Sunday, 30 April 2017

Mogadishu in the Sky

[Media prompt] An outbreak of measles is sweeping through a community of Somali refugees in Minnesota and the growing number of cases may be starting to test the limits of the Hennepin County healthcare system.
Mogadishu in the Sky

Jack Dawson had been sitting alone in an armoured vehicle since the sun went down. He was keeping an eye on the entrance to Riverside Plaza, and for the last hour a group of five teenagers who had materialised out of nowhere. He was not going to be a happy man if he had to get out in the rain to kill one of them. It was bad enough that he was out here at Mogadishu in the Sky at three o’clock on a winter’s morning, without a bunch of deracinated Somalians deciding to reclaim their cultural heritage by ethnically cleansing an old white guy. The brass could go to hell. If they wanted to lose the war on the streets, then they could come out here and shoot invaders themselves.

One of the girls had tucked a phone under her hijab, Somali Bluetooth style, and was talking loud enough for him to hear. They were like dogs pissing on fire hydrants, he thought; just not as smart or loyal. He wasn’t worried, though. Second-gen Somalians with balls were thinner on the ground than the ones with gratitude for being resettled.

There was a click in his earpiece, and he looked at the blue screen. He ignored the heat maps of the teens in the corner, and watched a purple haze emerge from one of the lifts. It made its way towards the entrance, stopping several times. When it came through the tunnel, he zeroed in for a visual.

“Patient 243-MO,” a soft voice said into his ear. “Quarantine evasion. Objective: dissemination. Obligatory termination.”

Jack opened a gun slot, noting as he did that the number of teens in the group was now four. The tall boy in the white singlet and gold chains had slipped away.

“You want to dance, Mohammed” he said to himself, “then save the next one for me.”

He flipped off the safety, and read out the patient number so there would be a record in the system. The refugee advocates would start their usual dog and pony show over this, and it was best to do everything by the book. He looked briefly at the scanner, seeing the missing teen cutting through the carpark to get behind him. Jack sighed. 

The shot had all the excitement of target practice at the range, and as he watched the heat map fade to black, he called in the result. The girl with the Somali Bluetooth turned to look in his direction, screaming something he didn’t understand. Something he had no intention of ever understanding. He double checked her heat map, but she showed no sign of infection.

“You’re a lucky little jihadi,” he muttered.

He started the vehicle. In the scanner he saw that the teen in the singlet had manoeuvred himself between two cars. 

"You should have thought that through, tough guy."

Jack waited for a moment, considering the ramifications of making an unathorised hit, then reversed at full velocity into the car behind him, pushing it into the one behind and pinning his erstwhile assassin between bumpers. He might have to suffer some ribbing back at the office about his confusion over reverse and forward, but he could live with it. With luck, nobody would even connect him to the Somali sandwich.

The teens spat in his direction as he drove past. He laughed. If they wanted to weaponise infectious diseases, he didn’t know what else they expected. 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

M for Mohammed

[Media prompt] One of the girls … was bought by Mohammed Karrar, when she was 11 years old and befriended with gifts and drugs. He then began raping and beating her, even branding her with one of her hair pins that he twisted in the shape of the letter “M”.
M for Mohammed

Day 11,469: I woke up thinking about the chorus of my childhood; England is not what is used to be. How often did we hear that? I’ll wager more times than anyone can count. We used to laugh when we heard men in the streets shouting about the Muslim invasion. 

It is still dark, before the fajr prayer, and soon they will call me to perform wudhu. Like everyone else, I pray five times a day to the Creator. On mornings like this, I ask myself what kind of Hell has he created. But it does no good to dwell too much on this question.

As usual, they called on the girls again last night. Mohammed, whose "M" marks my skin, demanded they perform for his guests. Bassam favoured one of the new one, a blonde northerner who sang an old song that made his lip curl in .. in what? Is it lust? Anticipation? Disgust? I would not wish him on a new girl, or anyone for that matter, but his word is God’s. 

Mohammed made the rest of the girls watch as Bassam had his way with her. He does it like an animal. He made her kneel on all fours, and speared her from behind. Mohammed says to me it is a blessing, like being pierced by the Prophet himself. When Bassam finished, his enormous limp thing was dripping in blood, which brought a cheer from the men. 

I have no strength to mourn the girl's passing, but feel empty at her leaving nonetheless. Is it wrong to feel relief for the death of someone who was so young? Her chest was hardly more than a boy’s.

The girls are still asleep, or pretending to sleep. Who can know of what terrors they dream. I dare not get close enough to ask. They pass through my fingers like the air. 

Those men who used to shout in the streets are long gone, but not one of us is laughing now. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Brother, Frank by Michael Bunker

Mary Shelley would, I’m sure, approve.

Michael Bunker’s original update of the old and much abused story of men playing at God has something for everybody who has ever contemplated the interface between the human mind/soul and machines, and wondered where it all might end up. And by that, I don’t just mean a future where the (insert your own antagonist) develops androids that turn on their makers; writers and Hollywood have beaten us so often over the head with a blunt instrument on that one that we’re numb. Bunker goes way beyond that; he has provided us a future where the ethical dilemmas concerning robots, whose very being blur the line between flesh and steel, are delineated in complicated ways where right and wrong are muddied. There’s not so much story telling like this around in what passes for sci-fi these days. Instead we get obvious "I’m sorry" confessions, which scientists turn to when their creations turn nasty.

But there’s more here than ethical dilemmas and well plotted action to Brother, Frank. There’s a touching story of love and loyalty, and ultimately of redemption. There are real characters here, which tug at your heartstrings or goad you into fury. And all with a narrative that stays laser focussed. There is no showing off; the author is all business and keeps the story simple. I honestly don’t think a reader can ask for more.

On a final note, if someone in Hollywood is reading this, one of the few who doesn’t tire easily when confronted with interesting ideas, please transform Brother, Frank into a decent movie. It’s crying out for a studio with integrity and guts to do so. I’m not holding my breath, but a film based on this book would knock most sci-fi of the last ten years out of the park.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Omurice at Yoshi's

[Media prompt] Silicon Valley security robot beat up in parking lot, police say.
Omurice at Yoshi's

I was having breakfast at Yoshi’s, a hole in the wall over on Stewart that served the best omurice in the Valley, when a dispatch-bot reported a fight in progress at a shopping mall about a mile-and-a-half away. A blurred image flickered in to view, but my interface was hazy. The boys in the lab kept telling me they would fix it, but there never seemed to be enough time for old timers with first-gen flesh wiring.

I wolfed down what remained of Yoshi’s omurice, and slurped on a cup of coffee until the burn in my throat told me to lay off. Yoshi stood with his back to me, cooking an omelette on the hot plate, his punch perm a holdover from his days in the syndicate. We had been on opposite sides for a decade, but he was going straight now. Or perhaps it was a concession to old age. It was probably time for me to do the same.

“I’m outta here,” I said, flicking my hand over the chip scanner. And once more for a tip.

Yoshi grunted. It was about as close as we ever got to conversation.

An RBT was hovering at the door when I stepped outside. It flew in a long arc to line up with the gap at the fifty-first floor of the Sato building, popping out the other side at the rooftop parking lot of the S-7 shopping tower. There was lightning on the horizon, over the San Francisco skyline, and I thought of Delores and wondered if she was waiting up for me.

The grey cement rooftop looked cold, a handful of abandoned vehicles shunted to the edges forming a barrier from the wind. In the centre was the Arena, a cage really, where men duked it out with robots. The Valley had banned fights between humans and androids years ago, after the mayor’s sons was handed his head on a platter, but we mostly turned a blind eye. If idiots want to test themselves against synths with faster reflexes, no threshold for pain, and machine-learned grudges against blood sacks, then that’s their business. But someone had called it in, and at least one Valley warrior was going to spend the rest of the night staring at the fight tank pink walls of a holding cell.

The RBT banked as I sounded a warning and a couple of live rounds. By the time I stepped out into the icy wind, there was just a drunken kid facing off against a two-hundred pound meter-bot. He is face was bloodied, and his fists shredded, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed overnight.

“You’re losing against a meter-bot,” I said. “I’m tempted to let this go on until the fucking thing kills you.”

The kid hung his head in shame. At least he had the sense to know he was losing.

“But it’s your lucky day,” I said, firing a single M64 into the android’s CPU. It squealed and fell over on its side, rocking for a moment until it was still. All I could hear was the wind moaning across the rooftop.

“I got ticketed last week by one of those fuckers,” I said, holstering my side piece and hopping back into the RBT.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

What women want: The Son by Jo Nesbø

Jo Nesbø appears to understand what women want. And it’s not gamma males.

Nesbø’s titular son is Sonny Lofthus, a heroin addict who has spent half his life behind bars. After learning a life changing secret he busts out to wreak revenge on those who have wronged him. It’s not a Harry Hole story, but it is just as good, with mayhem, a flawed cop, and a cast of enticingly noxious villains. If you’re a fan of Harry, you’ll enjoy it.

Apart from all that, one of the plot lines that interested me was the romantic relationship between Sonny and Martha, a do-gooder leftist working at a government subsidised hostel for drug addicts.

Martha is engaged to her childhood sweetheart, a stolid chap who certainly has his flaws. Whatever the case, he’s not revving her engine. He’s boring. He’s easily angered.

But Sonny. Well, Sonny’s a different story. He’s ‘strangely charismatic’ according to the blurb, and when he arrives at the hostel, track marks from head to toe, on the run from the police, murdering with the frequency other people cook meals, Martha realises with a jolt that here is the man for her.

The great lie of feminism is that women want feminist males. No they don’t. Not in their hearts. They might want one to do the washing and cook lentil burgers on week nights. But there’s a cohort of women who can’t help themselves, and gravitate to men like Sonny. 

Martha is the NGO-wallah working with smugglers to bring 'refugees' into Europe, the middle class liberal at college dating a black gang banger. She's every woman who rejects the notion of the biological urge, but acts on it every. Single. Time.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

My Violence Your Suffering, an excerpt from a one-act stage play by F.D. Stephens

[Media prompt] Catholic Church condemns Croatian play featuring Jesus Christ Muslim rape scene. ... Oliver Frljic's Our Violence and Your Violence [includes scenes where] Jesus rapes a Muslim woman wearing a hijab [and] a naked actress wearing a hijab pulls out a national flag from her vagina.
Excerpt from My Violence Your Suffering, a one-act stage play by F.D. Stephens. First performed at the Paedophile Playhouse, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1 April 2017. The play opened to wide critical acclaim, although a number of conservative imams condemned the portrayal of Muhammad.  

(Cast in order of appearance)

Muhammad Prophet: Mid-thirties. A Somalian criminal king pin

Maria: Nine-years-old. A pretty white girl. Kidnapped three days ago from a Houston suburb

Asli bint Khuwaylid: Mid-forties. A Somalian prostitute, thief and drug addict. First elected Somali politician to the Iowa House of Representatives. First wife of Muhammad Prophet

Madonna Alba: Mid-twenties. An upper middle class, pussy hat wearing, womyn’s rights activist heading up Chelsea’s “I’m With It” run for 2020. One of Muhammad’s many mistresses

Muhammad is a Muslim refugee from Somalia overseeing the largest and most powerful criminal enterprise in the northeast. His business interests include illegal drugs and underage prostitution. He has recently acquired a local media outlet and is being encouraged to run for the Iowa governorship on a Democrat ticket. He is rich and influential, and his wildly excessive lifestyle attracts a multitude of women, Muslim and otherwise. His first wife, Asli bint Khuwaylid, knows her best days are behind her, and comforts herself by laying the groundwork for the implementation of Sharia Law in Iowa, in which she is supported by Madonna Alba, an actress turned activist. Madonna is working behind the scenes with Chelsea to broaden the push for Sharia nationwide. We discover that Maria, a young girl in Muhammad’s company, was recently kidnapped from outside her home in a Houston suburb.

(The action takes place in one of the staterooms of a yacht moored off the island of Mo’orea in the South Pacific. Other guests on the luxury boat include President Barry Soetoro and his transgender wife, rock legend Bruce Hopstein, actor Tom Yanks, and Queen of the daytime couch, Windy Roper. Although none of these celebrities make an appearance, their presence is noted. The stateroom is ostentatiously appointed to resemble the Oval Office in the White House, complete with portraits of President Soetoro hanging on the wall. Along one wall is a row of bookshelves, which contain books by or about the President. On the reproduction of the Resolute desk sits a thin sheaf of papers, the President’s just completed memoirs. Muhammad Prophet is dressed in black, with an abundance of gold jewellery around his neck, wrists, waist and ankles. He wears gold rings on every finger. Madonna Alba is dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt that says “I’M WITH IT”. She is wearing a pink pussy hat. She speaks with a vocal fry. Asli bint Khuwaylid is wearing a burqa, but her morbid obesity is obvious. Maria is dressed only in a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “MY DADDY LOVES ME”.

As the curtain opens, Muhammad is seated at the Resolute desk. Maria is standing on the Resolute desk, facing Asli and Madonna, who are both seated on a couch stage left.)

Muhammad: I said, did you give the President a good time, bitch? (Picks up the first page of the manuscript in front of him. It is titled “God is Black”) I swear, if that man is black, Muhammed wasn’t a paedophile. (Laughs at his own joke. Asli and Madonna join in) Well? I’m talking to you, white bitch. Was the President happy?

Maria: (Tears run her face, streaking heavy makeup. Her whole body is trembling. She speaks so softly the audience cannot hear): I don’t know.

Asli: (Raises herself of the couch, with difficulty): Until we circumcise her, she won’t know how to please a man. (She walks over to the bookshelves) But then again, Barry’s not exactly a man, is he?

Madonna: And isn’t that the truth (laughs, takes off her pussy hat, arranges her hair, and replaces hat) Anyway, don’t worry, from what I could hear, he was enjoying himself like Bill at a rape.

Muhammad: Oh, well, in that case… (he puts back the page of the manuscript, squares it perfectly)

(The play has a running time of 26 minutes. A copy can be purchased online from the specialist bookstore, Arab Wit. All written requests for permission to produce the play should be made to the Government of Somalia, c/o Chelsea's campaign headquarters, the Dearbon Mosque.)

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Passion of Sienna

[Media prompt] Italy migrant crisis: Charities ‘colluding’ with smugglers.
The Passion of Sienna

Sienna watched him climb the netting dangling over the side of the ship. He was bare chested, and his black arms were knotted with muscles as thick as the rope he scaled. She felt what her grandmother might have called a swoon, stepping back to watch him land lightly on the wooden decking. He looked at her.

“It’s true, then,” he said, speaking in thick English.

“What’s true?” asked Sienna, meeting his eyes with confidence. She was thinking what she herself knew to be true; that white men looked unfinished, incomplete, compared to blacks. That blacks were manly, more … more worthy.

“You Western women,” he said with a sneer. “You eat too much.”

And then he was gone, following the others tramping down below for water and a meal. If she was her grandmother, she would have fainted from the feelings washing over her. One of the American interns whose neck looked like it would snap under the weight of his dreadlocked head asked if she needed some emotional support. It took all she had not to break his arms and tell him that his concern made her sick.

Now came the hard part, but that was the captain’s job. Even so, the next few hours would be tense. If the Italian navy spotted them before landing, there would be problems. They had a half-a-dozen journalists travelling with them who could be counted on to get out the story if they were boarded. The right story. But these days, you could not depend on the right story alone. Brexit. Trump. Le Pen. Things had changed. She looked out over the dark water, the smell of salt melting into the musky odour of violent sweat stained men.

She saw him later, standing at the stern with five or six others. He wasn’t the tallest, but he was the leader. The others listened to him, hanging on his every word. She walked casually along the railing, one eye on the starless sky, the other on his group. When she got close he stopped talking.

“Go away,” he said, spitting loudly. “This is men’s business.”

She started to say something, a comeback about there being no place just for men, and that those days were over, but she stopped herself. She heard them laughing and talking in Somali as she retreated. She wondered what he would say when he made love to her.

Sienna went up to the bridge. The head of Migrant Care, Dr. Epstein, was there. He was talking to the captain, and as she stood waiting for them to finish the lights of Pozzallo blinked in the distance.

“Two hours,” said Dr. Epstein. “It’s going to be fine. Without you, none of this would happen.”

He was referring to her negotiations with the smuggler, the one who brought the Somalians into the Mediterranean. In their rickety little boats for five thousand a head.

“Not a problem,” she said.

But in her mind, she was already in the Somalian’s arms. 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Doctor in the Red Barn

[Media prompt] Authorities: Please don’t perform liposuction in barns.
The Doctor in the Red Barn

When Rosemary called it a fat farm, she had not quite imagined this. Eloise Richards and her sister sat in the car, the engine idling, a narrow dirt track running off into the distance towards a pole barn painted red. She could see it through a pine grove. They had driven the one hundred miles from Grand Rapids, Michigan after an early breakfast, and now Eloise was not as confident as she had been when her sister first mentioned it.

“Look at the prices,” she had said, one morning two months ago. “He’s charging one-tenth the price of surgeons in town. For exactly the same procedures.”

Eloise took the brochure. A photocopied list more than a proper brochure. She looked at the prices for tummy tucks and liposuction. It was her only hope after a lifetime of poor impulse control and two hundred extra pounds of fat.

“No, one-twentieth,” said Rosemary, holding up her phone triumphantly. “Not one-tenth. Look. It’s one-twentieth the price.”

Time seemed to have passed so quickly. One minute she was sitting with her sister having coffee and looking at prices, the next she was in a car crunching over gravel towards a barn in a field.

“Are you sure this is the right place?”

Rosemary patted her sister’s arm.

“The GPS has never failed,” she said, parking on the grass.

The morning sun glinted off the cladding. The barn and the field in which it squatted seemed so peaceful and clean that Eloise momentarily forget she was scheduled for liposuction surgery on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Then her concerns flooded back, and she heard her heart pounding in her ears.

They must have sat for longer than Eloise thought, because a man in a white coat suddenly appeared around the corner and asked if she was his “ten o’clock”.  

“I’m Dr. Epstein,” he said, shuffling them quickly through a small white door on the other side of the barn.

Eloise was not sure what she expected. Cows? A farmhand in coveralls pitching hay into the loft? The smell of manure? So she was pleasantly surprised by a white walled waiting room in which stood a nurse, smartly attired and smiling as though a long lost friend.

In short order, she signed a consent form, undressed, heaved herself onto the operating table, and started counting backwards from fifty when the nurse placed a general anaesthesia mask over her mouth. Her last reflections centred on cost savings. Sure, she thought, he had low rent, but how did he cut fees down ninety-five per cent?

Later, when she came too, Eloise lay for a moment looking at the ceiling. She could hear a low hum in the background. The room smelled of something she couldn’t quite identify. Perhaps it was cinnamon. Or nutmeg. She always had trouble telling them apart. Dr. Epstein was standing by the bed.

“Well,” he said, his eyes shining with pride. “A wonderful success, if I say so myself. You should have full functionality within a week.”

Eloise blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“Fully functioning. Within a week. You know,” said, stiffening his finger until it pointed rigidly upwards.

“I’m not sure I follow–”

“You are here for the penis implant?” asked Dr. Epstein, a thin film of sweat breaking out on his forehead. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Dark Ages

[Media prompt] Anti-Muslim threats, attack hoax created by US professor to keep his job.
The Dark Ages

Mohammed had worked hard on his presentation for Professor Abdelrahman’s Early 21st Century Pre-Balkanisation History class. Even though it was a survey course, and unrelated to the medical degree to which he hoped to gain admittance at the end of the year, he enjoyed it. Naturally, he had heard stories from his grandfather, who was a child during the wars. And he knew the names of the former American states now concealed under the green of the Dearborn Caliphate territory on maps. But like many of his generation, he knew little about the actual struggle for independence.

His presentation started well. The interactive time warp had been a sensation. For the first few minutes at least. Mohammed could tell from the GSR that everyone felt they were travelling back in time. Readings showed accelerated heartrates, hyper alert sympathetic nervous systems, and increased breathing rates, which all pointed towards a realistic experience. Irfan had even vomited, although he later tried to brush it off by saying he had eaten one date mamul too many. And perhaps everything would have been okay if he had confined the experience to the period of Muslim rule. But he had not.

While investigating the Dark Ages, the fifty-year period from 1980 to 2030, he stumbled upon a remarkable example of discrimination that made his blood boil. Primary research materials for the period were almost non-existent, but due to a stroke of good fortune, Mohammed had discovered a cache of data secreted in a long forgotten segment of decaying internet infrastructure. Amidst the centillion bytes of information contained there, he found the shocking story of one Azhar Hussain.

To bring Professor Hussain’s inconceivable experience to life, Mohammed replicated, to the smallest detail, the Indiana State University campus of 2017. This presented a wealth of problems, the most serious being its complete annihilation in 2032 as the Caliphate conquered the former kafir state. Yet through persistence, and his father being the head of the Islamic AI Project, he developed something that startled even him. For here was a campus not only all but devoid of Muslims, but a community so dysfunctional and deviant that it sickened him. Women, and bareheaded ones at that, rampant proximity between the sexes, the disavowal of the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, and a hundred other sins.

Within this sphere of unnaturalness, he told the story of Professor Husain’s persecution. Of how to keep his job in a community of unbelievers, he was forced to self-persecute. Mohammed showed Professor Husain interacting with women displaying elbows, thighs, shoulders, hair.

It was at this point that Professor Abdelrahman called a halt to proceedings.

“It’s an amazing piece of work, Mohammed,” he said. “It is really is. And I think you’ve perfectly captured what it meant to be a Muslim in the pre-Balkanisation Dark Ages. But we have to stop it here. It’s too much, even for me, to bear.”

Mohammed was satisfied with his A+, and said a prayer for Azhar Hussain. Maybe he would start a campaign to erect a statue commemorating his plight.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Satire with a heart: Fight the Rooster by Nick Cole

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy satire as much as the next guy who anticipates the skewering, like stuck pigs, of the Left’s totalitarian monstrosities. But let’s face it, most of it leaves you wanting to slash your wrists. Take Platonov, Bulgakov, and Houellebecq (who eviscerate everything from communist fascism to contemporary standup and cults). Although it’s fun to baste yourself in their gloomy oil of despair, they do have a tendency to leave readers feeling as though they’ve been run over by a midnight monster-truck in Death Truck 3.

That simile comes courtesy of Nick Cole, and if you felt your mood lighten just from reading it, then I’ll lay good money on Fight the Rooster being your type of book. It certainly was mine. (In the interests of a fair review, I Googled Death Truck 3, only to discover Mr. Cole was toying with his readers’ tremulous emotions. No such film exists. For the arthouse buffs among us, I recommend you watch the 1974 masterpiece Killdozer until someone with enough sense in Hollywood options DT3).  

Reading Fight the Rooster is in fact a bit like been steamrolled by said monster-truck, but in a good way. As though the truck were made of marshmallow dripping in chocolate syrup. And driven by a wise old man with whom you have a revelation about your life with redemptive overtones. While barreling down Sunset Boulevard taking potshots at every scumbag in Hollywood.

Did I mention I enjoyed it? Well, I did. This is satire with a heart. The kind that drags you through the murky underbelly but brings you out the other side unscathed, and perhaps, if you’ve been paying attention, a little better off for having taken the journey. The sort where characters are not expendable cutouts, but people with souls, oftentimes confused souls, but capable nonetheless of learning something from the struggles of daily life. The kind where they rediscover their courage, lost love, and youthful passions. It’s a book where you feel like cheering as you read the last sentence.

It’s my first Nick Cole tome (a literary term for a book that bloodies your nose when you fall asleep reading). But it won’t be my last.

Fight the Rooster and other books by Nick Cole can be found here at the author's website. 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

In God we Trust

[Media prompt] Facebook shares brain-control ambitions.
In God we Trust

Mark Zunkerberg, or what remained of him, seethed silently in his saline solution. This resulted in an infinitesimal temperature upswing, which was just enough to raise the alarm in the room next door.

“What is it now?” thought Dr. Lee, the duty physician who had been hitherto relaxing to the opening movement of Chubby Checker’s Symphony in C Major. He stood and looked through the window into what they all called Bunker Zunker, then checked vital sign readouts.

“Feeling a little annoyed are we?” he said, dialling the climate control down half a degree.

Chubby Checker had started to sing, his rich baritone rising above the strings, and Dr. Lee turned his eyes to the surface and let the music soar through him. It was no fun spending his Sunday afternoons three thousand feet below the site of the old Denver International Space Station, but at least he could play his favourite music without anyone complaining.

Ensuring the integrity of the Zunkerberg central processing unit was no small honour, so it would be a mistake to think Dr. Lee was in any way dismissive of the duty assigned him. Quite the opposite. Along with the millions of other inhabitants on Earth, he knew that any interruption to the smooth operation of the Zunkerberg CPU would spell the end of life as they knew it. The responsibility was enormous, and his heart swelled with pride whenever he remembered that he was one of only five people with the knowledge to preserve the entire world.

Dr. Lee looked into the bunker again. Sitting squarely in the middle of its four well-lit white walls was a concrete and steel alter, upon which sat a glass dome as old as the ages. Older than the Church of the Virgin Momo, and more than likely older than Rockditch itself. Inside the dome was the CPU upon which they all depended, floating serenely in its salty bath. Well, not always serenely, reflected Dr. Lee. It did have a propensity towards unpredictability. Like the time it made the remaining whites convert to Hijadilam. But that was before Dr. Lee’s time.

At four o’clock, Dr. Lee prepared to handover to … to someone whose name he had momentarily forgotten. No matter. It would come to him. He had been down here so long that his mind played tricks on him. Time seemed to go on forever, which was logically impossible. He sometimes felt a sliver of something, to call it doom would be a bridge too far, but a crack that opened and let in the dark night. And in those moments, fleeting as they were, Dr. Lee saw nothing but the Zunker Brain and himself, locked together and alone in the finality of the universe. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

No Place for Good Men

[Media prompt] Christians in Australia attacked, threatened by Muslim gangs, gay groups.
No Place for Good Men

Mohammed, Mohammad, Irfan and Mohammed followed the young couple off the train, and then in the piss-stained stench of the station platform knocked the woman to the ground and ripped a cross hanging around the man’s neck.

“Christian scum,” yelled Mohammed.

The man fought back, but he was no match for three assailants and in seconds was felled by a hit from behind. As his wife screamed, blood from her broken nose bubbling onto the ground, he tried to raise himself. The four men beat him down again, and this time kicked more savagely until he was unconscious.

Kafir shit,” said Irfan, laughing with his friends. “Next time we kill you.”

Mohammad kicked the woman hard in the ribs before the four of them sauntered away. The woman crawled to her husband, who was unconscious but breathing. She dialled 000, requesting an ambulance. Nobody on the platform appeared to have thought to do so. This was Muslim territory. And besides, they were all atheists and the Christians were on their own.

When the man’s injuries had healed, he returned to work. His colleagues were grateful to see him, but he sensed their good wishes were nothing more than platitudes designed to push the incident from their minds. His intuition proved correct. Several weeks later, after another Muslim attack on a Christian woman, one of his colleagues said, “You God botherers bring it on yourselves.”

“Why do you say that?” asked the man, keeping his rising anger in check.

“Because you want to kill people like me” said his colleague, well known in the office as a militant gay activist. “So why should I respect your baby Jesus.” He said Jesus like the Muslims who attacked him had said ‘kafir’.

At night, he talked with his wife. She told her husband that former friends had distanced themselves. One had derided her as a stay-at-home mum, while another said home schooling led to terrorism.

“Since when are Christian home schoolers trying to murder people on train platforms?” she said, weeping as her husband held her.

The man thought she had a point.

Later, after the shooting, investigators would conclude the straw that broke the camel’s back was a Sunday service at which a visiting gay preacher at the man’s church praised Islam as a religion of peace. The same preacher who argued the man should not have a Christian burial, but who nevertheless attended the funerals of Mohammed, Mohammad, Irfan and Mohammed.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Trump is Hitler, yo: The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes

This is another in a long line of books that I recommend for the so-called “antifa” Trump-is-Hitler crowd. If only for the joy of reading a writer with more than a modicum of talent. Here’s a taste of that talent in the first sentence:

“Only the steady creaking of a flight of swans disturbed the silence, labouring low overheard with outstretched necks towards the sea.”

Even though it’s not a book about Hitler per se, he does get much more than a bit part, which is not how things start. It begins a world away from the Munich beer-hall putsch of 1923, but arrives there by quite a remarkable a tour de force of storytelling. But this is no biography; although Hughes places Hitler in his historical context. This is a writer bringing all his imagination to bear on a period in the life of the psychologically deformed leader of the Nazi Party. It also goes some way in making us think about the rise of socialist fascism, and how Germany in the 1920s and 30s bears little resemblance to the current state of American society, culture and politics.

In the final hundred pages, where the focus of attention is often Hitler himself, Hughes provides a masterclass in ingenuity and insight. For those who believe 2017 America and Donald Trump mirror Adolf Hitler, it may come as a surprise that the parallels are about as tenuous as an antifa's commitment to freedom. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Right Applicant

[Media prompt] Fears Google Hire could allow employers to see your entire search history.
The Right Applicant

The office was empty when Wang Chenrong arrived. By eight o’clock, she had answered her overnight emails and double checked the number of applicant dossiers. She placed the nameplates in order on the table, along with scratch pads, pens, pencils, jugs of water. A small bowl of Mentos in front of each seat. She called the catering service to confirm delivery of snacks and drinks mid-morning and afternoon, and a hot lunch at one o’clock. After last minute checks in Live On, the most prestigious meeting room on the top floor, she was confident that everything would run smoothly.

By eight-thirty, checking everything once more, she was fully satisfied, but still nervous. It was her most important meeting so far, for today senior staff would begin narrowing down applicants for a new information manager prior to conducting interviews.

At nine o’clock sharp, when everyone was assembled, she began.

“Thank you for coming,” she said, back upright and feet together under the table. “Before we begin, as is customary, I invite Imam Abdul Jaber from Masjid Qalb ‘Asud, to lead us in prayer.”

Everyone stood while the imam gave those in the room his blessings, wishing upon them the wisdom of Allah in making the right choice for the company. When he left the room, Wang quickly recapped the agenda, which everyone had received earlier in the week, and then asked them to open the first folder.

“First up is Mr. Daniel Collins,” she said, forwarding her PowerPoint to a slide showing a portrait of Mr. Collins along with his curriculum vitae highlights.

“Yes, just a short explanatory note,” said Laptoyanqua Washington, the head of human resources. “He’s included by law, but I think we can all agree to move to the next candidate without discussion.”

Since nobody dissented, Wang quickly moved to the second folder.

“Venus Rosales,” said Wang, bringing up the slide of a young woman wearing a head scarf.

“Now, I thought she was interesting,” said one of the men, flicking through the folder. "If you look at her search history, she’s very ideologically sound. For instance, page one-hundred-and-eighty-one.”

The sound of paper rumpling filled the room, people murmuring as they eyed the page in question.

“To which search are you referring?”

“Well, all of them on this page,” said the man. “But look at this, she looked up ‘how to scalp a NAZI’ on the day before the Berkeley Easter Riot of 2017.”

Everyone laughed. They all remembered how the fascists had been beaten back that day. 

“And look at this,” a woman chimed in. “On the next page, she searched the dark web for hitmen the day after.”

“You go girl,” said Laptoyanqua. “Do we have information on whether that search was successful?”

Wang messaged a colleague asking her to track down the outcome.

There would be many such tasks during the day, and it was essential for her to remain alert and efficient. She was determined her internship at Google would result in a fulltime position. She thought it was the best company in the world.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

A Mosque of One's Own

[Media prompt] A mosque of her own: first women’s mosque dedicated in Berkeley.
A Mosque of One's Own

Within hours of it being posted on the Berkeley Muslim Group’s Facebook page, the announcement of a new mosque for women had been liked and shared hundreds of times.

“The mosque, named Qalb ‘Asud,” the announcement said, “aims to overturn centuries of Muslim misogyny by giving women a mosque of their own – one founded and led by women.”

The first call to prayer echoed out across the hallowed halls of education on Easter Friday, and since then, hundreds of worshippers had visited. Most were women, but men came as well. Zainab, the woman who delivered the khutbah, started each sermon asking that anyone who was uncomfortable praying next to someone of the opposite sex to absent themselves to a side room. Nobody ever did. It truly was a women’s mosque of their own, and a safe space for all.

When he heard about the mosque, Olol Bani was not happy. Olol was the largest camel trader in the Rust Belt Caliphate, his business based on the requirement to compensate rape victims in the form of camels. He was formerly from Somalia, but like many others had paid his way to America and settled in Dearborn.

“I don’t like this,” he said to Nuruddin Dirie, his long-time business partner. “The next thing we’ll see is our women complaining about beatings.”

“No man will stand for this,” said Nuruddin, sucking on his pipe. He winked at Olol. “Leave it to me, old friend.”

Nuruddin was as cunning as he was ugly, and through his connections with communists in Dearborn was able to fly out within a week to meet Elijah Cohen, one of the leaders of the Berkeley Antifa.

“Elijah, my friend,” said Nuruddin, when the young Jew demurred at the request to shut down the women’s mosque. “Do you not see the .. the bigger objective?”

Elijah scowled. He was a communist, thus a fascist at heart, and had long understood the coalition between the red and the green was essential in the fight against white Christians. But he also knew some of his best streetfighters were women. It would be a tough sell, he thought.

“Listen,” said Nuruddin. “You can kill … how do you Americans say it? A bird with two stones.”

“I don’t know how they say it. I refuse to accept the idiomatic speech of capitalism,” said Elijah. Nuruddin smiled. It was going to be easier than he thought.

“All right,” said Nuruddin, holding out his hands. “All right. But do you really believe this doesn’t undermine your leadership of the resistance? The blacks have lost their position in the pecking order of victimhood. White women are barely capable of speaking out. How long do you think a white Jew has left before Muslim women unseat you?”

Elijah waited a week before firebombing the mosque. As he watched it burn to the ground from a safe distance, one of his comrades-in-arms asked, “Do you know what the name means?”

“Why the fuck would I know anything about those pigs?”

“Dark Heart,” said the dreadlocked girl at his side. “The Mosque of the Dark Heart.”

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Hunger Striker

[Media prompt] 700 Immigrants on hunger strike at for-profit prison to protest conditions & $1/day wages.
The Hunger Striker

Josh Pullman had just been laid off and was driving home when he heard an interview on the radio that almost caused him to run off the road.

My name is Rodriguez Salinas,” said a man with a thick Mexican accent. “And I’m just letting the people to know that I’m doing a hunger strike, just not for me, but for everybody out there and the future.”

There was a pause, and then a woman said, “Mr. Salinas is an undocumented immigrant incarcerated at the Northern Detention Centre. He is refusing to eat until he and others like him are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. He is paid only one dollar per day for a job in prison–”

But Josh had turned off the radio, then pounded so hard on the steering wheel that his truck mounted the curb. He pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall selling despair, then sat watching shoppers buying it. He looked at his big gnarled hands, scarred from years of construction work, and felt a wave of despair flood over him. He had not been unemployed since he was seventeen years old. Had not missed a day of work, except when his father died. Nobody had ever complained about any project he supervised. Just the opposite. Clients requested him.

When he got home, he told his wife, who held him and told him everything would be fine. They had money saved, he was respected in the industry, and the economy was picking up again.

“Go and have a shower,” she said. “You’ll feel better after dinner.”

But he did not feel better. The soundbite from Rodriguez Salinas played on his mind.
The days passed into weeks, and after a month Josh had not found steady work. He picked up a few days pouring concrete, and another day digging a trench. But the pay was low and the companies resentful at having to pay even that much.

“You’re more expensive than a wetback,” said one man.

“But I’m better,” said Josh.

The man smiled. “Nobody gives a shit about quality anymore. You do good work, but no one is going to pay for it.”

One day, driving his wife to work, he noticed a sign from his old firm for a renovation job at an elementary school. After he dropped her off, her faith in him never diminishing for a moment, he turned back to take a closer look.

He stopped under a tree on the corner, where he could see the two trucks he knew so well. There were half a dozen men, but they were wearing bright orange coveralls, like a chain gang. Alighting from the truck, he walked long the fence line until he could read the black lettering on their backs.

It said Northern Detention Centre. Underneath, in smaller print, were the words Community Immigrant Integration Program.

It took a moment to sink in.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Fear of Flying

[Media prompt] Man’s body, seen tossed from plane, found on roof of Mexican hospital.
Fear of Flying

Gabriela, one of the nurses, rang Dr. Guzman to tell him a man had fallen from a plane onto the roof of the hospital. “Don’t be stupid, girl,” he told her. But she insisted so fervently that he dressed and came back to work, despite having promised his mistress the pleasure of his company all afternoon. Later he would have to thank Gabriela, for his wife was a crime scene investigator and she arrived at the hospital shortly after Dr. Guzman returned.

“I can’t believe it,” he said to his wife when she dropped by his office. “One of the groundsmen, Juan Carlos, said he saw the man fall from a plane.”

His wife nodded. “We’ve had people phoning in saying exactly the same thing.”

He and two hospital security men went with Mrs. Guzman to the rooftop. As they stood in the stifling heat, Dr. Guzman compared his mistress to his wife. His wife did not fare well. He cursed the broken half-naked man on his rooftop. And he cursed his wife, a woman with an income but nothing else that attracted him. Dr. Guzman went back to his office and rang his mistress. “It’s true,” he said, hoping she would not be angry with him. “And he’s half naked. The police thinks its drug related.” He was careful not to mention his wife.

Two days later, another person fell from a plane onto the roof.

“The odds are impossible,” he said to his wife when she arrived. “How many people drop out of the sky in the whole of Mexico?”

“You’d be surprised,” said his wife. “More than you think. But the real surprise is that two of them landed on this roof in one week.” She looked at her husband, wondering why a woman half his age would want to be his mistress. “If there’s another one, you’ll fall under our suspicion.” It was a joke, but she noticed that he didn’t laugh.

Over the following days, Dr. Guzman’s nerves were on edge. And on Monday, after fighting with his wife so badly over the weekend that she went to stay with a friend, he made plans to visit his mistress. She was the polar opposite of his wife; serene, loving, sexually adventurous, slender yet curvaceous. His ideal woman, in fact. So it was with some surprise that he found his wife waiting for him when he arrived at his mistress’s apartment.

Gabriela was first on the scene after Juan Carlos told her that two people had fallen from a plane onto the roof. At first, she could only see the body of a woman who, even though it was mangled from the fall, appeared to have been both young and beautiful. She tried calling Dr. Guzman again, but there was no answer. It wasn’t until Mrs. Guzman’s arrived that they found him. A crumpled heap behind the air-conditioning unit.

Mrs. Guzman crossed herself and wondered what the odds where of four people falling from a plane and landing on a hospital roof.