These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up.
It was not a good time to be a global financier.
“Go head, take out your phone.”
Arnie Kline stared at Art, the candidate, the one that they all said was going to go all the way, except that they all seemed to forget one thing – it was Arnie that decided those things, no one else. He stared at Art, then reached for his phone.
“Whatever you want, whoever you think is the most important,” Art said, nodding at Arnie, “call them first.”
Arnie took his eyes from Art and pulled up his contacts. He fully expected the candidate to have something up his sleeve, perhaps with his wife, his kids. Arnie suppressed a smile, then hit ‘send.’
The phone rang, once, twice…Arnie started to smile and began to look up at Art. It was clear that–
“Hello. Is this Arnie Kline?”
Arnie’s eyes narrowed at the sound of the man’s voice. “Yes, where’s–”
“Your mother-in-law’s dead, Mr Kline…as is everyone else on your phone – Art told you that.”
The phone went dead, and with wide eyes, Arnie stared at Art.
“I told you so, sir…we’ve got you.”
Arnie gritted his teeth, then called another number. The phone rang, and in front of him the candidate and the others in the room looked on, almost looking eager to know what would happen.
“Hello. Is this Arnie Kline?”
“Where the hell is my wife!” Arnie shouted.
“Your wife’s dead, Mr Kline…as is everyone else on your–”
Arnie hung up the phone, started to dial another number. The others waited, watched. They saw the same thing, the phone pick up, a few words, then a look of desperation and despair come of the banker’s face. Suddenly the most powerful man in the world didn’t seem so powerful, didn’t seem so powerful at all.
Art looked on and shook his head, then as Arnie broke down and fell to his knees, weeping all the while, he turned to look back at the others.
“Not everyone can fit underground, you know that, don’t you?”
The bankers, financiers, industrialists, and heads of commerce and agriculture stared at the candidate, the upstart and the man that thought he was going to change it all. Many had come along with such grandiose notions before. This man, however, was the first to have brought the House of Kline to its knees. That name had been around in some form or another since 704 AD, had built Europe on the ashes of Rome, had started wars and ended them and pulled the strings on the puppeteers of the church and thus the state. Since 1743 his descendents had passed on their name and their office…and now that name was done, nothing of it left but the sad and shaking husk of a man that now lay there weeping into a mere stick of plastic, metal and glass. Pitiful couldn’t begin to describe it.
“Pitiful,” Art said, as if reading their minds, “it’s pitiful the condition you think you’re going to leave the world in while you flee to your underground bases and bunkers, your off-planet worlds.” He crossed his arms and shook his head. “There’s not enough room, you know? Not nearly enough.”
“What’s it to you?” Preston Briggs said, stepping forward. The controller of 90% of the world’s utilities seemed please with himself, as always. “What’s it to some farm boy that was never part of the club but always wanted to be? You’ll be dead with all the rest of them, and even if we pretended to give you a spot underground when it all goes under, you know we’d just pull the rug out from under your feet right before you crossed the threshold.”
Art stared at the man, the embodiment of power in every sense of the word, and nodded. He was right, exactly right, and honest too. These men had nothing left to live for, not now, and they knew it. Honesty was the one thing that’d been out of their price range, and now it was something they could finally afford.
“There were only four countries in the world without Kline-controlled banks – Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Libya,” Art said, looking over at the still-weeping financier, “but no longer.” The eyes of the other men in the room narrowed. What was he getting at?
“I had the remnants of the CIA and NSA seize all the Kline assets that I could,” Art continued. “While it’s true that I wasn’t able to get all of them – Switzerland and Luxembourg are hard nuts to crack – I did succeed in taking 97% of what he had to his name.”
Arnie Kline stopped his sniffling long enough to look up at Art and shout, “but you’re just a candidate!”
“And you’re just a financier,” Art said with a slight frown as he held up his palms.
“Why is this happening!” Arnie said next, sounding more like six-year-old that he hadn’t tried to call yet.
Art shrugged and looked at the others. “Because you upset the balance of things, you turned against God.”
“God!” Reverend Emil Coughlin spat from the side of the room. “What the hell does God have to do with any of this!”
Art looked at the TV, radio and internet evangelist, one with 128 million weekly listeners, 178 million on Sundays. “Why, Reverend,” he said as slowly and calmly as he could, “He has everything to do with it.”
“Rubbish!” the reverend said, shaking his head and turning toward the door.
“Uh…I wouldn’t do that,” Art began, but Reverend Coughlin kept up his hurried pace, and was soon at the door. He had to get one last word in, however, and turned back just as he started to turn the knob.
“You think you’re hot shit, don’t you, Rogers? Well I’ve got news for you, we’ll…”
The reverend trailed off as he noticed the eyes of his colleagues, other movers and shakers of the world, the real power behind the screen of fabrication the world called its governments.
“What…” he said, turning to look at what had gotten them so wide-eyed. He quickly wished he hadn’t. There in the hallway were the dirtiest, grubbiest, and foulest-looking people he’d ever seen. They belonged in some Third World dump, scavenging for garbage, that’s what they looked like to Reverend Coughlin. He shuddered at the sight of them, and only then noticed that each held a pitchfork in their hands.
“What…?” he said again, trying to turn back to look at the others yet again. It didn’t work, however, for dozens of dirty hands were reaching out for him, pulling him into the hallway. A look of fear began to spread across his face, and then he was pulled into the crowd and gone. The door closed and Art looked at the others.
“Now, gentlemen,” he said with a smile, “let’s discuss the state of the world.”