Wednesday, December 15, 2004

 

The Walls Have Mice

The brains splattered on the tiled wall behind where Lebedev had been standing.

The bits of gray matter quivered there for a minute and then slid down the slick surface. As they piled up on the floor, a series of mice, cartoon mice drawn like Mickey and Minnie, carefully picked up the bits and put them in very small jars.

The hauled the remains of Lebedev’s brains to their mousehole and then through the mousehole into Disney World.

The Flying W has no idea that these mice even exist. He also doesn’t know that the mousehole is actually a wormhole that always leads back to Disney World. The mousehole closes behind them with a soft sizzle and a pop.

The mice have now reached the nerve center of Disney World, the server that keeps everything running—animatronics, rides, music, you name it. They dump the lumps of brain into a portal on the server racks and they are immediately slurped up. A few seconds later, there is a contented “burp” from the machinery.

Goooood, a voice hisses. Very gooooood. Go get more. And see to it that you don’t wake up Mullah Billdoug.

The little rodents adjust their pants and ribbons, and go back the way they came, whistling a tune from Snow White.

This time the mousehole-wormhole deposits them in Ambassador Negroponte's office.


 

Water, Wick Warns

Wick the Boot doesn't wear boots. It's a funny thing: he doesn't touch the ground. Hasn't in years. It's a kind of little superstition with him. If he touches the ground, he dies. Not really. He knows it isn't true, like the little boy who knows that stepping on a crack won't break his mother's back, but avoids stepping on cracks anyway. It's a kind of just-for-good-measure measure.

He doesn't touch clean floors either. Any flat earth-like surface. He is a creature of the air. He flies wherever he goes, except across the room: then he's carried by Chechen slaves. They airlift him to the toilet, hold up his feet while he shits and doesn't stink. Here in his Moscow lair, Wick the Boot aka Wikvaya Boutte aka Widad Boutros aka Viktor Bout (the name on his passport) can relax as the god W, whose shit doesn't stink.

It's no coincidence that his cover identity in the earth-bound world is air charter service owner. Even on earth he is above the earth. He runs a network of cargo planes flying sensitive goods around the globe. Weapons and drugs, mostly. Drugs to get you high, weapons to blow you sky high. It pleases him to airlift flying machines into a country at war, spy planes, helicopter gunships. But he has also flown flowers and exotic fish.

These days, in Iraq, it's water. Bottled water. The American troops drink a lot of water, and won't touch the local stuff, which is brown and full of parasites. They were bringing the water in on trucks, at first, but the insurgents took so many trucks out with IEDs--improvised explosive devices, which Wick has not yet found a way to supply--that they took to the air, hired him. He's made millions off the Americans, millions more, of course, off the Iraqi insurgents, and off the Taliban before them, but it's not about the money, for him. It's the flying. He doesn't do it himself, of course. But he loves the mental image of his sixty planes in the air, circumnavigating the globe.

A slave brings one of his generals in, Vitya. Viktor Lebedev, whose last name means "swan." All his generals have v or w first names and flight-related surnames. Not that swans ever fly--a black mark against Vitya right there. Wick's had his eye on him for months, now, waiting for him to fuck up.

"We got problems, W," Vitya says.

"I pay you to handle problems," Wick says.

"And I handle this one," Vitya says. "But I want to tell you."

"Tell," Wick says.

"Bill Kaul got loose from Americans," Vitya says.

"Is impossible," Wick says. "He is jpeg. Digital image does not escape containment facility."

"Ambassador says he emails himself out of there," Vitya says. "As attachment."

"Emails himself where?" Wick says.

"We think here," Vitya says.

"Here?" Wick says, sitting up in bed. He points to his lap. "Here?"

"Not here here," Vitya says. "To dream of Doug Robinson. Ambassador fears creation of new Mullah Billdoug."

"Is impossible," Wick says. "Doug Robinson locked in dream-proof cell. No dream can get out, no jpeg can get in." He eyes Vitya suspiciously. "You checked cell, yes?"

"Absolutely, W," Vitya says. "Doug Robinson sleeps and dreams. But no dream leakage through seal. Sensors would have picked up."

"And contents of dream?"

"Whales."

"Whales?" Wick says. "Fish whales?"

"Mammals," Vitya says.

"I kill you," Wick says.

"Sorry, W," Vitya says.

"No Bill Kaul in dreams?"

"No whiff of Bill Kaul in dreams," Vitya says.

Then he knows. He knows how it went down. Computer hackers. Someone has been feeding his system disinformation, to lull him into a false sense of security. There is no whale! What there is is a new Mullah Billdoug, or possibly Dougbill, which, as his mother told him back when he was but a godling, is twice as dangerous.

He gropes under his pillow for his gun, pulls it out and shoots Vitya. The gun doesn't fire. He pulls the trigger again: click.

"Why this gun doesn't fire?" he says impatiently.

Vitya reaches a trembling hand over, undoes the safety. "May I ask why you kill me?" he says shakily.

"Because you fuck up, you swan!" Wick yells, and blows Vitya's brains out. "Slaves!"

The slaves come running.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

 

The Cult of the Flying W

Umm, sir.

What is it, Rogers? Can’t you see I’m busy trying to count this cash? Goddamit, where was I? Seven hundred and sixty-five thousand…

Sir. We have a report from the Marines about a whale vomiting up a pile of fish on the banks of the river right outside the compound.

That’s in Doug’s dream. Ignore it.

Are you sure? The Marines say that the fish really stink.

If you’ll check the Daily Intelligence Briefings for once, dipshit, you’ll see that the DIA predicted a whale vomiting up fish in Doug’s dream. And Bill is safely trapped in our jpeg containment facility. Of course they’re both in each other’s bodies. Do I have to explain everything? Now help me with this cash.

The cash isn’t part of Doug’s dream is it, sir?

Don’t be stupid.

So after the whale barfs up the fish, what?

Doug wakes up. At least he thinks he does. He sees Stalin in his bathroom. Then the flying W swoops down through the open bathroom window and locks Doug’s head in its talons, and flies off. Doug is dangling under the flying W, kicking, yelling and holding the sides of his head as blood streams down his—Bill’s—face.

To what purpose?

The flying W does what it will. It’ll probably take him to a W rally and tear him into little glittering pixels in front of an adoring crowd while everyone gives the W salute. I don’t know. What I do know is, we gotta get this cash into a nice Swiss account by tomorrow. Now help me out.

Someone’s at the door, sir.

Well, see who it is and get rid of them.

I want to see Ambassador Negroponte.

He’s busy.

Yeah, sure. Well, tell him that Bill has escaped from the jpeg containment facility.

What’s that? Escaped?

Yessir. Escaped. He apparently wormed into our server and emailed himself to Doug’s dream.

I thought Doug was awake now.

Doesn’t really matter, since the line between dream and reality in this blog is so thin. If he did email himself to Doug’s waking dream, that will fuse their minds and bodies into one.

Two in one? My god, the thing will easily weigh 4-500 pounds! And won’t that fusion create another Mullah Billdoug?

We really don’t know what might happen, especially with the two of them dangling under that W.

Rogers, take care of the cash. We’re gonna need it. Gleason, make sure someone’s tracking that W.


 

Getting Down With Joe

I think I've been dreaming, which is strange, because I don't usually fall asleep at the computer. I was dreaming I was in the belly of Jonah's whale, of all places. Jonah was there too. And he had--a laptop, I think. He was blogging from the belly of the whale. And somehow there was a yellow cab in the whale's belly with us, and Doug was there, or I was Doug, or something. And I think I sat down on the packing crate Jonah had left his laptop on, lifted the computer onto my knees, and typed in http://warincontext.org/, and suddenly--I wake up here at my computer, at home in New Mexico. And I can hear my wife Svetlana in the bathroom next door, singing some Russian song in her weird little offkey voice.

No, wait--my wife is Susan, and she should be back home in Oxford, Mississippi. Or could she be at work? Then who is that woman singing offkey in Russian?

I get up, tiptoe to the door. For some reason I'm trembling like a son of a bitch. What am I afraid of?

I peer around into the bathroom. Imagine my surprise when the woman standing there in her bra and panties, splashing warm water on her underarms and singing that strange little melody in Russian, is Joseph Stalin.

He turns and sees me, and my blood runs cold. I have time to notice that the swells of his breasts above the Lycra look real. Hormonal treatment? Then he cocks his ear, holds up one hand, and as the screaming of the missile penetrates my mortal hearing too he yells something in Georgian-accented Russian that sounds like "GET DOWN!"


Monday, December 13, 2004

 

Blog Barf on the Euphrates

There’s no point in continuing this charade.

What do you mean, continuing the charade? There’s no charade here.

Oh, knock it off. You’re not Jonah. You’re Rumsfeld in a Jonah suit. I can buy these suits down at the Identities Shop for $50 any day of the week. Bill, you believe this mofo? Trying to make us think he’s Jonah. Wants to “take us to Iraq.” Like we’d fall for that one. Bill? OK, you shitbag. Where’s Bill? Where’s the car?

I really don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m Jonah, this is my whale, and you came here alone. Sucked in with a few tons of krill and small fish.

Bullshit. I know how I came, and who I came with. You did something.

Perhaps that gentleman over there can help you. I really must get back to blogging about the deplorable condition of these herring I’m getting from the Midwest. Nasty limp little things. Couldn’t cut down a tree with them if you tried.

I looked at the direction he pointed to for the “gentleman.” I of course recognized him right away. It was Doug, stuck in some sort of Power Point slide about oil profits.

What? No, I’m Doug. That must be Bill.

No, it’s Doug, all right. I’d recognize that low criminal forehead anywhere.

Hold on. That’s no way to talk about myself. Myself? Shit.

Hey, Jonah. You got a mirror?

I usually just use that big fish scale over there.

Holy shit—that’s Bill’s face in there, not mine. But still. Where’s he? And where’s my face?

They’re in Baghdad.

Baghdad? Iraq?

No, Bagdad, Arizona. Dipshit. Of course Iraq. The Big Guy’s trying to keep this low profile. And you two almost fucked it up. That image over there is just for reference.

The Big Guy? Lincoln?

No, not Lincoln. God, you fuckers are dense. The Big Guy—Eugene V. Debs.

What! Debs? But Jonah said…

Jonah is a senile old video clip left over from a children’s Bible series created by James Dobson twenty years ago. How he got into this blog I have no idea. He doesn’t know shit from whist, strictly runs the herring department and smokes virtual joints. Debs is stuck in Baghdad, in a blog run by one Dasir Al-Hadris, probably a pseudonym. You’re going to get him out. Doug is already there, only he looks like Bill. You, obviously, are here. Only Billdoug’s image is there.

I think I get it. Debs, huh? What’s the angle?

Dougbill is working on driving the blog into Al-Hadris’ computer disguised as an order of pickled herring. We’re going to slip you into his email files. Your job is simple: get Debs out, so he can finish organizing the mullahs, put the means of oil production in the hands of the workers.

A Wobblie in charge of the oil?

No, braniac. Debs was this close to organizing all the mullahs into a collective—The All Merciful One Oil and Gas Company, Inc. Then they were going to declare a socialist Islamic state. Then Debs melts into the IWW’s screensaver.

A socialist Islamic state? How’s that gonna work?

It’ll work just fine. Of course, Rumsfeld and Negroponte are doing everything in their power to see this doesn’t happen.

You mean real power or virtual power?

There’s no difference. The blogs are all fundamentalist. Everything that they publish is God’s word.

The bullets and bombs—?

Will kill you deader than shit. Keep your head—well, Bill’s head—down. Now, ready? I’m going to turn you into a shipment of herring and the whale is going to barf you up on the beach of the Euphrates.

Ummm, yeah. I guess.

Oh, one final thing.

Yeah?

Watch out for Stalin and his goon, some guy named W. They're around the fringes somewhere. You do understand that this plot is extremely unstable. Things change, viruses get into the subplots and disintegrate the main plot, climaxes become troughs, the bits of virus dissolve characters and points of view, settings become so indirectly drawn that they could be taking place anywhere or nowhere...

Yeah, I know that. Shit, I've been writing this blog for months now. W, you say? Bush?

No. Not him. Some other W, who controls robotic goats from the future or something. The intelligence is vague. We got it from Kerik. Now, let's go.


 

Dear Mullah Billdoug

I must take exception to your casual slur on the many upstanding members of my species in your post yesterday. If you mean to imply that all red herrings are somehow involved in misdirection and deceit, why, you've got a lot to learn, is all's I've got to say about that.

Sure, we've had our share of bottom-feeders. Old Red Joe had his fling with communism, back in the forties. But so what? It was a common enough heresy, back then, before we knew about Stalin and the labor camps. Boo-Red got into that spot of trouble with a guppy, a glow-worm, and a bottle of mercurochrome. His wife never forgave him for that, but their marital troubles should be of no concern to your readers! And I'm here to tell you that the "scandal" everybody was talking about a few years ago involving me and an emperor plecostomus was blown way out of proportion by the media. He and I are just good friends. There was never anything "funny" between us. We have too much respect for each other, and ourselves, to get involved in anything dirty and disgusting like what the papers were reporting.

But none of this has the slightest bearing on the fact that herrings of all shapes, sizes, and colors are good red-state citizens and loyal bug-loving Republicans. We are not deceivers. We are not liars. We are not blogless communists helping you and your kind escape from the Wrath of Blog. All my relatives and I, and lots of other good red-state mackerels, tunas, and sprats as well, will thank you to keep us out of your liberal blue-state machinations from here on out.

Sincerely,
Red Herring


Sunday, December 12, 2004

 

Beyond the Sea

"So, uh, Jonah," I say. "Tell me: where are we going?"

"What do you mean, 'going'?" Jonah says vaguely.

"What do you mean, 'what do you mean'?" I say. "I mean, where are we going?"

"We're not 'going' anywhere," Jonah says, as if to a precocious but overimaginative 13-year-old. "This is a virtual whale. Get it? It doesn't exist in clock-time or yardstick-space. There's no 'where' to go to."

"Uh huh," I say. "Sure."

"What?" Jonah says. But his tone is off. There's something he's not telling us.

"Do you guys still need me?" Bill says. "Cause, you know, I've got some emails to--"

"Go," I say, rolling my eyes. Bill goes. Jonah and I both watch him waddle back to the blog.

"Nice guy," Jonah says. He despises Bill. I can tell.

"We're going to Iraq, aren't we?" I say.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Jonah says, busying himself with his laptop.

"Oh yes you do," I say. "You know exactly what I'm talking about. You're hiding in that laptop so I won't see your complicity in this whole red-herring Iraq War in your eyes, you big faker."

"You're crazy," Jonah says suddenly, glaring up at me with a strange mix of fear and resentment. "Who sent you here? What are you trying to do to us?"

"'Us'?" I say.

"Abraham Lincoln sent you, didn't he? I knew that old quack couldn't stay out of world politics for more than a month at a time."

"Abraham Lincoln," I say stiffly, my voice sounding pompous even in my own ears, "is a great man, and I had the tremendous honor of serving him in the White House this time around. But I haven't spoken--"

"Spare me the histrionics," he sneers. "You fish-lovers make me puke. Where is he? Is he in the trunk?"

"I don't," I start, but Jonah is already in motion. He grabs some sort of prybar from the debris and takes it over to the blog, pops open the trunk.

"See?" I say. "Nothing."

"Oh ho ho," he says, reaching far into a back corner and pulling out a piece of paper. "Looky what we have here."

I come over to see what he's found. "So?" I say. "It's a movie poster. Big deal."

"It's a movie poster for Beyond the Sea," Jonah says significantly. "Now do you want to tell me who sent you?"

He holds out the poster. For a moment I think he's handing it to me, but his arm is out at an angle away from me. Then, out of nowhere, thousands of cockroaches swarm up his legs and torso, flood out his arm, grab the poster, and make off with it, clicking and chittering.