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David & Maisey
Empires gave way to nations. But what will nations give way to?
Welcome to Agora, an anthology of super short stories set in a world where the public sector is dead. A universe that’s governed, not by corrupt politicians, but rather faceless corporations.
As soon as the water coated the inside of his esophagus, David realized his fatal mistake. It burned. Leaving a trail of excruciating pain as it slithered down toward his stomach.
Maisey heard the glass shatter seconds before the screams. Horrible, wretched, wailing. Reminiscent of the ones from that PSA she had been forced to watch that morning.
The mother took off her headset and left her virtual meeting. She’d eat the dock in pay from her OneCoin account — her child was more important.
But as soon as she saw her baby boy, all prior thoughts of being a great parent vanished. He was on the floor, seizing — eyes rolled back — tongue ready to be chewed off.
And she knew, this was her fault.
The PSA had made the side effects look almost comical. She remembered terribly costumed actors worming around on the ground like fresh-caught fish. It was a spectacle; something to be amused by, which in hindsight, probably undercut the severity of the message it was trying to promote.
Bean™️ had concepted, produced, and placed the spot in market all within a week. It was an in-house creative effort — a quick-turn deliverable to be crushed, not crafted. Something the brand managers, and nobody else was proud of.
Uninspired as it may have been, the messaging was direct and simple. The community water supply had been tainted. But Bean Watershed Utility™️ (BWU) was doing everything they could to fix it. According to the company, it was an issue caused by ANTICO. The black-garbed terrorist group had apparently dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of harsh chemicals into the water supply. Chemicals like Acetate_3009, Polymer_19481, and Silicone_4444441. Which when ingested, caused an unusually horrific sensation of convulsing, vomiting, bleeding from the eyes — and then very soon after, death.
According to the PSA, there were two things one could do to avoid death in this situation. The easiest, and most important, would be to purchase a subscription for Bean Water Filters™️ — only 5.3786749 OneCoin a day. This was a preventative measure which didn’t help Maisey or David.
The second, more costly option, would be to find a Bean Health Bureau™️ (BHB), and have one of their physicians irrigate the chemicals out of the body using Bean’s™️ patent-pending technology, engineered by those formerly known as German.
This was Maisey’s last hope of seeing her son conscious again. The spot said that if one were to consume these chemicals, they’d have a total of 10 minutes to get treated.
Maisey picked up the boy, and rushed to the garage. She loaded him into her Bean Beam Cruiser™️, and attempted the mental math required to figure out how much time she had left before his demise.
It had been one minute since she heard David’s glass shatter. The BHB was six minutes away, meaning she’d have three minutes to get him treated and make it in time.
She took a deep breath and pressed the button to start the vehicle. God was an antiquated concept to her, but still, she prayed it would only be a fifteen second ad. The interior lit up in hues of dark green and purple — Bean’s™️ brand colors. The screen on the dash powered on, and politely asked, “Where to?”
Maisey shouted back, “the BHB.”
And her words were instantly transcribed onto the tablet. The car responded, “The Bean Health Bureau, You got it, Maisey.” The vehicle self-accelerated outside the garage, and turned out of her driveway at exactly the twenty-five miles per hour.
The doors locked from the inside and the screen transitioned to a non-skip advertisement for next year’s model of the Bean Beam Cruiser™️. Already covered in vomit, David began bleeding from the eyes. Weeping, yet still unconscious.
The ad described the history of Bean’s™️ automobile division. Its vehicles were the first to be engineered using an ingenious (and semi-sustainable) chemical process that involved Acetate_3009, Polymer_19481, and Silicone_4444441.
Next it showed cliche footage of the vehicle in action — cruising through desert terrain, sunny city skylines, and waterfront highways. Finally, much to Maisey’s dismay, it showed her and David riding inside the newest model, laughing together, playfully nudging each other, piloting hand-planes outside the open window. It was a deepfake — a vignette from some horrible episode of deja vu Maisey never conjured. The mother held her breath, waiting for the piece of film to end.
The vehicle pulled up to the BHB, but the advertisement was still playing. Maisey reached for the door handle, but knew before she pulled that it wouldn’t open. She slapped on the glass window and called out for help.
Outside the BHB was desolate. Since all buildings and vehicles had been fitted to be sound-proof, noises (human or industrial) were a far and few between kind of luxury. A nurse smoked a cigarette exactly eight yards from Maisey’s cruiser. Her back was turned to the vehicle — she was ordering a carton of Bean Menthols™️ from her phone.
Maisey screamed and cried and slapped and punched — punched the glass window until her hand bled. The mixture of agonizing whimpers over the ad’s royalty-free track created an avant-garde melody Maisey found even more disturbing.
All in all, the brand film was 9 minutes long — the Beam Cruiser™️ had dipped in sales the last few years — and media-strategists thought a long form, more emotional spot would prove successful. They were right — that model would eventually top last year’s sales by 1.005%.
As soon as the advertisement ended, the doors unlocked. Maisey feigned hope, with mutterings like “Davey, you’re ok, baby.” But deep down, she knew it was over. The media-buy-roulette had determined their fate.
Maisey got out, and opened the back seat. But just as she suspected, David was gone. Covered in blood, vomit, and bruises — his skin turned a dark green and purple.
She picked up the corpse, slung it over her shoulder, and carried it next door to the BCF — The Bean Crematorium Facility™️.