"My name is Mike Kaiser, and I'm manager of a gas well station drilling into New Bedford shale 4 miles down here in Queensland, Australia. With our company, located in the United States, it's all about production, so I keep the pressure on my crew to make sure that we are putting in 120% every day until we strike a volume of gas that will make our little station top producer for the company.
“We've been getting little tremors all day as we have cranked up the pressure. I'm sitting in the all-purpose conference room, office, and operations center for the station, keeping an eye on the dials and measuring our output… increasing every day. I've been looking out the window, and there she is, Elizabeth Montgomery, the Queensland EPA inspector. My, but she's the apple of my eye. And that apple bottom ain't bad either! Think I'll get a little piece of that later. I guess she's here for her routine inspection, or she's just randy. Whatever it is, she's a sight for sore eyes and not hurting other parts either. Will you look how she fills those jeans? And that tank top? Her blonde hair pulled up in a ponytail revealing her exquisitely soft neck. I'd kiss it from here, but the damn window is in the way. What's that? Here comes George Ellis. I wonder what he wants. Is that why she stopped in front of the window, showing me her ass? I'd better see what they're up to.”
Mike went over to the console, reached up under it, and threw a switch that enabled the console to control a camera and a beam microphone on the roof of the building. Just another management tool to keep an eye on the men in the yard and get a little information to use against them whenever they acted up. Soon, George Ellis arrived to where Liz was standing, and stood facing the window, just left of Liz, whose back was facing the window. While Mike could clearly see them both in the open window and Liz seemed to have placed herself there so he would see them talking, the camera and microphone enabled him to hear and video record the conversation. Mike didn't tell the company that he was installing it, but with that little device, he was easily able to keep all his hotheaded roughnecks in line. In this case, it was more a case of curiosity and jealousy, because he knew the nympho that Liz was. George would probably put a hit on her to see if he could get a piece, something that Liz was prone to give freely. Mike figured he would have put a stop to that action; because, after inspection, he'd already told the Misses that he was going to be late analyzing the results of the inspection. This excuse worked very well on inspection days when he and Liz would hole up in a nearby motel for a little action after work. Liz loved rough men like Mike. But then, she loved most guys. That's what worried Mike now. George was not only a rough man, he was handsome and quite a hunk, as well. All this was not lost on Mike as he eavesdropped.
With the camera on and the microphone listening, George waved meekly to Elizabeth and said, “Hi. I was hoping you'd get my message. I know we can talk out here in the yard where no one else is listening. I'm sure that Mike is watching, I can see him over there in the window, but he isn't looking at us. He would think we are on the up and up out here in the open, and I know he can't read lips, so I think I'm safe in what I'm going to tell you.”
Elizabeth held her ground, three feet away. Making sure that if Mike was watching, he could see them both and that no hanky-panky was going on. Mike was one of her better providers and she didn't want to anger him. But then, George was interesting, too, and money was money. “Well, George, you'd better make it quick because old Mike thinks he owns me. He doesn't have a clue. Thinks with his dick. Speaking of dicks, I'd sure like to sample yours. But, being as muscle-bound as you are, yours is probably too puny for me. So, what you got?
“I'd like to take you up on that offer… say, later tonight? But I've got business right now. You see, I've been secretly taking pictures and video of all the safety violations around here. We've been going full tilt now for about eighteen months. Even though you've come out here several times, at least once a month, the safety problems keep cropping up and nothing gets done about them. I'm a bit worried that if I keep working here, I'm going to lose more than my virginity.”
“George, I don't know what to say. I certainly don’t want your puny little dick to get hurt in any way and that's why I'm here to inspect the problems before they become hazards.” She was sure that Mike couldn’t see her face and her facial expressions and occasional winks were signaling George with a full come on. Unfortunately, another camera on a building across the yard gave Mike a clear view of her flirtation.
George got the message, but remained serious. “Well then, why don't you do something about it? Fine us or something? I don’t want you to say anything bad in the inspection briefing like you always do, and give us good marks, but then take this evidence that I have to the proper authorities, revealing the truth. In the meantime, I'm working with a powder keg here every day, and getting a little more nervous as the situation gets worse. No, that's the wrong word. I'm scared shitless. It's going to blow any day now.”
“Okay. I'll take what you've got to a friend I know in the Prime Minister's office. At the same time, I'll release it to an investigative reporter I know at the Queensland Action News station. That way, it'll come out in the news and the guy in the Prime Minister's office will have to act quickly before more is revealed. Nice blackmail. Believe me, I was tired of making reports to my boss and finding that nothing was being done. Your company has bought half the government. I don't want to spend too much more time here, so let me just say, meet me at Jake's at closing tonight and we'll see what your little dingaling can do. I should be warmed up by then and won't disappoint you.” She winked a knowingly wink that Mike could easily see with his camera.
George laughed out loud at the thought. He reached into his vest for the two CDs that he had prepared (these were only copies–he had carefully hidden the originals and made sure there was nothing on company computers or on his cameras). The two CDs were wrapped in a piece of paper–not the best way to protect them from scratches, but the only thing he had at the time he made them. “Okay, on both counts, here you go…”
As George reached out his hand for Liz's hand, he saw that Mike was still looking the other way. But, just before the package reached her hand the ground shifted violently under him, and he dropped the package. Both CDs fell out of the paper, in a nice pattern, headed for the dusty yard floor. It was as though it was in slow motion to Mike, watching intently. From the left came a mighty wall of dust that picked up the CDs like little surf boards and hurled them into the cheek of George as his body followed Liz's, both being blown to the right in the shockwave of the largest explosion ever experienced on the Australian Continent.
“Imprinted in my mind as I watched the flame fly by the viewing window and destroy the camera and beam microphone was from the work I'd done in Nigeria where the company pulled the wool over the government's eyes, got away with many environmental and safety violations to make a huge profit at the local workers' expense, and the permanent poisening of an immense area teeming with wildlife before–now barren of life. The Yoruba people carved the bloody marks I saw on George's cheeks as he was whisked away in slow motion to oblivion on their children. I followed as the building imploded and I found myself flying out into the Outback and down a tube of never-ending blackness until I was 4 miles under in unbearable heat and pressure being squeezed through cracks in rocks with unbearable pain until I was but a red spot of blood and seared flesh rejoining the elements of my origin.
“I stayed that way for minutes, hours, days, years, or millennia… I don't know how long I endured the heat and pressure of my internment in purgatory. But, finally, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and it approached me so that I could open my eyes. My surroundings were very strange. I could see dry grass above my head and the walls of a mud enclosure dimly lit by an opening or door. I was lying on something very hard covered with grass to make it softer. My legs kicked involuntarily and revealed pudgy brown legs capped with pudgy brown feet and toes. Likewise, my arms, hands and fingers played before my eyes. I couldn't believe it! I was a brown baby in a primitive hut!
“Suddenly, I was frightened by a huge black face hovering over me. A mask festooned in feathers and face paint, with parallel grooves on each cheek and a fierce look on his face that told me that he was going to eat me. I screamed. But only the bawl of a baby crying came out. A woman also appeared, equally decorated, but without the deep scars on her cheeks. I heard the drumbeats outside signaling that something solemn was about to happen.”
The babalorisha (high-ranking shaman) uttered the sacred Ju Ju incantations of the orishas (gods) of the earth, waved the sacred smoke, and touched the Chief’s firstborn son lightly with the lion hair tassel in the ancient way learned from his father and his father's father. The woman attending handed the shaman the sacred seashell from which all food and energy for the people came from the earth and sea, and the marking of a future chief began.
The shaman spoke: “in the name of our fathers and forefathers' fathers, I mark you chief of the Egba, Eme Eme. May you float on the air and never touch the ground!” With that ritual giving the boy tremendous power over the land, sea, and the people, the shaman took the shell and cut two deep grooves in each of the baby chief’s cheeks. Bright red blood spurt from the soft cheeks of the young baby, as the shell dug deep into his soft skin, leaving a permanent scar.
“I tried to scream at the bastard evil witch doctor torturing me, but nothing but the yawl of a baby came out. The pain was so great I passed out and found myself diving down the tube again, been forced through the fractured shale into my little brown body was nothing more than a little red bloody spot of excruciating pain. I longed for the feel of the cuts from the shell instead. Time became time, and time came after time. And then suddenly, I saw the light in the end of the tunnel again. I was sitting on a ornately-carved wooden throne under a spreading three with yet another umbrella for shade over my head in the center of a number of mud huts with roofs of dry grass, forming a dusty courtyard of dirt, filled with women with children and goats, chickens and mangy dogs. My body was huge and brown and I could barely see my pudgy toes over my dried grass skirt, elevated to keep down the swelling. I was being fanned by a skinny old man, but still hot and sweating, sipping on goat's milk to cool my spirit. I was somehow quite agitated and I didn't know quite why, until I heard it--the booming of thunder in the distance. There was no sign of rain, only the sound of the thunder sticks of the Muslim devils coming to steal my very best, my young, both day and night. They keep coming and my warriors cannot stop them. I wish I was a warrior too, but I am Numa Numa, chief of chiefs, or I would thrust a spear down the throat of every one of those devils from the North!”
With that, his warriors came running into the courtyard, kicking up a cloud of dust in the hot air. Some of them were bleeding from wounds as they gathered up their women and children and tried to find escape from the marauders with guns off between the mud huts. Too soon, the huts were ablaze from the torches of the invaders. The spectacle played out with the black devils in black garb surrounding the courtyard on all sides, shooting any warrior that dared challenge the circling line. Soon, the entire courtyard was filled with milling warriors, women, old men and women, children, goats, chickens, and emaciated dogs. A tall man with gold encircling his turban and tunic at the waist and a thunder stick as long as he was tall, signifying his rank, stepped out of the milling crowd and pointed his thunder stick directly at Numa Numa. Undaunted, Numa Numa raised his lion crested staff of authority and waved it in the manner required to force the intruder to bow down to him. Not a word passed between them. Their languages were dissimilar and no word was necessary. The nomad leader took careful aim and placed a musket ball directly between the great chief's eyeballs. He didn't know what hit him. The villagers were rounded up, tied in long caravans, and marched off to the coast and the gold of the White Man with ships.
“I raised my staff of authority, the only weapon I needed force that man, that mortal man, to his knees. Instead, I saw the flash, the fire flair from the end of the thunder stick and the ball of brass hurtling at me at a speed I could not avoid, I was so mesmerized by its coming. There was a piercing pain, a mighty headache between my eyes, as the light of the day escaped my sight and all went into dark black pain as I was forced down the tube at an incredible speed to be squeezed between the shale until I was nothing more than a fat, greasy red spot of pain perpetually caught in the cracks of the rock. Once again time turned and in the relatively short period of time, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel again. This time I was a child, perhaps ten. My feet were skinny, not pudgy, and they were encased in beaded sandals to keep them from the dirt floor of the whitewashed room that I was in with the number of other children who remained barefoot. We were all dressed in white shirts and shorts, looking very much alike, although I felt very much different. There were women in black-and-white in the room and they were telling the children what to do. One of the women, with blue eyes and a kind looking face, came over to me and bent down so that she could talk to me eye to eye. She spoke to me, not in my native tongue, but in a language that I could understand.”
“Duma Duma, it is time for your Holy Communion. Time for you to be consecrated into the Holy Church of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. If I could, Little Duma, I would remove those savage marks from your cheeks and make you the beautiful little Christian boy that you are. But I cannot remove those scars your father put on you to make you chief of the village. Only God can do that. And only God can make you the Christian leader I want you to be. As soon as you have received your Holy Communion, I have arranged for you to be sent to the plantation of John Forbes where you will become his houseboy and good servant. There, you will learn civilized customs and good manners to someday be lucky enough travel with Mr. Forbes to London, Amsterdam, or Paris as his right-hand man doing business with the great leaders of Europe.
“As a chief's son, I can think of no finer occupation for you than that. God speed, young Duma Duma.”
Mother Theresa had no sooner spoken these kind words to her ward, when there were screams in the courtyard and dark figures could be seen flashing by the open windows yelling bloodcurdling epithets as if the devil, incarnate, was after them. But it wasn't the devil after them; they were the devils after the priests, the nuns, and the young tribesmen being educated in the Western way. Above the bloodcurdling yells could be heard the screams of the nuns and the children, huddling in corners in small groups, fearing for their lives. Mother Teresa grabbed Duma Duma by the waist and carried him for the door, only to be stopped by a bloody fierce-looking warrior as he burst into the room. His spear found its mark, piercing Mother Teresa's bosom and pinning her to the far wall where she dropped her boy and gasped for breath as blood poured out of her mouth and reddened the white of her habit. More warriors entered the room and began hacking at the nuns with spears and swords to the wild screams of the children. Catching young Duma Duma by the front of his white shirt, now splattered with blood from Mother Teresa, the warrior that had killed her lifted him up by the shirt like some kind of trophy and waved him around for all to see. He yelled to everyone in a language not of Duma Duma's, but understood by him. “Behold, here we have the last chief of the Egda! With my sword I cut off the head of the tribe so they can no longer take this seacoast from us!” With one mighty swing, he severed the boy's head from the body he was holding and it toppled to the bloody dirt floor.
“When Mother Teresa dropped me I scrambled to regain my feet, not wanting them to touch mother Earth, but he caught me by the shirt and his hand was so strong that he squeezed the life breath out of me and raised me off the floor like they did in ceremonies in my honor. Only this time, all I saw was the paint on his face and his bloodshot eyes wild with the thrill of killing. His foul breath of dead animals was hot in my face as he made his pronouncement to everyone still alive in the room. I didn't see it coming but knew it was there, that sword, in slow-motion, its death breeze playing on my neck, as it made a clean, painless transverse through my neck to the other side. It was only then as the room rolled around in my growing headache that I realized that I was once again being forced down the dark hole to the endless depths and squeezed through the rock until my white school uniform was but bloody crushed beads in mother Earth. Days, years, decades, perhaps a hundred years passed, and I could see the light again as I approached the end of tunnel.
“I was sitting in an office in a hastily thrown up building in Lagos. I had just returned from the restroom where I polished my gold tooth and checked on the makeup I used to try to cover my cheek scars up with. I was dressed in a slick blue suit with some fake designer label, white silk shirt, a broad brocade tie with a diamond stick pin and cufflinks from Sierra Leone, pointy-toed crocodile shoes and a bowler hat when they came in. Two oil men from the United States with their bodyguards. I had my bodyguards and mouthpiece ready for them because I didn't trust White Devils bearing gifts. We negotiated some time over maps, until finally, they produced a magnesium case filled with American dollars that was more money than I had ever seen–and I had seen a lot in my rise through the underworld of Nigerian politics and business. This money wasn't for the tribal lands I was turning over for exploration and drilling. It was for bribes at all levels to make sure that the Americans could drill with impunity and not be held up by crooks or by crooked national or local laws. The big money would come later with a portion of the proceeds being channeled by wire to my offshore account and those of the key officials that I initially would have to bribe to bring aboard our undertaking.
“After five hours of haggling over details with scribbled down assurances that the lawyers worked out over beer and back slaps, I broke out the champagne and we consummated the deal. The oilman left and I divvied-up some cash for my lawyers and bodyguards before I set off with the money in the locked metal case. For security, I put its key in my shoe. My two bodyguards and I left the building and got into my Mercedes downstairs. I was very proud of my Mercedes limosine, purchased with money from my last diamond deal where I acquired my cufflinks and stick pin. My license read “Uma Uma" to show everyone what a big man I was. It also made me a target, but that's what bodyguards were for. I settled into the back seat of my limo and contemplated my future wealth over a martini as we navigated the crowded streets on the way to my compound some 45 km north of the city. We were about about 5 km from the security of my compound when they came–two small cars full of bandits with automatic rifles. My car was armored by a local shop, but I got down on the floor and spilled my drink anyway to avoid being hit by stray bullets. The two cars must've been souped-up because they quickly overtook us and cut my driver off against a wall. My bodyguards opened up and the bandits opened up and there was glass and blood flying everywhere as I curled up on the floor trying to avoid getting hit.
“Finally, there was a deathly silence. I heard footsteps coming over to the car and someone opening the door. I dared not look up. I felt hands grab my ankles and pull me out on my stomach, pulling off one crocodile shoe, snapping the diamond stick pin from my tie, and scraping my nose on the threshold plate of my limo's rear door before I fell to the dirty street on my face. I heard them talking in a dialect that was not my own but I could still understand. They were discussing what to do with me. Kill me right there or take me to get some ransom. They settled on the latter. Tied my hands together in the back to my feet, blindfolded me and hoisted me up like a dead animal hanging upside down. After swinging with my face down for about 20 meters, I heard a boot lid pop open and I was rudely tossed, belly and face first, into a boot and the door slammed hard behind. My hands were tied too tightly in the back and going numb. My mouth was so dry from fear that I was in fear that I was becoming dehydrated as the sun beat down on the boot and heated the temperature inside just this side of unbearable. I heard what sounded like a ‘whoosh!,' and then a ‘pop!’ Followed by more pops and cracks until there was an explosion as we pulled away and my limousine went up in smoke.
“And then the car took off to, I knew not where. Just that it drove very fast so I knew we were heading out away from the city where the roads were more open and less bumpy. Still, I was being bounced around and literally beat up by the roughness of the roads we were on. Mercifully, a kind of sleep came over me after an hour or so, so I couldn't remember until I woke up in a dingy metal cell 1.5 m², aching from the bruising ride. The cell was so small I couldn't stretch out except by standing up. It wasn't long before they came and opened the steel door, all blindfolded, and dragged me out by my arms to a chair they tied me to so they could question and torture me. Questions first.
“The big guy with the red bandanna over his face and rough hands walked up to me and slapped me silly. I could see red and my ears were ringing, when he yelled, his spittle hitting my face. ‘Where's the key! The key? Where's the key!’ He pointed to the magnesium briefcase on the table.
“It dawned on me then that he didn't know… He didn't have a clue… What was in the case, or he would have chopped it open with a machete to get at the cash inside. I was so dehydrated I couldn't think straight and the slapping and headache didn't help either, but somehow I gathered that the key had fallen out of the left shoe and bounced under the car where they couldn't see it. They had kidnapped me because I looked like a big wheel with a lot of money!
“I was eager to confess… ‘Okay… Okay… I'll tell you… Just please don't hit me anymore! The key fell out of that shoe when you pulled me out of the car! If you just go back to the…’ The brute came over and slugged me. The nightmare I was having before I regained consciousness told me that they were too far from the car to go back. As my swollen eyelids gave me a slice of vision, I saw that they were busy hack sawing the beautiful magnesium case open to reveal the considerable cash inside.
“When they got the case open, their exuberance was undeniable, especially when they started shooting off their AK-47s through the metal roof of the building we were in. They grabbed me again and dragged me back to my cell where I tried to forget what was happening and hoped I would get some water soon. I passed out from time to time until finally, they brought me some nasty tasting thin soup made from one ‘wild meat’ or another and I finally quenched my dry thirst.
“Days turned into weeks, and finally, months, as my captors apparently tried to get a substantial ransom based on the money in the case. The fact was, while my limo was impressive and my compound was inherited from my dead father, a former chief, I was deeply in debt from bad business deals and counting on the oil deal to finally make it out of debt. My captors didn't know that. I wasted away in that cell, unable to sleep stretched out until I couldn't stand it anymore and gave up. I eased off into a coma that was my salvation…
“I saw that light at the end of the tunnel again, only this time it came slowly, very slowly until I was in a room with a white ceiling and bright lights with green walls and all kinds of tubes and equipment around. I blinked my eyes. They sort of stuck together like they hadn’t been opened in a long time. But the room did not change. I heard footsteps in the hall and the door swung open. My eyes beheld and aboriginal woman whose beauty put Elizabeth Montgomery to shame. She spoke:
“Well, well… Mr. Kaiser. Welcome back to the land of the living! You've been in a coma for over a year now, but I always had faith that you would come around some day. And here it is. It looks like all my hard work on you paid off when everyone else gave up. You were my project. I was the one who turned you and kept you from getting sores, kept you hydrated, and fed. Basically, kept you alive for this glorious day. You are my pet. I've grown very fond of you even though you didn't even know it. You've healed very well, I might say, except for those scars, those old scars that look like you got them when you were a baby.”
“What scars?” I couldn't figure out what she was talking about.
“You know, like that singer, Seal, has.” She walked over to me with a mirror.
“In the mirror, I saw a black man I didn't recognize. His cheeks had two parallel healed scars like those of a few Nigerians I’d seen in my tour there.”
Copyright 2012 © Ronald W. Hull