“But the figures don’t match,” I was saying to my semi-elderly boss. A veteran of the culture wars, she had done the most important thing one must to be rich in America — get vested before 1965, when the social welfare programs and new immigration kicked in and wages stagnated permanently — and so had concluded that what she had done in the past actually worked.
As a result, she had little time for me, merely a nobody in his 30s without a degree from a big name institution, who was pointing out that money was leaking out of our fund and being transferred to something else. What could I know that she did not? Obviously nothing. There was nothing for me to do but back down, apologize and leave, while she glared at me with triumphant pretense. And ruined the company, probably causing a chain reaction that crashed the markets, or at least would if she was discovered.
Upon returning to my desk, it occurred to me (again) that my name was on this piece of elaborate accounting fiction, and so I fired up the keyboard to draft a letter to our controller asking for guidance. It took over an hour to write, revise, consider, reconsider, and then pare down the letter. As I saved the final draft and prepared to hit the send button, a firm hand descended on my shoulder.
I looked up to see the most spectral man I have ever encountered. His face was like weathered stone, worn smooth by centuries of water, and his eyes, a blue so pale that it appeared to be like thin glass capturing the outside light, giving the impression that his eyes rather than portals to the soul were a way to look right through him. His height was average and his demeanor non-threatening.
“The situation is being handled,” he said with such calmness that I inferred both sincerity and confidence, and removed my hands from the keyboard. As I watched, the receptionist on our floor took her hourly break, and then from the freight elevator area, a man wheeled out a dolly with a water heater on it. He looked out the window and made the smallest of nods, at which point the phone on the desk of my boss-lady rang.
She got up, and in a strident rage headed out the door of the office, but another man wearing a service uniform stepped up and pressed his cell phone to her neck. She looked at him in surprise and then crumpled onto the floor. The two men flipped up the lid of the water heater, dumped her inside, and then closed it, locking the metal container. Then the first man carted it away.
As if on cue, one of our younger employees ran into the break room, weeping. I heard the words “heart attack” and the name of my boss. I looked up at my interlocutor, but his face was impassive. Soon employees were signing an oversized get-well-soon card that seemed to me, hilariously, to resemble a tombstone.
“Come with me,” he said, and we left the building. The security guard just nodded as if he expected us and was ticking off an instruction for someone powerful in his mind. We hit the street level and quickly went into a sandwich shop, where with a nod to the employees he took me out the back door, down an alley, through a clothing boutique with the same nod to the cashier, then out on the street where a car picked us up.
It accelerated quickly and got onto the freeway, then exited and immediately made a U-turn, then headed straight into the city, making random turns across the grid until I was completely disoriented. During this time, my interlocutor spoke to me. “You have heard, probably, that there is something called the ‘deep state,'” he began.
“Only on Alex Jones,” I said. “No offense, but I don’t find it very credible. Sounds like a bunch of government employees just defending their job security.”
“None taken,” he said, “but you are incorrect. The Deep State is very real, although it is closer to your idea than his. There are some of us who have decided that power is too important to be left in the hands of our fellow citizens, who are, if you pardon my expression, fucking morons.”
I nodded. It was the kind of thing that, back then, you could not say at a party, but you could nod if someone else said it. Everyone knew it was true. Most people were congenital idiots by themselves, but in groups, intelligence descends to the average. People follow trends and fads, compromise like a committee and avoid the real issue like the election for class president in high school.
He handed over a video player. I saw it was showing a live feed. It was from a helicopter, looking out over the countryside. Then it flew over a giant penned area in which pink things, looking like carp, moved. I realized they were pigs. The camera rotated down to the floor of the helicopter, on which my ex-boss lay, her eyes moving but her body inert. A booted foot extended and pushed her out.
“Pigs eat everything but the belt buckles,” said my companion. “Officially, she died of heart attack and was cremated by her wishes.”
“And everybody will just go along with this?”
He gave the smallest of shrugs. “Her physician is highly regarded, and he signed the death certificate. Her lawyer is also top-flight, and he will claim that her wish to be cremated was in the will. Her boss, who stands to inherit leadership of your ex-company, will testify if needed that he was with her when she fell ill, and that he called the hospital.”
“What about CCTV?”
“It glitches all the time. Your IT department head agreed that the unit had glitched, and one of my employees watched him delete the file.”
I looked at him, stunned. He went on.
“You know what the definition of the deep state is? It is that which cannot get caught, because it does not exist. It consists of handshake deals between influential people, and the handshake is not what matters, but the mutual gain. Would you turn down friendship with people who could offer you the name of a stock that would double your money within a week? Or someone who can get you into that top college, a career-making promotion, or introduce you to the girl of your dreams? That is our power, and there is really only one rule: you do what we ask, and if you tell, you die.”
This seemed so nebulous I found it hard to fathom. “But the CIA… the Obama operatives…”
“All of that is true. But ask yourself this: if the CIA is doing our bidding, it is the CIA or us? If a completely incompetent, malevolently narcissistic and adamantly bigoted young man with little experience is elected president just because of his race, was that his will, or our machinations? If people across government and industry decide to do what we want, and then justify their actions as part of their job title, does that mean the jobs are geared toward those results, or is it us? And the answer is: it is always us.”
“We have no name, symbol or hierarchy,” he said. “We are not a secret organization, like the thespian comedy of the Masons or Scientologists, but a group of friends where ‘friend’ means one who helps another. To join, one gets far enough to be of interest, and then proves loyal. If we ask you to hide a body, you do it, without question, or you will be the next body we hide. Self-preservation, you understand. If you go to the press, the journalist you ask will probably be the one to inject you with the mixture of succinylcholine and Valium that we used to zombify your ex-boss. The cop you go to will be one of us, the lawyer you ask to hide you will sigh and then open the door and let us in, and even if you flee to another country, someone like me will show up and lead you away.”
I made a pig squealing noise, but he did not laugh. “The average person considers himself intelligent and progressive for explaining why real problems are not actually our problems,” he said. “Only a tiny minority understands the nature of power, or what has to be done to achieve even basic results like grocery stores. Nations are not made on the back of human rights, but by imposing duty on people who otherwise are witless and blind to what must actually be done. There are maybe a hundred competent people in North America who understand how societies work. The rest are just in the way, and everything they say is wrong.”
“You have to understand cause and effect,” he continued. “When a government acts, it needs some reason for doing so that it can claim, so that what it did was right. The Gulf of Tonkin was designed to distract from this, to make us think that all such activity is so obvious. Companies hide their errors, governments conceal their motives, and individuals always offer up whatever they think makes them look good. Any commercial product — advertising and news included — tells us only what we know the audience reacts to, and we use focus groups to figure out what that is. Their clients come to them and ask how to make what they are doing look good, and everyone else look bad. We conceal the real cause, insert a pretext, and the crowd roars. Any published paper or book is the same way: what do people want to believe? And then we sell it to them, because to do otherwise is to be conquered by someone who is willing to do that. At the same time, this presents a problem.”
“What is that?” I croaked.
“That the population, who have control of the vote, are living in Disneyland. They believe that 9/11 was about Islam, when really it was about Pakistan beating China and India. They think that the scores in the Superbowl are real, and not a stock market in themselves. They believe that companies donate money out of the goodness of their hearts. They think politicians care about whether or not their plans work or not. These are necessary fictions for them to feel comfortable and safe, but they are far from ‘true,’ which really does not matter much if you are interested in wealth and power. Your average person lives in a world shaped by forces that he does not understand, and comes away with an impression of events that is one hundred and eighty degrees the inversion of what is actually true.”
He went on. “That creates a problem. The people are voting on phantoms, shadows and cartoons. They make the wrong choice every time. If for nothing else to keep our markets functional, we need the Deep State, and all of our lives would have ended early without it. We recognize that government is a fiction, the news is distraction, that academic papers are gibberish, and that popular opinion is thoroughly nonsense. If you said that in public… you would not last long, but it would not be us that you should fear. The crowd will tear you apart, just like they did in the French and Russian revolutions. Power learned from those events that it must never reveal itself.”
“We do what is necessary. There would be several thousand serial killers roaming America right now if we had not stopped them. The pigs grew fat on their flesh. We fix the markets, because if we did not, every decade would have a Great Depression because people invest en masse in stupid, foolish things. People are lottery players, not thinkers. The chance of being king drives them more than the reality of their next meal. When a company goes bankrupt, we did it, to open up the markets. We have staved off ten thousand disasters a year, none of which you have ever heard of. Nuclear terrorism, VX gas on the subway, epidemics, wars, famines, murders; we have stopped them all, in order to keep society stable. But we could not do that as a named government.”
“As soon as you are named in this world, people know who to manipulate. That is the basis of how the world works: everyone is equal, so you have to bribe or coerce anyone to get them to do what you want, which is why jobs are so sadistic and friendships so fickle. We just do that invisibly because that way, no one can interfere with us. We cannot be manipulated; we have the power and the money, and we protect that by manipulating others because they would never understand what it is that we do.”
“Like a mafia?”
“If there was only one worldwide, yes. Ever notice how organized crime seemed to fade into the background? They all just vanished one day. We are the shadow force that keeps order, and as long as they confined themselves to prostitution and gambling, we had no problem with them. Once they expanded, they had to go away. The same is true of any other market cartel we encounter, but our methods are normally very mild. We use lawyers and cops, investigators and bureaucrats, journalists and celebrities, and we wipe them out.”
“So what about the Deep State?”
He sighed. “As I told you, there are public and private versions of everything. The public version is an excuse, an image, like an actor on stage. The public Deep State consists of a widespread group of employees who work to subvert government for their own gain. They work together, like us, but their only rule is to keep the money and power flowing. They have another few months, and then one day, every one of them will have a financial crisis, be arrested for child pornography, have drugs found in their car, or find themselves transferred to an outpost in rural Turkey. They will just vanish, too.”
“Child pornography… like PizzaGate?”
He raised his hand in the universal gesture for ambiguity. “PizzaGate stumbled on someone’s operation, maybe, but not ours. Too sloppy. We inject people with a mixture of Haldol, Propofol and several other components that makes them highly suggestible, then bring in one of our child actors. The film rolls. Whenever we need to get rid of someone quickly, the pictures leak. Then they go away. You know that Anthony Weiner is innocent of the second set of accusations of sexting? Our people are in control of the routers and servers, too. Any content we want will appear in any account at any time.”
I nodded, and he went on. “Our organization has entered its mature state. Originally, our goal was to protect our interests, because otherwise the moronic herd would crash the value of the currency, start more world wars, or allow a nuclear launch. Then we became interested in what else we can do, and it was informally decided that we would make ourselves an anti-entropy organization. We are now not just protecting our interests, but attempting to make the world stable by counter-acting the decay caused by human freedom, and this will reduce the risk to our holdings while increasing their long-term value, making us wealthier ten-fold even if, on paper, we will have less.”
Only one question remained. “So you’re telling me this for a reason…”
“And you want to know my answer.”
He nodded again. The spectral blue eyes seemed to glow, and I felt that the transparency was through me now.
I looked down at my nails. Really, there was not much of a question. If I said yes, I would gain access to wealth and power, and the ability to perhaps make a change in this rotten world. Maybe someday I could become one of these leaders of men. Men are lottery players, he had said, and in that moment, I understood. But this lottery perhaps I could win.
I looked up and he saw my choice in my eyes.
“Excellent,” he said. “I anticipated this, which is why you have recently accepted a job offer at a competing company. At your new desk, there will be a cell phone. Hold down the power button to extend the needle. When you see the man with the water heater, go to your boss and inject him in the neck. Then we will contact you.”
As the car sped off, I did not even look after it. For me, the invisible empire was the new normal, and the rest of the world a mere fiction. My phone buzzed with an email announcing my new position, and I set off in pursuit of the rebirth of my life.