The president was not himself. Not anymore. Since a few days, he wasn’t. He didn’t know if it was something he’d eaten or if, perhaps, that nasty row with his wife was still playing on his mind. He had absolutely no idea of what was truly going on.
They had been born a long, long time ago. The grabbers. Unfulfilled spirits they were. Whenever someone died who’s dream had not been fulfilled, they’d appear. They were quite unseen but their presence had altered history time and time again and they were about to do it again….
He found he had a sudden zest for power. More so than usual. You’d think being president would be enough but, as it turned out, presidents were quite powerless, at least some of the time. He didn’t mind before, yet, all of a sudden, he did. He was the president for crying out loud! He should be in control of the country! He shouldn’t have to listen to advisors all day… He was sure the pharaohs of old hadn’t, nor the founding fathers, for that matter…
“I would like to alter this,” he said that morning to his closest assistant, pointing at the document in his hands. “That shouldn’t be too hard, should it?” He handed it over and stretched out his sleeping arms. He should do something about this chair…
His assistant narrowed his eyes as he read the president’s suggestions. “I’m not sure Congress will agree…” he muttered.
The president balled his fists. He was the president! The country should fall on its knees for his demands…. He shook his head, almost disgusted with himself. Where did these grandiose, unfathomable, ideas come from?
All those years ago, when the first grabber was born, it had not yet learnt to hide. The first grabber still showed itself, once in a while. It had the appearance of a long thin hand… grabbing for something. Over the centuries, its consistency had altered: what had begun as a slimy greenish black hand, became a mere vapor… A black smoky hand that faded in a second…. Knowledge of their existence began to fade as well. Who’d still believe in that kind of nonsense anyway? In this day and age?
The president didn’t know that when he had visited the dying brave heroic major general of the Marine Corps that he had opened himself up to attack. The dying man was reminiscing and not yet ready to leave life. It had all been over in a second. The family had been devastated that it had happened when they were out of the room. The president had felt rather guilty about that. There had been no indication that he would actually die in those few spare minutes he paid him a visit….
The grabber had found its victim. That person standing next to the major general seemed like a good option…. He smelled like he wanted to be powerful, like he hadn’t quite succeeded yet…. The grabber entered his body through the skin, through the pores. The president had suddenly felt really hot and couldn’t breathe for a moment as the vapor entered him. He assumed it was a panic attack. Watching someone die was never easy, after all.
The grabber had made a good choice. This was quite a comfortable skin to be in. The major general hadn’t found his true potential, being cut down in the midst of his life as he was, but this man… this man might be one of the best. The grabber would enjoy this!
That night the president had felt a little funny. It had to be the death of the major general… What else could it be? Facing one’s mortality was bound to rattle him a little. He tossed and turned and when his wife asked what was the matter he replied: “I just can’t sleep. I keep thinking about how we’re not doing enough to wipe out… to deal with those bastards…”
“I thought things were going better…” she said. “Aren’t there negotiators there now to deal with the government?”
“Yes, they are…” he grumbled. “They seem to be getting somewhere too…” He yawned. Only a few days ago, he would have been thrilled to receive such good news just before bedtime. But tonight, he had been quite disappointed. All of a sudden, he liked the prospect of going to war… Would have welcomed it even…
The very first grabber who ever came into existence had been the spirit of a wounded man. The man had just gotten married and had received a great inheritance as well, when he fell of his horse onto a sharp rock and died. He had never had a chance to put his money to good use… He had hardly had the chance to get to know his own wife… and begin their life together. His spirit was so angry and anxious and plain right furious that it simply refused to die. When the man’s body was buried into the ground, his spirit slipped away…. It looked like a dark green snake and no-one noticed it… It was free and on a mission….
Driven by lust and greed it searched for a vessel. The slimy hand soon realized that it could not succeed well on its own… It was just a hand… It could grab things but that was about it. The grabber longed for control, control and success. It had to find someone… Someone ambitious.
What better place to look for ambition than politics? Even in an age before the printed press, before the lime light was invented…. politics was the place to shine. The hand loitered at a meeting where candidates held their speeches. It snuck into the shadows and waited calmly… Whoever would get the most support? Who would be the best choice?
The talking men took their time and as the night progressed a division became visible. First it could only be felt, a slight unease in someone’s stance, a small tremor in their voice…. The men were divided and, it became clear, that he had to choose someone of the majority opinion…
The parasite that the president carried was of a similar strain. Its wishes were grand, grandiose, or rather, outrageously megalomaniacal. The major general that had died had wanted to become a proper general. Or perhaps even president as well… His wishes were far from being fully fulfilled… and so his spirit instilled a sense of longing for power, a insatiable hunger. Unfortunately, the major general also had a destructive streak about him. Greatness and destruction combined…. Not such a great combination as the president was about to find out.
As the likely candidate fell asleep, he started to snore. Its mouth was open wide and the grabber crawled inside him. He woke up, startled as he couldn’t breathe for a moment, but sleep soon overtook him once more.
It had not picked the right candidate, it had to admit. The most fiercesome, yes, the most radical and charismatic as well, but not the most insidious, not the most savvy…. There was nothing it could do though… the only way to leave the body was for it to die…. The grabber wondered if he should whisper it in the man’s ear, so he could rectify its mistake…
The candidate lost its will to live. It came out of nowhere, just like that. All of a sudden life had lost its appeal and became devoid of meaning…. The grabber waited quietly as the man prepared himself an noose. It would just be a few more moments before he would regain his freedom….
As the body swung from the beams, the grabber left the candidate in search for the other one. The savvy one, the one who’d hopefully have a little more success. It didn’t take long to track him down… This man was destined for greatness, the grabber felt. This should be a great choice…
So it was. The man rose to searing heights and won election after election. The process wasn’t very democratic yet, of course, but no matter. The grabber reveled in his parasite veracious life. This was what life was about. This was it! When his host died, the grabber died with him, having finally fulfilled his dreams.
It was late at night but, once more, the president couldn’t sleep. He had too much on his mind. His decisions of the past few days had made him rather friendless but he knew they were necessary measures. Why couldn’t anyone else see it?
He had called off the negotiators and begun preparing for war instead. His advisors sternly warned him against it. The president had realized that they were cowards, all of them, and had even called them that. Despite their military training, they were reluctant to go to war? What kind of military men were they? They had shaken their heads at his warmongering, but had eventually, reluctantly, obeyed his orders.
He send the security guard away as he wanted a moment of solitude. The guard hesitated but finally let him be. The president sat down at his desk. This had been his dream since boyhood. To sit in this Oval office, behind a desk such as this, but all he could think of now, was what was sitting in the drawer of his desk. The device he had requested to be brought to him. To him, the Commander in Chief.
The button was so alluring…. Red and shiny… The sheer potential radiated of it in seductive waves. “Touch me…” it seemed to say. It was almost as if it spoke to him. It was intoxicating. It was like…. he was given a chance… The opportunity of a life time. He didn’t think about the consequences… He didn’t think about what it would mean.... All he knew was that red button and its glorious appeal.
With a surge of joy, he pushed it. As the atom bomb exploded at the other end of the world, the president felt better than ever. He had reached the ultimate pinnacle of power. He had fulfilled his true potential, reached his final destiny. The grabber inside him died ecstatically and took its host with him….
“The president has died tonight,” the news anchor said. The death of the grabber was not mentioned. For years and years, historians and conspiracy theorists alike would formulate their theories about the president’s erratic behavior during his final days. His strange decisions before he went off the deep end. “Though that is the least of our troubles…” It was almost blasphemy of him to express this sentiment yet he voiced the opinion of an entire nation….
The president’s, the deceased president’s, fingers had plunged them into a war. A war they never wanted. A war, no-one had sought… or even contemplated. The country that was hit swore to take theirs down. To release whatever weapons they had on U.S. soil.
“The negotiators are shocked by the recent events,” the news anchor said. “They are willing to put their lives on the line to help find a solution and will be flying back first thing tomorrow.”
A suicide mission, if ever there was one… The main negotiator was interviewed. What was her motivation? As she explained her reasons to the press, the grabber inside her stirred with pleasure. Martyrdom was its highest goal.