Writers of the Storm – Chapter 1

Writers of the Storm

© 2021 Mike Barker

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Bowie stumbled through the lifeless ruins of what had once been a vibrant, progressive American city.

His body ached with fatigue and his dry throat screamed for water. But his instinct for survival overpowered his thirst and sheer terror kept his feet moving, keeping ahead of his pursuer. If he could just survive the night. That was all he wanted. Just one more night.

He couldn’t see the man who pursued him, but he could feel his presence – the evil intent, the hateful eyes watching, waiting for the opportunity to pounce. Glancing quickly back through the rubble, he saw a flash of movement. Something large. Then nothing. The Bear must have found him. As he gasped for air, a hint of smoke from distant fires filled his nostrils. The acrid mix of wood, plastic and something pungent. Burning flesh? A chill went up his spine. He recalled how the Bear boasted of feasting on the agony of his victims. Wasn’t that was why the producers had hired him?

depression due to covid

Bowie stumbled through the lifeless ruins of what had once been a vibrant, progressive American city.

Something crunched under his shoes, shreds of broken glass from a blown out shop window. A mangled Starbucks sign brushed his side, beckoning him into the dense black interior of the restaurant. His heart leaped – it was something familiar, something he remembered as a safe place. He glanced back again, and when nothing moved, he leaped through the shattered opening, bracing himself for a painful landing.

To Bowie’s surprise, his fall was cushioned by something soft and smooth. A leather couch. It seemed so surreal, so out of place in this war-torn mangle of despair. He lay there holding his breath, expecting rough hands to grasp his shoulders at any moment, to drag him into a living hell. But nothing happened. He waited tensely. Five minutes, then ten. There was no sound. Nothing. He let out a breath and began to relax. Exhaustion crept up and he almost slid into sleep, but he fought it. He had to stay awake, survive.

His thoughts drifted back to his first meeting with the Bear, before everything had spiraled out of control.

The interview. The promise of a big payout that had lured him to that meeting. He’d been naive enough to believe they’d sought him for his journalistic talent. Now he knew there was no such thing. He’d just been a mere pawn – a puppet gathering the crumbs they’d scattered for him. He should have escaped as soon as he’d glimpsed the Bear’s dense, lifeless eyes. As soon as he saw the gun and handcuffs on the table.
“Are you FBI?” He’d asked innocently. The huge man had snorted with amusement.
“Above them” he replied
“CIA?” asked Bowie.
“Keep going,” said the Bear, pointing upward. Bowie paused for a minute, then tried another tact.
“What will I be writing?”
“Life?” Bowie asked, a little incredulously.
Seeming to tire of their conversation, the Bear clicked a remote control and a wafer thin screen rolled down in front of the elegant wooden bookshelf.
“Watch this.” Growled the bear. “It will help you understand why you’re here.”
Bowie shrugged. At this stage, he just wanted to humor his host, while he figured out how to exit the room gracefully. He shifted uncomfortably, glancing sideways at his watch. I could ask him where the restroom is and make a break for it, he thought. Suddenly he froze and shuddered involuntarily, when the familiar motel room splashed on the screen. No! It couldn’t be. He covered his eyes, but the sound assailed his ears, the child’s pitiful sobs. It disgusted him, he hated himself and that pang of excitement that swelled in his groin. He had tried to bury those memories, just push them from his mind. It was so fucking wrong, but it aroused him like nothing else…
“Enough,” pleaded Bowie, his cheeks flushed, eyes lowered.
“Already?” Asked the bear, snorting with amusement. “Oh, but it gets so much more interesting.”
“What do you want?”
“Your services. As I said, you’ll be rewarded handsomely.”
“Why me?”
“We like your book, ‘America’s Fascist.’ It got our message across so well. And, of course…” he motioned to the screen, “you’re compromised.”
“Oh shit,” moaned Bowie, slumping into his chair, resigning himself to whatever fate they had in store for him.
“Pull yourself together,” Growled the Bear, “the Producers are waiting to give you your assignment.”
“And if I don’t?” The question was rhetorical. They had him by the balls, but he had to know just how ruthless these people were. “You’re going to put the video on Youtube? Give it to the cops?”
The Bear studied Bowie, the cold stare chilling him to the bone. Then he licked his lips, “America is a dangerous place, Mr. Smith. You talk about it in your book. Remember? The White Supremacist threat?” Bowie lowering his eyes again. The Bear continued, “Imagine what they would do to you, a left wing journalist and a pedophile. They could track the GPS on your phone, your car.” He grinned, his black eyes reflecting some perverse enjoyment. Then his face returned to its expressionless state, “But I think you’ll just take your assignment.” He paused and Bowie nodded. “Shall we?” The Bear motioned to a formidable teak door at the end of the room. Bowie rose awkwardly to his feet, his pride and bravado stripped away, leaving a vulnerable little shell.

The door swung quietly open and he gingerly stepped inside.

A soft click as the lock slid into place and there was no escape. When his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he found himself before a huge polished conference table, stretching out in every direction. He felt the eyes of several men who sat in the shadows.
“Welcome Bowie Eason Smith,” said a smooth, tempered voice from the head of the table. A voice accustomed to commanding obedience. The Director, thought Bowie
“Thank you, ah… Sir,” said Bowie, his voice quivering.
“You are what we call a “Green Warrior. Do you know why?”
There was an awkward pause, then Bowie offered “I’m an… environmentalist? An… influencer?”
“You may well be, but that has nothing to do with your title. Tell me Bowie Eason Smith, what color is the sky?”
“Is that a trick question, sir?” asked Bowie, apprehensively.
“Humor me,” the voice commanded.
“Blue sir. Sometimes white, sometimes gray, black, I guess…”
“Green.” Boomed the Director’s voice from the shadows.
“W-w-why is it green, Sir?” Stammered Bowie in confusion.
“Because we say it’s green. And if we say it’s green, every journalist like you will report that it is green.” He paused, as if challenging Bowie to respond. When he remained silent, the Director continued. “Now half the population will accept that without question. We’ve taught them not to trust their eyes. They rely on us for the truth. They’re our “Greenies.” Are you with me so far?”
“Yes, Sir,” said Bowie.
“Now there are some stubborn people out there, these “Deplorables” – They didn’t stick with the education system long enough for complete indoctrination. They still cling to these foolish beliefs, their God. Their guns… Their freedom.”
Bowie shook his head in disgust, “I know…”
“They will of course, insist that the sky is blue, without any proof whatsoever. They will post on Facebook or Twitter, and say, “This is bullshit, the sky is blue.” So we fact check it and show them this blue illusion is false information.”
He paused, Bowie could feel all the eyes studying his reaction, burning into his soul.
“I understand, Sir.”
“Now some of our Greenies will do their duty and mock this foolish Deplorable and others will write authoritative articles and books to help lead them to the truth. Like you, they are our “Green Warriors.”
“My book is the truth…” stammered Bowie defensively.
“Of course it is the truth, because we make it the truth. Do you understand?”
Bowie nodded, his eyes lowered. He felt as if his soul had been ripped out. Had the talent he’d prided himself in, been nothing more than an illusion?
As if he could read Bowie’s thoughts, the director spoke, “Don’t feel so bad, Mr. Smith. All our writers go through this process before enlightenment. But once you are enlightened, you will really use your talent. You’ll help us create the truth.”
“Sir?” Bowie lifted his head to look at the director

“Instead of just reporting the truth, you’re going to create it.”

“Write the truth…?” Bowie was completely confused.
“Like Nostradamus did. You are going to predict the future. Not by yourself, there are other writers and you’ll have a script editor. But you will write the events for the coming year.”
Bowie stared at the shadow in amazement, “I will just, like… Make it up?”
“No. You will be given a synopsis to follow and you will write a detailed account of what will happen, at least on a week by week basis.” He paused and Bowie nodded. “We like to keep it a year ahead, just like any miniseries, but occasionally, it may require a rewrite. Some of the cast have a tendency to ad lib, a little. Especially when a writer doesn’t  provide them with the right motivation. That is something you have to watch carefully, providing everyone with the right motivation. Do you understand?”
“Yes Sir…”

“I must also stress that your discretion is essential.” Said the Director. “You are bound to secrecy.”
Bowie nodded.

depression due to covid

He should have escaped as soon as he’d glimpsed the Bear’s dense, lifeless eyes. As soon as he saw the gun and handcuffs on the table.

“Nathaniel, will have told you of your early retirement plan, should you fail in this?”

“Y-y-yes Sir,” stammered Bowie, wondering how any mother could name a brute like the man outside ‘Nathaniel.’
“The Director will be in touch with a Synopsis. I think you’re going to like what we have planned for 2020. It will be a most exciting year.”


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