The prologue from Resolution 786
Prologue: 2036 Anno Domini
She brought a gnarled, frail hand to her wasted mouth, lying in cadaverous repose on stiff white sheets draped over a small hospital bed that sat on top of a sterile frame of gray metal tubes. Bright plastic light filled the tiny, colorless room, ricocheting in impersonal waves off four vacant walls. Her being quivered, alone, in rushing pain as she struggled to feed her papery lungs with sharp little sips of air sucked between savagely broken lips, precious oxygen dragged across an acrid, twirling black tongue. Her skull twitched with each labored breath, patches of bare scalp reflecting a cold sheen of bleached white between wispy mounds of lifeless, brittle hair. Her fractured trunk languished in a sunken crush, no breasts, bony humps of sternum studded through the top of a loose hospital gown. A set of desolate, listless hands and feet lay destitute at the ends of her surrendered circulatory system, writing their armistice in blue ice.
The hospital intercom spoke in a booming, loudspeaker voice, prompting her eyes to open a moment, reflexively, bulging spheres ailing in forced effort. The unseeing, jaundiced glass balls rolled about in a film-soaked swirl, pupils finally becoming lost inside her forehead. Her mouth and eyelids fell in unison. The lids stopped unclosed, marking a set of thin, grotesque yellow-white lines where her eyes had been. Her open mouth, coal tongue still, became an aged hollow with stubs of broken, muddy rocks ringed around its entrance.
The world’s best medical specialists had not been able to diagnose the former presidential advisor’s ailment. It had started strangely, almost three decades back. At the time, Madam Advisor had been a national figure and a key proponent and architect of the first war of the twenty-first century, a war that she argued would be won easily, resulting in the quick emergence of a Jeffersonian democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a fully functioning egalitarian state that would provide the people of the region a stable and secure beacon of enlightened ideals, a new nation, conceived in liberty and perpetually beholden to the morally superior West. So she argued.
Instead, one decade into the twenty-first century, Madam Advisor’s war had given rise to an oil rich, nuclear powered fundamentalist theocracy that ruled from the former Soviet Union to the south of Turkey, one that oppressed its women, threatened its neighbors and had plausible designs for the conquest of southern Europe. The theocracy’s passionately fundamentalist leaders detested the Western powers that had funded and nursed it through its birth, the countries that had invested an enormous treasure of life, limb and gold to vanquish the region’s secular dictators and place them, the fundamentalists, into power.
And so, as the Islamic Federation of Greater Iran grew, so did Madam Advisor’s inexplicable ailments. The theocracy’s birth pangs had come in a tumultuous maelstrom of blood, tears, sorrows, and loss. As above, so below — the anguished turmoil crossed the gossamer curtain between Heaven and Earth. The angels, disturbed, drew lots to repay the turmoil to its mothers and fathers. And so it was Azrael who collected every drop of blood spilled in Madam Advisor’s war, collected them into a bottomless grail, which he then poured into Madam Advisor’s spleen. And it was Malik who collected every tear shed in Madam Advisor’s war, collected them into an ancient chalice that he then poured into Madam Advisor’s glands. And it was Mukar who cast a net of air over every sorrow born of Madam Advisor’s war and he cast that net, full and brimming, deep into Madam Advisor’s heart. And it was Nakir who tossed a canopy of still space over every loss suffered in Madam Advisor’s war and emptied that canopy one loss at a time into Madam Advisor’s dreams.
The blood, the tears, the sorrows, the loss — all rightfully hers, pressed themselves into her body in a complex of twisted sinews that wrapped and clung to her soul like a poisonous vine.
Thirty years ago, when her ailments had slowly begun to fester, she had busied herself in avoiding responsibility for the war, hiding behind clever and contrived rhetoric founded on the ambiguities of war, the wrongness of others, the inaccuracies of information. No matter the cunning of argument, no matter the volume of assertion, no matter the minions of sophists dispatched to every media outlet imaginable, the facts remained true. The war was long and bloody. Fundamentalism had grown exponentially as a result. The world was now a much worse and infinitely more dangerous place.
Childless, loveless, friendless, alone — she decayed in a maelstrom of exhaustion, uncontrolled crying, piercing headaches, recurring infections, hair loss, eczema, and auditory hallucinations.
Her lonely descent to death’s doorstep had lasted three bone-numbing decades. Tonight, she had reached the last rung. A thin, blonde nurse with a kind face gently stabbed an anesthetic needle into to the top of Madam Advisor’s wrinkled, wasted hand, a needle made from recycled metal, metal that contained two atoms of iron from the shell casing that fired a final bullet into Adolf Hitler’s temple in Berlin in 1945. Madam Advisor’s rotating glass eyes stilled. Her worn out mouth closed and she appeared to be thinking. Her breaths came further and further apart as her mind assembled her last full thought. It was a thought about the Lord, a Lord whom she adored, a Lord whom she looked forward to finally meeting. She spoke to him in her head in devoted and loving tones, reminding him of the dire sacrifices that she had made in his cause. “Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I did all I could to follow your hallowed teachings, up to and including giving my all to your Doctrine of Preemptive Strike. That’s in the Gospel, isn’t it? Yes, I know it is, for I have given myself to you. And thank you, Lord Jesus, for loving me so.”
Her mind lost words forever behind a drape of sounds and tastes and scents and colors and she heard an antique piano recital playing along side a mix of proud parental pronouncements, affirmations that seeded a limitless ambition into her child’s heart and then…a crimson moment of searing, ripping anguish swept through her Universe and she thought that she heard a distant Echo approach and speed over her like a screaming war plane…I never knew you...It said…and vanished. Her tired lungs nudged away air one last time. At that moment, a moment without Time and outside of Space, a dozen dutiful angels stood around Madam Advisor in a perfectly symmetrical ring. They cycled about her seven times as she gasped last. Not one angel fluttered even a feather to relieve a single pang of her mammoth agony.