Become a Fan
By Christopher Charles Roman
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
A story about the media's media.
The wind beat the leaves of the palm tree in the same chaotic rhythm it has since it and its twin brother were placed there five years ago. The wicker horse silently fed on the blanket of wood chips. A scuffle of female shoes echoed through the air.
The cold chill changed what could have been a pseudo-tropical paradise into a sterile dreamy vision of a good idea gone perverted. Even the rubbing of the hands could not scare away the pain of lack of circulation.
The clock silently ticked away. My gaze moved from the clock back to the palm trees. Out of my peripheral vision I could see the other six members of the service team. Cindy’s shoes fell silent as she froze in mid-step to gaze at the wall clock. The sound of the palm leaves under the air conditioning duct conjured one last vision of hope.
All seven of us (understaffed by two) rose in an ominous wave. We headed up the stairs to the security door. With a swipe of his security card the magnetically sealed entryway disengaged. Ben held it for us as we marched into the Alarm Station Central.
With our headsets secured to our heads, we each in turn exchanged seats with the people who were positioned in front of the blue screens of hell. Seven little boxes that would usher upwards of one hundred messages by time we were done. Messages of death and carelessness.
The first call came in. “Rogers! False alarm. Security code alpha bravo niner.”
Dan Rogers acknowledged with a nod and pressed the yellow key for false alarms. The little blue screen cleared of the names and numbers. Another one took its place.
“Good after noon. Disaster Abatement Services. This is Donnie.” I spoke after the phone rang in my ear.
“Call them off! False alarm! We are still alive here!” A husky female voice shouted,
“What is your security code?”
“Nine alpha bravo charlie.”
“Bateman. Alice Bateman.”
I muted the phone.
“Anyone have an alarm for Bateman?” I shouted.
“I do.” Sandy acknowledged.
“Giving nine alpha bravo charlie.”
“No, that is not correct.” Sandy returned.
I un-muted the phone. “OK. Thank you ma’am. Have a nice day.”
I turned to Sandy. “Female on site. Alice Bateman. Wrong ID code.”
“Thank you.” Sandy hit the acceptance key on the keyboard.
“Channel thirty-two. What city are you calling about?” The voice in the phone seemed strained.
“OK. What are the coordinates?”
“Land quadrant 32, 27, 51.”
“OK. We’ll report is right away.”
I sat, listening to the sound of the palm trees. My bologna sandwich lost its flavor. Setting it down, I closed my eyes.
The mushroom clouds dotted the horizon. There was a loud ‘whoosh’ followed by a loud ‘bang.’ I turned around to a rush of heat that was a welcome relieve to my frozen toes and fingers. Closing my eyes, I thought of my childhood in South Africa. The sound of the trees and the crash of the waves put a smile on my face. I opened my eyes to find a blood red sea. The waves were enormous. Riding them, millions of people - flesh laidened skeletons blazing in flames screaming in millions of languages. Closer they came. In an instant they were upon me.
I woke with a start. Time to go back to work.
As I opened the magnetically sealed doors, my eyes met our company’s logo suspended above the circle of blue computer screens:
Disaster Abatement Services: Providing accurate information about the destruction of our cities
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