Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) recently published his first novel. A Body in the Sacristy, the first in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon.
The current prompt: News these days contain a plethora of depressing stuff from floods and wildfires and other environmental problems, to mass shootings, to refuge problems and other political and social crises, to whatever you like as your favourite example. Write a story focused on one or more of these depressing occurrences and give it a happy ending.
Shadows Hanging Over Us
by Phil Yeats
Moe plunked his coffee on the table and slumped into a plastic chair, slouching until his chin was level with the table’s surface. “Despite today’s bright sun and oppressive heat, four shadows darken our world.”
“Oh, God, what now,” I replied. Moe, the scruffy overweight killjoy in our midst, had outdone himself with his theatrical entrance and outlandish statement. “Have the four horsemen of the Apocalypse descended upon us?”
“Super,” Jen interjected, smiling. The stately blonde always treated Moe’s outbursts as jokes. “Death, famine, war, and conquest. Which one will you describe first?”
Moe looked up, eyes mere slits. “Why should the horsemen of our modern devastation align with the biblical ones? We’re facing an existential crisis, and you two should bloody well appreciate it. But go ahead, mock me, everyone does.”
Jen was a law student and social activist, and I, an ecologist studying the impact of climate change. We, more than Moe, the philosophy student and jack of no trades, should realize humanity teetered on the brink.
“What’s your greatest threat?” I asked.
“Weapons of mass destruction.”
Jen stared wide-eyed. Getting under her thick lawyer-in-training skin was incredibly difficult, but Moe had inexplicably accomplished it. Somehow. “Are we back in Iraq with George Bush?”
“Symbolism,” Moe retorted. “Weapons of mass destruction are symbolic of our ability to unleash weapons of incredible destructiveness since the atomic bombs that ended World War II.”
Jen wasn’t ready to concede. “But international agreements have effectively controlled the nuclear threat.”
Moe snorted. “But more countries are developing nuclear arsenals, and the new weaponry isn’t limited to nuclear bombs.”
I jumped into the fray hoping to bolster Moe’s case. He’d been madly in love with Jen for months but never bested her in the verbal love jousts he initiated. “With the North Koreans possessing nuclear weapons and dingbats in Washington and Moscow controlling the largest nuclear arsenals, the nuclear threat must have increased dramatically.”
Jen attempted a diversionary tactic. “I suppose you’ll blame the current refugee crisis on these ‘weapons of mass destruction’.”
Moe refused to acknowledge her contention. “The next threat is global warming.”
She snorted, gazing at the ceiling. “Another issue that’s amenable to political management. You need more compelling arguments.”
“Not so. Governments are not curbing their militaries, and the political situation for global warming is no better. Talk and highfalutin’ pronouncements but no action. Consider our so-called progressive government. A few weeks ago, Trudeau walked back from his commitment to tax companies for their carbon emissions. Then when the US government announced they would lower gas mileage requirements, our government meekly followed their lead.”
Jen wagged a finger. “Your biases are showing. You’ve always been anti-Liberal.”
“We live here so I find Canadian examples, but the problem’s global. We’re not reaching our Paris Accord targets, and even if we do, it won’t solve the problem.”
Jen took a deep breath and leaned forward towering over the slouching philosopher. “Your arguments are meaningless. History shows that when humanity needs to, it finds the will to act dramatically and effectively.”
“Not this time,” Moe responded, sitting up with his eyes glinting. “Modern weapons are so powerful and fast-acting they provide no response time, and climate change has too much inertia. If we stopped increasing emissions tomorrow, temperatures would increase for decades.”
Jen and Moe appeared ready to increase the intensity of their sparring perhaps leading to the romantic encounter Moe sought, but I wanted to hear about the remaining shadows.
“Horseman number three?” I asked.
“China,” Moe said as he settled into his seat with the coffee he hadn’t touched.
“China,” Jen spluttered. “You’ve already had weapons of mass destruction, so China’s growing military might is derivative.”
Moe shook his head. “I’m talking about their rapid economic growth. Their political-economic model with an autocratic government directing a market economy beholden to itself is more efficient than our western model of democratic governments and unfettered free market economies.”
Jen’s shoulders slumped, but she hadn’t abandoned the fight. “China will self-destruct as her citizens demand more freedom.”
“You hope, but China has no democratic tradition to dampen the intoxicating allure of wealth and influence. Meanwhile, our western democracies are trapped in downward spirals, unable to mount any opposition to the Chinese juggernaut. If democracy is dead and the Chinese model is the future, we’ll have Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.”
“We now have weapons of mass destruction, environmental collapse, and efficient economies managed by ruthless autocrats. What’s modern horseman number four?” I asked.
Moe crushed his now empty coffee cup. “I felt four distinct shadows. The final one, a fearsome creature, part lion, part man, remains enigmatic.”
“Bloody hell,” Jen exclaimed, turning to me. “You got it right when you mentioned the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Our atheist philosopher friend has had a religious experience. He’s seen the beast in William Butler’s Second Coming slouching ‘toward Bethlehem to be born’.”
“So, the end is nigh,” I said, pushing matters a little further.
“Damn right,” Jen replied as she tugged Moe from underneath the table. “We should get it on.”
I smiled as Jen led Moe from the café. She looked determined, but his face displayed the silly grin of a surprised lottery winner. The downtrodden knight had finally won a joust.
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/