‘LIVING THE LIFE’ is a series of four more short stories that take place in the year 2020 in a fictional State named Callisto located in the Northern part of the United States. In Callisto, life is the same, yet different, because no one outside the State really understands anything about what actually goes on here. Along with the location; the characters, events, and conversations, are completely made up and you’re not meant to find morals, or meanings, or signs; But neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you what you think. Here we meet the camps general, about to talk with 2 new characters far away from Callisto.
LIVING THE LIFE, CHAPTER 7: An Interlude
There wasn’t much inside the tent except an industrial fan, a water cooler, a few picnic style benches, some fold up chairs scattered around, and a hefty desk. Like a desk you’d see the in the Oval Office. The top of the desk was full of spaceship and astronaut figurines. There was a ufo figurine that digitally projected the time onto the desk. There was that pendulum toy that repeatedly hit the metal balls, there was a brick of a cell phone, and lastly, there were picture frames with the generals family.
The general was sitting up straight behind his desk. He was wearing his usual dark green uniform, which showed off his medals, and badges of honour. He was a muscular man, with a sharp moustache and black buzzed cut hair. His name tag read ‘Gen. Steele’ and he was tapping his thick fingers like he was in an army drum line, waiting for his two sergeants to enter.
They weren’t saying anything but he could just imagine the complaints they had inside their heads before they walked in; and here they were.
“Cedar, Fox, thank you for returning after I already dismissed you.”
“We were heading towards the he-lo, Sir, it’s okay,” said Cedar, that’s her last name. “What do you need?”
“I trust you two the most, as you already know. After I dismissed you I received a phone call from HQ; it was General Forbes. He told me to send what we found as soon as possible.”
“What’d we find? I didn’t know we actually found anything,” said Fox.
“No, you two wouldn’t know. That’s why I called you back in,” General Steele replied. “Like I said, I trust you two the most, so I’m going show you what we found and leave the both of you in charge of delivering it back to HQ.”
“We can handle it, Sir,” said Cedar.
Fox looked the General in his eyes and nodded.
General Steele pulled open the bottom drawer of his desk, and took out a large vial with a yellow liquid inside it.
“This is what we found up there; this yellow substance. We don’t know what it is, or what it does, but you need to get it safely to HQ.”
Fox paced towards General Steele, eyeing the vial. “Of course, Sir, what could happen, we’re getting on the he-lo and flying straight home.”
“Great, now you’ve jinxed us, Fox,” complained Cedar. She took the vial from Steele’s hand. “We’ll get it there safely, Sir. Thank you for trusting us with this task.”
“Yes, Sir, thank you,” said Fox.
“You’re welcome, thank you for your consistent good work. Now, you’re dismissed. Again. Get out of here.”
Cedar and Fox exited the tent with haste and stepped out into the heat; the bright sun was beating down on the camp. They were hit with a swift, cool breeze and the dirt flew up and made it look like they were in a western flick. The only things missing were the horses. Cedar put her sunglasses on and began walking with Fox back towards the helicopter. The pilot noticed them approaching and started the engine. Huge gusts of wind came from the massive propellors that nearly blew Cedar and Fox down into the dirt.
“What’d the General want? You guys seem to be in a rush; you weren’t in a rush the first time you were heading to the he-lo.”
“He wanted something that only Fox and I know,” said Cedar, with her shades on and her hair flowing from the helicopters wind. “You’re right, Banks, we are in a rush.”
Cedar and Fox kept moving towards the helicopter. Banks was another sergeant at the base that no one really had time to talk to.
The pilot quickly jumped out and opened the door to get inside the helicopter, then jumped back in the pilot’s seat. Cedar and Fox hurried inside, buckled up, and put their headsets on.
“Take us home, Caine! Fly safe!” Yelled Fox into the microphone.
Once the helicopter began to hover higher and higher Cedar and Fox switched their microphone channel so Caine, the pilot wouldn’t hear their conversations.
“I can’t wait to get back,” said Fox. “It’s been forever since I’ve seen a different person. We’ve seen the same people everyday for three years. I wonder how everyone at HQ is doing. Do you think they’ll remember us?”
“They should. Unless something happened that messed up their memory. I’m just happy to have a break for a while. Once we deliver this vial we can take it easy for a month.”
“Do you know what you’re gonna do for your 4 week vacation?”
“Not yet, I was thinking of spending some time alone, though,” said Cedar. “Maybe in the mountains.”
“What the hell are you gonna do there?”
“I don’t know,” Cedar took a deep breath. “Breathe fresh air for once.”
“I might stay at HQ for a week to see if I can learn anything valuable, but after that I’m going to take a cross country train ride that lasts three weeks, and it’ll bring me right back to HQ.”
“Why do you want to stay at work if you don’t have to? What do you expect to learn?” Cedar sounded annoyed. “Go on a four week cross country train ride.”
“Damn, why do you care so much?” Asked Fox. “That’s the real question.
“I don’t, really. You know how I am. I’m just wondering what you hope to learn.”
“Well, for starters, what’s in the vial,” said Fox.
Cedar reached inside her pockets for the vial and pretended that she couldn’t find it; shuffling her pockets, patting up and down her body to see if she could feel it. Fox’s face turned to panic.
“You have to be kidding me, Cedar.” Fox sounded worried.
Cedar began smiling and took the vial out of the front pocket of her uniform. She tossed it to Fox, who looked at it like it hypnotized him.
“What do you think it is?” He asked.
“What do you think it is?” Cedar answered.
“Maybe that’s the colour of the water up there. Maybe they found a creature and that’s the colour of its saliva. Maybe it’s blood. Who knows; that’s why I want to stay for a week.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if either of those were true. I guess I don’t care enough.”
“I know. But hey, I’m gonna take a nap. So should you, it’s a long ride back.”
“I’ll fall asleep looking out the window. What a beautiful view.”
They both looked down below onto a vast sea of green trees and rocky mountains. Being in a helicopter meant that they weren’t very high up; they spotted a few wandering wild life drinking water by the stream. It was so peaceful down there.
Cedar and Fox were awoken by a sudden eruption of turbulence on the helicopter. They grabbed on to the handles by their seats as they rode a wave of wind. It didn’t last too long, though, but they’ve never experienced turbulence like that on a regular helicopter trip before. They looked out the window to see what was going on. It appeared to be a regular day; the sky was blue, the sun was bright, and, once again, the trees down below were green.
Fox signalled to Cedar to switch her microphone so Caine, the pilot, could hear them again.
“Hey, Caine, where are we? How much longer until we reach HQ?” Fox inquired.
“One second, Fox, give me a minute,” said Caine.
“Well is it going to be a second or a minute, Caine?” Said Cedar, sarcastically.
“Says here we’re around New York, but we’re currently flying over a State called Callisto, 2 hours until we’re at HQ.”
“Callisto? I didn’t know there was a State named Callisto. That’s funny we were just-”
Cedar kicked Fox in the shin so he would stop talking. Caine was only the pilot, he wasn’t approved to know all the information Fox was about to say. Fox looked at Cedar as if to say my bad.
“Says Callisto has a population of only fifty thousand people and gained its independence from New York just last year. So now it’s a State.”
Fox and Cedar cut out the pilots microphone again.
“I have an idea, Fox. We have to do it,” Cedar said.
“What is it?”
“I’ll drop a small dab of the thing in the vial over the forrest.”
“What even made you think of that? I don’t think so.”
“We’ll say it’s pay back for the turbulence. That woke me up; I was having a great dream.”
Fox rolled his eyes. “That’s not a good idea, and you know it. We’re definitely going to be fired. Definitely.”
“Didn’t you say you wanted to know what it does? Now we’re going to know first hand. Think about it.”
Cedar started talking to Caine again. “Hey, Caine, we’re back. Can you start hovering for a little while please?”
“What are you two doing back there?”
“Nothing. Just start hovering.”
Cedar waited for Caine to slow down before she opened the door of the helicopter. Fox, who was contemplating all his bad decisions, reluctantly handed the vial to Cedar. He hated that he had practically had no other choice but to listen to her.
Cedar twisted the top off the vial and edged closer to the wide open door. She held onto the vial as tight as possible and tilted it to release the exact amount she wanted. She looked impressed at herself as she shut the door.
Fox said he saw it hit the dirt and that nothing happened when it hit. “So it’s not explosive.”
“I bet, some time in the near or distant future we’re going to hear about some stuff going on in this State called Callisto. I wonder what it’ll be.”
Around 2 hours later, the helicopter carrying Cedar and Fox landed on the roof of the HQ. They waited until the blades stopped spinning at a thousand miles per hour before they got out. They knocked on window to say thank you to Caine, who said he’ll see them around. Cedar and Fox began to make their way to the double doors on the roof. They were both surprised they found it so easily; they left through those exact doors 3 years ago. Fox used his access card to get the doors opened, then he allowed Cedar to go through first before he shut the door and followed behind. They began walking down a small flight of stairs and opened the door to the top floor hallway, where there were no rooms or anything, just an elevator to take them down. The building looked the exact same way and smelled the exact same way it did when they left. The hallways were painted a distinct shade of red and had another distinct colour of purple used as the trim. It smelled fresh, the smell you get after cleaning your house or doing the laundry. What a great feeling; coming home, after years of continuous work, and everything is how it should be.
Cedar and Fox made it to the elevator at the middle of the hallway and pressed the arrow to take them down to the 21st floor, which wasn’t technically the top floor but the 23rd floor was the hallway they were just at, and the 22nd floor was empty space for training. The 21st floor was where the important offices were. While at HQ, Cedar and Fox spent their days on the 12th floor, which wasn’t bad considering they were on the 2nd floor when they started.
The elevator doors slid open and the two sergeants stepped out onto the 21st floor. The first person they saw was the secretary, it was good to see her still smiling and enjoying her days. They caught up for a bit; Cedar and Fox loved exaggerating how their time up there went. They told her they’d talk more later because they had to deliver the vial to General Forbes asap. They had to walk by all the offices of the other Generals; they walked by General Steele’s office, which of course was empty. The ones who were in their office looked to be hard at work, so Cedar and Fox minded their own business, like they were supposed to.
They saw General Forbes in his office reclining on his chair, with his feet up on his desk, which wasn’t as tidy as Steele’s desk. He looked like he was waiting for them. He waved them into his office before they had a chance to knock.
“Fox, Cedar, good to see you. How was your trip?” He didn’t wait for them to reply. “Good to know. Now where’s the vial? Steele said he trusted you two with getting it safely to me.”
“It’s right here, Sir, safe and sound.” Fox took the vial out of his pants pocket, walked closer to Forbes’ desk, and handed it to him.
Forbes eyed it in awe. “Here it is. I’ll tell you guys this: this right here might be a jackpot.” Forbes continued to eye the vial. Fox and Cedar weren’t even thinking about what they did. Forbes noticed something was off, though, and suddenly his relaxed demeanour turned hostile. “The way General Steele described it, made it seem like I was getting a vial full of a yellow liquid substance about the texture of cough syrup. This vial here is practically empty. Or am I wrong? Does this look full to you two?”
The vial wasn’t ‘practically’ empty at all, but they knew the jig was up. Once again Forbes didn’t have interest in their response.
“Tell me what you did. Without lying.”
Fox, who was automatically guilty by association kept his head down while Cedar spilled the truth.
“Sir, we were flying over a state named Callisto and we were wondering what the thing in the vial did. I had an idea to drop a bit of it over a tree in the forest we were flying over. We saw it drop on the dirt and nothing happened. Caine, the pilot, took us here.”
“I can’t believe you would do something so foolish. You know where we got this from; People would kill to know where we got this from, and you did this anyways. You’ve put us all at risk, Cedar.”
“I apologize, Sir, Fox tried to stop me but in the moment I didn’t think we’d get caught.”
“To be honest, Sir, I wanted Cedar to do it. I knew she wouldn’t listen to me telling her to stop.”
“If it was up to me, you two children would be fired already. Luckily you’re exceptional at your job, and you’re Steeles’ proteges. I wonder how he’d react to this nonsense. Should I tell him?”
Cedar and Fox didn’t say a word in their defence, hoping that keeping their mouths shut would turn out better for them.
“I will tell him. He deserves to know, don’t you think?”
Cedar and Fox stood still in silence in the Generals office.
“We’ve practiced this for months. Ready, Fox?”
Fox looked at his partner and gulped. Then he nodded.
“Damn, there it is; I guess something did happen after all.” Cedar paused. “Okay, pilot, start hovering. Are you ready, Fox?”
Cedar opened the helicopters door and felt the wind hit her hard. They both edged closer, and Cedar began the countdown from 5. They heard each other through the radios in their helmet. Neither of them hesitated when she hit zero. They jumped from the hovering helicopter and felt nothing except the sharp gusts of wind knocking them around the sky. They enjoyed the experience of free falling for a bit because it was exhilarating, then they pulled the cord on their parachutes and glided down towards the forrest floor.
They landed with a thud but both managed to maneuver out of the way of the thick trees and floated through the leaves. What a rush.
“You okay, Cedar?” Fox asked, getting up and dusting himself off.
“‘Course,” Cedar replied, doing the same, with a wide grin on her face.
“Alright, so where is it now? We shouldn’t be too far from it. I have a feeling that north is the best way to go.”
“Lets find it. Kill it and get back to the chopper.”
Since Fox was the one who suggested they go north, Cedar let him begin walking first. They hiked over logs, under branches, and through a variety of different coloured leaves. Maybe they were getting close, they thought. It was spookily quiet, luckily they still had a few hours until it would get dark.
For fifteen minutes of hiking, the only noises they heard were from their own footsteps and the occasional typical forrest sounds, so when they began to hear voices they became a little tense. They stopped.
“Did you hear that?” Whispered Cedar.
“Yeah, it sounds like people talking. Should we keep going?”
“I think we have to.”
“Sounds like a few people. What if they found it before us? What if they stop us from killing it?”
“We’ll take care of them. Lets go.”
This time Cedar took the lead, but it didn’t take long for them to find where the voices were coming from. They broke through the last set of bushes and found what they were looking for, with four other people standing around it.
“Who the hell are you?” Asked one of the men. He was wearing precisely fitting black suit.
“I’m Cedar, this is Fox. We don’t want any trouble, who are you?”
“Don’t worry about who I am. What are you doing here?”
“I don’t think I feel comfortable telling you if you won’t even tell us your names.”
The man in the precisely fitting black suit took a couple steps forward. His comrades were eyeing Cedar, mostly because they thought she was cute. The man was all business, though.
“We don’t want to cause trouble either, do we?”
The man sighed, and looked back at his mate. “We don’t,” he said. “My name is O.J. This is Alonzo. This is Jackson. This is Jonathan.”
“We can’t say where we’re from because it’s confidential. But take a look at our uniforms and you can guess. I can tell you that we have to destroy that tree you guys are standing around.”
Now there was cause for concern, and the trouble they were trying to avoid seemed to be looming.
“Now why would you do that. You two aren’t even from here,” O.J. paused. “So leave us.”
Cedar and Fox could sense that these folks already had an idea about the tree and they realized that they weren’t just randomly in the forest today.
“Well, as you can see, that tree behind you is monstrous, and it’ll keep getting bigger. We need to stop it from growing before it spreads,” Cedar tried to explain.
“What did you do to it? Don’t try beating around the bush.”
“No pun intended.”
“First you said you were here to destroy it. Now you’re saying you need to stop it from growing.”
“You smell that? Smells fishy.”
“Wow, you guys are, like, so in sync,” said Fox.
“Relax, Fox,” Cedar said. “I’ll tell you the truth, O.J. we have to kill it, but we can’t tell you why. Seriously.”
“Because you don’t want others to realize its purpose. It’s too late in this case. I can’t let you do anything to it, but I can make sure no one else discovers it.”
“That won’t work,” Cedar replied. “We’re on a mission, you see. We have to.”
“You don’t have to do anything. What if I said I’ll end both of you if you don’t turn around and head back the way you came. You would have to turn back. Just know: this is Callisto and we don’t fool around.”
The way O.J. spoke made the otherwise confident Cedar turn as quiet as a mouse. General Steele, even General Forbes, never intimidated her like that. She turned to Fox and waited for him to step up.
“We don’t want any trouble,” he said. “But like Cedar said; we were sent to do this. What’ll we tell our bosses when we get back?”
“Don’t worry about them. Stay in Callisto for a while. We need help with something coming up soon and you two are just who we need.”
“Help with what?”