Mr. O’Gawd arrived incognito, historians have been forced to surmise, since no one perceived him in the act of arriving.
And even when he was eventually perceived, standing upright, there on the dais, no one knew just how long he had been waiting for someone to take notice. Maybe he had been there all along and no one had noticed him in the middle of all the hullaballoo. If not, how had he arrived, they wondered. He may have walked. He may have parachuted down. He may have risen from the ground. Or he may have, simply, decided to let himself be perceived. And it was so.
His sudden appearance set the cameras flashing and he saw that it was not good. He said let there be no flashes; not until he was ready for his post-speech photo-op. And it was so. And he saw that it was good. Or at least, better.
Seven from his entourage were forming a protective barrier between him and the crowd. Two were on the dais with him. “He is accompanied on his right by his right-hand man,” Zara explained to Emil, “and on his left by his assistant right-hand man.”
“Not his left-hand man?” Emil asked.
“Don’t be slow, Emil. The big man does not dabble in the path of the left-hand.”
Emil nodded his head. “What do they do?” Emil asked.
“Lawyers and advisers.” Zara replied.
“Which is which?”
“They are both his lawyer and adviser.”
“Hem, hem.” Mr. O’Gawd cleared his throat. His assistant right-hand man offered him a cough-drop, but he said he was ok, and cleared his throat again, “Hem, hem. That is better now.”
“Completely orchestrated.” Zara whispered to Emil, “There is nothing wrong with his throat. He just wants everyone to shut up.”
“Shall we, then?”
The courtyard was quickly shrouded in silence. The din of voices died down. Phones stopped going off. Babies stopped crying. Fangirls stopped screaming and swooning. Those already swooning stopped convulsing and foaming. That incompetent teacher, who everyone was doing their best to ignore, stopped hyperventilating about misplacing a school-bus full of fifth-graders.
This was it. This was going to be the ittiest of its.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you all for being here.” Mr. O’Gawd started, took a rhetorical pause, even though no rhetoric was implied, and scanned the gathered ensemble. “I see a large contingent of members of the press.” He curtly nodded towards them and a sea of heads nodded back towards him. “I also see my fellow business associates and representatives from the various agencies that have been vital to the undertaking of our little project.” He waved towards them. A sea of hands waved in a semi-circular motion towards him.
Based on these two little interactions with the audience, Mr. O’Gawd would tell his biographer years later, he assessed the general mood of the attendees and concluded that he was, on the whole, well liked. He wondered how long that would last. ’Maybe,’ he thought, ’I should say something funny. Tell a joke, if I can think of one.’
He prolonged his pause, gradually coming to the realization that he knew no jokes and considered it risky business to try and make one on the fly. ’Fly! There must be a joke there somewhere. Perhaps a witty pun involving a house-fly and your pant-fly…how about this,’ he thought, ’The first time I bought home an insect killer…no, no, no, that won’t do.’
Nothing else came to him on the fly.
So he ended his long pause.
“A warm welcome to everyone in attendance and thank you all very much for your interest in our, if I may, Day of Judgment. I little background history, perhaps, before we proceed.” He said, and the crowd was ready to turn against him. ’So, it is going to be one of those speeches.’ Emil thought and shook his head disapprovingly, seeing now how the speech was going to drag on forever.
“Hem, hem. A brief one, perhaps.” Mr. O’Gawd said, reading his audience well. The mutterings slowed down but did not disappear altogether.
“Or better still. No history at all.” The tides were turning. He almost had them.
“Just a very brief summary of why we did what we did.” He lost the crowd completely. But he soldiered on.
“The purpose of our little exercise, as it goes, was for me to find out if there is a different way of doing what I do. Of course, I can always have the patients restrained. Of course, I can always have them pumped full of sedatives. Of course, I can always lock them in solitary-cells if they misbehave. Of course, I can. But do we always need to have an antagonistic relationship, me and my patients? Can I never trust them to behave? Instead of always fighting me, can they never love me for all the things I do for them?
“Because you will all of you agree that, be you a loved one of one of my patients or one of the hard-working people in my employment, you will sleep easy at night knowing that the patients and the staff are working in unison towards a common goal.
“And that is why I gathered you all in my conference room so many years ago now.” He turned towards the agency representative and talked to them directly, “I wanted you all to find out the best way to inform my patients that following my rules is in their best interest. I wanted to do away with the stick. Is that not what I wanted?” Mr. O’Gawd asked. A sea of heads nodded in agreement. That is indeed what Mr. O’Gawd had asked for. Mr. O’Gawd continued, “Here is what I saw during my last visit to Earth.
“After decades, the patients still do not understand that the rules have not been set arbitrarily and that following them is in their best interest. If my patients are disobeying my orderlies, you all seem to suggest, it is only because they are not getting hit hard enough. And the worst part, when you saw your campaigns flagging, you put the sticks in the hands of my patients and asked them to go spread your agenda.
“I don’t care if my patients are sleeping on the left-side of their bed. I don’t care if they are sleeping on the right-side of their bed. I don’t care on which end of the bed they are placing their heads. I don’t care if they sleep on their face or their back. What I care about is that when it’s time for lights-out, the patients turn the lights off and go to sleep, not because they are afraid of getting the baton if they refuse, but because they understand the importance of a good-night’s sleep to their mental well-being. That is all.
“What I saw at Earth was nothing short of my patients fighting each other over whose O’Gawd had the biggest…”
“Hrmp, hrmp,” The assistant right-hand man cleared his throat.
“…heart. Biceps. They were like children, arguing over whose daddy could beat up how many other daddies in the playground.
“In my not so humble opinion, it being the only opinion that matters at this point, since none of you fu…”
“Hrmp, Hrmp, Hrmp.” The right-hand man cleared his throat.
“Here is what I think went wrong.
“Your brief was to find a way to get the patients to cooperate with me and my staff, which would improve the condition inside the Asylum, improve relationships between the staff and patients, which, in turn, would allow us to help the patients better. What you have given me instead are ways for the patients to preserve, and thrive within, the chaotic confines of the Asylum.
“It is sad for me to say that after all these time and effort, I find myself disappointed with the outcome.
“As you all know, a fleet of Zara-Decimators has already initiated the Apocalypse Initiative.”
“Oh yeah!” Zara said, jumped off his chair and punched the air, “Zara-Decimators baby! Zara-Decimators! You know it alright! There is no one better.” Following his lead, his two lackeys jumped off their seats, on either ends of the courtyard, and tossed stacks of their business cards around like confetti.
“Ah, yes, very nice Zara. Thank you for that.”
“No, no thank YOU Mr. O’Gawd. you’re the MAN! THE BIG MAN!”
“That’s alright Zara. Settle down now. Thank you.
“As I was saying. The Apocalypse Initiative has already been initiated. As of this moment, I am officially bringing an end to the focus group experiment. It goes without saying that the experiment has proved to be a failure.
“There are no winners.”
Mr. O’Gawd, his biographer would later claim, had hoped for a stunned silence from his captive audience, but also prepared for the exact opposite, which is what he got. It all started with a piercing scream from a woman at the back of the courtyard, which had nothing to do with the shocking announcement just made. “Where are the kids!” she screamed, “Somebody help me find the kids!” and then she collapsed. That was followed by a number of people jumping off their seats and hurling abuses towards the dais. Someone at the back tried to hurl a chair towards the dais but over-estimated his upper body strength or under-estimated how far away the dais was, and managed to get it no farther than a few rows, where it landed with a loud thud on top of someone who thought the best way to get even was by lashing out at the only person trying to help him. That soon devolved into a brawl. Noses were broken, hairs pulled, fingers bitten off, bloodlines brought to a grinding halt, and expensive cameras and other equipment destroyed. The seven guards went on red-alert and held back the few people who tried to rush the dais and get to Mr. O’Gawd by directing them back towards the brawl.
Mr. O’Gawd waited long enough for the brawl to die down and his guards to regain control before finishing his speech, “We already have a tough time controlling our patients inside the asylum. I, and the entire top management, do not wish to further militarize our current and future patients by introducing any of the campaign elements into the fray.
“Once again, thank you all for your time and interest in today’s press conference. I am grateful that you all showed up in such large numbers.
“Have a pleasant day, everyone.” He signed off.
As he stepped off the dais, the crowd rushed him again. The guards did their best to hold them back. And in the middle of all the hullaballoo, Mr. O’Gawd managed to slip off again. Historians are of the opinion that he must have used the same method to leave as he had used to arrive, to surreptitiously. His biographer is incapable of substantiating the theory with any details.
“Do we have to wait for Inora, Emil?” Zara asked, while tossing more of his business cards into the crowd, “Yes…yes…take them…take more than one, people…I do not think the big man will be too pleased with tardiness today. If she is not here in a few minutes, we have to go ahead without her…give them to your friends…families…casual acquaintances…mistresses…”
Emil, still in a daze about what just happened struggled to get his thoughts in order.
Zara, once he ran out of cards, started tossing low-denominational wads of cash around, which ran out soon enough as well. “Emil, how much are you carrying?”
“Bah! Fine, fine, I have given enough. Are we waiting for Inora then?”
For a second, Emil was almost worried about Inora. Then he thought that worrying about her would be doing her a severe disservice. She did not need anyone worrying over her. For all he knew, she had already snuck into Mr. O’Gawd’s office, set the trap, and now lay in wait with a knife in hand.
“No, that is fine. Let us go on without her.” He told Zara, “And Zara, let us make as much haste as possible.”