by Michael C. Thompson
|Chapter 4 : Jihad|
In a post-apocalypse North America, a small band of young nihilists fight a continent-wide theocracy by systematically exterminating religious colonies. At first they use nuclear weapons. Then their leader decides to try drugs...
The “Holy City” is unlike anything I could have ever imagined. Hanging high in the sky is a crescent moon, perfect for the occasion. It rises horizontally across a large, circular opening in the center of the city, around which are symmetrical towers which line four enormous triangular city blocks, compromising the entirety of the IAE-proclaimed “center of the world.” Roads circle around and through this design, but none intersect the circle itself, above which the brilliant moon rises, reflecting the light of the sun onto the darkened city.
I’ve seen photographs of New York. That’s what this place used to be called. It looks nothing like it now. Unlike most of the cities scattered amongst the wastelands, even Vegas, the third largest city in the IAE fold, all of the buildings here are very new. What once existed was razed to the ground, and this brilliant homage to Allah was erected by the Neo-Muslim conquerors who annexed this continent shortly after the “World War III” nuclear cataclysm.
The many towers stand tall, scraping the sky, their walls made of large panels of reflective glass, absorbing solar energy to power the city cleanly and infinitely, free of charge. The difference between the Neo-Muslims and their predecessors — the key component that allowed them to take over most of the world — was their willingness to embrace futurism, technology, and to do away with the archaism that had held back their predecessors.
Combined with an arduous Islamic sense of empiricism, it was inevitable that they would conquer. The pathetic Christian West, weak in its beliefs and lax in its discipline, stood no chance.
Neither did the few atheists that bothered to resist. The Catholic Church had officially collapsed years beforehand, with only small, cult-like splinter contingencies still in existence. The timing was perfect — divine, the invaders claimed.
The Neo-Muslims took over the large, chaotic North American continent first, then expanded into South America. Smarter than their elders, these new children of Allah knew that by forcing all to convert to Islam or slavery, only further war would be enacted, and resistance eventually costs a hefty price to those resisted.
A simple tax was enacted, allowing each religion or religious community to form its own Islamic-American Empire protected state. Many of the “mainstream” Christians, fractured and traumatized by the Muslim takeover, but too terrified to resist (for the most part), took to Central America. All those who did not proclaim to believe in one universal God were executed on the spot.
The IAE eventually annexed Central America territory by territory before expanding into South America, conquering that continent as well. Technology of the kind Shiloh presented to me in the City of Maximums can usually only be found in major cities, like New Mecca, or IAE military installations. The factional states are not granted access, but the official IAE states — all of the major cities on the North American continent — enjoy the benefits of modernity in extremis.
Getting here was not easy. The weather on the path to Cleveland was awful, and I came down with the flu a week before I made it to the Negatives’ outpost. Once I arrived, on the verge of death, I was slowly nursed back to health over the course of two weeks.
During these two weeks, I had strange dreams, and would often wake up shrieking deliriously. At least that’s what my Negatives comrade Elronde told me, as he watched over me. He is the head of the Cleveland outpost in my absence (and this is the first time I’ve been here).
Morgan and Pixel arrived as well, although Argus did not come with them. Once I regained lucidity and finally started to overcome my illness, Morgan informed me that both she and Pixel would be honored to die at my side. Now that Argus was no longer amongst us, undermining my authority, the toxic tension that had been building before had departed. I told them that they could come to New Mecca, if they so desired.
As I regained my health, we formulated the specifics of our plan. It was suggested that we might escape and not have to die once the initial chaos had begun. I told both Morgan and Pixel that they were free to do as they wished, but I had no intention of ever leaving New Mecca alive. Without further disagreement, Morgan dropped the subject.
The plan was thus: Elronde, in the weeks prior to my arrival in Cleveland, had planted various LSD supplies inside of the different water facilities in the city. Each of the four large blocks of New Mecca have two water-purifying facilities. In these factories, humidity is pulled from the air, as well as ground water from beneath the earth, purified in large vats and then re-routed to the city’s water lines. It is these vats that we will need to infiltrate.
Elronde has informed me that we will need to dump vast amounts of LSD into the purifiers — a few simple cylinders will not suffice. He believes that around sixty gallons of pure, liquid LSD, synthesized to maximum potency by his genius hand, should do the trick. Sixty per facility. That’s four hundred and eighty gallons of liquid LSD that needs to be dumped today.
Then the chaos begins. Then I can die.
Pixel, Morgan and I have split up. Elronde has come along also, as well as four volunteers from the Cleveland outpost. We’re each taking one facility, then checking back on each other’s work ad infinitum. The purpose for this is that we expect some casualties along the way. Elronde has secured various routes for us through the city’s unguarded sewer systems, but once we infiltrate the plants, chaos becomes a factor — and She doesn’t take sides.
The others have departed. I’m waiting. I don’t know why. Is it because I am afraid to die? I don’t think that’s it. The suggestion, however, fills me with some strange sensation. The hairs on my arms stand on end, my heart beats erratically, imbalanced. The world around me is vivid. I’ve never seen any photographs of New Mecca, and although I’ve heard stories of it, this if the first time I’ve ever viewed anything quite like it. There’s no stench of corruption here, it looks pristine, respected, honored.
I turn away from the circle and begin to walk back down the West side of New Mecca. The facility I am to poison is in the closer half of this block — Morgan heading to the farther one. I suspect I won’t see her again. Pixel either, for that matter. She has headed to the far end of the East block of the city.
There is a sewer entryway in an unguarded alley a few blocks further that I am supposed to enter through, and then I am to follow directions displayed for me on a GPS data map programmed by Elronde for the mission.
I pass the people on the city, wondering what they’re thinking. Are they thinking of Allah? Or Jesus? New Mecca houses many Christians as well as Muslims, citizens of various different sects of each. Mormonism was long ago outlawed in the IAE (although it persists in Mexican territories), but nearly every other denomination has some presence here in the capital city.
What will happen to these people, once they are poisoned? This city is so arrogant in its belief that God has chosen it, so lax in its security. I was expecting far more resistance.
Elronde suggested that the facilities are guarded, based on his surveillance, but almost passively so. Some problems are expected, but according to Elronde, these facilities are, up to the location of the purifiers themselves, unguarded, and have been infiltrated multiple times by his own agents in the process of stocking the LSD supplies for the operation inside. They have yet to be detected.
If divine providence does exist, then Allah must want New Mecca broken, and He must want me to do it.
A young woman looks at me, her eyes heavily made-up. She seems to find me strange as she walks past, but not strange enough to stare. My military fatigues are gone. I have been outfitted and groomed to the latest fashion, as all of us have, in order to fit in more appropriately amongst the citizens, so as not to arouse unnecessary suspicion.
I pass a family, who regards me not at all, then a young man who glances only momentarily. I pick up the pace, heading to the facility. I don’t know what I’ll do once I dump the drug. I don’t suspect I’ll actually go around, checking on everyone’s work... I have a feeling that after I’ve poisoned that purifier, I’ll have very little will left in me to do anything else at all.
I reach the alley, head around into a dark curve at the end, another lane, this one unobservable to the street parallel. At the end, a sewer lid, just as Elronde said. I reach in my pocket, grab the GPS, and head down. As I descend the ladder, I ponder the oblivious family, the curious female — all soon to be insane. Permanently changed, and radically so.
Is it remorse that I feel? Guilt? Those emotions are so alien to me, I cannot believe that they are mine. But something strange and inexplicable is happening. That I might fear my impending end occurs to me once more, and the thought is, typically, brushed aside.
The GPS takes me to my destination, a vent, unscrewed, leading into a storage room inside of this purification facility — named officially: Hydro B1. I push it aside, it clatters to the floor out of my grasp, dropping down into the room with a loud, metallic crash.
I freeze for a moment, expecting footsteps to come running or shouts to erupt. There are none. Slowly, I climb down into the room, and then turn to face my bounty — what Elronde’s selected couriers have been slowly bringing in here night after night for months on end.
Sixty gallons of liquid chaos.
I’m grinning like a fascist. My eyes gaze around the room, lit by a small fluorescent light in the center of the ceiling which occasionally flickers. The containers are ovular, although flat on bottom, and unscrew about two-thirds of the way up. There are twenty of them total. It should take me no more than fifteen minutes to dump them all. With the end so close to realization, my heart beats impossibly faster.
I praise the arrogance of these religious idiots to believe themselves safe from my Shaitanic jihad against them. Las Vegas taught them nothing. The other cities I have dusted contained no lessons for these cretins. I had expected so much more, but Allah has opened the path up for me directly, repulsed by His own offspring and wanting them exterminated.
Still grinning, I remove the cap from one of the three gallon containers. Inside floats what looks to me something very similar to water, although slightly off in color, seeming vaguely more yellowed. For a moment I think I see a rainbow in it, dispersing over my own reflection. The impulse seizes me to feel the consistency of the liquid, not caring for what it does to me, letting my desire make the risk of such a thing irrelevant.
My finger enters first. It feels cold. Like ice water. My hand is next, up to the wrist. And then, without warning, I’m drowning in it.
Copyright © 2011 by Michael C. Thompson