Amerika

Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Origin Of The First Conservative

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Zak and Thak were sitting around the entrance to the cave, just shooting the breeze in a primitive language that we have translated here into an even more primitive language. It was 24,032 B.C. and the sky was blue, the plains around them green and populated with many animals.

Thak: Things have been getting worse lately.

Zak: What do you mean? The last hunt brought in many wildebeast. We won the recent tribal war. It has rained bountifully, and all of our plants are doing well.

Thak: The problems that I can see coming, those never bother me. It is easy enough to notice that there are storm clouds on the horizon, but harder to know when your organization is about to fall apart. Remember Beta Cave?

Zak: Yeah, what about them? They just — poof! — up and vanished.

Thak: It is that sudden invisible doom that worries me. What happened in Beta Cave was simple: they had a big hunt and abundant crop, so the hunters and workers decided they did not have to work anymore, which made their leaders mad because they know that a big win this year can mean that next year will be lean. This meant that the leaders had to spent all of their time pushing people back into line so they would do their duties, and that meant that they were blindsided when Omega Cave attacked. They threw off that assault easily, but then people started to get uneasy because it was a surprise, and all the workers were complaining. The assumed their leaders were bad, kicked them out the door, and then tried to lead themselves. Every decision was a mass of debate, and soon they started deciding that some choices were off the table. They abolished the distinction between seed and feed. They stopped scheduling hunts by the moon. They allowed people to live wherever they wanted in the cave, instead of having people live according to their rank, so that warriors and leaders were near the opening. From what I hear, it was a virtual comedy — a “clown world” as they might call it someday in 2017 A.D. — because anything that was true was forbidden to say, and so people spent their time working on what was not true, and while they had enough competent people to have abundant crops and hunts, the confusion drove everyone mad so they simply scattered to the four corners.

Zak: Yes, that is what I heard as well. It was a mass craziness, like when the apples ferment and the pigs go insane after eating them.

Thak: That is what I mean by an invisible threat. Almost all of our failings as hominids occur because we are acting crazy. Sometimes it is like the pigs who ate the fermented apples, and there are some who are just broken in the mind, but usually it is simply us acting on things that we think were true or wish were true, or at first appeared to be true, but then we have not updated our knowledge from the world around us, and so we are acting as if we were in a different world, one located in our minds.

Zak: True, too true.

Thak: As we evolve, it seems to me that our biggest challenge is trying to stay organized. Life is like the hunt, a question of how to adapt to a rapidly-changing situation, which includes the need for logistics, doing things in the right order, and a hierarchy of command so that no question goes unanswered and we do not fall into confusion about how and when to act, and in what order. Our spearmen line up to charge a mastodon, but if they all throw at once, they will probably collide their spears and miss, then have no weapons as the injured animal turns on them. Someone must bring water and food, and if a hunter is hurt, there needs to be someone who can tell which two hunters we can take out of the hunt to carry him between spears. There are some who are better scouts, others better trackers, and some who are only good in the beginning or finishing of the attack. To have a successful hunt, the hunt-leader must assemble enough hunters who are good at each of the duties needed, then assemble the supplies and weapons, then have a plan about how to encounter the prey and what we will do at that point, including what happens when things do not go according to plan. Even with excellent hunters, we have had bad hunts when we were not prepared. When we are not organized, we fail.

Zak: We could just hunt rabbits. One man can take a half-dozen in a day.

Thak: And that will feed, what? Four people. When we go on the big hunts, or tend to the plants that produce the roots and fruits that we need, we can feed many more, which allows us to have a cave that can defend itself, where we have people to make pottery for storing food, keep the fires tended, and even have a shrine and altar so that we can keep up our spirits when there are storms or famines. What drives us to the big hunt is the opportunity to be greater masters of our world.

Zak: And yet, as you point out, it is this mastery that caused Beta Cave to collapse.

Thak: Maybe so. But I think there was something else as well. They became masters, but forgot their purpose, and so they allowed lesser men to dwell among them, and this made their leaders into slaves who had to spend all of their time keeping others in line. On the hunt, a man who cannot keep up is allowed to fall behind, and he gets nothing of the take. In a prosperous cave, everyone may have some of the plenty, and so soon there are many people who do nothing but take. If you want your cave to succeed, you have to send away the people who can do nothing or who need to be constantly told what to do.

Zak: Not very sociable, though.

Thak: What is socializing but looking for ourselves in others? For that we have the surface of a still river before dusk or after dawn.

Zak: What you say is true, but I cannot trouble myself by it. I am doing well enough, this year, and I know that over time, all things fall apart. Trees age and die, even mountains collapse. If I struggle against the inevitable, I will be wasting my life on the hopeless and will in turn become miserable. It is better to enjoy what I have.

Thak: Remember the time we brought down that giant woolly mammoth?

Zak: Oh man, do I ever. That was a great hunt! We almost lost. That thing was huge.

Thak: And would you have enjoyed it more if the beast had been smaller, or less dangerous?

Zak: No. That was what made that hunt the hunt I will always remember. We took down a beast that stood a good chance of killing all of us.

Thak: So if there were a smaller, weaker beast, would you hunt that instead?

Zak: Of course not! This is what distinguishes hominids like us from animals. We need a spirit, a feeling, a reason to enjoy existence. You cannot have that by hunting weaker animals, despite it being smarter to hunt those.

Thak: Or rabbits.

Zak: At that point, we might as well just go back to gathering roots, mushrooms and berries.

Thak: I think we understand each other. For me, the cave is the hunt: there is a challenge there, and a chance for greatness, not just an easy meal and place to stay. I think you are the same way. We are not satisfied with comfort, safety and plenty. We need mountains to climb, wars to wage, and great hunts where the beast has the upper hand.

Zak: Definitely that is true.

Thak: Our societies are not like mountains or trees, but like whole forests. They can live forever, or as long as the stellar gods allow this world to live, if they are pruned and renewed. When we take firewood, we pare down the old and the weak trees, and new trees take their place, so that even if there is a fire or drought, there are enough strong trees to endure and restart the forest again.

Zak: Such a fragile thing. If even one generation fails…

Thak: Nature is designed of many fragile things, because that way, they are not corrupted. They are either strong or they cease to exist. Strength comes from fragility. The lion seeks mates, but can easily become lost, bit by a snake, fall off a cliff, or be beaten by other lions. This fragility ensures that what endures is the strong.

Zak: And yet, over time, all things decay.

Thak: Individual lions decay, but the species of lions does not. It renews itself through fragility and strength.

Zak: And you would do this to our cave?

Thak: Yes, because I have a different approach than our leaders. We need leaders who are fragile inside, full of sensitivity and wonder for this life. They need to be able to be harsh and lazy like the king lion. Their job is not to clean up after others; it is to conquer, and to lead, and then to make a new generation. They must be willing to let the weak die out, and to send away the useless, because the very sight of uselessness offends them. In a world with so much to do, and so much greatness to discover, weakness and uselessness are intolerable. Any one who does not understand that life is sacred in this way is unfit to be in our cave. That is the pruning. And then, the renewal. People must be full of life, seeking challenges always, not reveling in what they already have, or they become crazy and bored at the same time, and give up. That path leads to clown world.

Zak: Do you think it is possible that our cave could become a clown world?

Thak: Strength comes from fragility, and fragility comes from strength that does not judge its object. When we are strong, it is because we recognize that not all are strong, and we send away the defectives. When we are weak, it is because we include everyone under the assumption that they can carry our strength just by doing the same things that we do. Most caves become clown worlds and perish, like Beta Cave. They all went insane, but they did not realize it, because everyone else was insane too, so insanity seemed like power, until all fell apart.

Zak: Surely this was the work of some demon, or a god for whom they had fallen into ill-favor?

Thak: You and I are hunters who have roved many plains. We have seen many things, including invisible things like the organization of a cave. But we have never seen demons, and we realize those are just ways that people represent their fears. The demon is within. Things fall apart, and when they are weak inside, hominids desire that falling apart. They do not want to struggle anymore. They want to just let go, and stop interacting with life, but this is a weakness that a predator would smell downwind, so they hide this behind false strength. This strength consists of a lust for power and prosperity because those enable them to escape their role in the cave. A bad hunter becomes an important man, or a weak person has a group of hunters to order around, or a dumb man finds a way to pretend that he is smart because he knows things, even if they are not useful, or especially if they are not useful, because then no one else knows them and he can cleverly invent ways to make them seem more important than what is useful. The weakness within must be concealed with activity that seems like power. A man who can be invisible because his orders go out through others feels as if he has hidden his weakness, and so he will do selfish things, confident in his invisibility. A man who is weak will in private do weak things, but in public, show off his strength. They are not fragile, like nature, because they do not respond to the world around them or even the gods, but they do exactly the same thing no matter what happens. This makes them strong until, like Beta Cave, they find themselves in a different world than this one, and then this world takes its revenge.

Zak: I fear for my daughters, that they may marry such weak men.

Thak: And well you should, but the better question is why we suffer weakness to live around us? We can send them to Beta Cave… I suppose we cannot. We must send them away, that is for sure, because the hearts of young people are filled with passion, and passion comes from the self and not the world, so they make bad choices.

Zak: I can tell them not to be seen with such men.

Thak: But then they will see them secretly, because strong hearts rebel against that which they do not understand.

Zak: I see that this is quite a challenge.

Thak: Like the Great Hunt, it must be. We find meaning in this world because it is a challenge, and when we master it, we have become greater. When we are surrounded by weakness, we become depressed, and stop caring if we go greater or lesser. This is why we must remove the weak men before your daughters find them.

Zak: But our leaders will not do this. They, too, seek power, and in the many heads of our tribe, they find it.

Thak: This is true. But then they are not leaders, but what will someday be called “government,” or a type of control that cultivates weak people so that they can be made to do what it wills, instead of what is natural and sensible. This is why our leaders avoid war. They do not want to lose any of those heads, even if many of them should be lost. It is not that we are prosperous that makes us do this, only what enables us to do so. It is a loss of strength because they are not fragile enough within to understand the difference between a good idea and a better one.

Zak: If we took the daughters and sons of our best hunters, and led them to a new cave, we could start over and be greater.

Thak: And we should be secret in doing so, and appear weak whenever possible, so that we escape the notice of those possessed by vanity and the lust for power and prosperity. They will find and fight others like themselves, increasing their weakness which they believe is strength.

Zak: I am a man of the Great Hunt. So it shall be done.

Thak: And this is why I have this conversation with you, and not with just any person from our old cave.

Dusk settled onto the land, and lightning played through the clouds. A soft rain fell. Somewhere, a tree splintered and caught flame, struck with the bolts of the gods. Still the men sat, looking out over the beauty and mystery of their land.

Enter The Deep State

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

“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…”

He nodded.

“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.

Winners

Friday, August 25th, 2017

“Masks on,” came the voice through the radio. Garan and his second, Jobe, put on their light filter masks and resumed their positions on the deck of the massive structure. Sunlight had come filtering through the omnipresent smog, heating up the dust and exhaust below, and as happened every morning at about this time, it had risen to their level and was now at toxic concentrations.

From a distance, they were invisible, just another aggregation of detail on the face of the massive structure. Stretching a third of a mile into the air, the giant cube concrete, steel and glass occupied seventy square blocks in the city. Its base was made of reinforced concrete, with entrances only for delivery trucks. Inside, rows of apartments were divided by tiered gardens, all sealed within a greenhouse, generating the air that the colony needed. It was environmentally-friendly, self-sufficient and armed to the teeth against outsiders.

As the sun rose, it illuminated the waves of clutter on the low hills and valleys stretching outward — seemingly infinitely — from the cube. These were the favelas, or free economic zone, which were built by their residents and ruled by nothing. Somewhere in this mess, people grew food, slaughtered animals, made products and waged constant warfare on themselves. Jobe and Garan were wary because today was a lottery day, which meant that the residents would be restive.

In contrast, those in the cube did not play the lottery; they did not need to. These were the people who worked in the office jobs at the firms who made the products which were absorbed by the favelas. Batteries, tires, engines, guns, medicine and entertainment devices flowed out of factories far away and arrived at the stores in a separate security garrison at the other edge of the city. The citizens flowed in, walking with the shuffling gait and nod of people who were barely mentally there, to buy whatever they could put on credit. The people in the cube were of a class better than citizen, namely “employee,” which meant that they had the right to live in the cubes and could purchase products from the delivery network which brought them right to their doors. Most never left the cube at all, although the wealthiest would jet to some of the private islands that still remained out there in the perpetually gray, overcast, smog-encased globe which humanity called home.

In the cubes, the air was always cool and fresh, full of oxygen from the many plantings and the ten stories above that were an organic farm. Here everything was precious: each floor was named after an animal, some of which were not extinct, and recycling bins were everywhere. Their food was fair trade because it was produced by robots, carbon-neutral and consisted mostly of plants which never naturally grew here, from quinoa to acai berries and Icelandic kale. On every floor, the exercise rooms were crammed with thin and fit people working out on the machines, and most employees spent a fair amount of their free time in volunteer activities like making smocks for the infants of the citizens. Colorful murals adorned every wall, and each person was unique in that they had some activity that no other person engaged in, like collecting vintage Soviet radios or making artisanal wooden forks. To its inhabitants, this place was paradise.

For a twenty-first century person, the cube would seem like an aggregate of whatever had been popular in the past twenty decades. The digital libraries were full of books of Ideas like Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. If you asked them, these people were the most progressive ever, against racism, sexism, homophobia or discrimination of any kind. They recognized only the hierarchy of money, and were proud of the fact that they had risen above the favelas, even if most of them had never been there. Inside the cube, these slender people resembled twenty-first century South Americans: slightly Eurasian, dark of hair and eye, with the slightly curved noses and curly hair of those who had absorbed something from the African continent as well despite their relatively pale skin. Out there in the favelas, people had higher amounts of Asian and African blood, but were short and squat, and tended to be not very bright. This was acknowledged with a wink and a smile within the cube. The employees considered themselves to be winners, and everyone else to effectively be a loser, and because this was not based in race or privilege, it was considered not only fair but a judgment greater than that of God, although no one would admit to such an anachronistic belief.

Every employee had a number, such as 001-090-1691, which was Garan’s number. This meant he was from the first row, floor 90, unit #1691. The units were spacious, with each having a view of a garden through which sunlight filtered from the greenhouses above, consisting of five rooms and a central area to which many had added pools or gardens of their own. Their food came from the restaurants staggered among the floors or the stores at the ground level: Amazon, Costco, Walmart and Target. There were even artisanal stores and smaller boutiques where people bought more advanced products, but everyone ended up at the discount stores at some point, because why pay more? Only suckers and losers paid full price for objects which originated in the same vertical farms and assembly lines. There were hospitals, schools, and pubs, but no jails. There was only one penalty here, which was to be ejected into the favelas, and for that reason, they had zero crime of any type. People were careful not to leave their belongings in the halls or to engage in any behavior which inconvenienced or offended anyone. Conversation centered around topics discussed in the big magazines or on the video feeds, but never ventured beyond that. Raising the idea of God, heritage, or even personal achievement was not forbidden, but might give rise to citizens filing complaints from their portable nodes, and if enough of those accumulated, the person who occasioned them would face a committee who had the power to vote for exile. It was always good to be friends with people who were rumored to be on those committees.

Out on the sixteenth-floor balcony, beneath giant vents which blasted heat from the cooling system into the already searing atmosphere, Garan adjusted the site on his APW-25. To a twenty-first century person, it resembled a small-scale anti-tank missile, a long tube with a digitally-enhanced sight.

“Dukhs on quadrant seven, four of them, coming in fast,” crackled through the radio. Jobe and Garan zoomed in with their scopes and as they expected, saw a group of four nehis — this was their term for favela-dwellers — coming down one of the jagged avenues between the cramped and chaotic tenements. Garan could see the rifles in their hands. Several dozen times a day, the cube came under assault by one of the perpetually-changing groups of dissidents who wanted “change” of some kind, even though in Garan’s view, the cubes were the best possible outcome for this world.

“Got ’em, esse,” Garan radioed back. He locked the tracking laser onto the group, painting them in an invisible cone of light which the missile would follow, striking in the center. Then he depressed the trigger, steeling himself for the bang! and whoosh! as the missile flew toward its target. He struggled to keep the tracking laser on target through the cloud of smoke and watched as the fire of the rocket engine, small amidst the towering ruins of the tenements, followed his signal toward the group. As they passed a doorway, a woman came out, squat and dumpy like a thumb, holding a baby which would grow up to be the same. Garan did not change the course of his missile. The only goal was to protect the cube.

Impact came just as the dukhs (their term for anonymous assailants) raised the first of their rifles. The warheads produced a “dome of death,” about ten meters of destruction in any direction, as they fragmented and then those fragments detonated, shredding anything within that range. This happened abruptly before the dukhs recognized they were under attack, which was what usually happened. The missiles raced toward their targets at seven hundred miles an hour, and so struck silently and invisibly from their cover of smog. The street lit up with the blast, which sounded like a pop from nearly a mile away, and the dukhs disintegrated. The now headless-woman dropped the baby into a street littered with fragments of metal and human animal, and a bolus of internal organs blasted through the door, no doubt covering the inhabitants within as they screamed. The baby squirmed twice in its dirty blanket, then lay still, probably a casualty of the shrapnel produced by the fragmentation of the warhead cover. Garan shrugged. It really had no life to look forward to, anyway, outside of the cube.

Smoke obscured the street. It was too far away for the men on the cube to hear, and they were already looking toward the next threat, which was a group to the north who were going to be the second attack. There were often bouts of attacks during the week when things were particularly bad in the heap of cobbled-together concrete tenements, and so the dozen men who were stationed outside the building maintained constant radio traffic as they scanned the hundred avenues converging on the cube. Jobe motioned to Garan, pointing two fingers toward one of the streets — these changed direction and location when a block of ghetto fell over on itself, as happened regularly — where another group were advancing. They wore black, which implied a religious group, and kept their hands behind their backs. Through his scope Garan could see the barrel of a rifle behind one, so he tagged the video and sent it to their commander inside. Then he deliberately relaxed his muscles and focused all of his attention on the group while waiting for approval from command.

Jobe identified another group a street over and was tracking them. They communicated by radio so they did not have to take their eyes from their scopes. Garan liked this job, and hoped someday to advance to be a commander, so he could sit in the nice air conditioning and take a higher salary for looking at video camera feeds and approving counter-strikes. As as result, he took his task very seriously. As he watched, one of the figures in black broke away and ran into the tenement. “One broke away,” he said to Jobe, then returning to tracking the group. They had paused, as if waiting for a signal, which made the pit of his stomach contract. This meant that several groups would attack at once. A few months ago, they had gotten close enough to batter their way into the underground delivery area with rocket-propelled grenades. The cube, named Byūt for an ancient God in someone else’s culture, was separated from the ghetto tenement by only a scant hundred yards of planted esplanade, road and parking spillway, which was why people like Garan and Jobe were hired to ensure that they did not close the distance. The nehis — this was their generic term for people living in the favelas — usually attacked in groups, at which point they became dukhs, or targets. The term, similar to the ancient usage “bogey,” meant “ghost,” and this was the way that Garan and his comrades kept their emotions at bay as they blasted dukhs into paste using their guided rockets.

This knowledge weighed heavily on Garan as he concentrated. The sun was always hot, the noise and smells of the street always disturbing, and inevitably something would itch. Today it was a spot on his left buttock. His deceptive mind summoned up a host of possible notions in response to any stimulus, and did so here as well, filling his head with options such as the possibility of a clogged pore, ingrown hair, insect bite or even fatal cancer. He did not flinch. Through his radio, he heard Jobe add groups down two more streets, and then after a pause, add, “That guy from the first group showed up with the second, and I think he’s bringing them RPGs.” This naturally made Garan wary; the rocket propelled grenade or RPG was one of the few things that could destroy walls, doors and the cameras on which they relied. If one of those defenses went down, more attackers would surge in and he would not be able to vaporize enough of them to repel the attack. He tracked his scope to the second street where he saw one of the dukhs from the first attack group had indeed joined the second group, and appeared to be offering them a backpack.

“Uh, we got weapons in street two,” Garan muttered into the radio. “Request permission.” He zoomed in and saw the backpack was rather full, and some kind of negotiation was going on. As he watched, a tall man came running from the shadows of the tenement. Garan squinted. There was something anomalous about this person, from his slender height to his stride. He moved confidently with a manic intensity that the slower-thinking nehis rarely managed. This man handed something small to the man with the backpack. The latter took the new object aside and flipped through it. He was counting cash, Garan realized, at the same moment he registered the removal of rockets from the backpack. He flagged that segment of the video and sent it to command with a few finger gestures.

“We have three groups forming now, ready to attack the second quadrant, and they’ve received new weapons from this guy. Request permission to fire,” Jobe said. Still no word from command.

Garan tensed. Was someone in the bathroom, or just playing politics? If they gave permission now, they took a risk of accidentally wiping out a few innocent nehis along with the dukhs, but to wait too long meant that the bad guys might get the first shot. He turned his focus back to the first group, which he thought were most likely to attack. When the scope focused, he saw the weapons merchant with a new backpack, and the tall man again handing over what looked like cash. Jobe reported the same on several other streets. “We have bad guys unpacking new RPGs on four streets,” Jobe said. “Command, please give us permission.” Both men were now furiously flagging and logging video.

They had standing orders to eliminate any group approaching with weapons. The grey area occurred where groups without visible weapons, before an attack had officially begun, were observed. The cubes sold a lot of product to the favelas, and an unclean kill could cause a backlash in which the entire tenement attacked, at which point the cubes would have to summon the mercenaries they kept on retainer. That in itself was a problem because not only was it expensive, but it also created disturbance for the workflow in the cubes, where most people worked from home or in large workspaces on the upper floors, which could impede the flow of business. That was ultra-taboo.

Jobe slapped the side of his launcher. “Ti amo, bellissima,” he said as he caressed it. Garan saw that he was nervous, and threw in the usual light-hearted banter they indulged in to avoid stressing out.

“She’s beautiful. Best in the world,” he said.

Jobe shrugged. “Maybe someday someone will invent something better. But for now, I am trusting her, and I love her with all my heart. Nie moge żyć bez ciebie, Najdroższa.”

Garan grinned, and turned back to his scope. There was movement on the street.

“Command, we need an answer, over,” Jobe begged onto the radio. No response. They turned back to their scopes. Garan was alternating between the first and second groups, and on one of these passes, he caught a flash of movement. “We’re under fire,” he said into the radio, seconds before a rocket detonated against the building. Since his weapon was fixed on the second group, Garan squeezed the trigger and then focused the scope so that he could guide the missile in toward the second group, who were now pulling rockets out of the backpack while the tall man watched nearby. Something garbled came over the radio but he did not have time to ask for clarification as he nosed the rocket down into the group and enveloped them in the warm orange glow of a two-stage explosion. He swung the weapon back toward the first group, who Jobe had partially destroyed, and focused on the weapon-seller, who was shuffling with an injured leg as he went toward a pile of junk to hide. The second missile kicked free, and Garan guided it to ground level so that it skimmed the ground and then veered left into the heap toward which the weapons merchant was heading. The bloom of fire was bigger than expected, and he realized that he had hit the heap where the man was stashing his weapons, along with what looked like illegal gasoline as well. Flames filled the narrow street and people began to flee the carbonizing tenement. He had only seconds to look, because he had loosed a third missile toward the group, half of whom were wounded, steering it into the hard concrete between them and watching as a satisfying upward blast scattered bits of meat and organs over both sides of the street.

“Command, please repeat, over,” he said into the radio. The line crackled and then the voice of his commander came on: “Belay the last order. We are under attack. Weapons free, I repeat, weapons free.”

Jobe and Garan wasted no time targeting the other groups converging on the cube. Jorge loosed two rockets in rapid succession and guided them into a large group assembling weapons far down one of the streets, sweeping his laser from left to right so that the rockets bracketed the group five seconds apart. Airborne meat and shrapnel from secondary explosions bathed the street, causing a number of nehis to fall clutching limbs or midsections. Collateral damage was part of the job. As Garan targeted another group, machine gun fire stitched across the concrete surface below them, and Jobe dropped a rocket down its path, then used his scope to find the group in black which was firing. Another dome of death lit the dismal scene below, and bodies dropped lifeless, one raising its hands as if praying, which Garan had come to recognize as a symptom of a fatal head wound. He fired toward the group he had seen, but not before an RPG slammed into the loading bay, lighting it from within and blasting bits of something out into the street. He realized that this was probably one of their loaders who had been caught in a confined space by the blast and liquefied. Swearing, he racked in another missile and loosed it toward a group who were flanking them through another avenue, guiding it with a sure hand to right in front of where the men were raising their weapons. Eight vanished into giblets or fell, but two began dragging themselves away, legs full of shrapnel. His next missile enwrapped them in flame, and then all was silence. For now, the attack was over.

Back in the locker room, Garan rested his forehead against the cold steel of the compartment that contained his only personal belongings. What a day… he had fired a dozen rockets and splashed many bad guys, and the attack had been driven back, but not without more than a handful of rocket-propelled grenades hitting the cube. He felt as if he had done all that he could — and where the heck was his commander when they were requesting permission to fire? — but that the situation had gotten out of control. Jobe slapped him on the shoulder, gave a smile, and said, “See you tomorrow.” That raised his spirits more than anything else, and so he went toward his cubicle, perhaps not the biggest or most elaborate model, but a decent box where he was comfortable in the hours between working or working out in order to keep his sexual appeal and business appearance high.

Along the way, he passed one of the hall murals, which had David Sterling, the founder of this particular cube, speaking from his office years ago. His firm — Kolowitz, Ionnadis, O’Malley and DiPietro — was responsible for securing the funding and permits to build this giant cubicle farm during the years when governments were defaulting, continents were possessed by warfare, and global order was disintegrating. KIOD had taken on outrageous loans, but by building the cubicles, guaranteed themselves a source of funding for the perpetual future, which enabled the cubes to continue operating. In the video, Sterling was describing the benefits of “statistical government,” which relied not on who citizens were but the mathematics of the likelihood of any given action they would take; in this way, it did not address individual cases, but behaviors, and provided for them with a community insurance fund that subtracted money from each person to provide for the future number of anticipated incidents. “And that way, statistical government guarantees a good life for all, by eliminating risk,” Sterling said in the muted colors of antique video. “See what good happens when Socialism and Capitalism join forces? We have removed risk, doubt and suffering, and left only a life of the most exceptional functionality,” he said, gesturing toward a long-destroyed city. Garan had seen the video a thousand times. He would often watch it after a rough day to remind himself why he went out there. Other than for the paycheck, of course.

His cubicle was dark because the lights automatically shut off to save power and reduce carbon. He waved them on, took a quick shower and collapsed on the sofa, then fired up the video wall, letting exhaustion drain from himself as he drank an Ethical Beer — these were low-alcohol and contained mood-regulating chemicals to prevent violence — and looked over the news report. He was glad that second shift had taken over. Smoke clouds drifted around the cube, and he thought he could hear the occasional blast of rockets, which meant that instead of being driven back, the nehis had advanced enough that others were joining the attack. He activated his personal node, knowing that if the attack worsened, he would be called out to fight, and then without intending it, drifted into sleep.

Garan found himself in the land of dreams, which like most educated people he regarded as the product of random firing of the synapses on par with superstitions and other religions, where he wandered among rooms from his past. These were all within the same cube in which he now lived, in different apartments, starting with his parents and grandparents, then a string of girlfriends and school friends, in each one marveling at how the person had made the space unique with furniture, gardens, video on the walls, and even the psychic stims that instilled a feeling of goodness and mercy in anyone who stood within their orbit. As often happens in dreams, these rooms were connected, so he found himself drifting from the kitchen of his grandfather, who like most men in this society dated his grandmother for a half-decade in order to have and raise children, into the living room of his first girlfriend, who revealed to him one night that he was only her forty-fifth sexual experience and her thirty-sixth with a man. For a reason he could not fathom, this unnerved him, and at first he thought it was the machine-like counting, but he could say nothing because to be offensive in that way would be a voteable offense. As he walked through the rooms, ticking off time through place, he finally realized that what bothered him was not the number, but that like the rooms, it was an elaborate attempt to cover up the same-ness of it all. He was to her a time, not a place, and since all places were generic, even that would have no lasting hold on her. There was nothing to compare with how he viewed himself, which was — if he got right down to it and spoke what burbled up out of him like a hot spring on a distant mountain — an eternal being or being-ness. And so he drifted through these rooms, with nothing permanent except himself, and as the rooms changed he suddenly began to perceive that only the decorations were changing, which meant that by converse, he was standing still in a universal room as decorations flew through it, marking time without place. With each change in the decorations, there was a thunderous drum, and yet it was empty to him. He woke in a sweat.

Someone pounded on the door. This by itself was anomalous because most visitors announced themselves, and to knock was considered rude. As the pounding continued, he heard other pounding outside, which sounded to him like the landing of rockets. He waved over the console to open the door. Three men in uniforms that he recognized from his defense class stood there. “You’re to report to the committee,” said one quietly. Garan looked between them, and understood immediately. He put on his uniform and joined them, then moved to lock his door. One of the men simply raised a hand and stopped him; instead, he used his portable node, and re-assigned the cubicle to the authorities, since Garan was now in custody and had indeterminate status as an employee.

“Hey buddy,” Jobe spoke out of the darkened room when Garan was deposited there, silently, by the three men.

Garan nodded and swallowed. “What are we in for?”

“No one’s saying. Yet.” And to punctuate that, another explosion radiated from outside. They were on a lower level, closer to the action. Men and women in uniform, carrying AGP-25s, rushed past, their shadows sliding across the glass panel in the door. A dull boom radiated from outside. Garan and Jobe exchanged worried glances. But as time passed, and silence descended, they relaxed and to their horror, found that boredom had replaced concern. In whispered conversation, they went over the events of the past day. As far as either of them could tell, they had followed the rules and if anything, more people should have listened to them and cut this attack off before it could gain momentum and others from the tenements — mostly lounging around in poverty with nothing exciting to do — joined in and made it an actual threat. But other than command hesitating to give them permission to fire, there had been no unusual events. They were baffled, mainly because while the rules were simple in the cube, often the interpretation was complex. For example, the cube had a list of basic commitments to which every employee pledged:

  1. All employees are born free and equal in dignity and certain unalienable Rights, and among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
  2. No one may think or behave as if he or she is smarter, more special, better, knowing more or even as good as others. All employees must practice humility which recognizes that humans are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  3. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; no employee is to think he is more important than others, is better at anything than others, that he is smarter than others, that he can teach them anything, or that anyone cares about him.
  4. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. No one shall laugh at anyone else.
  5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
  6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. All employees, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
  7. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law against discrimination.
  8. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him. Every employee may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
  9. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
  10. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. Society exists for the individual and the freedom of the individual, and this must come before any abstract representation of the group, its identity or values.

These were in fact printed on a metal sheet affixed to the wall of the room in which they were now confined, which seemed to be a conference room in which certain items had been stored. He had read them before, and reflected on how fair-minded they were, but then began to notice a circularity. It was as if the text were some kind of exotic poem which tried to return to the same places in a different context, and make them new places, when in fact that meant their meaning had simply altered itself. He thought of what Jobe had said. Maybe this was good, but it was only the best until someone invented something better. He wondered if that would occur. Jobe lay down on the floor. Garan rooted through one box and found cleaning supplies, so began cleaning the table. Jobe laughed.

“It’s something to do,” Garan said. As he finished saying this something shuddered through the building. They looked at each other, perplexed. Were events this far out of hand? But then silence returned, and Garan, having finished cleaning the table, wiped down the chairs and then sat in one. He scanned the room once more, seeing again the same walls. It occurred to him that this room was roughly the size of his living room at what was once his home, and that if the decor and furniture were swapped, he would be doing roughly what he normally did at this time. He lapsed into a doze, and only awoke when Jobe shook him as the door opened. Three new people in uniform stood there. They pointed to Jobe, and he was led out of the room. Alone, Garan attempted to breathe evenly, dispelling his concern at whatever was going on, both for him and for the cube.

Hours later the door opened again. Five figures stood there. “You are charged with the killing of another employee,” said one simply, and they led him away. They told him that there were no charges against Jobe, and took him into another room where he recognized the tell-tale signs of a committee: a conference table, projection wall, portable nodes in front of chairs. And then the committee came in. They wore formal clothing and serious expressions. With equal parts terror and absurdity coursing through his mind, Garan struggled to contain his facial expression. The eldest sat at the head of the table, and one of the uniforms motioned for Garan to sit at the opposite end. At this point, his mind could barely handle the transition between three spaces: out on the shooting ledge, in his living room, and now here, facing a committee which could exile him.

“This is the video feed from your weapon,” said the elder, and on the projection wall, Garan saw his scope zoom focus to the group unloading rockets from the backpack. Nearby was a tall, slender man, who Garan now remembered as being anomalous. He saw the heat distortion of the image as the rocket launched, then the dark wisps of its exhaust, and finally the flare of its engine as it descended and impacted before the group. The video went to slow motion and faded out as the explosion consumed the figures standing there. Garan had to admit certain satisfaction with his targeting, but this dissipated as he looked at the stern eyes of the committee.

“The tall man to the left was an employee of this cube,” said one of the other committee members, simply. “Do you have anything to say?”

Garan cleared his throat. “It was a good kill. My partner and I observed that this group was receiving new rocket propelled grenades, like the kind I hear exploding against our walls outside, in exchange for money brought by the tall man. At the time of the shoot, they were preparing to use these rockets. We had no indication that this man was an employee, nor did we receive any word from command, but since they were in the process of arming their weapons for use, according to our code of combat conduct, my action to target and destroy them was not only legitimate but mandated.”

The silence took them all by surprise. They were accustomed to having activity going on around them, both as a background and as an agenda, to react to. Without it, the room took on a sparseness, as if all identifying objects had been removed, and they were adrift in time and place, unsure of how to orient themselves.

The elder spoke again. “This employee was enjoying his right to self-expression, and was unjustly terminated for it. No one of us knows any better than any others, so it was not your place to reprimand his behavior.”

Garan felt the giddiness return. “He was aiding the people who are attacking this cube at the very moment. He gave them money for weapons. We all saw this on the video, or at least you would if you rewound a few minutes before. Whether or not he was expressing himself, he had become a threat to the cube, and I acted to prevent that thread from manifesting.”

The other committee member spoke up. “Here we must decide on our highest values. On one hand, this employee was entitled to freedom. On the other, the group must be protected.” At this point, Garan was led from the room.

As he walked behind the uniforms leading him back to the conference room, he briefly considered escape. His mind rejected this after only a moment, since there was nowhere to go. Out in the favelas, he would be torn apart. His cubicle was locked. There were no places he could hide, and no way he could eat, live or wander. Garan watched his spirits dissolve within him. There was no way out. As his mind wandered, he noticed the woman ahead of him and how well she wore her uniform. She had medium-brown eyes, a rarity among the dark-haired and dark-eyed employees. Slender, with hints of musculature, she had a graceful neck that he admired, and a pleasant face. As if she felt the eyes on the back of her neck, she dropped back and spoke quickly to him.

“I hear you were our top shooter for this quarter,” she said.

Garan nodded, then slipped into the personality he wore like a new suit when he sought out women in the pubs, and said, “I had nowhere to go but up.” Self-deprecation always made the other party believe she was in power, and this affirmed Garan’s power, because he both dodged the voteable complaint of being prideful, and also, by aggressively asserting this humility, made it indefinably clear that he believed in no such humility for himself. Girls also liked that, he recalled, as he gave her his best smile. But one of the other uniforms made a guttural sound, and she caught up, leaving him with his thoughts.

During his time, Garan had experienced more than his share of girlfriends. Since casual sex was considered a health risk, people formed relationships for up to years at a time, coming together for sexual pleasure, companionship and raising children, but none of them lasted. Someone who stayed with another person for too long was perceived as powerless, so none of them stayed. The need for power was greater than the need for place. The names and faces of the girls changed, but never the feeling afterward. There was always an emptiness, like a room that needed to be filled, or a silence which needed driving away. But there were always more women, and he found himself choosing them by their job titles, enjoying the feeling of speaking their importance to others, as if they were attainments or targets he found on his scope. But then they left, never acrimoniously as that could create voteable complaints, just changing what they wanted, much like they might hang a new picture on the wall. And so his last resistance crumbled, because even if he got out of this jam he was in, this girl would be about as satisfying as the last few, whose names even he found hard to recall.

Inside the room, the woman whose neck had attracted him paused at the doorway, then pressed a generic node into his hand and pointed to a wall. He nodded his thanks, and a decent interval after the door closed and the shadows on the glass disappeared, he fired up the video and watched the news report, which occurred on a channel that otherwise played music designed to condition the mind into a place of peace and contentment, with announcements fading in with the voice of a child. On the background of a scene of people playing a complex sport involving a flying disc in a vertical maze, a video feed appeared with blurred chiaroscuro edges. It showed the feed from video cameras outside, which was a scene of battle interrupted by shrouds of smoke which drifted across the lens, creating the impression of scenes from a dream. Garan sucked in his breath. The nehis had taken over the road and were at the base of the cube. Rockets flew, blinding a camera and blasting jagged wounds into the surface of the concrete. He saw the cube was firing back as well, but with so many targets, he knew the shooters were paralyzed by too many choices. For them, the scenery had all flowed together and become the same, and so they were firing by rote, instead of choosing the strategic places that were important to the revolutionaries. Garan wanted to be up there on his ledge with his trusty weapon, but also felt himself withdrawing from it for the first time, perhaps because he had no idea if he had a future in this cube. Loyalties needed to be two-way, he remembered from one of his military history classes. As he mused on this, he saw the crowd part like an elaborate dance, allowing trucks through which then charged the front of the building. Two were firing the high-explosive RPGs he had seen sold on the street, severely damaging the loading door, but another simply charged ahead through the confused rocket fire from defenders and collided with the door. The video feed went orange and the sound cut out just as Garan felt a violent throb pass through the building.

The door opened suddenly. A uniform was standing beside the ashen elder. “We are under attack. Your services are needed,” the other said, and the uniform handed him his weapon and an amply supply of rockets, which he shouldered with difficulty under the weight.

“Quadrant six,” said the other. Garan nodded. This would put him right over the door that had been destroyed, eight stories up. He oriented himself toward the elevator that would take him there, and in doing so went past the committee room. He heard snatches of voices: “– when an employee invites the citizens in –” stated a pained voice, answered by a rumble of others, then “what about my rights to self-expression without citizens –” which then faded out as well. Garan had no time to puzzle over these, because as he rounded the corridor, a rocket slammed into one of the inside walls. He choked on smoke and ran to the edge of the massive courtyard that contained the garden and a public gathering space. In it, he saw a mixture of citizens and employees rallying behind a red and blue flag. Trails of rockets mingled as fire rose from the edges of this group. Garan raised his weapon, then realized he would be firing on employees. He triggered his radio and said simply, “We have intruders on the main patio. They are apparently working with some employees. Please advise.”

Static murmured through the headphones, then a voice cut in that he recognized as the elder. “Do not target employees. They have a right to self-expression. That is the basis of the rule of the cube. Citizens may be targeted.”

Garan clicked the mike again. “Respectfully, what about the citizens who are opening fire on us? They are standing with the employees. There is no way to separate targets.”

The voice, tired, came over the line with a heavy echo. “We cannot violate our most important policy, which is that every individual is sovereign. The tenth rule states this well.”

He slammed his fist into the concrete wall, which being of the nature of concrete, was unyielding and merely bruised the outer edge of his hand. “I submit to the committee that if we do not violate some policies, there will not be a cube for long. The terrorists are coming in greater numbers now.”

Another voice came on the line, that of the younger committee member to whom he had spoken before. She said simply, “They were invited in. Seek targets among those who are outside.”

Garan abandoned the courtyard and rode the elevator to the hall to the eighth-floor platform. There he took position and began scanning. While the others fired wildly, Garan looked at the human topography of the dukhs below. Some were clearly more active, commanding if not firing back, and he began to focus on these. He zoomed his scope on a small group that appeared to be distributing weapons, then guided in his flared missile and watched as the detonation blossomed into several others, the damaged weapons spraying shrapnel among the group. The black-suited enemy withdrew for a moment, and he heard cheers over the radio as for the first time, the attackers gave ground. Next he loosed a round toward a group with scopes of their own, obviously scanning the walls for defenders, and breathed with relief as the dome of fire enclosed and digested them. He loaded and fired mechanically, hitting the nodes in the layout of attackers before him, paring down those that were most active. A gratifying number of secondary explosions followed this activity. He saw that the line of attackers was steadily withdrawing, but to his horror, he also saw a tall slender man motioning in the attackers near the ragged hole where the loading dock had once been. Three of the shorter, rounder figures dressed in black were hurrying toward it. On instinct, Garan launched a rocket, but as the laser guided it in, he jogged his hand to make the rocket execute a wide arc, delaying it by a half second so that it impacted just as the group, carrying heavy packs, were within paces of the door. The orange doom swelled around them, and as bits of flesh rained down after the blast, the first of their packages detonated. The figure in the doorway seemed to melt in slow motion, disintegrating as the shockwave hit. “Friendly fire,” muttered Garan.

His fellow team members on the upper level, their number cut in half by enemy missiles, took his lead and began to target groups that were instrumental to the action of the enemy as a team. Soon the crowd was milling about, firing randomly, and this disorder caused the line to retreat further to more cheers over the radio. An animal spirit infused the rigid discipline of these thoroughly enlightened soldiers. More missiles rained down, and the ability of his team to intuit nodal points in the attacking surge was improving, because Garan saw more panicked attackers fleeing, and a rippling of explosions as munitions were triggered by the blasts. The fire raking the cube, both machine gun and missile, fell off as his team guided in warhead after warhead. He switched his perspective to the street-level camera and saw a vast stampede of people dressed in black among whom explosions flared, scattering bits of human being onto the others, many of whom screamed and ran. The back of the onslaught had been broken and now, it was a chance for targets of opportunity, and many of the cube gunners who had lost friends took advantage for a wave of punishment that cut the ranks of the attackers further. Garan increased the chaos by winging his missiles into the clots of enemy gathered at the bases of the tenements, igniting material inside and adding to the smoke and confusion while sending panicked people fleeing the burning favelas. One missile blasted the contents of a tank of gasoline into a first floor level of shops, creating a blaze whose temperatures cracked the fragile concrete, sending the facade of the building cascading down onto the heads of the attackers, with the survivors fleeing in terror.

More importantly, a battle war raging on the radio. Panicked voices had been replaced by calm professional ones, but these had been displaced by a feral and atavistic bloodlust and rage. Garan considered suggesting moderation to conserve ammunition, but then recalled the vast stores that existed in storerooms on every floor, and so shrugged. Then an idea struck, and he clicked the radio.

“KILL! DESTROY! WIN!” he howled, and seconds later a renewed barrage descended to victimize the fleeing figures in black, who dissipated in the searing concussions. Garan leapt up from his position, and raced back inside the cube, bringing his weapon to bear on the figures below. Employees and citizens were still united there, but looked less confident, which they began to rectify by chanting slogans. Garan scanned quickly with his scope, looking for the most elusive target of all. Finally, he found what he sought: an open space behind the crowd. He tracked in his missile and was rewarded with an explosion in which no one died, but which illuminated the crowd from within with a yellow-orange flaring. Panic struck them, and they ran for cover, rushing into the arms of uniforms who, emboldened by the panic, were descending with predatory eyes.

As the smoke wafted through halls scattered with papers, discarded ammunition, used bandages and broken equipment, Garan made his way back to the committee room. Two uniforms at the door moved to stop him, then backed away from this exhaust-blackened man and his determined eyes.

“There have to be some changes,” he said to the elder, who rose to stop him, but felt a firm hand on his arm. The lesser members of the committee seemed divided into two groups, one with the old, and another with the new, or perhaps the ancient. The younger woman who had spoken to him on the radio vacillated, and he stared her down.

“If we are going to fight together,” said Garan, “we need to be defending something other than rules.”

***

An inversion of history occurred that day. As most know in their gut, where dread forms when all hope is lost, history is like a grinding wheel. Humans build objects of gleaming gold and shining silver, and then history grinds them down into a uniform surface, and eventually all that is left is bronze and then clay. History goes only one direction, which like entropy is toward too many options, at which point all of those options become about the same, the human spirit is broken, and people accept and rationalize the decay as strength. For history to go another direction, people must recall something from the time before, back when we were unselfconscious and moved like animals among the forest leaves, formed purely of intent connected to a sense that this whole experience of existence had some root in a gradual movement from the disordered to the ordered, an organic growth like trees reaching toward the light above, rising to excel. This animal spirit moved in Garan as he and the committee argued late into the night.

Ten years later, the inversion had become normalcy. The cubicle stood above an empty plane where tenements once stood but now were erased by violence and bulldozers. Its employees faced a new standard. Where in the past they were expected to avoid violating rules, now they were expected to uphold principles. As once they had been in fear of falling below a minimum, they now were scared of being too far from the maximum. For the first time in history, the cube had windows on its outside, and people looked not inward but out on a world to conquer.

Revenge

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Sunrise wrapped me in a warm glow, like the blanket of a kind mother, as left hand opened the door and my right hand steadied the silenced Beretta. The mark, a slightly fattish middle-class woman behind the counter, opened her mouth to say something, but there was no time and no one to hear.

I put two shots into center mass. The second one exploded the heart as subsonic 9mm bullets have an uncanny tendency to do. She slumped forward, and then I performed my finishing move, which is to slide the tip of the silencer right up against the base of the skull where the medula oblongata is, and then tip it upward so that the trajectory passes through the whole of the brain mass to the forehead. I squeezed one more time, which liquefied the brain, and her arms went as limp as they would be on the coroner’s slab. Removing a soft folding hat from my pocket, I slipped it over my head and left through the backdoor, walking past her employee who was loading boxes onto a dolly. He took one look at my black spectral form and fled.

There are, in my profession, excited debates about the correct way to go about removing a mark. For me, there is no question: two shots to the center mass, which through lungs, heart, veins or spine will cause blood pressure collapse and make the target go limp. Some guys think you should go for the head shot first, which to me is just a statistical game; hitting the head right the first time is tricky enough when you are moving, but often both you and the tango are in motion when you squeeze that trigger. I knew one kid, new in the business and fresh off a tar habit, who insisted on going for the lobotomy shot, straight through the forehead. This worked for his first two jobs, then he fired on a union stooge right as the guy moved his head, and succeed only in blowing off a corner of the skull. The mark flew into a screaming panic, whipping his head around and covering everything nearby in thick webs of blood, at which point my boy had to leg sweep the mark, kneel in his back and put two into the back of the head. That sloppy job meant he would not get hired again, because the point of a hit is to instill total fear and obedience, and if you cannot work as a hit man, you are a liability, so… he saw me coming, and just nodded. He knew. I put two in his chest and gave him a minute to die peacefully before I snuggled that silencer against the base of his skull and exploded his brain. The eyes went blank and I could tell from the pungent odor that he had vomited blood at the same moment the sphincters released, sitting in his chair at the back of a dive bar. I always feel good when I leave a horrible mess because people get paid really good money to clean up. I think of my mother, who worked afternoons as a high-end maid, and wonder if she gets any of the trickle-down income from a good splat. Of course I haven’t talked to her in years, but I think of her often.

Walking away from the scene of my latest kill, I kept my pace invariant and moderately fast but not hurried. I want to look like an asshole customer, not a killer, so I pinch my lips and put a somewhat irate expression on my face. This makes people clear out of my way and forget me, just glad that I am not coming to their shop, although for the wrong reasons. I wear a reversible jacket, and as soon as I can get to an area that is impoverished enough, I duck behind a car and reverse it and pull out the second hat, a blue one, which I swap for the first. Instead of a guy in a black coat and hat, they now see a man wearing a white jacket and blue hat who emerges from behind a line of trucks, walking entirely differently than the first. This guy is almost prancing, happy to have a day off on after a busy week, looking forward to the football game or the bar. I keep that act up, which is easy, until I can make it to the restaurant near the park. Buying a sandwich, I get it to go in a large bag, then wander through the bushes into the park. Somewhere in there, the gun and $500 went into the bag and the sandwich went into the bushes. Marco the delivery boy is waiting for me there on his moto. I pass him another five and the bag, and he zips off toward another moto which is coincidentally — and no one but a real fool believes in coincidences — coming our way, who somehow gets possession of that bag. It is headed to a local repair shop that has a forge, where it will be melted down and hammered into rugged steel sculptures for tourists. The evidence is part gone. I go another dozen blocks, then duck into the back of a dive bar. In the bathroom, I rummage in the ceiling tiles and find the bag of alternate clothing I had prepared. Now I am wearing a Hawaiian shirt, sunglasses, shorts and a camera. The old clothes and all of the makeup on my face — a false moustache, sideburns, some cheek lifts and a chin enhancement — go into the bag as well, which I pass over the bar with a five and watch as the bartender strolls into the kitchen and tosses it into the flames of their stove. This entire network is maintained both because people are well-paid and because there is one penalty for failure, namely that me or someone like me will come walking in the door, the nose of the silencer rising slowly under slight apologetic eyes.

Among those in the profession, there is also disagreement about what weapon should be used. Right now, following a certain successful movie, the de rigueur mode is the .22LR in a Ruger that is more silencer than pistol. I have a few objections to this. The same thing that makes this gun so distinctive is what makes it ineffective for the political task of a contract killing. What we do is terrorism. Our goal is to instill fear in others so that they obey the rules made by those who pay us. Our primary weapon is ambiguity. Someone does something out of line, and dies. Was it a paid hit? Or a robbery gone wrong? This is what makes people think about it, talk about it, and live in fear of it. If the hit is too obviously a contract job, then the ambiguity is gone, and people realize that all they have to do is fake obedience. When the hit comes out of nowhere, and no one knows from where or by whom, obedience becomes the law. The 9mm/.380 round is present in most unsolved deliberate murders. Even more, I like the heavier rounds. The riff about contract killers using the .22 LR because of greater accuracy is just that, a myth. Almost no one is that accurate. We are shooting while in motion at people who are most likely also in motion. Our real weapon is stealth. You never know where we are, or when we come. You cannot defend against us, because the minute you sit down and lift up a cup of tea, there is the dark figure walking in the door, silencer rising like a malevolent eye. We do not knock, and we show up randomly, then ensure you are gone. I have suggested to employers in the past that the most terrifying hit is for the person to simply vanish. Three guys show up with a dart gun, and snipe the person. They have about ten seconds before they slump over unconscious as the neurotoxin paralyzes them, then the other two guns run in and roll them up in a rug. That gets passed off to two other guys in a van, who drop it off with two other guys in another van, and so on across the country until we pass some guy in a funeral home a five and he loads them into a crematorium. Gas, flames, bones. Those are crushed into powder and dumped into the sea. People are pretty bad at cause/effect thinking, but when someone steps out of line, and then cannot be found all of a sudden, they get the message. Obey or become void.

I nurse a drink at the bar. Like all good operators, I have a cover story: I am a poor boy who takes care of his mother and has a war wound that prevents him from working, so they assume that I am on benefits and living poor. In reality, the “mother” is a series of recording, and the dingy apartment that I live in has a front room that looks like a tenement, and a back room and bedroom straight out an upscale condominium. I live well, considering that if I stage two removals a month, I am earning more than most professionals. Like most of us, I am saving up for two events: first, I want a few million in the bank so that I can retire at age fifty; second, I want a hundred thousand dollars so that I can fake my death — incinerated corpse in a car smashed against a brick wall on a country road, the ID for my work name in the athletic bag thrown free from the shattered car — and depart without my erstwhile employers knowing. If I forget what I know, I am at risk; if I leave the profession behind, I am also at risk, so the only solution is to die. I had a real name once, but thanks to the passage of money across counters at the periphery of the bureaucracy, he is long dead, and my new name is as legitimate as any. My fingerprints have been surgically altered, as has my face. I am no one because I am someone who does not really exist, and when it is time, he will also die and I will become a ghost, wandering this earth for my own reasons entirely, finally. To keep cover, I order a second beer, and drink it just as slowly, then another. I will kill the afternoon here because my time is not my own. Unlike petty criminals, I am a professional. I do what is necessary to get the job done well. This means that I must be invisible, deep within my cover and doing what he does. I hit another dive bar, then another, finally stop at the grocery store to pick up a bottle of bourbon and to make sure I look good and drunk when I do. I reek of cigarettes and alcohol, just another node of the urban detritus that makes this life so oblivious and ugly at the same time.

Among people of my profession, it is a matter of pride that we are working a job. Gutter criminals slouch through life looking for opportunities to exploit others, but it is part of their lifestyle. For us, our lifestyle is entirely removed from the job, as much as you can if you need to constantly maintain a false identity and sleep with at least one gun under your pillow. We do not commit crimes, except as is necessary for our cover identities, other than those we are hired to do. We stay physically fit, practice shooting, maintain networks of those who can offer related and necessary private services, and know that one risk of our profession is getting caught and sent to prison where we will most likely be terminated by another of our profession. This is the price we pay for receiving envelopes with enough cash to buy a decent automobile. Like any other profession, we have lore, and there is some debate about the right method to execute the kill. For me, the goal is to be invisible and reliable so that people feel there is no escape. This is why I am at the higher end of the pay scale, but not too high, because then you will not get enough jobs. If you mapped all the hit men in my city on a scale from highest to lowest price, I would be dead in the middle, plus one. The jobs keep coming and my offshore bank account takes every cent that I do not need to live. When I get home, I put the bottle of bourbon in the cabinet with the others. Each one represents a day living out my persona. Some are kills. Early on, I was tempted to buy something nice, but opted to stay in character instead. My guy buys middle-of-the-road bourbon to go home and drink himself asleep in front of the television while his aged mother’s CPAP unit wheezes in the next room. He is a loser. I am not.

Most of us have some story about how we came into this unusual line of work. For most, it begins with a tale of pity and woe. Their dad beat them or their mother ran out. I have no such excuse. The answer in my case was that I came from a normal middle class home, maybe one notch above dead middle, and started enjoying recreational substances in my tender teenage years. This led to an unfortunate habit, and then an unfortunate lifestyle where I sold large amounts of these weapons-grade stimulators of the pleasure centers of the brain, and that in turn led to an arrest because one of the guys I was working with could not keep his mouth shut. After several years in one of the infernal centers of mutual torture known as a correctional facility, I found myself at a bus station with fifty dollars and my clothes. I knew right away that they would be watching me, so I wasted another year of my youth as a food service technician, more generally known as a busboy, moving up to kitchen prep. My erstwhile friend was just relaxing, figuring that I was as weak as the rest of these idiots, when his car broke down on a lonely road. I had spent my time in the prison library and then, after a day of scraping wasted food from heavy porcelain plates, reading more at the public library. I had a used laptop I had acquired from from a friend, and loaned it freely, then used it myself to look up information of note on the internet. I still have a thumb drive of all of those texts, enough to spend a year reading, detailing the procedures and standards of my profession and related skills. I have much of them memorized, having spent countless hours in the night in my rented room in a tenement which I shared with a few others in my temporary profession, reading and re-reading until I had absorbed every quantum of vital information from them. My friend, who when stopped for a minor offense had rolled over on me so he could keep using — a curious term, common to those who smoke, snort or inject high-powered psychoactive substances: a transitive verb made intransitive, because when you use drugs there is only one purpose and one object to all actions — opened up the hood, nicely silhouetted by the headlights, and never felt what was coming next. He came to in the back of a truck I had borrowed, and would return unscratched and scrupulously cleaned in the morning, heading far into the country. His eyes pled with me but I showed no emotion as I double taped his mouth and put him on top of the seven-foot heap of alternately stacked firewood I had made in a pit far off the roads, deep in the woods. His muffled whimpers did not give me any satisfaction or induce any compassion as I soaked that wood first in diesel, next in gasoline, and then scattered the dust of a dozen crushed road flares over the mound.

I drew out my combat knife. “Nod twice if you want this to be relatively painless,” I said, but he was too panicked or angry to do anything but thrash. I put the knife away, lit a cigarette, and pitched it at the base of the mound from ten feet away, then watched until fire consumed the wood. His thrashing only lasted for about thirty seconds because the heat of forty gallons of mixed fuels and burning wood cooked him from within, his eyes squirting across his chest as the steam released from his broiling brain. I stepped into the shadows and watched until the mound burned down. Hours later, I took out a hammer and smashed any bones to dust, but found very little. The magnesium blazed with the gasoline and diesel, creating an inferno that was hot enough to melt his belt buckle, which I deposited in a nearby river. Any forensic scientist finding the ash would see nothing but fine grey powder. This did not stop me from scooping the cooling ash into a large metal trash can borrowed from a nearby park, and emptying it into a fast moving river. Now there is nothing but scorched dirt, and he will never be found. His car I cleaned thoroughly after parking it in front of a repair garage that I knew doubled as a chop-shop, keys in the ignition, a hundred dollar bill in the visor. I knew exactly what would happen and so he was recorded as missing, which allowed the police to pretend there was no crime, and keep their statistics looking good for the middle-class taxpayer, and his parents and friends to assume that he had run away to a life they would never imagine. The pretense of people is the greatest aid to my profession. Those who see a victim die will deny their own fear, and justify their obedience as a sensible business decision; his parents assumed that he was another drug casualty and never looked for him because finding him would lower their own social status. No one wants a wayward child. Perhaps someone missed him, or cried for him, but this was no concern to me. Those who wrong me face a singular penalty: total erasure, and a lingering fear in those around them that someone is watching, and stepping out of line brings a terrible price.

For the next few months, I looked around for something new. I never intended to spend my life in a restaurant, making meals for fatuous burghers gobbling burgers at high-end restaurants. With my record, I knew that I needed a new identity if I was to do anything but scrub floors or wash plates for the rest of my life, so I started saving up to invent myself a new cover story, and instead of living as me and venturing into that alternate life, living entirely as that life and having a third identity for when I was doing whatever I would do to earn money. I felt no particular sense of being evil, or doing wrong. In my view, I was reacting entirely plausibly to the world they had made. I grew up with parents smart enough to both know that our society was slowly collapsing into undead human ruins and false pretenses of authority, and to cleverly go into denial about that fact, inventing a religion of their own where somehow everyone would come to God and the gods of the market and stop acting like monkeys drunk on fermented fruit fallen at the base of their favorite trees. I could see the rottenness in everything but more importantly, I saw it in people. People would watch their communities fall apart, and do nothing, just because their home was not directly endangered. We all knew that high school was horrible, that the kids were sadists and the teachers only serious about producing enough obedient little robots to advance their own careers, but no one did anything. I could not imagine having a job as my father did, getting up every morning to go to some box of an office where most of what he did was keep dumb people from screwing up all of the time. There was no future, and so I got into drugs, and then the same people who had made the life into which I was born into Hell were afraid of me, and wanted me in jail, so that they could keep being miserable and hiding in their homes like mice.

When I put my killface on, and go out into the streets to find my target, shoot them until they fall and then liquefy their brains, it is the faces of the middle class that I see. The good obedient people who take society at face value and assume that everything will work out fine just so long as they keep earning enough money to be comfortable, by ignoring this dark underside in which I live, perpetuate the rottenness. Their leaders lie to them and they applaud. Those leaders are no different than me. They see a market, and they want their share. They know there is no Heaven, no judging God, and no right and wrong. There is only a predatory animal that can achieve its goal and be comfortable, and the rest of the stupid scared sheep who will let it happen by retreating to their homes, credit cards and job titles. They know that people like me are out here, and their only hope is to avoid us. This is what those who employ me count upon. The middle class business owner will run into problems, take out an emergency loan or ask for protection, and then think that he is clever because he has a nice house and a security guard out in front of his shop. That security guard sees me coming and he will take his break right then because he is not going to risk his life for someone who never did anything to make society better for all of the rest of us. Sure, they give money. They pay taxes. They care about the poor. But they do not care about the world in which we live, the factories pouring smoke and weird chemical blends into our rivers, the legal corruption of government and corporations, the dishonesty of most people, the horror of our institutions. They just want their own little slice and to hide when people like me come storming around, at least until the day when I raise my silenced pistol and line it up with a circle on their center body mass, squeezing the trigger like an inborn instinct, watching them fall and then ending the dance with a brain-stem coda.

At the last of the bars, I finish another watery beer. Time to buy bourbon and stumble home. I see a man in an expensive motorcar and he looks at me with a kind of pity: a loser, he thinks, because I do not have his bank account or job title. The fact is that I will be retired sooner, and if this man gets in the way of the invisible economy I protect, my eyes will be the last ones he looks into, searching for a reason as the copper-coated lead eats its way through his heart. At the grocery store, I make sure to look bored and disinterested. You have to look like the rest of them, which means pretending that you are the five feet and ten future minutes of space around you, and to be ignorant and uncaring about anything else. You do not want to make it better. You are unaware that it can get worse. All you want is your bourbon, and your television. My neighbors in the hood pity me as well. They see me as some beaten-down guy who gave up on life. At least this is honest, because they know many like me. We take a look at what is out there and realize that there is nothing. Nothing but more days just like the one before, until you retire and then no one cares what happens to you. My life changed a few weeks after I erased the witness against me. I was walking home, staying alert but looking stuporous and distracted like anyone else. As I passed a row of cars, a voice called out, quiet enough to be legally denied and rich with a grainy, deep undertone of resignation. “Hey, Houdini,” it said. I raised an eye in its direction.

“C’mere,” he said, from inside a darkened car, a puff of blue-grey cigar smoke emerging with the sound. I went and sat with him, because this was the type of man who you addressed according to his rules. I had met men like him in prison, and I knew that while I could kill him, or deceive him, that he was like the tip of a forest extending into a field, and that I could not see the legion that would follow. He was a man in an organization.

“I hear you’re good at making people disappear,” he said. I thought about how to respond, and after a moment, just gave him a broad smile. He explained the ground rules: every day, I had to be somewhere I could easily be found, at noon. Someone would come out of the lunch crowd and sit down next to me, then leave a bag of trash. In it would be a picture with a name and address written on the back. If I took the picture, I took the job. When it was done, they would find me the same way, and the bag would have money in it. The amount depended on how well I was regarded and the quality of the hit. There was no getting out. Once I took that first bag, I was in it for life, just like he was. I thought about it and told him a location. Some time later, maybe a year but perhaps less, I realized that I had come to enjoy it. In the midst of the rottenness, it felt good to be destroying, even if that might make me part of the rottenness. I am a force of chaos breaking down a rotten order and most days, it feels good:

Again, there’s no justification for the “diversity of tactics” approach to protesting (smashing and burning things). LeMaster seems concerned about the “baggage” anarchism has but she’s not asked to justify her decision to align herself with that baggage. Again, this seems like the obvious question to ask but it doesn’t get asked for some reason.

There’s more in the piece, including one anarchist who took it up after attending a punk rock show, but the article never does offer much of a justification for the violence which is the main distinctive of anarchist protests. As a reader, you’re left with the impression that participants feel there’s a certain outlaw romance to the whole thing, i.e. dressing in black, wearing a mask, breaking windows and breaking the law, running from police, etc. That kind of excitement tinged with the risk of being arrested must create a real adrenaline rush and some group solidarity among those who do it. You can imagine them sitting around later talking about all the chaos and replaying their role in it for friends.

Does any of that justify destroying Muhammad Ashraf’s limo or doing $100,000 worth of damage to buildings in the form of broken glass? I don’t think so but clearly, the anarchists must.

The names and locations blur together, but I keep a notebook. Each time I come home, I wait a few hours then go on down to the grocery for smokes. On the way, I visit a storage locker where I press my thumb on a pad that is mounted inside the unit I rent every month. It registers that I am alive and warm. If I fail to do that within a week, a file that is hidden in a dozen places on the internet will be mailed to every major news organization in the world. It is a list of the hits I have done, the times and the names, with the reasons why if I know them and a code-name for who did them. It does not matter that the real names are not there because it is easy to see who these would be, for those in the know at least. I do not expect the press to do anything with these, but I know they will float around, that will ruin the mystique. The kills are magical when they come out of nowhere, and a person who thought themselves untouchable in middle-class respectability is found dead with the characteristic pattern of shots. People fear the nameless power and obey it, just like they fear society but obey it, good little mice just interested in their own grain and to be able to hide silently in their holes while the terror continues. Every day they swallow that terror and hide it within themselves, and the denial makes them cancerous. That cancer made me take the path I did, and it makes it necessary that I do what I do. There is no escape as it grows in power, like clouds covering the earth, and soon it will take them too. I see the fear in their eyes as I raise the silencer. It is not that moment, but every other moment that they live in fear as I did as a child, that is my revenge.

Interview With Brett Stevens on The Uprising Review

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

Many of you know Everitt Foster as one of the voices on our podcast. He also co-helms a site dedicated to up-and-coming writers known as The Uprising Review. I was fortunate to be interviewed on their most recent podcast on the topic of editing and how it can influence the work of a starting writer. It is a lengthy but informative interview by a project that is worth exploring as cultural changes make writing, fiction and literature more important, not less.

Activism In The Post-Atomic Age

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Arnold Raymond nursed his grudges. Perhaps he hoped they’d one day mature into basilisks. He was just glad he wasn’t like those other people who believed hateful things. He wanted a big government, strong enough to fend for the weak and oppressed. He wanted the freeloaders who owned businesses and worked at corporations to pay. If other people would stop hating and share, social justice would enlighten us all.

Perhaps he would forever be a profit without honor in his home country. Perhaps he would have to go elsewhere to truly achieve his dreams like Lenin did. He would never quit. Like that old song, Carry On Wayward Son.

Raymond hated the obese soyform he worked for. He aggressively burped and farted across the retail floor as he reported for his shift fifteen minutes late. He resented being awoke, enlightened and employed by David Soblitzki at the local Home Despot. He was more than handtools and paint brushes. Commerce, he felt, tainted him. With every sale he made, he stole surplus value. With every hour he worked at $12.45, he got deprived of money he deserved. Senator Elizabeth Warren had documented that the American minimum wage should be about $35.00. He wanted what was his, but rich white people always stole it from him. Everytime the cash register rang.

He thought about his weak-assed member of Congress. Progressive people like Arnold had elected him to get things done. To bring real change. To make the 1% pay. This guy reminded him of what Duncan Black used to warn about. Atrios would have told this creature of Hillary to stop wanking. Wanking being a slang shorthand for talking like a woke Progressive while quietly slow-walking the true People’s Agenda in order to get donations or keep political popularity. He wanted real progressivism. He wanted a man who would address the politics of who and whom. He wanted that weight of the poor to come down hard on the 1% in their fancy suburbs.

As work continued its pointless grind, he hated the people he interacted with. He looked down on their petty, little needs. He saw their kids and imagined what ugly adults they would grow into. He imagined them smugly enjoying their meals and playing video games. And these people all voted to protect their unearned status quo. They deluded themsleves that they built something. They worshipped a sky faerie as a way to validate their nauseating dishonesty. Every last one of the bastards was guilty.

All the smart people told Arnold the typical American was a puddle of shit. These people were losers. They were racists. They exploited honest working people just like Rachel Maddow said and they needed to pay. Arnold Raymond and only Arnold Raymond could provide that sort of rough justice. The rest of them claimed to be dedicated to Social Justice, but as Duncan used to write over at Atrios, they were just wanking. Arnold Raymond was going to drive it had right up the man’s ass.

He thought about the stuff he had bought yesterday when he got off shift. There were chlorine pool cleaning crystals that he had bought right out of this store. Along with that, he had bought a 10lb bag of rocks; the sort you used to decorate a flower bed perhaps. Then he went to Papa Reilly’s, where they sold the homebrew stuff. He had bought a 5 gallon glass beaker, 2 containers of Star-San and a one-hole stopper. Then he went to Texaco and filled his car while simultaneously filling up a 1 gallon plastic gasoline bottle. Then it was off to the cute, little bourgois hobby store. He hadn’t entered The Orc Lair to indulge hobbies or waste empty hours playing Warhammer. He wanted two rocket engines and ten feet of fuse. These were the last two key things.

It maxed his exploitative POS credit card. VISA – it’s everywhere you want to spend yourself into slavery. But no. Not this time. Yesterday the bastard capitalists had sold him the bomb with which he would send them a real message. A man’s message. Arnold Raymond’s name would ring out. Trump that, you bourgois fvckers!

What he hated the most were the bratty, spoiled kids. How dare they enjoy their lives when other children had less. They went to their Montessori Schools of Entitled Brattiness and got personalized attention while learning how to read. Poor children and minorites were shunted off to obsolete and underfunded public kindergartens. The brats then went to private religious schools and got brainwashed with memory verses from their evil fvcking bible. The Peoples’ Children didn’t even have the latest textbooks.

Those evil, fvcking suburb brat children had a park called “Kids Domain.” More money given to them so that they could have a place to play. Did these evil, snotty, spoiled suburban White brats ever see where the Peoples’ kids had to go play in the projects. And their smarm-fvck daddies had voted for a candidate that was cancelling a bunch of The People’s Section 8 Housing Grants. There was this trachcan right next to all the cute little swings and balance beams. It was thin, metallic and would never withstand a blast. The bits of metal and shrapnel would all fly. Those overprivileged little bastards would die feeling The Peoples’ reality. Tonight, this very evening, the politics of who/whom would swing in the proper moral direction.

Five PM arrived. Arnold had about 2 1/2 hours to do what was right and necessary. He drove to his apartment and loaded his car. He decided to just be blatant. He would mix all the carp int he parking lot, carry it straight over to the can. His prep this morning had involved taping the fuses into the rocket engines and running the fuses through the 1-hole stopper. He had now cut a hole in the Star-San containers. The stuff was viscous. He wore gloves on his hands and squeezed hard to get it into the 5 gallon fermentation vat which he had covered with a black contractor’s trash bag, along with the cute, white rocks. He added the gasoline. He was careful to roll his car windows 1/2 way down. The fumes that would cook on the way to the park were not going to be healthy for human consumption.

He drove to the park and situated his vehicle. He had to get about 25 feet away. Arnold wasn’t a big, athletic man and the fermenter was getting heavy. He took out a funnel and started with the chlorine crystals. He would have to stopper the vat fast, The resulting nocious fumes were already triggering his eyes and nose. He got the stopper in and began to lug the fermenter inside the bag. He got it to the trashcan and then – Oh shit!

He had forgotten his lighter and couldn’t cook off the bomb. He went back to his car and grabbed what he needed from the glove department of his car. he had to get under control. Sudden movements would make Arnold look suspicious and then if the fascist cops showed up it would all be over. He forced himself to breathe slowly and palmed the barbeque lighter up his sleeve. He walked back over to the trashcan and – Dammit!

A little Hispanic girl in a replica Argentine National Soccer Team jersey was tossing a juice box into the trashcan. The girl noticed something and stopped as if curious. She reached down to pick up a stick and poked around with it into the can. “Abuela Sara!” She yelled. “Que es esto?”

A middle-aged to elderly Hispanic woman came forward. “No juega alla, Gatalitta.” She commanded.

The little girl moved away. But first, she stuck her hand into the garbage can. There was something in her hand and she gave it a pull. Out came a one-holed stopper with a length of fuse. The girl made it about two steps and then collapsed. “!Ayudame!, Ayiii…” She said between coughs.

“Madre de Dios!” The older woman yelled. She then switched to English and yelled at a nearby man. “Alex, its Gata! She’s hurt.” He pulled out a cell and dialed 9-1-1.

Arnold Raymond got back in the car. He drove out of the parking lot in a panic. He stopped a few feet away and tried to get himself back under control. It hadn’t worked. The chlorine had mixed with the acid in the Star-San. A little girl had opened the fermentation jar and now the gasses would leak out and there was no way he could get close enough to light the fuses and cook the bomb off. That didn’t even get into the problems he would have since the engines were inside the flask and the fuses were no longer attached to the stopper mechanism. He left and hoped nobody would go to work on finding him.

It was a year later and Raymond had learned exploitation in The Peoples’ Incarceration Facility. The other prisoners either ignored him or hated him and wanted him dead. The ones with children that knew why he was here were the latter group. The “Hacks” as the Corrections Officers were known had two sorts false consciousness. One type involved them enforcing Euro-Phallo-Centric dominance in such a way that proletariat was forced to remain docile. Ironically, these sorts of exploiters were why Arnold Raymond still converted O2 into Carbon Dioxide successfully. There was also another sort of hack. These people used the incarcerated proletariat to generate surplus value by selling narcotics and cigarettes. Anything could happen once these hacks made a deal.

One day it finally did. Raymond had discovered that lifting weights while in the stir served two purposes. It killed time and burned frustration and it demonstrated a certain physical vitality that would discourage people from taking one look at him and declaring him a seminal vessel to be filled at will. As he grunted and strained to bench a plat and a quarter, two large hands came down on the bar. “You look like you need a spot.” A large shaven-headed black man told him as he drove the bar inexorably down towards Raymond’s neck.

“Help me!” Arnold screamed. Two hacks turned and walked out of that section the gym.

It wasn’t a hard wrestling match for the burly and powerful convict to drive the bar into Raymond’s scrawny neck. “This is for the children.” The man said. He then leaned forward and propelled 185 Lbs of metal downward with a force far greater than the gravity that usually made the bench press a challenge.

Visions Of The Coming Purge

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

In his dimly lit attic workroom, the inventor tightened the final screw, and flipped the power switch. The robot lit up and awoke, taking in his surroundings with an unchanging gaze that shone aggression through bright red eyes.

“Who are you?” His maker stood in front of the robot with stern anticipation, his eagerness to see the fruits of his life’s labour still held in check by lingering sceptical doubts.

The robot quickly turned its head and took in the form of the man before him.  “I AM SODOMOTRON.”  The voice was loud, monotone, and clouded in a raspy distortion that seemed to give the crudely computer generated sound an organic feeling. “WHO ARE YOU?”

This was new.  None of the previous failed prototypes had posed its own question so soon after awakening.  Could this be a sign that he’d succeeded?  The maker tried restraining his joy at his promising creation’s animation, knowing that the true test of the robot had yet to come.  But the attempt was futile, and his face beamed out a wild jubilant desire for the manifestation of his greatest dream.  

“I–I am your maker,” he said. The moment of truth lay ahead.

Sodomotron glared motionlessly, his prominent inflected brow seeming to exude pure disgust at the weakness of the squishy, quivering, flesh bag in his way.  The light from those eyes was unpleasant, and filled the man’s vision to the edges with red, as if becoming drenched in blood, but he forced himself to stare directly back into them, straining to show no sign of self-doubt or fear. 

The sound of a short hydraulic twitch originating in the robot’s lower structure caused his heart to jump and rail against its cage of ribs, but his overriding drive to live to see the metal beast unleashed upon the world, to know that it would make the world a better place was the anchor with which he forced himself calm.  Finally, the voice once again bellowed, this time at a subtly lowered tone, “ABOVE WEAKNESS THRESHOLD.”

Dual relief washed over the man.  He would be spared, he would remain unviolated.  But more important than that, he had looked into the eyes of the beast and therein gained an inexplicable confidence in the soundness of his creation.  He’d done it.  His dream had become real.

For years, the inventor had observed that in human society, the natural predators became the prey and so a mouse-like ineptitude had prevailed in all that humanity did. Evil and stupidity always won, usually on the backs of vast popularity by people who were as casual with the truth as they were with their paychecks, and anything good or honest was smashed down to the roars of pleasure by the jubilant crowd. The only solution was a mass purge of the weak, and in this instrument of terror, the inventor felt he may have created the true salvation of his race.

He addressed the mechanical embodiment of domination.  “Sodomotron!”  The maker’s eye’s glowed back red light as little embers, scorching away any remaining doubt.  “What is your purpose?”

Waiting no longer, the robot arose to its full towering height, rapidly thudded across the room and crashed through the door.  Not pausing to look back, it rumbled one last time in a bowel-loosening timbre:

“I AM SODOMOTRON.  I SODOMIZE THE WEAK.”

Duece

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Everyone starts a roadtrip all chillshit like an ice cube. You’ve got the tank full, the munchies and and a cooler of cold brewskis at your beck and call. You’ve even had the forethought to boost a car at Walgreens that gets halfway decent mileage. Then you go down South in July and it gets after you. A few hundred miles later, and you get beat down. It doesn’t seem hard at first. Then you put that foot down, grab the wheel and stare at the horizon. It gets to you and leaves you strung out by the time you get where you are going. Duece could feel it now. His feet tingled from blood deprivation as he walked across the weed-littered parking lot towards the ramshackle dive bar.

Duece, properly named Trevor Emmanuel Watson Price, had endured six hundred miles of road. He felt lucky to have found “The Slippery Oyster.” Most of the regular patrons never quite exaggerated it that much. Duece had come on a mission. A manboy doesn’t sneak out of his house, steal a ride, and then drive through two and half states to wash down raw oysters with 2nd rate premium beer. It was the company he’d come to keep that made it matter. He had come to hire somebody.

Duece needed a stand-in to be the guy he pretended to be. He had tried for a little over six months to turn himself from Trevor Emmanuel into Duece. He wasn’t there yet, but he was out of time. Duece, you see, would handle bidniss like a chillshit boss and have done with it. Trevor Emmanuel still popped his zits and pissed his pants over it. He knew what had to happen. He couldn’t make it happen. He needed the man who could. Time to hire the man known on the black internet as El Duerte.

Becoming Duece wasn’t a considered decision. It just ate Trevor Emmanuel one day the way a bird sucks down a worm. That day in the purgatory of 11th Grade Homeroom started the downward spiral. Mr. Zuckenmeier called roll. “Trevor Price?”

Then the demon manifested. Just out of the blue. “It’s Duece.” Trevor responded in a truculent voice that he didn’t previously have the courage to possess. “Call me Duece the rest of the year.”

“OK, Mr. Price,” he said in that bored, tired, bureaucratic, fvck you voice which defined the high school faculty to Duece.

“It’s Duece tommorrow. Remember that.” Zuckenmeier sighed and moved on to Jennifer Otter.

Something clicked into place the way a round chambers after a soldier lets go of the charging handle. His life change was now locked and loaded. Once Trevor had grown his hair, picked out clothes his family despised and started hanging out with kids who would only graduate if fortune smiled (or at least had a sense of humor), he then needed the girlfriend that would make him Duece. White like him was too plain. Chillshit Duece was reborn to swirl. This went well and was a rocking good time. At least until the condom he used stopped at nothing when it came to protection. Then he had the first inkling of a problem. He put her off a week or two. Then she was a little more frightened and a lot more demanding in wanting an answer. So then he had a talk with Dad….

Dad wasn’t Chillshit. Dad wasn’t sympathetic. Heck, Good Old Dad wouldn’t even pay for the quickie aborsh. Chillshit Duece and Swirl Queen had problems. Duece was down here to get them solved. He had decided to have Dad air-holed. He lacked the guts to do it himself and therefore had to hire a hitter. A hitter he would meet this afternoon. It was for this purpose that he opened the door and walked into the grubby bar.

The Slippery Oyster had not one but two swamp coolers grinding athwart the torpid, wet heat. This and a lack of illumination adequate to match the size of the room made the interior seem like a subterranean chamber. Duece blinked and and sucked in a breath of cold, smokey air. Whatever smoking bans this neck of the woods had enacted were being very much honored in the breach. He stopped for a bit and looked around. He saw 2 pool tables and a stage.

Three biker types lounged about one of the tables. One lined up his shot, the others talked a fair commode load of crap. Three quarters sat on one corner of the table representing one of the men having called “Next.” The stage featured a chair, a pole and woman who regretted having disrobed up there. She probably had a demon to feed and no other way to earn a fix. Two old men sat next to the stage and held folded bills out towards her the way Mary Fossey once offered grubs to an inquisitive primate. Another guy sat there almost asleep. It was that sexually stimulating.

Duece continued scanning the bar and sauntered over towards a booth without any of the bravado his walk was intend to display. He swaggered over to a booth and sat down. The table was old, wooden and adorned with the remains of burned cigarettes and switchblade grafatti. A cheap tin-foil ashtray sat in the middle along with a half-empty ketchup bottle and a pair of shakers for salt and pepper. A waitress made her way over. She was a short, fat blonde and smacked her lips loudly as she blew a bubble and exploded it haughtily against the lower edge of her red, puffy face. She wore cutoff jeans shorts that bunched against the insides of her cottage cheese legs and a lighter blue top, adorned with food and drink stains, that hung low across her ample chest. Duece noticed a vaguely unpleasant odor as she leaned over the booth. “Whatcha drinkin?” She asked with a bored Southern drawl.

“I’ll have a Bud.” Duece said as he attempted to be as cool as Chillshit Roger Moore. Pilsners just didn’t work well shaken; not stirred. She asked for ID in perhaps the least impressed voice imaginable. “That’ll be $20, Mr. Carter.” She explained.

“$20?” He asked in a surprised voice.

“If you want me to believe for five seconds that you’re really Steve Carter.” She responded. She horked his dead president and dawdled over to a cooler to fetch his brewski.

A man approached the booth at a casual pace. His eyes belied the calm and measured pace as they took in the surroundings in gulps. His mind processing data that may or may not having a bearing on whether he survived the afternoon. He sat down. “Steve Carter isn’t bad, Mr. Wolfolk. Wolfolk… that one pretty much sucks.”

“Oh?” asked Duece.

“If it ain’t your name, you don’t want them to remember it.”

“You’re Gutierrez?” Duece asked nervously.

“Not in two days. And if you have a functional brain, you’ll forget it.”

Gutierrez was as fake a name as Steve Carter. El Duarte might have been too chillshit bad-ass to even still know his original name. His appearance bespoke the evil of his profession. Duece imagined he smelled sulfur. That or the match Gutierrez used to stoke a cigarillo. The man’s face looked like whatever karma he was pimp-slapping had attempted to cave it in with a brick. His nose would look proper on any competitive league’s rugby pitch. His face had a ruddy appearance as if the hellfires had gotten a nice head start on baking it for eternity. His cheeks had been ravaged by acne as small rocks abrade holes in a sandstone surface. El Duarte’s stache would fit in just fine on the set of “Boogie Nights” or on any of the San Fernando Valley back lots that inspired that particular cinematic feature. His hair was long, greying and tied in a pony tail that hung half the distance to his butthole. His eyes were black and as dead as his numerous victims. Duece had just met reality. Reality seemed remarkably unpleasant and its totality made him pause for a second in order to recover.

*********

Trevor Price, Sr. had a painful, vice-grip headache. His child wasn’t at school. His son also had a girlfriend who he had gotten in a family way at age before either person knew what to do with a family. This was amplified because his girlfriend Chante Parkins was a poor African-American who struggled to sucessfully hold an intelligent conversation in what would be deemed acceptable English. Trev, Jr. had put the biscuit in the wrong basket as far as Trev, Sr. was concerned. To make things even worse, the boy had done it to spite him and his wife. This was a raw hate-fvck aimed at them personally.

So Trev, Sr. had done the worst thing possible. His son had finally, just once dropped his whole Chillshit Duece persona and tried to talk. Tried to beg for help would be more accurate. He had slept with Chante, impregnated her and she was demanding that he man up and handle his bidness. That sort of thing is hard for somebody who is still a boy and he went to his Dad for help. Trev, Sr. felt too insulted and had screamed at him and told him that his beloved Chante would never be accepted in the family and that he had about 10 lawns to mow if he wanted to raise the stake for the necessary abortion. Now Trev, Jr had gone missing. He had taken his old, crappy Ford Escort. The lawnmower was still in the shed.

So now he was going to visit Mr. and Mrs. Parkins with his hat in his hand. He had gotten their number, introduced himself and asked if they had seen Duece. They had not and were not very glad to hear from him. They had asked to have a word with him and he had no particular moral grounds to turn them down. It was his son’s careless dick that had gotten everyone into this mess. The girl’s parents were not happy. They had every right not to be happy. Someone owed them accountability. Duece-ne-Trev, Jr wasn’t really strong on the accountability.

He had agreed to meet them at a coffee shop. He had learned from dumping an old paramour who didn’t take the news well that some conversations were best held where people couldn’t quite get truly real. He had met Chante. The Parkins’ had met Duece. He wasn’t impressed with her, and right now they were not enamoured with Jr. Somehow the two teens had decided to get intimate in a careless fashion before the families had met and shared a cold one. The coupling was interracial. Other than that, what could possibly go wrong? The Starbucks was up on the Right. Two blocks ahead. The GPS attached to his windshield chirped at him in far too positive and happy a fashion to not clash with his pervading mood.

As he pulled into the Shariabucks for coffee and compurgation, his cell phone sent that obnoxious vibration up his thigh. He checked it. He wanted to put the meeting off a couple more minutes. It was his money-market account sending him an email. He read it. He was overdrawn by $3,000.00. A check had cleared to a man named Steve Carter who he had never before even known.

*********

El Duerte has a suitcase full of cash. He was a hired man. He couldn’t have respected his boss any less and would do something about the TOR site that allowed some teenage fvck-up to hire an exclusive hitter. He could not vouch for the provenance of the money, but he wouldn’t have to. He would pass it on to an idiot, turn it into product and move it to a production house three days hence. But he had a weed to whack first – to make look like an accident so a cheap little bastard could collect on a will. Then he could cash in and vanish for a few months on the proceeds. He knew where to find his mark and he knew how to fix the car just right. Hell, if his mark liked to grow tomatoes, he knew exactly what to do to the can of bugspray.

For now, he just enjoyed the miles. He could partially check out on a drive. He could remember nice places to visit, his favorite restaurants to order a burger – after he finished another job. His Camaro looked like garbage on the outside. Lame paint job, stolen license plates, tires deliberately left dirty so that the quality wouldn’t be obvious. It was under the hood where El Duerte made his investments. Well, that and the sound system. A man needed his tunes. It would be several hours before he holed up at the dump of a hotel he’d operate out of until he finished his victim. For now he just kicked back and enjoyed the white, painted lines ticking past his ride on the interstate.

*********

Carl Parkins looked at a blueberry scone that he had no desire in the world to take a bite out of. “You need the anti-oxidents.” His wife Annette accused him.

“I need to kill the evil, white son-of-a-bitch.” He replied. “That or switch to decaf.” He finished with his head

“Daddy!” His daughter, Chante protested. Tears ran down her face and it did ugly things to her make-up.

“You gonna upset a woman with a baby?” His wife inquired in a tone of voice with which she would descibe an ugly cockroach.

“Gonna tell her, that white son-of-a-bitch, and you some goddam truth.” Karl said in a low, menacing voice. “Stuff you shoulda’ been telling her when she was 12.”

“What do I do, Daddy? What in God’s name am I gonna do?” Chante pleaded.

“Do we have to do this here, Karl?” Annette asked. Other patrons were staring while trying not to be obvious. An older couple had moved away while chucking them the stink-eye like a javelin. A young man who looked only slightly less useless than the man child who had impregnated Chante muttered an imprecation into his laptop.

“Guys,” Said Chante angrily. “Duece’s dad is here.”

**********

It was three days later, a corpse was found in a swamp near the bank where Trevor Emmanuel Watson Price, Sr. Worked. It was Trev, Sr. He smelled of alcohol, he had almost been a tee-totaler. His car was off the road and in a swamp. Yet the plug-in device next to the steering wheel would inform his insurance company that he was going no faster than 8 mph, downhill. Tobias Yellich and Martin Smith had drawn the case. Yellich asked Smith “What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a coin-flip.”

“Two-cheeseburgers. How about you, pardner?”

“The last 30 minutes in the fvcking swamp with that car.”

“You win anything for your efforts?”

“Ain’t no way he drove off the road. The car had to be aimed by whoever was driving it to hit the one 15 foot spot that didn’t have a guardrail. Plus, I could swear I see a spot where the someone jumped out and hit the grass before the car went into the muck. Would’ve sunk further if it were being driven the speed limit.” Yellich remarked as he knocked about a pound of mud off his hip-waders.

“So the poor, bereaved widow isn’t gonna like what she hears from Nationwide?” Smith remarked. “Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

“We need to have a serious talk with her and that cute, little son of hers, Duece.”

**********

The next day Yellich and Smith read through their growing murder book. “Would you lookie here?” Smith asked. “Some guy named Steve Carter received a check far above the balance of Price’s Money Market Account. It got presented for payment by Sanders Check Cashing and Title Loans. Real gentleman’s establishment that Sanders Check Cashing and Title Loans. I’m sure Mr. Carter is a prize-winner as well.”

“The interview with the widow was a dead-end like she probably was. Whatever Price was into, she knows less than Schultz did on Hogan’s Heroes.”

“How about his boss?” Smith asked. “Was he into anything at work that he wasn’t supposed to be?”

“They ran every transaction he touched as a worker and they’re all straight.” Yellich mused. “He didn’t screw under BOA’s flagpole. He wasn’t that stupid. Now his cute, little son…”

“Yeah, so maybe this isn’t “Death of a Salesman?” Smith asked.

“I told the kid his Dad was dead and he initially said ‘oh.'” Yellich continued. “He then decided he was upset and said. ‘No way. He can’t be.'”

“So who’s Steve Carter?” Smith said. “We need to run over to the address we got off the DMV and find out.”

**********

The detectives were less than impressed with 1429 Fern Valley Ln. The roof had partially caved in and an entire ecosystem had grafted on to the siding. The driveway had better grass than Yellich’s lawn.

“If I lived here, I’d have a hard time getting HBO.” Smith remarked.

“If I lived here, I couldn’t flush after I took a shit. This particular Steve Carter doesn’t exist. Who pays a man who doesn’t exist $6,000?” Yellich wondered. “Let’s go the Sanders Check Cashing and watch some CCTV. Maybe we’ll get Carter.”

“Eichen over at Theft and Property Crimes thinks there’s a car theft we should know about.” Smith remarked. “We can check out the tapes or CDs over at Sanders’ digs on the way to Division.”

**********

“So the transaction of interest occurred at 14:15….Can you run that back.” Smith asked the manager at Sanders Check Cashing and Title Loans. “Aww fvck….fvckity, fvck, fvck, fvck.”

“When you told him his dad was dead he said ‘oh’?” Yellich noted. “‘No way. He can’t be.’ I have a funny theory about who was driving the stolen car.”

“Why aren’t I laughing?” Smith asked. “Is it because this business establishment just cashed a $6,000 check that was 99.999% likely to have been forged or signed under duress?”

“Other than your lack of a sense of humor?” Yellich replied. “Because your theory matches mine. Let’s see Eichen and confirm what we both know.”

**********

The detectives sat in an Assistant Principal’s Office with the School Resource Officer; a 250 Lb man built like an NFL Middle Linebacker. Officer Pedersen had a less-than cooperative Duece in tow by the scruff of the neck.

“My main man Duece.” Smith chortled. “School’s out for Summer, Kiddo.”

“Waddya mean?” Duece asked in a defiant tone.

“Just who in the freaking hell would drive 650 miles, in a stolen car, to show up in the worst T&A Bar in Arizona when they’ve got those sorry places on the edge of town?” Smith asked.

“I don’t know what you mean.” Duece responded. “I got a woman.”

“$20 for a Budweiser?” Yellich japed. “Not even if it really was the king of beers. You’d think Steve Carter would have better taste.”

“Huh?”

“Take out your wallet son.” Smith commanded in a clam voice. “We can let you stop digging here if you cooperate, Mr. Carter.”

“I’ve got rights! Don’t give me any Gestapo crap!” Duece said.

Principal Howard asked. “Do we need to arrest him on the campus?”

“He’s got his rights, ma’am.” Yellich responded. “It wouldn’t be proper police procedure if I didn’t read him two of them.”

“It just won’t be the same here without Duece.” Pedersen remarked.

**********

Chante Parkins sat in the waiting room at an abortion clinic. Her back hurt and her head ached with stress, confusion and guilt. The father of her child was under arrest and richly deserved it. Her own father had told her he didn’t love her anymore. Her mom had told she had to do what was right for her. She was 17, confused and nobody who should have been helping her would give her anything in the way of help in her hour of greatest need. She arrived here, at an abortion clinic, the way a poor swimmer reaches the bottom of a pool after the oxygen ran out. She almost wished the clinic would kill her the way it would kill her unborn child. She had no true idea what she was getting into or how to even pay for having the abortion done.

The nurse ushered her in. She was a black woman of a portly build. Perhaps 5 to 10 years older than Chante. She had a name tag that read Champion. Her eyes held a sympathy that neither of her parents had managed to convey. It was almost like she saw a piece of herself in the young, helpless-looking girl seated in front of her.

“So what do I gotta do?” Chante asked.

“Honey, here are your options.” The nurse replied. “You can terminate this week; if that’s what you want. That would end it and cost far less than waiting or trying to raise a baby you don’t have money for?”

“OK. What else can I do?” The girl inquired in a sad and frightened voice.

“I’m not supposed to mention this more than once.” The Nurse Champion continued. “You could have your child. But you have to plan that out. It costs money and time. You need people to help you. Do you have that?”

Chante began to cry. “I…just…done…know. The father is going to jail and my family…” She then totally broke down.

The Nurse continued. “What I’m supposed to tell you to do is wait two more months and completely make up your mind. But I wouldn’t tell you to that” She handed Chante a tissue and waited patiently as the girl blew her nose and smeared off a lot of mascara. Nurse Champion sat patiently. For some reason she really wanted to help this poor girl.

When she had recovered a spell, Chante looked up. “What’s wrong with waiting? I don’t know what to do…I really don’t know.”

The nurse lowered her voice. “One of the doctors back there likes aborting them a little more along. He says the tissue from the fetus gets money for the clinic. He says we all get more bonus if the abortion is later along.”

“He also said he was five bastards short of a new fishing yacht.” She said with a bitterness in her voice. “So either abort this child this week or walk out of here and keep it. I might be the only person in this place that could possibly intend you well.”

Chante walked out of the clinic to never look back.

*********

A man laid out on a beach in Costa Rica. He would be there at least two more weeks after his last score. He would need a new name and maybe even a getaway face before he did another job in the US. In the meanwhile, the drinks were cold and the younger women beautiful. The reckoning would come later. The world would have to catch up with El Duerte first.

White Survival by Stephen Christopher

Monday, March 20th, 2017


White Survival
by Stephen Christopher
149 pages, $9; free ebook

The quest to create nationalist fiction remains elusive because, after traditionalist and realist sentiment dominated literature for the first half of the last century, control and financial power in literature were handed over to the Left. The result has now bottomed out because it repeats empty distractions and so has no meat, and therefore produces no great literature, only novelty.

What this means is that the writers on the Right face a unique challenge, which is how to express themselves clearly and yet avoid falling into the Leftist trap of echoing dogma, which removes the ambiguity and conflict that is at the core of every great work. Stephen Christopher steps up with White Survival, a science fiction novella designed to both provoke and explore the conflict inherent to attempting to have hope in a time of civilization decline.

The plot involves a group of white people who, dismayed at the fall of the West and the seemingly pathological desire to exterminate white genetics of the “new” population, create a cryogenic facility that will enable them to re-awaken several centuries later to restart a world of European-descended people.

What they discover is the raw animal nature of this pathology, finding it rooted not in religion or ethnicity per se but through the natural conflict between populations, which is reframed in a biological context instead of the political. If this book has one compelling feature, it is this tendency to skip the entire political structure of the West and focus on the underpinning biological reasoning.

In addition, White Survival puts into visual and metaphorical form the sensations the alert people experience now as they watch the trainwreck of the West while everyone else runs screaming into denial:

She looked at me with fright in her eyes and tried to loose my grasp. But I held her firmly. I tried to explain to her what I had seen, what was going to happen to this place, to us. She began to panic. She struck me on the arm and chest with her free hand, dropping her phone on the path, screaming for help. I grabbed her other arm, trying to pacify her. I looked into her eyes, told her it would be OK. I told her there was a place for her with us, a place underground, safe, away from the hell that would soon befall us.

She became hysterical, started kicking out at me and trying to pull herself away. I lessened my grip, and she fell to her knees on the footpath, dirt sullying her clothes. Immediately she scrambled to her feet and ran away. I could hear her crying as she went. I watched her go, not attempting to follow her.

Another one not worth saving… (88)

While on the surface this is a science fiction book about the future, thematically it describes our present state of mind: witnessing a collapse of Western Civilization and the genocidal intentions of most of our people toward themselves. Its goal is not so much political diagnosis, but using the lens of history applied in the science fiction genre, looking toward a cure for the soul-illness that causes civilizations to suicide.

The prose is brisk and sparse, told in first person through a fairly reliable everyman narrator who describes long-term concerns as immediate because, once having been made aware of them, he cannot deny them any longer. While the book does not focus too much on the collapse denialism of the present time, it does illustrate the fatalistic mindset found in most people: a lack of will to survive, like a biological entity aware of the need to adapt and reproduce.

This heavy Darwinistic outlook places this book in good company with other lone remnant stories like Battlestar Galactica and Pandorum, as well as classic science fiction like The Martian Chronicles. In this case, an explicitly racial filter is placed on the story, which seems more honest since each group represents only itself and cannot honestly speak for others.

When the book does speak of a theory of politics, it is tied to biological survival and aims for a bigger, wider picture than contemporary politics can deliver:

Instead the population was made to believe that all this deterioration was ‘progress’. That impoverishment was really ‘enrichment’. That genocide was ‘diversity’. That sin was virtue. That a religion of violence was a ‘religion of peace’. That patriotism was sedition. That love was hate. That good was evil and that evil was good. The anti-whites had a habit of calling everything the opposite of what it was, including themselves (‘liberals’, ‘anti-racists’ etc.). It was another incredibly simple tactic that had depressingly effective results on your average white man and woman.

Thus most of the citizenry dutifully kept their heads down, saying and doing nothing about the invasion. They lied to themselves that it wasn’t really a problem, or that somehow it would all magically be fixed by someone else – most likely by someone they themselves would denounce as a ‘racist’ whenever they broached the subject. In short, they did as the masses have always done: as they’re told. (14-15)

White Survival offers a fun, quick read with the briefest of political offerings dispatched before it heads straight into post-dystopian science fiction. In addition, it offers up an interesting new world, including a type of enemy warrior born of technology that is so terrifying it might even shock awake the most bourgeois of us in the middle of the night.

Where this book strides ahead is in its ability to frame a ground for future literature of this type, melding the biological and the historical and skipping over the present day issues for the most part, which gives people a direction and a reason to fight for it before we get to the horrors described in this adventure.

New Organization Resurgence Launches With Book Club

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

As the cultural shift that has empowered realists against ideologues gains momentum, new organizations are cropping up to take care of a vital need: establishing secondary and tertiary levels of understanding for its basic concepts. One group chooses to do this through literature and fiction, and calls itself Resurgence. Its founders, Everitt Foster and HFT, recently launched a book club for the understanding of all things Alt Right and beyond through literature and debate. They were kind enough to take a few moments to give me their thoughts while we crouched behind an overturned truck as Christmas race riots wracked America…

What is Resurgence and why did you create it?

HFT: I feel disconnected from my own heritage and culture and have forgotten any history I might have learned in high school. So when Everitt proposed that we start the group, I jumped in on it right away. Reading about what makes a nation and a heritage, retracing the steps of our ancestors, and consolidating the gained knowledge in discussions and debates is an important personal step for me. I want to understand and connect with my roots.

Everitt: I proposed the group because I am a bit older than most people I run across in the tech world or in the university setting. I see so many young people either not caring about their heritage, or in some cases thinking it doesn’t matter because all people should be treated as individuals. I also wanted to help spread the word about the good works that are not studied in High School or most universities simply because “dead white males” are so out of fashion right now. If I can help people rediscover their roots, learn a little about western civilization, and become motivated to find common bonds with other people of their heritage then I would say “mission accomplished.”

Why the focus on books? Are these important in the digital age?

HFT: Books still make up the bulk of historical knowledge, theoretical arguments, and practical advice today. In the age of tweets and blog articles, books represent an opportunity to relay an elaborate argument — too complex for a movie and too long for a blog article — as well as play out its consequences and present its background in detail. The discussion generated by a book can be more thoughtful and informed than that generated by a movie or blog post or tweet. Our goal with this group is to grow along with the material we read and discuss. I believe that books represent an ideal medium for this.

Everitt: I am a bibliophile, I love books and always have. I got my first book when I was five years old. When I was twelve, I saved up my lunch money and went bought a copy of Dracula. The thing is that books and movies and video games are all competing for the same dollar, but the difference is that a book is preserved for posterity and you can write a book for that long-term reward. Jane Austen was writing for posterity. You can’t write a video game, or make a movie for people that don’t exist yet. Backers will want their investment back. You can’t say in the year 2300, it’ll be a huge success, and people will really love this. But you can write a book for an audience that doesn’t exist yet. That’s why they’re important. Also books are important because educated people read them. Then those people go forth and sew the seeds which they found in books. If we can do anything with this book club what we can do is to plant the seeds in people’s minds.

What type of change do you want? What is your ideal society? How does this relate to, say, classical literature?

HFT: I want to see a return to a simpler, traditional way of life. This would make living in balance with nature and natural law more important, and put greater focus on the existential value of experience than on material objects, technology, wealth and power. If not kept in check, those things cause unlimited growth, which makes societies self-destruct as they are unable to support this new burden. A civilization of this nature would be comprised of decentralized, high trust local communities, held together by a sense of heritage and values in common. Societies of this nature have been all but displaced by globalization and the introduction of “diversity” in the West. I want to use products designed and built in my country, in a society which chooses its values over what the worldwide markets tell us is important. As has been said elsewhere, diversity is over and globalism has failed. It is time to embrace that which truly binds us together instead.

Everitt: I want a change away from the ever-increasing globalism of the world to nationalism, so that we can preserve actual diversity. You can take a French flag, a French croissant, and Normandy butter and you have something that is uniquely French. But if you do that in London, the magic is gone. I want to get the world to see that the nation is not a bad thing, and tradition’s not a bad thing, because the alt right is about nationalism and traditionalism. Every other one of our policies, every other one of our ideas, can flow from that. My ideal society is probably a hierarchical society where people have the opportunity to get ahead in society if they are intelligent, and I believe that is the society which will endure among Western people.

Classical literature is ultimately about identity, it’s about the people writing it. Shakespeare could not have written in Italy, even though his plays were set in Verona.This is because I believe you need to be in the presence of the culture to write about it. Classical literature defines our values and it makes us look at what is important, and makes us look at and understand that this is my family, my parents and so on, but this is my extended family, this is my ethne, as Anthony D. Smith calls it…my tribe. We often praise science and engieering for the wonders of the modern world, but what came first science or history? Indeed I would argue that science exists because people learned history, learned literature, and learned to be proud of their heritage.

Your ideas seem to be gaining currency. What do you think is driving this?

HFT: Basic dissatisfaction with modern life under the globalist-liberalist world order. Life is getting further and further away from what we are born for. We have a mental health crisis happening all across the West. People stopped having families. No family means a life of pure and ultimately unsatisfying materialism. I believe that people want something more than that, and the globalist left simply can’t provide it, so people turn to us as a viable alternative.

Everitt: I think the political environment of 2016 is driving it. We on the alt-right generally support Trump, and we seriously oppose Hillary and the left. But we’ve been active as an online force for at least five years now. More if you want to go back to the original days of VDARE.com and American Renaissance and of course you could also talk about philosophers like Spengler, Benoist and Faye of the French New Right.  But I think the thing driving people into our arms is the way that we just brush off cries of racism, sexism and anti-semitism. I’m none of those things and so I don’t care what people call me. The new order is not going to be left vs. right, it’s going to be globalist vs. nationalist. I think people are picking up on this and searching out these deep dark corners of the internet looking for people espousing their views.

How do people join this group and stay current with what you are doing?

HFT: The best way to connect with us is to join our GoodReads group. We also have a website, and a Discord server on which we conduct our book discussions.

Everitt: The alt-right isn’t something you join really, it’s something you decide you are. It requires what we call the “red pill” and sometimes a lot of red pills. You have to wake up to the notion that the world has been vilifying “Dead White Males” from the classrooms built by… Dead White Males. As for joining the Regurgence GoodReads group all you have to do is sign up for GoodReads, find our group page, then join. If you want to learn, you could do worse.

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