Friday flash fiction – Industrial Disease

Kenny Hallam did his reading, so he knew wind turbines were killers.

He sent his oldies all the links: this article from a science skeptic journal; that survey run by a leading national newspaper; the other ebook by a recovering survivor entitled “Tremors: The Renewable Killer”. When he called home every Saturday morning, he explained what he’d learned by digging deep into the online forums that kept a weather eye on the Warmists, Feminazis and Social Justice Mercenaries. His Mum would listen carefully to his arguments, except for that one time he caught her putting down the phone to make a cup of tea while he was laying out how Big Pharma was colluding with the Neo-Luddite Left.

None of it did any good. One weekend his Mum messaged him a collection of photos of the wind farm – tall, white giants rising up over the ridge above the family farm like an invading army. “It’s a great investment,” his Dad told him. “Besides, I like the sound of them.”

The photos never showed the base of the windmills. Kenny wondered how many dead birds and vomiting kangaroos his Mum had cropped out of the pictures.

Kenny fretted. “Low frequency subsonics,” they called it. The turning blades vibrated on a wavelength undetectable to human hearing but deadly to animal tissue over prolonged periods. Everyone knew they would shake you over if you got too close, too long.

He opened up about his concerns online; one by one his forum mates confirmed what he suspected. “They rattle your brains,” said one. “Watch out for strokes,” warned another. “If your heart beats at the wrong rate,” said yet another, “you’ll fibrillate and arrest on the spot.”

When his Dad called to say Mum had collapsed and been rushed to hospital, Kenny knew he’d waited too long to act. “Nothing on the x-rays,” said Dad. “The doctors are baffled.”

Not Kenny though. He knew.

The wind turbines couldn’t be cut down or burned out; they were made of Chinese military alloys, everyone knew that. Grandad’s old .303 rifle would go through armour plating, but Dad kept it locked up. Besides Kenny didn’t know what ammunition to use.

Anyway, that was just attacking the symptoms. Kenny wanted to make sure what happened to his Mum couldn’t happen to anyone else.

He got back online to form an agile research posse. He asked questions and called in favours. One forum user sent him a map of the local manufacturing plant of PowerZephyr International, along with security guard schedules and an electronic access card. Another gave him a list of ingredients, most of which were freely available in his Dad’s unlocked agricultural shed. A third agreed to mail him a custom-made remote activation device in exchange for a promise to livestream his covert operation.

For the lulz, it was understood.

A couple of nights later, Kenny muttered at a handheld GoPro as he backed a truck up to the loading dock of the PowerZephyr factory.

“This is only Stage One,” he said, framing his face in shot so that a tall white forest of swooping turbine blades filled the background. They spun out implacable waves of invisible death, sending shivers up Kenny’s spine. “After I’m done here, I’m going straight to the board’s annual meeting at the golf club. Thanks to forum user FreedomBallz’s generous donation, I’ve got two jerry cans of premium unleaded that are dying to meet some rich bastards’ Audis and BMWs in the carpark.”

The passcode opened up a roller door. Kenny pushed his craft project in on a trolley jack and settled it between two complicated-looking factory robots. “Okay, that’s set,” he told the watching world, which according to his monitoring app it was a jaw-dropping 47 live viewers. He held up the remote detonator. “This murder-blade manufactory is going up in smoke. Once I’m clear of the blast radius, I’m going to trigger this switch here and –”

Kenny’s Mum was discharged from hospital in time for the closed casket funeral. Still suffering the after-effect of septic poisoning from the tick lodged between her toes, she and Kenny’s Dad delivered a short, apologetic eulogy on the topic of their son’s passion for answers and his online friends.

They didn’t mention their conversation with the coroner about her preliminary findings. “The device’s premature detonation was the result of amateurish assembly. Two loose contacts accidentally touched, closing the trigger circuit.”

Kenny’s parents, relieved that at least his death was unintentional, said, “But in his video he was being so careful?”

“Yes, the source was probably some external tremor or vibration. Mostly likely your son never heard it at all.”

Come back next Friday for something completely different (and probably a touch less cynical). If you liked this story, you can sign up for my email newsletter which always includes more free fiction and occasionally other stuff.

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2 Responses to Friday flash fiction – Industrial Disease

  1. Nice one, Dave. I’m just here signing my life away for a gym membership, and the salesperson’s wondering why I’m chortling at my phone, as he types in my details.

  2. Lexifab says:

    Heh. Thanks.

    Good luck with the gym membership. I’d get one of those except I know for sure I’d be one of those people who use it a lot in the first month and then never again…

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