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The Lie that Saved the World: Chapter 0, part 4

by VengefulReaper


Friday was Fish Day at the docks. From sunrise to sunset. All of Durban knew that which meant that all of Durban arrived at some point during the day. Fishers displayed their fish in portable freezers, and it brought the dull docks to life with the vibrant community. The market was the most visited location by fishers from around the country. 

Fortunately for the two chefs, they had arrived early while everyone had just finished setting up their stalls. By noon, the stalls would have reached past the harbor and onto the long pier but early in the morning, it was far quieter.

Ethan and Troy walked through the banner at the entrance of the docks. “So, Boss said we need some Cape Salmon, Soldiers and Sardines for the Catch-of-the-week special tomorrow.”

“How many kilos of each?” asked Ethan.

“Four Salmon and twenty kilos of Soldiers and sardines… Or ten thousand Rand. Whichever comes first.”

“Spoken like a true businessman,” chuckled Ethan. “I’ve got someone here who used to be a friend of my mom’s. He usually gives me a good price when I buy fish for myself.”

“Your mom used to shop here? How long has this place been around?” asked Troy.

Ethan shook his head. “Oh no. She used to fish. Deep Sea, actually. One day she brought home a Cape Salmon. It was about a meter long, and if I remember well, weighed around 12 kilos. We grabbed a few folks from the docks and brought them home to eat it.”

Troy poked his head down the aisles of pop-up stores to find the fish they needed. They heard a mixture of voices shouting out their fish and their prices. Each one tried to shout louder than the other in hope that a customer would hear theirs.

“Wait. Your mom just ‘grabbed’ guys off the docks to come and eat at her house? Isn’t that like really dangerous, given the amount of crime that takes place here?”

“It was a lot safer back then. I don’t think a single Friday passed where we ate dinner alone. I don’t know where she used to find people, but she was always feeding someone that night. That’s how I still know some of the folks here, actually.”

"It must have been quite a loss for the community," Troy replied.

“It was...After she passed, I moved out of that house and the community fizzled away. What’s left is this,” Ethan said, gesturing to the market in front of him.

He heard a voice shouting from the distance. An elderly man with a maple complexion waved at Ethan and Troy. “Ethan! Ethan!"

“Ah, yes. That’s who I was looking for,” Ethan said, waving back.

Troy and Ethan weaved their way through the crowd and walked up to the man’s stall. It consisted of a wide grey table and a freezer underneath it. The man groaned as he lifted a massive Cape Salmon onto the table.

“Mr. Singh! How are you?” asked Ethan shaking the old man’s hand. “What have you got for us this week?”

“Well…um…We’ve got some Cape Salmon, a few Reds and whole lot of Soldiers. Reds have been particularly scarce these days even around the hotspots.”

“What about sardines?” asked Troy.

Singh shook his head. “Absolutely nothing. The run is only coming in a few weeks.”

“I guess we’ll take some Salmon and the Soldiers. Maybe about four of the Salmon and… ten of the Soldiers.”

“Fillet or whole?”

“Whole, please.”

Mr. Singh lifted the fish out of the freezer and dusted the ice cubes off its skins. He placed in a green material bag and handed it over to Troy. He cursed under his breath as he felt the bag’s weight pull him down.

“Hey, do you mind dropping the bag in that basket?” asked Ethan. “I just need to talk to Mr. Singh about something.”

“Yeah…Sure…” he replied, struggling to lift the bag of fish.

“Lift with your legs, young man!” shouted Singh from the stall as Troy waddled towards the basket.

Ethan turned his attention back to Mr. Singh. He wasn’t quite sure whether the fisherman was the right person to give the bad news to. If anything, Mr. Singh could give him some advice on what he ought to do.

“Mr. Singh,” Ethan began, taking a deep breath. “Remember those headaches and dizziness? I told you I was feeling these last few months?”

Mr. Singh pulled out a knife and began to cut and clean a fish on his table. “Yes? I remember telling you to see a doctor.”

“Yeah. Well, I did and…” Ethan’s mouth ran dry, and the words refused to leave his mouth. He just needed advice and he could get that without telling him about his illness.

Mr. Singh paused, his knife stopping its chopping motion. He looked up at Ethan with his misty grey eyes. “And?”

“And…Um…I… Turns out it was just some allergies,” assured Ethan.

Singh raised an eyebrow in doubt. “Just allergies?”

“That was my reaction, too. I guess I was just being a little too paranoid.”

The fisherman stroked his chin and scrunched his nose as he tried to decipher the look on Ethan’s face. Mr. Singh always had a sixth sense when it came to people. He could read even the best of poker faces, seeing right through their facade.

Eventually, he leaned back and relaxed his body. “Good to hear. But I sense that’s not the only reason you want to talk to me.”

Ethan grabbed a chair from behind the stall and sat on the opposite side of the table. “I need some advice.”

“And what would an old fisherman like me be able to advise a young genius inventor like you?”

“I have a problem. Remember that project I was working on for the past few years?”

Singh nodded. “Yes. I recall you mentioning it more than a few times.”

“Well, I’ve been blacklisted in my industry, and I no longer have any access to the item I need to complete my design,” Ethan said, scratching the back of his head.

“So, what are you going to do about it? Give up?”

“Well I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”

Singh smiled and shook his head. “My dear boy, you didn’t give anything up. They took it from you. Given half a chance to get another shot at finishing that, you’d dive headfirst in a heartbeat.”

Ethan clenched his jaw. "Is there something wrong with that?"

Mr. Singh looked into the distance and shrugged. "No. It's just something to keep in mind the next time an opportunity to continue it flies your way." 

"What makes you say that?"

"If it was indeed your purpose then you'll follow it once more, maybe without even realizing it," he replied. "You've been at this for ten years and you've been the most determined man I've seen in a while. Ask yourself whether it's worth giving up." 

"I have," snapped Ethan. "I don't want to. I have to."

Singh sighed and spun his chair around to face the waters of the harbor. Fishing boats loaded with fish glided in. Not far from them stood a pier that stretched from the paved land, past the charcoal grey rocks and into the raging ocean. At its end, Ethan could see people with fishing rods casting their bate into the ocean.

“Then, you should become a fisher,” Singh said, pointing to the fishers on the pier.

“A fisher?” Ethan scoffed.

“Yes.”

“This isn’t the time for you to convert me into a fisherman. I’m serious!”

“As am I. Do you honestly believe I’m joking around with you?”

Ethan folded his arms. “It sure looks like it.”

The old fisherman rolled his eyes. “Do you see those chairs?” Ethan nodded, deciding to play along. “After attaching the most enticing bate any fish could see, casting the perfect line into a fishing hotspot and having the strongest line to catch even the mightiest of fish, every fisher needs to hang up his rod, take a seat and wait.”

Just then, a fisher reeled in his line and a fish, attached to the hook, flailed around in the air as they brought it onto land. Even from where Ethan was standing, the fish looked big. The man cast his line once more and sat down in his chair, sipping from a bottle of beer.

“What do you do while you’re waiting? Doesn’t it get boring?” asked Ethan.

A reminiscent smile spread across Mr. Singh’s wrinkled face. “Fish alone and you’ll lose your mind. Fish with company and you’ll always find something to talk about.” He stood up from his chair and grabbed Ethan’s shoulders with both his hands. “You can’t decide to move on, kid. You can only try.”

I don’t have time, Ethan thought. I can’t just sit around doing nothing waiting for an opportunity to fall from the sky.

“What if I don’t catch anything?” he asked.

Mr. Singh shrugged with a cheeky grin on his face. “I don’t know. When you find out, come and tell me.” He leaned back in his chair and placed his legs on the stool in front of him. “Now, let an old man rest and watch the waves. It seems your friend needs some help.”

Ethan turned around to find Troy with his hands on his kneecaps, panting. He turned to face Singh and said his goodbyes.

“Hey!” shouted Troy from a distance. “Do you mind helping me out here or are you just going to stand there?”

“Uh, right,” mumbled Ethan as he scurried over to help Troy.

***

With some trouble, Ethan and Troy managed to carry their goods to the basket. It was controlled remotely and floated above the ground next to the two chefs. Ethan’s stomach grumbled, demanding it be fed. All he had for breakfast was a cup of coffee which wouldn’t last him more than a few hours.

“You want to grab something from there?” Ethan asked pointing to the fish restaurant in front of them. “I know the owner.”

“Do you know everyone?” Troy asked as he walked up the steps and stood in front of the entrance of the restaurant.

“You’ll be surprised how closely-knit the fishing community is. Even when I was at my lowest, I still felt like I needed to come in occasionally and reconnect.”

The restaurant was easily the largest at the docks. A wide blue banner spanned above the restaurant. It read ‘Jeff’s Hook’ in bright red letters. The entrance led to a floor populated by chairs and tables. The best part about the restaurant was the floor itself. It was made from short, artificial coral to make the entire restaurant look like it was placed at the ocean bed.

Ethan heard the sizzling of pans from the kitchen and the roaring of extractor fans. Most of the noise was drowned by the chatter of the customers and the commentary of the football match in the background.

A thin man walked up to the two. “Hi! How are you? Good to see you again Ethan,” he greeted shaking their hands so firmly, Ethan thoughts his arm might wiggle off its socket.

“Pleased to meet you, Jeff,” replied Troy.

“How did you know my name was Jeff?” he asked.

Troy looked up at the signboard, then at the name tag on the owner’s shirt. “Eh, just a hunch.”

“Yes, yes, yes… A good hunch indeed. Please take a seat. Anywhere you’d like and our waiters will be with you in a moment.”

Troy and Ethan sat down in a corner and received their menus. After some time, a waiter came to take their order.

“Ethan? The usual?” asked the waiter.

“Yes please."

“And for you sir?” he asked.

“Tilapia, grilled and a still water, please,” replied Troy.

The waiter scurried off to the kitchen and placed the order at the entrance of the kitchen.

“It’s good to be on the other side of the kitchen for a change, am I right?” asked Ethan.

“Depends on if the chef is compet—”

Suddenly, the audio from the football game cut and the TV screen displayed the emblem of the FSP. A broadcast of the president in his office with a grim expression on his face appeared. The camera zoomed in on his face as his cold eyes stared into the lens.

“Good morning, South Africa. This is an international announcement that should be broadcasted on every channel of every television and radio,” he began. “Our rainbow nation has suffered a great loss today. Just moments ago, before the preparations for the summit began, twenty members of parliament in the FSP were killed in a teleporting accident.”

That's over a third of their members! Ethan thought. And teleporting accidents haven't happened in over two decades.

A wave of gasps flowed through the restaurant and more people from the docks flocked to the television. Many people covered their mouths with the palm of their hands in shock as a censored version of the corpses were displayed for all to see.

“The FSP suspect sabotage and are committed to finding the culprit of the offenders. If these terrorists are watching this broadcast now, know that this is an act of war on the Republic of South Africa and that each one of you will face the full force of the law,” he continued.

“Due to this tragic incident, the summit shall be delayed to carry out a funeral for our fallen South Africans and all police activities will be focused towards finding the culprits and executing them.”

Ethan and Troy looked at each other in concern. Never had an execution taken place in South Africa since the early stages of the war. Some chatter arose after Duncan’s bold statement.

“We, as a ruling party, do not trivialize the murder of political figures by awarding the culprits a lenient punishment of life imprisonment. Let this statement be an example to all those who resort to violent, and terror-inducing means to further their cause. Let this statement serve to cut off the disorder before it spirals beyond the control of the FS—, government.”

Troy raised an eyebrow, looking up from the blank table. Ethan glanced at him briefly before turning his attention back to the screen.

“As a precautionary measure, all appearances of FSP figures will be backed by armed guards and watchers. Please do not be alarmed if security is tightened for these circumstances. There is no reason for concern. This is merely a warning to those who wish ill for this blessed country and an assurance to the rest that their lives, well-being and security is in capable hands.

“Thank you for your patience and stay safe and secure. One nation, one leader, free society, free people. Good day!”

The TV broadcast cut, and the football match continued to play on the channel. The people began to gradually return to their seats and resume their late breakfast. Within minutes, people acted as if nothing had happened.

Troy was seemingly unsettled. He immediately stood up from his seat. "I'm sorry. I have to go."

"Where? And your food?"

Ignoring Ethan, Troy rushed out of the restaurant and took a brisk walk out the harbor. Ethan dropped his gaze to Troy's seat. He had left his jacket, wallet and link behind in his rush to leave the harbor. What made him leave so quickly that he left everything behind?

Soon after Troy had left, their food had arrived. Ethan had lost his appetite after the recent broadcast. The remains of the accident that were shown were enough to make his stomach churn.

"Uh...Sorry..." he said, calling the waiter that was about to leave. "Can we get these to go."

He nodded and took the two plates back to the kitchen. Just as he turned his attention away from the waiter, a familiar face stood on the opposite side of the table. Ethan blinked twice at the overweight man dressed in a suit that barely fit him.

"Max?" he asked, confused. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Hi, Ethan," the fat businessman replied, extending his hand for a handshake.

Ethan return the handshake with some hesitation. Whatever Max was here for, it was incredibly important. He wouldn't be caught dead in a place like this.

"Not your usual place to eat, I suppose? Has the company been doing that bad?"

Max frowned, but dismissed Ethan's comment. "Trust me. I don't want to be here but I really have no choice."

"Oh don't worry. I believe you," Ethan grinned. "Take a seat."

Max pulled out the plastic chair and sat down. "I have an offer for you."

A/n: Some questions I wanted to get your opinions on

1. Do the descriptions of the market make it feel alive in contrast to the gloomy setting of the novel so far?

2. Was the fisher analogy effective in conveying how Mr. Singh views 'moving on'?

3. Is the power shift in the government becoming more apparent from the previous chapter?

*SPOILER WARNING FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT READ CHAPTER 3: NO GOING BACK*

4. Does the events up to this chapter help make Ethan's hasty decision to join the Alliance later on more believable?


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Fri Sep 23, 2022 8:31 pm
MaybeAndrew wrote a review...



Andrew here with a super fast review! Every chapter I enjoy this story more, sorry that I'm so behind, but I hope to catch up soon.
Lets get into it!



1. Do the descriptions of the market make it feel alive in contrast to the gloomy setting of the novel so far?
Totally! I think sometimes if novels go to long in dark settings, it can be mentally taxing to read, (at least for me) so this contrast here was fun, helpful, and kinda releaving!
2. Was the fisher analogy effective in conveying how Mr. Singh views 'moving on'?
I really liked that whole scene! What I got from it is that Mr. Singh thinks that Ethan should be patient, if something is supposed to happen, it will. I think that's a cool theme and idea to explore.
3. Is the power shift in the government becoming more apparent from the previous chapter?
I think the political intregue is pretty exciting and fun. Honestly, I'm still not a hundred percent sure of who's done what. This mystories killing, was it the opposing party? Was it the president himself for some reason? Was it an actual terrorist? ::Thinky face emoji::
I've always been a sucker for some light political intrigue (real-world included) so I hope that this continues as a part of the plot!
4. Does the events up to this chapter help make Ethan's hasty decision to join the Alliance later on more believable?
Yes! Totally! Chapter three now has so much more emotional value because of these chapters! And tbh, I've been liking the 0'th chapters a lot more than the later ones. I think you've really improved in pacing and style! I'd be happy to read chapters 1-3 rewritten in this style!
Annnyyhooo
Other points:


Ethan shook his head. “Oh no. She used to fish. Deep Sea, actually. One day she brought home a Cape Salmon. It was about a meter long, and if I remember well, weighed around 12 kilos. We grabbed a few folks from the docks and brought them home to eat it.”

I liked this, line, and the rest of the interaction. Shows a world with depth, one that feels like it has been around for longer than just the story.
“Wait. Your mom just ‘grabbed’ guys off the docks to come and eat at her house? Isn’t that like really dangerous, given the amount of crime that takes place here?”

I think this felt a bit clunky and exposition-y, I think you could do a bit more of showing not telling here. Saying "Given the amount of crime" is not typically how at least I'd talk about somewhere I was familiar with. I'd maybe switch it for something like "She'd just let stangers into her house? with the kind of people that roam around here?"
That's over a third of their members! Ethan thought. And teleporting accidents haven't happened in over two decades.

A wave of gasps flowed through the restaurant and more people from the docks flocked to the television. Many people covered their mouths with the palm of their hands in shock as a censored version of the corpses were displayed for all to see.

I'd switch those two paragraphs, the second one would give us time to process the announcement before we get more information from Ethan's thoughts.
[quote]
Ethan and Troy looked at each other in concern. Never had an execution taken place in South Africa since the early stages of the war. Some chatter arose after Duncan’s bold statement.
Never had it awkward. I think, "An execution hadn't taken place in South Africa since..." Or "Excuations had been nonexistent in South Africa since..."
But that's just my two cents! Hope it helps!
Anyway, really liked this, excited to read the next piece.
Thanks, and Keep writing,
Andrew




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Sun Sep 04, 2022 3:34 pm
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi there VengefulReaper!

First Impressions

I could definitely feel the vibe of the market was different from other locations in the story so far. It’s a lot less obviously futuristic, besides the floating shopping basket. I could empathise with Ethan’s feelings of fondness for the place and it was interesting seeing him and Troy interact with the people there. There was quite a bit of funny banter before they sat down at the restaurant.

“How did you know my name was Jeff?” he asked.
Troy looked up at the signboard, then at the name tag on the owner’s shirt. “Eh, just a hunch.”

This line in particular made me laugh!
Meanwhile, the ‘teleporting accident’ event surprised me. That definitely felt like it was an escalation from how the political situation was discussed in the previous chapter.

Setting and Descriptions

I found myself being able to imagine what the restaurant looked like pretty easily. I also like that there’s some colour descriptions there, such as “wide blue banner” and “bright red letters”. I tend to find colour descriptions easy to imagine and also red and blue is just such a ‘dockside fishing’ colour scheme to me. c:
The best part about the restaurant was the floor itself. It was made from short, artificial coral to make the entire restaurant look like it was placed at the ocean bed.

This is also a nice detail that makes this location more whimsical than others that have been described so far.
Just then, a fisher reeled in his line and a fish, attached to the hook, flailed around in the air as they brought it onto land. Even from where Ethan was standing, the fish looked big. The man cast his line once more and sat down in his chair, sipping from a bottle of beer.

I liked the fisher analogy. From what I gather Mr. Singh’s view is that there’s no real certainty with moving on and that Ethan should just do his best and live in the present moment. I think the image I quoted encapsulates that pretty well, and it does sound to me like something a fisher would say.
“Mr. Singh! How are you?” asked Ethan shaking the old man’s hand. “What have you got for us this week?

Also this isn’t specifically a description of the place, but I like this little quirk that everyone in this location seems to greet others with hand shakes. I don’t think that was there in other chapters or locations, so that’s a nice touch.

Character Motivations

Hmm I’m not 100% sure how the events of these prologue chapters inform Ethan’s later decision to join the Alliance actually. From what I gather, we’ve learnt that Ethan has a terminal illness, he was working on a sector of research that was forbidden and was debating whether to continue it, and I’m assuming the events that killed the parliament members here would eventually lead up to the war that’s going on in Chapter 1. Is it that the illegal research he was doing is connected to anti-bioweapon research? Could just be me, but I didn’t find that has been super explicit as of yet – that definitely could change with the next chapter or two though. c: I do find that these chapters help me understand the world of the story and also make Ethan’s character more well-rounded.

Plot

I like that there is a balance between different aspects of the plot. First, there is Ethan’s character arc and personal struggles surrounding what he wants to do about his project. Then there is the political/ social situation becoming more drastic. And finally, the appearance of this Max person makes me think Ethan might be about to get his hands on hose materials he needs for his research maybe. At least, that’s what I’m guessing Max wants to offer.

Overall

This chapter introduces and develops quite a few interesting ideas. I’m starting to get even more of a sense of where Ethan comes from as a character and how he fits into his world. It looks like something is going to shake him out of it even more, though, with this mysterious ‘offer’.

Hope some of this helps, and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim

Image






Thanks for the review, Lim! The idea with the fish market was that it's supposed to be a pocket of low tech stuff that 'coincidentally' happens to be a whole lot more cheerful than the rest of the world lol!



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Sun Aug 28, 2022 11:00 am
SalisRuinen wrote a review...



Hello, hello! Salis here with a review!

First off, I want to say it's great to have you back! And don't worry about how active you are here. Everyone's got their busy periods, I myself being included in that group as I haven't been uploading and reviewing chapters that often lately. Now, on to the review!!

The description of every part of the market and the activities taking place there was great. It contrasted the rest of the story not only in terms of tone, but also in terms of the time period it represented. With everything else taking place in a more or less high-tech environment, visiting the market almost felt like a trip to the past (and to Ethan it literally was) as everything felt very old-school there, the only exception being the hovering basket the two chefs had with them. While there have been other parts of the story where many people are gathered in one place, this seemed like the first time where an overcrowded area felt cheerful. And of course, the addition of descriptions of the sea here and there helped to even further immerse the reader in the non-urban environment.

As always, whenever anything is revealed about Ethan's mother, I am more than pleased and was happy we got to learn a bit more about her in this one as well! In all honesty, she feels like the kindest person in the story so far – someone who is truly pure of heart and who people are naturally drawn to. It makes me wish she were alive in the present because no one could console Ethan like her and the protagonist definitely needs all the emotional support he can get at the moment.

Luckily, he has the community in the market to rely on, as is made evident after meeting Mr. Singh. Comparing his thought process about sharing the news of his illness with this old man with the one before actually sharing that with Troy was a perfect way to show how different Ethan's relationship is with these two characters. Mr. Singh is obviously much closer to him and the protagonist does not wish to cause him pain by giving him such bad news - the most natural decision one could make in this situation.

Mr. Singh has the air of a very experienced man about him and the analogy he made with the fishermen only served to further convey that idea. Only someone who has seen all there is to see in life would make such a comparison and similar to other elderly characters, he advises on accepting what is as best as one can with the analogy. Of course, considering Ethan's current state, of which his old friend knows nothing about, that analogy won't be valid for much longer and Ethan quickly comes to realize that. If anything, the conversation between the two has only managed to further strengthen his resolve to complete his life's work. And we all know precisely that determination will lead to him joining the Alliance later.

The description of 'Jeff's Hook' was very well done as well, providing a both unique and cozy environment for our characters to have their meal in. Which is why the announcement for the 'teleportation accident' was even more shocking and unexpected. Just when everything seemed so peaceful, the situation turned upside down and the whole mood was destroyed. And as if the news wasn't surprising enough, saying the culprits behind this act of sabotage will be executed was an even bigger shocker. It was very clever on your part to place that at the end of the chapter as it stands in stark contrast with the rest of narrative and reminds the reader of the country's unstable political state in the present. No matter what happiness the people gain even from the simplest of activities, they live under the constant shadow of civil unrest and worse – that's how I interpreted the meaning of the broadcast.

The power shift is definitely more evident here than before, almost disturbingly so. The ones responsible for the sabotage should definitely be punished, but going as far as executing them seems like too radical a measure. And I have a feeling this is just the start of the radical measures this government will implement, no doubt at the expense of the people's way of life. All the more reason for Ethan to turn to the Alliance.

It seems as if under the surface of this chapter's narrative – shopping in the market, talking with Mr. Singh, sitting in 'Jeff's Hook', the TV announcement – we're bearing witness to the protagonist's mental journey toward the decision to join the Alliance. I don't know if that was the effect you planned for it to have, but it most definitely felt like that to me.

Then there's the added mystery right at the end where Troy leaves in such a hurry after the broadcast and Max suddenly shows up with an offer for Ethan. I can't wait to see what revelations will be made about those two's intentions and how they'll tie in with the whole story.

I would say this is one of your best written chapters so far with the combination of great descriptions, excellent dialogue, top-tier moments of surprise and so much happening both on and underneath the surface. Thanks for the great chapter and keep sending more of those our way whenever you can!!






Thanks for the review Salis! I'm so glad you're enjoying the slower chapters thus far. You're dead right on the topic of Ethan's decision to join the Alliance. It certainly was meant to be a combination of desperation and one too many coincidences that Ethan may perceive as 'fate' after his talk with Mr. Singh.




Don't be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.
— Roy T. Bennett