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November 28, 2022

No News is Good News

By Kevin Landis

"Today is a day that will live in history as the day the world has found peace. Today's date will go down in history, September 23, 2008; Peace Day.

"Terrorists from around the world have lain down their weapons and made peace with the united nations. All member nations have signed and all the countries of the world have joined." Sean paused, taking a breath and pausing for dramatic effect, "The first ever world peace treaty has been ratified. Problems on this planet will no longer be solved by war. This is truly a new age. Reporting from the united nations headquarters, this is Sean Spencer NBC News."

Sean waited a few seconds to be sure he was off air and then put down his microphone. He then started helping his photographer pick up equipment.

"I can't believe it," Jon, Sean's short and opinionated photographer, said, "No more war, this will be a real change."

"It will be indeed." Sean said, collapsing a light stand and helping pack it away. "We're out of a job."

Sean was a middle aged man with dark brown hair and green eyes. He was tall and broad shouldered, his gentle features and conversational reporting had earned him a career that many envy. He was, however, unhappy.

"Where do you find a hero today?" Sean asked, partly to Jon, and partly to himself. "Law and order has almost entirely taken the hero out of our society."

Jon loaded his camera into the van and started lowering the mast, he had long ago learned not to get dragged in to these conversations.

"The government so closely controls all of us that we are not even able to step out of our role and take action to help another human being." Sean ranted, pacing back and forth. "Here, I've just given what will probably be the last report of my career and I can't even change a thing. The whole system is corrupt. It needs change."

Jon had heard enough, he spun around.

"Get over it already!" He exploded, "Quit beating yourself up and accept it, You wanted to fight them and you didn't." Jon leaned really close to Sean's face and whispered the next three words, "You were scared."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Sean said, stepping back defensively.

"Yes you do!" Jon continued, not willing to let it go, "Five years ago we were doing that behind the scenes piece on terrorism. We were kidnapped, held for weeks, tortured, humiliated, beat-"

"Stop it!" Sean yelled, covering his ears, "I won't go back there!"

Jon wouldn't stop.

"You wished you would have tried to fight them, be a hero, save the day; but you didn't. You couldn't do it."

"Violence only brings more violence." Sean answered, "If I'd shot them all it wouldn't have proved a thing."

Jon turned away for a moment, to place the gear in the truck. He turned back to Sean.

"They tortured you just as much as me, maybe worse. I would have stopped them if I'd had the chance. You're a coward." Jon said, glaring.

***

Sean felt a warm hand on his shoulder.

"Sean." A voice said.

Sean winced in pain, holding his head. Pain pounded in his brain like a drum. He closed his eyes.

"Sean," The voice said again, from what seemed like closer.

Sean opened his eyes, he was no longer standing in front of the UN building. He now sat on a leather couch in a small office.

"Sean, are you alright?" A man said.

The man wore a light brown uniform with a red cross on the shoulder.

"Who are you?" Sean asked, still dazed and rubbing his temples gently.

"My name is Doctor Marlin. I'm your -"

"Therapist." Sean said, interrupting, "Yes, I remember now."

"The hallucinations must be subsiding, you recognized me quite quickly this time." The doctor said, smiling.

"It's like I'm waking up from a dream," Sean said, still feeling the pain in his head.

"Quickly then," The doctor said, "Before you forget. Tell me what happened."

"I was with Jon," Sean started, "He was alive."

"Jon again." The doctor said, writing, "Interesting."

"We were arguing."

"What about?" The doctor said, lifting his pen.

"The time I was captured by terrorists." Sean said, nodding his head, remembering.

The doctor looked up from his pad, concerned.

"You believe you were captured by terrorists?" The doctor asked.

"Yes," Sean said, "I was."

The doctor sighed, frowning.

"I was, while doing the story on Islamic extremists." Sean said, "Wasn't I?"

The doctor looked up, sadness in his eyes.

"You believe you're a reporter?" He asked.

"Yes." Sean said, sure of himself.

The doctor closed his notebook and returned it to the pocket of his jacket. He frowned, his bushy eyebrows coming together. The old man's lined face displayed a look of genuine sorrow.

"Last week you were the president of the united states, the week before that you were Lt. governor of North Carolina. You are a sick man. Dementia with multiple personalities syndrome."

Sean shook his head, "No, I'm sure of it."

"You always are." The doctor replied, raising his voice.

"I'm not crazy." Sean said, "I remember you."

"You are a fruit salad!" The doctor screamed, inches from his face. "You fell right off the acorn tree."

Sean felt the pain in his head again. Making him wince and drop to his knees holding his head.

***

"Your country will withdrawal from the middle east, and quit aiding Israel." A heavily accented voice said. "When the favorite news man is executed they will take us seriously."

Sean looked up, the pain in his head dulling. An Arab man in camouflage paced back in forth in front of him, an assault riffle cradled in his arms. Sean was stripped to his underclothes, his hands fastened behind his back, he was kneeling on the floor in front of the man.

"You American scum spread lies about us, making the world turn on us." The man ranted, spit flying from his mouth.

Sean tried to speak, but he realized his mouth was taped shut.

"Your government will refuse our demands." He said, getting a firm hold on his gun, by the barrel. "Then we will finish you."

The soldier swung the gun, its butt hitting Sean in the ribs. Sean rolled to the ground letting out a whimpering grunt.

The pain he felt was most intense in his head. The pounding had begun again. Sean closed his eyes and waited.

***

When Sean opened his eyes he was flat on his back. Needles running into his veins. A bulky oxygen mask covered his face, masked surgeons hurried around him.

"He's awake." A soft female voice said, slightly muffled by a surgeon's mask.

"That's no good," a hard male voice said, "he must be unconscious, apply more gas."

There was a soft hiss, and the pounding in Sean's head resumed, the bright lights of the hospital faded.

***

"Sean." Jon's voice said. "You are no hero."

Sean looked around, he was back on the grass in front of the UN building.

"What?" Sean managed to say.

"I agree with you." Jon said, "The government has gone too far, and we do need a hero. But you are no hero."

Sean scratched his head.

"Were you having another flash-back?" Jon asked, setting down the cables he was winding and turning to face Sean.

"Yes," Sean said, "I think so."

"I get them all the time." Jon said, nodding and turning back to his cables. "So vivid, and anything can trigger them, a sound, a smell. I was gone for two hours once."

The other scenes seemed to fade from his mind, like a dream after waking. A sensation that Sean was starting to get used to.

"I was back in the compound with the terrorists," Sean said, the scene becoming vague. "The time he dropped his gun."

Jon sighed.

"A lot of people would have done what you did." Jon said, trying to be comforting. "Most people don't have what it takes to be heroes."

"What does it take?" Sean asked, remembering how much fun it is to debate with Jon.

Jon thought a moment, knowing this was a tough question.

"I would say that a hero is someone who is uncompromising, unyielding. He will take a big risk to prove a small point. He will jump from a cliff the very first time he tries to fly. A hero has no savings account, no backup plan and no net." Jon said, smiling, knowing he had put it perfectly.

"And you think I'm not a hero." Sean said.

"Not even close." Jon answered confidently.

"Care to explain?" Sean asked.

"With pleasure." Jon said, "You think the government has gone to far governing our lives, you're right. If you were a hero, you would power up our satellite truck and use it to bump all the major networks off the air. You would then broadcast a signal world wide. Then you would tell the world how despite the peace we experience our lives are lived without freedom."

Jon took a breath stepped closer to Sean.

"You'd declare your independence from the world government and invite others to join you."

Sean rolled his eyes.

"A lot of good that would do." Sean said, chuckling, "They'd lock me up and anyone who joined me."

"Your honor," Jon said, to no one, gesturing to Sean, "I rest my case."

"You are no hero." Jon repeated.

Sean didn't know why, but that last remark stung. He stood a minute, his back to Jon, feeling the breeze brush his hair. Sean stared off, very close to making a decision.

"Power up the truck." Sean said, turning to Jon, "Our careers are over anyway, why not go out with a bang."

John stood, a few feet away, staring in shock.

"You're kidding." Jon said.

"No." Sean answered immediately. "I'm not. Now hurry up, I want to be on the air in ten minutes."

The pounding started again, Sean cringed his vision blurring.

***

"See what I mean." The doctor screamed, "You can't stay here for a minute, you keep slipping back and forth into your fantasy world.

Sean's vision cleared. The doctor was preparing an injection, pulling clear fluid from a small bottle into a syringe.

"This won't cure you." The doctor said, "Only death will cure your ills. This injection will make you a little more manageable."

Sean struggled to his feet, backing away from the doctor.

"Come now, Sean," The doctor said, smiling, "You won't feel a thing."

"What kind of a doctor are you!?!?!" Sean asked, filled with terror, and feeling the pain grow in his head again.

"That's enough questions," The doctor said, slowly approaching him. "After this injection, everything will make perfect sense."

***

Sean was back on the ground reeling from the pain in his ribs.

"America is the world's bully." The camouflaged soldier ranted pacing back and forth in front of Sean. "And your news tells only their side of the story, not ours."

Sean eyed the small pistol that was tucked in the soldier's belt, it was gradually working loose as he strutted across the room.

The soldier walked behind Sean and cut his ropes.

"Stand up American!" The Arab shouted.

Sean heard the clang as the pistol dropped to the floor, inches from his right hand.

***

Sean heard the steady beep of the heart monitor.

"Doctor," the woman's voice said, "The bullet is almost free."

Sean felt a quick stab of pain in his head.

***

"Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion or free practice there of. Nor restrict free speech." Sean heard himself speak, to the camera pointed at him. "This government has broken its own laws." He continued. "We are not allowed to speak against the government, nor gather in protest.

"We have made many concessions for our safety. But if our freedom is the price we must pay for our safety, that is too high a price."

"That's it." Jon yelled from the truck. "They cut us off."

Sean smiled. Rubbing his head, as the pain started to come back.

"I guess I was wrong." Jon said. "You are a -"

***

Sean's back was to the wall, the short doctor stepped closer. He was sneering.

"Just let me give you this shot." The doctor said, "It will all be over."

"NO!" Sean yelled, one hand on his head, gripping his hair, "Get away!"

"I'm trying to help you." The doctor said, "Don't you want it all to make sense." The doctor stepped forward and grabbed his arm.

Sean baled his fist and swung a wild punch, landing the doctor flat on his back.

***

"Don't think about it." The Arab said, rifle trained on Sean's head, "You could shoot me, but before I die I'll take you with me."

Sean's hands shook, pistol pointed straight in front of him. He shivered, cold in room, seated on the dirt floor. His mind was just catching up. With his free hand Sean ripped the tape off his mouth.

"Your action's empty." Sean said, pulling back the hammer with his thumb. "You won't have time to reload, put your gun down."

The Arab smiled, "You bluff American, you aren't ready to die."

Sean's arms trembled, he wanted to lay the gun down, wanted to seek a peaceful solution. The Arab waited, studying him.

"Are you sure that is something you will bet your life on?" Sean asked.

The Arab soldier smiled, his hand moved slowly to the gun's bolt action.

"Don't!" Sean said, "I will shoot you."

The soldier slid the bolt back, loading the gun.

Sean fired.

The Arab soldier fired.

Sean felt a sharp pain in his head, and everything went black.

***

Sean awoke, flat on his back in a patient's gown.

"He's awake." The soft voice of the nurse said, "The surgery was a success."

"Let's not be to hasty," a doctor's voice said, "Can you hear me?" The doctor asked, leaning over Sean and entering his field of vision.

"Yes," Sean said, blinking, feeling a dull ache in his head. "What's going on?"

The doctor smiled, broadly, and spoke softly, "We just removed a shell the size of your thumb from your brain."

Sean felt a dull ache in his ribs too. He fingered them, feeling the swelling of his left side.

"You also have three cracked ribs," The doctor said, laughing, "Those terrorist's really put you though the mill."

"Where am I?" Sean asked, surveying the room.

"The US embassy in Saudi Arabia," The doctor answered, "You are quite lucky that a brain surgeon was visiting this week."

"Where's Jon?" Sean asked, trying to sit up in his bed.

"Don't worry, he's fine, " The nurse chimed in, "Thanks to you. He walked away without a scratch."

"What year is it?" Sean asked.

"2003." The nurse answered, looking concerned. "Are you having any trouble remembering things?"

"No," Sean said, "In fact I remember some things that I'm not sure happened."

"That's normal." The nurse said, helping Sean sit up in bed.

"With the torture they put you through and the brain surgery, you were bound to have some strange memories problems."

"Sean." The doctor said, "You have a visitor."

Sean looked across the room. Jon stood in the doorway smiling.

"Don't just stand there," Sean said, "It's my job to stand around and look pretty, not yours."

Jon laughed and crossed the room.

"How are you?" Jon asked, a concerned look on his face.

"I've been better." Sean said, fingering the stitches on his forehead, "How are you?"

"Not bad." Jon answered. "I'm looking forward to years of therapy for post traumatic stress syndrome."

"You have that?" Sean asked, raising an eyebrow, and wincing at the pain it created.

"So they tell me." Jon answered, "And so will you."

"Not in this line of work." Sean answered, "More like present traumatic stress syndrome.

Jon laughed.

"I was surprised when I heard what you did." Jon said, suddenly becoming serious. "You are a hero, now, you know."

Sean smiled.

"A hero like none other." Jon said.

"I couldn't have done it with out you." Sean said.

"Now you're a hero and modest?" Jon said, "That bullet must have knocked something loose."

Sean nodded, "Yeah," He said, "Must have."

Article © Kevin Landis. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-02-28
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