Kay addressed the crowd assembled in his basement, “It is 2099. Only a thousand families survived a spate of disastrous events – global warming, Covid, plague, and WW3. In 2067, we built this city and replenished it with abundant resources. Here, equality prevails.
“But now in 2099, the government is run by the incompetent and wicked younger generation. They believe they can function better by eliminating us and the children.” The audience jeered in response.
“Our grandchildren will be sent to a new city, to be educated and efficiently trained. Once they turn adults, they will return to the original city and contribute to its welfare. And we are now a burden. We will be exiled to an abandoned town with limited food and medicines.”
Enraged, Em roared, “My son cried last night on receiving the orders. This is preposterous!”
“Calm down, Em. We are all in this together.”
“It's easy for you. You live alone,” complained Tee. Kay looked hurt but stayed quiet. He knew that it was Tee's hopelessness speaking.
“Watch your words, Tee,” the fearless Wai spoke.
“Guys,” Kay gently commanded. “I am never alone. You guys mean everything to me.”
The listeners applauded. Tee apologised and hugged Kay. “Now, we must fight against injustice. Many citizens do not agree with the orders. They are helpless for we reared them in a peaceful and disciplined environment. But we know what revolution means. Are you with me?”
“Yeah!” the voices echoed. Kay looked on with pride at the forty men and women, mostly above the age of sixty, as he discussed the plan to redeem their future.
“Let’s include all who are against the government. In August, the kids will be sent to the new city. November tenth is the date set for purging of the aged. Let’s surprise the government with Operation Hamelin on the second of November!
“Wai will lead a group to the defence room which controls the electric fences bordering the whole town. Wai, will you be able to raise the impenetrable metal shield?” Wai nodded with confidence
“Good. Now the soldiers will be alerted and they will rush toward their station to collect their ammunition. Tee, you are in charge of making it disappear.” On Tee's thumbs-up, Kay continued, “The airbase will be overtaken by Em's squadron. All revolutionaries should be notified to gather at the base. It is the only exit out of the city, and the entrance to the airbase needs to be sealed.”
“Will be a cakewalk. Then?” Em asked.
“Then we’ll release the plague! I still have some samples from my lab days. We need to collect rats. Set rattraps around your houses and bring them to me. We built this city. Now we destroy it.”
On the second of November, Kay received updates from his people. The plan was unfolding as expected. As the process of evacuation was undergoing, he received a call, “Kay, where are you?”
“I have to complete the final stage, Em”
“But you said the rats would be released after we leave. Come here immediately. The last plane will depart soon.”
“I have to release the rats once all of you leave. Em, there's no other way.”
“You deceived us, Kay. How can we leave you behind? Kay, I'm coming to fetch you.”
“No. You'll put our plan in jeopardy. You know once you open the gates, the soldiers will regain control and all our efforts will go down the drain. Leave. I command.“
“Kay… my brother…you will be remembered….” Kay heard sobs and he disconnected the line. He took a deep breath and opened his garage door. He pushed out a huge cage holding hundreds of plague-ridden rats moving like maniacs. But when he stepped out, he was shocked. He expected soldiers scurrying in panic along the road. However, he was greeted with a startling sight. Children were riding their bikes and buying ice cream. People and cars moved on the street. Just like the old days.
He caught hold of his head and began screaming. Everyone looked petrified. After five minutes, police cars hurried to the scene. The cops got into position as Kay pointed his gun at them. Warnings were issued but Kay did not budge. Finally, a shot was fired and Kay fell to the ground.
Immediately it was all over the news. A renowned TV correspondent was on screen at the place of the incident, reporting live.
“I'm standing three feet away from Kevin White's house, the man who was shot dead this afternoon. Police found out that Kevin‘s gun was a prop. Given the shootings last week by a deranged gunman in Colorado which claimed the lives of three innocent bystanders, the police, today, acted swiftly to eliminate the alleged threat Kevin posed to the neighbourhood. I have Martin White here with me. Martin is Kevin's younger brother. Martin, why did Kevin do this?”
“Kevin was lately stressed. When the pandemic began, he lost his job. The following month he lost his wife to Covid. In August he too tested positive and so his kids are staying with us since. He has been talking gibberish lately over the phone. He mentioned rats and plague. I was worried for him. He had isolated himself and would spend time watching movies and the news. I invited him to stay with us for a few days. He was reluctant but agreed to come on the tenth of November. In should’ve forced him…” A sobbing Martin walked away from the camera, unable to control his tears.
“The pandemic has negatively impacted millions of lives all over the world. Did living in isolation affect Kevin or does Covid make people delusional? While scientists are still looking for a cure as well as researching the after-effects of Covid, we will never know what impelled a thirty-six-year-old construction worker to walk out of his house with a dead rat in a rattrap and a fake gun in his pocket. This is Yasmin Khalid for TYM News.”