Publish Novellas 4 August 2021
EPISODE 8 – STEALTH
All alone, without resources, Dennis tries his best to survive without advanced technology, despite declining physical and mental health.
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It has been seven months since Dennis and Abigail separated. He exhausted his medication supply six weeks ago. Now it feels as if someone is beating drums inside his head. Evading authorities has led him to a remote Nigerian village where life is close to nature.
Alone in a room, with his head splitting, Dennis wonders if he should turn himself in. But this is only when he is lucid. With the lack of money, modern technology, and healthcare, he has contracted other illnesses like sleeping sickness from the tsetse fly.
The headaches cause delusions and paranoia. His mind conjures up flying drones with bullets aimed at him. On rare occasions when he sees people, he imagines they are covert agents from the government hunting him down.
One night, he listens to an interview with the US President. The interviewer asks, “What are you doing about the runaway citizen, Dennis Alan?”
The President answers, “We are convinced that Mr. Alan is dead somewhere and we are no longer spending our resources looking for him.”
Dennis is so angry, he begins shaking with fury. “Liar, liar!” he screams at the radio.
“Oh my god! He planted another microchip in me, didn’t he? He planted a chip and he is lying to throw the journalist off! Oh, but I’m too smart for that! I know your game!” Dennis rants and raves while pacing the floor.
Finally, he grabs a knife and starts to dig into his wrists, searching for a microchip. “I’ll find you!” he screams at his arms as he cuts into them over and over, barely managing to avoid major blood vessels. Even so, it leads to infections at the site of the wounds.
One afternoon, the government announces a ground-breaking cure for Adult-Onset Still’s Disease. In his state of mind, it is all the confirmation he needs to prove that they are trying to flush him out of hiding.
He shuts the doors and windows, refusing to go outside for quite awhile. In time, he finds other living quarters, making sure that he doesn’t stay any place too long to prevent capture.
Nick arrives in Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria on a blazing hot afternoon with the coordinates of Dennis’ last known location. Nick shows a photo to people in hopes that someone might recognize him, but nobody does. After hours of searching for Dennis, he lowers himself to the pavement on his knees. Nick drops his face into his palms, wishing he would have done more sooner.
He knows that if Dennis was alive, it wouldn’t be for long. Not without the cure that is now available. The government had not even released Abigail’s body to her family and friends to bury. They said they needed it for research. Now he is certain that he will never find Dennis’ body. After three days of trying to locate his friend without success, Nick gets back on a plane to America.
Less than three kilometers away from the airport, in an old shack, Dennis watches the plane rise to the sky while the last breaths leave him. As his pupils rollup into his head, memories of that Friday night party return.
At home with Abigail, they remove their mixed reality headsets with renewed disdain for their role in the fight against disease.
“That was some mind trip! It seems to me that there are more robotics in the world than humans,” Abigail exclaims.
“Why do you say that?” asks Dennis.
Abigail then reasons, “I mean… nearly everything is automated now. Think of the days when you had to open your car doors, make your own coffee, and write out a shopping list. Human doctors used to perform surgeries. They held your hand and spoke to you as they saved your life. While we now have lower mortality, we also have more broken people.”
“I agree, but this is a conversation for Randy. My head can’t handle it right now,” Dennis says to a crowd of laughter.
Randy continues the discussion. “You two put on a dramatic show! Seriously though, when does it stop? At what point do we just concentrate on being living beings—enjoying our existence? Was technology created for humans, or were humans created for technology? If we insist on deciding who has the right to live or die, where is the evolutionary natural selection?”
After these mind-numbing questions, the gathering of friends just sits, ruminating on the night’s activities. Background music from the 2020s becomes the dominant auditory stimulation. In a final attempt to salvage the party, Dennis extends his hand and asks, “Does anyone else want to try out these MR headsets?”
That clears the room, except for Abigail. She and Dennis have much to discuss about their true feelings for each other. “Would you like to have a wine-basket picnic with me at a beautiful national park under the stars this weekend?” Dennis asks.
Was the ending a surprise to you? Without plot spoilers, please share your reaction below. —Isaiah 33:24.