A few weeks ago, the folks at IndieInk did me the honor of posting one of my essays. I felt kinda bad, because it was something I'd written for this site. So to assuage my guilty conscience, I volunteered to join a bunch of IndieInk'ers for the IndieInk Writing Challenge. It's a pretty simple idea; one writer throws a conceptual gauntlet at the feet of another, and it's on, as they say. I'm excited: recently, writing feels like work to me. Work that I love, but work nonetheless. This is my chance to play with words.
My second challenge was issued by Karla Valenti. "Photos reflect a life narrative that has moved the photographer. These photo montages are a collage of narratives taken by various photographers. Describe the story(ies) captured in photo 7 of the following collection:http://www.corinnevionnet.com/index.php?/photo-opportunities/." I was mulling over the photo, and decided to (GASP) write a short story featuring the main element in the picture. In doing so, my mind wandered into some dark places.
We are all believers, he thinks. Despite the throngs and their heat meshing with the sun's, he's not sweating. He's lived in deserts of one sort or another his whole life. The sick have a coolness to them and the dead are cold. Warmth buoys him. He shifts his weight. He's thinking about the didgeridoo, that bizarre Australian wind instrument. Funny how the mind can wander, even surrounded by thousands of people. He pauses to consider the crowd. They move like wheat in a windstorm. Swaying as if listening to eldritch music. He checks his watch. Any time now. He marvels at the fact that he's thus far remained unmolested, despite the benign nature of the crowd.
A few more minutes. God, he thinks. These people gather here to worship Him. He looks down at the case at his feet, build to hold a television camera. No TV, the security guard told him. You need to leave that here. Not that it mattered - he wasn't going to film, of course - but he'd gotten this far and wanted to get closer, to see it, to have it fill his eyes, and leaving the case wouldn't do. He considered the guard - early 20's, a green-tinted wedding band - and produced a $50 bill from his wallet. The case went with him. It had seen some miles; the al-Jazeera logo on the side was almost gone, faded from the suns of a dozen countries. He'd gotten it shortly after he began working for the network. It, and his false life as a network cameraman, had served him well.
The didgeridoo. The crowd emits a hum like a million of them. When he was in school, he spent a summer in Sydney and one weekend they went into the wilderness. There was an old man, obsidian skin, and he played one for them. It was a sound like the earth mourning. They listened for a spell. The old man spoke in broken English. The dreamtime, he said. The dreamworld. When they buried him and the blood-spattered didgeridoo along with the guns and shell casings, someone mentioned that even though he was a non-believer, a heretic, infidel, perhaps the one true God would remember his music and take pity on him. That was good desert, full of scrub, crevices, cover of all sorts. An ideal training ground. They all had code names - it wouldn't do to end up down the hole, screaming out your brothers' names in the hope that the enemy would stop pulling out your fingernails. Better to shriek out nonsense - in this case, colors, an idea taken from a recent gangster movie. They spend days in the furnace, learning about microcircuitry and line-of-sight and frequencies and spectra. Along with that they learned to field-strip a weapon blindfolded, and how to use the knife so that the trachea is severed, thus preventing the target from yelling for help as he bleeds out.
He reaches into his satchel. There, next to the pager - they'd had a hell of a time finding one that actually worked - is a the modified cell phone and a Q'uran. His copy, much like the camera case, is yellowed from use. He's read it dozens upon dozens of time, entire passages coming to him as easy as his own birth date. The pager begins to vibrate. A number appears. He flips open the battered book and finds the corresponding page, and then the corresponding phrase. He smiles. Of course. He'd bet one of his colleagues that when the time came, he'd know exactly what the code would be. Hours spent memorizing thoughts, ideas, passages, phrases, words. He picks up the phone, which will, when the proper text message is sent, transmit a signal to the case at his feet. He types in the code word, looking around as he does. Thousands of pilgrims, here to see, and - God willing - touch the Black Stone. Al-Masjid al-Haram, the Sacred Mosque. And there, the Kaaba. The ebon cube. The epicenter of Islam.
The code phrase. When sent, what's inside the camera case will detonate.
We are all believers, he prays. No doubt he'll burn in Hell for what he's about to do. The Q'uran - which he'd read in the hopes of better understanding his enemy - and The Bible both say the same thing about murder. He prays anyway. There is no God but God, and He so loved the world that He sacrificed His only son, in Jesus' name, amen.