by George Oliver
If you’re reading this, you’re probably in danger, though I can’t be certain. After all: I’m dead. Likely buried. Deep and in plain sight – in Hyde Park, I think. As my findings indicate, it’s where They seem to bury the rest.
My findings and demise are mutually inclusive. It’s as much a consequence of what I’ve found as it is of having the tenacity to find. This is why I write this, certain of my death two days before its occurrence.
It started with a newspaper ad. I was first alerted to Their existence on page 42 of a broadsheet whose name I cannot mention on account of a friend’s safety. I’ve no choice but to be an unreliable narrator, I’m afraid. I found it in the classified advertisement section, there for everybody to see but only noticeable if you were looking:
Intercept. Re-interpret. Circulate.
Find us amongst the 1%, where there’s green, where Anne hid.
I was looking. For years, I’d heard whispers of one univocal company responsible for every instance of false information disseminated via the media. Elections, referendums, scandals, frenzies … the Interceptors are responsible for all of it, since as far back as anyone can remember.
I devoted the best part of ten years to reaching this conclusion. It took four to crack the ad’s semantic code: the affluent stretch of Holland Park, Kensington. A string of individual peculiarities accumulated into something more sinister – excuse the brevity, but there’s only so much space in this text, because there’s only so much time. I’ve stumbled onto something huge.
I’ve no title for this. The manuscript will go straight into the mailbox of every major publisher in London first thing tomorrow morning – a day before I’ll no longer be able to share it. Self-ascribed responsibility surges through me like electricity as I write this. After thirty-two years of stagnation, something is finally happening. The paint has stopped drying. “Significance” has travelled through the pipework and shot through the sinkhole, a deluge of vivacity hitting me square in the face.
The text plays out in the present tense for dramatic effect. I wrote it this morning despite its occurrence two days ago. It was a lot to process. But first: a short commercial break. An intermission, if you will.
My scheduled home delivered breakfast doesn’t arrive. This has never happened before. Before I can investigate, there’s a knock at my bedroom door. Without admittance, a slim but powerfully built man in a close-fitting black suit strides in.
‘Who are you?’ I try, sitting up in bed.
‘You’ve got five minutes to get changed and come with me,’ he asserts, complete with unsettling glare. He unveils a Glock 19 tucked into his trousers.
Within three I’m pulling the front door behind me. Within five I’m in the back seat of a Bentley Mulsanne next to a new, no less intimidating man in identical dress. Man One drives; Man Two keeps his own Glock trained on my temple as we navigate the oblivious roads of Bayswater from the comfort of blacked out windows.
Within another seven, the Glock nudges me to open the door. Within eighteen I’m seated on a red stool while my hands are tied and my eyes covered with a blindfold. A voice keeps me company:
‘We’re led to believe that you’ve been sniffing around where you’re not welcome.’
I manage a cough rather than formulated words.
‘We can’t abide that. There are two options. You can tell me who you work for; or we can do it the Hard Way. Which will it be?’
All I muster is a cough. There’s more phlegm this time.
‘I’ll leave you to think about it. You two – finish tying him up and meet me at the Generator.’
The Men nod in unison and gargle gibberish.
Within another twenty, I’ve slipped off the blindfold. Severe concentrated eyebrow raising and lowering progressively loosened the velvet binding. Man One’s knot-tying leaves a lot to be desired.
Within thirty-nine, I’ve hopped with the stool to something resembling a CCTV panel. The most interesting screen’s content grabs my attention first: an unimaginably large burning light, decorated in glistening metal. Huge steel grids stacked together form a ten-foot pillar pulsating with every colour, every variation – incandescent, fluorescent, neon. A visual orgy, like nothing I’ve seen before. Surrounding the structure are beings of all shapes and sizes – giants, dwarves, the clothed, the nude, men, women, children. Linking arms, They circle the Generator, Their bodies gyrating in time with different parts of the throbbing light show. The results are erratic: some move impossibly fast, others with grace and patience, others with inconsistent jerks and twitches of differing intensities. The organism’s only fluidity is the chorus:
‘INTER-CEPTION. INTER-CEPTION. INTER-CEPTION. INTER-CEPTION.’
Their chants reach me via a small speaker above the panel. The device intermittently crackles and cuts out as it struggles with the decibel level. I close my eyes but can’t cover my ears. I vow to put an end to this nightmare. No matter how the situation at hand transpires, I’ll return in a few days. Let’s say four.
I notice a brochure conveniently tucked behind the speaker that could only be important this late in the story. After fourteen minutes, I prise my hands free of the rope. Man Two’s knot-tying leaves a lot to be desired.
I’m unsure how long I spend flicking through the pages as it’s imperative I consume every detail. I realise the gravity of my discovery.
They’re fucking staging things. Re-interpretation has become Fabrication. Pages and pages of planned disasters, terror attacks, murders, assassinations. Pages outlining the what, when and where for decades worth of incidents, all neatly contained in sixty pages of pamphlet jargon and corporate rhetoric. The brochure’s cover is plastered in glitter and smiley-face stickers, Their trademark. Horrified, my mouth begins to produce vowels and consonants but is interrupted by a succession of coughs.
George Oliver is currently a PhD student at King’s College London, as well as a freelance arts writer. He has been writing short fiction since 2018 and his most recent publications include Lotus-eater, Quail Bell Magazine, and Sweet Tree Review.