Thou Shalt Not Lie

 “Hey Boss,” Linda said as she came around the cubicle’s partition. “I just got a call from my sister. She works at Toronto West, and says I should get over there. Lightning strikes are hitting people.”

“Someone getting hit by lightning is not anything new, Linda. Hardly get more than two inches on page ten for that. You sure you want to waste your time?”

“She said six people have come into the ER in the past two hours. All struck by lightning. Five are dead.”

“So, it was like a big hit that got all six of them?”

“No, they all arrived separately from different locations.”

“Okay, my interest is peaked. Chase it down.” Before she could step away he added, “Do those boots have rubber soles?”

She laughed before she realized he was serious. “Ah, these don’t, but I have a pair of boots under my desk that do.”

“Wear them. I don’t want one of my better reporters zapped.”

After changing her boots Linda caught a taxi over to the hospital. The ride along Lakeshore was uneventful, but just before they reached Toronto West she saw a man get zapped. He was walking on the side walk while talking on his cell phone and then wham.

“Shit, did you see that?” Her heart was racing, and her mouth felt dry as she cranked her head around to keep track of the man.

“I saw it,” the driver answered in a ho-hum voice. She was about to ask how he could be so calm about seeing something like that when he offered more. “The first one I saw today freaked me out, but that was my sixth so far. All were talking on their phones. I’m turning mine off before I get out of the cab.”

It was madness inside the ER waiting room. People were grouped in front of the registration desks clamouring for information. Linda saw her sister, a triage nurse, step out of the triage room. An older heavy bodied nurse and a man in a suit coat with his tie loosened were trying to answer the crowd’s questions. Linda went straight to her sister.

“What’s going on?” She asked.

“Fifteen more lightning strikes since I talked to you. No one knows…oh wait, our media VP just arrived. She’ll tell everyone what’s happening.”

“A woman in an expensive looking dress had just walked in behind the registry clerks. She held her hands up and asking for quiet.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” she didn’t bellow, but her voice cut through the commotion. People quieted. Linda joined the crowd. “There is a sheet of paper at the last desk.” She pointed towards the last of the four registration carrels. “If you will put down your name, the name of the patient you are inquiring about, and then take a seat in the waiting area someone will talk with you as soon as possible. I am asking all reporters to join me over in that area.” She pointed to a free space beside the Emergency doors. “I will answer your questions if possible, but right now we know very little.”

Linda and three other reporters followed the woman to a doorway beside the main sliding doors. She ushered them into a small office.

“My name is Wanda Taylor,” she began. “I am vice president of Public Relations and Media. Let me tell you what we know, and then I will take your questions.

“A few hours ago we received a patient who had been struck by lightning. In the course of an hour we received five more. The count has now reached twenty and they keep coming. We have no idea why this is happening. I contacted the Ministry of Health and was informed that similar occurrences are being reported all over the city. I will now take your questions.”

“So, in the course of three hours you have received twenty lighting strike patients?” Someone asked.

“That sounds right.”

“And you have no idea why this is happening,” someone else asked.

“That is correct.”

“Could it have something to do with the weather?”

“You would be better off asking your meteorology departments about that.”

“I saw a man get struck on my way over here. He was talking on his cell phone. Any other cases like that?” Linda ask.

“I have no way of knowing that at this time, but I will mention it to our ER docs,” Wanda Taylor answered. “I am sorry there is nothing else I can tell you.”

Linda followed the other reporters outside and then decided to walk to where she saw the man get struck, but when she arrived there was only a police officer still on the scene. He was making notes when she knocked on his window and flashed her press ID.

“No comment,” he said when his window had slide down a few inches.

“I saw the man struck,” she said quickly before the window could close completely. “Is he okay?”

The cop just shook his head. “Did you report it? He asked.”

“No. I was in a taxi. The driver didn’t stop, but I saw another car pull over. The taxi driver said he had seen a number of lightning strikes today. Can you comment on that?”

“It is happening all over the city,” he said. “Don’t use my name, he added when her eyes travelled to his name tag.”

Linda caught a cab back to the office. When she arrived the place was in an uproar. The news editor grabbed her as she came in and pulled her into a meeting.

“Tell us what you know,” he demanded.

“There were at least twenty lighting strikes in three hours. The hospital is going crazy. I confirmed five dead. Saw a man hit just before I got there. He was on his cell, but I don’t know if that is significant.”

“The phone doesn’t appear to be a common link. Ford was struck while giving a press conference.”

“The Premier got zapped!”

“Yes. Write up what you have for print, keep it tight, no more than seven-hundred words, and then get on the phone. We need to follow this.”

Linda wrote up her story and submitted it, but before she figured out who to contact she was called to the bull-pen along with all the other reporters.

“This is big,” the Boss announced. “Ford stopped to take questions before going into his Covid update today. Someone asked him about gutting the Conservation Authority’s power and as he was answering with his usual bull he was struck by lightning. This was inside the building people not outside. I want to know how that can happen.”

“I heard a rumour that the OPP are considering locking the whole city down. Stay inside, curfews, the whole ball of twine,” someone else announced.

“It isn’t just Toronto. It is happening all over. I talked to a contact at the New York Times who said Wall Street is in turmoil, the Stock Exchange is closed. There were two or three lightning strikes on the floor of the exchange. He said it killed thirty or more brokers.”

“Trump was struck at Mar Logo,” someone reported.

“What, out on the golf course?”

“No, inside his office. He was autographing pictures, you know the ones they sell for five bucks each that say, Trump loves you.”

“I talked with a contact in Washington, DC,” a woman from the political desk said. “They thought it was a terrorist attack at first, but that was kicked to the wayside even though they have lost a slew of politicians—mostly republicans I can add”. She checked her note pad and continued. So far Nikki Haley, Mitch McConnell, Jim Joran, Kevin McKarthy, Lindsey Graham, and Mark Walker are dead. Security has the whole place locked down.”

“Ted Cruz was struck in Texas,” someone added. “He was being asked about the contradictions between what he claimed the purpose of his Mexican trip was and what his wife’s emails revealed.”

“And that Evangelist preacher who claimed Trump was sent by God just got struck,” someone said holding up their cell phone.

“Is this some evil Democrat genius getting even for the Senate letting Trump off?” A young reporter asked.”

The Boss looked at him. “We deal with facts here, not fantasy.”

“I heard that a bunch of people at Fox News have been struck. Tucker Carlson was one, or so I hear, and the internet is alive with video of lightning hitting people.”

“Okay,” the Boss stated. “Get your stories in and keep working your contacts.”

Linda had been asking herself what the common denominator was. What tied all these people together? Back at her computer she started browsing conspiracy sites. They were suspiciously quiet. Some were off line. She switched to social media. It was filled with video of people getting struck, but what caught her interest were the videos of people talking on camera as they were struck. Something was scratching at her mind trying to get out. She started jotting down names, and suddenly it came to her. She jumped up and ran to the Boss.

“Lies,” she blurted. “If someone lies they get struck by lightning.”

The Boss sat back in his chair and steepled his hands. “Thou shalt not lie,” he finally said. A big smile lit his face. “That is going to make reporting a completely different job.”

“What do you mean?” Linda asked. “It is still going to be, identify the issue and ask the questions.”

“Yes, but who will dare to lie like they do now when they answer?”

©Dave Skinner 2021