Suicide bomber story - paranormals have the ability to make themselves explode - cops move into shoot-to-kill mode.
If some of your fellow citizens are in the habit of blowing themselves up, then getting nervous is entirely understandable, and to move in the direction of a shoot-to-kill policy is only natural.
That was the situation in the city state of Oolong Morblock, where the police were on high alert following the suicide bomber attack at Sekigahara which had been perpetrated by Egon Turow.
Egon had been an astral, a member of the paranormally-empowered minority which constituted two percent of the city state's population. Amidst that minority group, there were an estimated eight thousand people termed "capables" - that is, people who were capable, at will, of causing themselves to explode.
A very interesting paranormal talent to have, and, if you think that one of your neighbors may have it, then very scary for you.
There was no way to tell which of the astrals were capables, and there was, also, no sure way of knowing who was an astral. However, every adult astral had a familiar - a black cat, or similar - which often (though not always) followed its primary through life. If you saw someone accompanied by an unsual animal or other entity - a leopard, a buffalo, a walking gargoyle or a large and talkative lobster, for example - then you could be reasonably sure that the person you were looking at was an astral.
That in itself, of course, was no reason to shoot. Astrals were citizens of the state, and (at least for the moment) were (technically) human beings. However, seeing a familiar would certainly put you on your guard.
With that preamble, let's cut to Conflux, largest and most populous of the islands which make up the city state of Oolong Morblock, a nation of some twenty millions.
It was Egon plus two, the second day after the suicide bomber attack which Egon Turow had indulged in, and the city state of Oolong Morblock was running as normal, millions of bars of soap sliding over millions of naked bodies, millions of bowls of red pepper chili cornflakes being consumed, millions of toilets flushing. Millions of biological filtering devices, known as lungs, were hard at work, busy removing industrial wastes from the air. Millions of shoes clad in millions of socks were warming up inside millions of shoes, already sweating slightly.
It was going to be a hot day.
Up in the north of Conflux, President Olive Valise was up and about. She was indulging herself in the pleasures of Nozomi, the multi-jet shower which her predecessor, Jorbel Eagle, had organized for the Presidential Suite in Hexagon, the presidential palace which formed part of the federal campus known as Tespetty. Water, unlimited water, hot water - she reveled in it, shamelessly.
As President Olive Valise got ready for her day, a man was heading for Tespetty. A strange man, someone Olive had never met in her entire life. Someone whose existence she did not suspect. A man who was capable of breaking her jaw with a single blow, of setting her hair on fire, of suing her for the aesthetic contamination she caused when she showed up in public with her lipstick on crooked.
While the man was capable of doing all those things, and more, he had no such thought in mind. Nor did he have a history of doing such things, either. He had lived a blameless life working in the charity field, and was currently CEO of Cagebird Lifebelt, a charity which specialized in pressuring governments around the planet to legislate for better captivity conditions for cage birds.
His name? Well, he wouldn't be needing it for much longer, but, for the record, his name was Kuro Effigy, and he was a foreign tourist from far-off Yam. He was staying at the Red Stockings Hotel, part of the International Chastity Hotels chain, at Bencoolen.
Kuro had risen extremely early, and had gone adventuring, leaving his wife asleep. In Kuro's opinion, their marriage was heading for a divorce, and one of the reasons he wanted to be alone was to think about that.
Taking his pet with him, Kuro had traveled by subway all the way to Inadazutsumi Station, from where he had hiked the considerable distance to Tespetty, meaning to get a taxi back. Walking such a long distance was eccentric, but, technically, not yet illegal - although OSH was working on some regulations designed to guard against over-exertion, these had not yet come into effect.
Kuro Effigy had brought along his digital camera but he had left his wallet and passport in the hotel, just bringing his coin purse and enough cash for his subway rides and his projected taxi fare. The same guide book which had recommended Tespetty as a "must see" sight had also warned about street crime.
Still feeling fresh at the end of his long walk from Inadazutsumi Station - relaxed, happy and smiling - Kuro Effigy approached the security cordon which, in the wake of Egon Turow's suicide bombing attack, had been established outside Tespetty, a cordon which was not mentioned in his guide book because it had only been set up the day before.
Most of the cops who were supposed to be manning and womaning the security cordon were off on a donut break, leaving only two to hold the fort, Monk Tide and Erminoda Ying.
Monk Tide, a stalwart twenty-year veteran of the Conflux Constabulary, saw this guy coming, a dreamy expression on his face. The guy was doing something aberrant, something nobody ever did at Tespetty in the morning. He was smiling. And there was some kind of animal sitting on his shoulder, almost like a monkey, but not quite, a weird animal, a kind of mutant, a familiar, obviously.
With twenty years of police experience under his belt, Monk knew danger when he saw it. Here was an astral drifting dreamily towards his suicide point, smiling with an inner ecstasy that the astral felt no need to explain to the world, his familiar sitting on his shoulder, along for the ride, the terminal ride.
And Monk's handgun, which he had never before had occasion to draw, not in all his years of service, was in his hand, and he unloaded one, two, three, four, five shots, aiming for the head, vital to hit the head, got to take this guy down before he switches on his paranormal power and makes himself explode. Do or die!
One shot went wild, two hit the guy in the shoulder, but three found the head, then it was speedloader time. Gun loaded, Monk crouched down by the guy and made sure, four in the head and then one for the familiar, maybe those things can blow themselves up, too.
Then it was done, and Monk was panting, flushed, and there was a huge squeezing pain in his chest, and a shooting pain in his arm, and he realized he was having a heart attack, he was going down, he was going to die.
Saw before him the man he had killed, and the mutant animal, the cute eyes no longer cute, the nasty bundle of fur kicked into a dirty rag of broken flesh.
And he knew he had done his duty.
And would have died happy, except there was no room in the universe for happiness. There was no room for anything except the pain, the crushing pain that was intensifying, that was squeezing his name out of existence.
First his name, then his life.
So died Monk Tide, a hero of law enforcement, selflessly sacrificing his own life in the battle against astral terror, the war on the suicide bombers.
That, then, was the end of Kuro Effigy, unsuspecting tourist. Tourism? I don't work for the airlines, so I'm someone who can level with you: during this phase of history, it's probably better just to stay home.
Kuro's wife, who had woken in their hotel room to find herself alone, she never found out why her husband had disappeared without a trace, and she never learnt, either, what had happened to her husband's pet, Lady Mischief. Lady Mischief was a slow loris, an animal a bit like a monkey but with no tail, a creature of delicate slowness, deliberately meditative in all its movements, a partial antidote to the speed of a world which, for many people, moved far too fast.
Some time after the shooting dead of Kuro Effigy, Beria Dag, head of the secret police outfit known as Ideation Control, was watching TV when breaking news shoved aside the ordinary programming, and there on the screen was top TV presenter Esmeralda Arizona, who was looking not quite her usual picture-perfect self. Who was looking a little flushed and breathless, like a woman who has just been scared naked out of the bathtub by a gorilla.
"Breaking news," said Esmeralda. "Breaking news. An astral terrorist has killed a police officer at Tespetty. The unidentified astral has been shot dead after murdering a police officer. Police woman Erminoda Ying was attacked by the astral's paranormal powers and her head exploded. In response to this crisis the President is convening an emergency meeting at Hexagon."
Beria was sceptical of this report. To start with, if an emergency meeting had been convened then surely he would have been invited. At that point, his phone began to ring. Picking it up, he found that he was invited. But he begged off, pleading food poisoning.
"Ate at one of those grease bars," said Beria. "Cholesterol Heartbeats, that was the place. Big mistake. I've been running for the big white telephone ever since."
No way was he going to spend the rest of the day sitting in the Decision Chamber playing yet another endless game of pass the parcel. The TV was giving him more and more details of a suicide bomber attack on Tespetty itself, and plainly it was a day for action, urgent action, not a day for talk.
"Cancel everything," said Beria.
There was nobody to hear him say it since he was alone in the Green Room, but if they'd been making a movie of this - and one day maybe they would make a movie, Beria Saves the World, that would be a good title - then dramatic words would be called for at this point, and "Cancel everything" was the best Beria could come up with on the spur of the moment.
Shortly, Beria was on the phone to check out the details of the situation. The person he phoned was Commander Rage, head of the Conflux Constabulary.
You can't trust the media reports. The media tends to mess up, get things wrong. You can't take action on the basis of a news flash you saw on TV, which might be more fiction than fact, like that famous report about how, in far off Denebian Kalis, they were going to dig the body of Dictator Ping out of his mausoleum and auction it off for charity, a news story everyone believed at the time but which turned out to be a total fabrication.
Because Beria was highly placed in the system, he was able to get the full story, rather than relying on the disastrously erroneous version broadcast by the media.
What happened was this:
Two police officers, a man by the name of Monk Tide and a woman called Erminoda Ying, were on duty at a security barricade set up to control access to the Tespetty campus. An astral came charging toward them shouting "Glorst for glory!" Valorously, Monk drew his sidearm and confronted the suicide bomber. The terrorist held out his hand and a "weird yellow light" darted out from the hand and spiked Monk in the chest, apparently inducing a massive heart attack.
Felled by the astral's paranormal power, Monk collapsed, dead or dying, his firearm spilling loose. Erminoda bravely snatched up the gun and wasted the astral, wasted him but good, pumped him full of lead then took Monk's speedloader, reloaded, and, wisely, made sure of her victim. While she was thus engaged, the astral's familiar came lunging for her in attack mode, so she shot that, too.
Erminoda was now holding out her hand for the twenty thousand dollar terrorist interception bonus which had been promised to all cops, and she was going to get it. She was also going to get a medal.
"ID," said Beria. "Who was the terrorist?"
"We zero out," said Commander Rage. "No ID, no nothing. Face is messed up, can be reconstructed but that's going to take time."
"Yeah, corpse had hands, hence fingerprints, but not in our records. We've already run them. Zero. Zilch."
"And," said Beria, "just to get this straight, whose head exploded?"
"Nobody's," said Commander Rage. "That's the media through and through, sounds like gospel but half the time it's fabricated nonsense, don't know what they're using to spike up their beer."
Telephone call done, Beria sat contemplating what had happened. The surface of his desk was feeling funny. Why? Because sweat was oozing from his fingertips. He was that stressed.
"Worst nightmare," muttered Beria. "Worst nightmare in the world."
The astral conspiracy had entered a new phase. They weren't just targeting civilians any more, no, they were going after the government. They had suicide bombers ready to die, and who was to tell how many they had? Found someone whose fingerprints weren't on file, too, must have anticipated that anyone who took on Tespetty might get shot dead before managing to carry out the intended suicide bombing attack.
The terrorist attack on the federal complex at Tespetty, then, inspired Beria to take his duties more seriously than he had ever taken them before in his life. Given the urgencies of the situation, it would be entirely appropriate to pull the legs off anyone you ended up interrogating. Fortunately, Beria had machines, marvels of practical engineering, which were designed to do exactly that.
The TV coverage of events at Tespetty also made a strong impression on quite a number of other people, and one of these people was Helbro Marik, an engineering student of astral ethnicity.
Because there had been no TV cameras at Tespetty to film the original attack, one of the TV stations quickly organized a reenactment, which was properly billed as such. And that was what was on TV by the time Helbro got round to updating himself on the news.
And an extremely dramatic reenactment it was. The reenactment showed the anonymous astral terrorist, demented with suicide bomber rage, screaming "Glorst for glory!" as he charged the security barricade.
To "glorst" was to cause yourself to explode. To exercise your paranormal powers and to detonate yourself. Hence the battlecry.
By the time Helbro saw the reenactment, the special effects wizards had even plugged in the bolt of deadly yellow light forking from the terrorist's hand as he, the murderer, the cop killer, took the life of Monk Tide, a cop for twenty years, the owner of two dogs, the father of nineteen kids, and coach of his local baseball team.
"Glorst for glory!" said Helbro.
And, experiencing a surge of racial pride, considered himself recruited.
Some days down the track, four young men finished up cake and coffee at Perk Up Suntune, a coffee bar at Sekigahara. They were smiling and in good humor, relaxed and at ease. Their minds were at peace. They had made their decision. And they were happy with the decision they had made.
A song was playing in the background, Crabgirl Matilda's Why am I Wailing? Not the ideal choice, this jingly beat with its over-complicated synth overlays, no bitch to it. But, when the movie was made for these guys - Four for a Final Cup of Coffee, that would be a good name for it - more appropriate music could be chosen.
Cake and coffee done, the four shook hands and said goodbye to each other. Then they dispersed, one bound for Tespetty, one for Cow Vesti, and one for Bencoolen. The fourth, he was going to stay right here at Sekigahara.
They were not going to see each other again.
This short story is based on the text of TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER, a long novel (76 chapters and about 199,000 words, making a book of more than 700 pages) about life in the suicide bomber age.
TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER features Ibrahim Chess, a member of the city's astral minority who tries to steer a moderate and rational course in a civilization which is rapidly heading in the direction of a war between cultures. Ibrahim, who has no desire to see his city turned into a carnage ground, finds himself put in the position of the last sane man in a world which is going mad.
TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER is the ultimate fantasy novel. It is subtitled "A Book of Death" and does its best to live up to the title. The first 30 chapters can be read online for free on this web site.
Or, if you're a big spender and can afford to take a five-dollar hit on your credit card (that's five American dollars) then you can buy the book as a computer download (PDF format) from lulu.com.
Alternatively, if you're a dead tree person (as most of us still are, which is why we still have libraries and bookshops, even in this, the Age of the Computer) then you can buy the book as a paperback either from amazon.com or direct from lulu.com.
Buying and reading TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER is your one best chance to bubble your brain before the sun explodes. This is, indeed, the ultimate fantasy novel. Fantasy novels do not come any better than this. TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER is, quite simply, the best fantasy novel ever written. Buy it and try it, and if you find the effect to be emetic rather than exhilarating, well, you can always go inflict it on someone else.
Note: if you buy a copy now and hold it for the next ten thousand years, then you will end up being in the possession of a book which is, at one and the same time, both VERY rare and, additionally, VERY valuable. This could be your chance to make really big bucks for what is, all things considered, really a very small investment. (Remember that we are talking about a book which weighs in at over 700 pages).
Warning: this book is not yet one more child-safe product from that familiar family-friendly entertainment corporation, Big Mouse Smilehappies Incorporated.
No, this book has been written with the crocodile brain dominant. Blood in the water. Savagery on the loose. Extremes looking for an arena in which to happen. Abigail Witchdog planning, in detail, the extremely savage mutilating murder which she intends to carry out with her bare hands. (And does she in fact carry it out? Well, read and learn.)
Incidental detail, in this book, includes, for example, a three-meter condom gloopy with elephant ejaculate. (Not your cup of tea? Well, perhaps you should drop by at the public library and ask after a lady writer by the name of Jane Austen.)
TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER, then, is no-holds-barred fiction, a tract for the Age of Terror, the Age of Shoot To Kill. If this book does not contain at least something which you find seriously disturbing, then you are a seriously disturbed person. You have been warned!
This fantasy story, "SHOOT TO KILL," was first published when posted online by Hugh Cook 2005 December 20 Tuesday. Copyright © 2005 Hugh Cook. All rights reserved.
All materials on this website can be read for free online. However, note that the website contents are copyright © 1973-2006 Hugh Cook - all rights reserved. For permission to use any of the material on this website contact Hugh Cook.