BY JEREMY RIDDLE
About the author
The story was always the same. Police received reports of gunfire, shouting, screams, and showed up at the scene to find several prominent members of the city’s criminal fraternity done to death in grisly fashion. The killings were obviously well organized; the only question was who was doing them?
Theories that this was the opening salvo of a mob war quickly went up in smoke when it became apparent that members of all the major crime syndicates were being killed the same way. There were no eyewitnesses. There were no survivors. If this was mob warfare, it was being waged by the Phantom Mob, and they had invented a hitherto unknown method of warfare that kills everyone on the other side without suffering a single loss or leaving a single trace. Except, of course, spent lead and shrapnel.
Parks was mulling all this over without incident. He was in his office waiting for Jerry to call. He was going to attend the autopsy of the fat guy who looked like he had already had one. Parks wasn’t a doctor, but Jerry would be there to explain things to him, and being there himself would save him from having to read the report, which would probably be full of doctor-jargon anyway.
This wasn’t really the reason he wanted to be there, though; Parks just thought it would be cool to see an autopsy. He had popped into his office to rest for a while before Jerry called.
It was almost morning and Parks had been up all night. He had only slept a few hours the night before, and it all finally caught up with him. He put his hands in his lap and leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and his world dropped out from under him...
It was a collage of light at first, shapeless colors, and voices cutting in and out. It was like no dream Parks had ever had or heard of; more like a broadcast on a distant UHF channel on a stormy day. The images seemed almost to solidify, then broke apart again. He caught, between bursts of static, words, phrases, snatches of speech. “…power costs…” “…definitely wasn’t…” “…receptors, which do not…”
Then, suddenly, it all came together.
There was a man standing in a small white room. He was speaking. He flickered from time to time, and static rose up to obscure some of his words:
“…are seeing a broadcast. This is not a dream. Your name is William Steven Parks. You” static “…and see why. I am speaking to you from your future.” Garbled. “…power costs for this venture are, to you, unimaginable, so concision is necessary, with everything that implies.”
“In our time, the world is dying. We have been ravaged by decades of war and plague, famine, ecological disaster, which have left a large portion of the earth uninhabitable. We were never able to take to the stars; the resources required were quickly eaten up by more destructive ventures, then by the necessities of mere survival. Man remains tethered to the earth, and the earth is dying.”
The image wavered, then solidified.
“The Cynics believed greed, intolerance, and inhumanity would one day be the end of us, but while it’s true these were all important factors in bringing us to our present state, they weren’t the only factors. Our present situation is the result of a conscious attempt to manipulate history by a group calling itself The Twelve. We know very little about The Twelve. They were a secret conspiracy, and the records of what little had been learned about them from various sources have long since been lost. We don’t know who the members were, where they came from, or even if there were actually twelve of them. We do know that their organization grew out of the organized criminal syndicates that, in your time, are barely in their infancy; they will eventually come to dominate world commerce.”
A burst of static. It goes away, then crackles again.
“…events toward their own narrow ends. They were aided in this by a man named John Manson, who, very early in their existence, became their advisor. Manson had his own agenda, though. He apparently manipulated the activities of The Twelve for decades, ordering assassinations, precipitating financial disasters, touching off wars. When it was over, The Twelve were destroyed, and Manson had become a shadow dictator ruling over 2/3 of the population of the world. In very short order, he was a real dictator over all of the human race. And remains so to this day, though he first seized power many centuries ago. He is not human. We don’t know what he is. His followers believe him to be a god. They’ve brought the world to ruin in his name.”
The man in the white room cleared his throat.
“A few days ago, a powerful entity made himself known to us, appearing to us much the same way as I am appearing to you now. He described himself as a kind of observer, who had watched man for millenia. He said he forsaw our coming end, and was moved by our plight and resolved to `save us.’”
“His plan was to travel to your time and affect changes that would prevent certain future events from occurring. This would necessitate merging with a human; he was an incorporeal being without a physical body, you see. But merging with a human would mean ending his present existence and becoming an entirely new creature, no longer omniscient, without much of his power, and subject to human impulses, desires, weaknesses. And he would be anchored in time, forced to move through it as any human would. He would make this sacrifice, he said, out of love; love for a race of beings he had long studied and come to admire.”
“We don’t know what he really is or what he will actually do or why. But make no mistake; if he is what he says he is, he may very well be the savior of mankind.”
Parks was starting to feel dizzy.
“A heavy question on your mind, William Steven Parks, will no doubt be `why tell me all this?'” Short static burst. “…definite reason for contacting you. Regrettably, this is something you can’t know; there are possible adverse effects on future events. We will stress to you that you must tread very, very carefully in your dealings with this being. It’s true that our survival may depend on his success. On the other hand, he may be quite dangerous; we have no way of knowing what effects his fusing with a human will have. We don’t know what of his power will survive the transformation, what of the human’s personality will assert itself. What he described may be the same sort of transformation that created John Manson. Was Manson once a benevolent entity who took it upon himself to `save' mankind? Perhaps he was corrupted by his human side. We can’t say.”
A pause, then some garbling.
“…only contact we will have with you, and we’ve given our lives to make it. The power costs for what you are seeing is roughly the equivalent of all the man-made energy being generated on the entire planet in your time. Most of us died in seizing the facility that allows us this opportunity, and the few who survive will shortly be overrun and killed by Manson’s forces. Though you can’t know why we’ve chosen to contact you, be assured that we had reason. We wish you luck.”
And he was gone.
Parks snapped awake, gasping for breath, and with a splitting headache. He laid his head down on his desk, squeezed his eyes shut and the headache began to fade. He sat up and leaned back in his chair.
“Now THAT'S something you don’t see every day.”
Death Deals is copyright Jeremy Riddle. It may not be copied or used
for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews.
(Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)