Tweet of the Day: Marauder Shields- Episode 48: “Into the Abyss”
Ozoir-la-Ferrière, Île-de-France, French Republic, 19 July, 23:15 hrs, +1 GMT
Max leaned against the back garden’s wall. Two dozen patients sat on lawn chairs, eyes transfixed on the large screen TV someone had rescued from a nearby home. Ozoir-la-Ferrière, like most of Paris sattelite towns was empty but for troops or in this case, a large Army hospital. Max spent the last few days taking shots in the hospital: blood covered surgeons struggling to keep a wounded soldier alive, patients crying softly into their pillows fighting back the pain left by phantom limbs, and volunteers scrubbing every surface in a vain attempt to keep dreaded microbes away.
He scrolled through the pictures in the back screen of his digital camera. Among the gory scenes one figure popped up again and again. All of them featured a pretty blond, a member of the Doctors Without Borders. In one picture she was elbow deep into a man’s chest, the next comforting a patient in the thralls of furia, a form of madness that struck civilians and soldiers alike. Some victims would fall into a catatonic stupor but most would fly into murderous, feverish rages. Only a heavy dose of sedatives and ice packs could reign in the symptoms.
And the blond doctor.
Max looked up from the camera. The patients watched a live concert from London. Not the bombastic version of europop so loved by British pre-teens or the heavy furious beats of socially assertive rap, but a lyrical rendition of a song from a video game of all things. Backed by the London Philarmonic, a singer clad in a flowing white gown wowed the audience with a bittersweet song of darkness and hope.
“Cigarette?” asked someone to Max’s left. He stared at the blond doctor for a second, stunned by her upper class bearing and the aura of noblesse oblige that surrounded her. “I know I should not smoke, but,” she dug out a little pill bottle from her shirt pocket, “I don’t want to start on these yet.”
Max padded his pockets until he found the crumpled remnants of a cigarette box. He fished out a pair and lit them.
Her fingers trembled, “Merci, I’m Collete, and you are?”
“Max,” he said.
“Max? Max Guthrie? You took that photo of the soldier-”
“Yes, that was me. It was all luck, really,” he said. He remembered how he spent the next week doing interviews for major news networks around the world. At some point the story changed from the struggles of the french soldiers on the field to Max the heroic photojournalist.
“I see,” she peaked over his shoulder. Warmth spread from her fingers through his shoulder, “Oh!”
Max switched off the camera, “I… just doing my job.”
“I don’t mind, as long as your fair. I’m just part of the team, after all,” she said.
“I don’t have to send all of them, just the top five, ten at most, with a caption and some audio commentary, if I can hook up my laptop to internet. My sat phone,” he pointed skywards, “can’t transmit through the clouds.”
“When I was a girl I wanted to be a veterinarian,” her voice trailed off, “I don’t know if I should say anything, since you are a reporter.”
“Off the record.”
“I switched to medicine in university, wanted to save the world, you see. Went all over the place, east Africa, Afghanistan, the Amazon, but I could always count with the safety of home, you know, no poverty or neglect, no destruction of any sort,” she said.
“Where do you live?”
“A chateau in Centre. Last time I spoke with my mother she said she packed all the paintings and sold off the rest, for the war effort of course. She is staying with relatives in Belgium.” The warmth that Max felt at her touch retreated into damp coldness yet he didn’t feel any anger or hatred toward her, only admiration. “I imagine that it is a smoking ruin by now.”
Max started to speak but a gendarme came in into the garden.
“Ladies and gentleman, a general evacuation order is in effect. Please, go to your assigned areas and await further instructions,” said the officer.
“So much for the break, time to get back into it. Thank you for the smoke,” said Colette.
“You’re welcome,” he said. He knew there was something special about Colette and he hoped that one day he would find out.