Meetings

a short story

[A man in a trim suit sits behind a desk reading a document. He is in his mid50s, clean-shaven, his hair is gray and slicked back. His desk has a variety of trinkets, stacks of paper, memorabilia, a globe, a small dagger sticking out of a tome, an animal skull, among other things. He is surrounded by bookshelves and paintings, a table with a map laid out atop it. Appearing to be perfectly efficient for certain purposes, the room is just spacious enough for each aspect it currently holds. The grand desk dominates the area and is the only place where this particular man feels he truly belongs. There is a single window and single entrance to the room. The door is designed to look simple. As is everything else inside this particular room. Outside, dark storm clouds gather over an unsettled sea reflecting a starless sky at dusk.]

A knock at the door, the man at the desk looks up from above thin reading glasses.

Deskman: Come.

Door opens, a young man appears. Short of breath, in plain clothes, he has a look of importance in his eyes. He stands in the open doorway for several moments.

Young Messenger: Sir, General Marv is here to see you.

Deskman: Bring him in now.

General Marv appears in the doorway carrying a folder. He is exceptionally tall, close cut, broad shoulders, and dressed in green military suit, complete with commendations, seemingly countless in number, upon his breast above the pocket. His shoes are as black as space, same as his hair used to be.

Marv: Sir.

Deskman: General. Full report.

Marv: Yes. Truly, a final report. This is the end of conflict, for all intents and purposes. All projections lead to absolute victory. Across the globe, our forces celebrate. In the west, the enemy is diminished. Hearts, body and mind. They proceed into full retreat or surrender. In our initial assault on the seaboard, we only had to use WMDs on three major population centers. Casualties were immensely high, but more saliently, the infrastructure, weaponry and technology lost in these attacks was invaluable. It will no doubt take years for these regions to recover. Some towns will remain unlivable due to radiation. The human capital lost is irreplaceable. However I submit, despite the high costs, that with these primary resource and supply hubs destroyed, our assault into the mainland was significantly more effective, by a factor of 5–6x. The lost resources can be reformed and rebuilt over time. With the west’s remaining people & lands within our grasp, we have tripled our productive capabilities. Of course we will have to root out the remaining separatists, non-conformists, and the corrupt. They are still out there, they pose a threat and must be culled. The corporations will all be rebranded, their hierarchies dismantled. The CEOs, the religious and community leaders, the few which did not defect months ago, will be publicly executed. It will be imperative inside of the coming months and years to strike down all possible seeds of unrest and rebirth of western civilization. If we burn their ideology to the ground they will never be able to rise again. This is something we have dealt with before, but never on this scale. As we have discussed before, the most important aspect of this campaign was not winning this war, but effectively managing the aftermath. We are on that precipice now and it is essential we act with violent purpose.

The west is the crown jewel, but the east might be the long term solution for growth of control. The eastern conquest went smoother, in large part to the high conversion rate. Our system was similar enough to what their own government had in place that it wasn’t as much of a shock for the populace to turn. Many were used to a higher level of control and infringement. They welcome the centralized command as long as it is not without purpose and basic freedoms are granted. They respect our strength most of all. They are willing to follow us if it leads to communal stability. Our propagandists and soothsayers had a field day working within the state-owned organizations. But once the seeds were planted, they began to do the work for us as surrogates. As I’m sure you now know. They started writing their own viral propaganda. They rooted out violators and nonconformists and potential terrorists within their own groups. They began to confess their crimes against the state freely. Of course, their sentences, the executions, the camps — the punishments were no less light. But it is clear, the easterners saw the writing on the wall and made decisions to right the collective ship into our way of rule. Military action was limited in these final months. Only bombings and raids of smaller resistance hubs, mostly outside the major metropolitan areas. The core of the populace, even the most capitalistic communities fell in line. It was the outland areas and the islands, which features the most aggressive nonconformism. Of course, as you ordered many months ago now, the islands have been completely obliterated. All but a few are now uninhabitable. It was truly an effective warning to all of eastern peoples and a perfect moment to display the scale of our firepower on a global audience. The only mistake is that we took so long to make the decision. If only we had took such a measure earlier in this conflict, perhaps it could’ve ended sooner, saved some of our forces. But alas, the eastern provinces are now completely under our control. The vast population, political ideologues, and economic growth will be boons to our empire for years to come.

The central region remains as our hub for production, for repurposement training, for forging the minds of tomorrow. Education will be key now more than ever. With the war ended as the people think it to be — the war they have steeped themselves in for most of their conscious existence now — they will be ripe to be molded like clay. The survivors at least. The loud fiery passion of one war ends and the final war for the hearts & minds of Man begins now in the shadows of this old dying world. They will need to turn to someone and it must be us. This is our reward. It will be up to us to seize the reigns of their existence. Our philosophy will hold with many, we have proven that. We have earned that. However, there will be dissidents, there will be resistors, violators, nonconformists, terrorists, fear mongers. Those that wish us to regress and those that wish us to die, they are still out there even now. We must not relent. We must not back down from the policies which have empowered us this far. The zero tolerance against all actions of defiance, no matter how small or insignificant, which we have wielded so deftly in the war times, must be doubled down upon in “peacetime.” As we know, in this path, there will never be peace; there cannot be peace; peace has never existed.

We always said we were building for eternity. We will be here forever. And I believe that, now more than ever. I look out on the horizons of our future and I see this infinite victory reverberating throughout time, through history, a dynasty. Maybe, it’s just this honeymoon effect I am experiencing. But I truly feel we have crafted this world now in the image of Gods. And we are those Gods.

The man behind the desk has listened to all of this leaning back just slightly in his chair, with eyes closed, fingers steepled, in a stolid repose of ease and of comfort. He opens his eyes looking directly at the man who has just finished speaking. He smiles and stands quickly.

Deskman: Godhood suits you well Marv.

The man salutes his general and counselor. Marv does the same before quickly spinning around and exiting as he entered.

The messenger reappears within the door after several moments.

Messenger: He has just arrived sir, …the …Adversary. Do you want me to send him in now?

Deskman: Yes. Let’s get this over with.

The messenger vacates the doorway, in his place a smallish man appears. He wears a black tunic and black pants. He wears no shoes. His beard and hair length present a man who is familiar with the wilderness. His eyes house a ferocity of spirit not seen in most men. He walks into the room in measured steps, patient in his movements like an animal profoundly experiencing a new environment. He does not look older than 50. His head is up, his eyes looking all about the room while he walks. He appears to look everywhere and at everything in the room without once looking at the man behind the desk. He stops moving almost directly in the center of the room, standing there for several moments. The deskman casually looks at his watch. The man continues to stand in the center of the room.

Deskman: You are scheduled to be executed inside of the hour.

Wildman: Truly. Yet I am the only one alive in this whole place.

Deskman: Did you think you could win?

Wildman: I know my side to wield the blade of righteousness. It does not matter what I believed the outcome to ultimately be. I would be on the same path.

Deskman: You will die soon, don’t you regret leading all of those people to their death? By defying the state, you have damned so many souls, the living and the dead. People you say you care about. Your own family paid the ultimate price. All the while, you hid yourself away. Sending your little messages, writing your essays, ordering your elected leaders driven by greed and your military killers & capitalists to fight in your stead. Truly, how many have seen your face? How many of those that died for you were ever graced with your presence?

Wildman: They did not die for me. Those men died for themselves, their homes, their families. And they would do it again. As I would gladly die in their place if it was called upon me to do so. For the greater good, and within my role in what way that I could help, I simply did what I had to. Yes, many good men died. I feel every one of their souls on my conscience. I regret tactical decisions, I regret at times misusing my influence, I regret miscalculating the reasoning ability of the masses. I deeply regret we humans must kill and die in this never ending cycle of prejudice, greed, and animosity.

[a pause, as he raises his head to meet the eyes of the man sitting behind the desk]

I do not regret opposing you. I do not regret standing firmly in my philosophy to defy injustice, to defy fascism, to defy the absolute evil within Man. They died fighting for what they believed in, as your men have. The difference is that my side dies with righteous purpose.

Deskman: But we won. That is all that matters, don’t you see? Not only because ours is the better path, but because we have transcended all of it, this existence you speak of. Your philosophy is apocryphal. It has weakened us for millennia. It obscures the truth of what we could be. You and yours hide behind beliefs and ideologies, behind societal structures and institutions. All which inhibit us from achieving our true potential. In the end, you are no more civilized than dogs. Savagely murdering one another as it suits you. We, the state, the “fascists” as you mislabel us — have simply stepped outside of rationality, we are beyond morality. I am simply stepping into a new truth, one of influence and boldness, without thoughts to communistic consequence. We are unmasking this natural state of empty virtue, righteous words in the communal light and wicked actions in the verisimilitudinous shadow. No more misleading intentions. We have only one intention: to be alive, and to be victorious.

Humanity has been living inside of a bubble, an embryonic state we have just now consciously broken from. Truly, we are the first Men to have become self-aware. Finally. Now, together, the victors will forge a path ahead focused, driven on the only thing that has ever really mattered.

Wildman: Power.

Deskman: That’s the only thing I’ve ever heard you say that has been Truth. Capital T. Yes, power. In all its forms. We are our own Gods now.

Wildman: And yet, the common man is no god. Never will be. It is True, he has suffered under all civilizations, under all systems, under all structures, with or without institutions. Existence is suffering as we both know by now. However, what you propose, the world under your empire, under your “strength is god,” power-driven philosophy — Man will suffer more tenfold, a hundredfold. The-

Deskman: Then let him suffer! Let a thousand generations die until a man is born that sees what I see! Let all who fail to survive perish! Your natural law has always submitted this with eternal evidence behind it.

Wildman: There is no recourse, what you are is a madness. Nothing more, nothing less. The worship of power you pronounce will deliver nothing but passionately accelerated entropy. Your own underlings will send endless assassins your way. Your producers will prey on your suppliers who will bring ruin on your consumers. Creativity will perish, the only reward for it being swift execution. The masses you wish to control will revolt and die into perpetuity. You will never be able to rest. Every rational person will oppose you until the end of time and you will eventually fall.

Deskman: And so it must be. Every rational person will die. Starting with you. It’s time for you to leave.

Wildman: In my own way, I feel sorry for you.

[The man behind the desk squints his eyes. Then slowly closes them, sighing.]

Wildman: You have never loved. You have never known love. You will never know anything close to it. You and those like you, past, present and future, are alone. For a time, history will remember you — as a madman, as a tyrant, as a heartless killer of men — but not long after you will be forgotten forever. Deservedly so.

Deskman: Enough.

Wildman: Truly, you should kill yourself. It will be the only constructive action you would have taken in your entire life.

[The man behind the desk motions, two men enter the room violently placing a black bag over the prisoner’s face and carry him out of the room. The messenger reappears in the doorway. Before he can speak, the man behind the desk does so.]

Deskman: Yes, a representative from The Order is here. Send him in and hurry. I don’t want to miss it.

[A man in red robes enters the room. He pulls down the hood over his head. Expressionlessly, he turns around and closes the door behind him as he enters the room. He sits down quickly at the seat before the desk. The man behind the desk takes a deep breath, he leans back in his chair and closes his eyes.]

Deskman: You are here to brief me on The Order’s grand plan for education, for identifying non-conformism, for repurposement activity and so forth. Speak it all and do it quickly.

[moments of silence]

Robe: Yes. That is why you think I am here.

Deskman: I don’t —

Robe: I am here to kill you.

[The man behind the desk eyes go wide, he braces himself against his desk as if to stand.]

Robe: Before you make any rash decisions, you should carefully listen to me.

[The man behind the desk is almost deathly still. But then he quickly reaches under the desk.]

Robe: We have 4 minutes of radio silence. I arranged it to be so. 4 minutes to end you without interference. My own life be damned, but —

Deskman: Guards!

Robe: They cannot hear you. They cannot hear anyone.

Deskman: [yelling frantically] The Order! But why?!

Robe: Not The Order. I work for another organization. Deep cover in The Order. No contact with my employer in over three years, too risky. But my orders have remained the same. Worked tirelessly over the past 18 months laying the groundwork for The Order’s strategy to work with the regime, for this meeting to be granted, for myself to be chosen as the representative. No one but myself has any conception of the compromises I’ve had to make. But here I am. Sitting here across from you at your desk. Every day I have felt more and more like the person I am ordered with assassinating. Know what you must be thinking. I am resistance but then moved up in the —

Deskman: [gun pulled from the desk in hand, pointing it at the would-be assassin]

Robe: If you shoot me, you will die almost as quickly.

Deskman: …

Robe: You read people perhaps better than anyone, even with the newfound complacency “victory” has granted you. You hesitate because you know the truth of my words. You must understand, I am not carrying any conventional weaponry or killing tools on my person. never could’ve got in here. Instead, the method my superiors chose required a rather invasive and personally damaging surgery to be performed upon my body. To kill you, I wouldn’t have to move, I wouldn’t have to do anything except die. There is a small vial, in my body, near my heart. Inside it there is a small but potent amount of poison. Airborne, undetectable. A mechanism within the vial is in sync with my own heartbeat, and will cause the vial to release its content coinciding with my heart stopping or slowing to an irregular pace, instantly. My employers took every precaution this was full proof, it cannot be prevented. The air purification system in this room, state of the art, and yet they told you the truth when they said it was 98% infallible. The gas mask you have inside your drawer there, the specially-made materials used to ensure it protects against all airborne pathogens, all but impervious. True, it would stop this gas from entering through your nose or mouth or eyes. But this poison was designed to enter through any pore in your entire body and it only takes a moment. Even if you fastened the gas mask with perfect precision, and instantly after you pulled the trigger, you would still perish. And it would finish it’s work inside of the minute you shot me. And if you don’t shoot me, be sure there is a cyanide molar. Same result.

Deskman: [slowly putting the gun down] Understood. So what happens now? How many more seconds do we have in such a hallowed moment of privacy.

Robe: I’m going to be honest with you. And do know my employers hear our every word. I was supposed to have already killed you. I wasn’t even supposed to talk to you. I was to coax you into shooting me, the prime outcome so as to make you appear unstable to those that discovered the scene later. Or simply swallow the cyanide, the subprime outcome. Sacrifice myself to kill the tyrannical maniac responsible for destroying the world order. For many years now, I passionately believed in my mission, and never doubted my ability to perform this act of courageous self-sacrifice when the moment came. However, somewhere along the way — I have changed my mind. I am not going to kill you.

[smiling, sitting back in the chair]

I decided I don’t care about the world and its struggles. I’m not fighting wars anymore. The resistance became a shadow of the regime itself, committing its own brand of atrocities in the name of freedom. Human savagery is inherent to this existence and your empire has merely culled the world of its idealism and of extra bodies. I am looking out for myself. Once, I might have died for such a cause as this. But not now. I have seen the light and it’s a reflection.

[sitting up straight, sternly]

But I have two conditions: first, I wish to leave it all, this civilized world for the wilderness. To go free into this new world safely, but with some measure of power and privacy. We will never deal with each other again. Your own personal doctors will remove the poison from my chest. I will fear no reprisals from my own employers as I will be granted a small army, a contingent of guardians to protect me in my new home. I will take no part in your system, and you will not seek me out. To you and yours, I will not exist anymore. Your messenger already has all this and arrangements have begun.

Deskman: [seeming almost disinterested, leaning back in his chair with eyes lowered] Yes, and the second condition?

Robe: I want you to kill Marv. Your general, your advisor and counselor. And I want to witness it. For no other reason than that I can make such a request with your life in my hands. I don’t wish for his death because he’s a monster; of course, he is a monster and is truly deserving of such a fate. Both of you are, just the worst. But no, I am not judging his character. I am judging yours. I want to see you do it.

Deskman: [silent for several moments, unchanging scowl upon his face] Very well.

[calmy, he picks up the phone on his desk and quickly dials a 3 digit number. Dispassionately he speaks into the receiver] Bring Marv back down to my office.

Robe: … wow. H-he was your mentor correct? But more like a father to you.

Deskman: I want you to never speak again.

Robe: How will will you do it?

Deskman: [simple silence]

Robe: What is it you desired for Marv? I get the feeling he is truly one of the only ones you could trust? Am I corre —

Deskman: [grips the gun on top of his desk with his right hand] He will be at the door in 15 seconds.

Robe: [smiling] You are one piece of work.

[General Marv appears in the doorway, saluting and begins to speak a formal greeting. Before he can truly begin, 2 shots are fired from the man behind the desk, using the handgun he placed atop it. The bullets strike Marv in the center of the chest. He looks down at the holes in him and then slowly looks up at the man who shot him. He continues to look at him as he drops to his knees and then falls face down. The robed man looks at the man behind the desk throughout. He does not see the man die, he only hears the thud. He is smiling, shaking his head. He rises to leave the room, stepping over the general’s body.]

Deskman: Rest In Peace, old friend.

~

[The man in the trim suit pulls up a computer screen from the underside of his desk, and begins typing, sliding the touch screen. With the stroke of a stylus he controls military forces, foot soldiers and battleships; he speed writes a propaganda piece sent out to the southern regions of the west, while simultaneously leaks contradictory information in the east; he orders the assassinations of ten more persons of import still hiding out in fast dwindling safe haven countries; he speaks into the screen, conveying a short speech on the dangers of radicalism and nonconformism to local schools, his words translated to the colloquial dialects and amplified with charisma-inducing musical scores backing; he reallocates production capabilities in the central factories and resets the exchanges once more, reorganizing global asset values; he views the menu.]

[Before he can decide, there is an explosion sourcing from the window behind him. The man sprawls out over the desk and is unconscious]

The man awakens. He no longer sits behind the desk. He sits in a chair before it. Another sits behind the desk. The open air from the broken window alters the atmosphere of the room. He can’t move his arms, but they don’t appear to be restrained. He can’t move his legs either. He can’t feel them. He can feel the warmth of his own blood across his face. He looks up to get a better look at the man behind the desk. Lightning strikes and illuminates the room. He knows his face.

The man before the desk: Why—
The boom of thunder from outside drowns his words and they go unheard.

The man behind the desk picks up the same handgun and points it. Reading the document atop the desk while loudly chewing gum, he fires without meeting his eyes. ~