One Moment in Time
“Give me one moment in time, When I'm racing with destiny, Then in that one moment in time, I will feel. I will feel... Eternity.” - Whitney Houston
“You have done good for yourselves, Since you left my wet embrace, And crawled ashore, Every boy, is a snake is a lily, Every pearl is a lynx, is a girl, Sweet harmony made into flesh” - Björk Guðmundsdóttir
The sad tromboner stands at the vomitorium, poised to enter the New Delhi stadium. He kicks the dirt, scuffing his white drillmaster marching shoes. Cal-Gon McGillicuddy knew his drum major would yell at him.
“Dirty shoes deplete elegant foot articulation!” He could hear him say.
He doesn't care.
It doesn't matter.
Nothing matters any more!
His life is over!
He defiantly stomps the dirt, sullying the snap hems of his virginal white bibber.
This was supposed to be his one moment in time. Playing his superbone as part of the one thousand member marching band for the Olympics closing ceremony. This was supposed to be his chance to feel eternity!
But instead, he feels like shit.
The Olympic games were an every four year event when nations and city-states took their most prized Vessel athletes out of pasture, where they were subjected to grueling 10-hour training days, and entered them into competition against other Vessel pawns for the Greater Glory of Government.
The Olympics were a retro-reimagining of games with the same name over two thousand years ago. And like all vintage things brought back, its reflects the culture of the day. This meant the modern Olympic games carried the deep racial and tribal tones that raged at the end of humanity, as cultures fought to see which group had the strongest humans, the fastest runners or the most delicate curlers.
Individual athletes competed in these brutal games because they were promised freedom from Vesseldom. They all had dreams of achieving Petty Boujee status by either winning, being beautiful while sporting, or falling in a haphazardly adorable way and Kerri-Struggling into the hearts of audiences planetwide. If they succeeded in vaulting castes, they would be used as tools for companies, filling commercials with their victorious allure, which would provide them money and extend their spotlights beyond the age of 26, when most had to retire with broken bones, torn cartilage, or when their bodies had simply reached maturation and could no longer flip easily through the air.
The distinction between summer and winter Olympics melted as winters grew shorter and all alpine events were moved indoors since all shopping malls erected ski areas. Three weeks after secular Christmas, every mall's elf village was eminently domained and turned into a training camp for the winter Olympic sports.
And here Cal-Gon stands, minutes from the finale, with his marching hat's feather flopping in the wind.
The closing ceremony committee vetoed all live audio after the fiasco during the opening ceremony. Everything, including instruments, had to be pantomimed to a track.
Dammit! Cal-Gon thought, if only the chariots of fire hadn't rolled too close to the international color guard delegation, igniting the spinning flags of all 103 nations and 47 city-states.
A kickline of majorettes reacted quickly in knee-high Nancy boots. The inferno was soon engulfed by these blondes in bevel, who linked arms and stomped.
Eye-high piano kick, struck kick, hitch kick.
Bevel to the cameras... and then---
Strut kick, hitch kick, double twist!
With the whole world watching, a few of the more daring women drowned the dying embers by being thrown up into scorpion and twirled down until their bedazzled derrieres smooshed the ashes. With crisp precision and witty retorts, these women won hearts worldwide, instantly securing Petty Boujee status for themselves and a made-for-holocube movie.
Not only had those tall, tanned vixens won star-studded status and become the darlings of the Olympics, their shenanigans ruined the rest of the live performances. Before the fires could be kicked out, the plumed marching hats of the flag twirlers burst into flames. Their blood-curdling screams were captured and echoed around Earth as their friends beat the fire--- and their heads--- with flag poles. The shrill, high-pitched hollers were picked up on microphones and boomed to the international audience of 2.87 billion humans. The sheer misery seared through their ears, sending waves of pain through their bodies, curling toes and wincing eyes. Worst of all, the screams deafened them from absorbing the important commercial messages for hemorrhoid cream and Gout-be-GoneTM.
The producers paired the replays of this atrocity with the Benny Hill theme song in hopes that this would make it comical. But nothing could stop the memory of those screams igniting anxiety with what was reported as that year's greatest tragedy.
“Those majorettes should have saved the flag twirlers first instead of showing off!” Cal-Gon huffs as he takes his place in line.
The producers couldn't risk another catastrophe. The audio of this final performance had been recorded three days before and would be blasted throughout the stadium and in homes planetwide as Cal-Gon and bands marched in time.
“But it's not fair! What about me?!” Cal-Gon cries. “Well, fuck it! I'm going rogue!”
As he wets the lips of his superbone and warms up, he's oblivious to the fact that his spittle twists with the double helix of humanity's demise.
For the past three weeks, the band geeks were quarantined to the lowliest of Olympic villages, ostracized away from the jocks, to ensure their tooting their own horns wouldn't wake the world renowned ping-pongers or skeeters in the midst of mental preparation.
Ugh, it wasn't fair!
The shooters practiced outside his room and their sounds haunted him morning, noon and night. He could hear them holler with their guns-ablazing. “Aww skeet, skeet, skeet, skeet, skeet. Motherfucker! Aww skeet, skeet, skeet, skeet, uh--- goddamn!”
And from the windows, to the walls, he couldn't help but be forced to see the ping-pongers' sweat drip off their balls as they practiced in his building's lobby.
The marching bands were crowded thirty cots to a room, exiled far from the action, but next to a curious tent city assembled on the outskirts of the Olympic archipelago. Most of its squatters were local residents who had their homes razed to build the stadium. These Olympic-displaced people were offered prime parking spot-sized spaces to peddle tchotchkes commemorating India's first Olympics. The state offered them a 60/40 profit share on anything sold.
Cal-Gon entered the tent city on his fourth night. After an evening of carousing, swilling Kingfisher beer and comparing accolades with these, his species's best marchers, he was feeling extra horny.
“Ha, well my team placed first in the Little Miss Dairy Festival. Beat that!” Cal-Gon boasted as he pushed his way through the unmarked paths of this tarp town.
* * *
As humanity's music became more automated and synthesized, the most significant human holdout were these marching bands. Inadvertently bucking trends had long been band geeks bread and butter. These goose-steppers were bolstered by a relationship with the military, which pumped funds into marching programs, defending their honor from enemies, both foreign and automatic.
Bravado was a core component of militaries humanity-wide. This ethereal currency could only be secured with flags and fanfare. These trained warmongers needed to smother the criticism that their drone bombings of innocent humans had made them cowards. What better way to silence the critics than with Pizzazz! What human could think critically of the military-industrial complex when their chests swelled with pride as a 100-person drum brigade marched past. So a race of ungainly geeks got gallons of glamor and ounces of fame by marching in 4/4 time, exciting the masses with Sousa symphonies.
Cal-Gon was a 19-year-old sophomore at Old Racist Dominion Plantation College. His $247,000 a year in-state tuition was paid for when he conscripted twenty years of his life to adding pomp to the bloated military circumstance. Ground troops hadn't been deployed in 38 years and the current skirmishes were won by the friendliest of fires that burst forth from bazooka-grade drones, razing villages, and incidentally toppling hospitals and killing school children.
But this automation detracted from the valor that attracted recruits. The military needed to keep up their image of the free and the brave, of cadets saluting in parades, stomachs sucked in, shoulders erect, bursting with American pride mixed with murderous, but righteous, rage. Instead, the military was made up of energy drink swilling, paunch-clad blobs who slumped before vast gaming consoles, yanking joysticks to hoist drones over Pashtun mountains, navigating narco caves and diving over dunes in the Arabian desert. They bravely swirled index fingers and heroically tapped buttons to bomb any village they deemed a threat.
The military-industrial complex had expanded its video game segments over the decades. At first, the military identified who were the best marksmen in first-person shooter games like Call of Duty, Halo and Wolfenstein 6D. After a while, the military cut out the middle men and created their own game, Death from Above, and recruited users with the promise of winning the ultimate prize, national dominance. These scrawny recruits were ecstatic to finally have a courageous purpose for their adroit hand-eye coordination and strong forearms gained through years of gaming mixed with furious masturbating.
Cal-Gon was part of the military's vast PR campaign, disarming the perceptions of the armed forces with nostalgia and pageantry. During his summers, he was paraded from Provo to Poughkipsie, dangled from Duluth to Decatur and goose-stepped a new step from Galveston to Grinnel.
All over, old men stood in salute, teary-eyed, as the bands marched past. This older generation would shush their grandsons and snap them to attention, ingraining them with awe at this pinnacle of masculinity.
That summer's big hit was a parade song dedicated to America's longest, never-ending war, Operation Everlasting Freedom: Afghanistan. Cal-Gon played with a hundred tromboners that flanked the main float. On the float sat a fighter jet and draped on its tip, two beautiful white women in skintight bedazzled flight suits sang.
“My, My, At Kandhar, America did surrender,
“The history book on the shelf,
“Is always repeating itself,
“Kandahar - couldn't escape you if I wanted to.
“So how could I ever refuse?
“I feel like I win when I lose.
“Kandahar – knowing my fate is to be with you.
But it was all a mirage. The uniforms were studded with abdominal and pectoral muscles. When the uniform was off and the shoulder pads were dropped, Cal-Gon's doughy body stared back at him. Like a superhero, he slipped through the crowds unnoticed in his alter ego. The women who swooned at his lock-step virility now vanished as he stuttered to speak to them.
* * *
But not now!
Not in the tent city!
That night, he was pumped full of energy drinks, booze and just a touch of viagra. His ego and phallus swelled as both heads throbbed with a rush of pride. He was one of the best! Selected from the greatest tromboners to share his gift before an audience of billions! He had survived ten rounds of elimination and spent six months in a hologram lineup beamed into the New Delhi stadium to practice their cohesion.
As he stumbled through the tent maze with his brassy companions, he fluffed his young male ego by bragging about his accomplishments.
Bleary-eyed, he was hooked and dragged in by a carnival barker bellowing about his bevvy of beauties awaiting these nerds just inside his tent.
The teen men beat their chests, booming a clunky manliness as they pushed their way into the tent. The candlelight caught the curves of barely-clad female humans hiding their terror beneath bangs, feathered hair and thickly caked masks of makeup.
During the last fifty years of humanity, 30 million human women and girls were trafficked around the planet. They were snatched from their homes, sold as sex slaves and kept in brothels disguised as massage parlors, never finding the release or the happy endings they were required to give their customers. Their documents were stolen and locked away and they were only given a pittance of what their bodies and dignity were sold for. Often, these women were invisible in plain sight. Thousands of humans would walk past these women every day and never notice or care about the excruciating pain they suffered, all so that fat, schlubby men could feel moments of pleasure. For twelve minutes, these men pressed their fat folds on top of the women and girls, thrusting until their ejaculate escapes their bodies in a three-second wave of ecstasy. And then pants up, shirt on and out the door.
Cal-Gon's friends divided the ladies first, leaving him with the final one, Abhinaba. Her downcast eyes hid the trauma of the past three weeks as foundation cakes over the bruises that rippled as welts on her back and up her neck. A low swoosh of brown hair hides the black eye on her right side. A fresh coat of makeup hides the tiny red bumps on her cheeks, each swelling with pus.
The barker barges in and pushes the two together, while pulling out his fee. He pushes them into a secluded spot, walled off by a shelf of cleaning supplies and a dirty sheet that hangs from the ceiling.
Cal-gon grunts with glee. He pulls off his shirt and his supple man-boobs plop onto his bulbous belly.
She disrobes, lies flat and then feels his 212-pound heft smother her. This uncomfortable weight presses memories back into her. An uncle when she was eight lured her with a mango lassi and then pulled up her sari, pushing on her as he choked her. Then he told her how filthy she was and left her in a puddle of her blood and his sweat, spit and other fluids. The boys who locked her in a stall at thirteen. The bus driver who cleared the bus and drove her miles out of town. By this point, she felt like an empty rag doll. Just something to be thrown around. How did this happen to her?
More memories creep back.
Her father died, her mom cried. The cold hands of poverty pushed her to accept any prospect. A man came to her village and told her he had a job for her. She could be a laundry girl in a city an hour away. When she told her mom, she grabbed her sternly.
“Here's your last chance, Abhinaba, don't let me down.” With her mom's push, she threw herself into this new life.
The recruiter only grabbed the pretty, young girls. She still remembers that first night. They were locked in a warehouse and were stripped. Their documents were taken and bartered off to pay drinking and gambling debts. All the uniqueness of self was bulldozed over. She was no longer a person but just property to be sold and controlled.
She spent the past four years in the wild nightmare of sweat and stench. Trapped beneath the blurred lines of ceilings, tents and dirty rooms. As she built men up, she fell apart. The more they weighed on her, the more hope was squeezed out of her.
And tonight, she's just outside the Olympic spotlight. Billions of eyes stare at events just yards away from her, but she's never felt more invisible. And now, she feels a new discomfort. Her skin races with a redness that itches. And she can't stop coughing!
She remembers these same marks on a man, thirty minutes east of Kolkata by the Bangladesh border.
When was it? One week ago? Two? Time seemed to stand still as she was passively throttled around, from tent to tent, room to room, aimlessly staring at ceilings, waiting for men to recoil.
Her pimp took them on a tour of wherever there were single men making money with no way to spend it or no one to spend it on. Coal mines, military outposts, construction depots. Her pimp's algorithm was simple, if an area was 80% men, if there was 90% employment and there were few entertainment options, then he could turn quite a handsome profit.
The only reason she remembered this one among the hundreds that used her body is that after coitus, he collapsed and cried, as if the orgasm burst a dam of emotions he had kept locked inside. What did he say? He was a border guard. He had no one to talk to and the other guards mocked him. He mistook her silence and softness for compassion and his feelings flowed forth.
“I killed her! And her daughter.” He sobbed, retelling how a woman tried to scramble to the top of the border wall. How he shot her. How, only as the bullet burst through the woman's skull, was he able to see her as human. And as she fell backward, he painted her with the face of his mother.
As he sobbed, her pimp heard him and yelled.
“She's not paid to listen, once you unload, you're done!” He shook the curtain to rattle him out.
“Alright!” He yelled and stood up, the light that snuck through the curtain bathed his back. And that's when she saw the red pox throbbing up and down his body. She tried to match it with any of the diseases she had picked up before: rashes, yeast infections, syphilis, gonorrhea, but she couldn't.
When she saw the first redness sprout on her, she asked her pimp for her monthly cocktail of antibiotics early. He beat her for needing drugs early, as if his blows could deter infection. But as the redness grew, he beat her more.
Maybe the infection would clear on its own, she hoped.
Just then, Cal-Gon yodels “Take Me Away!” And then he collapses on her, twitching and squirming.
After a minute, he stumbles out triumphantly, high-fiving his band bros.
* * *
It was a week later when he first felt feverish and achey, but he chocked it up to tummy troubles from the food. His skin was prone to breakouts, so the redness must to be the first flush of acne. When the day came for his big performance, he insisted that the makeup artist smooth over his zits. 80 others lined up after him and, since their pale, pasty skin tone matched each other, the makeup artist quickly dabbed on the same foundation using the same sponge.
With each blot, she damned them to death from the virus that began to burst from Cal-Gon.
He steps onto the field, filled with renewed manliness. As the music track starts, he brings his superbone to his lips and blows, playing for all to hear.
Those next to him leap, startled by the live sound.
“I'm a go-getter, 100 percenter. I don't need permission to live.” He thinks to himself.
And here he stands, the pied piper of humanity's destruction. In a moment, his existential need to play live, to be heard and dazzle above the rest, would blanket the audience with disease and spread the virus around the planet.
Millions of virions flow in his saliva through the slide and out the bell, blasting over the 28,674 athletes from all 103 nations and 47 city-states.
Swirling in the air, the particles blow, floating high and inhaled by hundreds of thousands of humans in the audience. Separated by continents, coming from all landmasses of Earth, from the islands in Oceania to the remote tundra of Nunavut, Canada, from the valleys of China to the peaks of the Andes mountains, from the deserts of Australia to the grasslands of Tanzania, these humans inhale the virus that danced on the notes that blew from Cal-Gon's superbone. Though they sat separately, segregated by the flags they wave and wear, the attendees are united as humans, with lips that open to cheer and lungs that breath. While humans have spent so much energy dividing each other over superficial features like skin tone, hair curl and nose and lip size, they are all equally fertile grounds for viral division.
Between songs, Cal-Gon shoots a snot rocket which zooms the virus at 100-miles per hour, blanketing the Belgian Men's Waterpolo team thirty feet away, preening shirtless in goggles and hair caps. 3,000 droplets of moisture fly 50-miles per hour with each of Cal-gon's coughs. Each droplet carries 200 million virus particles and hovers over the Brazilian Women's Volleyball team, trying to hold their heads up after a disappointing 3 rd place finish. With each heavy sigh over the failed spike that brought them bronze, they drew in more virus, coating their lungs with the invader.
The droplets dance on air, dispersed by the breeze and swallowed by all respiring humans in the danger zone of Cal-gon's trombone. Each viral DNA twirls in these new lungs just like Cal-Gon in high school, desperately trying to fit in.
The weeks in smog heavy New Delhi, with pollutants and toxic clouds akin to smoking 50 cigarettes a day, had severely irritated lungs. Coupled with this were the poorly-ventilated Olympic Stadiums. These were the key factors for how far the virus spread. 80% of these humans' lungs were already inflamed by pollution. This inflammation swelled their lung linings and provided spots for the virus to breach into each body. It took just one particle of the billions inhaled to break through for infection to begin. Once inside, the virus went to work, hijacking cells and forcing them to replicate copies of itself. Each cell switched into a factory, a vessel whose sole purpose turned to copying and transmitting the virus.
Rich and poor, Haught Boujee and Grip, all became vessels for this undead, unthinking, unfeeling, uncalculating invader. This breakaway piece of DNA followed its one instruction, divide and spread at all costs.