This story deals with Mature Themes and Subject Matter.
By Paul Riches
“So what do we have here? They are once again pillorying you into submission with their non-sensical rules. This latest affront to God and nature and the Constitution is a new authority which will enable the Government to enter your home, your abode, your hard earned castle, with no warrant or rule of law. The dictatorial mafia that lords itself over us will soon barge down your door, slap on the handcuffs and ankle bracelets, and slam you into a windowless cell. Your crime you ask? Your transgression against civilized society? You voted. But not for whom you should have. How dare you exercise your free will? That is your cross to bear. And they will make you pay for it!”
Looking straight into the camera, sounding like a smooth voice of reason, is an older man impeccably dressed in a dark suit. His cheeks are skinny and sunken in, pulling attention slightly from large round wire frame glasses that make his eyes look wider. Grey hair is desperately combed forward in an attempt to obscure a receding hairline. This subterfuge is noticeable to anyone and everyone who looks for more than a second, but is never raised as an issue. He finishes his point with a jab of the finger towards the audience who exist somewhere beyond him. Grabbing the papers on the news desk and straightening the pile, he turns in his chair and faces the other camera.
“All this time and effort to strip you of your liberties and conscript you, body and soul, into the New World Order. You think they would focus even a small bit of their tyrannical efforts into solving some the real problems that plague and pillage our daily life. For instance, we have mentioned here multiple times about the mind controlling chemicals they are pushing and shoving and smashing into our water supply. Our in depth investigative reports have unveiled the foreign nationals involved with this travesty. Now we have almost confirmed a fourth, yes a fourth, entity from beyond our borders, who are actively participating in this vile experiment. Next week, right here at this very desk, we shall provide the conclusive proof of this unholy conspiracy. Now that may sound like a dangerous proposition, but we want to make sure we have all the evidence gathered and secure before going public and blowing the lid off this horror show. You may all be concerned for our safety, that we might be tracked down and taken care of, but worry not. Our studio is hidden away and our net address is expertly disguised. They will not find us, those jack booted fascists, because I am Thomas Revere, and we here are strong and true and free!”
He turns back to the first camera, which then zooms in for a close-up. His next words he spits out in defiant pride.
“For WE Are The TRUTH.”
“Cut! Great show Jack. Sydney’s just saving the file now.”
Jack, the man before the camera, the man with the glasses and the disappearing hair, the man who called himself Thomas, stands up carefully from behind the desk.
“Thanks Craig, pretty sure I got them all riled up there at the end. Gonna love seeing the e-mails when this one goes live.”
He does a slow shuffle to finish pulling away from his pulpit. His movements are as precise as can be for someone of his age, but are noticeably practiced. The exact state of the desk, all shiny and light blue on the outside, is held together by duct tape and half bent nails on the inside. This is the necessity of their invention, all effort put into the visible product, with the internals being at most an afterthought.
Jack stops just short of brushing against the backdrop, a large cardboard panel featuring a massive illustration of the United States, topped with a sign emblazoned with the words “The Truth”. A few tiny half steps later and he is out from behind his perch, and with a final hop, he plops off the platform this entire set inhabited.
“Five hundredth and seventeenth time I got out of that contraption without an incident. Am I talented or what?” Jack brags.
“I could say or what, but then you would change the coffee to decaf again.” Craig replies.
Craig passes Jack an extra large coffee with plenty of steam rising into the air.
“Smells goods, but gotta wait for it to cool down a might bit before I gulp this sucker down. Hate fogging up my glasses. Gotta be able to see clearly y’know?” Jack nods at Craig.
Laughing then downing a quick gulp, Craig moves Jack over, pass the two small digital cameras sitting now silently atop skinny tripods, to behind a cluttered table crammed at the other end of the small musky room. Sitting hunched over several keyboards and multiple monitors is a feverish looking bald man, all full of nervousness and tension. No matter how many buttons he clicks how many times, nothing he sees on the screens brings about any happiness.
“Files saved, but I got a slight sound spike thirty seconds in. Gotta fix that. It is so noticeable. Gotta fix track two. Just give me a few minutes.”
He starts again, almost lunging into the digital equipment, glancing back and forth between each terminal with lighting speed.
“Syd, Syd, Syd, you gotta learn to relax and smell the coffee. The decaf coffee, I might add. You always find some imperfection, then go and zap it…” Jack points his finger like a gun at Sydney and follows up with a laser sound, “…like ya always do. That’s why we love you.”
“In a brotherly way, of course,” pipes in Craig between gulps, the steam partially obscures his more jowly features.
“So once we get that little nibbly bit with the sound taken care of, all that’s left is the usual post production stuff?” Jack asks, still holding his steaming cup, still not touched.
“Yeah the opening titles and closing credits have already been uploaded into the program, along with all the graphics and blurbs you want inserted around you when you talk and stuff,” Sydney pulls away from his haven for a moment to glare at Jack, “But I told you I dislike putting everything into the program all at once. It might overload the system. This is delicate equipment.” He waves his hand, indicating the entire set-up, and with that task of discipline completed, Sydney returns to the keyboard, just like he never stopped.
“Y’know Syd, you gotta learn to not blow a gasket with worry every other week. We just want to get The Truth up and online as soon as possible. Our site, the other video sharing sites, all the social networking places, heck, even carrier pigeons have to have it, and have it tout suite.” Craig finishes with another large gulp of his coffee, with a little less steam fogging his face this time.
“I love it when you speak German,” Jack laughs.
“That’s French,” Craig replies, raising an eyebrow.
“Whatever,” Jack laughs more, causing the coffee to jiggle slightly in his hand, the steam pattern becoming zig-zag in the air.
“You are such an uncultured tool, y’know that?” Craig takes another, and final, swig of his coffee. “Aaah, now that hits sooo many spots!”
“Great, now that you are finished being a glutton, why don’t ya check the website? See how our much adoring public loves us. The sales have been really going great with the dvd’s and t-shirts and ebooks and crap, I am interested to see how well our winning streak is continuing. Hell, those numbers have been Jackanilly lately!” He loves that pet saying of his, and how it sounds rolling from his tongue. Jack then points towards a solitary laptop, living all alone in the one corner of the room not already filled with one electronic device or other.
Whipping his empty coffee into the garbage with much bravado, Craig saddles up to the computer and starts typing away frenetically. A few seconds later, the screen lights up with his efforts. Multiple windows are soon open, each bountiful with information of all kinds and styles.
“Well you’re right about that. Lots and lots of orders coming in. We’re gonna have to get more of the black t-shirt if this keeps up. Hah. Some guy commented on the forums that he loves that our shirts are American made. If only he knew!”
Craig laughs while jotting notes on a cheap yellow pad, already filled with numerous and obscure scribblings, somehow only completely legible to him. His handwriting grows smaller and smaller as he tries to squeeze everything into the remainder of the page.
“For the love of mercy Craig, you can always start another piece of paper! It does grow on trees y’know.”
Jack shakes his head and smirks at Craig. The steam is barely rising from the coffee now, just escaping the rim.
“Nah, still plenty of room on this paper. Plenty of room!”
Craig finishes up his last minuscule writing and clicks along to the next window available.
“Hey, this is interesting, remember that teen book we saw yesterday, the one with the guy holding a trident on the cover? A bunch of people on the forums are kvetching and complaining about it, saying it’s too violent and such. Sounds like a topic maybe?”
Craig turns to face Jack and fixes him with a direct stare, trying to pull an authoritarian producer look, a tactic he tries occasionally in order to appear somewhat in command.
“Yeah, yeah. We’ll say that they are reading the book to first graders, turning them into little soldiers for the new world order. That kinda stuff always sells. And quit glaring at me like I am yer prom date. And start a new piece of paper you cheapskate!”
Jack dulls the edge abit with a forced jolly smile. It is just enough to make the point of who is in command, a situation that has to be reminded once in a while.
“That book is actually really good. It’s a teen book, so I doubt very much they would read it to first graders.”
Sydney never pulls his gaze from the monitors. The words appear from behind Jack and Craig, causing both to glance over at the cluttered computer desk and it’s wizard.
“Whatever,” Jack replies, rolling his eyes. No more steam is rising from the cup. Jack still has not touched it.
“Get back to work,” Craig states, then turns his attention back to his laptop duties.
Another few clicks and another of the numerous windows pops into view. The sound of a few more clicks fill the now quiet air, for a few more seconds, than stop, and the silence starts to permeate everyone. Both Jack and Sydney glance sideways at Craig, wondering if this attitude with sharpness is going to lead to another explosion. Tempers flaring from Craig is an all the time occurrence, once leading to the demolition of the news desk. Neither man wants this right now, let him leave, go home, and do whatever he does for his primal release. Jack’s lukewarm coffee in his hand feels so heavy and obtrusive, like a rock holding him to the spot.
“Damn it! Damn It! DAMN IT!!” Shouts Craig as his hands leap off the laptop as if it is on fire. “Where did he find this crap? How are we gonna fight this? How?”
Craig is now pacing and waving his arms in the small spot of space available to him. Brushing within a heartbeat of knocking over Jack and the awaiting coffee. His hip bumps with considerable force into Sydney’s table, with no response coming from the technician. Craig stops moving, twists back, and looms at Jack.
“WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?” He bellows almost nose to nose with Jack.
Dropping his coffee into a big mess onto his sneakers, Jack stands in shock at what is before his eyes. He truly has no idea of what Craig is so upset about.
“What, what, is your problem Craig? What are you on about?” Jack is trying his best to respond, keep collected, and resume his position.
Craig turns back to the laptop, sweeping his arm over and pointing to whatever it is offending him.
Shuffling over to the laptop, leaving a trial of mildly warm coffee behind him for those few paces, Jack moves as if the gallows are looming ahead. Now weary eyes start to probe the offensive matter illuminated on the screen before him. All by itself, looking so innocuous, in a single solitary window, is an email message, nice and long and properly formatted. The name at the top, the sender who released this anger from Craig, catches his attention immediately, bringing a thumping into his chest. The name is of his nemesis.
Father Liberty, aka Larry from Milwaukee. They have been in a cutthroat competition for viewers and hits and sales, both staking a claim to the same territory of the political field. This war is acknowledged and hard fought, with gentle sniping on air leading to bitter feuds on websites. Never naming the other, just boiling up cloaked pot shots and veiled theories as to what secret agendas and insincere motives fuels their opposite counterpart. They need to, they have to, they must, win this war for the hearts and minds and souls of their audience in order to ensure the uninterrupted cash flow which their product guarantees. Larry was the true obstruction to Jack’s happiness and wellbeing, not the left or the mushy middle, or any one else that comes to mind. And Larry sending a direct communication like this does not bode well. They do not fraternize this way. It is an unspoken rule of their hatred.
Jack’s eyes slowly meander down to the long paragraphs sent by his enemy. The first sentence is a cordial greeting, which brings forth suspicion of the upcoming message. The next sentence slaps his eyes with the true nature of it all. Each bit and piece after that slams into Jack’s senses, making the thumping grow louder and louder. Once past the gist of Larry’s triumph, the rest becomes a blur of hyperbole and taunts celebrating his victory over Jack. By the time he reaches the “Yours Sincerely” signoff, the fate of his life is now done.
“WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?” Craig is still ranting in behind of Jack, not stopping, even when the e-mail is being consumed. His arms occasionally shooting into the air with the manic energy of someone trying to stop the universe from moving, to bring back the five minutes ago of yesterday.
“Um, what is going on?” Sydney finally feels safe enough, with Jack now back in charge of the situation, to venture out from his mechanical womb. “Are we behind on our bandwidth bill?”
“What is going on…” Craig hisses while stretching his arms towards Sydney, causing his fingertips to barely reach the technie’s face. “… is that our esteemed leader, our grand lord and master…” he sweeps his arms back across to indicate Jack’s docile back, framed by slumping shoulders. He punctuates those last few words with extra venom and volume. “…did NOT tell us, his lowly employees and co-conspirators…” His arms shot upwards and whack against the ceiling, denting a piece of tile with a slight thunk sound. No pain or acknowledgement registers on his impassioned face. “…is that HE is Catholic…” he declares this with an immutable authority and condemnation, “…and that he is ACTUALLY from CANADA!” The last part slams out of his mouth like a jackhammer, filling the air around them with dread and accusation.
Jack’s shoulders do not reply to Craig. No movement leaves him. He and the laptop just exist together, but only one feels true misery.
“What are you going to do, oh fearless leader!” Craig pulls his arms from the ceiling and plants them onto his hips. A glare of fire screams out at Jack.
“Is this true? Who said this? I thought you were American. I thought we were supposed to hate Catholics. And Canadians. Or is that only what we say the show? I can’t remember what is real for us.” Sydney’s head is bouncing back and forth, straining for answers from either man.
“WELL?” Craig bellows. “What is your answer? How much of your past is a filthy lie?” His voice shakes off the walls.
Jack sighs audibly. He closes his now tear stained eyes and clenches both hands into tight fists. The thumping in his chest tries to escape and go somewhere safe, away from this harm. His mouth moves to try to provide calmness and clarity. What comes out instead is not what is intended.
“Yes, it is true.” Even he is shocked the words that leave are honest. Part of him was trying for one last trick, one final gimmick, a half truth that can be manufactured and sold, all to salvage this destructive chaos before him. But nothing comes out but what is true.
“I KNEW IT!” Craig spat. “Your backstory was always too good, even the crap we put on the website, it always smelled like garbage. When Larry goes public, he will win. And our business will be GONE!” His fury rolls out and floods the small room. The entire makeshift studio and control room stop moving and enter a null point with no time. What is the new reality has been spoken and the old one must now vanish.
“How does he know this? Did he, like, bug your phone, or something?” Sydney’s eyes are desperately looking for answers, a direction to take, anything to bring back the status quo.
“Who cares? The point is we are ruined!” Craig pounds a fist into the palm of his hand. Then, after a moment of silence, his anger recedes and composure pulls back into him abit, all to fill the void left by Jack’s absence in this drama. “Larry probably went to some genealogy site. Maybe even hired a detective to flip through public records. Always knew he was ruthless. We shoulda done that to him first!” He finishes off with a punch of authority in his voice. Even if it is all to end, Craig will be on top, as it always should have been.
“Don’t know. Don’t care. It’s over.” Jack breathes the words with finality. Part of him wants one last tussle with the constantly agitated Craig, another chance to remind the loud, rowdy, intellectually stunted upstart of who is really boss of this operation. This thought lingers for only a second, quickly pushed aside because it so much did not matter anymore. Craig could leave this studio, roam the streets, and let loose with his anger and socially maladjusted attitude among the public walkways where no one will care about another crank. He also knows this last command will be his final words to Craig, one last bit of power used to push the ill tempered man out forever.
“It’s over? IT’S OVER? No duh leader man! Knew you wouldn’t have the guts to fight this! Coward! I would have taken this twit apart years ago! Screw you! “ Craig shouts at Jack’s still figure, still immobile and into the laptop. He turns and faces the still mystified looking Sydney. “And you are a LOSER!” His shout rings off the walls and reverberates into the ceiling. “I QUIT!” The yell comes from deep inside his body and replaces all the air in the room with tension.
Craig turns and runs out the door with uncanny speed. The sounds of his feet pounding up stairs blots out all else and the vibrations make the two cameras on tripods quiver. A second later, a door slamming meets their ears. Both men now breathe again, secure in the knowledge that Craig is gone.
“I never liked him,” Sydney finally offers. “He has… issues. All that sudden shouting. Always felt something was wrong with him.”
“Agree. And agree.” Jack mumbles, just loud enough for Sydney to overhear, but even then by the barest of margins.
After a few more movements of silence, a question from Sydney enters the mute discussion.
“Am I still getting paid?”
Jack closes his eyes and smiles. The thumping is not noticed by him now, but only for the briefest of a second.
“Go home Sydney. Go home.”
Pausing, then collecting his rumpled backpack, Sydney stands up, negotiates his way through his elabourate electronic set-up, and frees himself from its grasp. He stops behind Jack, stares at his side with his mouth opening and closing with regularity, then gives up and leaves. Jack cannot hear the footsteps on the stairs, nor the door closing. Sydney is gone much like he was here. Quietly.
With enormous strength of will, he pulls himself away from the offending laptop and straitens up his now slightly aching back. Jack turns and faces his studio, his crucible of commerce, and views it all though teary eyes, now slightly fogging his glasses.
Jack distantly recalls his grandmother, a singularly unhappy woman who had many hatreds in life, one of which was the circumstances of his baptism, done after loud protests from his mother. This woman who had spawned him was not of the faith, and if she had fought harder, stood up to the eternally crabby grandmother, and gone back to the example of the generation before, who were all firmly and properly Protestant, all this would not have come to pass. This debacle belongs to her. Every last bit of it. No wonder he left, not just her controlling ways, but the entire country they all inhabited. All parts of his failures and heartbreak in the entwining decades can be traced back to her lack of upbringing, her lack of love, her empty soul.
This pain played out in his careers with no hope, one after another, adding up to little money or prestige. A short marriage, producing two children whom he wanted and desired respect from, ended with nary a note or thought of courtesy. Simply court ordered payments was all that was left of this time. After more years of drifting, trying to find a way to make his mark, and hoping to impress his distant family from wherever they were, Jack stumbled onto an age old secret.
His one skill, developed over years of escaping his mother’s wrath, and finely tuned with multiple sales jobs, is the power to pontificate to the masses. Persuasion of all types was something Jack finally excelled at. And after this realization, some years ago, he rounded up Craig and Sydney and started this enterprise, with the world’s newest invention, the fabled social media residing on this internet, as his tool to spread his product. All his success was predicated on his voice filling the right ears with the right words. The conversion of his small basement space into a makeshift studio, probably defying electrical rules and common sense every step of the way, was his brainchild and smoothed the final details of his success. Immediately the gamble paid off, and hits begetting hits, which translated to sales begetting sales.
All was well and fine. Money flowed in. Requests to speak were always being entertained. And jealous competitors started nipping at his heels, which proved to Jack that he was now a someone in life.
At all these points of his greatness, they never came back. Not once did his now-grown children reach out and embrace what he now is. The waiting for this recognition is silently killing him. Now it will never happen.
Ignoring the thumping below in his chest, he slowly walks over to the anchor desk, his feet squishing into the cold coffee puddle on the floor. Once he squeezes pass the first tripod, he arrives at his alter.
Grabbing the particleboard desktop, he gives it a mighty yank. A loud scrunching sound of carpenter nails and duct tape disconnecting hits his ears. He tosses it behind him, knocking a tripod over and making the camera smash into the floor. He stumbles forward, ploughing through the deskfront, which crunches into pieces from his force. Jagged edges of wood rip into his pants and stab his skin. His journey finally ends when his body collides with the backdrop of the map. Crying heaping tears, heart thumping, mouth open in anguish, hair now disheveled, his right hand clenched in a fist and pounding on the map, his left hand clutching the now tilted sign saying The Truth.
The Truth is Copyright 2013 to Paul Riches
You can also read, comment, and vote on The Truth on Wattpad.
First published on Friday, April 5th, 2013.