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The Ahavah XI: Calamity

What the hell was happening? One minute, God had seen fit to answer my prayers and I was talking to Yara again, who had made it back to Earth. Even more miraculously, she had somehow managed to recontact me over the voice comms at the Lunar Habitat. The next minute, she was gone and possibly in danger back there on Earth.

“They say you learn a lot out there, how to scorch and burn.”
— Nathaniel Rateliff, “And It’s Still Alright”

Read previous chapters here:
Ch 1      Ch 2      Ch 3      Ch 4     Ch 5

Ch 6      Ch 7      Ch 8      Ch 9     Ch 10

1

What the hell was happening? One minute, God had seen fit to answer my prayers and I was talking to Yara again, who had made it back to Earth. Even more miraculously, she had somehow managed to recontact me over the voice comms at the Lunar Habitat. The next minute, she was gone and possibly in danger back there on Earth.

“I might have a situation.” That was what she had said to me before breaking radio contact. Then, nothing.

It had been hours since she had disappeared on me, for the second time. Was it the illness — The Calamity? Surely she was immune. After all, she had survived when her whole crew had perished. Was it a human threat? Had someone forced her off comms? Or, was it a technical problem? That was what I hoped for, and the explanation I kept trying to sell myself.

The not-knowing was festering inside me like a bleeding ulcer. I fidgeted. I ran my fingers through my greasy hair. I paced the habitat. I kept waiting to hear her voice. I checked the messaging system — again — to see if a text-only message had come through.

Nothing.

I heard not a word, nor received a single message. Once again, I was alone.

2

A prisoner. I had become a prisoner.

Our walls had finally been breeched. The Outliers had gotten through, and they had taken the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The idea of it was shocking, and even more so because Yara’s brother was among them. He had attacked us. It could not possibly be real, what was happening to us. I sat on the floor with the other prisoners, an Outlier holding a gun on us, while Yara, her brother Moshe, and the other Outliers were across the large room, engaged in some kind of argument.

I was dazed, and numb, like I was trying to make sense of some impenetrable dream that would not clear itself in my mind. The room started to close in on me, and I buried my head in my hands, trying to ignore the whimpers and whispers of the others around me.

My mind dropped off a cliff and, when it hit bottom, I was back in the early days of The Calamity. ‘The Sickness’ is what Yara called it. That feeling — the paralyzing daze — was rampant then. At first, when the talk of a pandemic started to escalate and spread from scientific and medical chat rooms, to conspiracy websites, then to the lips of government officials around the world, the great majority of people simply discounted the threat.

Most people thought that some — maybe even a lot — would get sick. They thought that some large but comprehensible and manageable number of people would maybe die. Possibly, the deaths would even be in the millions, like the Spanish Flu in the early twentieth century, or the Coronavirus in the early twenty-first.

They were all wrong. We were all wrong. The Calamity did not stop. It spread. It traveled the world. It killed, nearly everyone.

Early on, I tried to maintain contact with my family back in America. The illness — a mutation of the Candida auris fungus — had not yet reached us in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, at the cosmodrome. But it was ravaging America. It was all over the news and while I was worried at first, as reports started to mention deaths in the hundreds of thousands, then in the millions, I became terrified. Not only for my extended family back in the United States, but for us, too.

I knew that if the disease made it out of America, it was only going to be a matter of time before it spread over the globe. I was no infectious disease specialist, nor a medical doctor, but I was smart enough to read and listen to what the experts were saying about the disease. And it smothered me in dread.

3

The reality was so much worse than everyone predicted. Even the most pessimistic models had never predicted more than 30-40 percent mortality. The global mortality rate ended up being 99 percent. That seems unfathomable, but it was true. One percent of humanity was all that made it through The Calamity alive.

It was as if the Old Testament had come true — or maybe the Book of Revelation — and a plague had swept the Earth clean of most of God’s human creatures. The other animals were mostly left unharmed, though some other (non-human) primate species had suffered heavy losses, as well as most marsupials, for some reason.

Once it became clear that the fungus was going to kill most of humanity, a realization that came within a few weeks after millions started to succumb in America, it was as if everyone on Earth simultaneously shed the yoke of civilization and reverted back to primal urges. Women were raped in attacks across the globe, men murdered each other in duels and struggles for food and each others’ resources. Governments and laws were abandoned, religions offered no solace nor salvation, and the mask that we all thought was our real face — that of civility, morality, and adherence to law and order — sloughed away quickly like the skin of a snake. It revealed underneath the vile degeneracy of mankind.

Our orderly and structured world was left behind like that shed snakeskin, to dissolve back into the Earth. What remained was elemental man, cast back to his state of nature, taking what he wanted, caring only for his own biological survival, and dispatching rivals that sought his food, his shelter, or his women.

My own family was lucky enough to be afforded some protection from the chaos of the crumbling world outside by the cosmodrome and its security force. Though many of us perished, including my own wife and children, enough of us remained to keep the walls secured and the outside madness at bay.

Until this day, when we failed to do so.

4

“Costa, come over here. Please.”

I was yanked out of my dark reverie by Yara’s voice, calling me over to her, where she stood with her brother Moshe and the other Outliers across the room. I slowly picked myself up off the floor and cautiously approached the small group.

“Moshe, this is Michael Costa,” Yara began. “He is — was — a mission control specialist here, before The Sickness came. He was the one who welcomed me back to Earth, and who was able to get the communications back online with the Lunar Habitat. He can do what I am speaking about. Tell your friends to hear him out.”

They all stared at me expectantly. “What the hell are you talking about,” I started to ask, but I was cut off by the leader of this small group.

“Enough,” the youngish man said. “Balga will sort this out. It is for him to hear and to decide. Moshe, bring your sister and this Michael Costa with us. The rest stay here for now, with two of my men.”

Moshe was clearly afraid of crossing this young man, as he looked at Yara with an expression that said, ‘we need to do what he says.’ Yara, on the other hand, rolled her eyes in anger and simply said, “Fine, take us to him.”

And so we made our way to this Balga, who I could only assume, at the time, was the leader of the Outliers.

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Susan B
Susan B
29 days ago

This story cuts a little too close to the bone regarding pandemics. Very prescient, Fru. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

Susan H
Susan H
28 days ago

Yay, Fru! So pleased to see you continuing on with the story! Sooo, when’s the next installment? 😁

Susan H
Susan H
28 days ago
Reply to  Frumentarius

Yes!!! Cheers, mate!

Mason
Mason
22 days ago

Have read this a couple of times now Fru, love how you fold current events into this. Really appreciate you continuing this yarn for us.

Eddie Davis
Eddie Davis
16 days ago

You keep bringing it! Good storytelling., more please.

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