I was wandering out front of my local twenty-four hour CVS a few nights ago when I felt a bottle smash into my head. Shattering glass, shooting unreasonable pain. My hand, simple white adornments to my arms, were now covered in blood. My blood! Another bottle to the head sent me reeling into an incoherent stupor.
I knew I was being lifted by my legs and arms. Why? Had I not paid the correct change for the package of gum I purchased? Confusing, absurd thoughts moshed through my mind. I know I gave them the correct change! “I ave u….now(spitting blood)….rect change.”
They dropped me next to a car. “Will you shut him up!” said a man in a black mask. I could barely make his voice out, but it sounded familiar.
At that moment, I was struck with the full annihilating fury of a boot to the back of the skull. Things went dark quickly. I reached to put my tooth in my pocket but passed out too quickly to make it happen. I liked that tooth. Gone.
It seemed like hours I was in the trunk of this automobile. I smelled of sweat and blood. I was able to mat down much of the blood with some stray socks left in back, but beyond that, I was in pretty bad shape. I was too weak to bang loudly on the trunk, so I rapped consistently until I passed out after what seemed like an eternity.
When I awoke I was out of the car lying in a comfortable hospital bed. The room had no windows. A black hooded medical attendant was there to try to see if I’d be coherent enough to participate in what insanity was about to take place.
I may have a concussion, hell, I might have worse that that, but I have watched enough of the news to know what is going on.
“You are those bastards in ISIS! Aren’t you?! You degenerate murderers. And now you’ve got me. And just what the hell do you think you are going to do to me. This isn’t that post-apocalyptic warzone Syria gave you because it wasn’t worth defending. We are in America, pal. You touch one hair on my head and my kids will be singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl while you and your crew of “warriors” will be sucking pounds of Deer Park water out of a towel while some lunatic tries to get you to recite the zip code for every city in Bangladesh.”
The hooded man sat next to me. It was oddly comforting. In a computerized voice, used to protect the speaker from giving away any clue as to who they might be, softly said “I’m sorry for how we got you here. The boys get carried away from time to time. It’s a hazard in what we do. My name is T. Let me promise you right now, you will not be harmed for the rest of your time here. Let me also promise you this, if you like what we are doing, you are welcome to stay with us for a while and help the cause.”
“I’m an atheistic, anarchist Jew. The closest I have ever come to jihad was arguing with a Palestinian over the price of shwarma at a restaurant in the West Bank 15 years ago. I think you grabbed the wrong guy. My name is Keith Spillett.”
“The Keith Spillett who writes The Tyranny of Tradition website…kind of like The Onion but for….”
“YES!!!! YES!!!! That’s me! If I hear the Onion comparison one more time….”
“Didn’t mean to offend you. Actually, we are great admirers of your work.”
“I hadn’t realized that the Jihadist community was big on metal satire.”
“Oh…yes, we loved the Rick Santorum one. We even thought about creating some Celine Dion internment camps, for obviously different reasons. Oh…and the one where Cronos is related to Kate Middleton! Killed me! Al-Baghdadi himself said that your story on Van Halen causing Ebola was the hardest he had laughed in years. We spotted your talent right away. You have the rare ability to make a ridiculous lie sound completely truthful.”
“Well, is this a job interview?,” I said laughing uncomfortably.
“Yes….yes…you could say that. Certainly not in a traditional sense, but we would like you to help us better get our ideas across to average Americans. They see us doing these beheadings and are horrified. But, they are missing the deeper meaning. I have chosen you to bring that meaning to them.”
“And if I don’t???”
“I give the briefcase of money to someone else, you take a nap in the trunk and you’ll be there for work Monday morning. We mean you no harm.”
“Can you try to better explain to me what is happening and what you want?”
“Better than that…I’ll show you.”
As I walked out of the makeshift hospital room it finally dawned on me that I was in the back of a trailer. The trailer door opened and a radiant, punishing sun beat down on my head. Men dressed head to toe in black were pacing around filled with frantic, nervous energy. It looked horrifically familiar. I’ve seen this place before. This is ISIS territory! Where they do all the beheadings! My god! They are going to kill me!
My breathing sped up, I began hemorrhaging sweat, my eyes darted around looking for a way out. A calming hand caressed my back. “How did I get here? We can’t possibly be in the Middle East. Not unless I was in the back of a flying car!”
“Relax…we are somewhere in a safe area of Alabama. Type of place you go and people don’t ask questions.”
“So….you do some of these beheadings IN America???”
“Sure! It’s much easier in terms of organizing the supplies you need inconspicuously. We’ve done some shoots overseas as well, but this is usually our favorite setting. It looks very dramatic around nightfall.”
“So…ISIS members are everywhere! Jesus Christ! We’ve been overrun. They are taking control. I should have never voted for Obama!!!!”
“Relax, Keith. Just relax. Let the events unfold. You will understand soon enough.”
I sat alone on a side of a hill unguarded. I could have run off, but they knew they had played deeply enough on my morbid curiosity to keep me around. Things were so bizarre. These anti-modern religious men were putting together what could only be properly described as a scene for a movie. A set was created from the natural elements of the ground, fake trees and a lighting scheme that made the whole place seem like the most dramatic dusk since the one Jesus saw on the cross.
Suddenly, they brought out a woman. She was screaming and trying to escape. Writhing with agony. She had been clearly beaten and tortured. It was apparent that these were going to be the last moments of her life. My God…they were going to behead her!
Was this a trick? Did they want me to make up some story about how some crazy fake ISIS beheading of like, Lita Ford, took place. T quickly found me and grabbed me by the arm. “We must go there now! Now! It’s happening NOW!”
She handed me a video camera and I ran with her. I had lost my identity for a moment in the crazed energy that exploded out of her. I knew only to run and then film. The woman’s head was pushed onto a wood block. “Now….you must film NOW!” and so I did.
The blade of her executioner smashed down on her neck. Blood shot out, but the neck remained intact. Her scream was the worst noise I have ever heard. There is nothing it can be compared to. He hacked again and again. I disappeared into the task at hand. ‘Tell The Story With The Camera’ I kept saying over and over in order to keep from shaking or collapsing.
What happened next was unforgettable. The executioner lifted the head from the ground and held it skyward in unspoken presentation to Mohammad. Blood drained all over his black outfit. Then, he casually tossed the head off screen. T told me “Cut!”
“Jesus Keith….that was great!!! You got the whole thing in one shot. Perfect. You have the guts of a cat burglar. I told you this was the guy! He gets it! This guy really can look past the horror to see the truth.”
In an oddly familiar voice, the executioner mumbled, “yes…yes he can.”
“You look like you need a drink. Sit down in the chair right over by the trailer.”
I slumped into the chair. T followed quickly with two glasses of bourbon. I took a glass and fired it down without speaking a word.
T began, “I’ll never forget my first beheading. It was extremely difficult at first, but once I understood…”
“UNDERSTOOD! We just murdered a woman. I just filmed the murder of a woman.”
T began laughing…”Yeah…yeah you did!”
“What the hell is wrong with you? What kind of Jihadist would give me alcohol? And you are laughing! Don’t you understand what you…what WE just were a part of?”
T’s mask turned towards me, “I certainly do…I just think that YOU don’t. I think when you’ll see the whole picture you’ll understand. It’ll make all the sense in the world, Keith. Then, you can decide what you want to do.”
Then, T shouted something loudly in a language I guessed to be Arabic. Quickly, all of the black robed, black masked ISIS killers surrounded me.
“Alright,” said T, “here goes!”
With that the mask was untied and I was staring directly into HER face. The soothing radical jihadist with the computerized voice was none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton. She smiled ear to ear and winked at me.
Then, the executioner removed his mask. It was President Barack Obama.
The next mask removed belonged to former President George W. Bush. “Fooled ya, huh!?”
Each face more bizarre than the next, former football player Ray Lewis, Metallica “drummer” Lars Ulrich, Tim Tebow, Danzig, Steve Jobs (who I believed had died!), Mrs. Glessman, my former 3rd grade teacher. All of them. Others too. They simply became a blur. What the hell was going on?
“T…or…Hillary…why are you doing this? WHY?”
“Yes! Yes! Freedom! True Freedom!”
I stared incredulously.
“Keith, you know the answer to this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Who is more free, a Jihadi who can kill or steal anytime the mood strikes him? This person has the power to act on every horrible whim that passes through his mind at any given moment? Or the fellow who spends his entire life with his head buried in a cubical praying he gets a raise so that he can afford to buy another piece of electronic equipment? The zombie…drifting from cradle to grave trying to create tiny manipulations in order to get the simplest, most basic image of freedom for a fleeting few seconds. Hell, if you cut his head off, you’d be doing the second guy a favor!”
“Why Keith? Because this carnival you see here….THIS IS TRUE FREEDOM. We sprinkle in a bit of the sections of the Koran to show we are capable of restraint and all that but never doubt for a moment that this is about Freedom.”
“But, she was an American?”
“Yes she was. Of course! This is Alabama! Who were you expecting? A Korean?…..Are you following this? You still look a bit confused?”
They all began laughing. “Because you are the audience, dummy! Who do you think this is all for? When you realize you can do whatever you want whenever you want to whomever you want, you have become a true member of the freest society on the planet. We got there first and as your public servants, we plan to bring as many of you as we can with us.”
“Keith, we need you to write stories for us. Crazy terrorist plots that were foiled in the nick of time. The crazier, the better. Make them funny. Have terrorists shoot the Space Needle at New England! Have “ISIS” set up a casino style betting service where people can profit through decapitations and different styles of murders. The government is 100 percent behind this. Blow up Yankee Stadium! You know you want to! We can make whatever you write come to life. Just give us a few days notice, we’ll make it happen.”
“For us to truly realize our birthright as Americans, freedom, we must destroy all the things that stand in our way. Love, compassion, empathy….all impediments to experiencing true freedom. We will teach them freedom through wars and beheadings. Freedom will come to America when we can own every awful thing we’ve done or will do with a smile on our face and without a trace of guilt. Because this is what it means to be free!”
She extended her hand out to shake mine. In that moment, everything flashed before me. All my actions, my thoughts, my beliefs, my fears, my dreams….every element that mentally constructs the thing that calls itself Keith Spillett. No one to answer to, no God to punish me, no law to force me into a prison cell….only the will and what it most wants in every moment.
Every day a celebration of my innermost wants above the needs of all others. A license to will the world into whatever I want it to be. So much suffering will be caused, so much sorrow, so much terror, so much pain…but not for me.
I shook her hand and smiled, “When do we start?”