Copyright © Arno Le Roux 2017
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The Monk’s Bed – A Short Story by Arno Le Roux
How sheepishly we follow… no, rephrase, how we absolutely cherish the endless queues, to purchase with our health, the one way ticket to the bottleneck where financial slavery is sold. And one icy windy morning, the whole world changes and we realise we’re part of nature but we know nothing of how to survive it…
“You’ll look after my mother’s one too? If I agree to let you go? How will I know to trust you, if, hypothetically I agree?” The merciless soldier took a careful step nearer and stood over the old man who was too tired and too bruised to push himself up from the cold concrete floor. The old soul looked up at the gently falling snow outside with his bloodied eyes and smiled… “Well…” the aged old man aimed and spat a mouthful of blood to the side, narrowly missing the greedy young army general’s highly polished knee-high boots. “Well I’ll pray for your soul first, then, say tomorrow you visit again I’ll tell you.” The sinewy old man was as tough as nails and wasn’t giving in. Thirty days in pitch black solitary confinement did his mind no harm in the least. “Answer me now. I’m here now!” He barked at the barefoot political prisoner dressed in his monk’s robe. “If you insist then…”
The next step.
“Yes, but not because they’re evil, that’s what they do…” He would never shy away from any opportunity that presented to teach Ivan. In Igor’s world everything was fastidiously engineered for survival first, sustained living thereafter and lessons in ethics, took backstage as a third.
Engineering a deadly and elaborate trap for a curious unsuspecting wild animal was his first lesson, Ivan thought back to his equally frigid seventh birthday, and put his bow over his head and positioned the bow tight against his back. Rising to his frozen feet, he pushed forward into the icy wind and tightened his boots, then briefly eyed the rope from the welded chain link to where he had double knotted it to a wide pine tree. “Are we done admiring our work?” Perceptive Ivan traced the smile in his bearded loving father’s voice as it reached through the frozen wind to where Ivan stood scanning the landscape for a hint of anything out of place. “Father!” And Ivan dropped his knees deep back into the thick snow and with a lighting pull, his bow was back over his head as he did so. “Damn! Yes I saw… You have your mother’s eyes…” His father instinctively copied Ivan, sank into the snow and peered through his binoculars. 700 meters beyond them at the base of a darker pine tree covered mountain, a flock of birds had been spooked and decided to alarm the forest by temporarily feeing their nests, frantically circling low above the snowy tree tops. Below, a silhouette that had been desperately in slow-motion-like fashion; blended in as it alternated from tree to tree, had suddenly appeared suspiciously out of place. Grey and white snow camouflage was standard Siberian military issue, but proved pointless when the darkness of the pine forest was the backdrop.
It's 2033 and the isolated deer farming communities had been forced into desperation by the tyranny of the oil controlled government. As if the unanticipated and unwelcome arrival of cruel Mother Nature’s -35° Celsius winter wasn't taxing enough; and Siberia's frozen world that had been systematically disarmed by by its power hungry ruling family as they increased their kingdom, dotting it with oil drilling sites, this morning a messenger was sent again. "Messengers", were who they were referred to in front of small children. Mercenaries were leveling the political playing field by ridding the icy country of unarmed deer farmers who refused to sell their land for next to nothing. Much like the terror stricken South Africa that Ivan had learned from in last week’s virtual reality history class. The almost uninhabitable Siberian landscapes which had been in farmers' families for sometimes hundreds of years, were forced relocation projects by government connected families and the deceptive solution had been the cities. There, feeding the hungry city dwellers with poor quality imported genetically modified beef and pork, and basic necessities, the shrewd rulers attempted to pacify the dire situation as local supplies of food, already scares fuel and scant medicine was running lower than normal. As radiation treatment was basically unaffordable, hunters and soldiers turned against their own in desperation to accumulate sufficient money to pay for urgent treatment, pain killers and skin treatment to counter the radiation from a nuclear disaster a year before. Much like the recipe for disaster; that was exactly that, which wiped out, sterile and uninhabitable England, Turkey, Northern America and South Africa, Siberia was slowly suffering an identical fate. "It's a brave new world!" Was the logo motto on the high security gates of nuclear power stations that were rolled out all over the excited world during the "Good old days" days of 2023. After global oil reserves, all showed signs of a ten thousand year old virus that had changed its inherent lubricating and energy properties to a level, useless to remain the number one choice for industry, it was a unanimous decision that modern nuclear power stations would be combinely German / French designed, be funded by the last surviving money hub of the world that was China, and lastly build and maintained by India due to their typical lower manufacturing and labour costs. The volatile fate of the financial world hung in an already precarious balance at the time and a single invisible design fault in the cooling off of the reactors, amplified itself and repeated it's apocalyptic consequence, whipping the world's pecking order wholly out of line. Against all odds, Siberia's underhanded ruling family's announcement of newly discovered massive oil reserves, pushed it to "decision maker of the future" status in a matter of only four globally televised news bulletins in just as many days.
While waiting for Igor’s instruction, Ivan’s thoughts travelled back to his 7th birthday. “Accomplishing the ultimate trap, to capture the rare beauty of a snow owl, copy it’s soul and elegance in a charcoal sketch and hang it on your wall, and watch in appreciation afterwards, as it happily returns to freedom… that is what we’re doing, and that is what we’re about… you must understand this Ivan, and never forget it. Yes?” Igor’s words although in a whisper, reached through the falling snow and landed on Ivan’s ears.
Today again, his bearded loving father’s voice reached through the frozen wind to where Ivan sat with his knees dug into the pure white frozen landscape. But today he wasn’t preparing the typical protective trap for a snow owl. If anything in fact, this trap was designed to snap mercilessly at an unwelcome visitor and permanently transport them far away to the land of anguishing pain. Ivan eventually forced the serrated jaws of the steel bear trap apart, paused, and turned his head towards where his father stood, as always awaiting approval of his handy work or to receiving patient advice on where to improve. This morning was no different. 13 year old Ivan decided on a collectors edition Zippo lighter from a museum that had been scavenged in Moscow and a Russian army dagger as his preferred decoy and placed the items vigilantly in the center of the spring-loaded serrated edged bear trap. “Careful son… the fishing line is too short, tie a longer one. Well done. The tree must always be thicker than your waist, well done. It’s perfect. Now cover it with snow.” His father ended the lesson, rose to his feet – planted in the dense snow, and held out his thickly gloved hand. “Come, we’re done, gloves back on Ivan”, and the boy was rewarded with a hug, a pat on the back and a long sip of warm chocolate mixed with deer blood from the coffee flask. “Want some Father?” “All yours son, you did well.” Both inspected the narrower path between the rocks and judged that it would make more sense for a tired travelling outsider to take the obvious trail rather than scaling the slippery rocks.
“Well he obviously prays more than the lot of us…!” The voice of an irate businessman echoed from the head of a massive polished ebony wood forty two seater conference table and bounced off the ornate wallpapered hall until it eventually was absorbed by his nervous staff. “Seventeen men sent to deal with our problem, and none returned with any news, or a signed purchase agreement?!” He fired at them again. “Well, none returned at all sir… the conditions out there are simply inhumane… which is why we’re not using our soldiers but rather the rough mercenaries from…” The brave head of security dared. “What!? Deer farmers cling to a worthless piece of the most desolate frozen land and you sent that many!?” The man grabbed his chest in seeming agony and retrieved a single pill from a silver metal box in his vest pocket. “You useless lot will be the reason for my heart attack one day. Three more and he keeps his land and and two years supply of pain killers and food!” He sniped at them and moved his head to the right to attend to his assistant’s whisper. “But sir the agreement with the farmers union…” The businessman held his index finger up in the air and it paused the proceedings as if by remote control. “The Chinese are here sir, early for their meeting.” The nervous assistant conveyed the message, habitually unsure what his boss’s reaction would be. “Fine.” Was the reply, and the agitated businessman left the lavishly Victorian decorated hall without excusing himself or greeting on the way out as he slammed the heavy wooden door behind him shut.
Igor stood outside on the porch hugging a warm mix of chocolate and deer blood and in turn punched at the faint neon characters on his mobile handset with his warmed up thumbs. “Blessings Brother. Two more left the city by train. Should be on your side of the world in a day. Where the hell are the others?” He read the message. “I’m sure you have the wrong recipient.” Igor replied and removed the battery from the device. “Father…?” Anika, Igor’s wife and Ivan peered curiously outside after pushing the front door slightly ajar. “Two for tomorrow, maybe.” Igor washed down the remainder of the steamy mug, drank in the icy air and dusted the snow off his boots as he stomped his way to the large log house’s door… “Is the metal detector charged from the messenger from Sunday?” Igor hugged Anika and removed his ring and put it on Ivan’s side of the dinner table next to his plate. “Father, what does ORDO AB CHAO mean?” Always inquisitive Ivan wanted to know…”