Weatherman by Chris Green
I shouldn’t be writing this. The organisation I work for is very conscious about security. And rightly so, when you consider that we control the weather. Security is so tight that I don’t know who runs WeatherCorp. I was head-hunted online by them through an anonymous encrypted email. They had heard about my skills and felt they could use them. Initially, I did some research to try to find out who might be behind it and discovered that both the Americans and the Russians had weather manipulation projects on the go but curiously it was the Swiss who were the most advanced in the field. This in a way made sense as their tourist industry would collapse without snow. I decided that all things considered it probably didn’t matter who I was working for so long as they were able to use my skills for the greater good.
As it is risky to share sensitive information over the internet, I get my instructions through the Wessex Examiner. Normally these appear on Page 9 or Page 10. They are, of course, coded, buried in the body of random news stories. Occasionally, the instructions appear in a story on one of the earlier pages of the newspaper and once or twice I’ve even found them hidden in a cryptic crossword clue. In these days of cybercrime, our organisation needs to be prudent in case they should fall into the hands of unintended recipients. If the wrong people should stumble upon the messages and work out what is really going on, we would be in trouble.
The tools of my trade include a meteorological wand, an industrial atomiser and a bespoke selection of powerful projectiles. I also have access to a wide range of medicinal compounds. With these, I am able to get most jobs done. I can redirect the clouds, produce scattered showers, bring in a cold front or create a pressure drop to create localised flooding or conjure up tidal winds. Chances are, without realising it, you have at some time or other been a victim of one of my atmospheric disturbances.
I look through today’s copy of the Examiner. I am principally on the lookout for typos. These are not really typos, of course. The errors are put in there deliberately. Ah! Here we are! On Page 9. In the story about hospital closures. They have spelt casualty as causality. And here on page 10, a missing letter, explosion spelt as exposion. I’m not sure but I think this means I may have to use more than my meteorological wand. I may have to cause an explosion which produces gale force winds to disrupt an as yet unnamed event. I will have to wait until tomorrow’s paper to find out where and when I have to do this. But this is more exciting than just having to stir up a squally shower or bring in a cold front. This is proper weather.
WeatherCorp has no explicit political agenda but as disruption is one of the main aims of the programme, I sometimes detect a little bias creeping in. On the whole, though, I like to think that a balance is achieved with the work that I do. It’s not all derangement and insurrection. Sometimes I have to bring about sunshine in order to facilitate a life-affirming experience, a charity fête or a chocolate festival. Occasionally, things do not go according to plan. I might accidentally bring about a thunderous downpour for an open air concert instead of the required blanket sunshine or a warm clear night for an inner-city riot. Experimental technology is never perfect.
My psychiatrist, Malachi McCool doesn’t understand. He thinks I’m crazy but what does he know? Only last week he was telling me about the freak storm he was caught in on the way to his kickboxing class, the same storm that I helped to arrange to delay the take-off of the politician’s plane. I rest my case.
‘Why do you think you have been chosen for the weather manipulation programme, Kenny?’ he is fond of asking me. He hopes that if he discourages me enough I will give up my role but then where would we be?
‘It’s obvious, isn’t it?’ I tell him. ‘It’s because I have the rare capability and focus necessary for such vital work. Only a handful of people are able to do what I do, you realise. We’ve been hand-picked.’
‘What about your colleagues in this secret organisation?’ he asks. ‘You have met the others at WeatherCorp, I take it.’ Is this his way of casting doubt on the process? Or is he suggesting that we cannot be trusted with such an important job as manipulating the weather? It’s hard to know with Malachi. He has a habit of playing mind games.
‘In the interests of security,’ I say. ‘I haven’t met the others. But I’m certain that they are just as focussed as me. We can all be trusted with the great responsibility that rests on our shoulders. After all, there’s a lot at stake.’
Sometimes I question why I am seeing Malachi McCool. It’s not as if there’s anything greatly wrong with me. I began seeing him after Cazz moved out of our narrowboat last year. I was distraught. Even the strongest people sometimes need support. At least, that’s what Malachi’s advert said, so I gave him a call and although he seemed to be in a bit of a dither, he said to come along. Cazz didn’t seem to be able to grasp the importance of my work. She said it was selfish that I had the TV tuned to the new weather channel twenty four seven. Not even true. JustWeather goes off the air at 10 pm. Listening to the Shipping Forecast was also vital and I couldn’t help it that it was on at the same time as Home and Away. I can’t imagine why she wanted to watch that rubbish anyway. She said I ignored her for days on end, but I often used to take her out. We went to the Meteorological Office once and the Science Museum. She said we argued constantly. Admittedly, I did occasionally shout at her if she hung the washing too close to the anemometer on deck but I felt we got along fine most of the time.
Malachi disapproves of my use of cannabis. He feels it makes me paranoid. He keeps pushing this idea that I might be suffering from deep trauma brought about by a disappointment, or some such. He says that while I am basically honest, there is a deep-rooted desire to be deceitful. He feels that I have developed selective memory to repress some unpleasant truths. In order to bury events from the past, he says, I have become a fantasist. To be honest, I can’t remember what I might have said to him from one session to the next. Memory is not my strongest suit.
While he is out of the room, ostensibly taking a call from his darts coach, Alessandro, I discover a little red notebook on his desk and pocket it. It’s not a report, exactly. It’s too flowery for a report. It’s as if he’s writing a short story. I find I’m automatically looking for a typo as if I’m reading the Wessex Examiner. As I read it, parts of what he’s written seem oddly familiar. In fact, I distinctly remember some of it. It’s eerie. He’s writing about me. All he has done is changed my name.
Kenny Cope wasn’t in the habit of lying but when he met Renée, all this went out the window. Somehow, Kenny could not help himself. He told Renée he was single when in fact he was married, albeit not living with his wife, Wendy. That he was married might not have mattered had he not found himself so smitten with Renée that on their second date, he proposed to her. Renée, herself also smitten, accepted. Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, Kenny ignored the obvious danger and went straight ahead and arranged the wedding. None of the carefully selected guests at the ceremony knew of any just cause why he and Renée should not be joined.
Kenny’s deceit might not have come to light so easily had he not been a public figure. Kenny was a TV weatherman and a household name, a personality much loved up and down the country for his genial manner and straightforward approach to weather presentation. So, when the shit hit the fan, it spread more widely. Although there were plenty of people willing to stand up in court to give him a character reference, Kenny was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment for Bigamy. The tabloids went to town on him. Bringing down a public figure is pretty much their raison d’être. Not content with the bigamy scandal, they delved into his private life and came up with evidence of his recreational drug use, credit card fraud and tax evasion.
Prison loves to humiliate a disgraced public figure and Kenny Cope was no exception. The inmates of Belmarsh belittled him mercilessly. He was only able to get through the day to day by taking more and more of the vast array of drugs that, thanks to drone drops, were freely available in Belmarsh. Meanwhile, his family were hounded by the press and he received no visits during his stay. His months behind bars slowly began to take their toll. Kenny Cope couldnae cope, as they say, north of the border, he was a broken man.
On release, he found himself with two fewer wives and a colossal solicitor’s bill. With what little money that remained from the sale of the marital homes, he bought a narrowboat which he moored on the Bridgewater canal. Here he gradually withdrew from the world. For a short while, he was befriended by a woman called Cazz, whose appetite for skunk weed matched his own. But as Kenny gradually descended into paranoia, he imagined he was being sent secret messages through the Wessex Examiner about manipulating the weather. He developed an unhealthy obsession with cloudbusting and bought a congress of meteorological paraphernalia. This was altogether too weird for Cazz. She upped and left.
Originally Kenny had answered my classified ad in the Wessex Examiner. ‘Even the strongest people sometimes need support,’ the ad began. Apparently, he did not read or misinterpreted the rest of it, about me being a Psychology Research Fellow looking for case studies for a thesis. Acting on impulse, he phoned the number and came along to see me, in the hope that I could help him.
I detected from the outset that Kenny was a hopeless case torn between raging paranoia and self-destructive impulses. While he clearly wanted me to be able to help, I could see that I would be up against it. With little now to distract Kenny and a seemingly endless supply of skunk to smoke, with each visit, he seemed to have become more and more delusional. He had become a disciple of some imaginary guru who wanted to put the world to rights by creating catastrophic weather events.
It became clear that I was not getting through to Kenny, either in what his issues were or what my role was. So, in one session, I surreptitiously drew attention to a notebook in which I had sketched out a few thoughts. I could see that it had piqued his interest so, excusing myself, I left him alone with it, in the hope that he might take it away and read what I had written and take stock.
I know I’ve not been thinking straight lately and I’d be the first to admit that my memory is not as good as it was. But, a lot of what Malachi says here seems familiar. I can vaguely recall those reckless days when I fell for Renée and conveniently forgot that I was still married. Most red blooded males would have done the same. Renée had that kind of allure. And it’s not as if Wendy and I were living together at the time, we were divorced in all but name. Although I have tried my best to shut them out, I can also still recall the terrible beatings I used to get in Belmarsh. And, yes, drugs were freely available. Everyone was taking them, even the screws. On low wages and anxious to supplement their income, the screws were the suppliers. They would arrange for drones to drop the drugs in the prison yard.
But by no means all of what Malachi has put down rings true. A lot of it simply doesn’t add up. After all this time, he’s still questioning my abilities, suggesting that I am unable to bring about what he refers to as catastrophic weather events. Does he not realise that I have a proven track record? Or is he just in denial? I don’t trust him. Perhaps it’s time to take some action of my own. A pre-emptive strike, as it were.
I take a look out of the window. The storm clouds are still overhead, the streets are flooded and the torrential rain doesn’t look like it is going to stop anytime soon. I phone Ravi. ‘I’m sorry I’m not going to be able to get over to your snake charming class at the community centre today,’ I say.
‘Oh deary me! Why is that, Malachi,’ he asks? ‘You have not had trouble with the cobra I lent you, I hope.’
‘It’s the floods, Ravi,’ I say. ‘Have you not looked outside?’
‘It is odd that you should say that, my friend’ Ravi says. ‘We are having brilliant sunshine here. Not a drop of rain all day and the forecast is good. The community centre is only about four miles from you as the crow is flying. I wonder what can be happening.’
© Chris Green 2017: All rights reserved