BY: JON DOYLE
The drive’ll be seventy hours, north by northwest. From Coffee County, Georgia, through Tennessee and Kentucky and Illinois. Through Wisconsin and Minnesota and North Dakota and across the border into Saskatchewan. Across Alberta and British Columbia and the Yukon, through British Columbia again and the Yukon again and then finally Alaska, back in the old US of A, crossing the Alcan Border and looping around the Wrangell St. Elias National Park until Gakona pulls into view.
We’re going for The Machine.
Michael writes a list of the equipment. I call out the items and he scribbles on a page torn from the back of a book. Lists are important to us. They have been all along. A place to start, to help eke out a future from the banality of things. A future where this shit actually goes down.
I can see the mirror-written print of the book through the page as Michael writes. His mother reads novels, Russian stories where the characters all have like ten names and you’ve got to figure out who’s who. Michael’s handwriting is like baby-level bad and maybe it’s his hands shaking from the nerves or the drugs or a kind of staggered disbelief that we’ve actually got this stuff. Maybe he always writes like this.
I call out the items in a voice so serious you could cut yourself on the consonants.
Four AR-15 assault rifles, four Glock 40 handguns, two Glock 22 handguns, one Glock 27 handgun, a Remington model 700 .308 caliber rifle. We’ve got bullets, plenty of bullets, including three drum magazines and twenty-two loaded AR-15 mags. We’ve got maybe 5,000 rounds. We’ve got hunting knives and field glasses. We’ve got bulletproof vests. We’ve got satellite phones and cans of gas and food and water and tourniquets and sutures. We’ve got the Lord Jesus Christ and roughly $5,500 cash.
As Michael says, It’s not no spontaneous thing. The plan’s been stewing for some time. He got to watching videos online, deep stuff, exposés on the weapons program and the military-industrial complex. Turns out there’s this place, HAARP, right up there in Alaska, a joint thing between the Air Force and Navy and DARPA. It’s a research facility, 180 antennae in a forty-acre grid, beaming radio waves into the atmosphere.
They can control the weather, trigger earthquakes and tidal waves.
They can control the spin of the earth.
“They’re controlling our minds, man,” Michael explains. “They’re storing people’s souls.”
This didn’t all come from YouTube. God himself showed up in Coffee County. He appeared at the foot of Michael’s bed and He told him all about HAARP. God was pissed off, on all accounts. When you die your soul drifts upwards, he explained, and The Machine fucks with the atmosphere to block this passage then intercepts the spirits before they can go all the way. They’re kept in a big tank, was how God put it, writhing over one another like farmed fish. Someone needs to crack the glass, God said. Someone needs to sort this shit out.
Michael said he was awed and kind of nervous because his room was a fucking mess. Michael said God glowed like a low moon.
He said, Remember Michael, the mind has no firewalls. He said, Michael, I recommend the book, Angels Don’t Play this HAARP, by Dr. Nick Begich, Ph.D.
At some point in the conversation Jesus popped his head around the door, like he’d been waiting out there all along. The funny thing was, Michael said, was that he really did wear a white robe and shoulder length hair. He really did have a perfect beard and bright blue eyes. He introduced himself and shook Michael’s hand. The funny thing was, Michael told me, was that Jesus was a white guy after all.
There’s a can of Pepsi on the counter and Michael reaches for it. He shakes it up and sets it down then grabs the Bowie knife and stabs it. Michael holds the blade like a ninja and he stabs the Pepsi with one killer blow. The can spazzes out, spinning and falling and spraying gold foam up the wall. The house is fucked but Michael doesn’t care. He’s going to Jerusalem after this.
The Jerusalem thing is something else God suggested. He said, Michael, go to Jerusalem.
God hasn’t said fuck all to me but I’m focusing my energy on the present. The plan. We’ll drive through Tennessee and Kentucky and Illinois and in the trunk will be Glocks and Remmingtons and those dry army rations.
We’ll find a scientist and steal his car, steal his ID badge, cut off his hands if they have those finger-print scanners. We’ve got army issue backpacks and balaclavas and we’ve been in training for months. If they have those eye scanners, we’ll cut off his head.
The checklist complete, we start loading the car. Michael’s telling me about The Machine again, how it excites the particles of the ionosphere and changes it to the consistency of stainless steel. “Like someone’s put a lid on the world,” he says.
When I step from the house I look to the sky. There’s no cloud as such but still it’s grey, a bright metallic sheen as though the sky has lost its blue. I think about the weight dropping from my body and rising up toward the great leaden wall. I imagine bumping up against it like a pinball, drawn north by northwest.
I pop the trunk and swing in the bag and for a moment I feel incredibly small. I feel like calling it off.
Michael says The Machine can implant thoughts into your head. Negative thoughts, reckless thoughts. Thoughts of a self-defeating nature. It broadcasts waves that are really low frequency or really high frequency and it messes with your cerebral cortex. He says if you stop and listen closely, you might just be able to hear it.
“Hey, Mike,” I say as we go in for the next round of gear. “Did God say anything about me?”
Michael tilts his head and thinks a moment. He’s holding tubs of methamphetamine, Tupperware boxes filled to the lid that we’re going to bag and sell on the drive to fund the operation. Michael sets down the meth and wipes his face and gives me a big toothy grin.
“He said, Michael, get yourself a bullet magnet.”
I must look confused because Michael leans over and grabs a bunch of my skin between his thumb and forefinger.
“It’s a joke,” he says, waving me off. “A stupid joke.”
I grab a few of the backpacks and make for the car. Michael always lets me go out first. First out of the front door, first out of the car at the gun store. First to face the dealers and sellers. It’s the sort of shit Michael pulls but it’s cool because I’m careful. In school they called me Spidey because I had this tingle for trouble and I guess I still do. Maybe Michael understands that. Maybe he’s just utilizing my talents.
Outside there’s no one on the street but this one kid and I swear to God he’s holding a walkie-talkie. The tingle is going but I act casual and help Michael lift his case into the trunk and on the way back into the house I nudge him with my elbow. I indicate with my eyes. Check out the kid, my eyes say, swishing back and forth.
Inside, Michael hoists a gym bag onto his shoulder and picks up an AR-15 in each hand. He mouths words at me, afraid the kid is eavesdropping. He mouths that I should get some guns too, and I mouth, What about the kid? Michael nods as if to say, yeah, about the kid, and turns to the door. He’s going out first into a possible situation. I think about calling after him but I’m afraid the place is bugged.
The kid looks up and Michael’s coming, rifles raised like fucking Rambo. I’m just behind with a pair of Glocks and the kid just stands there. I mean, he doesn’t blink. He’s holding this thing to his ear but it’s not a walkie-talkie, it’s a rock. This kid is out on the street talking to a rock.
“Hey kid,” Michael says, lowering the guns into the trunk then swinging the bag in too. “Wanna see something cool?”
He’s already on his way over. Of course he wants to see something cool.
“Take a look at this,” Michael says, producing what looks like an oversized Go-Gurt. The packaging is white and booger green and reads Cyalume Safety Snaplight Lightstick. The first thing I think is, Why the fuck is he wasting a goddamn lightstick? And the second is that I have no idea why we’d need a lightstick in the first place. The kid is clearly interested, dropping his rock and getting closer. Michael tears the corner with his teeth and pulls out the green tube. The kid is standing on our toes now and I’m not sure about this but Michael’s right into it.
“See this?” he says, holding up the stick with the practised gravity of a magician. “Watch very closely.”
With a flick of the wrists the tube lights up, a ghostly green, and the kid’s eyes light up too.
“It’s that thing that bounces into Homer’s clothes,” he says, snatching for it.
“That’s right,” Michael agrees, getting down on his haunches to eyeball the kid.
“And I want you to have it. Your very own uranium rod.”
It’s a nice scene and all but the trunk is wide open and full of guns. I’m still holding the pistols and it occurs to me that all I have to do is level them at the kid’s face and he’ll be off crying to his rock.
“Mike,” I say. “Can we get the rest of the shit?”
“The rest of the shit,” Michael says, standing up again. “Sure.” He heads toward the house but stops and faces the kid again. “Say, can you keep a secret?”
The kid holds the Snaplight in his cupped palms. “I guess?”
“We’re doing something very important,” Michael whispers. “It’s Top Secret.”
“Top Secret?” the kid asks, eyes snapping from the stick to Michael. “Like what?”
“Top Secret like we can’t tell nobody nothing,” I say, gesturing with the Glocks.
“Top Secret like if we told you we’d have to….” I raise the gun in my right hand and mimic shooting the kid square in the head.
The kid watches this and then slides his eyes across to Michael.
“We’re going to Alaska,” Michael smiles. “God came to me and said, Michael, you have to go to Gakona, Alaska and save the souls of the world. He said, Michael, you have to blow up The Machine.”
The kid listens and then slides his eyes back to me. “Are you gonna kill me now?”
There’s this sermon online, some pastor near Houston who’s a friendly-looking lady really gets into it. HAARP, weather control, weather warfare, she doesn’t take a breath. New World Order, Marshal law, all that stuff too. She’d watched videos, she says, ISIS beheading folk. She says that things would be more efficient when that started over here. There’d be orderly lines for the guillotines and if you didn’t accept the number of the Beast you’d better believe you’re in that line. She says something about Los Alamos and Anubis and the Denver International Airport. I found myself writing this shit down. She’s nice-seeming but she speaks about grey aliens and Dulce Base and she says, Aliens are demons, for the new folk here today. I guess God came to her too, had something to say. Soul scalping, soul removal, captured souls. I don’t know what any of this shit means but I write it down anyway.
At the beginning of the video, her daughter sings a hymn. This skinny white ginger kid in a multi-coloured pinafore, holding a plastic horse, singing “Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart” like the entire world was watching. “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet,” she sings, “a light to my path always.” There’s another girl in the video, but she’s too shy to sing. The wall behind them is dappled and white. “To guide and to save me from sin, and show me the heavenly way.”
I gather another armful of equipment. We’ve got laser scopes and head torches and tactical gloves. We’ve got shooting rests and hours of practice. I think about the souls in the tank up there in Alaska. A glass structure, huge and square, fogged with the sheer amount of spirits bundled in.
“Mike,” I ask. “Who’s Nephilim?”
“How the fuck should I know?” Michael says, stacking banana clips.
“God didn’t mention him? Or Jesus?”
He turns to face me. “Why’re you being weird all of a sudden?”
I think of the swirling soul mass, the faces within its weight. The eyes, the moaning mouths. The liquid spin of perpetual unease. The undying will to rise, to float above, to head skyward.
“Weird?” I say. “Me? What about the letter of intent you just gave that kid? Signed with your full fucking name?”
Michael walks straight past me and out the door so I pick up the Remington and follow but then movement is all around us.
Movement and shouts.
—movement and shouts and—
—and I drop the gun and movement and yelling—
—and shouts and yelling and—
—and I take a step—
—and shouts and a shot and—
—shouts and yelling and a shot—
—and I take a step and another and Michael falls and the magazines scatter over the road and I think Jesus that was loud.
And then they are all around me.
They say Drop the Weapon and Hands Up and Don’t Move and I don’t have a weapon and I can’t move because even as they yell the men get closer, shuffling sidelong and crab-like and cautious with red dots swarming my chest.
Michael’s on the road face down and it looks like he’s trying to raise himself but his arms aren’t working. Michael’s bleeding and the blood’s pooling like molasses in the grit of the road and his arms aren’t working like some cable’s been cut.
There’s a fuck-off black truck on the road and men are pouring from it. Khaki fatigues and bulletproof vests. Kneepads and shin guards and thigh-strapped secondary weapons. Men wearing skateboarder helmets and polarised polycarbonate goggles. Men coming from the back of a truck sprayed black as hell itself. They just keep on coming.
Movement and shouts and yelling.
They say Drop the Weapon and Hands Up and Don’t Move but I don’t have a weapon and I can’t move.
Michael’s arms aren’t working.
They put my hands behind me and slam me onto the hood of the car and on the rebound, that inch of upward motion, I arch my back to get one last look, riding that small ascension to see the heavens above, the sky high and gunmetal and dented.
Jon Doyle’s writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, Barren Magazine, 3:AM Magazine, Necessary Fiction, Full Stop, and other places, and he runs the website Various Small Flames. He lives in the UK.