His hand felt for a grip and found none. The downward slide continued unabated. There was no sense of movement as the total darkness stole all sense of time and motion. He was lost in nothingness where existence itself was a mere fictional category, along with all the other concepts that had already lost their meaning in his world â€“ truth, freedom, hopeâ€¦ His world â€“ what a naive statement, there was nothing his in that world that he helped create (or destroy – depending on your point of view and preference for over dramatization). It would be arrogant to suppose that he himself could have a lot to do with the way everything turned out. He was just your ordinary dictator from the eternal line of bureaucrats with clean hands and dirty conscience. After all, at the time, war seemed like a good idea, at least on paper. WhatÂ wasn’tÂ in that five page memo, prepared by a whole flock of qualified experts, was the utter and irreversible destruction, death of about half of earthâ€™s population, total annihilation of human society as such and a nice little nuclear fallout that engulfed the world in a stylish grey fog that helped the surviving half of the humanity plunge into a further feat of self destruction against the ever engaging backdrop of burning citiesâ€¦
Perhaps that particular nuclear disclaimer was in the appendix section of the report which he never cared to read. Another mystery that bothered him was less retrospective and more related to his present situation as he had absolutely no idea where he was and how he got there. His last memory was that of boarding a train, which ran deep under the ravaged capital of the country he once so diligently abused /served/ exploited/ governed/ misused/ destroyed. The train was to take him to the ever so promising â€śundisclosed safe locationâ€ť from where he was to bring his unwavering voice of leadership to his people who undoubtedly needed wise words of advice/caution/empty promises/emotional addresses from their beloved ruler. Along for the ride on the three-carriage â€śtrain of hopeâ€ť (for whom?) were the equally beloved members of the political/spiritual/intellectual/insert your pointless title here elite who were to guarantee the survival of the fittest (fattest).
Their descent into the tunnels went like a by-the-numbers military operation with the security personnel rushing them on through a brightly lit staircase. The platoon commander reported that there was a risk of an external penetration by what he referred to as â€śunstable elementsâ€ť. The news was greeted by dismay from the high level refugees and especially their wives who, dressed up in their best fur coats, found the very idea of being on the run from their own humble servants utterly disturbingâ€¦
His memory faded for a moment and he was once again lost in his invisible descent. HeÂ couldn’tÂ say for sure but he had a feeling that he started to move faster. There was no wind, for all he knew thereÂ wasn’tÂ even air â€“ just the sense of moving down, deeper and deeper. Then a brilliant idea occurred to him â€“ he was just sleeping and going through one of those falling down nightmares. This idea brought immediate comfort. OK, all he needed to do now was to wake up. How about pinching himself awake? Sounds like a splendid idea! He reached out to do just that and froze. Something incomprehensible happened and his mind was simply refusing to accept it. This is just a dream – he tried telling himself but somehow knew better. The simple truth was that heÂ couldn’tÂ pinch himself awake as heÂ couldn’tÂ find his body. OK, calm down, there must be a logical (or illogical) explanation to this. Just need to think. Need to rememberâ€¦
They were going down the stairs. They heard muffled cries and gunshots coming from above. The military said there was nothing to worry about. It seemed like the â€śunstable elementsâ€ť had penetrated the premises of the government bunker, which contained the entrance to the underground depot. These people were mostly unarmed, the security said, and posed no immediate threat to the highly trained security personnel. Nevertheless, they were told to hurry up. He could see clear indications of panic in the lines of his supporters. Many people started running and, inevitably, one of the women, overburdened with the physical and financial sight effects of the good life, plunged down, dragging her elderly husband along for the ride. They tumbled down a flight and lay there. No one stopped – people just stepped over them and rushed on. He could hear the woman whining and the man cursing in his thin, cracked voice. The stairs went on and on and he witnessed two more similar accidents, which went along the same pattern. In a second, industrial giants and generals were reduced to slobbering creatures, begging for their life, trying to crawl, falling down again only to be succumbed by the ever louder screams of their hunters. Finally, they were at the train stationâ€¦ and there it was: the ticket out of this mess. The train with its gracious curves stood out as something ethereal in the otherwise dull surroundings of the depot. He paused for a second to appreciate it. Maybe it wasnâ€™t all lost after all? Maybe he would be able to get through this? So many times he was written off by his peers and time after time he had proven them wrong by finding and hanging on to the straw that would help him climb out of any ugly scandal. No â€śunstable elementâ€ť would catch up to this baby! For the first time since the crisis (otherwise known as the end of the world) erupted, he was smiling. Once inside the train, his mood got even better â€“ huge comfortable armchairs, drinks, glasses, soothing music â€“ civilization! The gunshots and screams were closer than ever but he didnâ€™t worry. He felt that he had once again found that one tiny straw and he wasnâ€™t planning on letting it goâ€¦
His memories were once again interrupted as a new sensation entered his everlasting fall. He didnâ€™t understand the change at once but then a realization dawned on him â€“ he was no longer in complete darkness. The pipe, and it was a pipe, he could see it for sure now, did have an end after all. Somewhere far below him, he could see a reddish glow. The surface of the pipe was not as smooth as he had initially thought â€“ it was covered with strange signs and symbols. As they blurred by, he finally became aware of the speed of his fall. For a moment, he tried to concentrate on the lightâ€¦ that brought him right back to the train. All the passengers were already on board but for some reason the train was not moving. Outside, the soldiers were running around with their weapons drawnâ€¦ there was a lot of shouting, occasional gunfire and one more sound. At first, he didnâ€™t recognize it and took it for the work of one of the engines of the trainâ€¦ But then he looked outâ€¦ Out of the narrow exit of the stairway, hundreds of people were flooding outâ€¦ the sound he heard was that of their feet hitting the concrete. Soldiers had passed on to full automatic fire. Their bullets cut through the advancing crowd. A small volcano of blood would erupt from someoneâ€™s severed arm of leg. People would fall and immediately disappear in the rapidly advancing human wave.
Finally, the train started to move. He gave out a sigh of relief cut short by a shattering noiseâ€¦ he was showered with glass from the broken window. The train was gaining speed, the people on the platform flashed by like ghosts. He looked around but no one seemed to pay attention, not to the shattered window, not to the strange object next to him. All the passengers seemed to be in a semi daze: dethroned demigods braced to accept the new reality. He wanted to call someone but his throat was too dry and all that came out was an ugly hissing sound. Reluctantly, he reached down for the object – a small black box with a little red light blinking on the side. As he picked it up, the blinking became more rapid â€“ the tiny red eye was winking at him, quicker, quicker, quickerâ€¦ He felt that he couldnâ€™t make himself move, he was hypnotized by that tiny red spot that wanted to tell him something. Suddenly, the winking stopped and he was looking straight into the tiny red abyssâ€¦
â€¦The end of the pipe was getting closer. He could see its jagged edges. The red glow was stronger nowâ€¦ he could also feel the heat. As the realization dawned on him, he remembered an old Irish proverb: in life you only have two things to worry about: either youâ€™ll be healthy or youâ€™ll be ill. If youâ€™re healthy, you have nothing to worry about; if youâ€™re ill, you have only two things to worry about: either youâ€™ll get well or youâ€™ll die. If you get well, you have nothing to worry about, if you die, you have only two things to worry about: either youâ€™ll go to heaven or youâ€™ll go to hell. If you go to heaven, you have nothing to worry about and if you go to hell youâ€™ll be so busy shaking hands with old friends that you wonâ€™t have any time to worry about anything. As the pipe ended, he saw (this is not possible) that he was in hell (so the descriptions are pretty accurate) and he sure didnâ€™t have any friends to shake hands with (plenty of enemies though)…
Time to worryâ€¦