(Author’s Note: This is set in the same world as God Has Plans For Chloe. Unfortunately, as I have not read the books ahead of time, I don’t feel like I can distill Verna’s story fully all at once. What this means is that I will add on as she moves through Fred’s posts. This also means that I need to be very strict in updating as the worst thing I can imagine is to conclude this story with her Left Behind)
Verna stared deep into her coffee cup.
Already she could feel the tears well up against her will, that all too familiar loss of control. She hated that feeling, the admission of weakness. But these days, she hated herself even more, that she could only cry at moments like these for such small and petty reasons.
Outside the door there were good people who had lost everything, no less strong than her, no less brave, whose eyes clearly registered the trauma of The Event, who had suffered genuine visceral loss, who had lost entire families. Who had lost everything.
And here she was shedding a mere handful of tears for the loss of a friend, a shared friend even and only then because the coffee reminded her of her warm gentle face. And to make it worse, it wasn’t even like Lucinda was a close friend, or even all that much more than a familiar presence.
But then, that’s why she was really crying, wasn’t it? That’s what made Verna glow red with self-hatred. The entire world collapsed and the only connection she had with it was superficial and lacking, of absolutely no impact. She could walk through the streets and see it all as surrealistic farce. She could disconnect, compartmentalize, and process. She could do that so easily by now, a trait well earned through a long cultivated stoicism. And yet now, it seemed to burn.
How dare she be the only one so unaffected, so callous inside, the only one able to pull together the shattered news team to try and get to the bottom of who exactly did this, and what stories were going unheeded in the meantime? How dare she be swept in self-pity that this was the only pain she felt? Verna drank the coffee, its bitter force rebooting her brain and allowing her to sink back into full control of her emotions, deliberately ignoring the dead feeling inside, the survivor’s guilt.
If it was nothing, it was pointless to succumb. If she was lucky, if she was a monster, if she was strong, if she was weak, no matter what, there were roles to fill. She looked over some of the submitted notes and preliminary stories from those who had been seeking any form of intensive work to prevent them from thinking overmuch about the tragedy. They were universally grim, but far less so than it had been the previous weeks, and often far more coherent.
The banks had tried to take over all their mortgages and foreclose on homes, but had been stopped by a new group calling themselves the CC&R Militia. The coalition of Chicago street gangs had been cleared of all charges for stealing a suite of bulldozers and flat bed trucks and reopening the highways and restarting food delivery from the farmlands thus quelling fears of hunger riots. The Grant Park Cult had pretty much taken over the whole park and there were instances of Hasidic Jews being assaulted by the group for “vaporizing all the children with their Jew death ray”. A hunch had turned out to be correct in that Americans for Truth headquarters was filled with empty clothes. The Christian hate groups had been way too silent about The Event when usually they’d be the first to blame it on gays and atheists.
The investigations into the children had produced no leads, but there were actually confirmed reports of women being pregnant from Planned Parenthood now that they could use to ease fears and speculation that the human race would become extinct. Radiologists, nuclear physicists, and biologists had investigated new UN security chief Carpathia’s theory and had found it ill-supported by evidence. Worse still, they couldn’t find anything wrong at all, there weren’t even any signs of vacuum stress that would occur if the missing people had simply vaporized or disappeared. Worse yet was the discovery of organs in some of the clothing. Whoever had caused The Event had been a sick bastard.
Verna rubbed her eyes together. It was hard to piece together. If it was a death ray or some new weapon, where were the demands or statements by the terrorists responsible? If it was aliens, would they strike again and if so when? If it was the Rapture, where were the parting of the Heavens and the people floating up, would it be related to the Russia-Ethiopia Incident and worst of all, what would it mean?
What was such a deity planning, why would it slaughter its own followers and children and what else would it do to the world? There were some particularly frightening follow-ups that had come in. A suburb in the Tri-County area had been completely unaffected by The Event. It still suffered the effects, but no other part of life had changed. Food delivery had stopped but grocery stores had full stocks, accidents had been cleared with no evidence they had occurred, some of the residents seemed unaware and uncaring that their children were gone and furthermore, seemed mostly worried about a Captain Steele and how he was faring. A friend in the military had found no matching records for the name, which was even more worrying.
Plus there was the whole Carpathia business. He was obviously at least partially insane, but the TV news seemed unable to broadcast anything other than how wonderful he was. There were even worries that the sovereign governments of the world’s nations were actually considering and debating the merits of his political takeover.
More than one public figure and even city had changed overnight and there was still no news from San Francisco. It was entirely possible it had merely been wiped out. Taken alone none of these things were too weird, but altogether and in light of events, it was seemingly likely that something more powerful was fucking with shit.
So now as a reporter, the goal was to find out the who, how, and why, as well as the make it stop.
She stopped in horror at the thought and gulped down the rest of the coffee, and if it is the God of the fundies, what did that mean for her and her community. She had already been busy volunteering at the Center, running the phones at the Crisis Center, trying to run follow up for gay kids who were panicking. There was already a huge list of names she wanted to visit personally after work. Panicking kids, closeted Christians with no support networks left and all the people who had already been on Suicide Watch.
She stared at the paperwork and closed her eyes. It was her job now, finally officially to get to the bottom of all this, to make this branch deliver the right news to a starved public and if that meant she was stone hearted, so be it. Too much was at stake not to be.
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