Portentia Clarke looked out the window and watched the cameraman struggle to get his legs into the contamination suit; he was a heavier man, and the producer and tech crew were helping out. It was five in the morning, and they weren’t scheduled to begin until after nine. Four hours of preparation, all for their safety.
“This is it!” Portentia said aloud. “We made it… we’re here.”
Grabbing the steaming pot of ‘NiCoffee’, she filled her cup with the warm sludge and added a squirt of freon and a tablespoon of Aspartame before taking it to her lips. She couldn’t help but laugh at herself — she was dressed and ready to go already. Too bad none of the crew had evolved yet; it would have made things so much easier.
Trying not to think about all the fuss being made outside, Portentia decided to make sure everything was ready with the house. Grabbing a cloth, she started to clean out the doorless microwave; of course, she had to make sure it was pristine. This was Derek’s first big invention, and she had come up with the slogan for it: “The easiest way to cook healthy!”.
Derek! Dear, brilliant Derek. He was on a lecturing tour now and would not be home for two weeks; the children were at summer camp in Chernobyl and would not be home for another week. Portentia wished they could be there with her on the pedestal, but she was more than prepared to shine alone. After the microwave was cleaned, she went on to the other inventions she was planning to showcase.
She took a deep breath of the carbon-monoxide-filled coal sauna when checking to make sure it was orderly. She thought about cooking something for the crew on the indoor BBQ, but realized they would have to open their suits to eat… or to go to the bathroom, for that matter. That was their problem, she decided, as she made sure the fridge was full of ‘Clarke’s Coala’. The fire pit was cleaned of its melted plastic and Styrofoam heap, and there was a fresh batch of polystyrene egg cartons and bags piled neatly nearby.
Seeing all of these wonderful things they had come up with had brought a tear to Portentia’s eye, and she felt it roll down her cheek. Quickly, she ran to the bathroom to wipe it off before it destroyed her dress, her dark, leather-like skin smoking where the tear had rolled down it. She always wondered what external pain felt like when she saw that.
Gathering her senses while she wiped the tear away with the asbestos cloth, she looked into the mirror to make sure she looked OK.
“It’s fine. You checked everything last night. The bathroom and septic pool are contained and clean in the backyard. Bedrooms are nice and clean, with a nice layer of soot covering the new lead-paint job. You outdid yourself with that, by the way,” she said to her reflection in the mirror. “We’re here.”
This was the first time that a television news crew was coming into the home of someone who had evolved. There had been news reports and footage all the time when people first started evolving, but that was before Portentia was born. These people were here because of what she and her family had done, because they were successful people. Not because they were evolved.
Pride beamed through her, though; she couldn’t help it. There were not many successful evolved people yet, but they could have easily chosen someone else. The public wanted her, however, her and her family. Not only were they successful, they were popular.
Thrum Huston could have been picked — three of his last books were bestsellers, with movies coming out soon. Thrum Huston, who had looked down on Derek. Calling him an opportunist, saying all he did was take other people’s inventions and convert them. Even saying all he did was patent old inventions with all of the safety features removed. Thrum was alone today, though, Portentia noted to herself.
Derek and Portentia Clarke have done nothing to earn their wealth and popularity but make it to the patent office first and take a good picture.” Those had been the terrible words said by Senator Traj.
Portentia had thought Senator Traj such a wonderful man before then. They had given billions to his charity, and he had gone to all their parties. And they had understood that he was always too busy to talk because he was such a great man and a humanitarian; so they had never asked for favors. After those comments, though, Portentia knew the senator was just a power-hungry fool.
Another tear began to well in Portentia’s eye, and she focused on not crying. The senator’s bills trying to save the ozone layer and reduce those lovely oil-slicked beaches would fail. Traj would be exposed for the grasping fraud he was; the cameras were outside her house, after all.
Keeping the asbestos cloth at the ready, Portentia smiled and felt so proud to be such a shining example of evolution. Living evolved was easy, even with no money there was sustenance at the dump, or radiation to be found somewhere. She and Derek didn’t just live, however; they were successful, and they were going to be the most successful.
The smile that her pride brought out in her set the second tear free, and she quickly held the cloth to her face to catch it. She hadn’t noticed the third tear until it was too late, and it was quickly off her cheek and straight down onto her dress.
“NO!” she gasped in horror. At the price she paid, this dress should have been good for at least two more wears before being ruined. She looked in the mirror at the line burned into the dress, the black edges a stark contrast to the light-green color. And near the burn, the dress was becoming transparent and Portentia’s black, cracked skin was showing through.
Nodding to herself in the mirror and beaming with the happiness of a sudden idea, she looked in the mirror and said: “Not just designed, it’s evolved!”
With excited thoughts of a “Portentia’s Tears” fashion line bolstering her mood, she grabbed one of the 12-inch stogies from the kitchen countertop. Just as she had it lit, there was a knock on the door. Portentia took a long drag and stood at the door for a second.
Just as she planned it, the camera recorded the front doors opening, and Portentia Clarke stood there, arms open, stogie in hand, standing in front of her toxic house. Smoke trailed out of her mouth as she spoke: “I’m Portentia Clarke, and I’m so happy to get to show you my crib. Now come on in!”
About the Author: Shaun Haiste has never published anything and has only written four short stories thus far, but he is working on more. Shaun hopes to create worlds to stimulate his readers’ imaginations. Shaun also need to figure out how to use his computer correctly. Oh yes, he’s also a thirty-year-old waiter. Can he get you a beer?
(c) 2007 Shaun Haiste firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Artist: Patrick Stacy is an illustrator, painter, anything to do with art…. He’s currently working on illustrations for George Graham’s book “Human Harvest”, due for release in 2008.
(c) 2007 Patrick Stacy http://www.myspace.com/pstacyart