Author: G. Jefferies
OK, so this is new. Thanks to Rachael Ritchey I started a last five blog battle words bit of fun including this ones ‘surfer’. Alas I had to come up with a new one for this, my inaugural attempt at chucking something totally alien to me. However, in spite of not being able to use The God Strain here, you’ve got an add on. Not sure it works but this will tell me if there’s more than the short story it began with….maybe….
Patrick Wakeman had a past that created the future. Most do unless the past dominates the future and existing overrides living. The past is dead, long live the past kind of thing. Patrick’s was hard only in one aspect. His parents were wealthy, too damn well off if you so please.
At school he was the Yes Man. Not because he sucked up, but because his dad was a big fan of the band and his name had been influenced, as Patrick found around the age of eleven, by a certain Rick Wakeman. A time when music became the ‘in thing’ and nicknames dropped the Pat and evolved into the keyboard maestro of the aforementioned group. By sixteen the ‘p’ had returned and for the next three years he was disaffectionately known as Prick. Not that he minded, too much, because being of wealthy stock he could afford to be laid back about most things.
Nurture was not just educational peer review. Back home his dad knocked around in political circles and was influential in flu pandemic planning. Given recent scares with influenza strains mutating and bird flu kicking up a storm there was a fair amount of head rubbing deep inside government circles playing the what if game.
As a sixth form teen doing the three sciences Patrick had been involved in more than one ethical debate with his father about the merits of cordoning off affected areas in a way not too disparate from the handling of foot and mouth outbreaks in cattle. Movement exclusions and funeral pyres. Shoot to kill enforcement and damage limitation. Politicos nicely bunkered up in sterile safe zones with enough dried food and water to last until things has calmed down and burnt out or a viable vaccine found. Mix in the right circles, book your ticket and off we go. Reminded Patrick of Vault Tech in the Fallout series that had occupied him for many a long night gaming.
Ethics and morals flipped over in his mind time and again. Was it right for the very people supposedly safeguarding countries to get free passes just because they slipped up and dropped the ball? Hell, they couldn’t even fix roads properly.
By nineteen this had festered enough to turn him against the establishment, decide vegetarianism supported his outlook and took up riding the waves on a board at every opportunity. Life was good, parental ties were strained but not severed, university beckoned after a gap year and both Wakeman seniors had concluded it was a phase that would pass once the year was up. Whereupon a politics, philosophy and law degree at King’s College in London would sort him out.
Unbeknown to them, Patrick had decided university was not for him and touring as many beaches as possible was the immediate ambition, maybe the odd inspirational smoke and what would be would be.
All these things ran through his mind as he peered across a beach leaning on the bonnet of his rough looking ford escort. An mild onshore breeze slew his hair backwards as he bemoaned an absence of decent waves.
That was when the weird bespectacled man dropped by and a moment when his brain tripped out before he’d subconsciously decided on selling his motor to go surfing in Australia. His last words before driving off had been deep, so deep he felt quite pleased about things and got one up on his old man at the same time.
“God Flu man; if it hits then everyone dies and I’m going out on a wave.”
That was an hour ago and while Smithy, the man whose name he didn’t know, was passing things on and losing his body in a bus station Patrick was munching a burger in a well known fast food chain.
Nice is it Rick?
He sat staring out of the window. The local high street going about it’s business, cars waiting at a pedestrian crossing whilst a woman with a pushchair crossed towards the market in the other side. A man leaning off a scaffold frame where the local council was restoring tired masonry on a listed building below which dwelt an unlisted supermarket. It was through this revelry of film reel watching through his eyes that his mind rode breakers over sun glazed beaches overseas. The subconscious voice stirred him up. It felt cold and emotionless.
“What the hell?”
He blinked and looked at the half burger. The first words reaching through his head were when, what, why? He remembered heading off towards his flat to pick up some stuff, what was it? The next minute he was here drifting through burgers when he was a vegetarian, how did that happen?
Easy surfer boy, I brought you here to mingle.
He dropped the burger into its wrapper. Wasn’t bad though…but meat man…think of the morals and killing for food. Disgust rippled through him, it was tasty though.
You like to mingle don’t you Patrick?
“Just a bit, yes…but crowds no, can’t be doing with crowds. It’s why the surfs there. To escape and be free with the spray and sea air all around. Such a high man, such a high.”
Why he was talking under his breath escaped him. It seemed logical, essential even.
I ain’t no man Patrick. They are under a countdown.
You said it yourself, to Smithy
“Who the hell is he?”
God Flu man.
He found himself walking along the pavement not quite remembering leaving the burger joint.
“That vacant looking egg head at the sea front?”
The very same. Patient zero.
“Not following man.”
He turned into train station for no apparent reason and continued walking.
Your old man worked on flu pandemic planning yes, not a question more a statement. Mix in the right circles and Vault Tech Overseer.
Patrick’s mind was feeling hemmed in. The view from his eyes drawing further away and part blurred. Like he was coming down with something.
“Too right, everyone’s expendable except those with the golden tickets.”
His voice sounded duller, more internalised.
Doesn’t have to be dude, doesn’t have to be. The voice was using his own phrases.
“How do you mean?”
Give your mum a call.
He felt his forehead crease into a frown. Why would I do that?
“To say hi, tell her you love her before it’s too late”
Too late for what though? He was aware things had changed. His connection with the world was shutting down. Somewhere in the distance he heard one side of a conversation that he wasn’t having.
“Hey mum, how’s it hanging?” There was a pause.
“Good, I just wanted to say I love you. Heading away for a few days so thought I’d upload a few thoughts before I left.”
Upload? I don’t say upload, he thought from deep inside his head. It was dark now and if he he had access to anything other than a mind tomb, about now he’d be entering anxiety bordering on serious insanity.
“Sweet,” he heard, “say hi to Dad and just go to that do, mingle a bit and you’ll feel a lot better. Laters.”
It went quiet. The sounds of the station disappeared and he heard the street noises; cars, buses, chatter of unseen pedestrians, the wail of a disgruntled toddler. The absence of physical chemistry did not placate the panic now settling in.
What are you?
“I’m the God Flu Rick. You familiar with viruses?”
Only computer ones and what the hell is God Flu?
“Yes, your memories tell the tale, gave me an idea that solved your Vault Tech ticket conundrum.”
There was a pause as a door shut and road noise turned into an air conditioning fan.
“Can I help you Sir?” Patrick heard an outsiders voice, male and not too old by the sound of it.
“Yeah man, an hour should be about enough time.”
“Very good Sir, take your pick and for a fiver you can have a coffee too.”
“Cool, I’ll be by the window.”
There was some shuffling and the sound of a chair scraping back.
Vault tech conundrum…what’s that mean?
“Bit of an upload realisation dude, free range is twenty metres. The phone network reaches wider. Your vaults have just been compromised.”
Mum? Please, what’s going on, I just wanted to ride some waves, maybe in Australia.
“Your species has a strong sense of fear Rick, very strong. Not to worry though. By tomorrow we’ll be surfing almost everywhere, and a few days after that no one will care anymore.”
There was some tapping noises in the distance, a keyboard entered his trapped mind and then an image of a cafe and streams of people walking past the window his possessed body sat at. All pausing briefly with a vacant stare before moving on.
What did you do to mum?
“Same as the lab geek, just passing on some tech; countdowns rolling just enjoy the ride, or…you’re a surfer right? Just not quite waves we’re riding now dude. With this button we gets to surf the whole world.”
Patrick was allowed a visual link to see his own finger hit enter on a keyboard. Above it the graphic user interface went black before strings of ones and zeros flew down the screen. Inside a minute things restored, good as new.
What did you just do?
“I just went viral.”
He heard himself laughing, not just any old laugh but a real gut buster.
© G Jefferies and Fictionisfood, 2016. All rights reserved.