The sun blasts into the indoor park as Selina and Victor’s shared ocean paradise daydream quickly fades. The sound of parents transferring their children’s care to the school teaching staff quickly turns into a pirate who sets fire to the projection screen of their bonded minds. Selina jerks away her hand and smothers Victor with a desperate embrace as she attempts to save him from an agonizing death which only exists in her mind…
…The tempest grips her. Motionless at the fringe of the plaza, She struggles to centre her spirit. She feels powerless, her body frozen in the face of a stealth airborne demon, as she watches her children gasp for their last breath and slump lifeless to the ground, in a puddle of malignant cinders, their twisted forms blanketed in blonde ashes. The features of the terrified swarms hopelessly scrambling to outrun the accelerating poisonous mass live locked in her soul, and the bravery of the ones she failed to protect, crushed in the panic, further strengthens her will. Her limbs, burdened with the weight of child after child sinking helpless in her arms, desperately groping for her, ache with regret. Kneeling in the midst of a field of torment, she offers peace to the brave and comfort to the fearful. Her eyes weep the tale of her anguish, and her flesh becomes stone in its path. As the storm’s assault disperses, all that persists is the tarnished wreckage of ignorance and deceit… (pages 10-11 from Nemecene: The Epoch of Redress)
“Selina.” A soft voice calls to her in the stillness of the hot hazy summer day.
Victor stands in front of Selina holding out the takeout he just picked up from the Burger Stop. She sits there for a moment, lost in thought and confused, then finally looks up at her boyfriend smiling down at her: “Even zombies have to eat sweetie,” he chuckles.
She looks around the park at kids playing on the swings, people walking their dogs, the tree leaves swaying in the wind, and slowly joins the present, relieved.
“It was just a nightmare,” every hair follicle on Selina’s body stands on end. She shudders. She fumbles through her purse, pulls out some hand sanitizer in a plastic bottle, and stares at Victor who by this time is sitting beside her digging into his cheeseburger.
“Eat up,” Victor urges between mouthfuls. “It’s going to get cold.”
As Selina mechanically removes the wrapper surrounding her lunch, she notices an old woman sitting on a bench across from her fiddling with a plastic container on her lap and muttering to herself. The woman slams her fork into her food and everything goes flying into the air and onto the ground.
Selina freezes in mid-bite, spits out the meat into the foil wrapper, stands up, and yells: “But it doesn’t have to be MY nightmare.”
All eyes in the park are on Selina. “What’s got into you?” Victor attempts to coax her back onto the bench but she just turns to him, grabs his half-finished cheeseburger, shoves it in the bag, and exclaims:
“This is where the heels hit the pavement. Are you with me?”
Victor rolls his eyes. “Not THIS again! Selina, you’re little act of so-called stewardship is not gonna save the planet. Your food choices just don’t make any difference. Just sit down and eat your burger. You’re embarrassing me.” He snatches the take-out from her hand and plops himself back on the bench.
Selina hesitates. She shifts her eyes to the old woman across the courtyard keeping a close watch on the scene she just made. Selina looks down at Victor finishing off his meat and imagines that her hands are bound to his with iron cuffs and a chain waiting to be sentenced in Gaea’s courthouse. She realizes that the criminal was actually inside her the whole time and that only she has the power to choose. Corporations and the government have been the scapegoats of her unconscious self-condemnation for too long.
A man pushes a coughing and wheezing child in a stroller. He stops, pulls a puffer from his pocket, and walks around to his daughter to administer it.
A flash of a child gasping for breath in a cloud of yellow smoke gives Selina the courage to finally embrace the ignorant label-stamping she will no doubt elicit from her family and friends. Her will shatters the restraints she has allowed to control her. She slings her purse over her right shoulder, wipes the crumbs off her jeans, and faces the last trial in her heroine’s journey.
“Good-bye, Victor.” Selena turns her back on her boyfriend and faces the courtyard.
The old woman nods in approval. Her frail form dissolves in the hot midday sun and disperses in the wind as a stream of yellow dust.
The echo of heels tread timidly along the cobblestone path, then rhythmically, then break into a steadfast pace. Selina is on the move.