Where the Worm Never Dies
"And you shall look out upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against me, where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched." - Jesus rebuking the sanhedrin in the Book of Mark
"....there came a rapping, a tapping at my chamber door....." -Edgar Allan Poe
Holes. I can still see the holes, perfectly
aligned center pieces of my nightmare. They look as if made by some slinking, omnivorous worm gorging its way through the dimensions, leaving a trace of
tell-tale perforations. Or an unseen needle and thread moving in and out of the
fabric of things, the thread long since degraded to nothing, leaving only the
holes. Connected, black and bottomless. Smoke-filled and many holes.
The holes have a sound, a dull roaring hiss, evil utterances, ancient echoes from the abyss. Gunshots. Screams. Moans and weeping, lots of weeping. Tears for my partner, the late Detective Clint Saucea.
I was killed on September 11, 2001, in New York City when terrorists flew jets into the World Trade Center. My name is James Kraft and I'm an undercover narcotics officer for the New Orleans Police Department, caught in a ten-day time loop that's now lasted fourteen years.
By the time the first jet hit the North Tower, I'd been in New York ten days looking for Clint's murderer, a Middle-Eastern drug lord called Akar. AKA Drago Negro, The Black Dragon. I'd actually been in the CIA office on the 87th floor of the South Tower, handcuffed to a chair, gaping in disbelief at the second jet as it barreled straight at me.
Just before the first jet struck, four men in black had been attempting to beat an illicit confession out of me. Not only did they say they would frame me for Clint's murder in New Orleans, plus many other murders; they wanted to know how I knew about the attacks and the attacks hadn't even happened yet. All this had been very confusing to me that first time because Akar had been there. He'd killed Clint, and Stryker and Manendez. That bastard also had the others killed. He'd stood by gloating with authority as the men in black beat on me, assuring that I would be held responsible for all these murders.
Then suddenly a loud crash shook the room, and the look on Akar's face changed from one of derision, to fear and confusion. The men in black stopped hitting me and looked at Akar as his eyes scanned the room, wondering what the hell had happened. He pulled out his cell phone and moved to the large plate glass window that overlooked New York Harbor, bits of debris fluttering by. Within seconds the door to the room opened. A man stuck his head in and said that the North Tower had just been hit by a commercial airliner. They suddenly started acting friendly, even Akar, offering a cigarette and a drink of cognac.
"How do you know about Operation Dragonfly?" they asked. "Please tell us again. It's okay, we won't hurt you anymore. Just had to see if you were one of us. Tell us again what Stryker told you."
The cigarette they gave me tasted so good. And the cognac; it reminded me of the day I'd first met Stryker, ten days earlier in New Orleans, when he'd first sent me on this mission to find Akar.
I was trying to talk, but they couldn't understand me; my frigg'n jaw was broke. One of the men in black offered me some kind of pill, a painkiller he said. That's when I noticed the second jet, it's starboard side gleaming silver in the morning sun. Suddenly the words to an old Lead Belly tune came to me.
"Driving ninety I ain't scary s'long as I got my Virgin Mary tell'n me that I want go to hell"
I let out a short, painful chuckle. Then Akar and his four men in black all turned to see what I later learned to be Flight 78, highjacked out of Boston, bound for San Francisco, hauling ass straight at us. In an eerie kind of way, that last split-split second was very cool, a beautiful moment of poetic justice that I've been chasing ever since. The look on Akar's face is now one my favorite memories. Just as the jet's nose broke the glass, even over the roar of its engines, I heard Akar scream.
The pain is incredible, a rush of agony that I can only discribe as volcanic. Every deed of my pathetic life, both good and bad, is relived over and over, seeming to go on and on forever.
497 times I've gone through this hell, and each time I think it's the last and final hell. But instead, I wake up in a cold, DT-induced sweat back where it all started on September 1, 2001: Room 201 of the Burgundy Inn, a crappy motel in New Orleans's French Quarter, just two blocks from Bourbon Street. Once again confronted by the holes, I wait for Stryker to arrive, the old Nazi war criminal still fighting his own demons. He'll soon rap on my chamber door just as I'm about to blow my brains out. He'll question, educate and intrigue me, finance and provoke me, then send me again on the express train Conrad Joe, one-way to New York City. Followed by the holes.