.Before long, hatred had spread among ordinary people in the world like an epidemic. A well-known American actor was one of its first victims. In the previous weeks, she
washad openly supported Frommia and shehad even gavegiven speeches onat a few rallies. One day she sat in an upscale cafe in Manhattan and ordered tea. The beaming waitress put it on the tableserved the tea and went back behind the counter. Just as the actor leaned forward to lift the large cup, a masked man appeared as if from nowhere, grabbed the cup, and splashed the hot liquid into her eyes. He disappeared without a trace, but the actor was left screaming and in shock. Although she got medical help quickly and her eyes healed, her career was destroyed. From a cheerful and extrovert person she was transformed into an introvert who seldom left her home and never acted again. Millions of dollarsThe substantial money she had earned during her career would be spent on psychotherapists who tried in vain to restore her mental health. The word "tea" would trigger offin her convulsive fits, which could be stopped only by a high dose of tranquilisers.
Around the same time, a French singer-songwriter called Boubou was found strangled, hanging from
thea rope under one of the bridges on the Seine. ’s bridges.His guitar was strapped across his back, but on his breast hung a piece of cardboard with the words in red, “Tea with milk – death!” His mouth was stuffed with dozens of tea bags, whose stringswith their paper labels swaying edin the breeze. Thus Bobou had paid the ultimate price for supporting Galia and performingsinging his song “Tea with milk makes me feel good” onat numerous rallies.
A well-known German writer met the
similarsame fate. He was found drowned in his bath. It looked like an ordinary suicide, if a suicide can be ordinary. But the peculiar thing was the tea bags drifting in the tub. water.Just a day or two before his death, the writer had published a pamphlet called “The purity of tea.”
Some people were poisoned, some shot by a sniper, some stabbed, and some hacked to death.
TheWell-mannered discussions would suddenly turn into the ugliest scenes ever seen in cafes, patisseries and restaurants. It was impossible to drink tea without thinking of the consequences. Before ordering it, people would look around to see what kinds of patrons sat nearby. After all, you wouldn’t likewant to die drinking your tea. Scuffles and clashes became so common that famous cafes in Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Berlin had to hire guards and install metal detectors to protect their customers. The conflict spread even to space, when on one occasion, astronauts discussing the right way to drink tea, started to hurl at each other differentvarious objects at and even punched each other, swung their punches,all of which looked rather laughable and pathetic because ofin zero gravity.
As the price of tea rocketed, and the conflict spread to more countries,
all continents,the president of the US, Mr Turtle and the president of Russia, Mr Antonov agreed that the world would soon go to pieces if they did not react. They decided to meet in De Soto National Forest, where they would be safe and protected from spies, satellites, bugging devices and the media. The two presidents and their entourages arrived dressed as Austrian tourists. They all wore leather shorts, Bavarian shoes and alpine hats. They looked foolish with their large heads under the small hats with the multicoloured plumes, and their flabby, protruding stomachs, but their disguise was perfect.
The two presidents strolled alone for a few hundred meters into the forest and then sat on tree stumps under the tall pines. They were sweaty and breathed heavily. Mr Turtle took off his rucksack, opened it, and pulled out a thermos.
“Want some coffee?” he asked pouring the coffee into the cup.
“Don’t like American coffee,” said Mr Antonov. “Prefer vodka.” He opened his grey Trachten jacket, and from the inner pocket, he took out a shiny hip flask. “Want a sip?”
Mr Turle shook his head. His companion gulped a few mouthfuls and then breathed out. His face turned red. “A Russian who doesn’t drink is not a real Russian,” he said through his huffs and puffs. With a white handkerchief, he wiped drops of sweat from his forehead.
Mr Turtle gave him a bright smile. “I am glad to have you here. Only you and I can stop this madness. The British and the Chinese are still not equal to us, and probably will never be. I didn’t even bother to invite them.”
“Mr Antonov took a
pullmouthful from his flask and said, “Cheers to our friendship!”
“We must act fast and decisively before it is too late,” Mr Turtle said. “I think it is your turn.”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t we use atomic the bomb twice? Now you should give it a try.”
popped hiseyes almost popped out. wide.“What? Do you want me to become a mass murderer?”
“Calm down, mate. You know well, you will never be brought to court. Certainly, there would be some outcry in the media, a few demonstrations here and there, condemnations by
theAmnesty International and similar organisations, but eventually all that would peter out and you will come down in history as one of the greatest humans, on a par with Einstein or Caesar. My friends do not call me the mythlegend-maker for nothing.”
Mr Antonov shook his head in disapproval. “I don’t give a damn what other people think of me, but
I am afraid ofmy conscience would never allow me to do that.”
“All right mate. Tell me your plan.”
“Let me think for a moment.”
The two men lapsed into silence. Their faces grew solemn in the dappled light. Birds chirped merrily in the treetops, and leaves rustled in the breeze while their minds wandered far away in
thesearch for theof a solution. At intervals, Mr Turtle took a sip of his bland American coffee and sighed, as if overwhelmed with the task. Mr Antonov took a swig of his strong vodka and stared in the distance; as if travelling over the Atlantic Ocean towards anhe thought of the endless Russian steppe and- the place of his birth.
TO BE CONTINUED
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