A piece I drafted up in a few hours. It turned out to be somewhat more prosaic than I would have liked, but I hope you enjoy it. I was not sure what
to title this story, so I simply gave it the standard treatment.
Although he could have been no more than five years old, the child appeared wizened as an old man. He was severely emaciated, his skin sagging
pitifully from his bones. In cruel contrast to his feeble limbs, his belly protruded because it had not shrunk in proportion to the rest of the body.
His face was a skeletal mask, lifeless eyes within gaunt sockets. He could not cry, for he had no tears to shed. He was dying of thirst.
There he stood, in a line with some other people, some young, some old. I was there, yes, I was there under the cover of a disguise, but even then had
I never before felt so naked. Perhaps it was a trick of the light. Perhaps I had imagined it.
The child had looked at me, right in my eyes, before he died.
And there I was on my bed in my quarters. I shook myself from sleep, and tried to stand up. Immediately I regretted it.
"Don't stand up so quickly. You're going to faint," said Richard, putting a gentle hand on my shoulder.
I sat down on my bed. Shut out the world, waited for it to stop. What's the use? It will never stop. Richard merely stood there patiently while I
regained the strength to speak. "You are my most trusted... friend," I began. "My confidante. You are the only one who knows my name and my true
identity. Yet, I fear I have been discovered." I swallowed hard to keep the nausea at bay. "I saw... it. Again."
He nodded, understanding, but he was powerless to help me. "Let me put your fears to rest, my friend." The best he could do was recite a speech, one
which he knew that I had already heard many times. "The downfall of every power structure has been its visibility. Therefore, we are invisible - we do
not outwardly display wealth or power. Our knowledge is our wealth, and our secrecy is our power.
"We engender conflict and distrust among the populace through our network of agents; we act through the populace, and thus our hand is hidden. We make
ourselves myth. We obscure ourselves with layers upon layers of fictional identities and false leads, all according to guidelines laid down by
yourself." He bowed his head in acknowledgement. "Have no fear, for you are as safe as can be."
Richard waited for my response. His face betrayed worry in spite of his best efforts. I stared blankly into space. The lifeless eyes stared back at
me. "Yes," I finally replied. "But from what?"
Brazil, formerly among the most water-rich states, had lost over three-quarters of its fresh water supply due to the dumping of toxic chemicals.
Several corporations were revealed to have been dumping for decades. For years afterward people spoke in hushed whispers about whether or not the
government was complicit, but no one came close to the mark.
Russia was home to one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world: Lake Baikal. The government of Russia had decided to build a nuclear plant
near the lake despite criticism from all directions. People argued endlessly about why the government did this, but to what avail? Thirty years had
passed since its construction, and the time finally had come. I had inherited the honour of seeing the final stage of the plan enacted.
Other events contributed to the dwindling of the global water supply, some acute and others chronic. Over the course of decades, dumping had done
irreversible damage to Lake Victoria in Africa just as it had done for the Amazon ecosystem. Despite protest from local citizens the United States
government had set up a nuclear waste disposal facility near the massive Ogallala aquifer. Terrorists had attacked desalination plants in Australia
and Indonesia, their motives uncertain, their allegiances obscure. No one had anticipated the connection between all of these events.
The software that managed the Lake Baikal nuclear plant had a logic bomb stealthily embedded into it - a sleeper agent in the form of code. When the
time came, it would trigger a cascade of failures in the plant, creating the literal bomb that would cause a nuclear meltdown and the subsequent
release of radiation into the wild.
I had to be present at the drafting of the bill. Granted, it was important, for it would change the world. However, as I had not the patience to sift
through legislation I let my advisors speak for me. Most people working for governments around the world were either uninformed or ill-informed of the
powers that move them. Why, then, did I have a sick feeling as the pen wove around on the paper? Was I signing myself into oblivion?
As news channels all around the world scrambled to cover the Lake Baikal meltdown, the situation continued to deteriorate. Containment breaches were
confirmed. The lake was now a nuclear wasteland, rendered unusable for ages to come. A serious blow had been dealt to the global water supply. The
proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, which set the stage for a global water rationing law. This lofty responsibility was given to an
international governing body. An artificial figurehead, of course. It was I who truly wielded the power.
Since then, it had been a constant struggle to keep that power. Start a shortage here, start a war there. Keep the water scarce and the technology in
the hands of the few, and rule the few with an iron fist. Nobody knew who I was. Yet everybody knew that I existed.
I had been wrong. Visibility did not make the downfall of an empire. Evil did. By its very nature, evil requires good to thrive. It thrives by
destroying good. When there was no good left to destroy, evil had to die. The population of the earth had decreased to roughly one billion. How much
longer would it take for me to destroy the rest?
During a war between India and Pakistan, the former had poisoned several tributaries of the Indus river in a bid to destroy the latter's resolve. It
had worked beyond everyone's wildest imaginations, but resulted in universal outrage against the government of India. In reality, one of my associates
had both devised this plan and convinced the government to carry it out. During one of my usual tours of duty around the world, I passed by a refugee
camp on the India-Pakistan border.
To paraphrase a former world leader, one dead makes a tragedy, but a million a statistic. Cholera had already taken countless lives; that was merely a
statistic. However, I saw the child myself, standing in a line with the other forsaken. One of the refugees had smuggled a canteen from a soldier, and
they were now taking turns to drink from it. I knew it would not be enough. As I passed by in an armoured vehicle, I could not help but be drawn to
his pathetic appearance. Yet even as he was dying he looked as serene as Buddha. I knew that he could not recognize me - nobody could. But I knew what
he was thinking as he looked at me.
You'll get what you deserve.
Richard had returned with one of my associates in tow. "The others are waiting for you," he said. "You may excuse yourself from this meeting if you
are not feeling very well."
Continued in next post...
edit on 26-4-2012 by Tadeusz because: (no reason given)