant the lifting of media ownership laws. This, combined with
the shift in the public psyche, meant that none of the independent media had
managed to re‑establish themselves. Now, most of the real news was hidden in
these blogs; written under pseudonyms and constantly changing URL’s, giving
the appearance that real journalism was now a guerrilla movement carried on by
despots and fringe lunatics – an impression that served the status quo well.

She went to prepare dinner with that familiarly taut feeling of powerlessness
and frustration.

REPORT ID:STR‑0976‑345862‑99
29 November 2020
Telephone Intercept.

Dr Hans Schwernk: See REPORT ID:QUP‑7473‑435131‑79

John Henry: See REPORT ID:QUP‑7473‑435131‑79

Hans: John, it’s Hans.

John: I’ve been trying to reach you for two days!
Hans: I was in a meeting. No, a lockdown. Look John, have
you got your recorder?
John: Yeah. What’s going on, you sound really tense?
Hans: I don’t know how long I’ve got, if they’re tapping my
phone. I’ve got to tell you everything, you have to get it
John: Hans?
Hans: Hurry, start recording.
John: Ok, we’re going. What’s happening?
Hans: You know the deaths, Polly Turner?
John: That’s why I was trying to reach you, I thought...
Hans: It’s bad John, it’s really bad.
John: Ok, calm down, lay it out.
Hans: They’ve accidentally created a superbug. Basically,
NanoRad met MacroBac and created a monster. It multiplies in
the body, feeding on the nano‑silver particles we all have
in us. It ends up forming huge colonies in the liver and
lymph nodes where most of the silver is concentrated. People
either die of acute liver failure or a massive overactive
immune response. It takes two to three weeks from infection
to death depending on the concentration of silver in their
bodies and where it is. The whole time they are infected
they are also infectious. The bacteria isn’t airborne unless
it’s coughed or sneezed out, but it can survive two weeks
outside the body if even the smallest trace of silver is
around, and you know, silver is everywhere. I told them

they had to enforce an immediate quarantine but the WTO has
stepped in and they won’t allow it for fear of the markets
John: What the hell do they propose to do?
Hans: One of the scientists, the one from MacroBac, before
he was recruited, had been working on a project looking at
ways of reducing the silver load in drinking water. They
use it in the water recycling plants and wanted to remove
it at the final stage. They were unsuccessful, but they
accidentally came across a chemical reagent that actually
changes the bonds in the silver. They’ve had me testing it,
the bacteria can’t feed on it. It’s being mass produced now
in sites around the world.
John: What are they going to do? Spray the whole world with
this stuff?
Hans: Exactly! Everything, everywhere. Without silver
the bacteria dies within hours. They want to remove all
the silver everywhere and while it takes effect, impose
maximum flu precautions. They’re gonna tell people it’s a flu
outbreak. It won’t work! There’s no way they can get all the
silver and even the tiniest bit will sustain the bacteria.
John: Jesus! This is unconscionable! It’s murder! We have to
get around them, go directly to the governments, show them
the evidence.
Hans: It’s pointless.
John: No, some of them will listen. I reckon Canada, the
Netherlands, Australia...
Hans: It doesn’t matter if they listen, they don’t have to
power to do anything.
John: What?
Hans: Think about it John. They can’t shut down their
airports, close businesses or impose a stay‑at‑home
quarantine without the backing of the WTO.
John: Oh god, the GTDA.
Hans: Exactly. Any action they could take would violate
their treaty obligations. Governments are powerless to even
protect their own people!
John: They can’t possibly believe that this is the right
thing to do or that people will fall for it?
Hans: They will John. Things are good, times are prosperous,

no one wants to believe something like this could happen.
You’ve got to get the word out, get people to listen. Their
only chance is if they quarantine themselves. Billions are
going to die John, but if we can at least save the people
who aren’t already infected.
John: How many people do you think are already infected?
Hans: Between sixty and eighty percent of the population.
John: Of the world?
Hans: Yes. That means if we imposed an immediate quarantine,
if people locked themselves in their houses until it dies,
we could at least save five to fifteen percent of them.
John: But you said only up to eighty percent were infected.
Hans: Yes, but of the uninfected, someone in their families
will already have it and spread it within the home. There’s
no way to stop that on this scale.
John: Oh my god what have we done?
Hans: John, they’ll kill you to stop this getting out. You
have to be careful, you have to move now. Get off the phone
and hide. Get it out there and keep moving. I’m going to try
to send you some documents, but don’t expect to hear from me
again, they’re going to come for me.
John: Well run! Don’t just sit there!
Hans: What for? I’m probably already infected and I can’t
bear to watch this happen.


*Discontinue observation, probability of infection 99%.*


It took two days before her huge lump of wood began to resemble something
even vaguely comfortable to plonk herself into after a hard day. She stood back,
looking at her efforts dubiously.
It looks like the victim of a de‑stumping accident.

With the sun setting, she gently herded Sperminator, Big Mama and the
chicks into their coop. As they filed in, a raggedy chicken tribe, she tried to name
the chicks. It was too early. They all looked the same.

Once everyone was safely tucked away she went over to the lean‑to and
pulled out her laptop to see if thisisnotradical had any updates. As her browser
launched she had a moment of confusion as the familiarly spartan white search
page was replaced by bold blacks and reds demanding:


It was her search engine, but it had been taken over by a wildly provocative call
to action. The main feature, the search window, was now a tiny tag‑on, relegated
to the bottom of the page under the blasting bold demands.

• Ensure that home disinfection has been thoroughly completed.

• As of midnight full flu precautions are in effect. Gloves and masks are
mandatory in public places for 14 days.


What the fuck!

She immediately went to the INNTV website to find out what this was about.

A virulent new flu strain ... patient zero Polly Turner ... contracted during
Goodwill Tour ... effects exacerbated by overdosing on NanoRad and illicit
drugs ... WHO launching a massive eradication campaign ... minimise
economic impact of lost productivity ... Eli Schneider – ‘in the past we
have had minimal effective methods available to stop the devastating


impacts on the economy of flu pandemics, but now in this age of scientific
development, we all have the power’ ....

Something’s wrong, this doesn’t make sense.

What about vaccinations?
Flu doesn’t cause liver failure.
She clicked the bookmark for thisisnotradical.


I knew it!

I am John Henry, I used to write for The Guardian. I am not some kook as
the WTO would have you believe ... I am a journalist and I am in hiding
... for telling the truth ... There is no flu ... cover up the likes of which
the world has never seen ... Superbug accidentally created because of
ineffective product testing by the WTO ... lack of regulation ... Eradication
campaign is actually an attempt by authorities to kill the Superbug’s food
source ... doomed to fail ... up to 80% already infected ... infection will be
complete unless an immediate quarantine is imposed

Hairs prickled and hands began to tremble as she clutched the screen of her
laptop, reading.

... my source Dr Hans Schwernk of the WHO has disappeared ... Please
for the sake of humanity’s future do what the government won’t ... spread
the truth, quarantine yourselves ... break the cycle of blind belief, open
your eyes and start asking questions ... why aren’t we being vaccinated
... why are people dying of liver failure and overactive immune response
... where are the people with flu symptoms ... do you know anyone with a
runny nose?’

She sat open mouthed, as the trembling increased.

This can’t be true.
Look at the facts, it makes sense.
But the government wouldn’t do this!
Excuse me?


Her heart began to race, her chest tightened and her head swam with that
horrible feeling.
‘Oh shit!’ She surged to her feet and staggered to the cliff edge, violently
throwing up. She fell to her knees and threw up again. Her vision started to close
in and her fingers and toes prickled with pins and needles. She tried to stand, to
run for the safety of her cot, but instead her eyes rolled back in her head and she
passed out, slumping to the ground.

Stinky walked over curiously. ‘Mrreow.’ He poked his wet nose into her
cheek. After a few seconds her eyes opened and she stared into his stripey face in
What happened?
You had a panic attack. You must have passed out.
Don’t sit up too quickly.
Was it real?
No! It’s a dream.

She heard the faint ringing of her phone coming from the lean‑to.
Don’t get up too quickly.
I have to get it. I have to find out.
She rose, moving as quickly as her swimming head allowed. It was Dave, usually
cut to the distance of emails because of the disjoint of time zones between New
Zealand and Ireland.

‘Hey! Are you still out there?’
‘Thank god!’
Her throat clenched, choking her voice. ‘Why?’
‘Have you seen it? Flu‑stop?’
Oh please no!
‘It’s lies!’
She didn’t respond. Acknowledgement would make it real.
‘John Henry.’


‘You read it?’

‘Yeah. But it can’t be! Things like this don’t happen, there has to be a way to fix
‘They squandered the one chance they had.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Kate, everyone is going to die.’
I can’t breathe!
She laboured a rasping breath. ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’
Please wake up. Make it stop.
‘Kate!’ His urgency slapped her in the face. ‘I don’t have time!’
‘Fuck you!’
I want to wake up now.
Reason was blurring. ‘You can’t just ring me and say this shit. It’s mental!’
‘Fuck Kate! You of all people! You ran away from it all! You predicted this!’
‘Please. I need you to listen to me. Myself and others from the university, we’d
been hearing stuff and we started looking into it. Then when John Henry
revealed himself, we knew it was true.’
‘But it just can’t be as bad as he says.’
‘I’m sorry. But it is.’
An involuntary sob sucked away her voice as Dave fought time constraints to
calm her and impart his plan.
‘You have to stay out there. Don’t even think about coming back. You’re too
‘What?’ She squeaked.
‘Kate, you’re guaranteed uninfected. I’ve told my friends about you. We’re going
to send you stuff. Everything we find out. Someone has to survive with the
‘Survive? No, what do you mean?’
‘Kate, please. I’m so sorry. Everyone is going to die and you and a few others like
you will be all that’s left.’
‘No! That’s fucking insane. You’ve lost it.’
‘Please, I don’t have much time, I need to tell you what we’re doing, so you’ll
‘My family, I have to warn them.’ She shook as fear and disbelief crashed in her
‘No one will believe you, not yet, not until they start dying.’
‘No, this is too terrible! How could they have done this?’


‘You can’t think about that now. We just have to get through this. Just
concentrate on the truth.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘We’re all getting our blood tested, we know most of us are probably already
infected, but we want to get the truth out, maybe we can still save some people.’
‘We’re going to set up press conferences, with the evidence. Our blood.’
‘No one will listen.’
‘We number amongst the most respected names across a whole bunch of fields.
We’re reaching out. The WTO and the UN might have thought that everything
was all calm and rosy, that everyone was happily playing along, but some of us
were still watching.’
‘Probably tomorrow. We’re working as fast as we can, but the evidence has to be
irrefutable, we’ll only have one chance.’
‘They’ll try to shut you down.’
‘We’re going to blitz them, only give fifteen minutes notice of the press
conference, they won’t have time.’
‘But what if no one comes?’
‘If we call, they’ll come. Names like ours don’t get ignored.’
‘Dave, please be careful.’
‘I will. You stay there, stay safe. I’ll be in touch to let you know what we find.’

She ended the call trying to choke off her sobbing. The slightest glimmer of
hope, there were others out there, they were fighting. Maybe, just maybe it could
be averted, at least a little bit.
It’s too late.
No! There has to be some hope. I have to warn people.
She fumbled to speed dial Sal.
They won’t believe you.
They have to!

She struggled to take the tears out of her voice and sound calm. ‘Sal? It’s me.’
‘Hey! You’re missing some crazy shit here.’
‘I heard! Sal, it’s all lies!’
‘Where are you?’


‘Still in the Territory on that mining job.’

‘So you’re alone, out bush?’
‘How long have you been there, without going home?’
‘‘Bout three weeks.’
‘Thank god!’
‘I’m flying out tomorrow.’
‘What the fuck’s wrong?’
‘You can’t go home.’
Sal laughed. ‘Sis have you been eating the green berries? You’re not supposed to
eat the green ones, they’re poison.’
‘Sal, I’m really serious. You have to listen to me.’
‘Kate? You’re starting to freak me out.’
‘I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to explain, how to make you understand.’
‘Understand what!’
‘This story about flu, it’s a lie, a cover‑up.’
‘Um, ok.’ Sal sounded dubious. ‘What exactly are they ‘covering up’?’

Kate battled her sister’s disbelief to relay the facts. ‘Look, I was right about
peak oil wasn’t I? And the credit bubble, you sold your house just in time.’
‘Yeah but Kate, you know that made sense, this is a bit different. You’re saying
that the government is deliberately lying to the entire world.’
‘Not the government, the WTO, the UN. They think they are doing the right
thing, but they aren’t!’

Kate tried to remain calm as she attempted to explain and persuade her sister.
In the end Sal didn’t believe her, but the fear in her sister’s voice finally elicited a
promise to remain where she was for the time being. Relieved and believing her,
Kate moved to call her father.
80%, it’s probably too late.
I have to try.

The response was as expected. Instead of worrying about what she was saying,
he became increasingly alarmed about her state of mind, convinced that the
isolation was bringing on another breakdown. There was nothing she could say,
every word that came out of her mouth compounded the problem and saw him
begging for her to come home and get treatment. She ended the call in anger and


frustrated tears.
How has this happened?

She called Fiona. How had they moved so far apart? Ten years ago it would
have been Fiona calling her. Ten years ago they would have jumped into a car
and headed bush, leaving the stupid behind to fall to their own blindness. Now
it was an argument drawn from carefully crafted press releases versus ‘conspiracy’

She curled in her cot, the tasks of fire wood, chicken cooping and bathing,
forgotten as she cried into her pillow.
They’re all going to die.
Maybe not. Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe he went crazy.
I wish. Please. I want it all to go away.
Take one of your pills. Sleep.
The chickens.
Do them, then take a pill. Let it all go away.

Darkness was falling as she walked numbly to the coop. They were
all gathered waiting for her, walking in as she held the door open, staring
expressionlessly at her brood. She latched them in and walked robotically back to
her tent, passing the cold fire pit as the last light faded into blackness. She sat on
her cot with the bottle of Oxazepam which she hadn’t touched since arriving. She
palmed a 30mg tablet. She swallowed it and then added another half a tablet,
needing surety that this empty doom would go away.
What happens when I wake up tomorrow?
You’ll get answers.
I don’t want it to be there. I want it to be a lie, a dream.
Just go to sleep now.


As her eyes opened, it immediately crashed in again.

You have to get a grip. You don’t really know.
They’re all going to die.
You don’t know that. And Sal, she’s safe.
Yes! Sal!

She sat up, already tear‑soaked and grabbed her phone. She rang Sal to be
sure that she was still out there, safe in the desert.
‘Dad’s really worried about you.’
‘I know. Look, promise me you’ll stay there. I mean you’ve nothing to lose, just a
few days off right? If you stay, I won’t say anything to him about it again.’
‘Oh man Kate, this is just so weird.’
‘If all it’s going to take for me to be mentally healthy is for you not go on leave
and just stay there, that’s a fair price, right?’
‘That’s a pretty strange kind of blackmail.’
‘You stay there and I’ll be happy. No more crazy talk, no more crying.’
‘You are the weirdest sister I’ve ever had.’
‘You’ll stay?’
‘Yeah yeah, what’s a few days off anyway? I’d just be lying in the sun drinking

Assured that Sal was safe, she tried to do her morning chores, but thoughts of
what was happening wouldn’t leave her alone.

After bathing in the river and choking down some food, she tried to finish
off her chair but constantly her mind returned to world, whirling and worrying,
fighting the urge to crack open her laptop and watch.
I need something more physical.
Yes, tire yourself out.

She decided to prepare another patch of earth for the rest of her corn seeds.
In another six weeks the first harvest would be ready and if she planted another
before then, she could get two crops in before winter. Digging, hoeing, pulling
up the grasses, breaking up the earth; she threw herself into it, sweating and
straining under the late sun. Stinky watched from a distance. Contented as ever,
he ripped into a baby rabbit.
Where are you getting them from?


At seven she let the chickens in, but then returned to her patch, working past
her already tired muscles and aching back, seeking the deepest exhaustion she
could before night fell and she was left with her thoughts.

As the last light faded, she splashed herself in the spring, too late to go to the
river, she dumped freezing buckets over her head as the cool breeze froze. She
hurriedly lit a fire to bring light and stewed up some smoked eel. Though her
belly grumbled for food, the nausea of anxiety made it difficult to eat, but she
forced herself – for control, for normalcy.

She didn’t allow herself to open her laptop or to call anyone. It was pointless
and would drag her in. If anything had happened, if the truth had gotten out,
her phone would be ringing. But she struggled, twitching against sense.

At one thirty her mobile started bleating and she awoke in groggy confusion.
I finally dozed off.

Dave’s press conference would start shortly. Grabbing her laptop she went
out to the dying fire. She quickly stoked it back up and sat down to log on.


Leading Academics arrested.
Leading academics Prof David O’Leary, Prof Eileen Baxter (Nobel Prize
for Science), Dr Cieran O’Donnell and Prof Don Murphy (Pulitzer prize for
Journalism) were arrested today at a press conference by United Nations
Special Forces agents.

‘No! No, no no!’

UN Defence Secretary, Commander Harold Smith said they were being

held under International Security laws adopted as part of the GTDA, the
first arrests using these new powers. When questioned about the specifics
of the charges the three men and one woman were facing, he declined to
comment citing security concerns. When pressed on whether the arrests,
carried out as the detainees arrived at a press conference, had anything
to do with the recent Flu‑Stop campaign he stated ‘The United Nations
in concert with the WTO and governments around the world are working


hard to protect the prosperity that we have all come to enjoy over the last
few years. Groundless speculation and fear mongering by certain radical
underground elements is not only unhelpful but dangerous. The UN and
the WTO take their duty of care to the world’s citizens very seriously and
the idea that Flu‑Stop is anything other than the eradication of a deadly flu
outbreak is ridiculous.’

The International University of Cork has lodged an official protest with the
UN, WTO and the Irish government, demanding that charges be made
public or their people be released.

On her knees, violent surges of vomit were interspersed by anguished

moaning. She crawled on all fours along the cliff, yelling at the night, stopping to
sway on her hands, crying in a hopeless rage. Snot, vomit and tears covered her
face and muddied her hands.

She dreamt; her and Sal in a small skip, sailing on a deep blue sea. Nothing
around, no land, no gulls, not even a breeze to trouble the calm waters.

The sun shining in her crusty eyes woke her, Sperminator hadn’t even begun
to crow as the first rays hit the overhang. Her laptop still sat by the dead fire, her
cheek was crusted with the mud of dried vomit. Her head began to swim again.
Anxiety and consciousness were becoming the same. She lurched for her phone.

‘Hey, I was sleeping.’
‘Sorry, I just wanted to check you were ok.’
There was silence.
‘Yeah. Look Kate, I’m at Dad’s.’
Kate’s voice shook, fuzziness grew into hysteria. ‘What?’
‘Look, Julia is sick, Dad was really worried.’
‘What! Why didn’t you tell me! What are the symptoms?’
‘Dad didn’t want to worry you. We went to the doctor, he said it’s just her blood
pressure again. They’re trying some new pills.’
‘Fuck! You shouldn’t have gone back! I’m going to lose you!’
‘Kate, you’ve got to stop this. We’re really worried about you. Dad wants to come
get you.’


‘Yes! You should all come out here! Yes! You’ll be safe!’
‘Kate, no one’s coming out there, we want you to come home.’
‘Kate, stop it! You’ve had a breakdown, this is all in your head. You’re sick. You
need help.’
‘No! It’s not just me! They arrested Dave! He was going to show them the proof
and they’ve arrested him.’
‘Dave! My friend from Ireland, he had proof, they held a press conference but
the security forces arrested everyone and they won’t say why. You can see it! Go
to the internet, you’ll see. It’s not just me. Something is happening.’
‘He really had proof?’
‘Yes! Oh god, you’re all going to die. I’m going to lose everyone.’

Sal felt powerless as Kate, thousands of kilometres away, on a beam of radio

waves, became inconsolable. As she tried to calm her sister, the planted seeds
began to grow.



UN Special Forces raided the offices of the academics arrested yesterday
in Cork. ... Eyewitnesses reported the removal of computer hard drives,
lab equipment and many boxes ... UN is still refusing to comment ...


The government of Ireland has lodged an official complaint with the UN
over the detention of the Cork Four.


Sources at the Egyptian Ministry of Health have reported an alarming
increase in the incidence of acute and sudden liver failure and overactive
immune response ... deaths totalling 456 ... deaths initially concentrated
near the border with Palestine, but have now spread throughout the
country ... no reports of flu or flu‑like symptoms ... a lack of medical and
laboratory equipment due to the trade embargo leaves medical staff
unable to carry out proper autopsies ... speculate that bacteria may be
the cause ... Commander Smith declared the statements to be ‘malicious
attempts by the Egyptian authorities to destabilise the Global Free Trade
Zone’ ...


Millions of hits crashed the server that hosts the blog of thisisnotradical
now identified as former Guardian journalist John Henry ... after three
more crashes the server went permanently off‑line ... eye witnesses
reported seeing UN Security Forces agents entering the company’s
headquarters minutes before ... ‘the server simply had more hits than
it could handle, we are looking to rectify is issue as soon as possible’ a
company spokesperson said ...


While its hosting server remains off‑line, the John Henry blog declaring
Flu‑Stop to be a WTO cover‑up has continued to spread via email
and re‑postings on other blogs around the world ... many universities
cancelling classes to hold mass discussion forums on the claims and the
UNs continued refusal to confirm charges against the Cork Four ...



Small groups of mainly students ... waving placards and chanting for
answers ... UN and GTO offices in Switzerland, India, Australia, US,
United Kingdom and Turkey ... called for calm and stated that ‘left wing
agitators are hampering efforts to eradicate the flu’ ...

Unprecedented scenes ... all 48 sitting representatives walking out in

protest at the government’s lack of action ... hailed as heroes by the
cheering mobs on the steps outside ...

... broke out in scuffles as police moved in ...

... blockading themselves in ...

... on strike until answers about the Cork Four ...

... world leaders gather in Geneva ...

... dropped 750 points amid rising speculation ...

... turned to rioting ...

... 3 killed, scores injured ...

... called for calm, announcing a press conference with world leaders in the
morning ...

... fear grows as armed forces begin amassing outside major cities ...


An agitated horde of journalists fought their turmoil to keep seated,
questions and anger hanging in the air and shadowing every face.

On the stage behind a table, sat an empty chair, Dr Elizabeth Cox on its
left and Eli Schneider on its right. Behind, in a semi circle of 45 chairs sat
the leaders of the world, ashen faced, hands clenched in laps. A hush fell
as Commander Smith walked onto the stage and took the centre chair.


‘Ladies and Gentlemen. I will read a prepared statement followed by a

short period of question time.’ The hush deepened to a vacuum as breaths
were held.

‘As you are all aware, Polly Turner died 15 days ago and a number of
other high profile persons became gravely ill. The full force of the WHO
swung into action to establish the cause. It was discovered that through
fraud, negligence and highly illegal and morally reprehensible tampering
with test data, a superbug was created, which if spread, could cause a
high level threat to the population.’

Uproar. Half the gathered crowd surged to their feet shouting questions
and accusations.
‘Is John Henry still alive?’
‘You lied to us!’
‘What’s happened to the Cork Four?’

Face pulsing with fury, Commander Smith demanded. ‘If you wish this
briefing to continue you will take your seats and wait until the appointed

Seething anger was barely contained as people re‑took their seats.

‘Faced with a potential disaster, a team led by myself, Dr Cox and Mr

Schneider, worked tirelessly to formulate the best course of action to
avert the threat. We had to avoid panic, civil unrest, which would lead to a
massive stockmarket collapse, all the hard work of the last ten years would
have been for nothing. A quarantine was unwarranted and potentially
more destructive than the bug itself. We manufactured large quantities
of a chemical that would render the bug harmless on surfaces, thereby
halting its spread. Flu‑Stop was a cover for this, yes, but only in the
public’s best interests. Radical agitators and malicious outside influences
have destroyed our plan, rendered our solution ineffective. We must now
declare a world‑wide, house by house quarantine.’

They were on their feet again, outrage overwhelming any sense of

journalistic endeavour. They were just people now, people who had been
lied to. People who had let themselves be lied to.


Heavy security lining the walls of the large room tensed as Commander
Smith mustered control. ‘If you do not take your seats and behave in a
proper manner this briefing will cease immediately.’

‘Who gave you the right to do this?’

He answered as though speaking to a child. ‘The people of course! We did
this on your behalf and for your good.’
Fury erupted from the floor once more. ‘You have no mandate! The only
ones who represent the people, who were elected to speak and act for us
are sitting behind you looking as shocked as we are.’

‘Where’s John Henry?’

‘How many of the world’s leaders knew the truth?’

‘What have you done to the Cork Four?’

‘How many of us are infected?’

‘How many have died?’
‘Is there a cure?’
‘The quarantine is a lie. This is martial law.’

‘Do the leaders support you?’

‘History will crucify you!’

With a disdainful flick of his hand, security moved in. Elizabeth Cox stood,
bending to cry her plea into the microphone, horrified at their outrage. ‘We
were doing what we thought was best!’
Commanders Smith hissed. ‘Shut up, you silly cow.’

Security formed a protective line at the front of the stage as the leaders
scrambled to get away from the furious mob.


Kate watched from her faraway haven as the announcement was made
and a wave of hysteria swept the world, the military on its heels; enforcing the
quarantine with guns and riot shields.

The first wave moved in to contain and maintain the essential services. Power
plants, water facilities, telecommunications hubs – workers were barricaded in
with promises of preferential treatment. Schools were locked down as offices
poured onto the streets and people were ordered home to await their children
in the next wave. By night the streets were empty, anyone who had missed the
curfew was rounded up and taken to holding centres. Few tried to run or resist.
The shock of machine guns pointing at them in the twilight of their comfortable
neighbourhoods, too overwhelming to make sense.

It all buckled and swayed. The chaotic precision with which the world was
shut down. Wave after wave unfolding and then, the next morning, the phone
call. Something she never could have imagined.

She ran to the ringing. Finally someone had gotten through! So many lost as
the phone system had gone into meltdown.
Finally a voice.
But it read Private Number.
Walking to the middle of the overhang she answered. ‘Hello?’
‘Is this Kate Shaw?’
‘Yes. Who’s this?’
‘Ma’am this is Lt Col Brandon from the UN Special Forces.’
‘What! I haven’t done anything! I’m in the middle of nowhere!’
‘I know ma’am. I’m watching you on the satellite.’
‘What?’ She instinctively looked up.
‘You are wearing blue jeans and a white singlet. You just looked up.’
‘Fuck! What are you doing?’ She trembled at her sudden vulnerability, shrinking
toward the cover of the overhang.

‘I just want you to know that we are watching over you.’

‘Why? What threat could I possibly be?’
‘We don’t see you as a threat ma’am.’
An unknown doom started to close in. ‘Then what?’


‘Ma’am you’re aware of what’s happening?’

‘Of course I am! You’ve destroyed the world!’
‘Ma’am, I understand how upsetting this must be for you. I am here to help, I
have been personally assigned to you.’
‘What? What do you mean? You can’t possibly have enough people.’
‘No ma’am, we’re only covering the survivors.’
‘But barely anyone’s died, there’s billions!’
‘Stop calling me that!’
‘What would you like me to call you ma’am.’
‘My fucking name.’
‘Ok Kate. I’m afraid that we have established that within a few weeks everyone
will be dead.’
Her hand flew to her mouth, stifling a wrenching sob as her knees gave and she
sank to the ground.
‘Ma’am? Kate?’
‘Everyone? My dad, Sal? Fi?’
‘Everyone Kate, I’m very sorry.’
‘What about you?’
‘I’ll be dead too Kate.’
‘Then why are you calling me?’ She raged at him, at the disembodied calm as he
foretold the coming nightmare. ‘What’s the point? Why don’t you just fuck off
and leave me alone!’
‘I can’t Kate. You are in a very unique position. You, and a small number of
others like you, are the survivors. You will be the only ones left when this is over.
It is my job to give you everything you need to rebuild, to carry on, after it’s all
over.’ He paused for emphasis. ‘The future, will be in your hands. You’ll be all
that’s left ... of us.’

It tore out of her – a guttural cry.

‘I’m not of you! I never was!’
She hurled her phone. Her fragile link to all of them, skittering into plastic
shards along the rocky floor of her faraway prison.

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