“Power and Chaos” is the new Tribe book. It is based on the Tribe and tells a pretribe story of Martin (Zoot) and Bray. Over the next few weeks we are going to put up a chapter of the book for you – a few pages at a time.
Power and Chaos by Paula Boock – Chapter 8 – Part 1
I tried to put Trudi out of my mind, but it was amazing the ways in which she arrived in my thoughts. I didn’t tell anyone, not even Troy, and I simmered over Bray. It had got to the point where I could hardly stay in the same room as him. If he came in, I left; when he left, I came in.
Normally Mum would have picked up what was going on and confronted us, but she was getting more and more ill. That weekend she was admitted to hospital.
I don’t know how to write about that time. Mum said all the right things, she smiled at us and talked brightly, but it was there written all over her face as clearly as Peanut’s big vivid VIRUS. The lines, the hollowed eyes, the rapidly sinking face – we stood over her in our stupid ugly masks and we all knew we were wawtching Mum’s last days. But at the same time, it wasn’t just a dying person, it was still Mum. She made jokes, complained about the food, was wickedly delighted when Dad brought in a mini bottle of wine on Friday, their twentieth wedding anniversay. We sat around her bed and toasted them, and although it was sad, it was kind of cool, too.
We watched the television news together as if we were at home. They were having four or five bulletins a day now, and several news flashes. That night the President made an announcement. He said that new information had established that the virus had been brought to earth in the dust of a comet which had entered earth’s atmosphere last year. We all remembered the sight of the comet flaring across the sky, and the pieces people maintained they’d found in the Black Rock Desert, in Oregon. Apparently the virus was like nothing we’d ever encountered before.
‘But I can assure you that our scientific community is working co-operatively all around the world to break the code of this virus and fine a vaccine. I have complete faith that that vaccine will be isolated very soon. In the meantime, we must take every precaution we can to protect ourselves and our children from infection.
The government was making a move, finally. They had passed emergency legislation to divide up all the cities into ‘sectors’, and people were told they weren’t allowed to move between sectors without special passes. Dad and Bray immediately damned the whole idea, but Mum just said ‘About time’. We all looked at her, and went quiet.
The President confirmed that they had done tests, and it appeared that children were immune to the virus. There was something that gave us immunity located on our telomeres – whatever they were – and your telomeres shorten as you age. So the older you were, the more susceptible to the virus. Then the government was considering evacuating children out of the cities anyway, because we might be the main carriers of the virus. They were talking about sending us to some sort of health camps. I didn’t like that idea.
‘At least they’re admitting the extent of the problem,’ Mum said. The camera closed in on the President at his most sincere and statesmanlike. ‘My message to you is, stay calm. Remain hopeful. We will defeat this plague from the stars. God bless you all.’
We all raised our eyebrows and Bray snorted. Dad turned off the set, and said, ‘Well, that’s that. I suppose we’d better go home and get some dinner.’
As we all got up to leave Mum signalled me to stay. ‘I need to talk to Martin,’ she said lightly, and Dad and Bray both looked at me for a moment in surprise.
‘I’ll meet you in the carpark,’ I said, and they nodded, then disappeared.
I sat back down beside mum and she took my hand, ‘How are you all getting on?’
‘Fine,’ I lied
She smiled. ‘The boys together. I know what you’re like. Martin, your father – and Bray – they’re optimists. They can’t believe we won’t beat this thing. But we can’t stop it now, even if they find a vaccine. You know that, don’t you?’
‘You’ve always like to know the truth. You can take it, that’s why.’ I basked in that for a moment, then she said, ‘Martin, if it’s true, that young people are immune, then you have to realise what that means.’ I gaped at her. I had no idea what it meant.
‘The future is yours. There will be no adults. You have to prepare yourself for that.
It was the first time anyone had said it outright, what we were all thinking. It was certainly the first time my mother had talked like this. I like that she was confiding in me, but it scared me too. I didn’t want to think of a world without her and Dad. Then she fixed me with a really intense look.