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Mandatory Suicide

Photo : image tirée de la mini-série Le Fléau (The Stand), d'après le roman de Stephen King, 1994.

I remember my father. He was tall, big and had jet black wavy hair that made his deep-set blue eyes seem even more luminescent — that is until he got cancer. The shine in his eyes seemed to fade away more and more every day, until the day he died: December 14, 1988. That was two years ago, on my birthday. It was two years ago exactly to this day that I remember standing over his bed, holding his hand, and watching the life bleed out of him. We’re now two years after that fateful day and here I am driving back into the town I tried so hard to escape from. Even before my father’s death, I wanted to leave — to escape the impending death in the family, the death I knew I could not bear. I did leave a few months after his death, with a beat up ’76 Mustang and $10 to my name. Now we’re in the ’90s.

Sign post up ahead — “Truth or consequences”.

“I’m Bill,” reporters are on the tube.
“I’m Sally, and we’re here to bring you...?”
Bill responds: “Why, we are here to bring them news, news and more news, of course!”
“Yes, news of death, news of destruction, rape, murder and anything morose that happens in the world! Remember to contact us via the toll-free number below if anyone dies sadistically or if anyone is mutilated:

Back to it, the town of Truth or Consequences has just announced that it has cut itself off from the rest of the world. Power lines have been slashed down and they’ve erected a barbed-wire fence around the whole town. No one can get in or out. Army officials are now patrolling the scene…

I remember the road leading to the town. It was full of green trees, shrubs and greenery. It’s different now — the trees are all dead. The grass is no longer green, instead a rusty, yellow colour lay brittle under my feet. I get in my car and keep driving. I’d have kept on driving right into town if an Army jeep had not stopped me in front of a great wall, which never used to be there. Men in heavy plastic suits were about 15 feet off the ground constructing this Monstrosity; I was appalled by the sight of it. It was evil. It seemed almost alive, the way it reached up towards the heavens enclosing all with its massive outstretched arms. I knew nothing of what was happening but did not like it. I knew I was powerless to stop it. I answered the guard’s questions. I told him I was from the town and was going to visit my mother and two sisters for the first time in two years.

The town was a mess. Garbage lay strewn across the streets, women and children lay clutched together in street corners — rape, murder, prostitution — no police, no law whatsoever. I was horrified to think of what was happening to my family. I floored the gas pedal and ripped through the city streets. For how long have they lived like this?

When I arrived to my house, it was a wreck. Only the chimney was left standing. Then I remembered the bomb shelter I built in ’88 because of the looming war; a middle-class family got their hands on a nuclear bomb and threatened the globe. I ran into the backyard and proceeded to clear some of the overgrown shrubbery, then I knocked on the cement tiling and the door slid open. Once inside, I found my mother greeting me. I embraced her but did not speak a word to her, not until we reached the main body of the shelter where one of my sisters sat, springing to her feet. One of my sisters was there — where was the other? One look into my sister’s bright green eyes confirmed my suspicions: Adriana was dead.

I said with directness: “C’mon! We are getting out of here.”

I think I could have escorted them out of town if it weren’t for the lineup of cars. We were locked in, waiting to leave, although deep down inside we knew we would never … we decided to head back to the shelter and ride out whatever was happening.

“It’s taking too bloody long!” exclaimed a man in a blue officer uniform. His voice broke the silence, the smoke and the stillness of the dimly lit room. The six men sat at a large briefing table, deciding people’s fates.

“He’s right” broke out another man. He was tall and lanky, with glasses and short-cropped hair. In the darkness you could only see his white face and the blur of his hands. “We have to launch the emergency plan B before the media start poking their noses around and find out what’s really happening up there. It’s A NUCLEAR WASTE SITE! We can begin the cleanup plans.”

Another man in the shadows, his face unrecognizable in the darkness, nods in agreement.

We’ve been in this rat hole of a shelter for two months without any tie to the city above. We were slowly going crazy. My mum was already sick when I arrived, now she might be dying.

My sister fares not much better. What’s happening to me? It feels like something’s entered my body and is controlling my thoughts and mind. I feel like an animal, especially considering I couldn’t bath for some time now.

I opened the door to the sound-proof shelter and heard gunshots!

As I breathed in the rank air, I began to realize what I was seeing:

Men killing men
Soldiers killing those they are sworn to protect
They kill
Without mercy
What’s happening?

Grim realization.

The whole town of Truth or Consequences has committed suicide. Officials state they all belonged to a kind of bizarre cult in which their goals could only be achieved on their next lives. Learn more by tuning in at 11 p.m.

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