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. Enjoy!
Portraits of the men that’d come before cast their approving glances out at Arnie as he walked down the hallway. There was just one set of double doors, and he moved toward them purposefully. Inside were twelve men, each the captain of their respective industry or sector of the economy, and each of them waiting on the edge of their seats for what he had to say. They were the Twelve Apostles, and it was the last day of the quarter.
Arnie pushed the right-most door open and strode into the room. The men seated around the table rose to greet him, and Arnie nodded at them as he headed toward the head of the table at the other end of the room. It was a spacious room, long more than wide, and perfect for the long boardroom table that took up most of its space. The carpets were a light blue and three philodendrons were spaced evenly along the inside wall. The outside wall let on to a beautiful scene of the Hudson River below.
Besides the Twelve Apostles there was the recorder, Mrs. Ivory, and Arnie nodded at her as he reached his chair. She held her fingers above her stenotype machine, anticipating what he’d say and ready to record it for posterity.
“Gentlemen,” Arnie began, “the time has come.”
Arnie paused there, as he always did after his first sentence, waiting to hear the last of the stenographic keys, the edge of anticipation in the air, perhaps a breath as it struggled to remain held.
“The time has come,” he continued, “and it’s the time we’ve been leading up to for generations, for centuries really, ever since the earliest days in Europe when nations feuded and a higher class of men rose up to steer the fortunes of humanity. That time has come again.”
Arnie stared out – he had them.
“Gentlemen…this is what I propose.”
He put down the manila envelope on the gleaming English Cherry table and flipped the cover open.
“We’ve kept interest rates artificially low since 2008, and in that time we’ve convinced more and more of the American public and the global populace at large to put their money into the markets. Far from it being difficult like we supposed, it’s gone off greater than our wildest dreams. Already 15% of families in America are investing and 35% have debt. Either way, we have them – whether they’re moving up or moving down.”
Arnie flipped a page in the folder.
“If we don’t have them with investments or with debt then we’ve got their kids with college. Around 13% have student loan debt. Together that gives us 63% of the country and if we can’t get them there we’ll certainly get them when their health takes a turn.”
Arnie looked over at the apostle for healthcare and was pleased to see him give a knowing smile and nod.
“What we haven’t taken by way of money we’ve taken through service. Already all the third-world and developing nations are beholden to our cell phone providers, and that number will only grow. Their dependence on the energy grid is just as great as ours, perhaps more so since they’re skipping industrialization entirely.”
Ms. Ivory’s fingers continued to hit down on the long and narrow keys well after Arnie had finished speaking. He liked letting her catch up, he liked being heard, now and then. He flipped another page.
“In the space of just two decades we’ve decimated the American manufacturing sector, moving it first to Mexico and Taiwan and then to China. When those countries got it into their minds that a middle class was something to strive for, we simply pulled up stakes and headed to greener pastures, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam. And thanks to our marketing efforts, the people actually wanted this.”
Everyone around the table looked over at the television apostle and he gave a generous nod.
“But we still face problems overseas, gentlemen,” Arnie said next, quashing some of their good humor, as he’d been hoping. They must never get dull around the edges, not after what’d happened last time. “While it’s true we’ve disassembled the nation states of Europe, finally supplanting them with our treaty authority via Brussels and the banking terms, we’ve still not beaten their spirits. Even the influx of minorities, religious and ethnic, hasn’t eroded their identities as quickly as we might have hoped. The Marshall Plan was good, gentlemen, but too good.”
Heads around the table nodded, as was to be expected.
“We’ve the same problem on the other side of the world. Japan outpaced America as we’d planned, but what we couldn’t foresee was the fall of communism in China, at least not so quickly. Thankfully the region remains a powder keg, largely due to the racial hatreds embedded in the people of that part of the world. The nuclear disaster was a nice touch, and will play into our hands when the time is needed…which is now.”
You could hear a pin drop in the room once Ms. Ivory had caught up.
“The dominoes are aligned, and all we need to do is give a slight tap,” Arnie said. “We can start in whichever direction of the compass is most convenient – north in the Donetsk region of Yugoslavia; south in the deserts of Libya or Egypt; east in the Senkaku Islands; west in New York. Gentlemen, the decision is up to you, I’ll leave you that much.”
He flipped the manila envelope closed and pushed it forward so it slid out toward the middle of the table, then started back toward the door he’d come in.
“Oh, and gentlemen,” he said, turning around to see several of the men already up and out of their chairs, going toward the folder and the instructions it held within. They stopped and stared back at him, like children that’d been caught in the act. “Remember that the holy land is off limits until we get the word from above. And remember that we go one year before the first nuke is used.”
The men at the table nodded, and satisfied, he again headed toward the door. He glanced at the portraits as he strode back down the hall. Arnie couldn’t help but think the men were smiling at him a little more than usual.