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Monday, September 22, 2008

FAR Future, Episode 52: It’s The Big One, Elizabeth

Note the date — things will continue to jump ahead over the next couple of episodes.

Monday, December 2, 2019
It’s the Big One, Elizabeth

It’s been almost four years, but what more was there to say? Electricity is more and more something produced where it’s consumed, people grow more of their own food, gasoline and diesel get more scarce, the junta sucks more all the time. You didn’t need me to tell you that.

But the junta might have finally sucked in something too big for them to cover up or ignore. Public health officials (or former officials, in any case) have been warning for 20 years about preparing for a flu pandemic. There was at least a start before the junta, but public health — heck, just about public everything — got thrown out the window after the coup. Now, it looks like the flu version of The Big One has arrived, and the junta’s feeble attempts at travel restrictions did nothing at all to slow it down… and their usual “downplay anything that might make us look bad” strategy probably did more to help it spread than anything they did to prevent it. And it’s ugly — some former public health people are keeping Sammy well-supplied with info about what’s happening, and putting out better info about precautionary measures and home remedies. (The junta is, in some cases, stealing the latter and offering it up as its own. Shameless SOBs.)

Like the 1918 pandemic, and the “bird flu” that f(e)athered the current strain, it’s hitting the prime-of-lifers the hardest. Sammy got hold of a report that estimated 3–5% of the population may die by the time it’s over. That’s on top of, or at least exacerbating, the “normal” deaths related to the usual winter fuel shortages (which includes fire, asphyxiation, and hypothermia). I wouldn’t be surprised.

The health care system is already collapsing under just the initial onslaught. The local radio said the hospital is triaging patients; mostly they pump incoming cases full of fluids and send them home with instructions for caretakers (if any). The report talked about big tents in the parking lot outside the hospital; they triage patients in one tent and the ones they keep move to the next tent until a bed (or floor space) opens up inside. And from the percentages, one of every 20 or 30 are too far gone to help; I presume they send those back home and tell the caretakers to make arrangements. The question is: where are the fluids (presumably saline and electrolytes) coming from? Are they using a similar recipe to what Sammy and the junta both published for oral use at home? Are the nurses and doctors getting any rest, and how likely is it that they’ll be stricken next?

Mrs. Fetched and I are either side of 60 now, so we have the usual old-people worries about flu. But I think if we stay hydrated, we’ll get through it. It’s Daughter Dearest and her fiance who came in from Pacifica last month that I’m worried about most — they’re in the dangerous age range — with Kim and the other kids a close second. Christina has sort of taken charge of the situation, working up batches of an electrolyte/hydration mix we found on one of Sammy’s web pages (I figured I needed to take a risk and bogart some Pat-Riot bandwidth), and looking at the formula carefully. “It’s like it’s whispering to me,” she said, “that there’s a way to improve it, but I can’t see how just yet.” She’s really something… I never mentioned that field trip we took to Corettaville a couple years ago; they emailed her about a paper she wrote on digesters and wanted some more info. One thing led to another, and they ended up inviting her to visit (with me as an escort). They were shocked to see a 14-year-old girl behind the paper, to say the least. It took a word from The Prophet himself — but only a word — to convince them. He recognized me from the other time I saw him, which pleased me for some reason. I was a bit less pleased when he told me I was to speak to the Assembly, but that went okay too. I spoke about taking in people who needed a place to stay, and how they can turn out to be prodigies like Christina or even angels. It went over well, I guess. By the way, if you’ve never been in a wallyworld, the funk is amazing even in early spring when they start ventilating more. There’s almost a thousand people living in Corettaville now, and more coming all the time; even if they spend a lot of time outside and try to stay clean, that many people living together is bound to concentrate the odor.

Serena has been producing plays at the Thanksgiving get-together the last few years, getting the other kids (and sometimes me) to act in them. Most of them are little one-acts with some political overtones that a kid can get away with. But she (and Rene) are 17 now, and she has to start being careful. She sailed pretty close to the wind with this year’s production, a Shakespearean-style thing she called The Discomposure of Lord Riot. The fun part for me was that I got to play both the evil Lord Riot and the kindly-but-clueless Lord Farfet — she thinks I’m a decent actor, but it’s really a matter of studying my lines and getting a feel for the character. Or characters, in this case. The love interest was played (quite willingly, I assure you!) by Kim & Christina, who are no less intense than ever, while Rene and Serena herself played the lovers’ friends. It’s based pretty much on how the four of them (along with Guillermo and Maria, of course) came to live at FAR Manor… although in the play, they were being pursued by a Lord Riot who wanted to sell them into slavery. Lord Farfet takes them in, knowing that Riot is after them, but the kids lay his plans low. The story ends with Lord Riot making a pact with the devil “And thus can I continue to serve God.” One of the neighbors said Serena ran it right to the edge and maybe just a little over, but it was a gutsy play and well-done. I’m sending it to Sammy the same time I post this; some of her other plays have been pretty popular out there.

Unfortunately, the first local flu case hit a couple days after the Thanksgiving dinner. I guess that means we’ve all been exposed.



  1. Hey Far-Dad! Excellent! You're turning it on now! Of course, when the population becomes malnourished, it's weaken condition is more susceptable to nasty little bugs, some that were present all along....Of course, people living in close quaters only enhances this process... Ok, here's something for your beanie, ALL of history's past collapses were localized....this time it will be different. I'll be back..

    Thanks, yooper

  2. Uh-oh, did you just say, "it's different this time!"? ;-)

  3. Ok Far, I'm back.. Gee, that's all we hear now a days, localized this and localized that, from sources such as the drum, John's and Sharon's... This is from a friend of mine..

    "In previous societal collapses, the collapses were very localized. During and after previous collapses, there were sufficient unused local resources in the environment that weren't currently being used by that society. Land, water, animals, food, wood, ores, which weren't yet "owned", not yet under human dominion. Similar to the concept of "edge" in permaculture, in which you plant crops to leave plenty of unused space on all sides of the garden or farm, the societal farming of monocultured humans had not yet spread everywhere. There were sufficient unused resources to alleviate the stresses of breakdown and collapse.

    In previous collapses, people were much more aware of their relationship to where their food, resources, and water came from, and the relationships were more resilient.

    In previous collapses, the infrastructures of those societies were much more dependent on renewable resources and the solar budget.

    In our collapse, it's global. We have almost no edge, almost zero slack. Nearly everything of use is currently under human dominion."

    Without global trade, how would you get your coffee in the morning? (or anything else?)

  4. Hey Far, this kinda puts a new light on, "It's The Big One", eh?I think, no matter what we do, our financial situation (limit to growth) will lead to a global depression like era.

    As I've stressed over and over, one only needs to look back the past 100 years to project what may happen in the years to come. While historical perspectives are useful, there are no presidents for the kind of over shoot the world wide population faces...

  5. I saw something about global collapse, maybe at Archdruid's blog? The poster pointed out that collapse would really be a whole bunch of local ones — with the more over-stressed areas going first. Other places, with lower population densities and less stress, may shrug it off but complain about how much more difficult things are.

    The things to remember are: 1) even in the worst-case short of all-out nuclear war, collapse is not uniform and not simultaneous. 2) homeostasis still works; an equilibrium will be reached, if only temporarily, which will give people another chance to get it right. I really think AD's step-wise decline is the right model.

    Speaking of malnourished & weakened people getting hit harder: the 1918 flu killed less than 1% of the world population; the 2018-2019 flu portrayed here is hitting 3-5%. The living conditions are also similar to 1918 (extended families under one roof, electricity isn't exactly universal or reliable).

    BTW, I have the next nine episodes written, or at least drafted in the case of the last two.

  6. Hey Far, A slow gradual descent, goes against everything I was taught. I forsee a rapid, deep global descent (a huge step down), then a series of gradual particle recoveries to be followed by deeper decline (little steps)..

    I hope your right.

  7. That is, they don't call them "Depressions" for nothing....

  8. LOL...at myself that is. The title to the post didn't sink in before I read on.

    I was reading along and thinking "Jumpin' Jesuit priest! What's goin' on in Georgia!?!"

    Thank goodness you put a fiction tag on it on the end. Realistic and engaging fiction. Good Work. You just had your "War of the Worlds" moment.

    Kristi J....mind like a steel sieve

  9. True, Yooper… but Rome was neither built, nor fell, in a day. It only seems that way looking back 1600 years. Likewise, the Depression cratered only the stock market overnight; it was a four-year decline followed by another four years on the bottom before things started picking back up. I suppose in some future that our grandchildren inhabit, that they might look back and say "everything came apart in September 2008"…but, like JMG said, we're not likely to wake up tomorrow in a different world.

    Kristi, I'll laugh *with* you — because you're not the first to get pulled in. Check some of the comments on Episode 1, for example. I also got a call from my mom one night, "what the hell is going on there?" Yes, I have an idea how Orson Welles must have felt.

    Now that I'm about 25-30 episodes short of the finish line, I'm going to go back & build an intro page with episodes grouped into pseudo-chapters. You can start at Episode 1 and hit the "continued" links at the end of each episode to read the whole thing, but even incomplete it's approaching small-novel size. It'll be a full-length novel in the end, Lord willing.

  10. Cliffhange ending! I'm admiring your stick-to-it-ness, Far.

  11. Not so much a cliffhanger this time, Boran. I've actually done a couple of those… seems like the most dramatic episodes ran really long, and the natural place to split them was about halfway through. There's another one like that, coming up in a few weeks.


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