Adam al-Sirgany

Bless me, , for I have
               for Parke Cooper

Act I

[My wife, dressed in a grey pants suit, looks directly down at her dinner plate, covered in a pyramidal mound of ice cream in five ice cream colors—dark chocolate, chocolate, strawberry, pale chocolate, and yellowed vanilla. Her neck is long, and from the audience’s perspective, it appears to be broken into a ninety-degree angle. While she sits, I walk my dishes—empty—to the sink, speaking emphatically, though without sound. Every word I say emerges from my wife’s well-painted mouth with all the vivacity my Armani demeanor intended.]

Me:     We’d like to release five editions of the same game simultaneously. The marketing team says the disadvantages are pretty obvious; if we released over time, we could develop brand loyalty, catch multiple buying upswings (Christmases, Easters, summer vacations), the gaming geeks wouldn’t be as likely to catch repeats in the mapping where the budget didn’t stretch. City layouts weren’t where we attended to historical accuracy. I’m not worried about that. It’s a secondary complaint.

Act II

[Fifteen people sit around a circular table. Some half or so are long-haired men. Some half or so are broad-shouldered women. All are in Hawaiian flower prints and blue jeans—casual Friday. I cannot be seen easily, sitting as I am behind the lawyer, Adel, who is the tallest among us, except for Reasonable Rick, the other lawyer, who sits opposite him. Everyone at the table drinks, constantly from soda cans when not speaking.]

Adel:     You throw plungers in the guns, you call it duty, you set it in space, it’s still, in essence, an FPS.

RR:       By which you mean we don’t have cash for the suits.

Adel:     We won’t know that until two weeks after Sales Day. I mean percentage of—

Me:       We aren’t Act*v*sion®. And we’re way past that now.


[I am sitting at my desk, staring at a game—presently the butt end of an M-16 and the unadorned outlines of buildings—picking food from my back teeth with a piece of floss when my manager Anna walks up to the cubicle.]

Anna:    Adam, they’ve been doing some factchecking down at legal.

Me:       (through floss) uh huh?

Anna:    I’d like to talk about mapping.

Act IV

[A tiny shop front window dusted at the edges with saccharine snow, in its center a minute display. Beside this, a buxom young woman in tight winter sweater and too-small panhandling vest rings a bell with no clanger and sings “Oh, Holy Night” with excessive vibrato and apparently random, because non-traditional ritardando and rinforzando.]

Panhandler:      …brightly shining. This is the night of our dear Savior’s…

[The shop front window expands pressing, first, the building, which holds it, then the panhandler from the stage, until, before the audience, there is only the enormous image of the dusted glass and the product advertised at its center: five boxes, each containing a different edition of Lifeblood Masters™ —Namibia™, Tasmania™, WoundedKnee™, Nanking™, and FutureBlood™—stacked three on bottom, two in middle, a star atop to complete the idea of a tree.]

Act V

[When the curtain opens, the screen remains onstage. The M-16 is in the front of the player, his boots crunch sand as he runs along what used to be an Iraqi, a Syrian, street, chasing an appropriately head-wrapped terrorist, who, as he runs shouts La-e-laha-ilallah.

In this narrative, you are a French-American writer for the N*w Y*rk T*mes®, and your wife, also a former T*mesite, was assassinated in cold blood by an extremist muslim, one Ahmed al-Sirgany, ostensibly for drawing a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed Peace be Upon Him. In response, you have left your work as a stringer in Paris to join the finest military in the world, and as an undercover operative for the USMC, you have made it your personal mission to annihilate every person in al-Sirgany’s home village, the last being him, who is running, shouting La-e-laha-ilallah. He fires at you with a Russian-made rifle, or tries, but his weapon is empty. You shoot him in the stomach and in the center of his chest.

In this, now, the final act, all the buttons stop working. You realize that you are Ahmed, of course, because when you mash the buttons, you whinge, you see hazily the French-American journalist, the outline of his uniform, his gun, the dull marijuana leaf painted in camo on his helmet. You realize everyone you ever loved is dead. You doubt, for an instant, the efficacy of your god. You relish the warm rush of endorphins and panic.

You are Ahmed. The only way to beat this level is to kill the journalist, the boss. You are Ahmed and you must accept this. You are Ahmed and the last Tasmanian. An Indian girl being raped at death. A pile of bodies in the city of Nanking, corroding while a dazed survivor searches for tools and strength to bury you. There is no cheat code. You must accept this. You, individually, will always lose the final level because you play it just this once. You can only play it once. Go ahead. Turn off the game. Unplug it from the television. Take the cords out from the wall. But the image of your death is burned, permanent, on the screen.

All I ever wanted from you was to buy me a new TV.]

Adam al-Sirgany was born in the Driftless Midwest. He's been drifting ever since.
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