An Original Work of Fiction
By David G. Yurth
Draft: Nov. 18, 2012
© 2012 David G. Yurth
All Rights Reserved Holladay, Utah USA
Maddy Fournier was 47 years old. Her photographs of child soldiers in Rwanda and the Congolese Republic had propelled her to the forefront of war zone reporting. She was famous enough to be sought after by the worlds most prestigious publishers and notorious enough to receive death threats from those whose evil she had exposed. The fact that she was extremely intelligent and easy on the eyes led some to overlook the piercing coherence of her gaze. Her dark brown eyes missed nothing.
When her cell phone rang she was in the garden transplanting a hydrangea next to the resting place of Kolya, her favorite cat boy and lifetime companion. She had saved him from an early bout with FIP, the biological equivalent of human HIV AIDS, when he was just a kitten. She defied the Vets pronouncement that he should be put down to prevent the spread of the disease to his siblings. She did battle through the night with the Angel of Death and saved him. Fourteen years later she had tucked him in under the cherry tree next to Miou-Miou and Rocky. In her reverie she nearly forgot to answer the phone.
Bonjour, she said lightly.
Bon Jour, Maddy. the mans voice said. She knew him. She had loved him once before fleeing the stifling clutches of his patrician wealth. Are you busy? Can we talk for a moment?
Sure. Give me a moment. She finished scooping the last remaining handful of soil onto the root bundle, poured the last of the watering can over its new blanket, wiped her hands on her faded blue jeans, then picked the phone up and turned on the speakerphone. As she walked towards the outdoor kitchen and patio, she said, Okay. Whats up?
Jean-Louis was the owner and publisher of Hachette, one of the worlds largest and most successful publishing companies. After clearing his throat, he said, One of our monitors in Denmark intercepted a radio message apparently sent from a fishing boat in the Faroe Islands in the village of Sküvoy. It is a small town of about 450 people situated on a small island in the south end of the Faroe Island chain. He called the emergency management center in Türshavn on his ship-to-shore radio. The guy who initiated the call identified himself as Bogi Anderrson. He is the skinn-maester of the village.
The skinn-maester. Each town or village has a person who apportions whale meat to each family after a grindarap its called a grind by the press.
So, what the hell is a grind? Maddy sat in her favorite lounge chair, poured herself another tumbler of iced tea and removed her straw gardening hat.
Hang on, he said. She could hear the clicking sounds of Jean-Louis keyboard in the background. The term is used to describe how the Faroe Islanders kill pilot whales. Apparently, his voice paused while he read from the computer screen, when a spotter sees a pod of pilot whales approaching, the grind-master sends out all the boats in the fishing fleet to intercept them. A long pause
The boats surround the pod and drive them up onto the beach. The villagers wade into the surf, connect drag hooks into the whales blow hole, and drag them up onto the beach. Another pause followed. Hold on .okay, I have some video clips. Ill send them to you. You got video on your phone? Right. Somebody took pictures and video of the grind that went down in this little village where the call originated from two days ago.
The video clips came into her i-phone almost immediately. Got em, she said. As she began to watch the grind in progress, she could feel the bile begin to rise in her throat. After watching the first few minutes in silence, she turned the video off. Another gulp of iced tea helped to wash the taste of disgust from her mouth. She took a deep breath, got centered in her head and spoke again. Alright, so whats the deal?
Bogi Anderrsons message was only partially recorded but we got most of it. Here it is
Maddy listened to the voice of the man who had called out to anyone in the world who would listen. The translators voice softly melted into the background, not intruding on the emotion in Bogis message. She could hear the fear and exhaustion in his voice. She had heard it so many times before, in so many fearsome places. When the recording and translation were finished, she looked out across the flood of blossoming poppies and peonies surrounding her beautiful, sacred garden. She knew this call was going to turn her world upside down.
Why nineteen? she asked.
We dont know for certain. The number of pilot whales killed in the last grind was 19. Another short pause followed, then he said, Heres a still-frame that shows all 19 pilot whales lined up on the beach, side by side. Note the precision of their dismemberment.
She looked at the image. 19 whale carcasses were lined up parallel to each other. All were rolled over onto their right side. Each whales viscera had been removed, leaving a precisely engineered rectangular cavity open to the beach. Hmmm, she murmured. What else?
We know that emergency management teams have been dispatched to the village. They have switched to encrypted digital burst transmission mode now, so it has taken us awhile to unscramble their communications. Hold on
Maddy knew this was going to get serious very quickly. The fact that law enforcement had chosen to scramble their comm signals could only mean that the fears expressed by the man named Bogi had become all too real.
Okay, sorry. Our latest intercept was an exchange between Interpols Anti-Terrorism Center in Amsterdam and the Türshavn police. All six of the countrys helicopters have been sent to Sküvoy with instructions to seal off the area. The 19 victims found this morning are being transported back to Streymoy Hospital in Türshavn for evaluation.
What kind of evaluation? You dont evaluate dead bodies, right?
No. They are not dead. They looked dead. Almost dead, but one of the EMTs discovered they were still alive, barely.
Wow, she said softly. She tried to get the picture in her head to come into focus. Her gears started whirring through the possibilities until something clicked into place. Jean-Louis, did you tell me that the 19 victims were lined up like those pilot whales?
Yes. And Bogi Anderrson reported in his distress call that each of them had a rectangular box drawn on the belly, just where their guts are and a long dark line at the base of the skull
So, they were rendered senseless, not killed but marked like the whales what about the other people in the village?
All are apparently accounted for. Something really strange is going on here, though, because all of the villagers were also rendered unconscious somehow. It took several hours after the EMTs arrived for some of them to be revived.
Any idea how this happened?
No physical clues. Well, maybe they will discover something in the blood or urine samples but nothing yet. No one saw or heard anything, at least not that they can remember yet. Thats all we know. And another thing. The cell tower was disabled. Totally fried. How the hell did that happen?
She closed her eyes, felt the pulse of her quickening heartbeat pulsing through her face and neck. This is a signal, she thought. This is how it always begins.