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The Menangle Virus: Part 8

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

Memory Span

The final hour of the flight meanders by. The train ride is in a lightly filled car with no one watching, so Adam has an opportunity to get some cuddles and is allowed freedom under the blanket. Rachel has submitted, and he feels up her leg and rubs her crotch. She’s wearing a long skirt. He has his hand beneath that, touching her through her underwear and quickly drawing heat and moisture. She allows that for only a moment, though, before squirming her thighs together and glaring.

Adam knows the landmarks and counts them off all the way to Sydney and up into the mountains to Ascot. Rachel is quiet and smiley as they ride their pod to his apartment. He takes hold of her as soon as they’re inside but she pushes away in protest.

“You shower first,” she tells him.

Adam complies. He has a quick scrub and comes from the bathroom to find the bed has been stripped and freshened with clean sheets. Rachel slips past the bedroom door smiling and closes herself in the bathroom.

Adam’s entire borrowed body is tingling with anticipation as he waits in the lounge staring at the blank screen and listening for the bathroom door. It finally opens, but Rachel doesn’t appear. Adam waits a few minutes then goes to find her. He looks in the bedroom and is met by her smile. She’s in the bed with the covers pulled up to her chin. Her eyes are sparkling. “Lights off, please,” she says sweetly.

Adam turns off the light and strips his robe. He finds Rachel nude and kicks off his shorts as he kisses her. She’s trembling, as is he. He’s also fully erect, and her legs part as he moves on top of her.

“Adam?” she whispers.

“Yes.”

“Will you still respect me in the morning?”

“What? Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously… I’ve never done this so soon before.”

Adam enters her, surging deep into her moist heat. He kisses her mouth. “Of course I’ll still respect you, beautiful… Of course I will.”

*

Rachel clings to the powerful back of the man thrusting between her legs. She spreads wide for him and bites on his shoulder as her climax builds and comes on quickly. Her belly is clenched and pulsing with the delightful contractions as the guy powers hard into her and holds firm.

Adam searches for and claims her lips. He kisses her passionately and holds and cuddles her into the night, entering her again and making more love to her before falling asleep—Rachel’s heart full to bursting with something more than she can define.

June 24, 2028

Nurse Patricia Holmes turns from her duties to see her favourite patient blinking confusedly. She approaches him. “Mr O’Malley. Welcome back.” He tries to speak but his voice fails. She holds a cup of water while he sips through the straw.

He swallows. “What..? Where am I?”

Patricia wipes his forehead. “You were in an accident, Mr O’Malley… Don’t worry. You’re going to be fine.”

December 17, 2130

Cooper James Davis opens his eyes to the familiarity of his bedroom ceiling. His brain tries to boot up but there’s blankness—the day of the week unclear—work or not. Cooper moves to sit up but is shocked by the presence of a woman in his bed. He scoots aside. She’s nude so he quickly covers her, and he stumbles to the floor and pulls on shorts.

“Shit!”

The woman stirs and opens her eyes. She smiles but glances at the vacant side of the bed. She frowns, her eyes questioning confusedly. “Adam?”

Cooper gulps. “Um. I’m sorry…”

The woman scoots up the bed pulling the covers around herself. “Adam?” she asks again, more urgently now.

“Miss, I’m sorry. I’m Cooper. Cooper James Davis.”

“Oh no!” the woman cries. “Get out! Please leave the room and let me get dressed.”

Cooper backs out the door and closes it. He backs further out into the lounge room and finds two travel cases. One of them is open on the couch. The other is his. He finds jeans and a shirt, quickly dressing as the bedroom door opens and the bathroom door slams shut.

Cooper waits anxiously in his kitchen. The woman bursts into the lounge room and stuffs things in the case on the couch. She takes it and confronts Cooper watching from the kitchen. Her face is wet with tears. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be here,” she stammers.

Cooper takes a step closer but stops, just raising his hands in surrender instead. “Miss, please, what happened here? I can’t um… I can’t remember.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman sobs. She rubs at her cheeks. “It’s too much to explain… I have to go.”

“Okay. Can I talk with you later, please?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry…”

The woman rushes from Cooper’s apartment and leaves him staring at the closed door. He takes a breath and expels. He looks at his wall screen and sees the date. “Sunday,” he mutters. He walks over and slumps back onto his couch. His brain is numb and as if unable to wake properly. He was on his days off, going to explore the old city. That thought claws its way out of the molasses. “Circular Quay.” The memory of riding his motorcycle into the heart of Sydney begins to clarify.

Cooper sits staring into his mind trying to advance on that but nothing comes to him. He shakes his head and looks around the room, pulling his travel case over and ripping it open. There’s a plastic bag inside with glossy tourist brochures from Hollywood and Moscow. “What the hell?” He takes that in, frowning confusedly and looking at the door where the rather pretty woman had vanished.

Aright. Food then Circular Quay.

Cooper is hungry and satisfies that with two bowls of cereal. He then pulls on boots and rushes downstairs to find the parking spot for his motorcycle empty. He walks out onto the street but can’t see the bike anywhere. There’s a pod sitting there with a green vacant sign alight. He jumps in. “18 Hamilton Crescent please.”

The pod zooms through the streets and out of the community apartment sector. Cooper’s parents own a house on the extreme edge of the grid. The pod stops out front and he rushes inside. He goes to his father’s desk and gets the keys to the Jeep from the top drawer. The jeep is kept in a workshop down the back yard. It’s a vintage model Cooper and his father have restored. There are several other restoration projects in the big shed, the parts easy enough to engineer and the biggest challenge being conversion of the engines from hybrid to full electric.

Cooper drives the Jeep out through a gate and onto a forest trail. This leads to an old road and joins the Great Western Highway to Sydney. The highway is cracked and broken in places but is fairly well travelled by others who enjoy exploring the old city. The 4 wheel drive of the Jeep is required.

It’s a 30 minute run down from the mountains and onto an expressway that leads into the city. Another 45 minutes brings Cooper to a narrow lane between towering office blocks where he finds his motorcycle parked.

Cooper leaves the Jeep there and walks toward the Pacific Princess III resting against the pier. He turns from the great ship and strolls along the cobbled walkway to a bench seat where he sits facing the old ferry terminal. He thinks of the woman again.

Adam… She called me Adam.

The smell of the ocean is suddenly alive in Cooper’s mind. A picture of the ferries moored there at Circular Quay flashes to mind. Cooper remembers this place. The picture grows in mind as he gazes around at the city. “Oh shit!” He sees himself as a child walking to school. He’s walking backwards and talking to the boy from next door when he bumps into a girl and falls over. He remembers that same girl kissing him under a bridge. It was a first kiss for him. He remembers his mother and father and his brothers and sisters. He remembers Amanda.

Adam O’Malley… I was Adam O’Malley!

Cooper’s mind is tingling electric and expanding quickly. He thinks of Patricia Holmes and feels his love for her. He remembers waking to her face in hospital and being immediately smitten. A tunnel appears in his thoughts. It’s dark but there are rings of light into the depths of it. He ventures tentatively and remembers when he was Allister Croft. He’s at a drive-in theatre holding hands with Maria. He can see Maria’s face but she’s older now. They’re both older and he loves her so much.

Cooper grips his head in his hands and pushes away these thoughts. The present floods back into his brain. “Oh no! Rachel..!” He addresses his device. “File message to self.” He appears on screen. “Hi. I’m Adam O’Malley living in this body.”

“And this is my cool new friend, Rachel.” The screen flips and Rachel appears smiling.

“And this is my cool new friend, Rachel,” Cooper’s voice repeats after her.

Cooper covers his device to stop it. He gets up and runs through the small park and across the street. The motorcycle is faster than the Jeep. He mounts it and flies through the streets, his heart pounding, his mind settling to absolute clarity now. He opens the bike up on the expressway and reaches the base of the mountains in less than 20 minutes. He powers up the range and enters Ascot through the city park. It’s only a block from there to the medical centre. He rushes past the reception counter and along to Doctor Hayes’ office. It’s empty.

“Doctor Hayes… I need to see Doctor Hayes please?”

“He’s off today,” the receptionist says. “Doctor Miles is available.”

“No, I need Doctor Hayes… Could I have his home address, please?”

*

Rachel takes her cup of tea out onto the balcony. She’s been crying all morning but feels ridiculous. She needs to go and find the guy. She knows this. She understands he’s done nothing wrong and that it was her own stupid fault getting involved when he was actually unwell. Her initial hurt has morphed through anger and self-pity to end up as some horrible mix of embarrassment and shame.

“I have to go back and see him, Dad.” Her father is sitting there on the balcony in his easy chair reading news.

“Try and convince him to come see me, darling.”

“I will, Dad. He must be so confused.”

The rare sight of a vintage motorcycle zooming around a corner and up the street catches Rachel’s attention. Her heart leaps at sight of the guy she spent the last week with. “Dad, he’s here!” she cries and rushes to the door.

Rachel runs to the stairs but he’s already there at the bottom. He bounds up them and takes her into his arms.

“Rachel..!” He’s hugging the breath out of her. “I’m so sorry, beautiful… I’m so sorry I didn’t remember.” He releases her enough to find her lips and kiss her. “I’m Adam!” he tells her and presses hard to her lips again.

“Adam?” Rachel utters, squirming her face away. “What..? I don’t understand.”

The guy settles. He releases Rachel from his bear hug and just keeps her hands. “I remember everything now, Rachel. Everything!” He huffs. “It’s amazing… I remember being Adam O’Malley… It wasn’t just his mind leaping through time. That’s not it at all… I actually used to be him.”

“You used to be him?” Rachel asks. “What do you mean?”

The guy smiles incredulously. He shakes his head and shrugs. “It sounds crazy but it’s not. It’s real… It’s what’s happening to everyone else as well.”

“What?” Rachel half wants to run.

“Look… Is your dad home? Can we go and talk with him?”

“Okay…” The thought of having her father by her right now appeals to Rachel. She leads the way with the guy following. Her father is waiting in the kitchen. “Dad, Adam or whoever wants to speak with you.”

“My name’s Cooper James Davis, Doctor… My full memory has returned.”

The doctor accepts Cooper’s handshake. “This is good… It was a temporary condition.”

“My name is Cooper,” the guy says to Rachel. “Please don’t be afraid of me.”

Rachel has her arms folded. “I just don’t understand.”

“Well, there’s a lot to understand… Doctor, Adam O’Malley was one of my past lives… I know that for certain now. It’s as simple as remembering back to your childhood.” Cooper looks from Rachel to her father. “I remember seven distinct past lives. I can tell you all of my names and those of my families and friends. It’s not all crowding my mind though. It’s just a matter of concentrating and sort of going there, and it’s all perfectly clear.”

Rachel doesn’t quite know what to say. Her father is rubbing his chin. “Past lives, huh? You’re saying these thousands of people who believe they are identities from history right now are in fact remembering past lives?”

“Yes… Exactly… How many are there now, Doctor?”

“The latest figure is over fifty thousand… Processing here is at the sports centre where nearly a hundred have reported in so far.” Rachel’s father nods to her. “There have been two other cases of people reporting pretty much what Cooper here is saying. They were among the original cases reported a week or more ago as well.”

“Okay, so it takes some time,” Cooper adds with interest. “I’ve been researching Adam O’Malley for about a month now. His name just stuck in my head at first, and then I searched him and went looking for his life in the old city… And then it just swamped me. He swamped me. And that was all there was all of last week.” Cooper pleads with Rachel, “That was me… I’m me. I’m Adam… Everything was me.”

Rachel’s tearing up now. She glances at her father, excusing what she’s about to ask. She looks at this man Cooper and swallows at the knot in her throat. “And last night..?”

“That was me last night.” He’s imploring as he shakes his head. “That was me—Cooper.”

Rachel allows him to take her hands again. She peers up into eyes she recognises as the man she has been with. “Cooper?” She releases a breath and sniffles. He collects her and hugs her. She relaxes into him.

“I’m sorry, sir… I really like your daughter.”

“I’ll be out on the balcony,” Rachel’s father says.

*

Cooper holds the beautiful woman in his arms until she pushes back a bit. She’s smiling a little as she meets his eyes. He strokes hair from her forehead. “Come with me?”

“Where?”

He looks down at her. “That’s a pretty dress but do you have jeans and boots?”

She frowns mirthfully. “Why?”

“It’s windy on a motorcycle.”

“But where are we going? I’ve never been on a motorcycle before.”

Cooper takes another kiss. Rachel responds this time. He sends her to get changed and approaches the doctor on the balcony.

The doctor looks up from his screen. “Another of the original patients has reported in. She has complete memory recall for multiple past lives. Twenty-seven of them. Back to the Roman Empire.”

Cooper leans on the balcony rail. “How about you, Doctor—remembering anything yet?”

The doctor chuckles. “Not yet.”

“But you want to, right?”

“I must admit I’m intrigued.”

Cooper nods. “Wait till yours hits you. It’s amazing how clear it all becomes… I’m just not sure if it was fate or pure luck that I met your daughter.”

“Rachel? Why do you say that?”

Cooper turns around to face the older man. “I’m not sure yet. I need to take her somewhere that I think might be familiar to her… I just have a feeling… It only started as little flashes for me, and I think Rachel has already met her most recent past life self.”

*

Rachel appears at the balcony door in jeans and boots and a cute little leather jacket. Cooper takes her hand and leads her to his Harley Davidson. The hardest thing about engineering the switch to electric had been keeping the distinctive sound and vibration. He and his dad had worked it, though, and the machine thunders out onto the street.

There’s no need to rush now. Rachel is cuddled tight to Cooper’s back, the feel of her thrilling him more than the incredible gift of the return of his lives. He takes her down the range and on past Oakdale. 20 minutes south east of that small community is the abandoned township of Menangle. Cooper has been here a number of times in the past month. He cruises through the housing area and out to the river and the Ground Zero site.

“My girlfriend Patricia and I used to live in that farm house just back there across the road,” Cooper says. “I used to work here.”

“Here? You worked here at Ground Zero?”

“No, not exactly… I mean at the pig farm that was here before the authorities levelled the place… After the bus accident, I went to work in the pig sheds shovelling shit. I had no idea about the virus. They didn’t even know it started here until later. Women in Menangle were among the first infected, though. They just couldn’t get pregnant… Then it happened to Patricia too.”

They’re sitting on the motorcycle looking down at a river deep in a gorge. The breeze is cool, the sun warm. Rachel isn’t speaking. Cooper turns to her. “Are you okay?”

She just stares at him. “She did get pregnant, but she lost it.”

Cooper’s gut clenches. “Yes. 8 weeks.”

Rachel’s eyes tear up. Her chin quivers. “I remember…”

“You remember..?”

“Yes. I felt it when I saw her picture before. And now—here with you… I remember…..”

**The End**

This fictional Utopian story isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but I do believe that the future consists of a far lower world population and more evenly spread wealth. All the best throughout this pandemic, G.S.Bailey.

Download the PDF or eBook

The actual Menangle Virus – Wikipedia

P.S. I was a young guy working at this farm in 1997, figured there might be a story in it one day lol.

The Menangle Virus: Part 7

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

New World Order in the year 2130

Adam and Rachel check into their rooms and meet in the hotel bar for a drink before bedtime.

Adam shakes his head. “So the system—the government—is right here in Geneva?”

“Yes. Seventy-two representatives from all over the world—three from Australia—sitting around big tables coming up with ideas for new laws or to change old ones.”

Adam nods ponderingly. “And they decide everything for everyone?”

“Nope. They decide what new things to propose. Then we all vote yes or no. And if we vote no, we get to leave a message as to why we didn’t like the idea. And the teams of analysts and researchers go through all that and figure out something better if required.”

“You all vote?”

“It’s not compulsory. We teach at school how important it is… I pick the topics that interest me and read up and vote on them. Most people do.

“Okay… Cool…”

“Anything else, history guy?”

Adam shrugs. “I’m guessing there are no homeless or starving people in the world these days?”

“You guess correctly. Everyone either works or studies and the basic essentials are free in return. Housing, clothing, groceries, transport, medical. The 20 hour commitment to work or study gives enough income for a reasonable amount of leisure and luxury on top of the basics. Work a bit harder or smarter if you want extras.”

“And does the system tell you where you have to work?”

“Nope. The system owns about 90 percent of all enterprises. Pick whatever you want to do and apply for the job. If you can start an enterprise of your own and make it work, that’s fine. It will be registered as suitable work. If you’re good enough at tennis or screen acting or painting or music or something—same deal. You can do it professionally and it counts for your 20 hours. Or you can teach it.”

Rachel rolls her head to face Adam. She’s smiling. “I watch all the old movies. I know what you’re seeing differently… There’s no excess now though. There’s no point accumulating great wealth because you can’t pass it down to your children. Nothing is transferable. If you die wealthy, the system simply reclaims everything.”

“You can’t leave anything for your kids? You can’t leave them a business that you’ve built or the family home?”

“Nope. The only person you can transfer assets or significant credit to is a spouse. Kids have to start from scratch and earn it themselves.”

Adam finishes off his Bourbon. “That sounds unfair.”

“It’s generally viewed as tough love for kids and equity for everyone. No zillionaires and no homeless or starving people… But you can suggest changes to our local representative or look for interest groups on the subject—try to push your ideas and get them voted on… I don’t know—maybe intergenerational wealth transfer wouldn’t be as damaging as they say—maybe you should be able to leave something to your kids.”

Rachel finishes her wine and stands. “Are we going?”

Adam walks her to her room. His is next door. She turns to face him and he takes hold, cuddling her and meeting her sweet, warm lips. Rachel backs through her door, pulling Adam with her. They’re still locked in a kiss as they stumble onto a couch. Adam is on top, plundering Rachel’s open mouth with his tongue. He has one arm around her and the other hand free to explore. He feels a breast through a thin knitted top, beneath that the lacy texture of a bra. He squeezes as Rachel arches upward against his hand. He finds her nipple and toys with the firmness of it.

Rachel breaks their kiss and meet’s Adam’s eyes. She glances down at her chest. “Um…”

Adam strokes up to her neck and face. He caresses over an ear. “Sorry. Couldn’t help myself any longer.”

“Oh?” Rachel chews a lip. “That much is nice, but I don’t usually… You know, this soon…”

Adam feels his face flush. “Yeah sure. Of course.”

“I mean, it’s not that I don’t want to.”

“No, I get that… It’s too fast. Too soon.” Adam takes another small kiss and smiles. “It feels right to me, though.”

“Ha! Shocker! Like it doesn’t always feel right to you men.”

Adam chuckles. “Yeah, I guess…”

“Oh, you guess, do you?” Rachel pokes Adam’s chest with a finger. “I just want to wait a bit longer before we go any further than this, Adam. It’s just all new and who even knows what’s going to happen?”

“With my memory?” Adam strokes a wisp of hair and kisses the beautiful woman beneath him again. “I get that… I know this could end any minute, Rachel… You’re right we shouldn’t get too carried away.”

Rachel’s pretty eyes sparkle. “Thank you,” she says sweetly and smiles. “I don’t see any danger in kissing and cuddling like this, though… I’m not feeling tired at all. Are you?”

“No. Not at all.”

“We could watch a movie? Or just watch the city? There’s a great view from out there.”

Adam looks to the balcony doors. “Might need a coat.”

Rachel points. “There’s a big blanket right there. We could share?”

The hotel room is on the eighth level and has a view of a glistening lake and parklands. In the distance the city of Geneva is alight. Parliament House is a sprawling, low level building flying the flags of every nation. Beyond it and built into the parkland are the research campus facilities where every aspect and function of society is governed, micro-management within the various industries occurring at production sites around the globe.

“Those apartments look much the same as ours, though,” Adam comments. He’s in a big comfy chair with Rachel cuddled on his lap.

“Community apartments are pretty standard,” she answers disinterestedly. Ours were built from scratch. Others were reclaimed after quarantine… I think this is all mostly reclaimed. They’ve just refurbished it all and bulldozed what they didn’t need.”

Rachel is quiet for a moment then goes on, “So, what about your ex-girlfriend? You said you wanted to get back with her.”

Adam chuckles. “Don’t see how that’s very possible.”

“I know, but in here.” Rachel taps Adam’s chest.

Adam takes a breath. “Actually—in all honesty—I haven’t even thought about Amanda since I’ve been here. She’s not even crossed my mind.”

“But you were in love with her, weren’t you?”

“I thought so… I don’t know. Back there I’m a bit of a loser. Or that’s how I feel, anyway… I’m 34 and have got nothing. I’m not educated and don’t have very good prospects… Now that I think clearly about it, I wonder if I was clinging to Amanda a bit.”

“Ha. That sounds very familiar to me.”

“What, with your ex?”

“Yeah, I was definitely clinging. I can see that clearly now too.”

“But you’ve got a good job and that,” Adam kisses pretty smelling hair. “And you’re hot.”

Rachel giggles. “No, history guy. You’re the one who’s hot.”

“Yeah, you mean Cooper.”

“No. You’re the one inside, Adam. Eyes are nothing without the personality behind them.”

“Hmm… That’s a good point… I like your eyes.” Adam strokes the beautiful woman’s face and kisses her again. She responds passionately, their bodies huddled together beneath a heavy, tasselled blanket, the night meandering on as they talk and often just shut up and kiss some more.

The next morning Adam and Rachel are on another bullet train winding through the abandoned streets of city after city up through Germany and across into Poland. Stops are every hour or so, the train only about half full of passengers at any time. The warm, silent journey takes Adam and his dream-girl travel companion through Belarus and into Russia.

There is a sizable community in the centre of Moscow. Adam and Rachel alight the train there and check into the historic Ukraine Hotel on the bank of the Moscow River. It’s not quite nightfall. They take a stroll and Rachel pulls Adam into a small supermarket. She gives him a plastic basket and leads him around putting in it toiletries for herself and picking out a new deodorant and some men’s soap for him. They collect a couple of apples and pack their groceries into a cloth shopping bag provided.

“Where’s the red thumb thingy?” Adam is looking around. There is no checkout of any description that he can see. The shop is seemingly unattended and open to the street.

Rachel rolls eyes. “You don’t buy stuff like this, Adam.” She tosses him his apple.

He follows her outside and catches up. “But you have to pay at a café.”

“That’s prepared food, with service. These are basic essentials.”

They stroll back across a bridge and brush off the snow before entering the hotel lobby. Dinner that evening is in the Ukraine’s fine dining restaurant. People around are speaking Russian mostly, but the waitress is bilingual. “Try the Borsht then Kulebyaka,” she suggests. “That’s a nice plain local meal with your rye bread there.”

Adam has to get that bill on their way out, since they’ve exhausted the budget provided by the system. They have another cuddle while watching the Moscow skyline that night. The next morning they reboard the same train they had the previous day.

Stops on this leg of their journey are several hours apart, the single rail mounted alongside the old Siberian train line, the country a blanket of pure white and the small settlements barely towns let alone cities.

That night the train crosses the Euro/Asian continental border and berths in the population hub of Ekaterinburg, where Adam and Rachel have another booked hotel room, and they again stroll and stretch their legs before trying some more Russian cuisine.

The endless fields of white continue east of Ekaterinburg and into the depths of Siberia the following morning. Adam watches with interest an older style train passing in the opposite direction. It’s running on two tracks and is driven by diesel engines.

“It’s just a goods train. They connect everywhere too, and cart everything from place to place,” Rachel explains sleepily. She’s trying to cuddle up but rolls over instead.

“And what about across oceans? There’s still big ocean liners for that?”

“Yep. You’ll see when we get to Hong Kong.”

Adam lifts the armrest, creating a love seat. He snuggles, spooning behind Rachel and pulling up their blanket. She smiles back at him and meets his lips, and she takes his hand and places it upon her breast.

“Ooh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about,” Adam whispers into her hair.

“Yes. That’s what I’m afraid of,” she tosses back at him with a giggle.

The bullet train spears onward, and after a final stop in Siberia it heads south and up into the icy highlands of Mongolia. It’s a good six hours before the lights of the city of Ulanbator breaks the pitch darkness. The train only stops for passengers then powers on towards China. It’s daylight again now. Adam watches in fascination as massive industrial cities pass beyond the tinted glass. The air is clear—visibility to the horizon. Nothing lives in the cities other than greenery and wildlife.

Adam and Rachel spend the night and freshen up in a hotel in Beijing before the final Asian leg of their journey has them in the busy seaport of Hong Kong. Adam learns from a local man that this is a shipping and land transport hub for all of the southern Pacific, China, Japan and right through to India. Other ports in Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the Mediterranean service those arms of the grid, linking with several major ports around the American continent.

“That must be us,” Rachel says, indicating a small jet being serviced across the tarmac from where they’re lunching in the airport terminal.

“Oh no. Don’t they have anything bigger?”

“That’s plenty big enough, and I can’t wait to get home now. How about you?”

“Yeah, I never want to see snow again.”

“Oh, you do so. That’s so amazing. It’s so beautiful and clean and fresh.”

“And cold,” Adam adds, getting up and taking Rachel’s free hand.

They cross the tarmac and board the jet. The take-off has Adam gripping his armrests again, the power of the sleek little machine driving him back into his seat. It’s a 6 hour flight, a couple of movies then a meal seeing most of that time pass. The mechanics of this strange new world intrigue Adam. He’s watching clouds out the window and mulling over all he has seen and learnt. Rachel is playing euchre with some people via the device they were using earlier for movies. Adam waits for the game she’s currently playing to end.

“So, I have another question, teacher.”

“Oh yeah? It’s not politics again, is it?”

“Nope. I don’t think so.”

Rachel turns with a smile. “Well, out with it then.”

“Well, it’s obvious to see there’s like zero crime anywhere. There’s no way to steal anything when everything’s free anyway. And you said there’s no prisons or anything anymore… Zero violence.”

“That’s right. There are disputes that require mediation and there’s no shortage of relationship dramas because of people being less than sincere or, I don’t know, just silly and jealous or whatever. There’s no violence or theft or anything, though. It’s all there in the films and books from history but none of that survived the virus.”

“What do you mean, it didn’t survive the virus? How does a virus change people in that way?”

Rachel shrugs. “Well, the virus was just a virus. It made women infertile—almost all women. It wiped out a generation and set us back to square one as a population. Of course it had no effect on psychology. It didn’t change anyone’s propensity to violence or theft. The simple fact of the matter is that no one with that propensity exists today… The reason for that is well researched and a complete mystery.”

“So, it’s like there’s been a selection process. Like judgement has been passed.”

Rachel giggles. “Oh no. I’m not going there thank you very much. I’ll leave it to the scientists to figure it out.”

“But stuff like this was prophesized in scripture, wasn’t it?”

“Thankfully we don’t do scripture anymore. That ended with the virus as well. It’s there in history books but no one preaches or prays anymore. Not publicly or in mass anyway.”

Adam glares incredulously. “No one? Like, there’s no churches and that now? No mosques, temples for worship?”

“No, but wasn’t that all just cultural anyway? Didn’t what people believe and have faith in simply depend on where they were born—into which culture..?” Rachel huffs. “People killing each other in the name of their god and priests raping children..? No thank you… Right and wrong is in your heart, history guy. There’s a direct line right there to every moral answer anyone ever needs. What we have in the world today requires no scripture, and we’re all on exactly the same page. The one that says the power and responsibility is entirely within.”

Rachel turns off her device and settles back in her seat. “And anyway, I think you’re into all that. Or at least Cooper is.”

“What do you mean?”

“I saw the icon on your big screen at home. There’s an online group into all that silly ‘meaning of life’ stuff. Dad’s into it too. Lots of people are.”

Adam takes that in. He doesn’t see how it’s any more absurd than his own presence. “There’s clearly been some sort of selection process, Rachel. Not all people are nice and honest. Most are, but not all.”

Rachel takes a moment to respond. “I’m just glad that for whatever reason the good stuff won. Some of the things from before the virus seemed to be really horrible… It must have been so hard for some of those poorer people.”

Adam nods. “True.”

“And I don’t dismiss people wanting to understand what happened to change things… I don’t know about our souls being judged and there being some kind of selection process, though… I respect peoples’ opinion about all that, but I like to see hard evidence, personally.”

“Hey, me too,” Adam agrees. “I’m just blown away by even being here!”

Rachel tucks her legs up and leans close. She touches Adam’s shirt. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Adam peers down at her face but she doesn’t look up.

“I can’t wait to get back to your place,” she says, blushing a little as her pretty eyes lift.

“Oh yeah?”

She’s biting a lip. She nods. “Yes.”

Adam softly takes her lips. His heart thumps. “Do you mean..?”

She nods again. “If you want to.”

“Oh, I want to!”

“Yeah?” She giggles into the next kiss.

“Damn it, there’s so long to wait now,” Adam groans.

“You can wait, can’t you?”

“Barely.”

Rachel giggles again. “Well, that’s how it should be.”

Part 8

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The Menangle Virus: Part 6

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

Australia to America in the year 2130

Rachel rests her head upon the powerful shoulder of her new love interest. She’s already classified him as such. It’s like she has him all to herself, being the only person on Earth he knows at all. She doesn’t particularly want to introduce him to any of her friends yet, so after only a couple of dances, she suggests a walk in the park. The rain has stopped, the night balmy and dark without any moonlight.

They’re hands brush occasionally as they walk, and Rachel notices the contact each time. She’s listening rather than talking now. He’s rambling about his life. She’s hearing the raspy depth in his voice and enjoying the animation.

Back in his apartment that night, Rachel snuggles up beneath a cotton blanket on the couch. The guy is in bed, has been for an hour or so. He seems to sleep quietly, she has noted. She gets up and sneaks past his open bedroom door to use the toilet. He’s facing the door, on his stomach with an arm bent up under his pillow. He needs a shave. His jaw has darkened throughout the day. His ruffled blond hair looks unnatural now.

Rachel sneaks back to the couch and pulls the blanket up around her ears. There’s glee bubbling over in her belly. They have a train to catch at nine in the morning though, and it’s past one already.

Rachel’s eyes close but spring open again with the time on the wall screen showing 7:15am. She checks on Adam to find him still sleeping. There is the makings of a couple of omelettes in the fridge. She prepares them and coffee, setting the table before going back to the bedroom door. “Morning!” she calls cheerily.

There is no immediate response.

“Adam! Are you awake?”

“Huh?” he swallows, his eyes opening sleepily.

“I have breakfast ready. Quickly while it’s still hot.”

Rachel returns to the table and starts eating. Adam appears from the hallway to his bedroom.

“Morning,” he offers with a smile. “I’m still here.”

“Oh good. Still Adam then?”

“Yeah. Still Adam.”

“Anything at all? Any new memories?”

“No, and I don’t want them anyway. I like it here.” Adam takes a mouthful of omelette. “This is good. Thank you, Rachel.”

“You’re welcome, Adam.”

Their eyes connect. Rachel looks away first.

“So, it’s a train to Brisbane. And that’s, what, only 3 hours?” Adam muses.

Rachel nods. “Then overnight to California… We’ll be there this time tomorrow.”

“Then a train across the states. Should be fun.”

“Definitely! I can’t believe my luck meeting you yesterday. I don’t know what I was going to do with my holidays.”

“And you’ve never been to America, Rachel?”

“No, but we’ll figure it out and find our way. It’s all on the grid.”

“Yep—on the grid. I like the grid,” Adam says, sipping coffee.

“Dad messaged… He’s contacted your boss and put you on sick leave.”

“Oh yeah. That’s good. I wouldn’t know how to find my work let alone actually do it… It’s a farm job, like you said?”

“Yes. In storage and handling apparently.”

Rachel waits for Adam to finish then takes their plates. She brings back the coffee and stands beside him to refill his cup. He looks up at her. She chews a lip.

“Thank you,” he says.

“I need a shower before we go, okay?”

“Sure. Of course…”

Rachel peers down at the guy. She wants to stroke hair over his ear. “You need a shave,” she tells him.

He nods. “Okay, I’ll go after you.” He takes a breath—holds her eyes. “You’re really beautiful,” he says.

Rachel doesn’t answer—just waits.

“It’s confusing, though… Seems so unreal.”

Rachel fiddles with his shirt, her hand upon his shoulder, her eyes having averted. “It seems unreal to me too. Plus I’m trying to get past something. Although, I haven’t been thinking about that at all. Which is good.”

“I know this isn’t a dream now.” Adam states simply. “Don’t know what the hell it is, but it’s definitely happening.”

Rachel meets the man’s eyes again. “I think I like you, Adam… Do you like me?”

“Yes. I’m trying not to grab you.”

“Hmm…” Rachel smiles, her blush rising. She sways closer. A hand slides up her outer thigh and closes over her hip, squeezing. Her shirt fiddling moves to the neckline of Adam’s tee and the back of his neck. She has averted her eyes again but glances and meets his questioning stare. “Maybe just slowly?” she says.

Adam’s smile broadens. “Slowly is good.”

Rachel nods and lifts the coffee pot. She bends and pecks a kiss to Adam’s lips then returns to the kitchen to tidy away breakfast.

*

Later that morning, Rachel and Adam are reclining in soft leather seats as their train flashes through the old city and up the east coast of Australia. The view through the tinted glass is panoramic. The environment within the train cabin is perfect room temperature and silent. The seats recline fully for sleeping. Room allowance is spacious, with a broad walkway through the centre of the vehicle to a dining car at the rear. The in-transit entertainment is individual screen access to the system with any music, book or film ever published, along with local and general television programming.

Rachel has the aisle seat and is relaxing with some music. Adam has his face glued to the window, watching the abandoned buildings, towns and cities flash by.

They reach the settlement at Tamworth within an hour, then the coastal community at Coffs Harbour and the airport at Brisbane by lunch time.

The flight from Brisbane has 12 passengers, the seating similar to that provided for train travel.

“This isn’t a very big plane,” Adam comments. He’s gripping his armrests as the jet surges along the runway.

“You don’t like flying?” Rachel asks. “I love it.”

“I prefer if it’s a huge airbus. This is way too small.”

“Oh, don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe…”

Once the jet reaches cruise altitude, Adam relaxes. It’s mid-afternoon. Rachel had a nap earlier. She’s feeling good—happy. She again has the aisle seat, and she tucks her legs up and faces Adam. He turns his head and looks at her. She’s smiling. He leans and meets her lips. She claims his hand and puts it in her lap, slipping hers within it.

“You really are beautiful, Rachel.”

Rachel feels slightly overweight but is confident she’s quite pretty. She leans across to get another kiss, tilting her head upward as Adam moves over her a little, his lips parting and their fresh new connection deepening this time.

Two children sitting across the aisle are watching with interest. Rachel rolls her eyes from them to meet Adam’s mock guilty frown and smile. “We have to behave,” she whispers under her breath.

“Until later?”

“Hmm… Until, we’ll see…” Rachel retorts playfully, and she keeps Adam’s hand in her lap as the hour passes and dinner is served.

Night then comes on fast as the small jet rockets east across the Pacific. It comes on and ends within 5 hours, the travellers touching down at LAX at 7 in the morning local time.

The city of Los Angeles has a population of nearly 3000 and is one of the largest in the world. “Apparently the new city was going to be somewhere up in the mountains here too before they decided to reclaim Hollywood,” Rachel tells Adam. She’s reading a tourist brochure as the shuttle zooms through the abandoned, overgrown streets.

“So, they still make movies here?” Adam asks.

“Yes. Plus it’s a big holiday destination for Americans and people from overseas as well.” Rachel slips her hand into Adam’s and watches out his window. It seems he gets the window seats now.

Buildings and streets come to life as the ocean appears to the left of the shuttle. It slows and glides along a boulevard and stops at a platform. Rachel and Adam follow the other passengers alighting and wander into an open-air mall where eateries are starting up and people are strolling around in beachwear.

“How long have we got again?” Adam checks.

“The train is at 11:20. We’ll need to be back at the airport by then.”

Rachel puts down the menu. “I’m having the toasted ham and tomato.”

Adam nods. “I’m going the big breakfast. I’m starving.”

“And you’re still here. That’s two nights now.”

“Yep. Still here.” Adam looks around. “Is this Malibu Beach?”

“I think it’s Santa Monica… They still use Malibu, though. It’s not far from here, I think.”

“We should have brought swimmers. It’s nearly warm enough.”

“We could get some. There’s no shortage of shops here.”

Adam shrugs. “Should we?”

“Definitely! You can’t visit California without going for a swim.”

“And checking out Hollywood.”

“Yes. That too,” Rachel agrees, waving to a buxom woman waiting tables. “I say we eat then shop then swim then jump in a pod and say take us to Rodeo Drive.”

Adam laughs and squeezes Rachel’s hand that he’s holding on the table. They order their breakfasts and spend the morning walking on the beach in warm winter sun, wading a little but not going all the way in due to how cold the water is.

The pod whisks them through newly refurbished residential areas all the way to the heart of the new city. They stroll the streets there taking in the preserved history and find a tour of the film studios but don’t have time to take it.

“But we could come back,” Rachel gushes, feeling childish and silly, and thoroughly alive.

They’re waiting for the shuttle to the airport. Adam is leaning against the wall of a glass shelter holding both of Rachel’s hands. She rocks against him, keeping her head up and accepting his kiss. It’s about the hundredth kiss for the day and not enough. Rachel puts her arms around Adam’s neck and moans softly into his mouth. His arms close around her waist, their bodies pressing warmly together. Their kiss deepens, passion rising as Adam’s big hands begin to feel and massage Rachel’s sides. She’s on tiptoes and swooning into the taste and idea of a new man.

They have spectators again. There’s a small gathering awaiting the shuttle. Rachel pushes back and tugs at her dress, straightening it. She smooths her hair down and sheepishly peers around. Public displays of affection are different for her—not entirely uncomfortable, but new and kind of scary.

She leads the way holding Adam’s hand when the shuttle arrives. It’s a 15 minute run to the airport where they board their train headed east. The big comfy seat swallows Rachel—that and her tiredness from the eerily short night on the plane. She’s dozing off when Adam covers her with her cardigan and gives her a kiss on the forehead, and she claims his hand and snuggles up with it.

*

Adam’s eyes are heavy but the view of a defunct and crumbling America through the tinted glass window is too fascinating to miss. The train winds up into mountains and spears out into the desert. There’s a stop at a new city about 2 hours in where the signage on the old highway points to Las Vegas. The next settlement is at a snow-covered Salt Lake City. Another two hours through the frozen Rocky Mountains brings the travellers to their destination of Denver, Colorado.

Rachel and Adam hurry shivering from the train to a pod. “The Benson Hotel please,” Rachel says and clasps her woollen gloved hands together over her nose. “It’s so freezing here!”

The pod zooms off along a street and around a corner. It stops at The Benson and zooms away when Rachel and Adam alight. They hurry into the warmth of the building with their wheelie bags and are allocated their separate rooms.

“Have you had enough to eat?” Rachel asks at her door. “We could go find somewhere if you like.”

“I’m okay. That was a big dinner on the train.”

Rachel nods, peering up from where she’s clutching Adam’s coat in front. “I just want a nice hot bath and to go to sleep.”

“Sounds like a good idea. We have to find this university first thing.”

“Yeah… It won’t be far. The pod will find it.”

Adam takes a small kiss. “Your nose is cold.”

Rachel sniffs. “I know it is. It’s freezing.”

“Okay, go and get warm… See you at about 8?”

Rachel lifts for another kiss, her lips parting as Adam presses his to them. “Good night,” she says sweetly and backs away.

Adam spends a while under a hot shower then gets into bed to stare up at the ceiling, alone for the first time since the men from Oakdale found him waiting on the street back in Sydney the other day. He’s no closer to any kind of inkling of an idea of what’s going on than he was then. He closes his eyes and the exciting and powerfully alluring thought of Rachel fills his mind as he drifts off to sleep.

June 19, 2028

Nurse Patricia Holmes dabs at the sweaty brow of her new patient Adam O’Malley. She opens his shirt and wipes his chest then rinses her cloth in the bowl of warm water before cleaning under his arm and wiping down to his hand. Patricia is new to nursing and unsure how she’s going to cope with intensive care. Apparently this man’s operation was a success and he should recover quickly. She likes his face—sees it as plain, like her own. There had been a woman visiting the previous night who told the man’s mother and sister that this wasn’t her problem—that things had ended and it wasn’t her place to be sitting by his bed or anything.

Patricia replaces that arm and moves to the other, warming her cloth again and tending to her patient.

December 11, 2130

Adam opens his eyes to the odd-looking chrome lightshade he remembers from the previous night. He braves the cold and gets out of bed. The street outside the window is white. Pods are zooming around, people rugged up in their winter coats and scarfs are hurrying about.

There’s an urgent knock on the door. “Are you awake, Adam?” It’s Rachel. She peers in.

“Yes. What’s up?” Adam goes to her.

“I was just talking to Dad… There’s more now… More people like you, with this identity thing… There’s thousands of them.”

“Thousands?”

“Yes. They’re reporting in from everywhere… Exactly like you.”

“Shit!”  Adam rubs his head. “So, what am I supposed to do now?”

“Nothing. They still want to see you at the university… There are others right here in Denver now, though. And back home in Ascot. Everywhere!”

“Wow. This is way freaky. This is getting super freaked out now.”

“I know. Are you okay?” Rachel cuddles up.

“I’m okay… This is actually good… It’s better to be one of many.”

“And you still feel fine? Not remembering anything about Cooper?”

“Nope. Nothing! Absolute zero.” Adam shrugs. “But I remember you.” He takes a kiss.

“Eww. Morning breath,” Rachel complains and pushes him along. “Go and get freshened up.”

Adam does as he’s told. An hour later he’s lying on an examination table with electrodes stuck to his forehead and temples. He’s made to lie there for the entire morning while his brainwave activity is monitored and recorded. Rachel is sitting with him, chatting and passing the time. He’s given a break for lunch, but in the afternoon the doctor administers a mild sedative, and Adam doesn’t wake again until late that night.

After a meal at the university cafeteria, Adam and Rachel meet with another of the doctors on the research team. She’s a young woman, about Rachel’s age, Adam guesses. She sits at her desk and takes a moment to examine something on her screen before looking up from that.

“Put simply, there is no sign or evidence of any conflict within the memory components of your brain, Adam. If there is another personality or any kind of identity in there, it is completely dormant.”

“So, Cooper James Davis is either unconscious or gone?”

The doctor acknowledges that with a tilt of her head and brow lift.

“And what about the others who have had this for a while? Are they the same?” Rachel enquires.

“Yes,” the doctor answers mildly.

“So, you’re none the wiser as to what’s going on?” Adam asks.

The doctor nods. “That’s correct. There are more cases being reported every hour. All with exactly the same symptoms as you have… My own husband believes he’s a man from Florida born in 1984. He last recalls being much older—in his late 50s.”

“And he doesn’t even recognise you?” Rachel asks kindly.

“No…”

“I’m sorry,” Adam offers.

The doctor smiles, her eyes teary. “Thank you.”

“Okay, so what now?” Rachel asks practically. “What should we do?”

“We’re waiting for advice. It’s all quite chaotic, as you can imagine with so many people inflicted. We’re just asking for the families to try and keep people calm. There seems to be no physical symptoms at all, which is something at least.”

“Wow, this is crazy… And everyone’s from my time, like your husband?” Adam asks.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know that. From what I’ve seen so far, that does seem to be the common pattern.”

Rachel stands. “Okay, and we’re free to go?”

“Yes. Of course.”

Adam catches up and strides along with Rachel. They take a pod back to the hotel. The following morning they’re headed further east. Small cities near Lincoln, Des Moines, Chicago and Columbus are whistle stops for the bullet train. A flight out of Washington D.C. has Adam and Rachel into Geneva, Switzerland that night.

Part 7

Download the PDF or eBook

 

The Menangle Virus: Part 5

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

New city Ascot, the year 2130

Adam flops on the couch. “I know when I wake up in the morning I’m going to be back to normal. There’s no way I’m still going to be here.”

Rachel sits beside the guy, facing him. “So, you’re Cinderella now? You have until midnight, do you?”

He chuckles. “Yeah, sounds about right.” He kicks off his shoes. “Don’t know about these glass slippers, though. I’ve got to have a shower and find something normal to wear.”

Rachel nods. “Okay… Can I snoop around a bit?”

Adam looks side to side and shrugs. “Sure.”

Rachel has dispensed with the strange feeling of familiarity and flashes of knowledge about Patricia Holmes. She’ll tell her dad about it later. She stands back up with her new and interesting holiday project and follows him into the main bedroom. He finds clothing in a drawer and wardrobe and leaves her there alone. She looks around. One side of the bed is pulled back and ruffled, the other side untouched. She checks the wardrobe and finds no women’s clothing. She runs fingers along a dusty dressing table on the way out of the decidedly manly smelling room.

Rachel checks a spare room that’s completely empty. The laundry is in need of a mop. There’s a washing machine and dryer and an ironing board folded down with some clothes slung over it. There’s a cane basket with clothes to be washed. There’s fresh meat and vegetables in the fridge, along with some other basics and beer. The guy definitely lives alone and rarely entertains any women, if at all, Rachel decides. She picks up a 21st century Sydney travel book from one of the piles and sits at a small timber dining table browsing it while waiting.

Adam comes from the shower after only a few minutes. “That’s better.” He has on blue denim jeans and a white V-neck tee-shirt.

“I agree,” Rachel says, looking him over.

“Thank you.” He smiles and pats his stomach. “You’re right, I’m actually a bit chubby in real life.”

Rachel holds his eyes. “Same.”

His smile ends, his gaze remaining clear and sincere. “Well, I can see why I dreamed you just the way you are, Rachel.” His smile returns. “If you don’t mind me saying.”

Rachel glances down and back up the guy’s body. “I don’t mind,” she tells him. “Maybe I’m dreaming too.”

He takes that in with a slow nod. “Okay, so what now, dream girl?”

“It isn’t far to the hospital where my dad works. We could walk.”

The screen on the wall jingles with an incoming call. Rachel hasn’t logged off. It’s her father.

“Hey, Daddy.”

“Hello, love. Where are you? I’ve just been speaking with your mother.”

“We’re just stopped in at Adam’s apartment. We’ll be there in five minutes.”

“Okay, love…”

Rachel logs off.

“That was your dad?” Adam asks, grinning.

“I know… Sorry.”

“He looks like a mad scientist or something.”

“He needs a haircut… And he is a mad scientist.”

“Right. Too perfect. He looks like that. We mention going to see him now and he calls… This has got to be a dream.”

Rachel offers a shrug this time. She leads the way and turns back from the corridor outside of the apartment. “You can’t lock it. There is no lock.”

“But what about Cooper’s stuff—privacy?”

“No one’s going to go inside uninvited. Who would do that?”

“I don’t know… A thief.”

Rachel rolls eyes. “Come on, it’s going to rain. Let’s hurry.”

It’s three blocks to the hospital. They arrive drenched. The man at reception hands over towels, which they keep. Rachel’s father has an office in the administration section of the building on the ground floor. She leads Adam along and knocks on the open door.

“Hi, Daddy.”

“Hello, love. Come in… And this must be Adam? Come and take a seat.”

“Hello, Doctor..?”

“Hayes. Doctor Kepler Hayes. I have your diagnostics here… Darling, thank you. That will be fine.”

“What? Do I have to leave?” Rachel asks.

“I don’t mind if Rachel stays,” Adam says quickly.

The doctor frowns. “And what are you up to, darling? Don’t let my daughter push you around, Adam.”

“I’m not pushing him around. I know what’s happening and I want to help.”

“Alright. Sit… Now, Adam, any change? Any memory recall? Headaches?”

“No. We’ve just come from this Cooper guy’s apartment and nothing there is familiar. Except he has research about me.”

“He has links to all available information about Adam, Daddy. From his whole life.”

The doctor nods. “Yes, there has been other cases of this recently. You are the eighth reported in the past fortnight, Adam.”

“And all the others think they’re someone from history too?” Rachel asks.

“Yes. All have experienced some kind of identity transference with people from the early 21st century… It’s quite a phenomenon, but so far no one has experienced any physical health issue… We’re hopeful whatever is happening will prove to be temporary.”

“Physically, I feel fine. Never better,” Adam says with a shrug. “My mind is clear too. If this is a dream it’s amazingly lucid.”

“No, you’re not dreaming,” the doctor assures. “I’m sure it’s very confusing for you.”

“So, what is it, Dad? Even you aren’t going to suggest time travel, I hope.”

“Feels exactly like time travel to me,” Adam claims. “Apparently right now I’m supposed to be in a hospital after being in a bus crash. Or at least given the normal passing of time, that’s where I’d be.”

The doctor rubs his silver-bearded chin. “Yes. And most probably unconscious in or after surgery.” He checks a screen mounted on his desk and addresses it, “Note Adam O’Malley was most likely unconscious at the time his identity manifested within the mind of Cooper James Davis.”

“What, so Adam’s mind leaves his unconscious body and zooms a hundred years into the future?” Rachel scoffs.

Her father glares.

“Well, what’s going on, Dad? Where are these other people?”

“From all over: Iran, Kenya, two from Europe, one from Russia, China and America… There’s a team getting organized. They’d like you to report to a clinic in Denver, Colorado, Adam. Would you be willing to do that?”

Adam’s eyes have widened. “As in the US? America?”

“Yes. It’s about a days’ travel by train and air. We can send an escort with you. You’ll be well taken care of.”

A rush of excitement fills Rachel. “I can take him.”

Her father frowns at her.

“Well, I could… Why not? Don’t you guys have enough to do here?”

“Would you be willing to make this trip, Adam?”

“Yes, I suppose… I’d prefer to travel with Rachel rather than have to meet a stranger. This is all strange enough.”

“I don’t have school. I’ve got no commitments, Dad.”

“Yes, well, it would save us a nurse, I suppose.”

“Exactly. Nurses have important work here. No point having them sitting around on trains and planes for a week when these identity jumpers are otherwise perfectly healthy and just need a guide.”

Adam chuckles. “This is seriously freaky. I know I’m going to wake up in my own body tomorrow.”

“Unless you’re still unconscious. That’s interesting,” the doctor says, rubbing his chin again.

“What, so you are thinking some sort of leap through time?” Adam asks.

“I don’t know… I’m willing to learn something new, and this is the strangest thing I’ve ever come across.”

“Huh. Tell me about it.” Adam rests back with his hands behind his head. “I’m supposed to die in 4 years. Even if it were possible for your mind to leap through time—which is ridiculous—why wouldn’t that be at the point of death rather than just being unconscious? And why haven’t other unconscious people woken up and told about such an experience?”

“I don’t know, Adam. But this is the first time in recorded history anything like this has been reported to have happened,” the doctor offers supportively.

Adam looks from Rachel to her father. “And what became of Cooper? He just vanished—winked out of existence?”

“The research team will come up with something, son… This is beyond the expertise of anyone here, but they’ll figure it out.”

“And until then I’m right here for you,” Rachel says softly. “You’re not alone here.”

Adam meets her eyes steadily. “Thanks, Rachel… Thank you so much.”

Rachel’s blush rises. She glances away and looks to her dad. She smiles. “So, all expenses paid?”

“Hmm… Within reason.”

“Can we come back the long way? It wouldn’t cost much more doing it privately.”

“I’m not sure. I’ll attach authority to your profile, darling. I’ll need to clear it and there’ll be a budget.”

“Okay, Daddy. Can we go now? I’ll probably stay at Adam’s place tonight… Is that okay, Adam?”

Adam nods. “Yeah sure. Of course.” His cheeks have reddened.

Rachel motions to the door. “Come on, I’ll show you our city then we’ll go book our trip… This is so exciting.”

*

Adam follows Rachel from the doctor’s office and catches up. “I want to see the city.”

“I know… There’s a shuttle from here that does a loop through the shopping and social sector. You saw the houses and apartments on the way in and the other side is all boring old factories and warehouses.”

“So, what sort of social stuff is there? Restaurants and clubs?”

“Yep. There’s a huge virtual reality centre for the kids and men who never grow up. Would you like that kind of thing?”

“What sort of virtual reality?”

“Flight simulation with jets and space ships or car or boat racing and that, and sky-diving and zero-gravity things. Or weird adventure games where you become a character and walk through all sorts of animated scenery and fight things or whatever. I don’t know. It all just gives me motion sickness. You can try it all if you like. I can go window shopping.”

“Well, what else is there? What do you like to do?”

“For fun, I like dancing.”

“Dancing? Like, nightclub—pumping music?”

“Sometimes… Or my girlfriends and I usually go to the Friday night ball. We get to wear nice gowns, and the men wear fine cut suits and smell really good. And they take hold of you and sweep you into the music.”

“Oh… I’m not much of a dancer.”

Rachel tosses a smile back over her shoulder as she walks aboard a shuttle. “Too bad, history guy.”

“I mean, it’s probably all changed now. I used to know how to do a couple of basic dances.”

“I don’t think they ever change. It’s really old fashioned.”

The shuttle has 12 seats, 3 of them occupied by normal looking people. Adam doesn’t know what he expects people to look like, but so far there hasn’t been any weird fashion or anything—nothing that would have surprised in the 2020s.

The seats are in doubles either side of an aisle. Rachel sits by the window and he looking across her as the shuttle glides off along a single rail. The movement is smooth and silent, rain spattering the tinted glass, the air clean and warm as it blows from above.

Adam’s shirt is almost dry, as is Rachel’s blouse by the look of it. She looks younger than Adam at 34. He figures she’s probably mid-twenties. The body Adam is in could be late twenties or early thirties, he estimates. He’s stealing glances at Rachel’s womanly curves as the shuttle moves through a city park and enters a street of shops and restaurants. It stops, and the three other passengers disembark while others board and take seats.

“The cinema is in there,” Rachel says, pointing out a broad glassed building with a couple of groups of teenagers sitting on the steps. “I like movies on the big screen—especially the old ones.”

“It would all be 3D now?” Adam asks. He’s looking along the street ahead where there are alfresco cafés and people everywhere.

“Most of the old movies are still in original format,” Rachel tells him. “Do you like movies?”

“Yeah sure. I like any true stories. Don’t mind an action flick on the big screen.”

“Cool.” Rachel glances with a smile but quickly averts her gaze.

“What’s that?” Adam asks about a huge dome shaped building they’re passing as the shuttle does an arc around it.

“Sports centre… Swimming, squash, gymnasiums… There are playing fields over there for all the kids’ sports.”

The shuttle has dropped off and picked up other passengers and is heading back towards the big city park, along another street with lots of people strolling and shops and eateries lining both sides. It reaches the park and stops in front of a large stone building with tall pillars shrouding the entry.

“This is us,” Rachel says and pushes Adam to get up. She slips past and leads him from the shuttle. “Are you hungry again yet?”

“Yeah, I could eat.”

“Do you like Asian?”

“Sure. Satay anything is good. Or a curry.”

Rachel leads past the stone building that appears to be a Town Hall. Across the street is alfresco dining under cover from the rain. “That was where we have our Friday night ball but it’s not for a few hours yet.”

“At the Town Hall?”

“Yep. Do you want to go later? There’s lots of slow dancing music as well as the ballroom stuff.”

“Yes, I want to go. There was a nice dark suit back in the wardrobe.”

“I know… I saw,” Rachel tosses over her shoulder with a smile.

Adam’s chest is warm with tingles of euphoria. The idea of seeing this woman in any kind of ball gown has his imagination sparking. Right now she looks good in business day slacks and sensible shoes. She has their table. He sits opposite. Her brows rise. “Does Cooper have any credit? I’m so broke this week.”

“Credit?” Adam chuckles. “How can I find out?”

“Ask your device.”

Adam addresses the device on his wrist. “Do I have any credit?” The number 3,756 appears.

Rachel is rubber-necking to have a look. “Yes! Can we spend some?”

“I don’t know. Is that a lot?”

“We only get 200 a week. 3000 would pay for our whole America trip easily.”

“What do you mean, we get 200? All of us?”

Rachel nods. “Yep. That’s the basic wage for us adults. Kids get less.”

“What, for all adults?”

“Yes. It’s standard. If you do more than your 20 hours or have a business or some sort of sports or artistic talent you can make more. Or if you just work overtime or have a second job… But I don’t. So, I’m always broke. Plus I’m wasting credit on this stupid apartment, but that’s a long story.”

“Okay. So, that’s all way interesting,” Adam responds curiously.

“Really? No…” Rachel turns around a menu. “That’s a good curry… Your shout, right?”

Adam chuckles. “Cooper’s shout.”

Rachel’s smile lights up and she waves over a young waiter. “We’ll have the curry times two, a white wine and..?”

“Beer?” Adam asks.

“A beer,” Rachel tells the waiter. “And some more bread rolls, please? These won’t do.” She hands one of the two bread rolls to Adam. “Try that.”

“Well, what did you mean by kids getting less, at least? Do kids get paid?”

Rachel swallows her bite of bread roll. “Pocket money credit starts at age 10 and goes up each year until 21. Commitment is 20 hours of school or work until age 60, and optional after that. If you run a business or are a talented sportsperson or actor or something you can do that instead…” She ends with a shrug. “It’s pretty simple. If you don’t like it you can go live off the grid in one of the old cities or whatever. People do, but usually not for long.”

Adam is nodding, taking in the information and imagining it. “Okay… That makes sense… The grid? Everything’s connected?”

“Yep. Government is in Switzerland. We could probably stop there on our way back. It’s a nice trip through Europe and across to China. I’ve only ever been once when I was really young.”

“Government? Like the government? One government?”

Rachel takes a big breath and huffs. “Ask Dad. He’ll talk your head off about all that boring stuff.”

Adam chuckles. “Yeah, but I won’t even be here when I wake up tomorrow, don’t forget.”

“Hmm. Good point.” Rachel grabs Adam’s wrist and turns it to show his device. “Say record message to self.”

Adam complies.

“Now repeat after me… Hi. I’m Adam O’Malley living in this body.”

Adam complies again. “Hi. I’m Adam O’Malley living in this body.”

“And this is my cool new friend, Rachel.” Rachel leans forward to look at the screen and smiles.

Adam chuckles. “And this is my cool new friend, Rachel.”

She goes on, “And in case I remember none of this tomorrow, believe everything she says.”

Adam’s laughing now. He controls that. “And in case I remember none of this tomorrow, don’t believe a word she says.”

“Hey you!” She addresses the screen again. “Believe everything, because I’m honest…” She smiles. “See? I’m a teacher. You can trust me.”

They both have a laugh, eyes connecting. Adam’s feeling intense attraction now. He senses it in Rachel too. “Are you sure you don’t know Cooper?”

“I’m sure…”

“There’s just something familiar about you. It feels like I know you.”

Rachel bites a lip, her cheeks flushing slightly, her eyes holding Adam’s. He glances at her lips. They’re sitting a metre apart across the small table. Adam takes a breath.

Rachel looks away, peering about at other people seated and walking by. Conversation then resumes and remains light through a meal and a few drinks. Rachel directs their pod to her sister’s house in the family residential sector of the city. Adam is entertained by a happy yet sick young couple with a new baby while Rachel packs her bag for their trip to America.

Later that night with an orchestra playing slow dance music at the Town Hall, Adam takes Rachel’s hand. It’s the first time he has initiated any kind of even remotely intimate contact and the thrill of it is coursing through his veins.

She sways against him. He holds her close. She’s soft and submissive, her back bare. “Is this okay?” he breathes into her pretty hair.

“Yes…”

Part 6

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The Menangle Virus: Part 4

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

Pod to new city Ascot, the year 2130

After lunch and catching up for an hour, Rachel gives her mother a parting hug outside the Community Clinic. She never got to mention Kelvin—never even thought of him. Adam is waiting in the pod—checking it out. Rachel climbs in and sits beside him. It’s the same pod she rode in on the way down from the mountain.

“Nice seats,” Adam comments.

“Yeah. It’s hard to stay awake in them on this trip.”

The pod quietly moves off through the main street of the old village, which is the home of around 80 or so elderly residence. Rachel’s mother spends her working week there and has an apartment up in Ascot not far from her husband—their relationship being that of an independent couple and quite common for the times. They often vacation together and date or sleep over, but maintain separate residences.

“I kind of remember this area,” Adam says while gazing out at the old city suburb flashing by. “I had friends who lived out here.”

“And where did you live? We should go check it out.”

“Liverpool. It’s not far—about 20 kilometres in towards the city.”

“I know where that is,” Rachel says. “What did you do there? Are you married? Kids?”

“No, I just separated from a girlfriend but was hoping to get back with her. I actually worked right in the city, as a rent-a-cop.”

“A rent-a-cop?”

Adam smiles. “Door security. Fill up a uniform and stand there all day.”

“Oh… Well, a job’s a job.” Rachel yawns and stretches. “Wow, this trip puts me to sleep every time.”

“I’m sleepy too but this is all way interesting. It’s amazing how everything is still here but just overgrown.”

“Yeah, well it all ended kind of slowly. There was just no one to use the houses anymore, and everything closed down. Then there were quarantine restrictions around the new cities for the first 20 or so years—until the last trace of the Menangle Virus had gone. Then those people back there moved down to be closer to their families, and there was a service centre built for them.”

Adam turns from the window. “So Menangle Virus, as in the town called Menangle just south of here?”

“Yes. Exactly. That was ground zero in April 2030. It came from a bat colony on the Nepean River at Menangle. There was a piggery there and the virus mutated from bats to pigs to people. It had spread worldwide before the original outbreak and infection was traced back to Menangle. It spread so fast the old generation never knew what hit them until it was too late.”

“Wow… Awesome!” Adam muses. “It’s strange. It was all about climate change and the impact we were having on the planet. It’s like nature stepped in and hit reset.”

Rachel yawns and stretches back in her seat, tucking up her legs. “That’s precisely what nature did. She hit the reset button on us. Made us start over… It’s all in the system now—the population growth planning. It’s not going to be allowed to go anywhere near the 7 billion again.”

Rachel closes her eyes in the sun. She’s dozing off when Adam speaks again. “So, you’re a teacher, Rachel?”

“Yeah. Primary school. Six weeks’ vacation time until the New Year now.”

“And what’s that like—teaching kids?”

“It’s great. I love it.”

“And are you married? Kids of your own?” Adam goes on without looking.

Rachel’s face heats with a small blush. “Um, no. Same as you—just separated.” She had taken note of this guy’s nice physique and his smile and eyes at first glance. She looks at his face. “But then again, it’s only Adam who’s the love-life-loser like me. Who knows what the go is with Cooper? His wife might be waiting at home right now.”

“Shit. That’s true, I suppose. Do people still wear a ring when they’re married?” Adam shows his ring-free fingers.

“Usually,” Rachel explains. “Could be a pretty girlfriend, though.”

Adam shrugs. “There’s a couple of girls in my phone contacts.”

“But no one’s called you?” Rachel is still blushing a bit. This guy has a habit of drilling with his eyes, she has noticed. And she kind of likes it with him.

“No. I’ve only spoken to my parents—apparently my parents… Your mum spoke to them too. They’re on a cruise and can’t get back for a few weeks.”

“Can I see your contacts? I might know one of them by chance.”

Adam addresses his device.

“Do it on the screen there,” Rachel instructs. “Left thumb to the bottom left corner and say whatever you want the system to do.”

Adam presses his thumb. “Contacts list please.”

His contacts fill the screen. Rachel looks them over. “Nope. I’ve seen a few of those faces but don’t know any of them. It looks like you work at the community farms. Cool.”

“What do you mean?”

“There. AFP. Ascot Fresh Produce. That’s the control centre for farming. You probably work there would be my guess. You look kind of outdoorsy.”

“I do?”

Rachel nods, biting a lip. “Your hands.”

Adam inspects his hands. “Yeah, I guess…”

Rachel takes a breath and glances away as he looks at her. She fiddles with her blouse, tugging at it—her chest up and forward, her cheeks heating again as the guy’s eyes flash over her before he turns back to his contacts on the screen.

“I guess I could call some of these people, but I don’t know what to say.”

“You could check your call log to see if any of them call you often.”

“Oh yeah. Good idea… Do I just press the screen and say what I want?”

“You don’t need to touch the screen again now that you’re logged on. The system recognises your voice and the inflection when you’re talking to it.”

“Really? Um, call history please? Calls received.”

That information appears as a list on screen. Rachel scans it. The calls are infrequent.

“Doesn’t look like Cooper uses the phone much,” Adam suggests. “Calls made please?” he says to the system, and an even sparser list appears.

“That’s okay. Probably more of a doer than a talker,” Rachel suggests. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Log off please,” Adam tells the system. “Is that it?” he checks with Rachel.

“Yes. You’re logged off now.”

“And you can do that with any screen?”

Rachel nods. “Yes. Any community device. They’re supplied everywhere. Or you can use your little wrist one you have there, but the display’s a bit small. I carry a pocket one in my purse.”

“And the system? What’s the system?”

“Um, good question… I’m not much of a tech-head. It’s like all the data we each have stored plus all the interaction from the government and everything on the internet. It’s just everything, and you access it through your profile when you log on.”

“And it’s secure?” Adam goes on with a thoughtful frown.

“I don’t know… I don’t know what that means… It just works. Everyone uses the system for everything. We teach it from age 6 at school.”

Adam is nodding. “Hmm… Interesting… I still think I’m going to wake up from all this in the morning, but it’s way interesting.”

Rachel gives the guy a mock glare. “So you don’t think I’m real, huh?”

Adam chuckles. His face colours slightly. “Nice dream, though.”

Rachel holds his eyes and smile. “Hmm… I think we should check out your place before we go find my dad. Let’s see who Cooper James Davis is?”

“Shit yeah. Can we do that?”

“New destination,” Rachel tells the control screen. “Address of Cooper James Davis, please?” The address comes up on screen and the distance and estimated time of arrival adjusts to the new destination. “Apartment 4B. Don’t forget.”

“Got it. 4B,” Adam says. “This is nice here.”

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I love the forest.”

“And we’re climbing. I can feel it in my ears.”

“I know. We’re going to the top of the mountains. It’s not far, though.”

Adam nods, patting his seat. “Pods are cool. I like pods.”

“Only way to travel,” Rachel agrees with another yawn. “Sorry, I have to close my eyes for a minute… Wake me when you see a city, okay?”

“Okay. Have a sleep. I’ll be quiet.”

Rachel dozes then drifts into a deep sleep. It’s half an hour later when her travel companion taps her shoe.

“This looks like a city.”

They are already in the community apartments sector. The pod zooms around a corner and stops at a long, glassy, three-level building named Greystanes.

“Yep, this is you,” Rachel says and can’t help another yawn as she stretches. “Nice spot, Cooper, whoever you are.”

They enter the building and find on the plan that apartment 4B is on the second level. They take the stairs.

“What about a key? I don’t have one,” Adam says.

Rachel considers that, thinking of the old pre-virus movies she watches all the time. “There are no keys these days, Adam.” They are at the apartment door. Rachel backs through and holds it open for Adam to enter. She looks around a cluttered living room with the guy. There are old books and stacks of newspapers. “Wow. This is cool. You must be some sort of explorer or something. This is all from down there in the old city.”

Adam is in the kitchen facing the fridge. Rachel approaches beside him. There’s a picture of a man pinned with a Harley Davidson magnet. “That’s me,” Adam says blankly.

Rachel takes the photo. “This? This is you?”

“Yep. That’s me. Adam O’Malley.”

“Adam O’Malley,” Rachel echoes, reading the hand written name on the back of the photograph. “So you were chubby too.”

Adam frowns in protest. He shrugs with both hands turned up. “What am I doing on this guy’s fridge?”

“Looks like you’ve been researched. Which makes sense.”

“Researched?” Adam looks around. “Will that screen on the wall there work? Is it just a TV?”

“It would be set to your voice. You don’t need to thumb it. Just talk to it.”

Adam walks into the living room and faces the wall screen. “Stored or previously researched information about Adam O’Malley please?” The screen flicks on and displays a series of links and a notepad icon. Adam taps the notepad. It expands to show a list of dates and events. “This is all from government records or schools and workplaces,” Adam says. “There’s my driver’s licence. My passport.”

“These links would be to those records,” Rachel suggests. She’s examining the links. “What about this one?” She taps the screen and a news article about a car accident pops up.

“Yeah, there’s a death certificate at the end of the notes,” Adam says. “April 17, 2032. Four years from now, in my real time.”

A flood of trepidation and sorrow fills Rachel. She waits. The man beside her stands staring at the screen for a moment. He’s wringing his hands, his jaw set, his brow furrowed.

“Okay, so I’m going to die soon. In a car accident at Camden. With whoever that is.”

There’s a picture of a woman in the article. It’s small. Rachel looks closely, her heart quickening. She taps the image and it expands to a grainy picture half filling the screen. “Oh wow! Who is that?”

Adam shakes his head. “I don’t know. I’ve never met her as far as I know.”

Rachel closes the pic and checks the name in the article. “Patricia Holmes.”

Adam shrugs.

“She was a nurse,” Rachel utters—the thought flashing to mind.

Adam looks at her. She glances at him them turns back to the screen, thumbing it. “New window… Image of Nurse Patricia Holmes of Sydney 2030.” An image of the woman’s nursing registration card appears on screen: Born 2 Feb, 2001.

“How did you know that?” Adam asks. “How did you know she was a nurse?”

“I don’t know… Her face—her name… It just came to me. Clear as day.” Rachel’s gut tightens, her heart suddenly heavy. “She wanted a baby but couldn’t.”

“So, you’re remembering her?” Adam takes Rachel’s hands to face her.

“I don’t know… It’s weird… I don’t know anything else… I’m sure all women wanted to have babies back then.”

Adam huffs. “This is freaky.”

“Tell me about it.”

“No, that’s freaky on top of freaky. Everything was already freaky walking around in some other dude’s body a hundred years in the future… It’s like you’re turning into a part of my dream story now… I used to write sci-fi when I was a kid. This is pretty good.”

“But I’m not a dream or some silly sci-fi character. This is real.”

Part 5

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The Menangle Virus: Part 3

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

 

(Oakdale clinic, edge of abandoned city of Sydney, December 8th 2130)

“So, no headaches at all? Nausea?”

“Nope. I feel physically fine.”

Adam watches the doctor type on a touch-screen keypad. She swings back around in her chair and looks at him, frowning in thought. “And you have absolutely no memory of being Cooper James Davis?”

“Nope. Zero recollection and a pretty fierce disbelief.”

The doctor smiles. “Fair enough.” She does a little shrug. “Well your MRI detected nothing of concern. Your vitals are perfect… I’d like to refer you to another doctor, up in the new city.”

“The new city? Where’s that?”

The doctor points. “In the mountains. About 45 minutes in a pod.”

Adam rubs his chin. “Does a pod fly?” He doesn’t like flying much. Certainly not in anything small.

“No. It goes along a rail on the ground. It’s perfectly safe.”

“Oh, okay. And what kind of doctor is this other one—a shrink?”

Beneath the white coat being discarded is a normal looking middle-aged woman. She chuckles. “Actually the other doctor is my husband. Who is a general practitioner but yes—a bit of a shrink too.”

“So, how do I find this pod? How can I get to this new city?” Adam is being ushered from the small examination room.

“Well, you said you were hungry… Would you like to have a sandwich with me? Then I’ll organize you a ride to Ascot.”

“A sandwich? Sure. I’d love to.”

“The cafeteria’s on ground floor. I’m meeting my daughter. Do you mind if I mention your circumstances, Adam? Rachel will be returning home and you could ride with her. She’ll take you to the clinic and introduce you to her father.” The doctor presses G on the elevator panel. “You prefer I call you Adam?”

“Yes please.” Adam meets her kind eyes. “And thank you.”

“It’s fine… We’ll get to the bottom of this. And meantime you’re in good hands with everyone here. You’ll see.”

The elevator doors open to a clinic waiting area and eatery. Adam is led to a table and introduced to a younger version of the doctor—a woman with long, wavy dark-brown hair and a light, natural looking smile. Her eyes are clear and green. They lock with Adam’s and jolt him with their familiarity.

“Hi. Do I know you?” he blurts anxiously.

“Um…” Rachel grimaces. “Don’t think so. Why?”

“Adam’s a patient of mine, Rach. He’s having a problem with his memory.” The doctor checks with Adam. “Do you remember Rachel from somewhere?”

“No. Forgive me,” Adam tells the younger woman. He’s staring into her eyes again. “Sorry, I just…”

“It’s fine. It must be difficult,” Rachel offers warmly.

“Your father was telling me about something he read recently—about this kind of memory loss and identity transference,” the doctor tells her daughter. “I think there’s been other cases overseas.”

“Oh really? Identity transference? What’s that?” Rachel asks, sitting back as a platter of sandwiches are served.

“Could we have another of these, please?” the doctor asks the young waitress. “Same again.”

“I think identity transference is when you think you’re someone else entirely,” Adam suggests. He motions to himself. “I don’t know who this is, but I have a perfectly clear memory of being me—Adam O’Malley of 2028.”

“2028?” Rachel bites a sandwich.

Adam nods. “Thursday June 15th to be exact.”

The doctor frowns in thought. “That’s actually interesting… Pass me the device please, Rach? No, rather, just log on and search that date, June 15 2028 and Adam O’Malley.”

Rachel does as her mother asks and shrugs. “It says there was a bus accident. 12 victims including one Adam O’Malley.”

“I was on a bus,” Adam utters confusedly. “That’s where I was just before I woke up on that park bench.”

The doctor takes the device and checks some links. She hands it back to her daughter. “Log off please, Rach. I need access.”

Rachel logs off and the Doctor logs on. She searches for a moment. “You were not one of the 3 fatalities, Adam. It seems you survived.”

Adam huffs. “Wow, that’s seriously freaky.”

“I’m sure this is what your father was telling me about. I wasn’t listening because he’s always off on a silly tangent, but I’m sure there have been other recent cases of people waking up as someone from history… I just can’t get hold of him.”

“No. He’s probably listening to his music this afternoon—totally off-line,” Rachel suggests.

“Yes, I figured,” her mother agrees.

“Okay, so it’s now the year 2130?” Adam checks.

Rachel nods. “December 8th. Friday. End of school term. Yay!”

“Darling, be serious,” her mother scolds.

“I’m just saying.”

Adam meets the woman’s smile. Her eyes flash that familiarity at him again.

“I mean, it’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you agree? I mean what—time travel?”

“Hey, I agree. None of this is real,” Adam tosses back and bites into a sandwich. He chews and swallows. “And those guys who brought me here tried to tell me the world was wiped out by some fertility virus and the total population now is only about a million.”

“Nope. It’s closer to 1.2 million. Forecast to reach 1.5 by 2140,” Rachel says. “I think you need better research, funny guy.”

Adam chuckles. “Okay, ask me anything reasonable about the early 21st century and check me on your computer.”

Rachel swallows what she’s chewing and has a sip of water. “I’ve got a better idea. Tell your device there to call Rachel Hayes of Ascot.”

Adam addresses his device. “Call Rachel Hayes of Ascot.”

Rachel’s purse jingles. She takes the device her mother has finished with and presses her thumb to the screen. “Interface.” The screen lights up and she taps it then turns it around. “See the name on the bottom, Cooper James Davis? Voice recognition confirmed.”

Adam returns the challenging grin and turns up his hands in defeat.

The doctor addresses her daughter. “There’s just one little problem, darling.”

“Oh yeah? And what’s that?”

“Adam’s totally in sync with his brain. There’s zero deviation. He’s telling the truth as he knows it.” The daughter looks to her mother. “It’s measurable through brain activity, heart rate and blood pressure, darling. Standard diagnostics… He has absolutely no knowledge of Cooper James Davis or, it would seem, the world today.”

Rachel frowns confusedly. “But he seems fine… You seem fine.”

“I am fine. Just dreaming,” Adam suggests with a shrug.

Rachel’s eyes roll. “What’s that?” She points to something the waitress is carrying.

“What, the phone or whatever she’s holding? Is it to take the orders?”

“No. That’s done audibly through her ear piece and mic. Why is she carrying a device? You have to know what that’s for. It’s red. They’re always red.”

Adam shrugs. “I’m guessing it’s for making a payment then. I kind of thought orders and payments.”

“Yes it’s for making a payment,” Rachel says, less accusingly now. “But you seriously didn’t know that?”

“He doesn’t even know what a pod is, darling,” the doctor says. “Or where Ascot is, even though his home address is right there in the community apartments.”

Adam is holding Rachel’s eyes again. He’s tingling all inside.

“So, you’re for real?”

“Yes.”

“You’re some sort of identity leaper or something? You really think you’re this guy from history?”

Adam glances down. “This isn’t my body… I don’t understand what’s happening.”

Rachel nods. She looks from Adam to her mother. “Okay, I’m in… What can I do to help?”

The doctor smiles. “Rachel, meet Adam from last century. Would you mind taking him to see your father please?”

Part 4

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The Menangle Virus: Part 2

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

December 8, 2130

Rachel Hayes thanks the Barista for her flat white and takes it to a table by the café window. There are two common use devices in the stand on the table. She takes one and places it in front of her, presses her thumb to the lower left corner and says, “Interface.” The device activates and shows her screensaver—her and her ex’s smiling faces pressed cheek to cheek. “Ugh…” Rachel grimaces and taps the call icon. “Eloisa.” Her sister answers immediately.

“Hey, Rach, where are you?”

“I’m having a coffee. I’m going down to see Mum. Do you want to come?”

“I can’t right now. Steven’s come home from work sick.”

“Oh… Is he okay?”

“It’s just the flu… Probably best you stay away, Rach. I’m getting it too.”

Rachel scoffs. “Stay away, huh? And where am I supposed to go exactly?”

Eloisa glares, her brows raised.

“You know, I saw him today… I saw them!”

“Oh shit! Together?”

“Yes together. The scumbag… You’d think he could at least be discrete for a while. They were walking down the street holding hands in broad daylight. Right past work.”

Rachel’s little sister frowns supportively. “Are you okay, Rach?”

Rachel huffs. “I’m fine. I’m more angry than hurt now. I just want to get this stupid market apartment sold so I can be rid of him.”

“Yeah? Angry’s good.”

Rachel swallows at a knot in her throat. Her eyes are suddenly watering. She holds her sister’s gaze on screen. “Anyway, I just wanted to know if you were up for a trip down to see Mum… It’s okay, though, you take care of your man. At least you’ve got a nice one.”

“Okay, go and see Mum, Rach. Tell her all about arsehole Kelvin.”

“Yeah, so she can tell me she told me so again?”

“Well, go and tell Dad then. He’ll know what to do.”

Rachel smiles. “I know. I saw Dad last night… I might actually go and stay with him for a while if you guys are all going to be sick.”

“How long until you can get a community single? Did you check it out today?”

“Yeah, it’s a 6 week waiting list for a temporary. I put my name down.”

“Oh okay. A temp is probably best.”

“Definitely! I want to get a permanent but not by myself. I just can’t wait to get out of this stupid home loan with Kelvin. I’m so broke all the time. I can’t wait till pay day.”

“Do you need some credits? I can transfer some.”

“Oh, could you really? Just 100. I’ll pay you back on Tuesday.”

“Sure, Rach. Is that enough?”

“That’s plenty… Thanks, sis. Love you.”

“Okay. Love you too, Rach. Give Mum a hug for me.”

Rachel taps on the transport icon. “Pod for one, please.” She then quickly checks her email and logs off, returning the device to its holder on the table.

Five minutes later, a pod arrives at the door of the café. Rachel finishes her coffee and waves a thank you to the Barista. She gets in the pod, which is a two-seater, and addresses the command screen. “Oakdale community clinic, please.”

It’s a 45 minute ride from the new community of Ascot to Oakdale, which is the last active settlement on the edge of the old city of Sydney. There’s a direct line for the pod and shuttle services, anywhere off the grid requiring a manual control vehicle—something Rachel is licenced to use but avoids as much as possible. The pods are smooth, fast and completely hands-free. They are also free of any cost, which suits Rachel’s current budgetary situation. She’s more than happy that Kelvin took their private car and the payments for it.

The thought of moving in with her father rolls around in Rachel’s head as the pod zooms through downtown and up into the hills and the streets of community apartments that overlook Ascot. Beyond the built-up sections of the new city are housing estates with both community and market homes mostly populated by bigger families. Rachel’s pod hugs its electro-magnetic rail and carries her out into the community farmland. These valleys of green go on and on to the south and east of Ascot. There’s a large industrial area to the west that ends at the base of a mountain. It’s 2 hours by high-speed train in that direction to the nearest new city.

Rachel’s pod zooms through the last stretch of farmland and enters deep forest. Twenty minutes later, the beautiful greenery opens to the crumbling remains of the Sydney suburbs. The shuttle line uses an old highway with the houses and businesses visible in the distance.

Rachel teaches primary school, so general history is one of the fields of study she had to wade through, giving her some insight into the lives of people through the 20th and 21st centuries—before the Menangle Virus sterilized more than 99 percent of the worlds’ female population and wiped out the old cities.

Rachel presses her thumb to the bottom left corner of the command screen. “Interface.” She taps the call icon. “Dad, please.” The jingling bell icon dances then her father appears smiling. “Hi, Daddy.”

“Hello, sweetheart. Watcha doing?”

“I’m going to visit Mum. I’m on my way down now… Can I come stay with you please, Daddy? They’re all sick with the flu at Eloisa’s.”

“Sure, love. Of course.”

“Okay, I’ll be late, though. I’ll eat out somewhere. I’ll see you tonight.”

Rachel blows a kiss and waves before logging off the system. She then yawns and rests back in her seat, closing her eyes in the warm afternoon sun.

Part 3

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The Menangle Virus: Part 1

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility on pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

Time travel?

Adam is sitting on a bus with his head rocked back and resting against the window. It’s late at night, about ten-thirty. He’s kind of hypnotising himself with the street lights flashing by.

The bus is on a straight stretch of road, so the stream of lights are constant for a while. Adam is drifting off into an episode in his life that he had shared with his ex-girlfriend, and he’s really going there. He’s floating right out of his body and walking with Amanda through the Westfield shopping centre at Liverpool. It’s as real as if they are doing it right then, as they had every Saturday morning when they were together. Adam can hear Amanda’s voice and feel the touch of her hand. He can smell the apple fragrance of her hair as the flashing streetlights turn to seagulls, and he squints then opens his eyes to a bright blue sky.

Suddenly he’s lying on a slatted wooden bench seat. He has his legs tucked up, and the wrought iron armrest is cutting into his shins. The other armrest is above his head, and he’s staring directly up at the sky—at the seagulls flashing by like streetlights through a bus window.

Adam doesn’t sit up right away. He just turns his head and looks at the barnacle infested remains of a small water taxi tied to its dock.

What the hell?

There’s a paved walkway between the bench and the wharf rail, but it’s cracked everywhere with grass and weeds growing up through it. Beyond the water taxi is a ferry terminal that Adam recognises, and above that is the Circular Quay railway station. He spins around to face the city of Sydney with the towering office blocks seemingly intact yet the streets abandoned. There are rusted shells of cars, and shrubs and trees growing up through the concrete and bitumen.

What the hell?

Adam is standing there with his mouth hanging open, gazing around at everything.

Is this for real?

He thinks of pinching himself but there’s no need. His shins are still aching and he’s thinking too clearly to be dreaming. He can smell the salt in the air, and the sound of the ocean gently crashing into the wharf is clear and distinct. He’s wringing his hands and can feel the heat and sweat in his skin.

Adam gazes out to the ocean and the horizon there—all seemingly real and true. A hundred metres to his left, there is an ocean liner docked. Like the city, it’s aged and rusted, and it has smashed at the wharf and seems to be resting slightly off kilter. Adam wanders towards it and makes out the name Pacific Princess III on the side. From there, he is able to see beyond the ferry terminal and across to the Opera House. It looks perfectly preserved with its white sail-like roof glistening in the sun. The forecourt is overgrown with trees, though, and as Adam spins back around he is looking up at the Harbour Bridge.

“What the hell?” he utters, out loud this time. The bridge is also intact but it’s a rusty orange colour, and there’s a massive sign suspended beneath it that reads QUARANTINE.

Adam’s mind is numb. He’s trying to grasp what he’s looking at but… It was night time and I was on the bus. I remember that clearly. It was like, five minutes ago.

There’s a sound to Adam’s right, and he spins with his heart pounding. There’s nothing for a few seconds, then the head of a small grey kangaroo emerges above the height of the grass and weeds in the park. It’s behind a bench like the one Adam had woken up on. Another kangaroo lifts its head and the two of them watch him intently, their ears and noses twitching.

Adam tries to force his mind to shift—to snap it out of neutral. He looks down at his clothing. He has on weird faded-orange jeans and leather pointy-toed shoes. He had been in uniform and should be wearing navy blue trousers and a white shirt with the CMR logo embroidered above the pocket.

CMR is the Centre for Microbiological Research, not more than two kilometres from where Adam’s standing. He works on the gate mostly, but today he’d swapped with Carl and done his shift on the front desk checking ID’s and signing people in and out—issuing visitor passes and the like. He had done a sweep of the building before knocking off and poked his head in Amanda’s office as he was passing. All had been quiet, so Adam snuck in and left a small gift box right in the middle of Amanda’s desk. It was just a pendant he had made from a shell. They had been sort of friendly again lately and Adam knew Amanda liked shells. He figured it would be nice for her to find it there in the morning, and maybe it would lead to something. There had been a scattering of white coats bent over microscopes or glued to computer screens in the labs. There was always something that needed monitoring 24/7—something they were incubating or the odd rodent they had injected with one thing or another. None of it meant much to Adam. He was just a rent-a-cop security dude.

“I’m no time travelling super hero,” he mumbles to himself as he watches three black and white spotted cows wander from the street and into the park with the kangaroos.

After work Adam had stopped at the pub for a counter-meal, then he had caught the bus and was sitting there minding his own business and drifting off a bit.

The absurdity of the situation is hanging in the air all around, but Adam takes hold of it and ventures forth. There is something seriously unreal going on, but he’s feeling quite thirsty and needs to find a drink.

Adam follows the walkway along the wharf and approaches the ferry terminal. There are stalls there where he often buys lunch. The first one has the shutter pulled down and locked. The next one has a timber counter that’s flaked and warped. The glass display cabinet below has plastic sandwich packets that look like they’ve been pecked open and small foil dishes that were probably for cakes. There are shelves at the back of the stall with bleached white cardboard boxes and faded candy bar wrappers. There’s a display case of cigarettes that looks okay, although caked in a thick film of dust. There’s a fridge with a sealed glass door with cans and plastic bottles of juice, water and soft drinks. The water is clear and appears reasonably safe. Adam cracks open a bottle and has a drink. It tastes fine.

Inside the ferry terminal is a stall with newspapers and magazines on display. Adam pulls a paper from underneath the faded one on top. The headlines are about a plane crash in India and a sex scandal involving the Australian Foreign Minister. The date reads October 27th, 2063—2063 being thirty-five years in the future.

Adam looks at his hand and notices the absence of his tattoo. As a drunken youth he had let a buddy tattoo the word GAME across the knuckles of his left hand. It’s gone and his hand is bigger than it should be. Adam’s arm is more muscular too. He flexes, and squeezes and feels his bicep and shoulder.

What the hell?

There’s a glassed poster on the wall of the ferry terminal. Adam approaches and looks at his reflection to find a stranger looking back at him. He’s blond and his face is too narrow. The reflection is not Adam at all.

Adam feels his face—pinching at this point to prove the dream.

He backs away from the stranger and turns to the city again. He walks. He has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing, but he walks up a street, sticking to the middle of the road and gazing into the abandoned shops and up at the towering buildings. Most shops are empty. Adam considers they have been more so closed down than abandoned. The buildings are intact. They haven’t been bombed or anything. There are no broken windows that Adam can see. There are just big cracks in the pavement and road with grass and weeds growing everywhere.

There’s a distant humming sound. It’s high-pitched and quickly approaching. It pierces the air, and suddenly a train flashes across the road ahead of Adam. It had appeared from between buildings and is gone. Adam runs and sees it vanishing into the distance. It’s fully tinted glass, sleek and hugging a single rail, and it’s moving at an incredible speed.

Adam enters a building and finds stairs. He leaps upward, gaining the tenth storey with his lungs clenching and his legs numb. He kicks open a door marked with a no entry sign and stumbles out onto a roof-top. The train is gone. The rail spears off between buildings, some having been roughly knocked down to accommodate it.

Adam turns and looks the other way, out at the ocean. The rail is suspended above. It swings in a broad arc and follows the coastline with massive steel pillars jutting up out of the sand and the water, and it disappears beyond a headland.

Adam slumps back onto a concrete ledge and sucks in some breaths. He’s fitter and stronger than he used to be. He couldn’t have bounded those ten flights of stairs in his own body.

He looks himself over again, feeling his legs and genitals. He has a look down the front of his pants and finds no appreciable difference. He has less hair, though. It looks trimmed. Adam is thirsty again. He still has the bottle of water. There’s a kind of metallic taste in his mouth but he’s thirsty enough to ignore it.

The distance in all directions reveals no further sign of human life. There are birds and bugs, and more kangaroos and some goats. There’s a boundless silence, so stark and crisp that it’s ringing in Adam’s ears. The air is thin and clean and alive with the sweetness of spring or early summer. It had been winter an hour earlier—when Adam was himself and in the real world.

This can’t be real. If I jump off here I’m going to glide to the ground or wake up on a bus.

Adam’s looking over the edge of the building. He considers testing that theory but has never been big on heights. He suddenly thinks to check the pockets of the jeans he’s wearing and finds what looks like a watch. It’s an oddly thin device with a large square screen and a black plastic band. The screen is blank, as if turned off or with a dead battery. There are no buttons of any kind. Adam taps the screen to no effect. He tries pressing and the words VOICE PROMT flash. He presses again and says, “Hello”.

“Good afternoon, Cooper, who can I get you?”

Adam gulps. “Home, please?”

The screen shows a jingling bell icon. It lasts for a minute.

“Sorry, no answer,” the device says. “Would you like to record a message?”

Adam sniffs and clears his throat. “No message, thanks… Contacts list, please?”

The smiling face of a middle-aged woman appears. It’s a still image. Adam swipes across the screen and the face of a middle-aged man is next. It looks like him—the face he currently has. Adam assumes it to be his father. He swipes again and gets a logo AFP. The next image is another face—that of a guy about his age, completely unfamiliar. There are twenty or so contacts in all before the woman in the first image appears again.

Adam takes a breath and taps the screen. The ringing bell appears. The screen then flashes to an image of the woman, obviously live now.

“Cooper! Darling, how are you?” The woman looks to her side. “Hanson, it’s Cooper.”

A man’s voice replies, “Put him on screen, love.”

The screen flashes to a broader shot with the man who Adam assumes to be his father looking over the woman’s shoulder.

“How are you, son? What’s up?”

“Um… I’m not sure… I’m…” Adam stammers.

“Are you okay, son?”

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know who you are. You’re on my phone thingy… I don’t know who I am or what’s happening.”

“Wait… What?” the man asks. “You don’t know who we are?”

“Cooper, are you hurt? Are you okay?” the woman adds.

“I’m not hurt. I’m fine… Just—what the hell’s going on? I’m not who you think I am. I’m not this Cooper.”

The two faces on screen are staring blankly. The man speaks again after a moment. His demeanour shows confusion and concern. “Who do you think you are, son? Is there something wrong with your mind or memory or something? Do you have a head injury?”

“My name is Adam O’Malley. As far as I can remember, this is the year 2028… I’m going to wake up from this any minute now.”

The man and woman look to each other, their faces streaked in concern—horror. They turn back. The man speaks again. “Son, where are you right now?”

Adam glances around. “Standing on top of a building in Sydney… Where are you?”

The couple confer once more, their faces unchanged as they turn back to the screen. The woman answers, “We’re on our cruise in the middle of the Pacific, darling.”

The man adds, his tone measured, “Son, I want you to stay where you are. I’ll get the clinic at Oakdale to send someone for you… Are you right in the old city?”

“I’m near Circular Quay,” Adam replies. “I can go back to where I woke up a while ago.”

“No, that’s fine. Just wait somewhere safe. The clinic will GPS your device. It’ll probably take them an hour to get there.”

“I don’t know why you have to go exploring that silly old city all the time, darling,” the woman adds. “You must have fallen and hurt yourself. It’s just not safe there with everything crumbling down.”

“Now, Lola, just…” the man says to the woman, cuddling and patting her arm.

“Oh, but he shouldn’t even be going down there!”

The man addresses Adam again. “Are you safe right now, son? Will you be okay to wait?”

“I’m fine. I’ll wait,” Adam tells him. “I don’t know what the hell’s going on but I’ll wait for whoever.”

“Alright, son, I’ll check in with you again in ten minutes… We’ll sort this out.”

Adam’s device screen flashes back to the still picture of the woman smiling. He puts it on his wrist and fastens the catch. He has another drink of his metallic water.

The clinic is sending someone, huh? Think I might need a frigging clinic.

Part 2

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