Friday, 2 January 2015

The Little Dragon of Medina: A Readymade Horror Story

You want to know why I’m an evil, evil person?

I’ll tell you.

Take a look at this beautiful painting. It’s called "Fellaheen Women by the Nile" and is by French orientalist painter Léon Belly, painted circa 1856.

Lovely women, aren’t they? Graceful as they stand, barefoot in the water, filling their pots.

Well, I looked at this lovely painting, and the thing that came to my mind is not that the painting is so beautiful, or that the women are so graceful, but just a couple of words:

Dracunculus medinensis.

What is Dracunculus medinensis? It’s commonly known as the Guinea worm, and is a charming animal found across tropical Africa and Asia. It’s a nematode, a relative of the roundworm you might have had while you were a kid. And like the roundworm it lives inside your body.

Only, unlike the roundworm, it doesn’t hang around inside your intestines, waiting for you to eat, and then drawing off its share of the proceeds. Dracunculus medinensis is more sophisticated than that.

How? Well, to start off with, the worm doesn’t wait for you to accidentally swallow its eggs so you infect yourself at random. No, it goes out of its way to make sure you give its babies a chance of life.

Here’s how it happens. River and lake water have all kinds of tiny, tiny creatures in them – algae, protozoa, but also several kinds of tiny crustaceans called copepods, like miniature transparent shrimp, which feed on those protozoans and algae. And some of these, Cyclops for instance, can also swallow newborn Dracunculus larvae, which are very, very small, and give them an incubator and home.

How do Dracunculus larvae get into the water for Cyclops to eat? This is my story, so let me tell it to you my way. For now, just keep in mind that the little larvae will grow through two stages inside the crustacean, instead of, you know, getting digested and assimilated. And then they lie there, ready, waiting.

Waiting for what? For you, of course.

Suppose you get thirsty, and there’s no Evian in your fancy water bottle. So you drink water from the river or lake, just like that. If you do, you might swallow one or more Cyclops – you wouldn’t know it, they’re fairly small. And it’s just too bad if you’re a vegan, you just broke your vow.

Anyway, so you’ve drunk river water with a family of Cyclops. It’s not totally impossible that some of those Cyclops have larvae waiting inside them. And the Cyclops are now inside your stomach, where your enzymes, you know, digest the poor things alive.

You sadist.

Now this is what the larvae have been eagerly waiting for. Set at liberty from the copepod-shaped prison, they crawl into your intestines, bore through the wall – not a very difficult job, because at this stage they’re only about as thick as a hair – and find their way to your muscles. And there they rest, feed on your juices, and grow, and grow, and grow.

Boy, do they grow.

Now, the two sexes of Dracunculus look rather different. The male worms are only about four centimetres long at the most, but the females grow more than twenty times larger. That might give you guys with giantess fetishes a boost, but not the poor male Dracunculus, whose only purpose in life is to fertilise his immensely elongated girlfriend, after which she dumps him and he dies of a broken heart.

OK, OK, she moves off to fulfil the next step of her life cycle, and he dies. Fine?

Now, this sex they’re having is happening in the muscles of the body, as I said. You know, your body. The newly pregnant Ms Worm crawls off towards the skin, but not any skin. No, she’s not interested in your face or upper arm or back. Instead, she crawls down towards the lowest parts of your body – your calves, your shins, your feet. And once she arrives at her destination, she begins to fulfil her existence.

And this is how she does it – she bores a hole in your skin with her head end. Not unnaturally, having a hole in your skin hurts a little. No, make that it hurts a lot.  And the worm, by secreting chemicals which cause ulceration and intense inflammation, makes sure it hurts like all the fires of hell.

Hey, you know what Dracunculus medinensis means? The Little Dragon of Medina, that’s what.

So what’s the only way to get rid of this terrible pain? It’s to dunk the affected limb in cool, soothing water. Like, you know, the convenient river or lake nearby. And as soon as you do that, sighing with relief, your friendly neighbourhood parasite sticks her head end through that hole. Almost all her long length of body, all eighty centimetres of it, is basically one enormous uterus, and while she’s been crawling down to your ankle the uterus has been filling up with thousands upon thousands of babies. Now’s the time to set them free.

Yes, each time you soak your agonised feet in water, the larvae swim out in their thousands, doing the breast stroke and hoping to be found and eaten by some copepod. Most won’t succeed, of course, but they won’t need to. If only ten or fifteen of every hundred thousand manage to be eaten, and if only three or four of every thousand of those end up being swallowed with water, the life cycle continues, and the worm family lives happily ever after, amen.

Only it’s not so happy for you now, is it? Dracunculus can’t even be killed by anti-worm medication. You can’t yank the lady out either without her long body breaking, whereupon she’ll flood you with chemicals which might go and kill you with anaphylactic shock. No, that’s right out.

The only way to get rid of the worm is to undergo the same treatment as humanity has been following for thousands of years: Gently wrap the front end of Ms Dragon round a stick (a matchstick will do just fine) and, over a period of many, many days, twist her round and round the matchstick until all her nearly one metre comes right out. Exciting, isn’t it?

You bet it is.

So, it’s easier and better to try and stop the worm from infecting someone rather than cure the infection when it happens. Of course, if people would only drink purified mineral water priced at rates that touch the mountains they allegedly come from, nothing would happen. Or, you know, if they’d only boil the water they drank. But a huge number of people worldwide can’t find even firewood to cook food on, let alone spare it for boiling water. For them, some other solution is necessary.

Some other solution has been found. The WHO has launched a (highly successful - between 2009 and 2012 it caused a 96% drop in infections; what was that about socialised medicine being inefficient again?) scheme involving filters you can attach to the pots with which you gather water from the river. The copepods can’t get into the pots, which means their lives are spared, which is good news for them, and you can’t get the worm, which is good news for you. The only ones losing out are the worms, and yah boo sucks to them.

So – what has any of this got to do with this painting?

Look at this detail from it:

The women are standing with bare feet in the water, and drawing pots of it, presumably to drink. This was in 1856, long before the water filters, before the life cycle of Dracunculus had even been discovered. In fact, back then some “scientists” even refused to believe the creature was a worm (vide Parasite Rex, Carl Zimmer), calling it a lymphatic vessel. So, unboiled water from copepod-rich rivers at a time and place in history where Dracunculus was endemic.  

I’m kind of glad the painter didn’t put any more detail in the paintings. The last thing I’d want to see is all the worm heads poking out of their dainty little ankles.

Oh, so I’m a sadist who’s ruined your enjoyment of this work of art? 


Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Golf Game



[A COMEDY IN FOUR ACTS...brought to you without any hacking, real or accused, by disgruntled ex-employees or anyone else.]

[All countries, persons, institutions and incidents which directly appear in this comedy are fictitious. Any resemblance to any real-life countries, people, institutions, and incidents is completely...heh heh...coincidental.]


Main characters, in order of appearance:

JEN PASKI ... Spokesperson for the Untied States Department of State.
KIM YONG KUN ... East Korean journalist and occasional secret agent.
CHOI PONG JU ... Another East Korean journalist and occasional secret agent.
IRIDESCENT LEADER ... Supreme Commander of East Korea.
BARACK HUSSEIN OMABA ... Noble Peace Prize winner and President of the Untied States of America.
EVAN ROGEN ... Secretary of State of the Untied States of America
SETH GOLDBERG ... Head of the Central Interrogation Agency (CIA).




Scene One:

[Washingnot, CD. The scene opens at a media conference addressed by JEN PASKI. As the CURTAIN rises PASKI is standing at the podium, looking out over the AUDIENCE. She is part way through answering a question.]

PASKI: ...and we are completely certain that Putin is behind this latest outrage.

MEDIA PERSON No. 1 (offstage): But nothing you said proves anything like that.

PASKI: We have sources which prove it to the satisfaction of the President and the State Department.

MEDIA PERSON No. 2 (offstage): Sources such as? After all, you’re accusing the President of Russia of shooting down the Tooth Fairy. Don’t you think you need to show the world the evidence?

PASKI: We have a YouTube video which clearly shows that a Russian anti-aircraft missile battery was positioned in the same hemisphere as the last known position of the Tooth Fairy. Experts from the CIA, the Hexagon, and the National Secrecy Agency have all pronounced the video genuine. We think there’s a very high probability – approaching a hundred percent – that Putin personally fired the missile which killed the fairy.

MEDIA PERSON No. 1: And what makes you arrive at that conclusion, Jen?

PASKI: In one frame of the video, a man can be seen who isn’t wearing a shirt. We have conclusively established that since only Putin goes around shirtless, that man must be Putin.

MEDIA PERSON No. 3 (offstage): And just suppose that the video means anything at all, what does this have to do with the security of the Untied States?

PASKI: It’s a simple question of humanitarian decency. As the President said last night in his address to the nation, the children of the world have been deprived of the wondrous being who took their shed teeth and left coins in their place. The Untied States, as the undisputed leader of the Free World, must ensure that such a crime isn’t left unpunished. The President will soon announce a further package of sanctions against Russia to teach Putin that such uncivilised and barbarous behaviour will not be tolerated.

MEDIA PERSON No. 4 (offstage): I thought the Tooth Fairy was a fictional entity.

PASKI: That’s just plain silly. Next you’ll be claiming that Santa Claus is fictional. Anything else?

MEDIA PERSON No. 2: Well, touching on the happenings in Libya where one government just bombed the headquarters of the other, and the second one’s militia attacked the oilfields of the first – what does the State Department have to say about that?

PASKI: Um, that’s a very good question, and I’m glad you asked. We are, um, always on the side of the Libyan people in their struggle for freedom and democracy. You know we have always stood by them in their struggle, and, um, we hope they will get through this difficult time and settle their differences quickly, so that the oil – I mean, the people can fulfil their expectations.

MEDIA PERSON No. 2: And you agree that the current turmoil would not have happened but for the Untied States’ and its allies’ bombing of Libya in support of the rebels who turned on each other immediately afterwards?

PASKI: That’s ridiculous. It’s all second-guessing. Nobody could have anticipated that Libya would have fallen apart –

MEDIA PERSON No. 3: There are a lot of people who did predict it.

PASKI: I will not take any further questions on this topic.

MEDIA PERSON No. 1: How about East Korea? The government has blamed the East Koreans for hacking Snowy, but provided no proof whatever. But meanwhile independent sources all agree that the East Koreans had nothing to do with the hack at all.

PASKI: As the Secretary of State said in his statement this evening, the government will not provide evidence since that might compromise its sources and endanger them.

MEDIA PERSON No. 2: Will the government then also stop attacking reporters and demanding that they reveal their sources?

PASKI: I will not take any further questions.


[From behind CURTAIN, PASKI's muffled tones]

PASKI: OK, that answer about Libya was ridiculous.

Scene Two:

[Pongyyang, East Korea. An office in a typical news establishment, with a computer at a desk. As the CURTAIN rises KIM YONG KUN can be seen tapping at the keyboard in frustration.]


KIM: Damn, the net’s down again. I tried to call the support service but the mobile network’s down too.

CHOI: Wait a moment, we aren’t supposed to have internet or mobile networks, are we?

KIM: Says who?

CHOI: The Untied States, of course.

KIM: And at the same time they attack our internet and mobile services? The ones we don’t have.

CHOI: I wish we could settle this problem. We haven’t done anything to hurt them, but they insist on blaming us. If only there was some way –

KIM: Perhaps there is. If only we could talk to Omaba, we could explain things.

CHOI: Omaba won’t talk to us. He’s far too busy droning kids in Yemen and Afghanistan to spare time for the likes of us.

KIM: I was wondering...he likes golf, doesn’t he? Maybe if we engaged him in a game of golf, he’d listen to us.

CHOI: But neither of us has ever played golf in our lives.

KIM: The Iridescent Leader has. We could ask him for tips.


IRIDESCENT LEADER: Did I hear someone mention my name?

CHOI and KIM (together, jumping up): Iridescent Leader! We didn’t know you were there.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: I am everywhere, I know everything. I thought you’d have learnt this by now. What is the problem?

KIM: The internet is down again, and so is the mobile network.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Yes, I know. It must be Omaba’s cyberwar outfit.

CHOI: We thought if we could get to play golf with Omaba, we might be able to talk to him and persuade him that we aren’t his enemies.

KIM: But we don’t play golf.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Let me guess. You want me to teach you the game.

CHOI (eagerly): Yes, Iridescent Leader. Can you?

IRIDESCENT LEADER: You are talking to the man whose father scored a hole in one every hole he played for the first time.

KIM: Only he didn’t.

CHOI: Yeah, that’s Western propaganda.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Sorry, I forgot. These things get a little mixed up in my head sometimes. But your idea – I like it. I like it a lot. But I just thought of something.

KIM and CHOI (together): Yes, Iridescent Leader? What are your brilliant thoughts?

IRIDESCENT LEADER: You’re assuming Omaba is amenable to listening to reason. You forget that he is a Noble Peace Prize awardee, and that anyone who gets given that prize has to be a hardened warmonger. It is a requirement. (Wipes away a tear) Alas, I always wanted that Prize, but I am simply not ruthless enough.

KIM (patting IRIDESCENT LEADER on the shoulder): I’m sure something could be arranged. Perhaps we could attack some defenceless little country.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: There are no defenceless little countries we can attack, you silly twit.

CHOI: I have it! We could always allow a corner of the country to secede, and then attack it. How does that sound?

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Ah, forget it. Poroshenko’s already tried that route in Ukraine and they didn’t give it to him, at least not yet. What was I saying?

KIM: That we assume Omaba would listen to reason.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Even if he wanted to, which is unlikely, his minders wouldn’t let him.

CHOI: Minders?

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Yes, of course. Those two who pose as his subordinates, Evan Rogen and Seth Goldberg. To our certain knowledge they are actually his controllers, and act in the name of...

KIM: Of...?

IRIDESCENT LEADER (shuddering): Wally Street.

KIM and CHOI (shuddering): Wally Street!

IRIDESCENT LEADER: And you know how ruthless they are. There’s just one way to break their hold.

KIM: How, Iridescent Leader?

IRIDESCENT LEADER: You must assassinate him.

CHOI: We must assassinate him!...wait, what?

IRIDESCENT LEADER: It will be quite easy. This is what you will do –

KIM: But, Iridescent Leader...

IRIDESCENT LEADER: This is what you will do!

KIM and CHOI (glancing at each other): Yes, Iridescent Leader.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Good. Now, listen very carefully. I shall say this only once!



Scene One:

[Some weeks later. A deserted town street, somewhere in the Untied States of America, with the national flag, the Stars and Strips, hanging from windows. In the distance, the smoke of burning fires rises in the sky.]

Enter KIM and CHOI, in golf clothes. CHOI is carrying a golf bag.

KIM: What’s that? The smoke?

CHOI: Protests after another policeman was acquitted after killing another unarmed black kid. Nothing to do with us.

KIM: You know, I’m still not happy about this. I still think we could talk Omaba round.

CHOI: Omaba, I’m told, is always accompanied these days by Rogen and what’s his name, Goldberg, to make sure he sticks to the line. We won’t get a chance to talk him round, simply because those two won’t let us.

KIM: Great, as though we didn’t have enough problems already. Do you have the ball?

CHOI: It’s in the bag with the others.

KIM: Yeah, but do you know which one it is?

CHOI: It’s the one with the red dot. The Iridescent Leader put the red spot on it himself with his own marker pen. [Rummages in golf bag, taking out one ball after another and examining it.] This one? No. That? Not that one either. It’s got to be somewhere in here!

KIM: Are you sure you brought it?

Enter POLICEMAN, driving an armoured personnel carrier, which comes to a halt next to them.

POLICEMAN (from turret of armoured personnel carrier): Here, what are you doing there, with that bag?

KIM: Nothing, Officer. We’re just picking our balls.

POLICEMAN: Ha, that’s a likely story. Well, sir, you won’t mind if I just look at your balls, do you?

KIM: Certainly I do mind. You can’t do that without a warrant.

[CHOI keeps looking inside the golf bag for his ball.]

POLICEMAN: Where have you been, sir? We can do whatever we want. Or maybe you’d like to ask my 30 mm cannon for a warrant, would you?

KIM: Are you threatening us?

POLICEMAN: Threatening you? You accuse a police officer of threatening you? That’s a terrorist offence, I’ll have you know. [Picks up radio handset] Wait and I’ll call up a drone.

CHOI (looking up happily, to KIM): Here, I just found it.

POLICEMAN (putting down radio handset, unused): Hey – what do you have there?

CHOI (noticing him for the first time, quickly hides ball in pocket): Nothing.

POLICEMAN: My ass it’s nothing. Gimme that thing at once! Or I’ll shoot you.

KIM (tightly): Give it to him. 

CHOI (holds out golf ball): Here, take it.

POLICEMAN: I’m not coming down there. Toss it up to me.

CHOI: But –

POLICEMAN: Throw it up to me, I said.

KIM: Throw it up to him, he said.

CHOI: All right, here you go. [Tosses ball up to POLICEMAN. To KIM] Run!

[They run. The POLICEMAN grabs at the ball, misses, and it falls into the armoured personnel carrier through the turret hatch. The armoured personnel carrier disappears in a huge explosion.]

KIM (wiping debris from the shoulders of his plaid sports coat; they are now far enough away from the wreckage that no trace of it can be seen.): Well, that’s torn it.

CHOI (shaking dust from his cap): That was our only golf ball-bomb. Whatever shall we do?

KIM (shrugging): Maybe just go back to trying to talk to Omaba?

CHOI: You know the Iridescent Leader told us to kill him. He’ll be upset if we don’t.

KIM: He’ll be less upset if we can work out a real peace deal. After all, now that we don’t have the bomb, how on earth are we going to kill him?

CHOI: Beat Omaba to death with our golf clubs, maybe? Or signal home for a replacement bomb from the radio transmitter in the golf bag.

[KIM reaches into the golf bag, extends a golf club, twists it around until he gets a signal. He splits a golf ball, attaches the two halves over his ears, and holds another close to his mouth, saying something. Finally, nodding, he shuts down the radio.]

KIM: It’s going to take days to get a replacement, they said.  Of course, during that time we could be exposed and killed, or –


KIM: Sent to Gauntanamo, where we’d be waterboarded, stress-positioned, and rectally fed.

CHOI (shuddering): What should we do, then?

 KIM: I have no idea. We’ll just talk to Omaba first.

CHOI (checking watch): Let’s go to the golf course. It’s getting late.

KIM: We'll try and think of something.


Scene 2:

[The golf course. Enter OMABA, ROGEN and GOLDBERG. OMABA is in the lead. He has a golf bag.]

OMABA: I saw my ratings are down again. That won’t do.

ROGEN: Doesn’t matter, Mr President. You’ll be getting a boost soon enough.

GOLDBERG: All you need is a nifty little war.

ROGEN: One you can easily win.

OMABA (going over his clubs in his golf bag): What war? There aren’t many countries I’ve left unbombed, except for those which can shoot back.

GOLDBERG: We’ve selected one for you.

ROGEN: East Korea! Everyone hates them. You can’t go wrong with East Korea.

OMABA: But they have nukes, don’t they?

GOLDBERG: Mister President. Russia has nukes, and we’re picking a fight with them over Ukraine. China has nukes, and we’re picking a fight with them over the Asia Pivot. East Korea? Compared to Russia and China they’re pushovers.

OMABA: I’m not so sure about this. Maybe we could invade, I don’t know, Iceland or something. They don’t even have a military.

ROGEN: Iceland?

OMABA: Or Hungary. They’ve been acting uppity lately. They need to be taught a lesson. [Takes out a club] A seven iron, I think.

GOLDBERG: Uh, well, Mister President, we’ll talk it over with the Hexagon people. But I think you’ll find that they’ll agree with me that East Korea is the proper target.

OMABA (taking a few practice swings): How do we justify attacking East Korea? I mean, we’ll need some kind of casus belli. [Repeats words with relish] Casus belli.

ROGEN (soothingly): I must commend your Latin, Mister President. But you don’t need to worry. I’m sure Seth and his CIA can find us enough justification for the war.

GOLDBERG: Even if I have to waterboard every damn East Korean I can lay hands on to get it. [Enter KIM and CHOI] Talking about East Koreans, who on earth are these two?

OMABA: Yes, who are you?

KIM: I’m Kim Yong Pun and he’s Choi Pong Ju.

CHOI: We’re East Korean journalists.

KIM: And peace emissaries.

CHOI: And, as he says, peace emissaries. We –

ROGEN: Get off it! East Koreans and peace. We all know that ain’t gonna happen. No sir!

GOLDBERG: Mister President, I suggest I rendition these two immediately. You’ll have your justification for war by tonight. I guarantee you.

OMABA: Wait, wait a moment. You say you’re peace emissaries. You’ve come to begin surrender negotiations?

KIM: Surrender negotiations?

CHOI: No, sir, we’ve come to talk peace, not to surrender. You know, as representatives of one sovereign nation to another. We believe that we can work out a peace that is beneficial to both our countries. We –

OMABA (teeing a ball, and taking another practice swing): Look here, my friends, this great nation does not engage on equal terms with brutal dictatorships which, er... [glances at ROGEN and GOLDBERG] What do they do again?

ROGEN: Lock up people without due cause.

GOLDBERG: Torture them.

ROGEN: Run a police state.

GOLDBERG: Spy on their own citizens, twenty four-seven.

ROGEN: Conduct cyber warfare.

GOLDBERG: Arm, train and fund terrorists.

ROGEN: Threaten to invade other countries.

OMABA: Wait, wait. I’m confused. Are we still talking about East Korea here?

GOLDBERG: Please don’t let yourself get distracted from the main point, Mister President. We are the leader of the Free World, and they are pure undiluted evil.

OMABA (nodding): Absolutely. Look here, my East Korean friends. I’m a busy man, I’ve got a golf game to play and kill lists to make. I don’t have time to talk to you.

KIM: Sir, if you made peace, it could increase your chances of getting the Noble Peace Prize.

ROGEN: The President already has a Noble Peace Prize. He doesn’t need another.

OMABA: Wait, wait. I noticed that my Prize medallion is getting kind of tarnished. I tried to get my wife to polish it but she was too busy hashtagging to listen.

GOLDBERG: I could get one of my men to buff it up for you.

OMABA: That won’t be necessary if I can get another.

GOLDBERG: You really intend to talk peace with these East Koreans, Mister President?

OMABA (aside, to him and ROGEN): Don’t be daft. Have I ever kept any promise I made to anyone? We’ll talk until I get my Peace Prize, and then we’ll invade and overthrow them.

ROGEN (sighing with relief): You had me worried there for a moment, Mister President. [To KIM and CHOI] All right, the President will talk to you.

KIM: When?

OMABA: Be in the anteroom of my Oral Office in the Wide House in two hours.

CHOI: Thank you, Mister President. We’ll be there.

[Exit KIM and CHOI.]

GOLDBERG: You handled that very well, Mister President.

OMABA: Of course I did.. [Whacks ball. It goes flying off into the wide blue yonder.] Hole in one!

GOLDBERG and ROGEN: Splendid, Mister President. Excellently done!



Scene 1:

[OMABA’s Oral Office. OMABA and GOLDBERG are poring over some papers.]

OMABA: Definitely him. What about this one here?

GOLDBERG: No, he’s on our payroll. You can do this one here though.

OMABA: Great. I enjoy killing folks. I’m really good at killing folks. Can we kill this folk here too?

GOLDBERG: Let me see –    

[There is a knock on the door and ROGEN enters.]

ROGEN: Those East Koreans are waiting.

OMABA: Oh, yeah, I’d forgotten about them. Might as well let them in, I suppose. [KIM and CHOI enter, still in their golf outfits and carrying the bag] Why on earth are you two still dressed like that?

KIM: Our hotel’s too far away to get there and back in time, Mr President.

CHOI: So we had to come here directly from the course. I hope you don’t mind, sir.

GOLDBERG: East Korea’s too poor to afford downtown hotel rates, Mister President. Another excellent reason why it’s going to be a pusho –

ROGEN (hastily): What he means is, that a peace agreement between our nations would benefit yours.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, that’s what I meant, sure enough. Now, gentlemen, shall we get down to business?

ROGEN: What terms are you offering?

KIM: Well, let’s see, we could start with both sides reducing tensions by formally agreeing not to threaten each other.

CHOI: And then further agreeing to stop all cyberwarfare against each other.

KIM: And normalising trade and diplomatic ties. And –

OMABA: Wait, wait. You said both sides should stop cyberwarfare against each other. But what do we get out of that? After all, you aren’t conducting cyberwarfare against us, we’re the ones doing it to you

CHOI: So you admit that East Korea wasn’t behind the Snowy hack?

KIM: Even though you accused us of it and shut down our net and cell networks in retaliation?

OMABA (laughs): Of course I admit it. What are you going to do about it?

CHOI: I don’t follow.

OMABA: I’m the guy who drone kills kids daily, the guy who arms and trains Nazis and jihadis, the guy who gets off on bombing weddings, and schools, and funerals. I’m the guy who won two – get that, two – elections by pretending to be a left-wing black liberal. [Scratches at his wrist with a fingernail. A strip of dark epidermis peels off, exposing white skin below.] Look, I can drop the act now, though.

ROGEN: What the President means is –

OMABA: What I mean is, I don’t give a damn about your pipsqueak little country. If you’re going to negotiate with me you’ll do it on my terms, and agree to what I say.

GOLDBERG: And if you don’t play along –

OMABA: Well, then, you’ll see what sort of man I really am. Now, let’s hear some better offers from you.

GOLDBERG: By better we mean grovelling. Is that clear?

KIM (rising): We’re sorry, but this isn’t going to work.

CHOI (also rising): We thought this meeting was in good faith, but it obviously isn’t. So we’ll take our leave.

ROGEN: Where do you think you’re going?

KIM: Back to our hotel.

CHOI: And then home by the first available flight.

GOLDBERG (taking out a gun): The only place you’re going is an interrogation centre in Renditionistan.

ROGEN (taking out another gun): Get them!

KIM: Plan Two, Choi!

[KIM and CHOI grab golf clubs from the bag and begin swinging. With their first blows they knock the guns out of ROGEN’s and GOLDBERG’s hands. With a few more swings they beat them both to death.]

CHOI: Where’s Omaba?

[The AUDIENCE can see OMABA hiding under the desk, but he isn’t visible to KIM and CHOI.]

KIM: He must have escaped while we were dealing with these two.

CHOI: Not a chance of finding him here in this huge building. We have to get out before the alarm is raised.

KIM: Let’s go. And don’t forget the golf bag!

[Exit KIM and CHOI at a run, the latter carrying the bag.]

OMABA (emerging from under the desk): I’m not finished yet. Cross me, will you? You’ll see what you get for that! [Goes over to a telephone in the corner next to an Xbox, and lifts the receiver] Unleash my personal drone at once!

SECURITY GUARD (offstage): Yes sir!


Scene 2:

[The street with the wreckage of the armoured personnel carrier, which is now a blackened mass of smouldering metal. Enter CHOI and KIM, running.]

KIM: Is that a drone I hear behind me, its engine buzzing over the land? Come, let me destroy thee.

CHOI: What with? We have no anti-aircraft weapons. Hell, we have no weapons except the golf clubs. And you can’t shoot down a drone with a golf club.

KIM: What do you propose we do, then?

CHOI: Hide until it goes away?

KIM (pointing skywards): That’s Omaba’s personal drone. I recognise the insignia. He isn’t going to give up and go away.

CHOI (stopping a little way away from the wrecked carrier): Well, then, there’s only one thing to do. [Takes golf bag off shoulder] Try and distract the drone a moment.

KIM: How?

CHOI (extending club aerial and opening golf ball headphone): I don’t know! Do something.

KIM: All right, I’ll do my best. [Climbs on top of wrecked carrier and waves at drone.] Hey, Omaba. Look what we did to your police tank. And all with one of my golf balls. You call yourself a golfer, Omaba? [A Hellfire missile screeches overhead and smashes into a building.] You call yourself a drone pilot, Omaba? You can’t even hit a stationary target! [Drone engine buzzes furiously and another missile smashes into a building.] Missed again, sucker!

[Drone roars overhead, so low that its shadow is clearly visible to the AUDIENCE. It swings round and returns for another pass.]

KIM: Choi? I don’t think it’s going to miss this time.

CHOI (sitting back and wiping his brow): Don’t worry. I’ve got it. [He fiddles with a button on the side of the golf bag. The drone rises sharply, its engine squealing in protest.] There you go.

KIM (jumping off wreckage and hurrying over): Where are you sending it?

CHOI: Where do you think?

 [Quick CURTAIN. Scene shifts back to OMABA’s office. OMABA is bent over the Xbox, with the SECURITY GUARD by his side.]

SECURITY GUARD: Sir? The drone is headed back towards us, sir.

OMABA (desperately twiddling joystick): Get to the air force and have an F35 shoot down the drone at once!

SECURITY GUARD (speaks into phone and turns to OMABA): Sorry, sir, but all F35s are grounded.

OMABA: All? Every single one?

SECURITY GUARD (after speaking into phone): Every single one. Apparently three more crashed since yesterday.

OMABA: What about other planes then? There must be some others!

SECURITY GUARD (after speaking into phone): None, sir. F35s are all we've got left.

OMABA: Who was responsible for that ridiculous situation?

SECURITY GUARD (after speaking into phone): Apparently you, sir, and the folks at the Hexagon.

OMABA: An F35, an F35, my Empire for an F35!

[Rising roar of drone engine in a kamikaze terminal dive. The scene disappears in a terrific explosion.]



Scene 1:

[Several days later. The IRIDESCENT LEADER’s office in Pongyyang, East Korea. As the curtain rises the IRIDESCENT LEADER is talking to KIM and CHOI.]

IRIDESCENT LEADER: You did very well. I’m proud of you.

KIM: Thank you, Iridescence.

CHOI: Thank you, your Sublime Leadership.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Even better than wiping out Omaba, you got the recording in which he admitted we had nothing to do with the Snowy hack. That must have taken some doing.

KIM: Oh well, it was blind luck, really.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Fortune favours the brave. Now tell me one thing I’m curious about.

CHOI: Yes?

IRIDESCENT LEADER (looking warily around and whispering): How was Omaba’s golf game, really?

CHOI: Oh, superb.

KIM: He got a hole in one right off.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Damn it! I never can win it all, can I?

KIM: Look on the bright side, boss. The internet is back again, and the sun is shining.

IRIDESCENT LEADER: Damn the internet. [Begins weeping] And here I thought I was the best at everything. Everything!


Copyright B Purkayastha 2014

 Scenes from the play:

The Iridescent Leader of East Korea*

President Barack Hussein Omaba of the Untied States of America*

*Both these characters are entirely fictional. 

Why there will be Nuclear War

On 31st December 2014, I posted an article in which I said I’d be glad if we could get through 2015 without a nuclear war.

Now, I am not saying that nuclear war is being planned. In fact I think it’s not being planned by anyone, that nobody is quite that stupid, at least those in power; and if their propaganda about the so-called Free World passes off nuclear weapons as usable, that’s just playing to the gallery.

No, I do not think anybody is planning a nuclear war.

But I think it is extremely likely that they are going to get one.

Why do I think this?

There are two reasons, both to do with Western brinkmanship towards Russia.

The weakness of the Russian armed forces:

The first part came after the collapse of the USSR, when the West actively encouraged and supported the Yeltsin kleptocracy to loot Russia dry. The resulting implosion of the Russian armed forces in the early 1990s was so severe that the country has not yet fully recovered from it. This weakening of the Russian armed forces, according to the West, was a great American victory.

Actually, it was stupid and counterproductive.

The old Red Army was, at the least, capable of fighting NATO to a standstill using only conventional arms. It’s obvious to all except the wilfully deaf and blind that the USSR had never envisaged an offensive war; Stalin had only occupied Eastern Europe after WWII as a necessary defensive belt, in order to forestall another 1941-style invasion. However, if war had come, the USSR would have been ready to take the fighting to Western Europe in order to force a favourable peace. It did not have to consider nuclear weapons except as a last resort

The Russian Army of the 1990s, though, was, and even the Russian Army of today is, incapable of even attempting feats like forcing the Fulda Gap and storming across the plains of Germany towards the English Channel. In fact, it is still rearming and barely capable of defending the territory of Russia against a modern opponent. Yes, the average Russian soldier could probably take apart the average NATO soldier with little trouble, and the Spetsnaz would be more than a match for Obama’s SEALs. But in a modern war, fought from beyond visual range with missiles aimed at targets pinpointed by satellites, the Spetsnaz and SEALs would be unlikely to meet. Russia would – at least until its current rearmament programme is complete, a process which will take a minimum of a decade – be left with a force virtually decapitated within days if it chose to fight a conventional war.

In case of a war with NATO, therefore, its only fallback would be nuclear weapons. Only by using nukes could it stop a NATO attack in its tracks. And the first use of nuclear bombs would trigger a response, which in turn would trigger another response, which...

You get the picture.

In fact, Russia would have to use its bombs in huge numbers and all at once, in order to get them away before the ABMs on the borders could intercept any significant number, NATO counterstrikes could destroy more in their silos, or American naval units could knock out Russian submarines. By weakening Russia, NATO is merely guaranteeing itself greater destruction.

Now, by pushing its forces right up to Russia’s borders, deliberately attempting to foment “colour revolutions” within former Soviet republics, and stationing anti-ballistic missiles on the frontier, NATO is setting the stage for such a war. It might not imagine one will actually break out. It might think Russia will roll over and surrender without a shot when the time comes. But, going by what happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, one can infer that NATO isn’t a good judge of how the world really works.

If pushed to the wall, Russia will not surrender. And Russia is being pushed to the wall.

Pushing Russia to the wall:

Rather than belabour the obvious, and keep repeating the tale of American and NATO/EU hypocrisy and aggression against Russia, let me propose a hypothetical scenario:

In 2015, the Frozen War between Russia and the US grows even colder. Russia completely removes itself from the dollar, China follows suit, and the three other members of the BRICS – India, South Africa and Brazil – also reduce their dollar holdings dramatically. America’s ability to damage Russia economically becomes increasingly marginal. Russian gas sales to China, India, Turkey and Iran more than compensate for lost sales to Europe, which is beginning to seethe in discontent at its puppet rulers.

In retaliation, America foments (and this is something I predict one hundred percent is going to happen) a “colour revolution” in Russia, using bought-and-paid-for agitators like Pussy Riot and other traitors like Garri Kasparov. The “revolution” causes temporary chaos in Moscow and St Petersburg, but collapses within a week or two since the huge majority of Russian people are behind Putin and will remain behind him. They have no desire to go back to the kleptocratic “democracy” of the 1990s. As the “colour revolution” begins crumbling, America desperately pushes in weapons and mercenary snipers, like at the Maidan in Kiev in February 2014. There is violence, the “revolution” is crushed with some bloodshed, which the Western propaganda and its bought and paid for media pretend is all due to the tyrant Putin crushing the yearning for freedom and democracy. If there are any sanctions Obama hasn’t already imposed, he does so, ordering his EU slaves to follow in his footsteps. Obediently, they crawl to do his bidding.

Apart from the sanctions, the US begins covertly and overtly arming, funding and training “freedom-loving resistance groups” in camps in Rump Ukraine, the Baltic puppet slave states, and the fascist outpost of Poland. These terrorists cross the border, carry out acts of sabotage, and attack passenger planes and other civilian infrastructure. They kill children, bomb apartment blocks, and the Western media blame it all on Putin himself.

Don't think it will happen? Remember American arming and training of jihadis in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the fact that Chechen terrorist warlords still find shelter and protection in Britain and the United States.

In response, Russia builds up its forces in its border areas, and attacks groups of terrorists attempting to cross into Russian territory. Some of these shells fall in the territory of Estonia or Poland, shall we say, and trigger a NATO response, which causes Russian soldiers to shoot back. Things escalate from there, each bullet bringing a dozen in retaliation. If one episode is defused, another soon occurs, because of course the terrorists keep coming.

Or perhaps the attacks grow so intolerable that Russia carries out air strikes on the training camps located in the territories of the US vassals. What happens then?

I think you know already.

Yes, it’s going to happen. And when it does, in the unlikely circumstances that they survive, Obama and his slaves will loudly declare that they bear no responsibility whatsoever.

And they will be right

It will be the drivelling idiots who voted for them and mindlessly support their policies who will be responsible, not they.

Crushing the Flowers

I began that poem again.

You know the one – where the flowers bloomed
Among the grass, and your small feet
Tripped dancing through the
Colour-speckled green
Like the touch of a fairy on the grass
Now here, now gone.
Kissing the grass, fondling the flowers
Your dancing feet in the sunlight
That was the poem

The poem that is never done.

And I, stumbling after
Heavy-booted, crushing down
The flowers, being too clumsy
To let them be.
Petals broken and strewn in the grass
Like jewel-tears
Marking where I passed.

My boots were not part of the poem, though.

I did not want to hurt the flowers. 
It was not my fault

That I could not dance.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy Old Year

In a few hours, as I write this, it will be 2015.

As a matter of fact, it is already 2015 in the extreme eastern parts of the Eastern Hemisphere, Cape Dezhnev in Russia, for instance, or New Zealand. But here in India we still have a little shy of six hours to go.

Yes, I know that this division into “years” is somewhat arbitrary, and that the planet itself neither knows nor cares that we’re measuring its revolution around the star Sol by numbered sets of 365 days each. But for the moment, at least, we are in a phase of human history in which such numbering seems to be necessary.

So. All over the world today, people will be partying, enjoying themselves, dancing, drinking themselves into stupendous hangovers, and getting killed in ridiculous accidents, and the best of luck to all of them. I won’t be doing any of those things, but then I never do.

Nor, however, will I be writing a New Years’ Special, something I’ve done as a tradition ever since I began writing semi-regularly on the Internet way back in 2005, and which I usually try and make humorous to whatever extent I can manage. This time, I’ve quite deliberately refrained from it.


For one thing, the only thing I can find to celebrate is that 2014 is over. It was a year which for me began with heartbreak, and ended with my being under psychiatric treatment for acute depression, treatment, by the way, which has been far from effective. It was a year in the course of which I went into downward spirals during which, for the first time since I was a teenager, I seriously planned to kill myself. It was a year in which I lost more than one good friend to death, and during which I totally lost my ability to be satisfied with my own company.

Under no circumstances can this be considered a good year.

Oh, it wasn’t all bad. I met some very old friends, right at the end of the year, and had a few good days – when not lying awake crying at night, that is. I began painting again, which I’ve always found calming. And, professionally speaking, though this year was far from the best I’ve had, it was also by no means the worst.

But that’s all that can be said about it.

Then, I can make no positive predictions, even in a light vein, about 2015. If the coming year ends without any more major extinctions, if there isn’t any nuclear war, if the Hindunazis don’t succeed in completely taking over the country with their fascist agenda, that’s about the best that can be expected. I can foresee more hypocritical lies and aggression by proxy from the Evil Empire and its NATO handmaidens; I can see Russia and Venezuela, at the least, fending off Obama-instigated colour revolutions; I can see the US finally abandoning all pretence and invading Syria. I can safely predict more wars over the planet, all bought and paid for by Washington. I can see increasing upheavals from climate change, rising food insecurity, and suppression of dissent. Surviving the coming year may well be the best we can hope for.

Sometimes, I’ll tell you truly, I wish they’d get their nuclear war on and over with. It’s time the human race exited the stage and let the so-called lower animals (or what’s left of them) begin over.

So, sorry for the downers, but I won’t wish you a Happy New Year 2015.

Instead, I’ll say, Happy Old Year, 2014.

In a year’s time, take it from me, this will look good to you.