Author's note: this is a work of fiction and a work in progress. And it's all I'm going to post here, in the public eye. The rest may, one day, end up in print somewhere else. At least, I hope so.
"Time is the fire in which we burn," a phrase that succinctly instructs us in the ways of our limited existence. It says that we live finitely and that every moment is like an ash, fluttered and flayed away from our mortal coil, like a butterfly or snowflake- impossible to hold, because it would crumble in our grasp. Each moment is hallowed in our minds, but we can never return to it, relive it. Once it has gone by us, it is gone for good. An ash is not reintegrated with the whole from which it was culled. Tick Tock.
We look upon this man, the one who is currently lying on his bed sound asleep and oblivious to the world around him, and wonder, idly, if he's even aware of the time that he is wasting. Does he know what waits for him when the minute hand hits that golden spot on the clock face and the world around him begins to crumble? How sharp will his senses be then, and will he regret his beauty sleep in his last moments?
No, he is not going to die and the world is not going to end. But in an existential sort of way, it will end. It ends on a recursive loop, with the passing of every second. Each second that goes by marks the birth of a new world. The world is reshaped and remade through time's passage. And, therefore, so are we.
We watch him snore, his nostrils flaring wide and narrow with each breath, the wheezing caused by nasal surgery which should have been completed years gone ago but he has never had the time or money to afford. He turns over, his back to us, and we whisper to him that it is almost time to wake up. He ignores us.
Downstairs there is a couple and they are making love, passionate and hot, because they are trying to heal the wounds of a recent fight. Two stories up there is a child who is screaming at her father to stop the spankings, it hurts her too much, but he won't because he can't see through his ire that the red welts are beginning to bleed. Across the hallway, in apartment 12-B, an old woman, Mrs. Romanistik, is watching a rerun of a Jerry Springer episode and is quietly cackling to herself at the secret knowledge she has about her own family, which belongs on that TV screen as surely as anyone else's does.
Tick Tock. Ho hum. Light a cigarette. There's more happening.
Across the state, which is rather small in comparison to the others around it, there is a man sitting on the phone and he's barking orders. "I said do it," he growls into the phone. "Do it now. There's not enough time to explain. Just get it done."
"Sir?" the voice on the other end of the line says. "I can't do that. I need authorization."
The man gives it hurriedly, almost skipping over one of the code numbers in his rush. "I'll call back in a few minutes to make sure you've done it." He hangs up and looks at his desk, considers taking a pull from his glass of whiskey and then decides not to. He has to be clear-headed for what comes next. He picks the phone up off its cradle again and dials a number, waits for the person to pick up. "What a fucking nightmare," he grumbles to himself. His office is dark and it feels cold here, even though he is beginning to sweat.
The phone rings and the man in the bed wakes up, alert and awake with a suddenness that surprises even himself. He grabs the cell phone from the bedstand, flips it open and puts it to his ear. "Paris," he says into it. That, apparently, is his name.
"Mr. Paris, I have a job for you. Now. This is urgent."
Paris, who was peacefully asleep just seconds ago, does not need time to clear his head. He's used to being woken up at strange times, which is why he sleeps whenever he can, but lightly. "How urgent?" he asks.
"Do you recognize my voice?" the caller asks.
"Do you think I'd be calling if it was something that could wait?"
"It's that urgent, Mr. Paris. I've arranged for payment already, before the fact. I know you can do this. It's very simple." The sound of a door opening can be heard over the phone. "Not now!" the caller shouts angrily. The door is promptly closed without argument.
"I don't do wet works anymore," Paris cautions.
"For the money we're paying you, you'll do whatever we damn well tell you to do. But don't worry, no body's going to die. At least, not if you get this done right."
"What's the job?" Paris asks, his interest piqued. We close in, his breath stinks of cigarettes and plaque, but we ignore it so that we can hear better.
"We need you to wreck a car. Anderton's."
Paris is quiet for several long seconds, contemplating, and then finally says, "And that's it?"
There is a deep sigh. "Not quite. Anderton has to be in it when you wreck it. He's in the hotel now, about to leave. He's going to be bringing some information into his office that can not get there. But we don't want him dead, just delayed. If he has to make a trip to the hospital, that's fine. But we still need him alive."
"Senator Anderton's got some steep security," Paris says calmly. "Getting into his car will not be easy."
"Who says you have to get into his car? You can wreck a vehicle any number of ways, Paris. Why do you think we gave you one which is untraceable? Stop him however you wish. Be creative. Just know that if he reaches his destination, war will be declared and millions of lives will not survive through the night- including us."
"Understood," Paris says. He hangs up. There is nothing more to say. Senator Anderton has been trying to ferret information for months. Now, apparently, he has found some. And the information he's found will made a lot of people very unhappy. He has some notion that what he's doing is for the good of his nation, that his country's citizens deserve to know what their leaders are doing. But he seems to have a limited view.
Paris sits up, already clothed, runs his hands through his hair, and curses softly into the dimly lit bedroom.
Gregory Anderton smiles at his driver, who is surprised to see the Senator this early in the morning- or is it late at night now? It's a hard call to make at 3 AM. The Senator is holding a black briefcase whose contents hold enough information in it that would make the NSA rethink its security procedures. Anderton is feeling very proud of himself right now, having gotten this information on the cheap. He didn't even have to bribe anyone for it. His source was acting from a guilty conscience.
"Morning, Jeff," Anderton says brightly to his driver. "We're going to the office. I've got a delivery to make." He pulls out his cell phone and speed-dials his secretary, who is probably asleep right now, but will get her shit together quickly enough once she hears his voice. She groggily answers the phone. "Janice? It's Greg. I need you to get the staff up and at the office right now. That information we talked about has finally fallen into my hands. This is going to be a big day, Janice. Time to wake up." He pulls open his door while Jeff takes his place behind the wheel and turns off his phone. He pulls it closed after him quickly, eager to get the day started.
Jeff starts the engine and they're off, early in the morning and under the cover of darkness. Jeff doesn't know what's going on, but he has his suspicions. Sometimes he overhears conversations the Senator has with other people and stays somewhat in the know that way. Whatever has Anderton bugged this morning, though, is a complete mystery to Jeff. But sounds important. He decides, even before leaving the hotel parking garage, that he will exceed the speed limit just a bit. It's still too early for the cops to really give a shit about a limo going ten miles per hour faster than it should, so he doubts that he'll get stopped. Besides, the car has diplomatic plates. Even if the cops wanted to pull him over, they'd need a damn good reason.
Paris is sitting in a stolen car. Or, at least he thinks it's a stolen car. He doesn't know for certain. When he came under the auspices of this little group which has hired him, they provided him with this vehicle, a Ford of recent make that is loaded with every electronic gizmo available for a four-door sedan this size.
Anderton's hotel is just two blocks away and Paris has parked his car within sight of the parking garage. He sees the limo pull out onto the street immediately and watches it swing its nose in his direction. Paris starts his engine and pulls his seatbelt across his chest. He doesn't turn on the headlights yet because he doesn't want the limo's driver to slow down. Speed is going to be a factor here and Paris knows it. If the driver doesn't expect to be hit, if he thinks that all the cars on the street side are inert, then he will maintain his pace, which will work to Paris' advantage.
Paris checks his sideview mirror, to make sure that there are no police within sight. There is a car coming from behind him, but he does not see the tell-tale strobe lights on the roof, so all is well. He cuts his wheel hard, preparing for the quick turn onto the street. He has decided to hit the limo in the front quarter panel.
Anderton is sitting in his usual spot, a place in the back of his government-issue limo which has formed the definite shape of his ass over the years, and leans his head back. He is tired and wants to sleep, but knows that he cannot succumb to his desire just yet. Not now. He's been looking for this information for months and now that he has it, the only thing he can to with it is to make it public. Janice will have the staff assembled soon, waiting in his office within the hour, and there they will decide how to release the information, which news channel to contact first and why, how to word the prefacing speech. It will take a few hours and by the time they are ready, the rest of the country will just be waking up. He is certain, and has been for a long time, that he wants this information to be the first thing that America sees when it wakes up. He wants it to be their wake-up call.
"Terrorists Harbored Within America's Bosom!"
If he had his druthers, if he could dictate the headlines, that's how it should read, Anderton thinks. He doesn't doubt, for a second, that the editors will be open to suggestions and they will probably come up with something even better, now that he thinks about it. They always do.
Anderton opens his eyes and looks skyward, noting that the street lights are moving quickly. "Jeff?"
"Are we going faster than usual?"
Anderton smiles to himself. "Good," he says.
Paris grips the wheel tightly. Anderton's car is getting closer now, a black metal missile on the road, which is about to be detonated. It's a good analogy, he thinks. It has a military feel to it. He puts the shift into Drive and holds his foot over the pedal pensively. He left his cell phone back in his apartment, just in case he gets into trouble and needs to run. If he gets caught, the last thing he needs is his cell phone on him, which can be logged and checked by the CIA.
He is no idiot. He knows that what he's about to do could be construed as an assassination attempt, even though that's not what he's going for. But if he gets caught, that's not how the Feds will see it. They will want blood. They will want to make it look as bad as it possibly can be. They will check his records. The media will get wind of it, thanks to some sneaky inside source of course, and do some digging on their own. If he screws this up, the information in Anderton's car will be proved pointless and moot and the story will break anyway, just later.
The limo moves closer to him and we are compelled to look away. Even though we know that murder is not the goal here, we are still conditioned to expect blood at the scene of an accident, even if it is staged. The sound of crunching metal is always unappealing and inspires one to look away, but we must stay vigilant and pay attention. Things are still happening.