High above the barricade a flock of mockingbirds marked out a halo to the urban sprawl. Ripples of static on two-way radios mingled with the hum of traffic circling the cordoned off area. Then silence for a moment as everything was sucked in: like the sea retreating before a tsunami.
A manhole cover with the impression of a tree vibrated as the wall of sound radiated out from the explosion. Pieces of metal, bricks and plaster followed and blasted through police cars. A man fell, his foot severed, part of it next to him, part of it rammed up into his thigh.
Shouts, sirens, a billow of smoke and dust obscuring carnage.
Inside the printing factory a badge lay on the floor. Fingers reached out through a pool of blood.
The agent managed to look up, winced at the pain within his chest, “No.”
A bullet ripped through his brain tissue leaving the word floating, dismembered. The killer stooped, picked up the badge. It had the hologram of a Penguin on it. He looked around, picked up a telephone on the desk and dialled. A white wall of paper behind giving sharp definition to his outline.
“I want to talk.”
“It’s too late for that, Simon. You’ll be dead within two minutes.”
Simon Zahavi looked out over the scene, half the side of the factory had been blown out. Its innards lying exposed under the sun, the predatory bite revealing the symbiotic relationship between machine and nature. He considered all the stories he’d created, wondered if he could use them as a parachute to jump off the edge of life’s mortal dance. He saw words flowing upwards through paper as he fell, seeking connection, life, a pulse.
“You’re responsible for this,” said Simon. “You shouldn’t have sent anybody in. I warned you.”
Simon looked at the wall of paper he’d formed. It rose up above him, stark, inviting comment, a virgin canvas that gave him collateral: a hostage formed from paper.
“Can I speak to our man, Simon? Have you killed him?”
“I want five thousand books printed and shipped to retail outlets across the country.”
“Don’t be foolish, Simon. You know we can’t agree to that.”
“Then, I’ll take the rest of this place with me.”
“Have you harmed any of the paper, Simon?”
“I want five thousand copies.”
“Is any of the paper stock damaged, Simon?”
“And I want dust jackets. Embossed dust jackets.”
Simon turned at the sound of footsteps on the stairs, shouting, muffled gun shots: bullets penetrating laminate, a thin layer of air, kaolin, pulped wood.
“Tell them to stop,” said Simon.
“It’s too late, Simon, I did tell you.”
“Tell them to stop,” repeated Simon, “I’ve placed all the paperstock against the door. Your animals are firing through the door and embedding their bullets into it now.”
Simon slammed down the phone.
A mockingbird settled on the window.
The gunshots stopped.
Simon lifted his arm and shot the bird. It exploded outwards in a flurry of feathers.
“Hello,” said Simon.
“How big do you want your name on the cover?”
Simon breathed in, relishing the moment of triumph. As he exhaled he noticed the red dot of a laser spot on his chest. Turning he allowed his retina to imprint an image of white from the wall of paper and imagined words rising to guide him home.
I place my work down and read the rejection letter that accompanies it. They don’t think the public would be interested in a future where paper sells for the same price as gold, when only the very richest authors can afford to have their books printed. They’ve also scribbled, how did the agent get into the same room as the killer in red ink along the top right hand corner.
I’ve only five more chances before they kill me.
I eat my cornflakes, then put the bins out: play for time in the mundane things that take no thought, imagination, demand nothing of myself.