Tsezen loudly slurped broth from a soup spoon, holding a curtain of fat noodles in place with chopsticks in his other hand. He slurped too much, coughed, and spilled a few drops of the rich buttery liquid onto his poncho. He stared at the fabric for a few seconds, as if his brain were calculating a plan of action, before stuffing the noodles into his mouth. He put the cutlery down and lifted the bottle of rice wine a few inches off the stained wooden table. No, it was empty. Tsezen smiled to himself and yawned.
Sitting with him around the table were three other men, similarly dressed in ponchos thrown over old second-hand Wallasean clothes. One of them looked up from his own food. "Tsezen", he asked, revealing a heavily masticated rice every time his mouth opened. "Why do you always have the same noodles?"
"They are the cheapest" Tsezen replied with incredulity. "Why else?"
He elicited laughs from around the table that quickly ceased as two men pushed aside the tarpaulin that served as a door and stepped into the darkened restaurant. Swaddled in thick, saffron-died yak-skin robes and sporting identical bald heads, they did not need automatic weapons to command the attention of all in the room - although they brought some anyway, just to be safe. Tsezen blinked a few times in an attempt to clear his bleary eyes, and quietly pulled the empty rice wine bottle into the depths of his poncho.
The older of the two men, with an impressively large swastika tattoo taking up one full half of his head, looked around the room with an ethereal coolness, meeting the eye of every patron who wasn't already looking at the floor, before he spoke.
"I am from the Committee of Truth and Enlightenment. An announcement will take place in the town square. You are all to come with us, now".
There was no question of resistance - all twenty or so patrons rose as one and walked or staggered outside, into the blindingly bright late afternoon mountain sun. Tsezen looked up the street and saw many other Oki Dar men banging on doors, while a small stream of townspeople trudged uphill past them towards the town square. A battered-looking sedan was heading downhill, into the outskirts, with the same message blaring from a megaphone on repeat.
The two men who had rounded up the diners had a flat-bed military truck parked outside, and they were shepherded into the back with another two fighters. Tsezen turned to his friend, giving a knowing wink. "I would like to be driven home every day, eh?"
The town square had been transformed, as always took place before an announcement. The market stalls had been pushed to the peripheries; what was once a bar and restaurant had an enormous white sheet draped on the side of the building; a platform had been put up around a van, with a computer and projector manned by several Oki Dar acolytes. Around a thousand people milled around in the square, waiting for the last stragglers to get to the event. They had checked Tsezin's name against some sort of list when he arrived, and taken his mobile phone. He had rushed to give his name: his brother, the next town over, told him about someone his friend knew who hadn't come to an announcement, and had been whipped with yak hides until all the skin on his back was gone.
Tsezin had been in the square for almost two hours when the Oki Dar men bashed a gong and seized the crowd's attention. The sun had fallen behind the mountains, and only a faint orange glow lit up the night sky - since the dam downstream had ran out of water, there was no electricity in the town.
A generator roared into life, and one of the monks pointed an open palm at the sheet covering the bar. It flashed blue, and then a video began playing. An Oki Dar war chant blared from speakers placed across the square as men in robes or combat clothes jumped through hoops, rolled over tanks, and garotted dummies. The song faded into an image of the Oki Dar, Namdol, himself. Tsezin bowed, with reluctance, as did everyone else in the square. They stayed, bent, until the video told them to stand.
The war with the Taihei, Namdol told them, was going very well. Every day, he said, more Taihei blood soaked into Hakara. The hated Malays had begun their own war with the Heian barbarians, and the two armies crashed against each other like rocks in a landslide. This was, Namdol said, the golden chance for Dharman brothers in Questers to throw off their Malay masters and create their own nation. This was, he promised his listeners, the apocalypse: once every Dharman lived within a nation ruled under Dharmat, and the barbarian states had destroyed themselves and the material realm, the faithful would ascend to eternal enlightenment. Keep the message in your hearts, he told them. The Dharmans of Questers and Genguur and Hakara must cleanse their souls of poison by destroying their oppressors. They had a moral duty, he said, to fight for transcendence.
As the message ended many people in the crowd cheered or threw up their hands. One of the monks got back on a loudspeaker and told them that the video had been uploaded to their phones and to collect them when they left. What a nice idea, Tsezin thought to himself as he left the square and brought his phone up to his face. He could send it on to his cousins in Naugarh and Proletarsk and Dashan. By the time he got home he had already forwarded the video six times.
Play up, play up, and play the game!
Who is online
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests