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Silent Steve's Stories


If They Only Knew

Candidate C


After Their Kind


How Many?


In the Spirit

Star-Spangled Ploy

If It's OK Now...

Never Again

Forgotten, but Forgiven?

What About Tomorrow?

Nothing to Sneeze At

Our Brothers and Sisters

Thou Shalt Not Hate

Just Five Minutes

Vote with Your Fists

Burning Issue

Humanity's Future?

What Would Jesus Do?

One Against Many

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Silent Steve's Stories


If They Only Knew

by Stephen L. Thompson

Somewhere in Afghanistan, September 11, 2001

The sound of gunfire echoed throughout the valley as the men celebrated. Ayman held his AK-47 into the air and fired off an entire clip. He looked around and laughed with everyone else. Walking back to the cave to grab a few more clips, he came upon Saif sitting on a rock and looking out into the distance. "Saif, why aren't you celebrating? We've achieved a great victory against the Great Satan."

Without turning around, Saif replied, "I know we have achieved a victory, it's just...." Turning to Ayman he continued, "I just hate to lose Osama."

"How do you mean?"

"Yes, America is vile and corrupt and weak, but even they can't be so stupid to leave him alive."

Holding his AK across his chest, Ayman stated, "They will have to get through me before they can get to him."

Standing, Saif made a similar gesture. "I too will gladly lay down my life to save his, and take many Americans with me." Putting his hand on Ayman's shoulder he continued, "But you need to look at it from their point of view. They only see the short term. In the long run we will win ... Masha'Allah. But in the short term they will do everything in their power to stop him. They will rain missiles and bombs down upon us, because it will be prerogative for them to kill Osama as quickly as possible. They will fear that if they don't kill him soon and he is still alive five, six years from now, it will only send the message to all loyal Jihadists that we can attack America and get away with it. Even the Great Satan cannot be that incompetent."

Candidate C

by Stephen L. Thompson

The young man stepped up to the microphone and smiled for the cameras. Leaning forward slightly he said, "My name is Joe, and I'm from Toledo. My question for the candidates is this."

He paused for a second and licked his lips before saying, "I am a political cynic. I know that even if you have the perfect plan for balancing the budget, or fixing health care, or whatever, you can't turn it into law by Presidential edict. It will have to go through Congress where so many compromises will have to be made that the end product will bear little resemblance to what you started with — if it even passes. So given that your campaign promises are just so much hot air, why should I vote for you?"

Candidate A smiled and gave their condolences as if political cynicism was akin to an inoperable brain tumor — and you would probably be dead before the election. Then they gave a little spiel calculated to energize their base. If you weren't already going to vote for them, it did nothing. If you were already going to vote for them, all it did was make you doubly sure about your vote.

Candidate B smiled and gave their condolences as if political cynicism was akin to a headache — and all you needed to get over it was Candidate B. Then they gave a little spiel about how their candidacy was all things for all people. Everyone was welcomed and all opinions would be given equal weight. They did not mention that they would never accomplish anything given the human proclivity towards disagreement.

Candidate C frowned and nodded towards their opponents. "Why should you vote for me?" they asked. "Unfortunately, the best answer I can give you is I'm not them."


by Stephen L. Thompson

The two girls tied to the overturned cart were screaming and calling out to gods who did not respond. Whether they cried more for their father, whose cooling body lay before them, what the ragged stranger was doing to their sister, or the fear of their fate, could not be determined.

Two men in flowing robes, unseen to the girls and the stranger, stood in their stealth bubble watching the scene with disgust. The younger man, pointing to the man raping the young girl, turned to his companion and asked, "Havol, are you sure it's him?"

"Yes Seriton, the genetic scan is conclusive." After a short pause Havol continued, "What did you expect? A scholar?"

"No." Seriton looked to the ground. "I figured we would just find an illiterate farmer. Not this."

The stranger finished with the girl and left her, bloody and crying, lying beside the road. He ran back to the cart and began jumping around and screaming obscenities. The two girls cringed away from him and tried to hide behind their arms. The stranger picked up the body of their father and began swinging it around. Whether he was trying to dance with it or have sex with it, the watchers could not tell.

Seriton shook his head, "I know we can't do anything, but..."

"You've answered your own question," Havol said. "We can't do anything. Nearly a quarter of the world, and both of us, are descendant from the child conceived today."

"It's..." Clenching his fist, Seriton said, "To travel back four thousand years, searching for the last man from whom all humans alive are descendant from, only to find he is a killer and a rapist, it's...."

Havol held his chin in his hand for several seconds. "To be completely dispassionate and objective, this was probably the way he managed to have so many children."

Seriton turned and stared at the older man. "That is a very depressing and disturbing thought."

"The truth often is." Turning away from the depraved scene, Havol continued, "Come, we have everything we came for. It is time we return. Everyone will want to know how our search for 'The Father of Humanity' has gone."

"And what will we tell them?"

Without answering Havol activated the machine, and the two time traveling researchers returned home.

The stranger had dropped the body of the father, and grabbed a jug of wine from the cart. Drinking deeply, a large amount missed his mouth and washed a minuscule part of the grime from his face. Once fortified, he grabbed the second girl.

After Their Kind

by Stephen L. Thompson

"A surprise announcement from New York has shocked the world and been loudly condemned by the Vatican, the White House, and innumerable other groups. A research team led by Dr. Sara Fangming of the company NuGene Ideas has reported the birth of the world's first human clone. The baby boy, being referred to only as 'Adam,' was born sometime last week at an undisclosed hospital. Dr. Fangming stated that the secrecy of the conception, pregnancy, and birth are for the baby and his family's safety."

Seven years later

David peered over the rough board and down into the yard. Jason, crouched beside him, whispered, "Do you see them?"

"No." A flash of red to his left made David spin around and yell, "They're behind us."

As Jason turned another missile, this one blue and on target, hit his shoulder. With a wet "pop" both were soaked.

This brought laughter from Sam and Mike in the yard below, and angry shouts and water balloons from the tree house. The air was soon filled with red, blue, yellow, and green Weapons of Mass Wetness. Most missed their targets, as much from poor aerodynamics as from poor aim resulting from laughter. After several frantic seconds, a large swath of the backyard had been watered and covered in small pieces of colorful plastic.

David and Jason came down from the tree house, and the boys began arguing over who was soaked the most, who had the best and worst aim, and other meaningless claims to fame. The cry of, "Sam, lunch time," imposed a cease fire in the war and arguing, to groans of, "Aw man."

"We better get home," Mike said punching his younger brother David's shoulder. "Mom probably has our lunch ready to."

"Mine too," Jason added.

"Okay guys," Sam said waving at his friends. "After lunch Mike and I get the fort."

As his friends pedaled away, he shouted, "Oh, get more balloons."

"We will."

* * *

"Sam, this is the last time." As his mother called this, a stranger walking down the sidewalk turned up their walkway.

"Afternoon ma'am," he said tipping his hat. Checking his clipboard he asked, "Would you be Amanda Thurston?"

"I would be, but I'm not interested in whatever you're selling."

"Oh, I'm not selling anything, I'm just collecting signature's to get Adam Wilmut on the ballet for the Sixth District." At this time Sam came running around the side of the house. The man looked at him and said, "My, what a fine lad you have there."

"Yes," Amanda said as she brushed off some dirt and leaves from his shirt. "He's our pride and..."

The stranger pulled a pistol from his under his coat, and sent a bullet through Sam's forehead.

As Sam fell to the ground, Amanda stood, frozen in disbelief. With a wordless scream she dropped to her knees and held her son's body to herself; her clothes staining with his blood.

The man raised the pistol above his head and shouting, "Only God can create life. This monstrosity was not part of His plan."

Amanda laid her son on the ground, stood, and kicked the man in the balls as hard as she could. As he lay on the walkway, trying to yell, "It was God's will," she picked up his gun and emptied the clip.


by Stephen L. Thompson

Jason forced himself awake. It took him a few tries before he smashed the snooze button. He hated Thursdays. For nine semesters his earliest class had been at 10:00, usually 11:00 AM. Now, every Tuesday and Thursday he had to get up for a stupid 8:00 Lit 101 course. It was a stupid course he needed to graduate, but one he had never found time to take in the past. In what his parents hoped would be his last semester, all the more acceptable afternoon classes conflicted with his other needed courses. He and his advisor spent two days juggling his schedule, but in the end he had to bite the bullet of an 8:00.

Jason sat on the edge of his bed and rubbed his eyes. Last night's poker game hadn't ended until almost 4:00, not that Jason minded; it gave him the chance to make back the $40 bucks he lost Wednesday night. But it made getting up at 7:30 a real bitch. He wanted to just skip the class, but the professor was a bastard, always giving surprise quizzes that counted for a good portion of the grade.

As he lurched along the sidewalk towards the English building, Jason passed a billboard, filled with flyers for local bands, pizza places, furniture for sale, roommates wanted, etc. He almost walked past it, but a flyer stuck on the end caught his attention. It was just a sheet of paper with the words, "Tear Down This Flyer!" written with a purple marker. Jason paused before it and stared at it. He read through it several times, but could not figure out the punch line.

He finally reached out, and yanked it off the board. There was nothing behind it. Confused even more, Jason turned the paper over. "Do you always do what you are told?" was written in pencil on the back.

Jason was too tired to think about it. He was going to crumple it up, but decided to stick it back on the board. Sighing, he continued to class.

How Many?

by Stephen L. Thompson

Admiral Ng took a sip of ice water as he pointed to the reporter from The Martian Times.

"Admiral, in your statement you said the military is working with local governments to evacuate all civilians within ten light-years of the front. Are there any plans to extend this 'buffer zone?'"

"At this time, no. But we are working with local governments all across the Republic to prepare to defend against any raiding parties the aliens launch. As such, we are putting in place clear lines of communication, which will be needed if the evacuation area is expanded." He pointed to the reporter from the Sandran Daily Post.

"Admiral, has any progress been made towards bringing the Lumens in on our side?"

Ng scoffed. "So far, the aliens have only attacked human vessels. A few Lumen and Pentan vessels have also disappeared, but the causes of those disappearances have yet to be determined. The Lumens will go to war, or not, for their own reasons regardless of what we say. And the Pentans have declared that they will offer humanitarian aid to any who need it, human, Lumen, or alien."

A young man in the back of the room yelled out, "A very enlighten view. To bad it isn't shared by our military."

Taking another sip of water, Ng studied the man and thought through his response. "You're Richard Slote from MakePeaceNow, aren't you?"


"The site that two days ago called me a, 'Bloodthirsty barbarian from the "Shoot First; What Questions" category.' Correct?"


Ng drummed his fingers on his podium for a few seconds. "Well, do you have a question for me or not?" This brought a restrained chuckle from the other reporters.

"Why do you insist we fight these aliens?"

Rubbing his chin, Ng said, "I know it is a difficult thing for some people to understand, so I'll try to explain it as simply as I can." Taking a step out around the podium, he stepped to the edge of the stage. After a dramatic pause he explained, "They are trying to kill us."

"Isn't it possible they only attacked us for invading their space?"

"Yes, it is possible. If that is the case, then we are extremely sorry. We have pulled back, there is no longer a human within twenty light-years of their presumed home system. In response to our gestures," Ng emphasized the word, "of good will, they have invaded our space."

"But why the insistence on fighting them? What we need is to open negations with them, not to open fire on them."

Ng looked as though he was going to yell a response, but then a smile came to his face. "I couldn't agree more. Come up here," he waved to Slote.


"Would you please leave your seat and join me up here."

Looking around the room, and seeing every eye on him, Slote stood up straight and walked to the stage. He stood next to Ng, who had to look up for Slote was nearly a head taller.

"I have a meeting with the President this afternoon," Ng told him, "and I'm going ask him to make you," he poked Slote's chest, "a diplomat. Since you know all that we should be doing."

Slote's face grew pale. "I'm not qualified to be..."

"That doesn't matter," Ng cut him off with a laugh. Returning to his normal voice he said, "The last six qualified diplomats we've sent to open up negotiations with these aliens have all been killed." Emphasizing each word with a slap to Slote's back, Ng continued, "Every single one."

With a forced smile Ng continued, "So it doesn't matter if you're qualified or not. They'll probably kill you no matter what. They have no qualms about killing civilians. Hell, the first humans they killed were the 137 crewmembers of the unarmed, research vessel Richard P. Feynman. Since then they have destroyed the Guard Cutter Augusten Buel, four freighters, at least eighteen mining vessels, one space station, and six asteroid habitats. They also heavily damaged Republic II, nearly killing the Vice President, who was trying to open negotiations with them. In the past ten days, at least 817 people have died at their hands, 542 of them civilians. In our policy of 'Shoot only when fired upon,' we have probably killed some of them, but all their casualties come from the crews of their warships."

"So because they kill civilians while we only kill soldiers, that justifies this war?" Slote asked.

Ng glared at him for several seconds. "How many more civilians will have to die before you feel that a war of self-defense is justified? How many more star systems will we have to relinquish to have 'Peace for our times?'" When Slote did not come up with an answer, Ng turned to the other reporters. "Peace is a great thing, it is what we all hope for, but it only works when everyone wants it. In the long and bloody history of Humanity, how many dictators, despots, and madman have been defeated by their victims thinking warm, fuzzy thoughts?"


by Stephen L. Thompson

Leaning over the cubical wall, Tony asked, "Hey Jen, how were your holidays?"

Looking up Jen smiled and replied, "Too expensive and not long enough."

Tony laughed. "Very true. Say, did you and Erik ever work out where you're going this year?"

"Yep, we're thinking Hawaii, probably around Christmas."

"Cool," Tony said nodding.

"So, what do you wish for this new year?"


"Yeah, you know," Jen took a sip of coffee, "Peace on Earth, a big raise, stuff like that."

"Oh, well, I guess you could say I'm wishing for death and destruction on an unprecedented scale."

Jen stared at Tony for a few seconds, then set her mug down. "What?"

Tony shrugged. "I mean, every year, everybody from the Pope to the President to," with his thumb Tony pointed to the ceiling, "our Clueless Leader make speeches where they pray for peace in the new year, good will towards men, profits through the roof. But, that never happens. So, these last few days I've been thinking about it, and I'm starting to wonder if hoping for the best results in the worst. So this year I'm hoping for World War III, famine, plagues aplenty..."

"That's a horrible thing to think," Jen stood up to look Tony in the eye. "Yes, we haven't gotten Peace on Earth yet, but you can't become negative. What about the power of positive thinking?"

Tony shrugged again. "That's just wishful thinking, it doesn't do anything. What's the phrase, 'Wish in one hand and crap in the other, and see which hand fills up first.' Wishing for peace means nothing; unless you actually do something. And when have you known our leaders to do anything?"

In the Spirit

by Stephen L. Thompson

Joseph Warner mentally checked off relatives with gifts as he walked along the sidewalk. Occasionally he would glance at the holiday decorations the stores and businesses had put up, but mostly he ignored them and focused on not stepping on the patches of ice.

His path back to his dorm passed the courthouse, and as he approached it he heard a ringing bell and people shouting. His curiosity piqued, he stopped and saw a group of two women and a man standing around the tree the city had put up. One woman held a sign reading, "It's a CHRISTMAS tree," while the sign the man held read, "Put CHRIST back in Christmas." The other woman was ringing the bell and reading from the Bible.

Joseph continued walking before they could notice him. After about ten minutes he reached his dorm room and piled the gifts on his bed. After grabbing the Bible from his bookshelf, he headed back to the courthouse.

He walked towards the group and stopped about ten feet from them. He opened his Bible and pretended to be reading, flipping through pages.

"Would you care to join us?" the woman with the Bible asked.

"No." After a couple more flipped pages Joseph asked, "I'm just trying to find the deep spiritual meaning a Christmas tree has for Christians. Perhaps you can point out the verse that reads, 'Thou shalt have a Christmas Tree.'"

The woman stopped ringing the bell and a cold gleam came to her eyes. She said, "We are trying to save Christmas from the secularists who are trying to destroy this country; those who want to call this," she pointed to the tree behind her, "a holiday tree."

After a slight pause Joseph said, "So, when you die and go to heaven you'll met with all these early Christian martyrs who were fed to lions who will ask you, 'What have you done for the faith,' and you'll reply, 'We made sure people didn't call a Christmas tree a Holiday tree.' At which point they'll slap their foreheads and say, 'Why didn't we think of that?'"

The bell ringer took a step forward. "This is a serious matter that..."

"No it isn't," Joseph interrupted. Pointing over his shoulder he said, "There are people starving out there. There are people being shot because their religion, or the way they practice their religion is wrong, at least according to the people with the guns. And you are here. Arguing over what people call a tree. This is not serious, it's ludicrous."

With her Bible the reader pointed at Joseph. "We are trying to save the traditional Christmas from those who wish to destroy it."

"Was there a Christmas tree at the first Christmas?"

Without indicating she heard Joseph, the reader went on. "By renaming this, the secularists are trying to dilute the values of the traditional Christmas."

"Christmas Trees have been around for about two hundred years. How can they be so vital to a two thousand year old religion? There was no Christmas tree at the first Christmas. I mean, how much more traditional can you get? If Jesus didn't need one, why do you?"

Star-Spangled Ploy

by Stephen L. Thompson

Slamming his fist on the podium, Congressman Conant exclaimed, "And that is why I voted for a Constitutional Amendment to ban flag burning."

This was met with uneven applause from the packed auditorium.

"Thank you, Congressman Conant." The Moderator then turned her head slightly towards the Congressman's opponent. "Mister Drake, same question."

Drake smiled. "I agree with the Congressman that it is a shame," his hand slapped his podium, "we can't send our kids outside without a burning flag being crammed down their throats. I believe..." He had been pointing at the audience, but he brought his finger to his lips and tapped a few times. "I believe I've never actually seen a flag being burnt. Have you Congressman?" Without waiting for an answer, he looked to the audience. "Has anyone here?" After a slight pause he asked, "Yet how many are struggling with obscenely high medical bills?" Drake raised his hand, which was joined by scores more.

Drake took a deep breath. "For those of you pained by the thought of a flag being burned, I understand and respect your sentiment. But amending the Constitution to ban flag burning is not the solution. If anything, it will make matters worse."

Holding his hand out, as if to silence any remarks, Drake said, "Let me explain. A few flags are burned each year in the country in protest. I repeat, a few. Very few. I don't have the exact number, but I would bet it is less than a hundred, probably closer to twenty. Now, if this amendment passes, a date will have to be set for when the law takes effect, say January first. Do you know what would happen on December thirty-first? Thousands, tens of thousands of Americans would gather in Washington, DC and in cities large and small across the nation. And just before the stroke of midnight, they would light thousands of flags on fire. Your options are to either see, well, not see but know that twenty flags are burned each year, or watch as thousands are burned before your eyes. And it would not end once January first came. People will take pieces of cardboard, draw a flag on it, and burn that. Unless the ban is Draconian in it's description of what an American flag is, that will be perfectly legal. And I suspect that people will line up before the White House, and Supreme Court, and in thousands of other places, and burn these cardboard flags day after day after day, until the Amendment is repealed." Drake shrugged. "The simple truth, a Constitutional Amendment banning flag burning will only result in hundreds of thousands of flags being burned. Period. That's the only thing that will happen."

Drake tapped his fingertips against his podium. "Now, of all the problems facing America today, flag burning is number 3,714. Call me crazy, but I think the first 3,713 problems are more important. Problems such as: Social Security, health care, national security, education, immigration, gas prices, the war, crime, incompetent leadership, the deficit, the environment, unemployment, racial tensions, rogue nations, poverty, decaying infrastructure, bigotry, foreign and domestic terrorism, drug abuse, invasions of privacy... I could go on and on.

"You may ask, given all these problems, why is flag burning such a big issue? Well, I have a theory. I believe flag burning is a ploy being used by certain elected officials to mask the fact that they," Drake looked directly at Conant, "have accomplished nothing." Drake pointed at a random audience member, "Nothing for you." Pointing at more people he continued, "Or you, or you, or your child who can't afford to go to college, or your grandfather who has to go to Canada to get his medication, or your wife whose job was outsourced, or all of us when we pay an arm and a leg at the gas pump."

Pounding his fist on his podium Drake raised his voice, "We have wasted enough time on this diversion. Let's get back to the real problems of America; yours!"

The auditorium shook from the applause.

If It's OK Now...

by Stephen L. Thompson

The man waved to the crowd before him. "Thank you," he said, flashing the best teeth money could buy. He was clean-shaven, and his hair was receding in a manner that reminded people of an aging father. His tunic was expensive, but not extravagant. Despite his wealth and family history, he looked like a man of the people.

"Thank you," his deep voice boomed over the crowd. Gesturing off to his side he said, "Now, I would like to introduce a very dear friend of mine, who has come out to speak for my behave. I give you, Jesus Christ."

A young man with a dark, flowing beard, wearing a simple white robe, stepped up to the stage. He waved to the crowd, and then embraced his friend. With his arm still around his friend's shoulder, he told the crowd, "Let's have another round of applause for Quintus Cornelius Bassus, your next Senator."

Quintus broke away from Jesus to take in the raucous roar of the crowd.

Once the noise settled, Jesus stated, "I've known Quintus for many years now. I've also known his opponent, Publius Domitius Longinus for many years." Jesus had to hold his hands up to quiet the boos. "Now now, don't get me wrong. Publius is a good man." He paused a few heartbeats for effect, then pointed to Quintus standing just off the stage, "But Quintus is a great man."

Jesus had to wait awhile before the cheers diminished enough that he could continue. "He is a man who has always done what was best for the empire. As a young man he served with honor in Gaul, not once, but twice. There he had to make many tough choices, but his decisions were always made in the best interests of the empire."

Pointing to the crowd, Jesus declared, "We don't need more 'Bread and Circus' leaders, we need men who will do what needs to be done, and Quintus has proven he is that kind of man. He is the kind of man we need more of in Rome."

The crowd once more broke out in voluminous cheers. Quintus returned the stage and again embraced his dear friend.

Never Again

by Stephen L. Thompson

The President walked up to the podium, and in a well-polished move, activated his speech screen as he nodded to the outdoor audience of thousands. He paused for a few seconds to let everyone quiet down. "We are gathered here today," he began, his words electronically enhanced so even the most distant heard him, "to mark the centennial of an act of sheer barbarity that has far too many historical precedents. It was here on the early morning hours of July 28, 2087, that the self-proclaimed Christian Army of Light began leveling the Gay Ghetto of Philadelphia. Using military weapons against civilians, they massacred some twenty thousand people." Pausing between each word he repeated, "Twenty thousand people. People whose only crime was not loving who the government told them they should love.

"The 'Cleansing Operation,' as the massacre was called by those in authority, took just over forty hours. At the end, the bodies of the slain, and wounded, were dragged through the blood-stained streets and piled where that monument stands now." He pointed to his left at a small obelisk a few hundred yards away. "There they were set alight to, 'Cleanse the sin from this world.'

"Despite having 'God on their side,' the Army of Light did not leave the ghetto unscathed. With rocks, homemade weapons, and bare fists, the innocents fought back. Over two hundred Christian soldiers died with those they were murdering. While their victims burned, these 'heroes' were buried in a nearby, new, national cemetery so their sacrifice would survive the ages to inspire generations to come. That cemetery is still visited, but only as a reminder of the horrors done in the name of fundamentalist religion.

"This last, Unholy Crusade was the final straw. Using the rational from America's own wars against the Islamic theocracies decades earlier, the free nations of the world rose up against the Christian theocracy that had poisoned this land. The death of these twenty thousand, and those of countless more from similar 'Cleansing Operations' across the country, freed us 380 million.

"Now, we have given the victims proper burial, although most of the graves are only marked with a simple, 'Unknown.' We have set aside a National Day of Observance, and this ground they consecrated, but there is more we need to do. Will you all rise and look out upon this field of tombstones," the President turned but his voice was still clear, "and swear with me so that their deaths will not have been in vain; 'Never again.'"

"Never again," echoed from the thousands in the audience, and the millions more watching from around the world.

Forgotten, but Forgiven?

by Stephen L. Thompson

Beloved children's story author dies of heart attack.

By Michael T. Crenson, FP International Writer

Monday, November 9, 2037

How will Adeaqla get home now?

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past five years, you know that Adeaqla is halfway through his mystical voyage through the dark land of Asu. He and his companions Nabilat, Iwaqraz, and Irhawaz have crossed the burning sands of Arobarot and fought off three headed Seilearsis and fire breathing Snaitsirhcs. At the end of the last book, The Asu Nightmare, the friends have finally escaped from the dungeon of the evil sorcerer Hsub Egroeg.

The first four volumes of the proposed seven volume Adeaqla Chronicles have sold more than seventy million copies worldwide. "Adeaqla is this generation's Harry Potter," says Anthony Babb, professor of literature at the University of South Carolina. Harry Potter, as some of the older readers will know, was the boy wizard who swept the literary and movie world some forty years ago and whose seven novels, movie adaptations, and merchandise, has grossed well over $60 billion.

But Adeaqla won't be finishing his journey anytime soon. His creator, the reclusive Osama bin Laden, died this morning in his modest apartment in Jaläläbäd, Afghanistan, of an apparent heart attack. He was 80 years old.

In his last interview, given just over a year ago to AwesomeNews' Dawn Martin, he explained that he first got the idea many years ago when he, "had to lay low for some radical actions taken in middle age; which I've since outgrown." He and his fellow "radical refugees" would pass the time by telling stories. "It was just something I started. I didn't plan it out, but the other guys kept asking me for more. Ahmed [al-Hakayma] was the first one to say to me, 'You really ought to write these down.' That's how this all started." Al-Hakayma would go on to illustrate the first two novels, before succumbing to cancer two years ago.

Jihadist Press, the publisher of Adeaqla Chronicles, was unavailable for comments as to the future of their most successful series.

What About Tomorrow?

by Stephen L. Thompson

John's soft knock on the office door was met with a muffled, "Come in." John took a deep breath, let it out his nose, and opened the door.

A middle-aged man with a severe case of receding hairline sat typing at his desk. The copper name plate before him read, "Frank Rurka, Associate Director." Glancing up he saw John standing on the other side of his desk. He stood up so fast his chair toppled over backward. "Get the hell out of here," he yelled, pointing at the door.

"Mister Rurka, please, I..."

"Security," Frank bellowed.

"Please, listen to me. I want to apologize for yesterday, and see if I can get my job back."

Frank's right hand came to his face and ever so gently stroked his still swollen lip. "You can shove that apology, and you are never getting your job back here."

A security guard ran into the office, and was startled to see John.

"How the hell did he get in here?" Frank shouted at the guard.

"I, I don't know, sir."

"Find out, and fire whoever let him in."

As the guard grabbed his arm and started pulling him out of the office, John cried, "Please, Mister Rurka, I am so sorry."

Frank followed the two of them out into the hallway towards the elevator.

John clasped his hands together. "Please, I was suffering from bad philosophy. I was trying to live each day..." The closing elevator doors cut off the rest of his plea.

Nothing to Sneeze At

by Stephen L. Thompson

Anna finished wiping her nose with a tissue. She raised her eyebrow at her boyfriend Michael. "Did you forget something?"

Michael shook his head. "That little bugger."


Even though they were the only ones in the study lounge, Michael leaned close and kept his voice low. "It was something Tom asked me to do."

Anna let a breath out through her nose. "I don't like you spending time with him. He's a bad influence."

"He's a good guy. You should give him another chance."

Anna shook her head. "What did he ask you to do?"

"The other day we were talking and he sneezed. I said, 'God bless you.'"

"So you say it to him, but not me?"

Michael patted her hand. "Let me finish. He then asked why I said it. I said, 'Because that's what you say when someone sneezes.' He then told me about how the custom started either as a way to protect the person from the plague, or as a way to cram someone's soul back into their body before Satan could get hold of it."

"That's silly, the soul doesn't leave the body when you sneeze."

"That's what I said. At which point he asked, 'Then why do you continue saying "God bless you" when someone sneezes?'"

Anna took his hand in hers. "Because it's customary. Everyone knows that."

"But the custom has become meaningless."

Anna let go of his hand and held her Bible before her. "Michael Aaron Bingham, saying 'God bless you' is never meaningless. Would your heathen friend prefer I said, 'Gesundheit'?"

"But Anna, why does anything have to be said?"

* * *

Tom was dodging death rays and splattering alien zombies when someone knocked on the door of his dorm room. "It's open," he yelled over his shoulder.

Michael walked up behind him.

Tom glanced at him. "Howdy." With his right elbow he pointed to a chair. "Have a seat."

As Michael sat down he asked, "You still haven't made it past level fourteen?"

"I'm still working at it, Mister Level Ten. What's up?"

"I was just with Anna in the study lounge."

Tom shot a couple of zombies then, without taking his eyes from the screen, said, "Okay."

"She sneezed."

Tom started laughing. "And?"

"I didn't say 'God bless you,' and she got a bit upset."

Tom laughed for several seconds. With a flash of a smile he said, "Sorry." After he had killed a few more zombies he asked, "Did she give a reason as to why you have to say 'God bless you' when someone sneezes?"

"It's customary."

"Ah, so you see, it is far more important that you be like everyone else. You have to do exactly as you're told, and not have any independent thoughts."

"That's not what being a Christian is about."

"Who said I was talking about Christianity?" After a pause Tom finished, "That's what it means to have a girlfriend."

Michael closed his eyes and shook his head.

Tom shouted, "Come on." Returning to his normal voice he said, "You have to give me that one."

Michael tried to say something, but his muffled laughs got in the way. He finally took a deep breath, let it out, then said, "Anyway..."

Tom paused his game and turned to his friend. "Okay, this was a little experiment I had. I'm sorry that I used you for it."

"What kind of an experiment?"

"Well, I guess you can say I'm working on a fanatic detector. Whether someone says 'God bless you,' or 'Gesundheit,' or 'Yabba-Dabba-Doo' when somebody sneezes should make no difference to the world. If the reason I get kicked out of heaven is because I didn't say 'God bless you,' then God has issues. You with me so far?"


"Okay, now some will say that if you give in this little bit of not saying 'God bless you,' then it will be the end of Western civilization. These people are fanatics.

"We've had numerous religious debates, you trying to convince me that God exists, me trying to convince you He doesn't. Neither of us has succeeded, and probably neither of us will. That's okay. You can't make someone change their believes by a frontal assault. You need to be sneaky."

Michael had to laugh at that. "I don't think being sneaky will help your cause."

"I wasn't trying to show you the superiority of my views, I was just trying to show that your side is full of fanatics. My hope was that at your next Bible study group, one of your Born Again friends would sneeze, you'd mention that the custom is meaningless, and they would tar and feather you for listening to an atheist."

"Thank you for being so concerned for my welfare," Michael said with a smile.

"You're welcome," Tom answered. "I figured that they would have to go get a bucket of tar, and some feathers, and try to figure out how the heat the tar up. I mean, you would probably have had thirty, forty minutes to make your escape from their clutches."

After they had both finished laughing, Michael said, "Okay, yes, my side does have a lot of fanatics. But every group does."

"True. But when was the last time an atheist flew a plane into a building? You have to believe in a God to do something like that."

Our Brothers and Sisters

by Stephen L. Thompson

"The Chair recognizes the Honorable Mister Mews from California."

"Thank you, Madame Speaker. Ladies and Gentlemen of the House.

"It is an almost certainty that someday, in the next year, or next decade, or next century, a human will be born like no other before them. Instead of resulting from the union of sperm and egg, creating a new genetic individual, this boy or girl will be the result of cloning.

"Now, popular media has portrayed clones as either mindless automatons created by some evil genius bent on global, or galactic, domination, or as an exact duplicate of the cloned individual, able to take over their lives without anyone knowing the better. All of that is fiction. The facts are that an individual is more than a collection of genes. A clone of Adolf Hitler would not set out to conquer the world and exterminate the Untermenschen. An Adolf clone, if raised by a loving family in suburban America, would be like other young boys: riding his bike, playing video games, flirting with girls. We have nothing to fear from clones; they will be no more or less human than the rest of us.

"There are numerous technical problems that will need to be resolved before anyone can be cloned. There are also numerous ethical problems that will hopefully be solved before a cloned boy or girl enters the world. Those matters are not ones I wish to discuss today. What I do wish to discuss is a fundamental legal problem; one that we can solve now.

"The problem, simply stated, is 'Will clones be full citizens of the United States?' Once they turn eighteen will they be allowed to vote? Will they be allowed to put on a uniform and serve their country? To marry? To hold public office? To become President?

"I believe it is of vital important for people, not only in the United States but of the whole world, to start thinking about what future we want for our species. It is almost certain that clones, to some extent, will play a role in our future. Will we welcome them as our brothers and sisters, or use them for slave labor? I believe this country needs to send the message that we will respect all humans, regardless of how they came into this world. I therefore propose the following amendment to the Constitution: 'Citizenship in the United States of America shall not depend upon the manner of conception.'

"I am not deluding myself. I doubt this amendment will pass either house of Congress or be ratified by the states. The opponents will say that we have too many other problems right now, and that it is not the time to worry about such things. When is the right time to worry about such things? Will we wait until a clone has been born to determine their legal status? We must start thinking of the future we want, and we need to start laying the groundwork for that future.

"Thank you."

Thou Shalt Not Hate

by Stephen L. Thompson

"Welcome back to Wake Up America. This morning we ask, 'How big a role should religion play in American society?' It is a question that has been debated for a long time, and doesn't look like it will be over any time soon. With me are two representatives from the forefront of this debate.

"In the studio is Reverend Roger Tishler, founder of the Christians United organization. It's a pleasure to have you here."

"It's a pleasure to be here, Diane."

"And joining us via satellite from New York is John Benson, author of the controversial new book: Why Fundamentalist Christians Scare the Bejesus out of Me. It's a pleasure to have you on our show."

"Thank you."

"First let me ask you, Mister Benson, why do Fundamentalist Christians scare you?"

"Simply Diane, what Fundamentalist Christians desire is to create a theocracy in America. That scares me because in a theocracy people like me, a freethinking nonconformist, are put up against a wall."

"It is not our desire to put anyone up against a wall. Our desire is to bring the word of God to everyone."

"Even if you have to cram Him down their throats."

"Reverend Tishler, do you wish to create a Christian theocracy in this country?"

"Diane, people like Mister Benson throw the term 'theocracy' around to scare people."

"It should scare people. Can you name a theocracy from any time in history that was decent? One that allowed dissent of its subjects, or the basic freedoms like speech, press, and religion expressly spelled out in the Constitution."

"A theocracy is not our goal. The goal of Christians United is to return America to its Christians roots. Look at what has happened to this glorious country under the bludgeon of liberal 'ideals.' America won't be great again until we accept our role in God's plan."

"America is not all white, or black, or Hispanic, or rich, or poor, or middleclass, or Democrat, or Republican, or Libertarian. Why should we all be one religion? America is strongest when we accept our diversity."

"Your diversity means the legalized murder of innocents, the banning of God from the public square, obscenity passing as entertainment, the acceptance of sinful lifestyles ..."

"But just because someone is a faithful Christian doesn't mean that they are a good person, or that they are qualified or capable of running this country. I don't think I've ever heard of a doctor being killed because they wouldn't perform an abortion. Have you? Yet how many times has a self-describe Christian blown up a clinic?"

"Such instances are regrettable. One of our goals is the end of legalized murder, but Christians United does not condone violence. We wish to save lives, not end them."

"Really? As far as I can tell groups like Christians United are always blaming people like me for the ills of society and crying 'We need to stop the secularists before they destroy the county.' Yet when 'Christians' try to rewrite the Bible so it reads, 'Thou Shalt Not Kill; except abortion doctors,' you proclaim 'We don't condone violence,' but do nothing to stop these radical elements of your faith."

"God will judge them, as He will judge all of us. The Apocalypse is coming."

"You've been saying that for centuries. I think the only apocalypses we need to worry about are human created ones."

"Whether you believe it or not, sooner or later, Judgment Day will be upon us, and I pray you see the light before then."

"I doubt that will happen. But, so I don't miss my chance, there is something I want to do. It's a little experiment with all of those who have seen the light. Yesterday, I set up a new email account. For all of you Fundamentalist Christians out there, my email is thereisnogod@maxmail.com. I repeat, my email is thereisnogod, all one word, @maxmail.com. Now, reverend, how much do you want to bet that by the time we wrap this up, and I get to a computer to check my email, I'll have already started receiving hate mail from your 'peace-loving' followers you think are the key to a return to a glorious country? How many death threats do you think I'll get before the Second Coming?"

Just Five Minutes

by Stephen L. Thompson

"Hello, and welcome to another exciting edition of Just Five Minutes. We're your hosts; Ray Bizub ..."

"...and Sherry Odum. Tonight we're coming to you live from the 24/7 Gas located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. If our cameraman will pan around, you won't see much, just dark streets and the occasional car. Being stuck here five or six nights a week, it is no wonder our contestant wanted to be on our show."

"And our contestant tonight would be?"

"His name is Nick Welch. He graduated from West Chester University last year with a degree in English Literature. He hopes to write novels someday, but for the past ten months he's been working the night shift here at the gas station. The top three things he hates most about this job are: stupid customers, crappy pay, and stupid customers."

"It's funny how stupid customers usually top the list."

"Very true Ray. Earlier Nick told me that he wishes he could go after them tonight. Specifically the ones who apparently are incapable of making a cup of coffee without spilling half of it on the counter, and who then just leave it for him to clean up."

"Perhaps that will be a new category for next season."


"Anyway Sherry, Nick has chosen, as his Weapon of Destruction, The Sledgehammer."

"Oooo, he'll have some tough competition."

"Yes, as you know three weeks ago, our contestant Mike DeFoor did an unprecedented $79,472 worth of destruction at the Broken Hearted Truck Stop in Enid, Oklahoma."

"That will be tough to beat."

"Yes it will be. I see that Nick is ready, and, there's the bell."

"And with his first swing he takes out the register, a standard opening move."

"Yes, going after the expensive pieces of equipment is the fastest, and easiest way to rack up the Total Dollars of Destruction value."

"And he's gone after two, now all three security cameras are smashed."

"Hopefully beyond repair."

"Ha, ha."

"Now Sherry, that was an interesting move, he smashed the window."

"It wasn't so much the window, as the sign pointing the customers to the restrooms. Nick told me earlier that one of the things he hated most was when people walked right by this huge, obvious sign, and came in to ask him where the restrooms were. About a dozen times a night was just too much."

"I'm sure our viewers appreciate and enjoy personal touches like that."

"I know I do."

"Now he's hitting and knocking over the shelves, a nice display of savage rage."

"Very true Ray. Now he's going after the icemaker. Two, now three hits, and there is ice all over the floor."

"He better be careful not to slip. Maybe he should put out a 'Caution Wet Floor' sign."

"I'm sure he has other things on his mind right now."

"By the way Sherry, did you catch what he shouted on his first hit to the icemaker?"

"It sounded like, 'This fucking thing never worked right.'"

"That's what I thought, now, yes, our man in the store has confirmed he did say, 'This fucking thing never worked right,' on his first swing."

"That is concerning Ray."

"Yes it is, as our regular viewers know last month we had to disqualify Tammy Rodgers in the baseball bat category because her employer encouraged her to appear on our show because they needed to make some renovations to their store."

"It may just have been a casual remark from Nick, but we may have to double check that his employer knew nothing of this."

"We may have our answer Sherry. Am I mistaken or are those police sirens heading our way?"

"I believe your right. Nick must have shorted out the silent alarm when he smashed the register. Hopefully he'll be able to get his five minutes in before they arrive."

"If not we have David from our legal department to slow the police down a bit. That's what we pay him to do."

"And how he has earned it. But this whole Rodger's case has cast a dark shadow over us. To think, a corporation taking advantage of a quality entertainment program like ours for their own purposes."

Vote with Your Fists

by Stephen L. Thompson

After a final pat down, the state trooper pulled back the tent flap for Charles Roman to enter. Three men were inside. A Secret Service agent stood at the entrance and gave Charles a quick look over. A man in a short-sleeved shirt with a black medical bag sat in a chair on the other side of the tent, reading a travel magazine. The third man sat on a stool in the middle, holding an ice pack to his face. His white T-shirt was splattered with blood.

Charles started towards the figure on the stool, but the Secret Service agent stepped in front of him, holding up a hand. "You only get one punch."

Charles nodded. "I know."

The agent nodded and returned to his place by the flap.

Charles walked up to the man on the stool. "Senator Cantor, Happy Punch-Your-Politician Day."

The Senator removed the ice pack. "Just get this over with."

"Not so fast. There are a few things I want to tell you. First off, you weren't my first choice. I had wanted to punch the President, but I couldn't afford to stand in line all day, so I had to settle for you."

"I'm honored."

Charles scoffed at that. "Secondly, I don't know why, but I actually voted for you last year."

"Thank you."

"Thank you? I wish that was something I could say to you. What have you done for me this year?" Charles closed his eyes muttered, "Ah...Let's see...um...oh yes." He opened his eyes and glared at the Senator. "Nothing. During your campaign you made dozens of speeches about working to make health care and education affordable. But have you done anything?"

"The measures I support haven't made their way out of their respective committees yet."

"But the measures to give tax cuts to the rich go through committees, Congress, and on to the President in record time." Charles clapped his hands, and in a somber voice said, "Hooray for American democracy."

The Senator set the ice pack on a little table next to him, and took a sip of water. "Democracy means if you don't like what your politician is doing, you vote them out of office."

"I don't like what you've done, but I have to wait five years to vote you out of office? Doesn't seem fair."

"Would you rather politicians always did what the polls told them to do?"

"That's what you do now. At least, you want us to think that our opinions actually matter."

The Senator looked Charles in the eye and asked, "Do you actually know that all politicians are only out for their own good, or is that just what the media has fed you?"

Charles let out a breath through his nose. "Just about a month before last year's election, my wife's mother had a stroke."

"Is she alright?"

"Why do you care, she lives in different state?"

"Because I'm human."

"You have a funny way of showing it." Charles let out another breath through his nose. "Anyway, about three months ago my father had a heart attack." Charles paused for a second. "He lives in your state, but he never voted for you. So needless to say, our medical bills have been rather painful this last year, and what with our oldest just starting college and our youngest starting to look at colleges, my wife and I have no idea how we're going to pay for it all. So there you have it. Two modest, hard working Americans who can't pay their bills and who have been waiting, for years, for our elected officials to help."

The Senator looked at the ground. "We can't solve every problem overnight."

"Have you tried?" Before the Senator could reply Charles continued, "And don't just blame the other party for all the ills of the country, because they say the same about you. Actually, you're probably both right. You're each too busy trying to beat the other guy to a bloody pulp that you don't have time to do your jobs."

"I might point out," the Senator said, "that distractions like this don't help either."

"Ah, but if you did your jobs in the first place, this holiday wouldn't be needed to show you how sick and tired we are of politics as usual." Charles had managed to keep his voice under control to this point, but now he began shouting, "You're not supposed to just be paying back whoever bought your election. You're supposed to be working for We the People. And until you get that through your thick skulls, we'll continue to do this every year." Charles' fist slammed into the Senator's jaw with all the hatred for what American politics has become behind it. The Senator fell to the ground with fresh blood flowing from his mouth. "Although, we should do this every day." Charles drew his foot back to kick the Senator in the ribs.

This caused the Senator to curl into a fetal position and the Secret Service agent to grab Charles and push him towards the exit saying, "You got your punch."

"I know, I know. I wasn't going to kick him. I just had to make him cringe."

Burning Issue

by Stephen L. Thompson

David Hacker went up to the sixth step in front of the Supreme Court building before turning around to face the small crowd. His two friends Mike and John stood below with two Capital Police Officers. John held a fire extinguisher.

"Sir," one of the officers called, "you don't want to do this."

David replied only with a smile. With his left hand he lit his lighter. With his right he unrolled a flag. He let it blow in the breeze for a few seconds, then lit it. The fabric burst into flames and burned so quickly that the fire was out by the time John got there with the extinguisher.

Right behind John came the officers. The one who had warned him said, "Sir, hand over the lighter." Once David was disarmed, the officer said, "Turn around and put your hands behind your back." David did as he was told, and the officer read him his rights as his partner handcuffed him.

As he was being led away a few observers, probably tourists, applauded. Whether they were applauding his actions or his speedy arrest, David did not know.

* * *

The Honorable Joseph Lovett looked up from the paper on his bench to the man standing before him. "Mister Hacker, it is my understanding that you have declined legal counsel, and will represent yourself in this case."

"That is correct, Your Honor."

"Mister Hacker, given the location of the incident, I am assuming that you intend for this case to be brought before the Supreme Court in order to determine the constitutionality of the law you are accused of breaking. While I must commend your sense of civic duty, I must warn you that I will bear no tolerance for grandstanding or stunts in my courtroom. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

"Do you still wish to proceed without legal counsel?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

"Very well. David William Hacker, you are charged with one count of, 'the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.' How do you plead?"

"Not guilty, Your Honor."

* * *

After Officer Broudy had told his version of the events of the day, the prosecutor asked, "And is the man who lit the flag on fire in this courtroom?"

"Yes sir, he is."

"Point him out please."

Pointing at David the officer said, "It was Mister Hacker, Sir."

"Thank you Officer Broudy. No further questions, Your Honor."

"Your witness."

David stood and walked up to the witness stand. "What did the accused burn, Officer Broudy?"

"An American flag."

"Are you sure?"

"Objection, Your Honor."

"Mister Hacker," Judge Lovett said in a slow voice. "I warned you about pulling stunts. I sincerely hope that your defense is more than just questioning whether a police officer can identify an American flag. If it is, you are wasting the time of this court."

"Your Honor, I have been accused of burning an American flag. Then surely, the prosecution here can prove, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the object I burned was an American flag. That it had fifty stars, not fifty-one. Thirteen stripes, not fourteen." David smiled. "That would be an interesting trick, since the object in question no longer exists." Walking back to his table he opened his briefcase and pulled out a flag. Waving it like a matador he asked, "Officer Broudy, is this an American flag?"

"It would appear so, Sir."

Draping it over the prosecutor's table he asked, "Will you verify this count?" Not waiting for an answer he touched each stripe with his forefinger. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen... fourteen." David walked over to the flag hanging beside the bench. He held it out and counted its stripes. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen." Throwing his arms up he announced, "One of these flags is wrong."

Walking back to the prosecutor with a smile he said, "Of course, it is this one. I won't bore you, but this flag also has fifty-one stars." Picking it up he held it before the judge, "This poor imitation of an American flag, I enter as Exhibit A." He reached into his briefcase and pulled out some papers. "This, I enter as Exhibit B. This is a bill of sale from one USA Pennants of Orviston, Pennsylvania, for two 'not-quite' American flags of fifty-one stars and fourteen stripes, billed to me, dated two weeks before the incident."

Picking up his flag again he walked up to the witness box. "Now, Officer Broudy, can you state, for a certainty, that the object I burned was an American flag, and not one of these?"

The officer took a deep breath, let it out, and said, "No Sir, I can not."

"So it is possible that you overreacted, that I was not breaking any law when I was arrested?"

Humanity's Future?

by Stephen L. Thompson

(Excerpt from Universal Wisdom by Nuhraz of Dufehr)

Chapter 6

The universe is too hostile for anyone who thinks they are special. Each species, like each individual, is unique. Not one is special in that the universe exists merely for them.

—Attributed to Fyal of Arzoy

As an example of a species that mistakenly believed they were special, in the sense that Fyal rightly condemned, consider the extinct species that inhabited the third world orbiting the star 24-FG-73 of the Ioh Sector that referred to themselves as "Humans." Archeological studies show that they had a primitive technological society (Type IIIB on the Fyzep scale) when they became extinct. The method and timing of their final destruction can be determined from the radioactive elements remaining in the soil of their world, but the exact reasons for their destruction are harder to gather.

What little information exists indicates the Humans had a fragmented society—fragmented in the sense that, unlike civilized beings who view the uniqueness of each individual as a strength, Humans seemed to use their differences to divide themselves: over minor genetic differences, social standing, methods of belief, and for some unfathomable reason, over the location of their birth. While competition is a fundamental facet of evolution, cooperation is the mark of civilization. It is an almost mathematical certainty that any group, whether of individuals or species, can achieve more through working together than by themselves. What apparently happened to the Humans was that, instead of working together on the problems the species as a whole faced, which would have meant that the "enemy fragments" had worth, each fragment claimed that only they could solve the problems because the universe would either change to fit their needs or would not let them fail. This, as any student of history will know, has no bearing in reality.

The current theory as to the reason for the Human's extinction (see Kliini's article in The Journal of Extinct Species Studies, volume 218492, issue 11243) is that they had greatly disrupted their planet's ecology, and the fragments fought each other over dwindling resources. Most reputable archaeologists accept this theory as being close to the truth, even though the idea that a species would destroy themselves before they worked together is hard for many to accept. The reply that the entire species must have suffered from some psychosis is unsatisfying. More work needs to be done before the full story of the Human extinction is known.

Whatever that story is, the Humans, as common with Type I and II species, mislabeled their own uniqueness as specialness. Species that do not grow out of this fallacy almost always become extinct through natural causes. A notable exception to this "rule" are the Ubole of the Davo Sector who...

What Would Jesus Do?

by Stephen L. Thompson

"For more on this story, we go live to Lawrence Hunt standing by at the courthouse in Mobile, Alabama."

"Thank you Diane. I'm standing a little over one hundred feet from the Ten Commandments Monument that is at the center of this controversy. If my cameraman will pan around, you can see the thousands of people here protesting the court order to remove the monument from in front of the courthouse. State troopers are keeping a cordon around the monument to ensure nothing happens to it, but this crowd wants it to be here, and while they have been peaceful, they have also been very vocal. I don't know how well you can hear them in the studio, but right now they are singing, 'Nearer my God to Thee.' Now, I have with me one of the leaders of this protest, Reverend Joseph Durant from The United Church of Our Holy Savior. How are you this morning, Reverend?"

"I'm fine, thank you. And I want to thank you for having me on your program."

"It's our pleasure. Let me ask, what do you wish to accomplish?"

"What we want is simple: We want the monument to stay where it is."

"Is that so important it justifies defying a court order?"

"It's important because this country is losing its soul. The Ten Commandments can help stop the wickedness that is sweeping America, from drug use, to the acceptance of divorce and homosexuality, to the violence, sex, and obscenity on television and in so-called popular music."

"What do you say to those who contend the monument violates the First Amendment of the Constitution?"

"Despite what the secularists want you to think, the First Amendment does not say that God should be kicked out of the public square. This nation was founded by Christians, and the Ten Commandments are a basis for our laws and our society, and this monument reflects that fact."

"What do you have to say to Kenneth Mann, who filed the lawsuit to have the monument removed?"

"Whether he believes it or not, Judgment Day will come."

"In an article he wrote for several of the local papers, Mister Mann wrote, 'The money poured into this monument, erected by people who think they are followers of Christ, could have easily fed several thousand of the hungry, bought medicine for the sick, clothed the naked, and fulfilled many other honorable causes. Instead, that money has gone into making a lightning rod of controversy so that certain people can be in the spotlight. It is not a monument to our history or faith, but a soapbox.' Your thoughts on that criticism?"

"Well, I think he and the secularists who want to destroy Christianity in this country are using this as their soapbox. And I don't know what he meant by the 'people who think they are followers of Christ' bit, but the fact is..."

"Oh, excuse me, there seems to be... Can you focus on that? There is a bearded man in a white robe who has somehow gotten past the state troopers. He is standing by the monument, and ... I don't know if you could hear that, he shouted, 'You were supposed to live the commandments, not worship them.' He's now... Oh my God. He has somehow pushed the monument, this five-ton monument, over. It has fallen and broken into several pieces. People are running and screaming ... don't believe anybody was under it when it fell. The crowd here has gone insane; they've swept past the state troopers. There is just a sea of people around this man. Oh my God, it appears... Are you getting this? It appears some in the crowd have picked up pieces of the monument, and they are beating this man to death. Oh my God."

An earlier version of this story appeared on the Sigla Magazine (defunct) Web site in July 2005.

One Against Many

by Stephen L. Thompson

Michael Reese walked down the hallway of his apartment building, past the shouting Wilcoxs, around the miscellaneous carpet stains in front of apartment three, to his door. Once inside with his bag of groceries he set the loaf of bread and bag of apples in the bare refrigerator, and the cans of tomato soup and jar of crunchy peanut butter in the cupboard. He turned on the tap to let the rust run out while he folded the paper bag and put it with the rest under the sink.

With a glass of water he stepped into his single room, grabbed a book at random from one of his bookshelves, and sat in his recliner that no longer reclined. He glanced at the front cover and saw that he had picked The Adolescence of Homo Sapiens by Allen Emshwiller. Nodding at his selection, which he had read before, he opened it at random.

For half-an-hour he read about the obstacles the species has faced since its origins in Africa and how much further we have to go before we're "grown up." Sipping the water he thought of his own adolescence. He remembered the neighborhood kids calling him "wormy" and other such nicknames because he preferred reading to roaming the streets with them. Before he went off to college his mother told him that the other mothers had suggested she take Michael to a psychologist. "'He probably only needs some medication to be normal,' they said."

"What did you say to them?" Michael had asked his mother.

"I said, 'What a pity that in our society someone who enjoys reading is considered abnormal.'" With a smile and a kiss to his forehead she continued, "Now here you are, going off to college while most of those boys will be asking, 'Do you want fries with that?'"

"I couldn't have done it without you," he said, kissing her cheek. And it was true, since the child support checks had disappeared like Michael's father his mother had worked two, and sometimes three jobs to not only provide for them but also to save up enough so he could go to college. She would have been proud to see him graduate magnum cum laude from Moorabbin University, but it was about the time he received his acceptance letter that she found the lump.

Her pride at seeing him graduate would have paled next to that of when his book was published. For almost a year, You Thought, Therefore You Were, But Now What? was "The Book" to have seen on your bookshelf, even though a critic once stated she would rather read tax forms. The main reason for its popularity came when a reporter asked an actress Michael had never even heard of, if she had read any good books lately. She mentioned his, and the sales went through the roof. It was such a big hit, that a major magazine asked Michael if he would write a condensed version for their readers. He replied with a well thought out 130 page reply, but never heard back from them. As far as he knew, it was never published.

Besides the fifteen minutes of fame, which Michael had never wanted, his best-selling book gave him his freedom. The money, along with his lifestyle, meant he never had to sit in some cubical. He could do what he felt needed to be done. Setting the book aside, he went to his computer.

Next to the monitor were two ratty notebooks. One held the passwords for his hundreds of email accounts in various names. The other held the emails of his targets. He spent hours each day stalking the Internet; heads-of-state, CEOs, doctors, teachers, celebrities, forty-year old guys posing as teenage girls in lesbian chat rooms, all were his targets.

He logged in to his David Hume account, and opened his target notebook. After skimming through a few pages, he found a good one. It took only a few seconds to type the message and send it. In time the poor intern who filtered the US Agriculture Secretary's email would get to his message asking, "Why are so many Americans going hungry when the US grows so much food that we export some of it?" Would it create a spark in their mind or would it more likely result in the knee jerk form reply, "Thank you for bringing this important matter to the Secretary's attention. Rest assured the matter will be looked into."

Michael looked at the poster above his computer. "Philosophers up to now have only described the world; the point is to change it."—Marx. Written below in Michael's neat hand, was his question to Marx, "How can you change the world when nobody listens to you?"

©2006 Staks Studios