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03.20.03 4:34 p.m.

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.


 -Albert Einstein  

War is not nice.


 -Barbara Bush  




Previously in Xenology: The World Trade Center collapsed because of terrorist actions.

Villains
As you should know by the reading of this entry, America is at war with Iraq.
I hope this isn't the first you heard of this.
sunlight  
The sun also rises
Emily and I knew that Bush's cowboy ultimatum had been pushed back until last night at eight. However, we were continuing our normal lives, thus found it remarkably easy to have forgotten. We hadn't been around one of the 24-hour news stations' "Count Down to Doom" clocks, nor had we read the news in any depth for days. So we could had normalcy in ignorance.
The clerk in a shoe store reminded us of the situation. Emily was trying on sandals and dreaming of warm summer days and sea breezes when the clerk exclaimed that we were five minutes to the deadline. Emily looked to me with panic in her eyes and asked if I better liked the sandals with beads in the soles or the ones with the angular design. I reached for my cell phone and said I liked the beads. My phone, owing to the company not understanding my home address, had been cut off owing to nonpayment. Emily's phone was in the car. Thus, Emily sat trying on sandals and I paced by the register, waiting for the clerk to give us some update.
"My mom said that troops are marching on the Pentagon..."
This made no sense; the war was not on our soil last I had checked. We tried to get her to clarify, but she only could deduce that the troops had been pulled back to the Pentagon. Again, a senseless statement as that would require a gaggle of airplanes or a very large bridge.
Emily paid for her sandals and we galloped to her car.
"None of these people realize we could be at war, do they?" I asked of M, motioning to the complacent crowd we were parting in our haste.
"No, they really don't."
"Part of me wants to yell to them that the country is at war and they all have to leave now... But the other part of me wants to leave them to their relative cluelessness. I wouldn't matter to them."
"No," Emily replied, "it really wouldn't."
I sat nervously in M's car as she called her mother to be assured her entire family was safe and nowhere near New York City. This seemed to be the case, though Emily's mother kept chatting with her. I only became more nervous, as I wished to be home and knew that Emily would not drive while on the cell phone. After several minutes, Emily's mother realized this as well and commanded Emily to drive back to my house with reasonable haste.
None of the AM or FM stations were conveying any information about the war or any attack. The airwaves were completely filled with absolute fluff. Even NPR seemed unconcerned at what the girl in the shoe store had told us. How very callous.
sunlight  
Watch the world die
They just spoke of the writing of some modern semi-literate with undue adoration. Thus, we did the only reasonable thing one can do in this situation, we silenced the radio and looked about awkwardly at the night sky.
When we arrived home, all was still calm. The news stations acknowledged that something should be going on but, as nothing was, they were far more interested in speculating who will win Oscars. Emily and I watched television that didn't purport to have any informational value by virtue that it was on the WB. Watching anthropomorphized evil get its vampire ass kicked was rather soothing. I could almost forget that a very real, though intangible evil would be unleashing itself shortly.
Then the program ended prematurely. The WB felt that there was something crucial to see. Emily's legs tensed around mine. The war, the announcer belched, had begun. He could not mask his slight joy at this and had unfounded fantasies of Pulitzer's dancing through his gel-hardened head. We switched to CNN and received further, and much more reputable, confirmation from the leather Muppets on the screen that America had begun its attack.
After time to allow the gravity of the situation to weigh us down, I told Emily that we needed to do magick immediately. She nodded and I scoured the magick cabinet for an appropriate tome. Summoning Spirits was descended upon, as we needed something a bit more potent than just a spell. I skimmed for the proper spirit while Emily browsed the suggested preliminary rituals. Most of them were discarded, as we can raise and focus energy quite well without speaking Hebrew I cannot understand.
Emily looked anxious. "Who is a god of war?"
"Mars or Ares. But we are going to avoid gods of war, they have too much energy at this moment. No use poking an angry force drunk on power."
Emily pensively twirled a golden curl around her finger, "I noticed. I meant, what god can we use to counter a god of war?"
"Oh. Dionysus was pretty peaceful. I don't know about countering. Ideally, we'd want a spirit to which we could add our energy. A vessel, I suppose, to convey our intent. Perhaps to kick butt."
I flipped through the book and exclaimed, "M, this spirit eats eyeballs!"
"We have eyeballs... that seems like a bad idea."
"But we could sic it on the blind Shrub Junior! The war would ebb then."
"No, still not a good idea."
I flipped through a bit more. "What about one that sucks brains?"
"No! The poor thing would starve if we sent it after the Shrub," she giggled.
"Fine then," I said seriously, "here is a spirit called Menqel."
"What does he do?" She asked, fearing what new ghoul I would suggest.
sunlight  
Hope
"She, actually. And she promotes peace."
"By chewing on spleens?"
I read the description more thoroughly. "No, it makes no mention of feeding her. Or spleens. I think our energy and ritual will be food enough."
Thus we were settled and gather the appropriate elements to petition Menqel's attention. Given that it was fairly short notice, we could only rally up a few white candles, an angular rock on which we wrote Menqel's sigil, a few New Paltz crystals, and stones from Kate's former wand. It was not nearly enough, but we were only petitioning her attention, not evoking her. It is all the difference between calling someone's home and asking them nicely to pay attention to you for a few minutes and pulling them through the window to demand something.
Emily formed the circle as I lit the candles and incense. She is more for the trappings of ritual, thus we also grounded our energy. We focused on the trapezoidal pink rock adorn with a red sigil. I could not find the proper words to say for many minutes, thus I just focused harder on the stone and pictured Menqel. Finally, the words came and I explained out intent to the spirit. The candles danced in contrary directions from one another and glowed more brightly. I continued to beseech her help. Emily says that the pink stone kept changing colors in the flickering light, though to shades of blue and white that should not have been. Menqel's presence was palpable and we created talismans of two rocks in honor of her. Then, she was dismissed with our thanks.
We cleaned up the materials, satisfied with our ritual (though Emily didn't get possessed again). The news was still reporting their customary half-truths and doublespeak. Emily noted that it is grossly irrational and irresponsible to be attacking Iraq at this moment. She did not say this as a supporter of peace, though she is a dove at heart. North Korea brags of having weapons of mass destruction, factories to make more and have made very public that they have backed out of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Oh, and America is their target, of this they make no secret. But, as Emily put it, "North Korea didn't try to kill Bush's daddy."
Yes, I know that Iraq under Hussein has done atrocious things to the Iraqis (though probably no worse than attempting genocide by air). They have been doing this for decades. America left them to their own devices until the first Gulf War. After we left, they did more crimes against humanity. But we ignored them, just as we ignored the machete deaths of hundreds of thousands in Rwanda in the nineties. America is very good at riding in on white horses and trying to stamp out the horrendous acts of which we had always been aware (such as the Holocaust) or madmen we have helped create (such as Osama bin Ladin).
I am personally terrorized, and it is not the fault of the Muslims that Bush is doing his best to eject them from our shores for daring to call god by a different name. Men who create wars that necessitate New York City to be full of troops in riot gear terrorize me. I am terrorized by seeing the country of which I grew up feeling proud filled with mandatory government check points on the street corners. I am terrorized because I have great fear of the regime in this country.
I was going to go to Washington D.C. with New Paltz for spring break because I thought it would be a good chance to see more of this country and get to know some of my fellow students. I didn't. I knew that Washington D.C. is a major target. I could die of a chemical or biological attack were I to go. This is not something I can internalize.
I loathe having to think this way. I honestly have cried out of frustration, for I don't recognize this as America (this, incidentally, happened before war was officially declared). This is a warmongering country led by a dangerous man who has never done an honest day's work in his life. This is a police state where people are arrested in malls because their shirts advocate peace. This is a place where secret military tribunals sentence photographers to prison for photographing buildings ten blocks from where the Vice President is staying, unbeknownst to nearly the entire world. This is not America.
Emily and I were going to go to the city Wednesday and maybe see a show on Broadway. We had been planning it for a month and it was to this that we looked forward. It had been so very long since I had seen the city and I missed it. However, I cannot feel safe in an area that I honestly confused with the front lines of Iraq when I saw it on television.
I am overwhelmed by a panic like I felt after September 11th. Every plane that roars overhead could be a harbinger of death. If Indian Point were to be hit, I would cease to exist. That is, if I am lucky. More likely, I would get severe radiation poisoning and die in agony. No, those iodine tablets are not going to save you in the event of an emergency, they might as well be made of sugar. Stewart Air Force base is only over the bridge from my home and I have seen formations of military jets guarding us for a month. West Point is only across the river.
I don't see how life is supposed to be normal. Every channel is marinating in the blood of the innocent, hoping for better ratings. Targets that would be very appealing to our increasingly dangerous and unified enemies surround me. Every rumble of thunder (for nature is allowing me to indulge in pathetic fallacy) from above provokes images of planes and bombs. I really don't understand the difference between Bush's bombings of civilians and terrorism. I don't remember when assassination became legal again. I'm supposed to be on spring break, but I am in a country of which I cannot make sense. I am not calm and relaxed. I do not want to go to class. I don't want to have anything to do with increasingly violent marches for peace. The words "shock and awe" now make me want to vomit. I want Code Red to be a disgusting soft drink, not a reason for every muscle in my body to convulse.
I awoke this morning next to Emily and I didn't want her to leave. If we could have stayed in my room and kept the TV off, I would have been grateful to the Big Buddha for this indulgence. We couldn't. She had to leave for class, but only after watching CNN to see if the apocalypse had come in our sleep.
I couldn't sleep after watching this for three hours.
Bush happily informs the cameras trained on him that the world has yet to feel the worst of what America can do.
I'm applying for my passport Monday.


Soon in Xenology: The war.

last watched: Too much CNN
reading: articles about war.
listening: Thunder
wanting: Evil men who illegally assume power to be forcibly removed, if necessary.
interesting thought: I don't know how many times my world can change and I still be myself.
moment of zen: The ten seconds upon waking before I remember.
someday I must: get my passport.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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