Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Friday, August 19, 2011

Staring Down Death

Fen Do Ping of Bo-Oz (Booz Allen Hamilton's edgy and secretive consulting arm) was running through his Angolan slide show for the staff of International Development Machine. "Here's graduation day at the midget academy," he said, as the staff saw a photo of three little people in caps, gowns, and AK47 holsters--nobody smiling for the camera. "Here's the day the flour sacks fell off the delivery truck," he said, as the staff saw a dozen photos of Angolans covered in white powder swarming all over the dropped sacks, then hauling them off on bicycles, motorcycles, cars, or on foot. "Here's a man who jumped off a bridge to avoid police capture, impaled himself on the spiked fence below, and lost his head," he said, as all the women and several of the men in the room stifled their gag reflexes. "Here's an unearthed grave of half-burned corpses from the civil war--they were found when an oil services company was asked to clean up a site contaminated with petroleum." This was too much for three women, who left the conference room at this point, and IDM president Augustus Bush shook his head at their weakness. "And here's a video of a crazy man on top of a train," Ping said, and several people exhaled, believing he was concluding the slide show with something humorous to lift their spirits--until a gunshot rang out and the crazy man abruptly fell down. "At first I thought somebody had shot him, but then I figured out he had accidentally shot himself." Liv Cigemeier felt like she was in a bad dream--nothing can be real. "What do these all have in common?" Ping asked, as he ended the slide show with a map of Angola illustrated with offshore oil well symbols. "These people stared death and destruction in the face through 25 years of civil war, and all they care about now is survival." Augustus Bush nodded and looked around the room to see if his staff was getting it. "They have gobs of oil, no Islamic terrorists, and millions of people that need jobs and housing. Where's the oil money going?" He passed around a dossier full of bios on the government oil oligarchs responsible for siphoning off most of the oil profits in Angola. "Does everybody know what's going on? Yes. Does anybody care? Yes, but nobody of consequence." He passed around copies of a report on how much money Goldman Sachs had made after just a year of financing Cobalt's venture into Angola.

"And how can International Development Machine fit into this picture?" asked Augustus Bush, who could not understand why it was so hard for this Chinaman to get to the point.

"All you need is one Angolan who has put away enough money for himself and is now craving power. Touching the President is out of the question, but there are other ways to gain power." He started a new slide show about Francisco Alexandre Miguel Soares da Costa. "Reputedly worth twenty billion dollars, recently divorced, spending most of his time in Portugual and France, rumored to be anxious about his failing relationship with his grown daughters--[Ping noticed Bush stifling a yawn]--ripe for the picking." ("Picking?" somebody asked.) "We're gonna make him a star: 'Casas da Costa', a new city built from scratch north of Luanda, low-income housing designed and built under the direction of International Development Machine, with patronage from the likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, and Mandy Moore." ("They'll be involved in this project?") "No, but those are the prototypes--we'll find people like them. Francisco will start building up his international reputation, his daughters will organize the grateful residents, Casas da Costa will serve as Francisco's political base, and International Development Machine will be on the ground floor of the operation that could eventually lift this man to the top of the Saudi Arabia of West Africa."

"So the low-income people will get housing?" asked Momzilla, and Ping nodded emphatically. "That's wonderful!" she said, smiling broadly at her boss and pushing the ugly death images out of her mind.

Bush singled out Momzilla and three other people to stay behind (the only ones who had gotten through the presentation without grimacing, frowning, or giving Ping dirty looks) and released the others. Liv Cigemeier felt a little queasy as she walked back to her desk and phoned her husband to tell him about the ghastly presentation.

A few miles to the east, Rani saw the approach of Angela de la Paz and ran over to greet her. Angela smiled and petted the donkey, who ignored the ghastly aura emanating from the girl and nuzzled her as affectionately as ever. Dr. Devi Rajatala put down her bark sampling kit, and the National Arboretum scientist also walked over to greet the girl. "What a long time it has been!" exclaimed Dr. Raj, and Angela smiled sadly, unsure what to say. "Come! Come! I have raspberry tea." She pulled Angela over to the grove she was examining and handed Angela the unopened and only bottle of raspberry tea she had.

Angela took a few sips, then pulled out a package from her backpack. "I have something for you, too," Angela said, and handed Dr. Raj a wooden tree carving. "It's tipa wood, carved into a tipa tree." Dr. Raj ran her fingers over the fine workmanship. "It's from Argentina--I took a vacation there." Dr. Raj knew that tipa was from Argentina, but she had a lot of other questions on her mind. "And this is for you, too," Angela said, and she handed Dr. Raj a jewelry box full of loose diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. "I thought you could design your own jewelry...or...whatever." (Angela wanted to pay Dr. Raj back for all she had done for Angela and Angela's mother, but she couldn't just hand a pile of cold cash to somebody like Dr. Raj.) "Don't ask where they came from--they're not all from the same place. I've been all over the Middle East, and Africa, and Asia, and then South America." Angela looked around in amazement at this small man-made forest world that used to seem so immense and wild to her. "I missed you," Angela said, and this was true, so Dr. Raj pulled her tight and held her for a few minutes."

"I can see the pink warblers now, Angela!" Dr. Raj said, and she pointed to a nearby tree branch. Angela saw it, too, but the bird was silent and confused.

Back downtown, Liv Cigemeier's husband finished their phone conversation and turned back to his pile of papers. He worked his ass off as a partner at Prince and Prowling, in large part so that his wife could work for peanuts at a nonprofit, and he was tired of her increasing complaints about what was going on there. If it was so bad, why didn't she just quit? ("Where would I go?") He dropped his pen at the unexpected sound of her imagined voice inside his head and realized there might be no place else for her to go. "Shitty world." He picked up a half-eaten muffin and hurled it vehemently into his trash can, thinking about the contracts he had written for Goldman Sachs and the Cobalt venture in Angola--which he could not mention to his own wife. "Because I'm not supposed to or because I don't want to?" he whispered to himself. He thought about all the crazy little schemes they had talked about starting--the Sleepbox franchise, the House of Pies, the gerbil wheel commuter train, the helping animals training academy, the boat-to-the-beach service--and wondered why they were still doing the things they did.

Several miles to the north, the Warrior was also contemplating why he was still doing the things he did. He had seen 400 years come and go, and did not know the reason for most of the things he had seen and done, nor why he was still alive. He sat crossed-legged on an austere grassy lawn and stared at the ghosts circling restlessly in the sky above Walter Reed Medical Center. Some of them had been there for decades; a few, for a hundred years. The Shackled had arrived to counsel these lost souls on the benefits of letting go, forgiving and forgetting, moving into the light, but angry ghosts do not make good listeners. He looked up with no surprise at the arrival of Angela de la Paz, who sat down silently beside him. "They are closing this hospital down," he said. "It served many warriors...and many more who were never meant to be warriors." Angela nodded, and he knew that she now knew what it meant to be a warrior. "Sometimes they failed." She nodded again. "You are weary from fighting many battles," he said.

"Eeteebsse fought most of them," she said, pulling a small package out of her backpack. "I brought you something," she said, and handed him a tribal knife from Tajikstan. "It's a new knife--never used before."

He thanked her and examined the intricate workmanship. He could see it was sharp, but he tested it on a blade of grass anyway. "How long were you with Eeteebsse?"

She remembered the day she had ripped Eeteebsse out of the womb of Ardua of the Potomac like it was yesterday. "Until two weeks ago," she said. "I used him to kill a lot of evil people." She was silent for a couple of minutes, but the Warrior made no reply. "Then he got too large and too hard to control. I buried him in the Himalayas. I thought about killing him, but maybe somebody else can figure out how to control him. He won't grow while he's frozen."

The Warrior shook his head. "You can't fight evil with evil," he said. He had repeated the lesson at least a thousand times during his lifetime, but its simplicity belied its veracity, and so it was rarely heeded.

"You do," she said.

"That's what you think I do?" he said.

"You kill," she said.

"I defend," he answered.

"That's just semantics!" she said.

"And that's just something you do not understand yet, young one," he answered, and she bristled. "Yes, you are still a young one! Do you think killing has made you grow up? When you grow into what somebody else wants you to be, that is not growing up."

"Well, I saved a lot of lives--a lot of helpless women!"

The Warrior put his arm around her and pulled her head to his head. "That is why I am proud of you."

Several miles to the south, Glenn Michael Beckmann departed his apartment at Southwest Plaza, the whisperings of the real estate demon fresh in his mind: "I'm proud of you, Glenn! I'm proud of you, Glenn!" He broke out into a sweat in the hot, humid air, and walked with brisk irritation to the Waterfront Metro station. A young couple with a baby in a stroller were blocking the entire escalator, preventing him from walking down. He stood motionless for a moment as they prattled on about making baby food from their organic garden, then he reached out with both hands to shove them all out of his way. He watched in satisfaction as the screaming couple and stroller bounced helplessly down the escalator, then he walked briskly down the escalator stairs. He stepped over the family at the bottom and hurried to the train platform, eager to get on with his day.

****************
NEXT WEEK: Glenn Michael Beckmann versus tarsandsaction.org.

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