1 Z.A. - The Beginning
The human population is in an era of growth, the current estimations’ put the population at 6,908,688,000. We are stripping the earth of its natural resources and population expansion is destroying the natural beauty of our planet.
The last point, in which Homo sapiens hit a dangerous low, coming close to extinction, was at year 70,000 BCE during the Toba catastrophe which resulted in the world's human population being reduced to 10,000.
Can planet Earth continue to support the ever growing population and if not.......how will Mother Nature react.............again?
The early morning fog made it almost unbearable for the crew onboard of “Tex” named after its builders, otherwise known as the 47’ MLB to those who aren’t regularly onboard, to see their intended target, according to the mission brief the crew were taking part on a routine search and rescue mission, from what Kevin Smith could gather from the briefing at headquarters and the vague reports coming in from uncertain sources, was apparently a crudely made vessel attempted to transport up to 267 people between the coasts of the United States and its long lost cold war enemy Cuba. The boat was so crudely made that the hull wasn’t even water tight and during the night the boat capsized and all those onboard are missing, presumed dead.
The 47’ is the Coast Guard's primary heavy-weather boat used for search and rescue missions, the Tex was Kevin’s baby; he was a part of every crew that took this vessel out on operational duties. Kevin was use to these types of operations, as thousands of poor and somewhat naive souls attempted to make the risky crossing between the two coasts every month, many of these crossings resulted in death, and those that were lucky enough to make the crossing or even survive a disaster at sea were then only picked up by local law enforcement officers and sent to detention centres to await deportation back to where ever they came from.
It was a vicious cycle, and Kevin hated his part in it all, his view was that the immigration officials were just as bad as the ruthless gangs making a profit off of these people’s hopes and dreams of starting out a new in this great country. Kevin’s own family made the great ocean crossing from their native Ireland in 1844, and being of Irish decent he understood the many reasons that drove people to seek a new life in America and was disgusted at how illegal’s and even immigrants were treated by those in positions of authority.
The waves licked the hull of the ship, the gentle vibration made the ship sway, like being sat in the middle of a see-saw while 2 friends go up and down pushing themselves off the ground and propelling into the air.
“Quite, I hear something!” one of the crew on deck let out, the crew on top scurried about trying to find the best spot to look out and see if anything was lurking in the murky water below.
Kevin rushed from below and peered over the railings, it was no use, he was looking into a sea of nothingness, the fog had still not lifted, a blanket of thin hazy cloud danced with the waves as if the pair were ball room dancers, synchronized in every move. Kevin looked at his watch, how much it brought him to think of home, it was now 6:37, they had been searching for 3 hours, he pushed himself off from the railings and gave the shout to switch on the search lights.
The lights hummed into life and like a bolt of lightning tore through the layers of fog, like a sword being swung for dear life the beams of light, lit up the water in search of anything that would indicate that they were close, still nothing.
The same crew member who gave the shout that brought Kevin up on deck, moved silently towards where Kevin stood, like lion creeping up onto its prey.
“Sir, listen.....” the sailor put his finger to his closed, chapped lips and made the gesture to be quite, as you would a small child, who was being interruptive in class.
“Cut the engines and listen lads!” Kevin gave the order, only out of respect for a fellow sailor, he listened before but could hear nothing, he ordered the lights on but could see nothing, and he was sure that there was nothing.
The crew on the bridge flicked the switch and cut the engine off like ordered and stood as quite as they could and listened.....
You could cut the tension with a knife; the look of confusion was painted across all those who were on board’s face, all but one, that young sailor who heard it first.
And then as if it had been there all along, it came. That familiar noise, which all sailors knew, the gentle tap, tap, tap, it could only indicate one thing.
“Look over the edge, everyone look at the hull!” Kevin shouted as he ran over to the railings and looked down back into the fog, back into the water below.
“Captain, it’s here! We’ve found them sir!”
The ship was like a hornets’ nest, teaming with life just after an attack on the nest itself.
The cool air softly caressed the skin of Louise Hempsten as she walked towards the last of her clients house, the evening was drawing to a close, the orange glow of the sun sent giving way to its adversary, darkness. She wouldn’t normally have been working this late but there’s something about dogs and their owners which plays havoc with making plans and general time keeping.
Louise walked dogs for a living, the pay wasn’t out of this world but through hard work and determination she created herself a very wealthy and prospers client group. This allowed her to live a comfortable life, in which she enjoyed a stylish one bedroom apartment and two holidays a year, doing something she enjoyed, unlike her friends who worked long hours and hated what their lives had become.
The short walk to each clients house was enough for her to drift off into her own thoughts, she didn’t want to be walking dogs for the rest of her life and with her turning 30 only last month she yearned for something more. Her dear mother suggested she should find a nice man and settle down but Louise was to into life, to even think about having children. She didn’t hate children; in fact she loved them but that life wasn’t for her. She liked to believe that she was an independent woman who strived only for the best in life even if it was viewed as self preservation by those closest to her.
Louise confidently knocked on the bold oak door and awaited the arrival of the owner while straighten herself out using her reflection in the window as a guide. The sound of footsteps on the wooden floor inside alerted her to sound of the lock being turned. The door was pulled open with the grace of an angle by Mrs Apple bottom, this 63 year old was Louise’s first ever customer in the early days of her chosen career and has been a loyal one since.
“I’m sorry to have made you come so late in the evening my dear, but Shirley needs to go walkies and you know me I’m too afraid to go out by myself. What with all those shootings and muggings you hear on the news” Mrs Apple bottom said with a hint of desperation and sadness in her voice.
“It’s quite alright Mrs Apple bottom, you have been a customer since day one and I consider you by loyalist so I wouldn’t dream of turning you down for anything.” Louise said warmly.
“Is Shirley already to go or would you like me to come in and help out?” Louise asked trying not to sound patronizing.
“Yes she’s ready, just let me go get her for you,” With that Mrs Apple bottom turned inside and went down the hall way and into the kitchen.
A minute or so went by before Mrs Apple bottom returned with a slavering Shirley in tow. “Here she is Louise,” Mrs Apple bottom said handing the dog lead over to her. “Now you be a good girl for Louise and no running off you hear me Shirley, or there will be no sleeping on the bed for you tonight misses” Mrs Apple bottom said wagging her finger towards Shirley as if she was a child.
In this job Louise saw many examples of clients replacing their children who have simply grown up and left the nest with all kinds of different pets and Mrs Apple bottom was no exception.
Shirley was a loving and playful West Highland white terrier, one of Louise’s favourite dogs, these dogs craved attention but were highly intelligent and this is what drew Louise to them. She had two of her own but both were males and weren’t as tame as Shirley but Louise knew why, the fact that Mrs Apple bottom molly cuddled her was the major factor in temperament.
Louise would take Shirley and the other dogs from the surrounding area to St Christopher’s Memorial park which was three blocks away from Mrs Apple bottoms house. The park was generally peaceful and a great place for walkers and dogs alike. She never had any negative incidents there and this time of the year was the perfect time to visit the park on the evening.
Louise walked down the pavement that was lighted up just for her as the street lights flickered on. Shirley was her usual self sniffing each lamppost and moving on until she found a spot to mark her territory. She remembered which lamppost was hers and Louise couldn’t help but chuckle to herself each time she’d walk Shirley down the very same street.
It was usual for the streets at this time to be deserted, the calm before the storm so to say as hundreds of people would be soon filling the streets for their usual Friday night activities. It had just gone 8 when Louise reached the entrance of the park, all seemed normal as she walked through the cast iron gates with Shirley pulling her ever forward.
A lone jogger went past the two of them; music could be faintly heard from his headphones as he passed. The latest chart entry Louise thought to herself no doubt. Louise continued further into the park following the winding paths through the well kept hedges and bushes. She loved walking without human companions, there was nothing to disturb her from the runaway thoughts dancing around her head, though she was work committed and wanted the very best, she could still not get away from the fact that she was and always will be a day dreamer. It affected her time in school though not directly in her test scores but she was known to be thrown out of the class once or twice for seemingly not paying attention to what was being said and done.
Her school days seem to have came back to haunt her in that instance as Louise went crashing to the ground along with another. Her head was protected from hitting the pavement by the arm of the other but she was dazed and confused, lost in her thoughts, and then lying on the floor with a seemingly beautiful man stumbling on top of her.
“Oh I’m ever so sorry” the unknown man said scrambling off top of the prone body beneath him. “I didn’t realise you were in front of me until we collided” he continued offering an out stretched arm to Louise. She looked up to him and saw the warm glow of the lamp above them bring to light her gentle attacker.
“Thank you, I honestly think it was my fault” She implied while grasping the awaiting hand of the man and lifting herself off the ground. “I was lost in my own thoughts and then all of a sudden I’m flat out on the ground!” Louise continued while putting herself straight.
The realization that Shirley was nowhere to be seen hit home in the time she took to scan the surrounding area, Louise couldn’t help but freak out on the gentleman who had most likely caused the accident but she kept this thought to herself as she was trying to make an impression and keep her chances open with him, he was tall, dark and handsome, her mother would be pleased.
“Shirley, come here girl, Shirley!” she cried out. The man understood what was going on and pointed to the way Louise had just walked from. “I think I saw your dog run off down there” he said walking towards the direction and waving Louise over to follow him. Louise duly followed and started to call for Shirley to come back to her.
The two of them had walked the best part of 15 minutes, exchanging pleasantries while walking closely together, Louise would call out for Shirley every so often but the man she had just met was more interested in her story.
“Do you live locally then?” the man said, picking up a stone and throwing it into the bushes nearby. Louise giggled, “I don’t even know your name and you mine, so what makes you think I would answer such a question so soon” she replied with a grin on her face.
“How rude of me, I’m Luke, Luke Redfern, I work at the local estate agency.” Luke said offering Louise his business card.
“Thanks I’ll hold on to that, I’m Louise Hempsten, professional dog walker!” She replied trying to keep a straight face.
The two were interrupted by a sound of a dog barking nearby. “That sounds like Shirley”, Louise said running off into the direction that she thought the bark was coming from.
“Wait for me” Luke shouted running after her.
The barking continued, which lead Louise straight to the area where Shirley had to be, a heavily bushed area with no visible lighting “Shirley, come on girl, here,” She cried out. The barking came to an abrupt end and a loud yelp was heard.
Luke had caught up with Louise who was now shaking with fear. “Something’s happened to Shirley Luke, she’s in there I think, she was barking but then it stopped, she’s in pain! Help her please” Louise grabbed on to Luke and sobbed.
“It’s going to be alright Louise, you stay put and I’ll go and take a look, I’m sure she’s fine!” Luke reassured her and gently shrugged her off.
He pulled out his mobile phone and used the light given off from the screen as a guide as he entered into the bushes. He had to crouch to get in through an opening. At first he didn’t see anything but he knew something or someone was in there with him. The hairs stood up on the back of his neck as he moved slowly forward.
His mobile went into sleep mode as his foot hit something solid on the ground. “Stupid things” he said as he unlocked his phone. He pointed the phone forward the light shone onto two beings. “Hello...” He said quietly wishing he hadn’t. The sight reviled was ghastly, something from the pages of a horror book itself. What seemed to be two men in tattered and dirty clothing raised their heads to the direction of the sudden sound that impacted there undead ear drums.
“Are you okay?” Luke asked pushing the phone further towards the men. Luke looked to the floor between the kneeling men and saw something he wished he hadn’t. Their she was, Shirley torn in half laying in a pool of her own blood, her white fur, blood stained red. Luke quickly glanced back up just in time to see the man closet to him lunged forward, teeth glaring, like a stray dog on the attack. He moved back in time to stop any major damage being caused but he wasn’t quick enough to elude the scratch that resulted in the split second.
Luke scurried out of the bushes and ran over to where Louise was standing, “We’ve got to get the police, and we’ve got to get out of here now! He shouted while smashing 911 into his mobile.
Louise shrieked in horror as Luke’s attacker stumbled out of the bushes, Luke grabbed Louise by the hand and dragged her away.......