4 – Carnage in Rockford Illinois
On the Blackhawk helicopter ride to Washington D.C., Dasher spent the entire flight streaming The Passion of the Christ on his iPhone. Though the film itself technically qualified as part of the New Testament narrative, Mel Gibson was his favorite director and it was not some Millennial bullshit movie about social injustice. It was a movie about a man giving his life for a world that did not deserve him, which he routinely fantasized about. There were also surprisingly few R-rated live-action biblical movies to be consumed, which was fine with Dasher, who preferred the written word regardless.
The existence of Hollywood and the state of California had infuriated Dasher from the moment he discovered it existed. He remembered being 31 years old and attempting to become the next pope by getting a degree from the University of Phoenix online. One of the required electives was geography and he was finally unfortunate enough to learn of the state’s existence. He sat at his computer, reading page after page about the detestable state. When he concluded his research, he unloaded an entire clip into the computer monitor at the library. Several patrons looked up from their computers, but when he explained he was a papal candidate studying at the University of Phoenix, they returned to their respective pornography viewing. California was mass-producing the type of whimpering coward he despised. Godless dregs who measured success by the amount of kale they consumed or, even worse, the amount of marijuana they smoked, or even worse than that, the amount of reusable straws they owned. A modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, except with more whining and less motivation. Though Dasher had vowed to protect the country in its entirety, he sometimes resented the spirit of California and its woke residents.
After landing at the White House, Dasher immediately informed the President of several holes he noticed in the security detail. For instance, one of the guards was incompetent enough to have not tucked his pants into his standard-issue boots. More importantly than the security deficiencies was his quest to get condoms placed on the banned substances list. Dasher immediately took the opportunity to begin explaining the dangers of contraceptives to the President, who politely nodded.
“Dasher, glad you decided to come out of retirement. Can I get you anything to drink?” said President Alphonso Knudson, a man who made extremely obese, former President Taft look downright slight.
“That decision was made for me sir when the people in this world forgot how awesome God is and coffee, black as you can make it,” Dasher replied, grinding his teeth. “The only thing I hate more than a terrorist is a weak cup of coffee,” Dasher continued lamely as the president handed him his cup of coffee with a perplexed look plastered on his bulging face.
“Well, we’ll tell you what we got so far…” began the President.
“Let me stop you right there sir. I know who this sick piece of human garbage is. Remember Operation Diesel Fist?” interrupted Dasher.
“How could I forget? On a quiet night, I can still hear the screams of those human-horse hybrids being slaughtered,” replied the President, who was overcome with a visible shiver at the thought of how things unfolded all those years ago.
“That’s good to hear, I remember the success of the mission as well. Anyways, the man seen at the waterpark in Wisconsin Dells was none other than the scientist that escaped my grasp all of those years ago, except he is different. He’s now huge, powerful, and extremely fast, maybe faster than me.” said Dasher, completely disregarding the clearly uncomfortable tone of the President.
“Look Dasher, I don’t know who the hell this guy is, but you better damn well take care of it. We are struggling to keep order as is. The market has crashed and our borders are piss poor at best,” replied the President.
“I realize that sir. Well, I realize the latter; those who are foolish enough to invest in the stock market deserve to lose their asses. My money is all in Red Box machine franchises and a solid gold bust of President Reagan,” said Dasher proudly.
“Take a look at these Dasher. This is a 2009 Honda Civic convertible with what appears to be three men in it, though there is a fourth seat with the seat belt buckled,” continued the President, producing a series of photographs and handing them to Dasher.
Dasher looked at the photograph and recognized the scientist again immediately. He quickly imagined his H3 Hummer steamrolling the Civic, crushing the three men inside, then doing donuts in a capacity crowd of motorsports fans. Foreign cars didn’t deserve the honor of touching American soil. He thanked God for his imagination and the existence of the monster truck Gravedigger and readdressed the President. The President had been watching the wandering eyes of Dasher for the entirety of the thirty-second fantasy, snapping in front of his face several times and receiving no response.
“Sir that is him, but I’ve never seen anyone else in this car. Where was this taken?” asked Dasher, just before he ate all three of the photographs.
“Dasher, I didn’t want to say anything, but now is as good of a time as any. They were last seen at a NASA-themed strip club called Moon Tits in Northern Indiana,” replied the President, who didn’t dare ask why Dasher had grabbed and swallowed the three substantially sized photographs. He simply watched Dasher’s teeth grating and drool-soaked picture pieces spewing from the sides of his frowning mouth.
Dasher spit the remnants in his mouth onto the carpet and looked up in horror. Though the general science behind space and the unnecessary exploration of anywhere outside of the United States was definitively unpatriotic, the thought of men watching women strip nearly made Dasher boot his lunch right in front of the President. Men who didn’t know a damn thing about actual living. Soulless beige sacks drinking overpriced glasses of milk while watching comparable sinners writhe around on stage to rap music – a genre that is almost too obvious to mention in Dasher’s infinitely long list of culture and art that had been condemned by himself, as an extension of the Lord, as unfit for humanity.
“Apparently, the club buys decommissioned space suits and cuts the crotch out to make them sexy,” explained the President, trying to break another drought of complete silence.
“Dasher?” The President said after another excruciating six minutes of silence and Dasher staring blankly over his shoulder.
“Sorry,” said Dasher. “I was just fantasizing about the rapture.”
The President nodded, but purely out of instinct. An altogether involuntary motion ignited by confusion and vague concern for the man sitting in front of him daydreaming about half the world being immediately taken to heaven while the remaining were left to die alone. A Hail Mary reaction to appease Dasher and with any luck propel him out of the conversation as quickly as possible. Just then, an aid walked into the room and whispered something in the President’s ear.
“Dasher, the car was just spotted entering the state of Illinois,” the President said, but Dasher was already gone by the time he finished the sentence.
Wind sprinting to the Blackhawk helicopter that had just dropped him off moments earlier, Dasher knew immediately that this crew of heathens was heading right for his family. Targeting the only thing Dasher cared about outside of God, his country, and servicemen and women everywhere. Dasher’s standard-issue military boots pounded the pavement; his Christian themed dry-fit shirt, which read, “I stand for my flag, I kneel for my God,” was drenched in sweat. The pilot exited the helicopter immediately, knowing that a far more powerful man needed the bird.
“You did the right thing,” said Dasher, blasting the helicopter off the ground at a downright unsafe speed. The pilot saluted, praying that Dasher had some vague idea of how to fly.
Somewhere in Illinois,
A Honda Civic containing four circus freaks rolled along en route to their first mission together. To kill Duke Dasher’s firstborn and only child, and thus set into motion something that would change the world forever. The ride had been unimaginably uncomfortable and Hisan wondered why Popov had chosen the fun-sized Honda Civic as the ideal mode of transportation for four elite super soldiers. He surmised it was likely the 2008 JD Power Award for compact cars, as well as the impressive highway gas mileage. Though, then again, maybe Popov had just been blackout drunk on Sutter Home minis at the car dealership and thought he was buying something more substantial.
Both scenarios were entirely in the realm of possibility. Popov loved haggling, and those he haggled with loved it even more. He would often leave the house with a 5th of Smirnoff Raspberry in hand, confident that the liquor would make the salesman more pliable. Vladimir would then return home several hours later, piss drunk with an empty 5th, having paid double for his desired item and driven home well over the legal limit. Whatever he bought was then paraded around as proof he had humiliated the salesperson completely, beaten them at their own game. He would say he had stolen something from them they would never get back, and though it was assumed he was referring to pride, in reality, it was the several hours the salesperson had spent attempting to escort an incoherent drunk who whipped his hog out of the open fly on his JNCO jeans from the premises.
The men sat in pure silence, focusing wholly on the mission at hand as it had been laid out to them. Though each of the men released from the cage was unsettling in their own right, all of them feared the man in the soiled Best Buy employee shirt. The television pastor Joel Oscreen, who had willingly locked himself inside of the depraved Cracker Barrel sister facility, seemed capable of anything. He sat with an idiotic grin on his face staring forward. His eyes never blinked and his pants were routinely re-soiled. The others in the car had been brainwashed, their minds had been stripped and reprogrammed, but this pastor wanted it. He looked at home in the packed car, sitting with both hands on his lap, motionless for the entire drive, his face an unmoving pillar of contentment and focus. Hisan had advised Addison Beach to put his hand in front of Oscreen’s mouth to see if he was still breathing at specific points during the lengthy road trip, though the eye-stinging morning breath that dominated the car all but confirmed the suspicion that he was alive and unwell.
The plan was simple, according to Popov. The newly converted Joel Oscreen would pose as a member of the highly trusted Best Buy home electronics help service, Geek Squad. He would infiltrate the Dasher house and execute Terry Dasher with a sling and a stone. Though the David and Goliath parallel was a stretch at best – as this was a helpless child and not a superhuman menace hell-bent on destroying a city – Popov knew that the symbolism would not be lost on someone as devout as Dasher. Popov would convince Dasher that his God had betrayed him one way or another. He would make him turn against the book he loved, the God he loved, and break him down enough to eventually convert him into a proud communist soldier. Once converted, it would make toppling the government a breeze for Popov and the rest of his associates that already recognized the torrid political climate.
Did Popov know the depth of Dasher’s love for the Lord? Did he actually think the unbreakable machine who had personally murdered dozens of Popov’s former colleagues and associates would bend the knee to communism and the fall of America? He was not sure, but he would find out soon enough.
The helicopter crashed to the ground in Dasher’s front yard. The propeller plunged into the perfectly manicured Perennial Ryegrass as blades of grass sprayed into the air and Dasher tried desperately to catch them. Remembering that his wife and child were in imminent danger, he made the ultimate sacrifice and tossed the grass to the ground. The concern for his yard momentarily receding as he prayed he had made it home before the ruthless mercenaries arrived. Dasher knew these men were merely heavily lubricated cogs in a more giant fuck machine, but he couldn’t figure out who was grinding the organ to make the animatronic mouth of the machine suck and tug anything or anyone who was unfortunate enough to grant the yearning abomination a glance. Solving that oddly paralleled sexual metaphor would have to wait. As he exited the helicopter and walked to the door, he knew something was amiss. He could almost smell it.
He drew his standard-issue military Glock and approached the house with impressive tactical precision. The door was slightly ajar, which was not abnormal; as Dasher would often leave it open to tempt neighbors and criminals alike to enter his house without an explicit invitation. Several times a neighbor had knocked politely and opened the door to see if anyone was home and if everything was alright, only to see a fully nude Dasher performing the Stations of the Cross in his living room before being promptly drawn down by Dasher’s standard-issue military Glock. The unfortunate ones were captured and forced to participate as Pontius Pilate in Dasher’s lonely rendition of the Stations of the Cross.
The thing that threw Dasher off was it was October, which meant Christmas decorations should have gone up the day before. This was standard fare at the Dasher household in order to combat the evils brought on by Halloween. Instead of candy, the Dasher household would offer prayer cards and advice on being celibate. It was never too early to deprive yourself of joy in life according to Dasher. The prayer cards and advice on sex were politely ignored, but when it came time for the anti-abortion diatribes, the parents generally came and retrieved their confused child, then hurried them along to the next house. The amount of Halloween visitors had dwindled since the tradition became the norm several years back.
Dasher entered his house.
“Duke!” Dasher’s wife yelled from the back room. “It’s Terry! They’ve done something to Terry!”
Dasher noticed they had handcuffed his wife to the stove. She sat on her knees attempting to pry the cuffs loose from handle of the stove.
“Honey! Are you alright?” Dasher asked, his eyes darting around the room, assessing any potential risks.
“Yes, I’m unharmed, but Terry, they did something to Terry!” Stacy screamed back, shaking her wrist against the stove handle that imprisoned her.
Dasher shot the handcuffs off from across the room, not realizing that a bullet whizzing by his wife’s head and the shattering of the restraints and glass front of the stove would ultimately make her more upset. She lay crying on the floor as Dasher coolly blew the smoke from his gun.
“I’m on it,” Dasher said, already sprinting upstairs. His wife attempted to explain what was going on, but Dasher had already raced out of the kitchen on the way to Terry’s room.
He looked out his son’s window and noticed something peculiar in the backyard. Terry stood outside with what appeared to be Joel Oscreen wearing a Best Buy Geek Squad uniform. Dasher rubbed his eyes, trying to make sense of what the hell was going on. He fired several shots through the window in the general vicinity of whoever this stranger was. Best Buy employee or not, you do not handcuff a man’s wife to the stove.
Moreover, you sure as hell don’t try to look like celebrity pastor, Joel Oscreen. Dasher spent countless weekends and anniversary dinners outlining his mistrust for both the internet and anyone who worked as a Best Buy Geek Squad employee, but clearly, Stacy hadn’t listened to either of the paranoid thoughts. The latter concerned Stacy slightly, as the employees of a dying big box technology store were generally benign. Nobody ever listened to Duke, yet he was always right. Dasher climbed calmly out of the window and walked towards the happening in the backyard.
“Hello Duke,” said the man in the Best Buy uniform. Dasher immediately recognized the voice.
He had listened to it during thousands of televised prayer services. It was the unmistakably shrill, hissing voice of one of the few men worthy of getting into heaven – Joel Oscreen.
“Joel! What is going on here? Why are you wearing a Best Buy uniform? Why did you chain my wife to the stove and why are you holding a sling and a rock aimed at my son?” Dasher said, his mind trying to process the contradictory behavior of his beloved television pastor.
“The Best Buy uniform got me into your house in the first place Dasher. Don’t you realize that without it, your wife would have never let me in? She hates me Dasher. She always has. However, by convincing her I had fallen on hard times and was now trying to make an honest living doing home electronic repairs, her Christian heart was unable to resist lending a helping hand and letting me in,” said Oscreen.
The explanation didn’t make a lot of sense and Dasher thought it more likely that Oscreen was just fulfilling an odd fantasy about a Best Buy employee home invasion.
“You’re lying Joel,” said Dasher. “Tell me you’re here to perform my yearly baptism,” he continued. Dasher got baptized every year for good measure, often telling people he generally got it done after his prostate exam. “Kill two birds with the same stone!” he would say, leaving people to wonder how the seemingly disparate rituals could be done at the same time by the same person in the same profession.
“Dasher, I’m here to kill your first-born son. This sling and this rock will crush the boy’s head in the same fashion Goliath fell to David,” replied Oscreen.
At that very minute, and not a moment before, Dasher realized Joel Oscreen was there to kill his first-born son. On the one hand, he respected it. Oscreen was carrying out a by-the-books, tried and true Old Testament execution. But now, the rites of the good ole days, where millions of people were hastily judged and then died by the hand of a righteous, omnipotent being were being acted upon his son. Dasher could comprehend transforming entire city populations into salt and destruction of most of the earth via flood, but God would have never instructed this pastor to murder his son. Dasher would not let his son suffer the same fate as Goliath. His son would not become an Old Testament punchline, not on his watch.
“Joel, put down the sling; we can talk this through, just as two God-fearing men should,” said Dasher, who, in any other circumstance would have killed the hostage and the threat, but because this was a celebrity pastor holding his son hostage, he waded cautiously towards a peaceful resolution.
He knew that whatever had happened to Joel Oscreen, some good still had to exist in there. Even though the pastor was a little new wave for Dasher and very slightly leaned on New Testament teachings, which had spawned an insufferable generation of Millennials, he still respected the hell out of someone who had made God that popular. It was something he had tried for years to do, but his abrasive nature and unwillingness to accept anything that was not literal interpretations of the written word had made him polarizing. Nevertheless, absolutely no one was better at worshipping God than Dasher. Furthermore, no one was better at protecting the United States.
Oscreen swung the sling seductively, staring deep into Dasher’s soul. Terry Dasher had since disappeared from the bizarre biblical confrontation, which appeared somewhat sexual to on looking neighbors, between two grown men in a backyard in rural Illinois.
“Your move Dasher. I know you’re incapable of killing me. At least that’s what Popov was betting on,” Oscreen said, as a stain slowly grew in his already blemished, pleated khaki pants.
Popov. Dasher had heard that name before. But where? He frantically searched through the desolate wasteland of blind faith and irrational judgments that filled his enormous skull. Popov, he thought, as he began sprinting towards Oscreen, who he would subdue, water board and convert back to real Christianity – an act that even he shuddered at in terms of its impressiveness. Most of the souls he had saved via brute force were in no way as influential as Oscreen. A conversion of this magnitude would be an enormous resume builder on his bid for heaven. He even imagined God endorsing him on LinkedIn for ‘Best Conversion Ever’, which would go perfectly with his only other endorsement for ‘Networking’. Heck, maybe it would become a CBS sitcom at some point and his son Terry could play him. Then he considered the prospect of Terry becoming something as despicable as an actor and immediately cast the thought from his head.
As he began to run, everything went black. He felt two hands touch his eyes and then the whole world went black. Two hands, which felt like saliva-covered corncobs and reeked of unscented Vaseline. The next thing he knew, he was being dragged across the yard by several men. He lay motionless; he knew that without his vision, there was no chance of fighting off four tactically trained soldiers. One or two, maybe, but not four. Though otherwise wholly still, he loudly prayed through several decades of his mental rosary. Dasher learned this in the military as a time tracking mechanism, which in turn allowed him to measure the distance he traveled. Some used the sun; Dasher used prayer, which given his current physical status, he was thankful. The prayers boomed and echoed through the neighborhood and made the neighbors’ eardrums quiver. In an attempt to shut Dasher up, the four mercenaries took turns raining blows down on him as he lay helpless, but no one can shut up God. The fists only served to increase the volume of Dasher’s prayers, which, by the time they reached the car, had escalated into just a single unsettling brown note flowing from Dasher’s agape mouth. Dasher had once told Stacy and Terry Dasher that if singing is like praying twice as hard, deafening, incomprehensible screaming is like praying three times even that. Volume is ultimately the deciding factor in how authentic a prayer is, this was written in a little known scripture by a little known thirteenth apostle who looked like the bastard cousin of Bartholomew.
Dasher counted the paces through prayer on the way to the trunk of the Honda Civic he was thrown into. He instantly recognized it as a Civic because of the tiny trunk space and what he deemed to be shoddy craftsmanship. He could always identify a foreign-made product, something intangibly inferior to those built in the confines of the United States borders. The thought of being stuffed into the trunk of anything that didn’t have towing capacity only served to infuriate him further. He laid and waited in the back; he knew whatever lie ahead would test every conviction he ever had. These men wanted to break him, that much was certain.