|by Gina Gallo|
The clock is ticking. As the Y2K countdown continues, citizens of almost every city and town have succumbed to ‘millennium fever’. It’s origins are unknown, but the effects are both widespread and devastating: human behavior has been altered, inexplicably, in ways that boggle the imagination. Police blotters across the nation are logging more crazy encounters, more unusual incidents than an "X-Files" marathon. For those of us who’ve experienced working a beat car during the full moon, when the shifting tides and gravitational pull are strong enough to coax every screwball out of the woodwork, the phenomenon is eerily similar. The only difference is that, instead of the two days’ duration of a full moon, this madness is ongoing, and intensifies with each second that brings us closer to the new century.
A survey of disturbances reported to various law enforcement agencies indicates that, in these final months of 1999, the fever has reached epidemic levels.
In Iron Lung, Indiana, a thriving little community in the shadow of the Steel Mills, police were summoned to a disturbance at the Burning Bush Gentleman’s Club. Proprietress/Madam Bambi LeVeau informed the responding officers that disgruntled customers, angered over changes she’d begun to implement at the club, had threatened to toss her in a smelting vat. Ms ..LeVeau explained that, with the advent of the millennium, she intended to modernize her club, step boldly into the techno-age by replacing female employees with droid-like robots. It was the wave of the future, she said. Robots would be easier to maintain, and, although their computer chips were susceptible to certain viruses, they were much less likely to transmit any nasty diseases. Not to mention that it was nearly impossible to get busted on vice charges when her employees were made of scrap metal.
Intending to phase out her staff of ladies slowly, Madame LeVeau brought in a prototype blonde robot to try out on select patrons. The results were disastrous. She forgot to factor in certain critical details, like possible electrocution, for those customers partial to hot-tub sessions. Men with the tendency to perspire a lot reported incidents of corrosion. The Sugar Daddies complained that the robot was cold, and hard to buy for. Other dissatisfied customers said they were certain the robot faked it during sex because they heard the same data tapes played over and over.
But the last straw came when a regular customer (and cardiac patient) had his pacemaker shorted out by the robot’s microchips. As paramedics carted the man away, outraged customers descended on Madame LeVeau, who police then took into protective custody while computer chips across town were burned in effigy.
In Chicago, police were summoned to the exclusive Gold Coast Plaza Hotel, where a costume ball gala was in full swing to benefit an environmentalists’ foundation known as "Save the Fruit Flies." At five hundred dollars a plate, it was an exclusive event attended by society elite, celebrities, local legends, and other glitterati. Responding to a ‘disturbance with the man’ call, police arrived to find the concierge struggling with a outraged - and uninvited guest.
The man, Mohammed Jones, had heard about the costume ball and became outraged that it was hosted by ‘another bleeding heart environmental group.’ Mohammed was a man with an environmental axe to grind. As a former gardener and tree trimmer, he’d already lost one job when his earth-friendly employer caught him dusting the Rhododendron with DDT. A second gardening job followed, during which he was seriously injured while trimming a tree. Seated on a twelve inch branch, he’d sawed industriously between himself and the main trunk until he ‘went back to the land’ - the hard way. A tragic accident that would not have happened at all if he’d done it his way - which would have been quick and easy with that Agent Orange the government probably still had stored somewhere. As a veteran of ‘Nam; he knew how effective it was.
Since his injury, Mohammed was mad at the world, and environmentalists in particular. He believed in preserving the planet, but there were limits, he later told the police. It hadn’t been like this in the good old days, but as the millennium approached, people had gone overboard with their causes. Couldn’t even eat tuna now without seeing some damn warning label on it. Next thing you knew, they’d be putting labels on men’s underwear: "No weevils were slain to make this product."
So Mohammed decided to crash the party and make a political statement of his own. In protest of the assembled environmentalist crowd, he planned his costume accordingly. Something simple, something that would make a big impression.
And all it took was two cans of spray paint.
When the police saw Mohammed, it was his costume they noticed first, since he’d shed his trench coat to reveal nothing more than a natty ensemble of bare skin.
"What the hell were you thinking?" One of the officers growled, attempting to shield Mohammed’s naked rump from gawking hotel patrons.
"I’m environmentally friendly. It’s my way of saving the planet," Mohammed smirked, attempting one feeble power salute before the handcuffs were slapped on. He twisted forward to offer a frontal view, and the full effect of his costume. He’d spray-painted his penis a bright lime green, his scrotum flourescent red - the Mohammed Jones interpretation of a tomato slug.
Other effects of Millennium Fever were documented In Spittoon Butte, Wyoming, just south of the Montana border, where local police investigated a series of convenience store hold-ups. Store employees described the offender as a six foot tall, medium-built male, race undetermined due to the hood and oxygen mask he wore. Items stolen from each of the stores were identical: a stack of comic books, twelve beef jerky sticks, and the entire inventory of chewing gum.
Although the robber made no demands for money, employees described being held up at ‘horn point,’ as in, the curving bone-type horn usually found on certain mountain animals. This proved to be the clue that broke the case, since Spittoon Butte is located in the Big Horn Mountain range, and police correctly assumed the robber was a local.
After analyzing witnesses’ reports, and following the trail of an anti-freeze leak reported to have come from the get-away pick-up, police were able to track down the robber. He was located eight miles out of town, in what had been an abandoned silo, now painted in camouflage colors. Seated under a tree nearby was the robber, Clydell Tucker, minus oxygen mask, chanting something that might have been a mantra, or a refresher drill in Phonics.
Clydell responded calmly to the officers’ questions, freely admitting to the robberies. It was part of the plan, he told them earnestly. The millennium was coming, and with it came Armageddon. He was a survivalist, and intended to be prepared. It was going to be the end of civilization, the ultimate thinning of the herds. Long after the rest of the world population had been reduced to dust specks on the cosmic horizon, Clydell planned to be around.
Eager to prove his point, Clydell led the officers on a tour of his ‘Millennium Bunker’ - the silo that had been painted like an army tank. The inner walls were reinforced with parachutes stuffed with cotton batting. A double-duty safety measure, he explained, since the cotton would absorb the percussive sounds of the world exploding while the parachutes would come in handy in case he had to jump off the mountain.
Stepping gingerly around stacks of cartons and crates, the police saw that Clydell was clearly a man with a plan. There were stockpiles of nitrogen packed food ("lasts up to fifteen years in those sealed pails, Officers!") and more than twenty steel drums of water. Boxes containing radiation meters, gas masks, iodine pills and Kevlar vests were neatly labeled. Since electrical power might be interrupted during Armageddon, Clydell had laid in a collection of radios, meters, and lights,- all battery operated, as well as a load of nicads and solar chargers. And, perhaps because he was planning on a lot of correspondence after Kingdom come, there were five steno pads, and a carton containing one thousand ball point pens. A tool box was on hand to facilitate the daunting task of rebuilding the world. And, finally, there were the proceeds of the robberies.
Stacks of comic books - most of them of the ‘superhero’ genre, were at the ready for literary inspiration. To provide that all-important protein source, there were the purloined beef jerky sticks, and next to them, the cartons of chewing gum - all brands, all flavors. Astonished officers listened as Clydell described the gum as the ‘perfect food’ for the millennium: lightweight, long shelf life, and could be used as a soldering agent when you got tired of chewing.
Truly perplexed when police announced that he was under arrest, Clydell offered a dismal prophecy. The end of the world was coming, and if the officers failed to heed his warning, and his example - they’d be vaporized along with the rest of mankind.
While writing the subsequent report, responding officers made sure that their arrestee’s comments were duly noted. And made sure to check their own foreheads afterward for signs of fever. After all, this millennium bug is reputed to be a particularly virulent strain, and judging by the large numbers of people affected, you never know where it might strike next. The only thing police officers can do is the same thing we’ve always done: assess the situation, use caution, and implement the best safety procedures available to us. The clock is ticking.
Copyright 1999 by Gina Gallo. Gina can be reached at email@example.com.
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