Death by Association

Copyright 2017, John Manimas, et al


            Are, bar, car, far, close, warm, swarm.


            Beverly, my Huggy Pie, Maggie-waggy-shaggy, and Salami the pushy cat.

            It's difficult, you know, to remember, to remember what we need to remember.

            We forget.


            It started like a swarm of bees attacking a bear.  They were small, but large in number, spread out, strategically, attacking persistently.  They were each only a sting, but the volume was the thing.  They removed our most important asset:  communication.

            We should have known it was coming, but enemies keep secrets.

            At first it was just interpreted as a flock of geese.  But then it became a large flock of geese, too large.  Strange.  Then it looked like the geese were too large, too large to be geese.  They fanned out from the north into separate flocks, seemed a bit out of season, a little early to leave the arctic summer, but not necessarily.  Maybe they knew something we didn't.  The animals often do, especially the birds, the ones who fly over us like angels and look down.  They see things before we do.  They see us before we do.

            They were not geese, at least not real geese.  They were constructed to look like geese but they were in fact larger.  That fact was dismissed as a quirk that was not to worry about.  Something in the detection system that made them look bigger, maybe an adjustment that was made and then overlooked or forgotten.  We forget.  What they were was the world's most advanced drones, twelve thousand of them.  They even flapped their wings like geese, but those wings were each five feet in length.  But the detection system, as precise and reliable as it was, did not do all of the thinking that needed to be done. 

            "Just large geese," someone said.  And "We'll take another look when they get near the border."

            The Canadians must be watching too.  They know geese.

            Each "goose" carried six missiles the size of a large pepperoni.  Like they were sending us a snack.  Each missile was connected to a program that would pick out a target well before the maximum flight distance of the pepperoni missile.  They were a masterpiece of engineering.  With a flight distance of one thousand miles, that is falling while moving toward the identified target, they carried a small but effective weapon:  an electromotive force explosive.  One of the bad guys had figured out how to make a super-small kind of atomic detonation.  It would not have done much physical damage in the conventional sense, probably just enough to blow the doors off your car.  But for a much larger circumference it would burn out electrical and electronic devices.  Thinking back now, it would have been useless at the Battle of Hastings, or the Siege of Jerusalem.  But today, in modern times, with or without Charlie Chaplin supervising, it knocked out everything we depended upon.  All of the wireless communications towers, all of the radio and television broadcast stations, all of the phone lines and electrical grid.  We lost everything, and it happened like a mysterious weather phenomenon. 

            Oh, there must be a storm somewhere.  There seems to be something wrong with my phone.  Did we lose the cable?  Probably a branch fell, or a car hit a pole.  Everyone thought it was local.  Even the military monitors were puzzled at the losses, each distant from one another at first.  There did not seem to be a pattern, but then they did notice a pattern.  Everthing was being knocked out randomly, but not really randomly.  Some communications did get through, saying that a small explosion was seen in the sky, and some kind of force felt, like a magnetic pulse.  Which is what it was of course, an electromagnetic pulse that shut down communications in a way that would take months or years to repair, but which did not hurt anyone or even break anything that was not electrical.  This was the first act of total war.  Make us all deaf.  Disconnect us from one another.  Genius.

            Try to remember the kind of September
            When life was slow and oh so mellow.

            Kind, gentle, mental, grind, find, blind, refined, defined, bind, lined, unlined, paper, wood, could, should.

            Required, wired, desired, optional, co-opted, adopted, helicopter.

            Seize, please, please me. 

            Love, love me do.  You know I love you.  I'll always be true. 

            Please, police, love me do.

            Spend a day in my mind and you will understand.

            Fun with my mind. 

            You were always on my mind.


            Then the tension rose.  As we each discovered we could not communicate with anyone electronically, and could not get "the news" from any of the usual suspects, panic set in.  What is happening?

            What was happening, we all learned soon after, was that all communications were shut down by electrical burn outs.  But it was much worse than that.  It was not only civilian communications that were shut down, but also military communications.  And, wouldn't you know, virtually all modern weaponry was gone.  No longer available.  The planes, the ships, the missiles, trucks, tanks, military vehicles, even the high-tech rifles in the hands of foot-soldiers did not function.  We were back to 1914 technology.  What people thought of way too late, was horses and rifles that were strictly mechanical.  Obviously, those inclined to worry, such as myself, and those who are paid to worry, wondered what was to come.  Our high-tech armory was gone, but was there an enemy about to attack with all the same high-tech weaponry that we had lost?  Yes.

            The brains of all higher animals can manage only a small amount of distressing information and confusion.  Upon overload, people produce inappropriate behaviors.  Some people who had guns at home loaded them up and sat and waited.  For what?  Some packed suitcases and jumped in their cars and pickup trucks.  Less than a mile out they realized that they were going on a limited trip, until the gas tank was empty, because gas stations had no electric power to pump gas out of the buried tanks.  Minds raced on the questions about how do we do things without electric power.  How do we wash clothes, and our bodies, with no running water?  What do we do with all the food that thaws out in our freezers, and that heats up in our refrigerators?  What do we do, when there is nothing to watch?  Who should we try to call -- uselessly -- before our cell phones are dead?  Who has a gas stove?  Will we need to build a fire?  What can we burn?  What if someone gets hurt?  Are hospitals open?  What can a hospital do without electric power?  What about stores?  Will they give their stocks of food away, knowing that it will most likely be lost anyway? Should I go to the supermarket, or will the stores be a dangerous place with people coming to steal, possibly armed?

            What will the authorities do?  What are they doing? 

            Is there any authority?


            Food, fire, water, heat, tools, place, race, case, face, lace, trace, draw, claw, flaw, slaw, maw, crawl, help.


            Some people had sex.

            Some tried to have sex with neighbors who did not want to have sex.

            Sam Passos, a quiet, retired man who lived alone, made himself a sandwich and poured a glass of milk and opened a box of cookies and prayed before he took the first bite of what he deemed to be his last meal. 

            Mr. Passos was my high school gym teacher.  He supported my desire to find a vocation that would be helpful.  He suggested social worker, teacher, emergency medical technician, nurse, public defender.  My father laughed at me. 

            "The measure of success is a number," he said, "and it begins with a dollar sign." 

            I decided to pursue journalism, thinking the truth might make someone free.


            Most people looked for someone to talk to.  Many found someone safe to talk to and then they talked, but only to share their uncertainty and confusion.

            We're at war.  Nuclear bombs are coming next.

            No.  It's just a broad black-out.  Computers failed. 

            Hackers broke into the computer controls.

            While millions of these conversations unfolded, the nuclear warheads were on their way, free of any pesky interference.  But they were new.  They were special.  After all we had done to be the most advanced, to have the latest technology, ahead of all potential enemies, we failed.  We put all of our eggs of trust in one basket of weapons.  We forgot that safety might best be secured through compromise, cooperation, negotiation, common interests.  We had at that time, trillions of dollars' worth of useless weapons, sitting still.


            Peace, grease, lease, cease, niece, nephew, cousin, son, daughter, slaughter. 


            The nuclear missiles coming to visit America, about two thousand of them, were the latest technology.  Something we Americans would have loved to buy at a gun show.  They were not designed to maximize physical force and destroy property.  On the contrary, they were designed to produce the most radiation possible, radiation that kills living things while only giving your house a minor tan.  Such technology did have its limits though.  When we construct a dirty nuclear bomb, we cannot make it release killing radiation all at once.  It kills slowly.  The lethal radiation spreads far and wide upon detonation, but the killing occurs slowly, as in a timed plan.  This is what they did, our angry opponents.  The bombs detonated like the grand finale at a Fourth of July fireworks show.  Nicely timed for the most dazzling display.  People did see them, exploding high in the sky.  Some people thought the bombs had failed, exploded too high to do real harm.  But actually, the purpose of each and every nuclear killer that detonated over the United States was to inject lethal radiation into the air, which would promptly make dust particles and water vapor radioactive, and drift gradually everywhere.  The lakes, rivers, rooftops, trees, lawns, fields of crops, my head, your head, the air that we breathed, the water that we drank, the food we ate.  All would slowly add radioactive particles to us, radioactive molecules to our cells, to our tissues.  We got sick, vomiting, pervasive pain, loss of senses, confusion, nightmares, helplessness, skin flaking off, death.

            The dispersion of the radiation was uneven, like the weather.  Radiation was the weather.  It did arrive everywhere, eventually.  There was no escape.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I got to live longer, and watch the world die.  And I do mean watch the world, the entire world, die.  Our angry enemies had miscalculated.  They made a mistake that is so simple, and so obvious, it is almost comical.  They forgot.  They forgot that the radiation would not be rational, or even controllable.  It spread all over the Earth, as evenly as jelly on toast.

            While this war which really became the last war was progressing, we discovered that there were other intelligent beings in the universe, and they had taken an interest in us.  Actually, like the UFO nuts kept saying, they did visit us, often, as tourists.  Our Earth had been, all along, an interesting place to visit, to observe the animals in their natural habitat.  And to wonder how the humanoid civilization on Earth would unfold.  We never got to know what they really thought about us.


            Thought, bought, caught, naught, sought, fought, brought, got, lost.                           


            So my story, which will not be seen by anyone of the Earth, because we will all be gone, finally gone.  And maybe life will come back to Earth, after a period of graceful absence.  And then the humanoid drama might start over again.  We are not even sure our turn was the first here.  There were signs, stories, theories, that we had done this sort of thing before.

            Therefore, my story will be read and understood as a part of our history, after all of us are as dead as we can be.  There will be no earthly humans to read it, to contemplate the human adventure, experiment, fiasco, artifacts, limits, failures, tragedy.  But it will be here, left here, by me, a historian, for the tourists.

            Try to remember the kind of September

            when grass was green and grain was yellow.

            Try to remember when life was so tender

            when no one wept except the willow.            



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