March 4, 2008

10 am. Thursday 22th October 2048. Mark McGuire’s palatial office, 53rd at Third, Manhatton.


McGuire settled into his work area and told Tony, his PA, to get him a bucketful of coffee. Today, he needed to keep his spiritual energy levels high. Maybe talk to four or five big boys, do a virtual interview or two, then the gym, yeah the gym, would be good.


Certainly, he would not be talking to time-wasters like that Baha’i crowd in Israel – even if they paid him. Yesterday they were hot but when he tapped them on the shoulder last night it was cold. Their erratic behaviour was concerning. His best bet was to discontinue any further dialog with them and their representatives. Oh, how he hated religious nutters.


Tony knocked and came in on request.

“A week’s worth of coffee Mark. And your scene from the Layla repository is ready to play now.”



“Thank you, Tony. Sit down, watch with me.”


[Tony, PA]:

“Of course.”



8PM June 13, 2040. Poindexter Swimming Pool, Winona, Mississippi.


[Layla, stooping from a copter and joining a harried man]:

“Sven Garrison? What’s the go?”


[Sven Garrison, negotiator]:




“Yeah, good to see you. What’s the story?”


[Sven Garrison , negotiator]:

“Right. Okay. It’s an honour ma’am. Well, pretty standard brief. From 10PM they’ll kill five hostages each hour unless Montgomery County is granted independence. Under the rule of the Jerusalem Church of Jesus, no less.


Haven’t been able to get any names but the leader says they have munitioned the building to blow if there’s any attempt to enter. They’ve disabled internal surveillance equipment, probably some of them work at the pool. Our best assessment is that there are thirty to fifty bad guys holding up to one hundred men, women and children. We’ve set up a two hundred metre perimeter and cleared the public from the surrounding areas. They have snipers in position.”



“What have the church elders to say?”



“Hmmmm, they say that, while they agree that their Church is in the best position to administer Montgomery County, they have absolutely no connection to these terrorists. And, on that basis, they are refusing to take part in the negotiation dialogue. Do you want us to put more pressure on them ma’am?”



“Nope. I’m going in Sven. Just make sure no-one out here does anything rash. Don’t let your guys target the snipers.”



“Do you need anything? Can I help?”


[Layla, calmly but downhearted]:

“Oh no thanks Sven. I’ll be right.


Actually, yes Sven. I’m really, really tired. I’ve got this sudden urge for coffee. Can you have some ready when I come out? Expresso for me.


Oh, and Sven, could you ring a caterer? For about a hundred and don’t forget your guys. We’ll have coffee and cakes or whatever that means in America. Okay, I’m off. Wish me luck.”


Layla walked to the swimming pool entrance. Initially, sniper fire pierced and puffed at the masonry, wood and asphalt around her. But as she continued it stopped. She knocked on the glass front, waited, and then pushed the revolving door. It stuck a bit then gave, bringing her inside. To Sven’s relief there were no fireworks.


In the reception area Layla faced three armed, masked figures. They squeezed their unresponsive triggers and moved aside allowing Layla to enter the main pool area. There, many guns pointed at her and they swayed as their bearers willed them to work.


Layla approached one central, leader-looking masked figure whose subdued, quiet voice was yet easily heard in the still environment.

“Oh fuck. Layla.


“And Azrael.” [Causing Layla to scan from shoulder to shoulder]


[Layla, bewildered]:

“What on earth are you on about man?”


Layla, puzzled, eye-balled him for a moment and then held a questioning finger up.

“Let me see. You’re John, right?”


She pointed to a plastic poolside table.

“Let’s talk.”


[Layla, to all]:

“Don’t worry folks, it’s over. My name is Layla Parkin. We’ll be leaving soon. Just find somewhere comfortable to sit for a few minutes.


You lot, I want all the weapons in this corner here.”

‘John’ pulled the mask off his seething head and threw it away. He was angry but hurried his cohorts to comply. He sat down.


[John, talking down into the table]:

“How strange. How strange that world superstar Layla suddenly turns up in our small neck of the woods just in time to intervene in our legitimate struggle for autonomy. Wonder whose side you’ll take, huh? What about all those bloody civil uprisings, far more threatening than our squabble, that need quelling? In Asia, in the Middle-East, in Europe, in Africa?”


[Layla, weary-faced]:

“Why here and not somewhere else? I guess you were unlucky. I was passing by.”



“No, it’s not chance. We have a legitimate struggle here to protect our way of life. We want to lead good Christian American lives but everything you’ve done has eroded our ability to that. We’ve been boxed into a corner. Then, as soon as we take action, you and the Angel of Death appear to ensure we have no choices, no life worth living. Why can’t you let us live with some dignity?


I know your name. You are the Anti-Christ and you will be defeated. Not today maybe but soon. You’re a fraud. You talk of peace but you used your excessive and unfair might to force us to kow-tow to your wishes. Yes, you seduced us with promises of a better world. The Bible foretold this. Me, and others like me will fight you and your influence. We see through you and you hate us for that.”


[Layla, half-rising to the bait]:

“What’s stopping you living a good Christian life? Why do you want the Church to administer Montgomery County? It’s just local government. Surely, your voice is heard on the council?”



“A good Christian cannot stand-by and be enveloped by a world government ordained by the Anti-Christ. You have cast your shadow on everybody, even those who were good Christians. The local council has been bought by the promise of wealth and education and ease. They let in the heathens from India and Asia. Forty percent of Winona don’t know Jesus. They say to us that it’ll all pan out okay in the end. But our way of life has been changed from the bottom-up and that’s unacceptable. Someone has to take a stand. I’m making a stand. Montgomery County, and places like it, will be ready for Jesus to come and finish this Tribulation off; they’ll be sanctuaries for him.”



“I’m not the Anti-Christ. I’m Jesus. And I’m good for sanctuaries, thank you very much.”


John’s brain whirred around a while before he looked hatefully at Layla.


[Layla, amused]:

“Don’t worry about it John. It doesn’t matter. There’s no change. We’re still on opposite sides.


John, I look at you and see many fine qualities. A loyal man and a man who sticks to his principles. You fight for what you believe in.


I look at you and see many fine qualities – wasted, misused. You’ve been told what’s good, what’s God. You could have questioned it all; the exclusiveness, the prejudice, the fear and the hate. You didn’t though; the story made you feel special and strong. Ah well.


Now, John, this is a very messy situation we find ourselves in. Yes, you sit here nice and, well, mostly placid. But, if you could, you’d kill me. The success of your grand idea means more to you than my life or anyone’s life. You, despite being such a good man, are willing to murder innocent people to get your way. But look, I’m not interested in converting you. I’m just sickened by you.”



“Not murder. These people will be martyrs. They would have been. Now we will be. You have brought Azrael to do your bidding. I’m not afraid of you or Azrael. What does it matter if I am raptured today or next month?”



[Layla, sadly putting her arm on John’s shoulder. John looks away from the table]:

“Yes, what does it matter? Hey, you remind me of something. When I was young, I had a photograph of Albert Einstein in my bedroom. Two photographs actually, side by side. One happy and healthy, the other disgusting, his head being eaten away. Yeah, I guess it’s a fine line.”



“You’re talking nonsense. Don’t gloat. Do what you are here to do.”


[Layla, looking directly into the ‘camera’]:

“You’re right. It’s time to move things on now John. You say you can see the Angel of Death? Well, can you see Mark? Just there.”


[John, turning quickly to the pointing, shakes his head]:

“Ha. Yes, I can see Mark. Yet another fine example of your sorcery.


Mark, Mark, I hope you can hear me. I know we’ve had our problems but I really love you little brother. This woman is evil. Never submit to her. Turn back to Jesus. As best you can, take care of my Jodie and the kids. Remember that I do this for you. We will prevail.”


[John, maintaining contact with Mark]:

“So what now Anti-Christ?”



“Well, this Anti-Christ is old, tired and going home. I’m taking these people with me. You freedom fighters can carry on your discussions with Sven.”


The hundred, led by Layla, poured from the pool past the perimeter and into the catered coffee and cakes. As the world’s media watched, the swimming pool building exploded, coughed and spluttered before sizzling into a soggy mess.



Tony turned to a transfixed Mark McGuire who was thoughtfully kneading his upper lip area.



“Man that was cool. They got their dues for sure. That will definitely have to go into the miracle package.”


[McGuire, bristling]:

“Tony, go fuck yourself.”


[Tony, upset and slip-striving to understand his boss’s sudden aggression]:

“What? Mark? I … have I offended you?”


[McGuire, darkened with anger and feigning management of the situation]:

“Alright, Tony, let’s pursue this. This is a prank. Tell me who is responsible and how deep you are into it. I may seem indefatigable but I’m made of the same stuff as anyone else. I’m not Layla’s fucking brother you know. I don’t deserve this. I just wanted to know how it all went down at the swimming pool. Just wanted to know. And you fucks pissed all over me.


C’mon who did it? Who knew John McGuire was my brother and who went to the effort of editing this? On my dime too, I’m sure of it. I’m pissed Tony. Come out with it.”


[Tony, fearful and confused]:

“Mark. First, believe me; I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you. Second, I have no idea what you are talking about. Your brother? I don’t know…”


[McGuire, ready to spring]:

“No idea. No IDEA. You piece of shit Tony.”


[Tony, palming McGuire down]:

“Hold on a moment, Mark, hold on a moment. Listen, I’ve heard of that guy, John McGuire. You are saying he was your brother? How would I know?”


[McGuire, head down in charge posture]:

“Give me something honest in the next three seconds or I’ll have security throw you out the window.”


[Tony, gathering an insight]:

“Ah, hold on. Hold on. There’s something you have to know about the Layla repository. This might explain a lot. It’s on the grape vine and I assumed it was just the tech boys talking the usual shit to make themselves important.


Stay there Mark. Stay there. Hear me out. If you still think I had something to do with it after that, I’ll just walk over and jump out the window.


Now, what did you see? What did you see that made what I said so offensive?”


[McGuire, still raging]:

“Alright. Alright. I’ll play. For one second.


She looked directly out at the camera. She told John, my brother John, to look too. John talked to me.


Well, then he died and you started asking for more sugar on your shitting popcorn. What say you Tony?”


[Tony, nodding slowly, stopping, then shaking no.]:

“Nope, not what I saw. Mark, on my life, I saw nothing like that.”



“So what does that mean? One of us is either…”


[Tony, quietly]:

“No. No. No. Not like that at all. I think the tech boys said… that different people were describing different events from the same scene. I didn’t see that… the looking into the ‘camera’ part. None of it. I mean it.”


[McGuire, skeptically snorting and relaxing jaded eyes]:

“I guess I need to hear from the tech boys. Get them in here. Now. And, Tony, make sure you join our discussion.”


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