Hawk sat head of the board room table. He stroked a whorl while waiting for the twittering cawing to calm, for their rustling papers to settle. He liked to feel the wood under his long fingers. His face twitched, he scratched his nose watching them, beady eyes flicking, he didn’t miss a trick. Eventually they stilled and looked up at him anxiously. He reached for his paper with a tanned sinewy arm, ‘shall we begin?’

The world powers were meeting to discuss the bird flu crisis. Hawk presented the problems to them which were escalating. Up until now the United States of America had ignored bird flu; after all it wasn’t in their back yard. They adopted the Ostrich position, heads deep in the sand. In the past Hawk had little time for bird flu, as far as he could see it was a Chinkie slitty-eyed problem. Folk who were base enough to sleep with their birds were asking for trouble. Even when it spread to Europe he wondered could this be evolutionary selection; nature weeding out the weaklings. Hawk believed that AIDS was put on this earth by the good Lord to rid the world of all the Queers and too highly sexed Africans who’d get their end away with the mere sight of a skirt blowing in the breeze. All those hippy junkies too, spreading their legs in the name of free love. Christ did we really want that sort on the planet? No sirree, Mother Nature was a cunning Dude. Of course Hawk had learnt to keep his opinions to himself, political correctness had gone crazy. He sighed knowing it wouldn’t be long before some animal rights activists would be waving their scrawny vegan arms round, throwing nut cutlets in defiance. Now there’s another group who’d benefit from some radical nip and tuck in the natural selection order of the species. Up until now Hawk was more than happy to let bird flu run amuck, let nature do her worst, it’d clear the earth of the whingeing hangers on, but when bird flu reached the fringes of the US of A, Hawk felt personally affronted by it. Stupid boss-eyed geese had landed on American soil, they’d invaded the land he loved; this was war. He rapped the table and heads turned his way.

‘There are various problems associated with bird flu. I’d like to begin by prioritising.’

There were murmurs of approval from the flock around him, none of them had thought to take action until America waded in. They’d follow in his wake.

‘From a few isolated outbreaks in the East, it’s now spreading world-wide, globally there are pockets of infection. Its genetic make-up is shifting to become infectious to humans. The cases in the East particularly Thailand are well reported.’

The Thai ambassador looked sheepishly down at his papers, he had a sallow unhealthy glow to his skin, goose bumped as if he’d been plucked. He glanced up, avoiding eye contact with Hawk, ‘we did everything we could. We burned millions of Chickens.’

Hawk ignored his mealy mouthing and moved on. ‘We have no vaccine available for the vast numbers that may be affected.’ Hawk wanted to get past this bit quickly. He’d been one of those strongly opposed to stockpiling vaccines, despite the whinging and whining of bespectacled scientists, pulling their goatee beards bleating It’s not a case of if, it’s a case of when.

Hawk had prepared a report on their research and scoffed at their scare-mongering tactics; there was no need to panic. Hawk simply believed God would protect the just. The USA would be safe, all they needed to do was sit tight while the rest of the spongers and losers were wiped out. In the long run, the world would be a safer place.

‘The final concern in connection with bird flu is that people are panicking, they are stock piling food and the world economy is on hold. We all know money makes the world go round, and at this rate, we’ll soon be at a standstill.’

The forum was opened up to discussion. They squawked and flapped round the table. There were flurries of activities as head bobbed and dived with ideas, the group was flustered with fear flitting and rattling across the nations, staccato voiced mouths opened and shut. A heavy breasted German woman with very red lipstick declared shrilly, ‘everyone should stay indoors.’

A lugubrious Italian flicked back his slick black hair and shook his head, ‘we should watch and wait.’ He lazily glided across the table for another cookie.

Two Oriental men chattered, high pitched, jabbing words, their heads waggling up and down. ‘We should kill all infected.’

A beautiful Indian woman wrapped in swathes of rich indigo spoke gently, as if calling from a long way away. Hawk wasn’t listening to words, he just heard their noises, the cawing and clacking, the clucking of fat hens at the end of the table, the Quack Quack of stupid small brains. He strained to hear the soft cooing of the Indian lady. He would’ve liked to have stroked her, feel the brightly coloured material, the flutter of heartbeat under her small breasts, to know the trembling of her tiny bones. At the same time, part of him would like to crush her pathetic body, wring her scrawny neck with a quick snap of his long trained hands. Hawk shook himself out of his daydream, he tapped his pencil gently on the shiny table, he liked to hear the knock of wood, it made him think of nights out in the wild woods with his father. Hunting and fishing by day, cooking meat round a crackling fire at night. It taught him to be a real man, to understand the animal world, survival of the fittest, the cruel rules of nature. As a child he shot birds without a bye or leave, without their wings flapping they were pathetically small and weak. Hawk felt the bird flu problem wasn’t much different. Some viral wing clipping and the problem would be solved, he didn’t want it eradicated, it was useful, bird flu could cleanse the world; Jesus Christ it was well overdue.

While they yakkity yakked, he glanced down at his arms. He flexed a muscle to see it jump and quiver under his skin. He was finely honed, a tuned specimen. He sniffed the nervous excitement round the table as their fears grew and they considered different scenarios What if it’s worse than the 1918 epidemic?……fifty million dead…….How would we cope?…….Dispose of the bodies?……..The risk of infection?……….Should we stop eating poultry?……..Can we still wear feather hats? ………How can we stop it?

Their voices were rising to fever pitch, shrill warbling. Hawk contained a little smirk, they were so prone to panic, flying off on one tangent and then another. He approved of pecking order, natural selection. He let the smirk quiver on his lips; bird flu; bring it on.

Hawk was decisive and delivered the plan of action which had been hatched months ago by powerful men in grey suits. He was bored and needed some fresh air. He suggested some damage limitation was needed to stop the world spiralling into chaos. ‘There will be no international or domestic flights until the crisis has blown over, or until an adequate stockpile of vaccine is produced. People will be advised to stay indoors. Schools and leisure facilities will be closed, public transport will be limited to bare essentials. Only a selected skeleton workforce will be operational. There will be curfews to ensure the majority of society stays indoors. It will be possible for police to make immediate arrests of those flaunting the rules, and citizen arrests will also be feasible.’

‘But it could be months before an adequate amount to protect the population is produced.’ Screeched the Japanese minister.

He reminded Hawk of a cockatoo he’d once shot in New Guinea, the silence after the shot was screaming.

The group were still jabbering wildly. He was tired of their flights of fancy and closed the meeting, asking for the minutes to be circulated. He ignored their pleading doe eyes and shrugged, ‘it’s the only way to beat this Mother fucker.’

Hawk was above international flight embargo. His special status meant he could roam the skies freely. He soared from continent to continent, seemingly overseeing bird flu containment and wishing it would escape to scourge the wayward lands that disgusted him. He grew restless. The weeks dragged, the advice for people to stay indoors seemed to be working, there were no more reports of bird flu. Families nested round their TV’s, they nibbled nuts, foraged in their cupboards. They watched and waited, peering up out of their windows at scudding skies and billowing clouds. They watched the birds to see if they’d falter and fall. Two months passed and no further report of infection.

Hawk was fidgety and restless. He preened himself in front of the mirror. His eyes were lack lustre, his army medals looked tarnished, his black sleek hair, dull and lifeless. He was hungry for action, for the chase, the hunt, the kill. He received a message from medical research that day, ‘Hawk, good news. We’re on schedule to start the vaccination programme next week. It looks as if we’ve beaten this baby. God bless America.’

Hawk felt caged in. He was trapped in the weakness of humanity. He was glued to its frailty, the string of obligations to the useless no hopers who tugged and tethering him. Was he truly alone in realising bird flu was a God send, a necessary evolutionary step? Was everything going to be left to him? He slammed the door to his gym and did a furious work out. He pounded his body until he sweated and shook and felt in control, every cell in his body sharpened, he realised he knew what to do.

A private CIA jet was prepared for him immediately. He had some urgent work at the governmental research laboratories. He needed to discuss the genome for the 1918 virus. The vaccination programme was based on similar gene patterns to bird flu, the doctor in charge enthusiastically explained how they modified the virus to be effective against bird flu. ‘We took the 1918 virus from a body frozen in Siberia, it’s been hugely beneficial in the modification for vaccine against bird flu. Of course it’s highly toxic in its own right, but it’ll never escape this laboratory.’ His bleep interrupted his interesting educational blurb; Hawk’s secretary was very reliable.

‘Excuse me a moment.’ The doctor stepped aside taking the call, Hawk moved towards the test tubes and calmly popped the 1918 vial into his pocket replacing it with a replica he had with him. It had the correct serial code, and colour combination; only a select member of the intelligence service, Hawk included, was privy to such sensitive information. Hawk patted his pocket gently and handed the dud vial back to the doctor, who gingerly placed the vial of water back in the security safe. Hawk thanked the doctor for his reassurances and explanation, they shook hands. The doctor admiring, watched the tall straight back of Hawk leave the lab and muttered ‘Thank God for him.’ He saluted the figure leaving the building ‘God bless America.’

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases. Hawk went to the toilet, broke the vial and snorted some liquid up, he blinked, his eyes watering, it was like chlorine from the baths as a kid. That evening he was speaker at a well publicised function to celebrate the diminished threat of bird flu, vaccinations were due to start on Friday. He coughed and spluttered into the microphone, ‘must be allergic to crowds’ he joked. Everyone who was anyone was there. They gave him a standing ovation, rapturous applause. He was the hero who had orchestrated their escape from mass death.

Hawk circulated the hall. He was patted on the back, his hand shaken. They compared him to the eagle on the American flag, protecting his country. Hawk could feel the virus battling with his body. He smiled, he knew he’d win, he’d prepared for this war. He felt his temperature rise, two hot circles of pride glowed on his face. He excused himself from the milling crowd of penguins and pink female flamingos, the fine plumage of high society, the peacocks in full array bowed letting him past.

He took the fire exit to the top of the high rise building, leaping steps two at a time. He needed cool air and breathed deeply, the breeze caressing the fire burning through him. The wind blew the hairs on the back of his sticky neck, ruffled his damp shirt. He stared out across the twinkling lights of the city, the blinking lives, all huddled round the TV praising him for saving their humble weak lives. Tomorrow they’d leave their homes, get immunised, be free of fear. They’ll think they’re safe. Hawk cackled with a little shiver. He coughed and sneezed and giggled while the 1918 virus flew free in the air. Millions of lives,and millions of spiny viruses would join together, and only the best would survive.

Hawk was ablaze, he’d liberated mankind, delivered it from a feeble future. He spun round and round, his arms outstretched, flying under stars. The sweat poured off him, he stripped his clothes off and felt light as a feather. He sniffed the night sky with his large hooked nose, his beady eyes scanning the milling millions below, beneath his being. The clouds rolled across a big fat full moon, the little people hugged themselves for the novelty of being free. Hawk caught the direction of the wind, he looked across the deep blue velvet horizon sequinned with stars, and with a lithe hop, skip and jump threw his head forward and launched into the night sky.

First published in 2011