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The Lie that Saved the World: Chapter 0, part 3

by VengefulReaper


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

His full body shivering and his teeth chattering, Ethan rushed out of the shower and dressed up in the warmest clothes he could spot. There was nothing worse than getting in the shower and forgetting to turn on the geyser. His shower in the morning very often affected his behaviour for the day. A pleasant shower meant a pleasant, kind and gentle Ethan while a cold shower dragged out Ethan’s colder, aggressive and impatient side. Today, Ethan prayed for the poor soul who would cross paths with him.

He was still booked off from work, only to return the next week, which meant he had the full morning to himself. Generally, he wouldn’t mind, but given his mental state, he needed to find something to pass the time. As he boiled the water for his morning coffee, he snagged the remote and switched on the TV.

“This year’s annual summit and general election is bound to be the most significant, with the majority ruling Free Society Party and the old veterans of The Economic Congress of South Africa discussing the route forward for our nation,” the news reporter said. “We, in fact, have an exclusive statement from the president of the FSP, Shawn Duncan.”

A man with lively brown eyes and a smile that extended ear-to-ear, rectified his shoulders and lowered his head to speak into the mic.

“The time for South Africa to transform is coming upon us and the FSP are determined to seize that opportunity with open arms and capitalise on it. These past few years have seen some of the greatest growth in South Africa and I’m sure the public will be pleased with the results of this year’s summit.” Shawn said earnestly.

“And how do you plan on handling the possible pushback from the opposition party, ECSA?” asked the reporter.

“If I recall correctly, the FSP won the election four years ago with 88% majority and support has only increased. ECSA is barely a threat and I have the citizens of this country to thank for taking the power from them and giving it to us. I’m quite excited about some of the upcoming changes as the rainbow nation shows its true colours.”

Before the interviewer could ask another question, the president excused himself and left the scene, enveloped by an entourage of armed guards. He waved to the ocean of followers held back by the barriers on either side of the street. They all shouted the same motto, which was the rally cry for the FSP.

“One nation! One leader! One nation! One leader! Free Society! Free people!”

The president echoed the mantra, raising his fist in the air. The video finished and the broadcast channel shifted back to the presenters in the studio.

“That was a word from our president and president of the FSP. This year’s summit surely will be interesting on the financial front. We fly to political analyst Katlego Beeco in the Northern Cape. Katlego, what are your thoughts or predictions for the summit and the elections to follow?”

“Well, I don’t think you need to be a political analyst to see that the FSP basically rule the country. They’ve got the power to pass any law they want. ECSA and the other parties are just spectators to the ‘FSP show’. On the economic front, we’ve got an influx of investors pouring in and the economy is only strengthening under the FSP. In short, things are looking bright for the rainbow nation.”

The footage cut back to the studio once more. “They are indeed. That’s all we have on the political front. I think it’s time we find out what’s happening on the sports field this week.”

Ethan switched off the TV and quickly finished his warm coffee. Never did Ethan think that a man could be loved so widely in the age of Twitter.

Just as he was cleaning up, all the bulbs in the house turned off. The mains must’ve tripped, he thought.

Sliding off the tall bar stool in his kitchen, he walked to a back door that led to his garage. Ethan didn’t own a car. He didn’t need one when he was walking distance from the station, so the garage turned into a home lab for the scientist. A chimney emerged from the roof of the garage, which was connected to an extractor fan that poked its head from the ceiling. Underneath the fan stood a dusty and rusted table with test tubes, flasks, and a Bunsen burner. A massive circuit board rested against the leg of the table with a multi-meter next to it. His makeshift lab had been untouched ever since he’d started working at the restaurant.

Opening the lid of the circuit board, he examined the array of switches. “All good here…” he mumbled to himself. The scientist opened the controller for his solar panels and inspected the connection. I’m going to need more cable and a battery.

The buzzer rang. Ethan peered up at the monitor above the circuit board to verify who it was. Recognising the man to be his fellow chef in the restaurant, he opened the garage door instead. The short, stocky man ducked his head under the opening garage door. He walked as if on eggshells, trying to avoid all the wires, pipes, and stacks of books lying around.

“This place looks like a workshop. What the hell are you doing in here?” he asked.

“Hello, Troy. Nice to see you as well,” muttered Ethan as he poked his head up the hole in his wall.

Troy rolled his eyes. “They steal your cable again?”

“Looks like it. They stole the charge controller too. We’re going to have a make a stop at an electronics store on our way back from the fish market.”

“Yeah, we can make a stop,” Troy shrugged. “Did you see Duncan’s statement this morning?”

“Yeah. FSP can basically do whatever the fuck they want without ECSA trying to veto laws that’ll snuff out their corrupt asses. Soon it’ll only be the FSP in charge.”

“Isn’t that… Slightly concerning?” Troy asked, handing Ethan a pair of pliers.

“No. Why would it be? The less of ECSA this country sees, the better. Besides, FSP aren’t in complete control. People still vote them in and can vote them out if they’re unfit. It’s still a democracy.”

“Hell of a democracy when votes in parliament don’t do shit,” mumbled Troy. “You done up there?”

Ethan gave the cable a hard pull, yanking it out of the hole. He wrapped it up and dropped it in a bag to take to the electronics store. While Ethan was putting his tools away, he heard Troy pick up a metal box from underneath an enormous pile of books.

“What’s this?” he asked. He opened it to reveal a string and two exquisite pieces of Kashmir oak joined by an a polished aluminum shaft. It fitted snugly in between the cushioning foam. Strapped to the inside of the lid were two dozen arrows bound by an elastic band. The bow was ancient, and it could sell for a fortune. Perhaps one of the few bows in the world that still used traditional arrows as opposed to energy ones.

“You never told me you were an archer?”

“Mom… Why do I have to learn to shoot with this stupid wooden one? Can’t I get a cool one like them?” Ethan asked, pointing to the sophisticated energy compound bows used by others on the range.

“When you can hit a bullseye from twenty meters with this one, we can move on to those. Now stop whining and knock that arrow,” she said, handing him the arrow. “Remember. below the gold ring and onto the rest, okay?”

He drew back his bow. The longer he held the string, the more his bow arm shook.

“Focus on the target, now,” she whispered. “Imagine the arrow as your finger and the string as your hand. Point at the target with your arrow.”

Ethan adjusted his aim, but he struggled to keep the bow at full draw for that long. He released his grip on the string. The arrow soared through the air and hit the outer ring of the target about ten meters away.

“You’re a natural, sweetie,” his mother said, impressed.

“What do you mean? I didn’t hit the centre. I barely hit the target.”

“For your first-time shooting, you did way better than me. I didn’t even hit my target on my first try. I actually hit my friend’s target!” she laughed. “Try again. This time, remember where you aimed and pull it a little up and a little to the right, okay?”

Ethan nodded and knocked another arrow. He drew it back once more, but this time he released quicker to make sure his hand wouldn’t get tired. The arrow soared straighter and smoother, striking the target only inches from the innermost ring.

The young archer cracked a proud smile. Maybe mom was right, he thought. Maybe he was an archer. However, within moments, he was shown just how far he needed to go before he could call himself an archer. Mom had hit the bullseye with her own bow from triple the distance that Ethan had.

“It’s because you’ve got a different bow,” he said.

“Don’t worry, sweetie!” his mother assured. “I won’t be shooting for long. When you’re the right height, you can have this one.”

Ethan walked up to the box, closed it shut, and snatched it out of Troy’s hands. He hid it away in a corner. “I’m not. Not anymore.”

Walking to the back door of the garage, Ethan opened it and entered his house. Troy followed closely behind him. They both walked to the kitchen, and Ethan offered Troy a seat.

“I need to go clean myself up,” Ethan said, gesturing to the mess he had on his shirt. “So, help yourself with anything you want.”

In his room, he pulled out a fresh shirt and threw his messed one into the wash basket. As he returned to the kitchen, Troy stood up and prepared to leave.

“Hey, I meant to ask you…” Troy began. “How’d that doctor’s appointment go? Did you get your dizziness and fainting sorted?”

Ethan froze. He had tried to escape it all morning, but realised he had to tell someone sometime soon. Ethan weighed up his options. He recalled what got him past his mother’s critical condition; hope. So long as the people closest to him had hope he’d survive right until the very end, the journey to his death would be easier on both him and his friends.

If there was anyone he could tell, it would be Troy. We’ve only known each other for two months. Even if Ethan died right now, he had no doubt Troy would move on in a week. Ethan knew that he was nothing more than a friendly colleague he liked to spend time with.

He pulled out a bar stool and sat down. “You’re going to want to sit down for this one…”

Troy slowly sat down, unsure of what to expect. “I mean, come on now… It can’t be that bad, right? My grandma feels dizzy from time to time.”

Ethan remained silent, still contemplating on how to phrase it. “I… I have Secronium Poisoning. It’s a type of cancer and it’s almost always terminal. Doctor said I’ve got three healthy years left.”

“Oh… I’m so sorry…” Troy whispered. “You seem to be taking it well. I expected…”

“For me to be on the verge of breaking, not knowing what to do with the time I have left?” Ethan asked, completing Troy’s sentence for him. “Yeah. Did that yesterday. I’m trying to take things day-by-day.”

“That’s a good start.” The room filled with an eerie silence. Ethan did not know how quickly the word ‘cancer’ could silence a room. “Are you going to take the treatment?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“What are you going to do?” he asked. “Keep cooking in the restaurant?”

“I don’t know,” Ethan shrugged. “As I said, I’m taking it day-by-day for now.”

“Well… If you ever need support, just shout, okay?”

Ethan cracked a smile that was barely noticeable. He had lifted the burden off his shoulders, or at the very least, he could share the burden with someone else. The room fell silent once more. All he could hear was the ticking of the clock on the wall, the chirping of the few birds outside and faintly the whistle of the wind through the open door.

Ethan tried to break the silence by clearing his throat. “You, um… You want to get those fish?”

“Probably,” the chef across from him replied. “You coming?”

The scientist picked up his jacket off the coat rack and unlocked the front door. “Got to get off my ass and do something, right?”

Troy nodded. He grabbed the folded shopping bags and the section of cable Ethan had cut off before placing his cap firmly on his head. The two chefs departed the house and walked down the dull avenue sidewalk towards the station, a morning breeze brushing against their faces.

A/n: Just some things I am wondering about. Feel free to answer them if you so wish :)

1. Does the political aspect of this chapter convey how close South Africa is to a dictatorship despite claiming to be a democracy?

2. Does Ethan's flashback feel forced in any way? Can the chapter do without it?

3. Does the conversation between Troy and Ethan regarding his illness feel awkward?

4. Is Ethan's reasoning for disclosing his illness to Troy, an acquaintance to him, instead of a close friend make some sense (in a twisted way)?


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305 Reviews


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Fri Aug 05, 2022 7:08 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi there VenegfulReaper!

First Impressions

This one is a more reflective chapter, which is good since the last one was pretty intense. There’s quite a few interesting worldbuilding points being introduced here, like the government in the setting. I liked the little moment in the beginning where Ethan muses on how his shower habits affect his mood because it feels very in-character and is a nice more light-hearted thing to start the chapter off with.

Setting & Politics

1. Does the political aspect of this chapter convey how close South Africa is to a dictatorship despite claiming to be a democracy?

Oh yes it does – the fact that Ethan thinks he’d rather have the FSP take over everything than have the other party get some leeway is pretty telling. The setting is giving me some more dystopian vibes at the moment. If it has come up here, I’m supposing this political party will be important to the plot? That could be another faction/ organisation to keep track of alongside Sigvald’s and the group that Ethan later joins.

If there’s something that could make this bit more vivid or immersive, I think it would be to add some more descriptions of facial expressions or body language to this dialogue.
“Yeah. FSP can basically do whatever the fuck they want without ECSA trying to veto laws that’ll snuff out their corrupt asses. Soon it’ll only be the FSP in charge.”
“Isn’t that… Slightly concerning?” Troy asked, handing Ethan a pair of pliers.
“No. Why would it be? The less of ECSA this country sees, the better. Besides, FSP aren’t in complete control. People still vote them in and can vote them out if they’re unfit. It’s still a democracy.”
“Hell of a democracy when votes in parliament don’t do shit,” mumbled Troy.

At the moment it feels like most of the information about Ethan and Troy’s contrasting attitudes is coming through just through the words between the double quotation works, which makes it feel a bit more exposition-y than it would otherwise. It also makes the scene a bit more ambiguous, though I’m not sure if that was your intention. I think Ethan’s okay with the FSP taking over and also thinks it’s still a democracy, and Troy seems to think Ethan really thinks that, but just by dialogue alone one could interpret just the things he says here as being sarcastic. What gestures and body language is he showing? Is he scrunching up his face to think ‘why would it be bad that the FSP takes over’? Or is he doing more of a shrug there? Because that would change the meaning of this conversation, I think.

Flashback

I think the answer to your question would depend on whether Ethan and his mother’s archery skills are going to be relevant later on in the story. If yes, then I’d say the flashback is more necessary to establish that Ethan has that skill. If not, and if it’s just for worldbuilding / developing Ethan’s relationship with his mother, I think it’d be fine to make the dialogue bits shorter without cutting it out entirely. It doesn’t interrupt the flow of the scene too much on principle, but I did find myself getting too absorbed in the conversation between Ethan and his mother because it went on for so long, such that when we went back to the present time it felt a bit jarring. I think showing just a few spoken lines on the mother’s part and having Ethan’s thoughts in reported speech or narration would work just as well? However, I do like that it shows a bit more of his mother’s character there. She seems kind of cheerful and playful and it’s also interesting to know that she liked archery.

Characterisation and Convo with Troy

If there was anyone he could tell, it would be Troy. We’ve only known each other for two months. Even if Ethan died right now, he had no doubt Troy would move on in a week. Ethan knew that he was nothing more than a friendly colleague he liked to spend time with.

I thought this bit basically explains why Ethan wanted to tell Troy rather than a close friend. It felt like he would find it more difficult to tell someone who would take it harder than Troy would, and I thought that choice of his made sense. Though it does make me wonder when he is going to tell Sarah, since she was the first one to know about the doctor’s appointment . . . I also felt like it’s kind of weird that he doesn’t think about her at least a little bit when he’s contemplating letting people know in general.

I didn’t feel like the conversation about his illness was awkward to read. It felt more like the two characters were awkward with each other. It felt real, because some of that awkwardness would no doubt happen in real-life conversations about heavy subjects like this. Hope that makes sense!
The scientist picked up his jacket off the coat rack and unlocked the front door. “Got to get off my ass and do something, right?”
Troy nodded.

I like this ending quite a bit! It shows Ethan’s more cynical and rough side but also his determination in a way that feels kind of subtle and understated. I also like the way his friendship with Troy is being shown. It does feel like they’ve known each other just for a short while, but that they’re nonetheless friendly with each other.

Overall

I thought this was a good slowdown chapter that goes more into the setting. It definitely subverted my expectation that Sarah would show up somewhere around here, but given Ethan’s personality and his reasons implied here, I think it makes sense that he’d avoid his close friend for a while and speak to someone else instead (though like I said it might be helpful if he mentioned Sarah by name in his contemplations, since that would give more continuity with the first parts of the extended prologue). I’m interested to see how Ethan gets from this point to doing all those wild and wacky things he’s up to in the beginning of the ‘central’ story.

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




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Mon Aug 01, 2022 7:32 am
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SalisRuinen wrote a review...



Hello, hello! Salis here with a review!!

In this case your questions perfectly align with what I wanted to talk about, so I'll get right to it.
In the case of the FSP, while there is definitely a feeling that a single person holds too much power in the country, I wouldn't say it's implied too strongly in this chapter (maybe it's not supposed to be as this is only the first time we're being exposed to the political situation in the country). Shawn Duncan may have bent South Africa to his will, but from I've seen at the summit the people seem to be alright with that at the moment and support him willingly, meaning not everyone seems to yet fully understand how little control of their lives they actually have. I would say it is shown in here South Africa has the makings of a dictatorship, but it will take quite a while until it becomes a fully fledged one, even after the FSP supposedly win the elections.

About the flashback, I'm very conflicted. Should it be removed, I don't think the plot will be affected too much, if at all. At the same time, however, it was so beautifully written that I would like to keep it just the way it is. That flashback was probably my favorive part of the chapter as it often happens when there is a flashback with Ethan's mom in it. I think all of those show the heart of his character best and provide a perfect opportunity to compare his current and past self.

The conversation with Troy did feel a little awkward, but I think that's how it was supposed to be. Whenever someone's terminal illness is discussed, no matter with whom, it will always be awkward as such conversations are never easy and one can never know for certain what to say in situations like that. If that's the kind of effect you were going for, you've done well with it here.

Lasly, Ethan's reasoning for telling Troy the truth makes a lot of sense to me. He knows that if the first person he told was someone close to him (for example Sarah – I truly dread how she'll take it), he would have to watch them suffer a great deal and it would make dealing with the fact he will soon die even harder for him. If he starts by disclosing his illness to an acquaintance like Troy, there won't be an overwhelming reaction and Ethan himself will be able to better handle things from here on. The whole conversation with Troy was very helpful for him just the way it happened, I'd like to think.

I really enjoyed this chapter because of the different feel to it compared to other parts of this story and would love to see more stuff like this. Thanks for the hard work and keep on writing!!





A big mountain of sugar is too much for one man. I can see now why God portions it out in those little packets.
— Homer Simpson