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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Day That No One Died (10)

Read parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine.
* * *

Thirty seconds later, Daryl was dialing the phone.

"Well?" Charlie asked as he picked up the phone.

"Could a pwease speaka wifa misser Challs Coaton?" Daryl asked in his best [terrible] Charlie Chan type impersonation.

"Like it that much, did you?"

"You really should answer your phone with a more traditional 'Hello,' you know."

"Hello. Well?"

"You rock, man."

"I try."

"The piece is great. Just what I was looking for, really. A little folk, a little rock, and a lot of Joe."

"I aim to please."

"What do I owe you?"

"Your undying gratitude."


"And a coffee."

"The usual place?"

"Fifteen minutes."

"How about thirty?"

"Twenty," Charlie said. "You'll be glad you didn't wait." Click.

* * *

"Wow. I thought I'd be the one waiting on you," Charlie said as he slid into the seat across from Daryl.

"You didn't really give me much choice, did you? And besides, you made it sound pretty urgent."

"We're a little beyond urgent," Charlie said, sliding a file folder across the table to Daryl.

"Did you ever feel like you're some Mike Hammer wannabe in a dime-store mystery novel?"

"Now that you mention it. No," Charlie said. "Open it and take a look."

Daryl flipped slowly through the three pages inside the folder. "I thought we already looked at these," Daryl said, recognizing the lab notes he absconded with from the hospital records room.

"We did."

"Okay, Mike Hammer. Spill the beans."

"You still don't see it there, do you?"

"Looks like a bunch of hieroglyphs to me," Daryl said. "Same as before."

"Of course."

"Did you call me out here just to tell me that you still have no idea what's going on."

"No, sir."

"Then spill it already."

"I knew you'd catch on."

"I'm not following you here, Charlie."

"Spill it," Charlie teased. "You said 'spill it'."

"It's nice to know you can hear me, at least."

"Alright, listen," Charlie began, lowering his voice and leaning into the table toward his podcaster friend.

Daryl set down his coffee and mirrored Charlie's position.

Charlie plunked down a small mp3 player on the tabletop and pressed PLAY. Music started.


"I don't get--"

"Just listen," Charlie insisted.





Charlie stopped the song.

"What was that all about?" Daryl asked.

"Of all things, I would think you would understand music the best, Joe."

"Nickelback. If Everyone Cared. Awesome song. But what does it have to do--"

"Did you listen to the words, or were you too busy interrupting to hear them?"

"Of course I listened, but--"

"Sing it."

"Yeah, you're the singer, remember? I just play the tunes."

"Just tell me what you heard, Joe."

"From underneath the trees--"

"The last verse I played."

"If everyone shared and swallowed their pride, then we'd see the day when nobody died."


* * *

"Earlier this year, a bright high school kid -- very bright senior, getting ready to go off to college -- posted a question in the college forums online," Charlie explained. "Other students took interest and the discussion blossomed."

"What was the question?"

"What would happen if just for one day, nobody died."

Daryl thought for a moment, remembering the line from the song Charlie had played. "It would be a miracle," he said.

"A miracle," Charlie repeated. "Maybe."

"How could it be anything but?" Daryl asked. "To put an end to death, even for just one day. No suffering, no sadness."

"One day, Daryl. Do you really think that would put an end to suffering and sadness?"

"For a day, at least."

"Really? And at what cost?"

Again, Daryl considered the question. "Well, I guess it would cost the funeral homes a little money, and the companies that make coffins. But if we're only talking one day, they'd make it up pretty quick."

"Sure. Maybe."

"What would be so bad about it?" Daryl asked, genuinely confused.

"Think about it for a moment," Charlie explained. If eight of every thousand people die every day in America, but for just one day no one died, what impact do you suppose that would have on the population?"

"I'm not even sure what the population of the country is," Daryl said.

"Doesn't matter. That's almost one percent. To make the math simple, let's say the population is one million. What's one percent of a million?"

"Ten thousand?" Daryl asked, after considering for a moment.

"And if the birth rate is one point four percent, then that mean fourteen thousand people would be born on a normal day."

"But still--"

"But in reality, there are over two hundred million people living in the United States. Which means in one day that nobody dies, you now add over five million to the population."


"Yeah, wow. Five million more mouths to feed on the same food supply. And since we're working with percentages here, that number is compounded daily. Every day the population growth is bigger."

"More homeless people. More unemployed."

"And who's to say that this is just limited to people. What if for just one day, nothing died?"

"More," Daryl paused and thought of the implications. "More crickets."

"More birds, more everything."

"But this kid was just a high school kid. I mean, can he really--"

"A very bright high school kid. Actually, a college student now. With several other very bright college students interested in his theory."

"So you think he--"

"I don't know, Daryl. Maybe he did something, maybe he didn't. If he did, I don't know what it is. This is just a theory. But something definitely happened, and it doesn't look good for the home team."

* * *

Daryl had a very difficult time digesting what he'd been told. He simply could not imagine that some punk high school kid could initiate such a major event in the history of man. I mean, this is big, he told himself. This is bigger than penicillin. To wipe out all forms of death for even one day. He just couldn't fathom it.

But the implications were much further reaching. The impact of such an event was astounding. To think that such a wonderful thing as defeating death could usher in such tragedy and mayhem.

Daryl had spent the remainder of the day in his apartment, at his computer, researching. Not that there was anything to be found. It seemed that the media and scientific communities, if they were even aware, were keeping a very tight lid on the situation. Daryl had come across a forum post that he assumed was the one Charlie had told him about. It revealed nothing but the evidence that some high school had pondered the impact of a one day moratorium on death.

Daryl pushed closed the lid to his notebook computer. Weary-eyed and mush-minded, he had finally given up on uncovering anything new.

Sitting back and closing his eyes, he took it all in. The birth lists and death lists. The crickets. The birds. The thought of some high school kid changing the world. The sounds of traffic on the streets below drifted through the windows and startled him from his thoughts.

It's one thirty in the morning, Daryl thought. "What's going on out there?"
Daryl moved to the window and peered down at the bumper to bumper traffic on the street below. Unmoving. Engines racing. Horns blaring.

* * *

After a long night of tossing, turning, and wishing there was something he could about the traffic noise coming in from the street below, Daryl gave up and pulled his tired self from under the covers.

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