Authors: Jamie Marks
The room filled with the grumbles and growls of the believers, as they shook their fists in support of what Daud was saying, and they were offering salutations of Allah Akbar.
”All this will change and we will win,” he said, as a literal, sickly smile spread across his face. “And this is how we’ll do it!”
Daud upturned his carryon bag, spilling twelve bottles of cologne onto the table.
“All the infidel has to do is touch it or smell it and an unholy death will come to them,” Daud said as he looked about the group.
Samir, a young American born Arab of Jordanian descent, and new to the cell, gawked at the spilled cologne bottles and then back toward Daud, as a growing look of horror began spreading across his face. “Are you wearing it now?” Samir asked.
Daud, now seated, leaned back into his chair and answered, “Yes.”
“I support the cell, but what if I do not wish death or infection. I wish to help, but…” Samir said.
“Samir, you’ve been blessed with martyrdom since I entered the room. However, if this is what you wish, I can save you from becoming ill --- Awad!”
A bullet raced through Samir’s throat, causing him to fall to the ground in a crumpled heap.
Blood began to bubble outwards through the small hole in Samir’s throat. His every breath was a desperate gasp for air until another shot to the head spilled a circular pool of deep red blood. Awad replaced his gun back into his belt, and then covered it with his shirt.
“For longer than a generation, it has been cowards such as Samir who have held us back my brothers,” Daud said. “By tomorrow, thousands will suffer infection, and by the next day millions more across the globe will greet their death because of martyr cells such as ours. We may not see the end, brothers, but we will know it was us with the blessings of Allah that made it happen, God willing.”
Within hours of the cell dispersing, Daud started to become seriously ill --- he felt nauseous and hot, his temperature begun to skyrocket without any signs of it slowing, and his chest wheezed with excess phlegm and bile.
Daud would be Undead by morning, well before the predicted thirty-six hours.
Viruses have their own schedule, outside of the divine.
CLAYTON COUNTY GEORGIA
Forest Park was at the centre of the fastest-growing county in Georgia, Clayton County. Since the recent announcement of the closure of Fort Gillem, the local military base and a satellite of Fort McPherson; the small town of twenty-five thousand found itself at the sharp end of a short-term financial calamity.
Forest Park relied heavily on Fort Gillem’s lucrative government contracts since the base first opened its gates in 1941. However, now Fort Gillem was working through the long process of being cleaned and cleared of any dangerous materials, before the gates shut for the very last time in the coming months.
As devastating as the loss of the base was, there were some benefits on the horizon. Washington gifted thousands of acres of prime land to the Forest Park local Government for extensive land redevelopment, which opened the door to many opportunities. With construction jobs being created and small business’s beginning to feel confident once more after the slowdown on Main Street, due to the recession on Wall Street --- the town was feeling positive again.
Brand-new housing developments were in the planning stages, and a modern shopping precinct was in the pipeline. Many of the towns that had only dreamed of projects, could now see those dreams become a reality.
Forest Park’s civic leaders had always spoken of small-town country living, but within a stone throw of Atlanta, a city life with the security and the sense of community of the country. It was a slogan that appealed and one that was becoming true.
Steve stood about six feet tall with a straight back and was slightly overweight. Slightly, being his word.
Professionally, Steve struggled to keep his head above water, not because he was a failure, but more so a dreamer. If a man could make legal tender based purely on dreams, he would’ve been considered one of the richest men in any town. Unfortunately, another of Steve’s attempts at running a contracting business had failed once again, and the global financial crash did nothing to ease his and Kathy’s budgetary pains.
The recent failure of Steve’s business prompted his wife Kathy, to crusade extra hard for their move home to Georgia. She’d always been a Georgia girl at heart. Her remaining family, her sister Amanda, and her children, lived a short drive from Forest Park, a few miles down the road in Macon.
At first, Steve wasn’t particularly interested in packing up and moving halfway across the country, but given time and some dogged persistent nagging, he eventually folded in the direction Kathy desired. In his heart, he knew he was ready for a new beginning. They both were. Anyhow, Georgia was home.
Steve began to reverse the Dodge Ram from his driveway, but then paused for a moment, leaving the truck to idle. He reached out and stroked Kathy’s hand as they stared at their new home, complete with a white picket fence and a large oak tree, which stood in their front yard; one day, they both thought, the oak tree would make the perfect place to hitch up a tyre swing. Not far from their new home was Kathy’s school, Hendrix Elementary, where she would teach. Whilst Steve’s new job was only a few minutes’ drive away at the local hardware store --- a job Kathy had found for him on the internet.
“I know we could both stare at the house all day, but maybe we should get going,” Steve said as he had begun to reverse again. “Any ideas on a destination?”
“I don’t care where we go, but can we eat soon? I’m starving.”
“I don’t think I have ever said no to food, but as much as I am going to regret asking this, honey, would you like to visit your sister before we both begin our new jobs? You know, once we start, we won’t have a great deal of free time, even with your sister living so close by nowadays.”
Kathy’s sister, Amanda, lived in Macon with her husband Craig and their three children Tarin, Sophie and David; all three of them were monsters in the Japanese tradition.
Steve wasn’t particularly fond of Amanda or her husband Craig.
“I don’t think so, honey, it maybe a little too soon...” Kathy said, and continued speaking in reference to when Steve and Kathy hosted a small family barbecue shortly after they had moved to Forest Park. The beers and wine flowed easily, and for once, the kids were relatively quiet, but with Steve being a painfully honest type of guy when he was drunk, the night suddenly took a dramatic turn for the worse and ended in tears.
Steve had little recollection of what had happened that night, but he did remember Craig telling him to go and fuck himself and the horse he rode in on. Steve then replied exuberantly, “That it was a fine horse and Craig wasn’t fit to kiss its ass.”
The next day Steve woke up on the living room floor with a sore jaw and an angry wife.
“How about we have a picnic in the park instead?” suggested Steve.
“Sounds great,” Kathy said, as they leisurely cruised by the gates of Fort Gillem.
As Steve and Kathy drove by Fort Gillem, an army-green Humvee came to a stop at the front of the gates. Its driver removed his cap and wiped his brow --- it was warm out.
The driver was Captain Louis Tyler of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the man responsible for the removal of any remaining ordnance from the grounds and the surrounding acres that encompassed Fort Gillem.
Tyler joined the military at the age of eighteen; he was a tall, lanky, southern boy who had a history of misbehavior, and a love for poor science fiction and B-grade horror movies.
Tyler’s first assignment after joining the USACE, was during the crisis in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had destroyed the old jazz town. Tyler was one of many set to work rebuilding New Orleans’ smashed levees. Then after New Orleans, Tyler completed two tours in Iraq.
In Iraq, Tyler’s assignment was to restore power and water services to a small hamlet just outside of Baghdad, but in reality, being in country saw him spending much of his time bribing officials, and setting up hidden cameras to detect insurgents attempting to plant IEDs.
The days were long and it was tough and thankless work, with little reward. What advances his team had made were normally short-lived, either because of the insurgency, or because of cost. At best, Tyler could only manage to achieve a restricted power supply for a few hours of the day, while water services ran at a trickle.
His time in Iraq was disheartening. He found the people either resentful or at best eerily over-friendly. Tyler found it difficult to trust anyone who was not American, and it was in-country where he saw another view of life, one that saw human beings as cheap and expendable.
When he boarded the transport to leave for home, Tyler had the feeling that his being in Iraq had made very little difference to the local people and surrounding tribesmen. His only achievement was in keeping his own men alive, and that was the most any leader in such a conflict could be asked to do.
THE ODD COUPLE
Susan Shaw, a stunning, intelligent and extremely ambitious reporter with a sharp tongue, that was rarely holstered, was waiting at an intersection on Scott Boulevard, directly next to Hendrix Elementary. However, time can move slowly while waiting for traffic signals to change, and even slower for someone like Susan.
Finally, to her relief, the light turned to green, and Charlie, Susan’s cameraman and driver, slipped the truck into first and raced away.
Both Susan and Charlie worked at Channel Five, Atlanta, otherwise known as Fox-5. Fox-5 was in a major tussle with its main contender CNN. The rivalry between the two opposing networks was becoming close to unmanageable for local producers. No story was too small; no rock was left unturned, or phone untapped.
Both networks, realizing that local audiences liked to hear the name of their hometown in news bulletins, provided it wasn’t due to a hurricane or a college shooting, were in constant competition with each other, and with their own audiences. Each were armed with I-phones --- searching for the next quirky story to fill the thirty-second gap after the weather report, and would alternatively, post on YouTube.
Charlie didn’t mind driving the extra miles in his brand-new Wolfpac; a news truck which was a studio on wheels, capable of broadcasting world-wide.
Charlie, in his spare time, preferred online gaming to the difficulties of offline relationships. It wasn’t that Charlie didn’t like real flesh and blood women. It was more a case that they were not interested in him. He didn’t know how to approach women and struggled to read their signals; apart from the obvious ones, they were like an enigma to him, confusing and nigh impossible to crack. He wanted a relationship. He just didn’t know how to go about getting into one. He certainly liked Susan --- she was his kind of woman --- but someone like her was definitely out of his league. The way things were headed, he’d considered himself lucky if he ended up with a female version of himself, another loser, for a loser.
He didn’t need a relationship with another loser. He wanted someone like Susan, but she despised men like Charlie. She hated his constant sweating and his compulsive overeating. She especially hated how he left greasy fingerprints everywhere --- God! You’re a fucking pig! She’d scream at him.
He was dead scared of her.
Susan was beautiful and vivacious with a killer body, and Carl Sagan smart. Even so, Carl Sagan didn’t have lips like hers. Thick, voluptuous, ruby-red lips that made her look even hotter than Lara Croft, Charlie often thought.
He felt like a lovesick puppy around Susan. He would suck in his gut and try not to lose his breath any time he would do anything that was even remotely physical, but he was too fat and too geeky for someone like her.
Charlie looked Susan up and down once more from the corner of his eye as he drove.
“Charlie, you do that one more time and I’ll knock you into the middle of next week,” Susan said. She wasn’t annoyed with Charlie exactly; she just enjoyed making his life hell. Susan found it fun, and was well aware one of her talents lay in dispensing cruelty.
“Sorry,” he said, while he kept his eyes on the road.
He hated that loathing look she would give him, that I despise you, you fat fuck look she did so well.
“I know you think it’s all fun and games driving around in your new toy truck, Charlie, but I don’t see it as fun, not when that bitch Tanya gets to go global behind the anchors’ desk with live crosses to London about some A-rab asshole.” Tanya was Susan’s closest rival at Fox-5, and considered by Susan’s detractors to be just as gorgeous and intelligent, but definitely much less bitchier than she was, and more willing to put her leg over. “She’s going global, and I’m going fucking where? I don’t have time for this shit. I never get the chances I deserve, I certainly don’t get the breaks she gets,” she said as a little vein at her temple begun to pulse, as it occasionally did. “It’s just not fair. I deserve more than this.” Susan folded her arms and pouted.
Charlie hated to see her upset. He wanted to say something to make her feel better, but he couldn’t think of what, if anything, he could say that would. He never could.
Slowing again for another light change, he glanced over at a C-Trans Bus. Two teenagers jumped from the buses open doors and darted across the road, ignoring the oncoming traffic. An elderly woman wearing a broad straw hat, struggled to get down the same steps as she exited the bus.
As Charlie continued trying to help Susan feel better, he saw a young Arab man reach out and gently clutch the old woman by her elbow, and help steady her as she struggled with the steps.
The old woman smiled at the young man, while still clutching her bag tightly to her chest.
I wonder what Bill O’Reilly would think of that, Charlie thought. Not every Arab was a terrorist.