A Benevolent Supremacy
by John Birge
part 1 of 2
“All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.” (1 Timothy, 6:1)
Freet sat in a chair with his laptop and chipped away subatomic pieces of the keys while the machines droned and howled. He was the Human Shaker for labour commune /KWA, somewhere on the outskirts of the Greater Commerce Area K, f.k.a. London.
Loathingly he watched the pressure indicators for the eight bars, hypnotically bouncing, their slow and flirty skips representing the fluctuations for the generator of... what did the enormous machine do? It was high as a hundred men and almost identical in base. It had dark spots, was a disgusting gaudy yellow, and hummed in secrecy, almost in complacency.
It was popularly known as the peacetower, though the Esh insisted calling it by its Eshian name /doonet. The slash was typically Eshian, reminiscent of a glottal stop but completely restricting air by compressing the throat, closing the nose and forcing air up through the throat. It was hopeless to do, and you either felt like throwing up, or the sound came out your nose, which was highly insulting.
The rural landscape was grey and green; the industrial flora drove away all fauna; the green grass shone an unearthly green, no doubt contaminated by the nearby peacetower, which reached high up in the air and deep into the ground. Labour commune /KWA was not a pleasant place to be, and this made the humans there unpleasant as well.
The invasion was over in less than three weeks. The Esh had arrived, announcing their intentions, and seized the planet. It was like most invasions; invasions are almost always identical. The invader is always superior — seldom is an adversary with near-equal strength invaded — so Earth’s conquest by the Esh was perhaps no great surprise. Mankind was far too antagonistic and militaristic to stand a chance.
After the dust had settled and, in a gesture of benevolent supremacy, a few hundred million men, women and children slaughtered, Earth was set up as a production site. Now Freet, a man within a man, was shaking (in English, ‘overseeing’, ‘monitoring’) the peacetower, Section 9.
“/doonet!” cried a voice.
“Jesus, what the-” Freet began but stopped as he turned around and saw his confidante, Opp, standing grinning behind him.
“Oh, if you knew not Eshian,” Opp said mockingly.
“Hey, somebody has to bridge the gap ’tween serf and master,” old-countried Freet, “’s it going?”
“Fan-tastic,” replied Opp. “Listen, I’ma let ya outta dis dump. We’ve gotta mee’ing.”
”Auphris’d,” nodded Opp.
”Le’s go,” said Freet and stood up warming to the man. “’Bout the girls?”
“Y’bet.” Opp took his hand and led him. Physical contact, how Eshian to demand physical contact. ‘Because that is what humans want.’ Yes. If we want it, we want it. If we do not want it, it is intrusive. Invasive. The objection had no substance to the Esh. A monkey attempting to comprehend consciousness: the ethereal demand, the physical conform. Like ages past, like now.
They were allowed access to the upper levels, ‘Auphrised only.’ The two “men” walked through the coredoors, the name another Esh-enforced proper slang, and Freet asked what the news was regarding the girls.
Earth had been subservient to the Esh for more than nine years. Most of the men alive knew little of free life, and those who remembered thought that life to be a dream. A world without colour, without dreams. Where life was free and not valued; domination complacency.
Then the girls showed up.
Across labour camps, in a once human world. The girls. Vivid, spectral. They manifested in a world where mankind lived as they always had lived. Slaves and masters. Then they came. Who is the master now? Those who breathe air, or those who are air? Who can kill the other? Are not power structures measured by the ability to kill or to enslave?
We call them ghosts. Eyes seeing what cannot be there, ears hearing what cannot produce sound, hair on the body standing at attention in fear of what is not there. The girls.
“So what’s new?” asked Freet double-halved as they id’d a checkpoint. “Be honest,” he looked around carefully, “darlin,” he added in uncertain affection.
“Don’t know, somefing ’bout Matt. Speaking to the girls, he says. Don’t know ’s it about. We’ll hear from de Esh ’imself.”
Near the end of the gaudily grey corridor, they entered an interrogation chamber. Matt Sakierski waved when he saw them enter, ignoring the Esh to the right of him. Deferentially, Freet and Opp bowed mockingly to the Esh, who accepted their demonstrated subservience and indicated that they be seated.
As soon as they were seated, Voice entered the room. He was Esh, in the image of a muscular and rugged man. The suit reminded Freet of the colour of ‘android’ skin in a TV series, to indicate their artificiality. The Esh were ethereal consciousnesses placed inside corporeal suits. They were individuals, all right, but they tended to speak collectively. Voice — as usual, name described function — was the Esh ambassador, if you will, to the /KWA commune.
The man-like alien did not greet them and addressed them promptly.
“This must end.”
Freet and Opp looked at Matt, then asked what must end.
“The girls. They are distracting the men and undermining their loyalty and determination to work.”
“But we don’t-” began Opp.
“Of course not,” interjected Voice. “But if happen to come across an opportunity to end these... hauntings, then do seize that chance. Your lives may depend on it.”
“If these... girls, are still here by the end of the month, we will eradicate the entire labour commune and every human in it.”
“Enough. You know what the Esh requests, make it happen. You are shakers.” And with those simple words he left the room, reddish skin and shining, bald head. The quiet Esh followed.
“What de ’ell is about?” Opp asked Matt, who, it seemed, had not for one second stopped grinning.
“I tell you what it’s about,” Matt said. “They’re scared, that’s what they are. The Esh are scared.”
“Of the girls?”
“Yes. Of something they cannot control. Goddamned ghosts ’s what they are.”
“How d’ya mean ghosts?” asked Opp.
“I mean ghosts! Just like in the campfire stories. Like... Kinda bleak, vague in colour and body. Funny way of speaking. Ghosts.” Matt shrugged.
“So because of a few ghosts the Esh are going to kill every man in this peacetower?”
“Seems like. They are pushing air through their pants right now, I imagine.” He chuckled, got up and was walking out of the interrogation room, then turned and said, “I gotta get back to work. Tell you what, come see me next Tuesday, around four. That’s when they show. Strange hour, strange place, but hey! They’re ghosts, what do we know?” He laughed wetly again and left the room.
“What do you fink?” asked Opp.
“Don’t know. Anyway, we’ve got to go on Tuesday. I just don’t know if there’s anything we can do without having seen these girls.”
“You want to see girls, huh?” said Opp sourly.
“Yeah, right. Anyways... You know what this means?”
“That Tuesday afternoon is off?”
“Sure is. More important to stay alive than to be alive.”
“So you fink we can actually sort this bangbox out?”
“We have to try, don’t we? Our lives depend on it, as the man says.”
When they had left the room, Opp said, “Don’t call them man.”
It was all quite calculated. Mankind, according to the Esh, was content in slavery, highly receptive to negative stimulus; thus mankind needed no reason for working until death, absent punishment was enough.
What they did was to maintain existing social conditions, only slightly altering some things to improve productivity. One alteration to improve productivity was sex-separate labour communes. But for all their calculations, insights into the human mind and promises to the other members of their coalition, they had gravely underestimated mankind’s ingenuity when it came to murderous insurgency, especially when it was fuelled by xenophobia and hate.
In the first two weeks after the labour communes were officially opened, eight thousand Esh Instructors were murdered, i.e. disembodied, by human hands. The response was swift. Originally, their plans had been to allow visits for all to the communes housing the opposite sex, but that, it was announced after two weeks of bloodshed and violence, was to be discontinued.
A week had passed and it was Tuesday 22nd of August. Life, such as it was in the peacetower, had continued; but was now about to take a turn for the supernatural, for it was G-Day. Ghostday, Girlday, whatever. Maybe both.
Freet and Opp, who in their position as Shaker and Manifester (meaning: ‘bridger’, ‘negotiator’) respectively, enjoyed the pathetically little amount of freedom to choose where they would work. After brief negotiations with Voice, they had ensured they’d work with Matt Sakierski’s team that Tuesday afternoon.
Under the cooking UV-rays of the August sun, they laboured in the confined areas outside the peacetower, its height and colour quietly laughing, amused at the ants around its surface base.
Freet was exhausted. Matt and the rest of the labourers worked away, hacking down the plants and throwing them by the thousands down the chute that led to the subsurface facilities.
“If only they could have named the barracks something you can make a joke about. I mean,” he gargled the dash, “KWA... What are you supposed to do about that?” asked Rick, one of Matt’s boys.
“I think kwai is Japanese,” offered another.
“Japanese for what?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, that’s brilliant,” grunted Rick.
“Kurwa,” said Matt.
Matt said nothing, but savagely cut down the nearest unearthly plant.
“Hell, I never knew how hard you lads worked here,” complained Opp. Freet thought that Opp’s naked body looked like the statue of a young Greek athlete, but he could not keep up with Matt and his boys, who seemed to bathe in sweat without being bothered in the least by it.
“It’s not voluntarily, you know,” shouted Matt. “Anyway, being worn out by hard labour is good for the soul. Prevents suicide, violence and excessive masturbation.”
“If it prevents self-abuse, you’ve got more energy than the rest of us,” laughed one of Matt’s boys.
“Just thinking about your mum,” Matt shot back.
“What time is it?” Freet asked Opp.
“Almost four. Time for a break, if you know what I mean. Matt, come here for a sec, yeah?”
The three men drank water, leaning against an Esh-improved wheelbarrow. Having relaxed enough to talk, Opp was about to say something but Matt cut him short.
“They’re coming now,” he said in reverence, grin all gone from his face.
It seemed to be getting colder, but maybe it was just the sweat on cooling skin, yet still...
Matt pointed, “There they are. Told you, didn’t I?”
They really were girls. All of Matt’s boys were no longer working; they watched the girls. Three girls, who looked about fifteen but acted like they were eight, skipped about in the unearthly vegetation, toying with leaves, uprooting grass, tossing it up in the air and laughing as they ran from under the rain of blades. They really did look like ghosts. Something about them. Not just the chill, the cold air around them, though the heat made things worse.
The waves of hot air were more visible before the girls, giving them blinds of transparency. One of the girls, quite the little darling, paused like surprised girls do before she recognised Matt and waved to him. He waved back.
“Wicked,” managed Opp.
Freet could not manage to say anything at all. He had just now realised that the girls were naked, but there was nothing sexual about them at all. It was like looking at a crude drawing of genitals. But the asexuality did not disturb him. In fact, nothing about them disturbed him. Despite all their childishness, he was filled with awe. These girls were not to be talked to, unless they invited you. All the men seemed to feel this as well, for they just stood in their place, unable to do anything but watch.
One of the girls ran laughing in circles around Rick, sometimes looking at his face, but he stood firmly fixed in his spot, not wanting, or perhaps not able, to move. Having danced around what she might as well have thought a Christmas tree, she continued onwards, then stopped and looked at the three men on the wheelbarrow. She waved. Matt waved back.
Then all three girls stopped playing, but they were still joyful and certainly more alive than the men they were enchanting. They formed a circle, heads bowed down in the centre and it looked like they were whispering. They were whispering, every man witnessing the event knew that, though they could not say how they knew.
The circle broke, and all three girls waved teasingly to Matt. Actually, they waved to all three men on the wheelbarrow, but it was no question in their minds whom they were addressing: Matt.
Looking at Freet, then at Opp, Matt stood up. “Here goes everything,” he said and began walking. Despite the unbearably cold sweat down their brows and bodies, no man moved at all, except Matt, who walked slowly, hypnotised, towards the girls.
The three ghosts, arms outstretched, welcomed Matt to join them. He walked with determination, or absolute lack of will, and tried to take their hands. They stood like that for some time, wanting to hold hands but time and space forbade such interaction.
Copyright © 2007 by John Birge