© December 2008 Dennis Kenney
It was different in the desert mountains. We were the people being hunted, tortured and executed. Then we won and we were the government. We settled some old scores and nationalized our oil and copper fields. The Republic of Androscoggin had existed for only thirty months before counter-revolutionaries in the army attempted a coup. Forget Duty, God and Country. For me the military is just a good job with status and privileges so that one can enjoy life while one is still alive. I retreated to Ciudad Roman in the southern islands and survived the purges of Premier Smythe. Then I became an industrialist and military contractor. I ran an extreme sports facility, mainly flight training and sky diving before I was mobilized because of the coup. My clientele included our armed forces and private security contractors Ė Androscoggin is a small country. I reopened the facility when things settled down. What else can a military man do if he doesnít want to kill anymore or send people to die? The deaths that I was responsible for were mainly second hand Ė explosives or missiles. It didnít feel any better. Counter-insurgency or opposition control? Fear is the weapon.
I got a good price when I bought the El NiŮo indoor skydiving machine because the engineers had installed the fans below the work area in the pioneer tunnel. The franchisers soon realized that putting the fans above the flyers with baffles down below produced a more uniform flow of air. I knew what I was buying. I wanted to make Big Lou, a cannon for launching sky divers outside in addition to its indoor skydiving configuration. Iím an old man now and my bones show the results of beatings and injury. My extreme wind tunnel, that I renamed the Tunnel into the Light as I went Disney has a new name. Now my machine is known as the Tunnel of Death. It is used for executions and entertainment for the masses. My old friends General Emile Fortin and Dr. Dieter Schneider were the first to fly into the next world after the failure of the coup as Premier Smythe consolidated his power. Executions have become a popular pastime for our people and are televised world-wide. I am tired of my machine and the world and what it has done to me. Yuh, and what Iíve done to the world.
They wonít let me fly my Bonanza any more just because I canít see the instruments and the doctor rails about my diabetes. In the old days we flew by the bones of our ass anyway and I control my diabetes with medication. I have made over two hundred jumps and even more flights with Lou. Should I have teased that old bitch, Death? We do it every day crossing the street and I do it every time that I walk into the Senate. The old hagís sense of humor will probably require her to sneak up on me when Iím feeling as safe as a baby on his motherís breast. When itís your time to goÖ
I plan to destroy Big Lou Saturday on international television before the executions are finished. Let the mob be unsatisfied. Maybe theyíll start another revolution and reduce the population to a reasonable level so that I can enjoy driving down Revolution Boulevard again. I donít have the patience to wait for the next ice age to prune humanity. The old fossils with their reptilian brains wonít be missed. I have always believed that any problem can be solved with the judicious use of explosives. First Iíll throw a few rocks at the turbine fans and then the tunnel will go up in a glorious cloud of flames.
Using the pretense of maintenance on my tunnel I am able to get next to the fan controller and a door away from the executionerís booth. A few prisoners are maneuvered into the slip stream and disappeared into the tunnel. The sound of the crowd can be heard before each launch and then comes their roar of approval as the prisoners splatter on the cliff. I see my chance as the guards left through the airlock to get another dozen customers. I can see that the executioner was enjoying himself as he leaned forward to watch his last customer in the batch ascend into the darkness. I disconnected his safety cable and nudge him a little. I watch as he disappears feet first into the darkness screaming bloody murder. I hear the roar of the crowd as I glance at the horrified woman operating the fan. We have about five minutes to live.
I am elated but tired. Itís time to say goodbye so I snap a two fingers to my cap salute to the fan operator and step out into space. I see the light at the end of the tunnel but Iím slowing down. The operator has hit the red button. Damn that kid. I may not even get out of the tunnel. No plan survives contact with the enemy. The crowd is cheering as the barrel spits me out and I fall towards the crowd. I land on a woman who is watching the cliff and I imagine that I hear her neck snap as our bodies collide. I mow down a few more people and the crowd scatters. What a rush! I couldnít even get my last act on Earth done properly. Now I hear the sound of thunder and rocks plummet from the tunnel as sections of the wall fall into the fans and are expelled like spike and shot from a Civil War cannon. Then the building housing the wind tunnel goes up in a cloud of flames scattering more debris on the crowd. I hear a cry for the medics. There is pain and I feel numb. I am alive, just one of the casualties. I wind up in a hospital in Ciudad Roman with only a broken arm and two cracked ribs. When I look at the video tape of the massacre, I can see that my form is perfect as I departed the mouth of the tunnel, not like the flailing displayed by the civilians getting their last send off. And injustice of injustices, I donít have bragging rights for this jump. One word and the council will give me another free flight in the new bigger and better wind tunnel. I am still a Hero of the Revolution, just another victim of terrorism. I get another medal but I figure my country owed me something for my latest contribution to society.
The Tunnel of Death lost its primary sponsor and attendance has fallen off anyway. Itís just as well. The hunt for dissidents was starting to cut into the working class. Me, Iíve decided that life is fun, arthritis, lazy eye, ††††††† bum leg and all. My old companion that dried out old bitch Death still waits patiently but sheís going to have to drag me kicking and screaming up her Big Tunnel in the Sky. See you there.
Dennis Carlyle Kenney is the author of Star of Fire, an alternate history of the exploration of Mars, which can be freely downloaded at StarOfFire.com. Comments welcomed. The Word version of the paperback has the latest revisions.