About the story:
The idea for this story came to me around 2003, just as I was starting to dabble with the idea of writing fiction. I didn’t write and complete the story until 2009, though.
Although this story precedes the rise of ISIL/ISIS by a number of years, the basic idea is the same: an Islamic terror group taking over a large civilian population.
Except…I chose a civilian population in the West.
I didn’t think that an Islamist takeover of the United States would be realistic. So I chose an area of Canada that I am familiar with: the Canadian province of Ontario.
When I wrote “The Caliphate”, the dates given in the story were in the near future. Some time has since passed, and they are now in the past. I don’t intend to change the dates…just like George Orwell wouldn’t change the title of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
By the way: I love Canada and Canadians. (If anything, Canadians are too nice.) I hope that “The Caliphate” remains purely hypothetical.
And now, the story:
Marty Frazier stopped to adjust the shoulder strap of his Uzi before heading down the long, gleaming expanse of Concourse A. Although he had been in the Ontario Islamic Guard for more than eighteen months now, he found that he was still uncomfortable with weapons—especially the automatic and semiautomatic kinds. He took a few steps forward before stopping once more—no doubt looking awkward by now—and double-checked the gun’s safety. The terminal was packed with what passed for Monday morning congestion these days, and Marty was taking no chances.
The sight of young men with guns had become commonplace over the past three years, and most of the passersby in Toronto International Airport didn’t even give him a second glance. Nonetheless, he kept deliberately to the side of the concourse, beyond the main flow of pedestrian traffic. Despite the authority that his gun and his uniform conveyed, he was almost shy about displaying either. Especially the gun. So far he had never had an occasion to draw the weapon in a threatening manner, and that was just fine with him.
He spotted Phil Scherer in the distance through the crowd, walking in the opposite direction on the far side of the concourse. Marty held his hand high in the air and waved. Phil acknowledged the wave with a nod, and veered toward him. Phil was also wearing a Guard uniform, and carrying an automatic weapon of his own. People stepped aside to give him a wide berth as he threaded his way through the crowd.
Marty leaned casually against the wall and waited. The airport loudspeaker crackled overhead. It was the midmorning call to prayer, which most Ontario residents still ignored. What else did Harb expect? The announcements were in Arabic after all, which almost no one in the Canadian province understood. Just the other day Ali had asked his opinion about reading the announcements in English. Marty had replied that English-language summons to prayer were an excellent idea.
Marty smiled as Phil drew near, but Phil’s gloomy expression was unwavering.
“Anything going on?” Marty asked.
“Nope. A quiet one today. What about you?”
“Nothing so far.”
“If we’re lucky it’ll stay that way.”
“You said it. Insha Allah.”
Phil stiffened and glared at him. Marty immediately realized that his last two words had been a mistake. He began to say more, but Phil cut him off with a wave of his hand. He stepped closer, until the two of them stood no more than a foot apart.
“Don’t quote the Quran at me.” Phil spoke in a low, raspy voice, just above a whisper. “We’ve had this conversation before, haven’t we? After all, it’s not like Ali’s here.”
Marty was taken aback. He and Phil had been friends at the university. In fact, Phil had acquired his position in the Ontario Islamic Guard through Marty’s connections.
Moreover, Marty was Phil’s squad leader. He could technically write him up for insubordination, if he wanted to.
But that wasn’t Marty’s style—especially not with a friend. “It’s not exactly the Quran,” Marty explained. “Insha Allah just means, ‘God willing.’ That’s all.”
“I don’t care what it means.” Phil looked over his shoulder, making sure that no one was standing within earshot. “Look, let’s just drop it, okay? You know I don’t like to talk their line when it isn’t absolutely necessary.”
“Fair enough.” Marty did not want to argue. “But speaking of Ali, he wants to have a meeting with us at one-thirty this afternoon. In the office downstairs. Room 115. That’s why I called you over.”
“What’s it about?”
Marty shrugged. “Beats me.”
Phil hesitated. “All right,” he finally said. “I’ll be there, I guess.”
Now that was an interesting way to respond to an order from Ali. Marty raised his eyebrows at Phil as if to say, It’s not like it’s optional.
Marty was eager to let Phil go on his way. Although they were still friends, there was a certain quality about Phil that sometimes made him uncomfortable. Since Phil had joined the Ontario Islamic Guard, Marty had detected a growing ripple of barely restrained rage just below the other young man’s surface. He didn’t believe that Phil would ever turn on him, but he wasn’t eager to put this belief to the test.
“Well, Phil, I’ll see you at 1:30 downstairs.”
“I’ll see you then.” The muscles in Phil’s throat were visibly tense. “Bye.”
Marty watched Phil walk away until he became lost in the flow of people. He shook his head and pulled two coins from his pants pocket. Good old inscrutable Phil. He had to play the tough guy routine to the last, didn’t he? Phil was an ex-high school wrestling champ who could seemingly bluff any guy who challenged him, or—for that matter—charm any girl he wanted.
Well, that might have been important before. But it didn’t mean a thing in the Islamic Republic of Ontario. Did Phil even realize this?
There was a little kiosk in the center of the concourse that sold reasonably drinkable coffee. There had been no fresh Starbuck’s in Ontario for two and a half years, and Marty really liked Starbucks. But vendors were still able to get their hands on the canned stuff, like Folgers and Maxwell House.
The woman working at the kiosk was middle-aged, with red hair and a light Irish complexion. Marty noticed that she looked horribly awkward and uncomfortable in her chador—a long, bulky black garment that covered a woman from head to toe. Only her hands and face were exposed. Ali had told Marty that the officially sanctioned public attire for Ontario women was modeled on the Iranian garb.
She kept pushing the chador’s head covering back, exposing locks of red hair. She obviously saw Marty’s Guard uniform, so she didn’t dare voice a complaint; but when she fiddled with the head covering, there was something in her eyes that made him think of Phil.
“May God bless the Prophet,” she said, as she handed over the coffee.
Marty smiled and nodded. “May his name be praised, and may the blessings of Allah be upon you.” The woman nodded and became suddenly interested in rearranging the change in the cash register’s coin tray.
Marty sat down on a nearby bench to drink his coffee, exercising caution so as to avoid any accidental body contact with the Uzi. This coffee was better than usual; definitely not Starbucks, but almost as good.
His thoughts returned to Phil. His relations with his friend were likely to get worse before they got better. Marty had not been completely honest with Phil. He did have an idea of the purpose behind the meeting with Ali—and Phil was sure to loath this afternoon’s mission.
It had to be the Donovans again. He and Phil would likely be asked to deal with this local couple who persisted in preaching Christianity—despite clearly promulgated laws against such activities.
Why did people insist on pushing the Islamists so far? The affair might well end in violence. In fact, it almost certainly would. Marty would try to avoid bloodshed; but desperate times sometimes called for desperate measures. And no one could deny that they were living in desperate times.
A new mural dominated the wall opposite Marty. It was an unintentionally cartoonish depiction of a hooded Islamic warrior raising a sword over a cowering Uncle Sam, and a figure that appeared to be a medieval Christian crusader. “Defeat the infidels and preserve the Islamic Revolution of North America!” the caption below the painting read.
Yes, Marty thought. It appeared that he and Phil were going to have to do something just like that this afternoon.
Poor Phil. He now reconsidered his friend’s behavior in a different light. You really couldn’t fault people like Phil and the woman in the kiosk. So much had changed in Ontario over the past three years. Not so long ago, no one had even heard of the group known as Harb, and now the organization was in control of the largest metropolitan area in Canada.
Most of the world now knew that Harb meant “war” in Arabic. Marty reflected how three summers ago in Toronto, the group had lived up to its name. These were dark days for Canada—a period when the bloody events unfolding in Toronto were the subject of world headlines on a daily basis.
The first bus hijacking had occurred in late May of that year. Three hijackers—two men and one woman—took control of a public transit bus that had been making the afternoon run through downtown Toronto. A shocked nation became immediately glued to the television, the radio, and the Internet. Such an attack was unusual in Canada, the country being a minor player in the sorry spectacle of Mideast politics. Canadians were typically more concerned about radical Native American and Quebecois factions—not Muslim terrorists whose primary beef was with Israel and the United States.
The hijackers were soon identified as members of a Middle Eastern Islamist sect. The networks all said that they didn’t belong to al-Qaeda or Hamas, but something similar. They were heavily armed; and they presently held fifty-two Canadian hostages at gunpoint. The news reports also revealed that the group had wired the bus with explosives. The hijackers forced the driver to take the bus to a city park on the shore of Lake Ontario, where they had a clear view in all directions. Communicating with authorities by cell phone, the group indicated that any attempt to storm the vehicle would result in the immediate deaths of all aboard.
They had a laundry list of demands. Canada would cease commercial ties with the United States and Israel. Islam would be given official priority in the national constitution. And the Canadian parliament would pass a series of laws banning things that were an abomination to their religion: the sale of liquor, the sex shops and strip joints in Windsor and Toronto, etc., etc.
Marty remembered sitting in the student union of the University of Toronto as events unfolded on CNN. He had poked one of his buddies on the arm. “They basically want to turn Canada into an Islamic state,” he had said, not realizing how far ahead of the game he actually was. “Like that’s really going to happen.”
About twenty minutes later, Marty was still watching the live broadcast as the bus exploded. Mixed somewhere within his raw state of shock was a chilling realization: the hijackers had known that their demands would not be met. It was a murder-suicide operation from the outset.
By July the province of Ontario had been under siege by Harb—the world’s newest, and most ambitious terror organization. There were regular bus bombings in Toronto; and city authorities finally shut down all municipal public transportation systems. Then Harb went after schools, shopping malls, and office complexes. More than four thousand Canadians were dead by August.
The full extent of the group’s objectives did not become clear until it was too late. Canada—or at least part of Canada—was to become an Islamic state. Harb captured one of the major television networks in Toronto, and a variety of spokespersons issued daily proclamations regarding the group’s master plan. Canada was to be the launching point for a new regime modeled on an empire that had existed in the eighth century—when the lands from Spain to Palestine and Turkey had been united under the Islamic star and crescent. Harb declared a new caliphate—a classical Muslim state like those in the history books. And this one would be global in nature, stretching across continents. Eventually it would dominate the world, Harb spokesmen promised.
As the violence reached a fever pitch, an official from Canada’s Privy Council Office (PCO) revealed in a news conference that Harb had been assembling an army of “sleepers” in the province of Ontario for years. No one knew exactly how many sleepers were planted near and around Toronto; but they now had control of much of the city. At least half of the Toronto police stations were abandoned. Those police who remained were cut down by persistent sniper, mortar, and rocket attacks.
“There might be a few thousand,” the PCO official had told reporters. “Maybe more. The truth is that we just don’t know.”
But most of all, Harb had the missiles. These were what kept Canada’s southern neighbor from bringing its considerable might to bear on the situation.
No one knew for certain where Harb had acquired four missiles tipped with nuclear warheads; and the organization wasn’t saying. Iran was a prime suspect, as was North Korea. Wherever they came from, the missiles had apparently been smuggled into Canada in pieces and reassembled.
They were of the short-range, truck-launched variety. From one of their trucks in Toronto, Harb could strike any location in Eastern Canada, and deliver a missile as far west as Winnipeg. They could also strike most of the Northeastern United States. The Americans were warned to stay out of the Canadian conflict—or they would lose at least one city, and maybe two.
* * *
Excerpts from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.org:
The Islamic Republic of Ontario
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“The Islamic Republic of Ontario was declared on December 1st of 2013, about six months after the first bus bombing occurred in the Canadian city.
The name of the republic is actually a misnomer: To date, Harb has only captured the southern corner of the province, an area stretching from the northern edges of the metropolitan Toronto area, south to the town of Hamilton and the border with the United States. This territory is home to about five million people….”
“The national flag of the Islamic Republic of Ontario is a red and green standard that features the Canadian maple leaf, a sword, and the Islamic star and crescent. The flag also bears a slogan in Arabic….”
“A Harb cleric serves as president of the ad hoc republic; he now conducts business in the office once occupied by the mayor of Toronto. Administrative functions are also carried out by the Islamic Guard of Ontario—a paramilitary organization that consists of Harb fighters and Canadians who have been inducted into the Islamic Organization….”
“The U.N. Security Council has repeatedly demanded that Harb disband and abandon their positions. Iran and North Korea immediately recognized the Islamic Republic of Ontario on December 5, 2013….”
Popular support abroad
“Demonstrations in favor of Harb’s activities regularly take place in the streets of Gaza City and Cairo. Radical imams in Indonesia and Pakistan have declared that Harb is ushering in a new golden age of Islamic rule….”
* * *
Still half lost in his recollections, Marty could overhear the half-whispered conversation of two Canadian men seated on the bench just behind him.
“I read on the Internet that the Americans are threatening to invade again.”
The speaker sounded fiftysomething and well educated.
“Yeah,” his companion scoffed. “Only if they want Detroit and Chicago turned into radioactive parking lots. Face it, Bernie. Harb is here to stay. And it might not be so bad, if that’s the way it’s to be. Islamic rule has certainly cleaned television up, if nothing else. You’ve got to admit.”
“Well, I miss my beer.”
“Beer was giving you a gut, Bernie.”
Marty speculated that the two men did not realize they were sitting so close to an officer of the Islamic Guard. Otherwise they would not have spoken quite so freely.
The exchange reinforced an impression that had been building in Marty for months now: Most residents of Toronto were adapting to the new regime. Oh, sure, there were a few complaints here and there. On one hand, everything had changed. But on the other hand, much had stayed the same. A semblance of normal routine was gradually returning to the city. Harb was in this for the long haul now, and they permitted daily life and economic activity to function—with many restrictions, of course. Indiscriminate bombings were now a thing of the past, but they had been replaced with public hangings, firing squads, and the occasional beheading on the steps of city hall.
These extreme punishments were reserved for diehard resistors, or “freedom fighters,” as they called themselves. Minor violations of Harb regulations were punished like parking or litter infractions were penalized under the old system. A man who failed to grow a beard was fined a hundred dollars. Possession of a banned music CD might mean a night in jail. Harb was brutal—but practical. They realized that they couldn’t shoot everyone.
Moreover, extreme and indiscriminate reprisals entailed the risk of a mass uprising, which Harb did not have the manpower to quell. They relied on selective terror, combined with the proven tendency of the average man to accept the path of least resistance. Harb had to pick its battles.
The new state, with its many dress codes, prohibitions, and daily prayer obligations required a security and administration apparatus. This was where the Ontario Islamic Guard came in. Realizing that there were only so many of themselves, Harb was scrambling to build a grassroots organization. There were opportunities for Canadians who wanted a place in the new order.
Is that what it is? Marty thought. The new order? Wasn’t it true that tectonic power shifts sometimes occurred in world? Was it wrong to cooperate with the new men in charge—to be a collaborator, as some called it?
But wasn’t it always true that you could do more good from inside the system than from outside it? According to one point of view, Harb represented just another form of government, an alternative form of arranging society.
Just then Marty’s coffee break was interrupted by his cell phone. It was Ali.
“We have a major problem, Marty.”
“I got a call from headquarters yesterday morning. City hall.”
Marty groaned. City hall would mean Mustafa al-Benah. He was one of the chief clerics of Toronto, and he treated all Canadians with contempt.
“What’s wrong at city hall?”
“Someone has removed one of the passkeys to al-Benah’s office.” Ali spoke rapidly. “Wasn’t your group posted over there from last week until just yesterday?”
“Well, yes, but I certainly didn’t take a key to al-Benah’s office.”
“Marty, I’m not accusing you. But don’t forget that we’ve recently made you a squad leader. What about one of your men?”
A sudden queasiness filled Marty’s stomach. Was Phil up to something?
“Ali, I know all of my men: Wes, Tim, Rob, and Phil. All of them can be trusted. Are you sure the key wasn’t simply misplaced?”
“Marty, the key was removed from a locked security cabinet in the main security office. Only security personnel have access to that area.”
“Ok, Ali, I’ll look into it.”
“Do more than look into it,” Ali said. “Mustafa al-Benah is a member of Harb’s Supreme Leadership Council. His office contains highly classified information.”
“I know. I know. Was anything taken?”
“Not that we can tell. But we can’t be sure yet. I’ll be frank with you, Marty. I don’t trust Phil Scherer. We need to question him. And I mean really question him.”
Marty had an idea of what Ali meant by “really question him.” Many Harb soldiers had served in the militaries of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. Some of these men were skilled in the professional arts of torture.
“Ali, let me talk to Phil first. Please. If Phil had anything to do with this, I’ll get to the bottom of it. But I don’t think that’s the case. Really.”
“I’m going to have to think about how much latitude I can give you on this one, Marty. This is a very serious matter.”
“You should also think about yourself, Marty. If the Harb leadership has reason to believe that you have been protecting a traitor, you could be shot along with your friend. In fact, I could guarantee it.”
Marty felt as if he might vomit at any second now. He set his half-finished cup of coffee down on the bench. “I know.”
“And I wouldn’t be able to save you, Marty, although I personally believe that you have great potential in the service of the Islamic Revolution.”
“I know. I know.”
“We’ll talk about it more at one-thirty. Be on time.”
Then Marty launched into an effusive expression of thanks, and other words of assurance that would hopefully convince Ali of his trustworthiness. He had been talking for the better part of a minute before he stopped. The other end of the line was silent.
Ali had hung up after issuing his final command.
* * *
Excerpts from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.org:
The Islamic Republic of Ontario
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The final phase of the Harb takeover, September – December 2013
“The Canadian government declared martial law in Ontario on September 10, 2013.
The day before, Harb fighters had detonated a kiloton of high explosives beneath a shopping mall just outside Toronto. The shopping mall was quite literally turned to powder by the force of the explosion—it ceased to exist.
Most of the shopping malls were now deserted, so only a handful of administrative personnel were killed in the blast. But Harb had a point to make. They announced that they had planted a network of bombs under the city: thousands of them, they claimed. If the regular Canadian military moved in, they would get another demonstration.
The Canadian Prime Minister faced a difficult dilemma. The national military forces could easily have beaten Harb in a battle on open ground; but it would be difficult to dislodge them without significant loss of life in a city wired with explosives.
There were bombs beneath apartment complexes, bombs beneath hospitals, and bombs beneath ordinary city streets. Authorities in Ottawa were rapidly running out of time. While the Canadian government debated various responses to the crisis, Harb was solidifying its positions in and around Toronto….”
The exodus and the Harb reaction
“Some local residents managed to flee by highway before Harb completely closed off the city. To stop the exodus, Harb set up roadblocks on all the major arteries in and around Toronto. On September 5, 2013 they ordered the Toronto airport closed. A day later, on September 6, Delta Airlines flight 4526 tried to take off in defiance of the order. A shoulder-fired rocket launched by a Harb fighter scattered the remains of the 747 and its passengers across five acres of farmland south of the airport. There were no more takeoff attempts.
People still managed to escape on foot; but Harb regularly swept the woodland corridors leading out of Toronto with helicopter gunships. They had plenty of these, having commandeered them from a Canadian military base in the district……”
* * *
Security was tight in the catacombs of offices that lay beneath the airport. No fewer than three security personnel—all of them Harb fighters—checked Marty’s Islamic Guard credentials at various points on the way down.
Harb had only recently reopened the Toronto Airport. This was another attempt to present a veneer of normalcy. Only a few countries allowed planes from the Islamic Republic of Ontario to land: North Korea and a handful of Middle Eastern countries. But agitation for the recognition of the Islamic Republic of Ontario was growing in the United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain—where Islamist groups were active. Planes from Toronto might soon be landing in London, Rome, and Madrid.
A visa from Harb was of course required for travel. When you left you had to appoint a family member or a close friend to serve as your “guarantor.” “Guarantor” was a euphemism for hostage; if you defected while abroad, Harb would execute the person designated as your guarantor. They had done so more than once.
Marty was in the downstairs office by 1:10 p.m. Neither Phil nor Ali would be here for a while, so he had some time to think.
Can I trust Phil?
If I find out that Phil has committed an act of treason against Harb, how do I handle it?
Room 115 was filled with various Harb paraphernalia: a locked gun rack held four automatic weapons. Everywhere were banners. Most of these were in Arabic, which Marty couldn’t read. The few that were in English exhorted Canadians to “Resist the lies of the infidels!” and “Live according to the words the Prophet.”
A photograph of Sheik Abdul Qafisheh hung on the wall near the clock. Marty had read several accounts of Qafisheh’s life. The founder and spiritual leader of Harb was born in Yemen to a poor family of ten children. His father, a fisherman, had been a devout Muslim who raised his children to be pious servants of Allah.
It was said that at the age of fifteen Qafisheh had memorized the Quran. Then at eighteen he had a vision somewhere in the desert outside of coastal city of Sayhut. Shortly thereafter, he had begun his life’s true work.
First he went to Palestine, where he became involved in the Black September movement. In the 1980s the Sheik had fought alongside the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The 1990s saw him fighting for the cause all over the world: shouldering a gun in Bosnia, training suicide bombers in Palestine, and orchestrating car bombings in Pakistan, Manila, and Chechnya. The Sheik had amassed quite a collection of contacts during his years as a jihadi. He had contacts in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the Fatah, even al-Qaeda. A decade ago he had founded Harb, the Islamist organization that would eventually eclipse all its predecessors.
The door to room 115 opened and Ali entered.
“Where is Phil?” Ali demanded.
“He’ll be here soon.”
Marty’s handler muttered something to himself in Arabic. Ali was only twenty-eight or twenty-nine years old. Although he was originally from Cairo, he had earned an engineering degree from Rutgers before returning to the Middle East to join Harb. Unlike so many of the group’s regulars, Ali spoke impeccable English. Although he wore a beard, he usually eschewed traditional Middle Eastern dress. Today he was wearing in his typical attire—dress slacks, an open-collar shirt, and a dark sports jacket.
Marty had been a psychology major at the University of Toronto. He knew that the selection of a handful of Harb handlers with Western affectations was a deliberate effort by Harb to build rapport among the members of the Canadian Islamic Guard. Harb wasn’t above marketing itself and pushing subtle psychological buttons.
“Any more word about the missing key?” Marty asked, knowing that Ali would bring up the matter if he didn’t.
“Ah, yes,” Ali replied. “We at least have some good news on that front. One of the guards apparently knocked the key off its peg while retrieving another key. The key was found underneath the main desk in the security office.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
“Yes it is. But we still have the problem of the Donovans to confront.”
So there it is, Marty thought. The Donovans again.
“You know, Marty, the time has come for us to put a stop to their activities. Once and for all.”
“Ali, I think I know what you’re going to ask. And I’m telling you now, that would be difficult.”
“But Marty. Think about what you’re saying. You’ve been a Guard member for more than a year and squad leader for several months now. We have never asked you to do anything very difficult. Oh, you don’t agree? Just tell me: What have you had to do?”
Marty shrugged. Ali had a point. So far, the enforcement duties that he and his companions had carried out had been innocuous and even boring. They were the Harb equivalent of meter maids, really. Each day they issued citations for petty infractions: beards that were not long enough, kiosks selling unapproved but basically harmless reading materials, etc. They were little more than religious traffic cops.
The chador in particular was a constant thorn in their sides. How many Harb dress code citations had Marty been forced to write over the previous months, all because Canadian women didn’t like wearing the chador? Most of them especially hated the head covering, so it was the most common point of violation. And last month Marty had busted a college coed who had cut and hemmed the material at the bottom of the garment, so that it resembled a knee-length skirt. Not only had she been fined a hundred dollars—she also looked ridiculous. What some people would do just to bend the rules.
“We are not unreasonable,” Ali said. “Harb realizes that it will take time for the people of Ontario to completely change their ways. And we can be lenient where necessary. Do you remember our conversation about the daily prayers, just the other day? Have we gone around shooting every citizen who doesn’t observe the obligation?”
“No,” Marty admitted.
“In fact, I think you’ll remember that we discussed ways to make the custom easier to observe, such as delivering the prayer summons in English.”
“But the Donovans are a different matter. The Donovans aren’t just imperfect practitioners of Islam. The Donovans,” Ali had clenched one fist. “Despite every warning delivered by Harb, are actively working against us. Witnesses have seen them proselytizing, Marty, on more than one occasion. How can we tolerate that?”
Marty wasn’t sure what to say. He offered no answer.
“Therefore,” Ali continued. “We have no choice but to make an example of the Donovans in this matter. And you and Phil must participate. If the Islamic Republic of Ontario is to survive and grow stronger, then you Canadians must aid its construction. Do you understand?”
Once again, there didn’t seem to be a good way of answering Ali’s question. Marty made a noncommittal grunting sound that could be taken either as assent or denial.
“And where is Phil?” Ali gestured toward the clock. It was 1:35.
“I told him to be here at— ”
As if on cue, the doorknob turned and the Phil’s shadow appeared in the translucent pane of glass that filled the upper half of the door. Phil walked in and nodded first to Ali, then to Marty. The door wheezed back and closed with a little bang and a metallic click.
“You’re late.” Ali snapped.
He seemed to be waiting for Phil to explain himself. But Phil remained silent.
Ali shook his head. “We can talk about you later. Come on now, both of you. We’re going.”
“Where are we going?” Phil asked.
“Marty can tell you while we go there.”
Ali abruptly opened the door and swept them both out with a terse hand gesture. Phil nudged Marty on the way out, his expression hinting at another angry outburst. Marty didn’t want a repeat of the scene in the terminal—not here with Ali to contend with. Marty raised his index finger to his lips. “Later,” he whispered.
They walked very quickly through the maze beneath the airport, their feet echoing in the barren corridors. Ali directed them to the airport’s parking garage. They boarded an elevator and rode to the ground level.
A black Chevrolet Suburban was idling in the damp spring air, obviously waiting for them. Two men were standing beside the vehicle. One of them was a tall, barrel-chested Harb member named Ghazi. Marty tended to avoid Ghazi whenever possible. Ghazi was uncouth, ill-tempered, and he displayed an open hostility toward all Canadians—even those who were in the Guard. The other man was also large—nearly as big as Ghazi, but Marty could not see who he was. The man wore a hood that revealed only his eyes.
As they approached, Ghazi pointed at Marty and Phil and said something to Ali in Arabic. Ali waved him silent, and shouted an obvious command. Ghazi pounded his fist once on the side of the SUV, but he complied. It was clear who was in charge here. Nevertheless, Ghazi would be dangerous and unpredictable as always.
Ali arranged them in the vehicle. Marty and Phil sat in the back seat, with the hooded man and Ghazi between them. It was an especially cramped fit because there were four of them. Ghazi seemed to make a point of spreading out so that he would push Marty up against the door. Ali sat in the front seat beside the driver, who had been waiting inside the vehicle. He was a Harb member, a bearded young man whom Marty did not recognize.
Another command in Arabic from Ali, and they were on their way.
* * *
From the online journal Foreign Affairs in the 21st Century:
The Islamic Republic of Ontario and the United States
Why Washington may ultimately need to accommodate Harb
“South of Canada, in the United States, the recently elected American commander-in-chief wavers between bluster, and a stark resignation to the missiles aimed at Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago. ‘We absolutely will not tolerate a nuclear-armed terrorist enclave on our northern border,” he says one day. ‘We are assessing our options in regard to the Canadian situation, and there has been some dialogue with the group known as Harb.’ a White House spokesperson says the next.
There are of course firebrands in the U.S. who want to evacuate the American cities lying within range of the missiles, and then launch an invasion of Ontario. The Canadian situation now dominates the programming on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. The lineup of these programs has become predictable: First a bellicose U.S. senator lays out the case for an invasion. Then he or she is countered by a cool-headed expert who explains (often with more than a trace of condescension) that the invasion scheme will never work. Why? The answer is obvious. Harb can have its missiles in the air before a single U.S. shell kills a single Harb fighter.
Nevertheless, the first part of the ill-fated plan already seems to be spontaneously underway. Although there has been no explicit directive issued by Washington for a voluntary evacuation of the Great Lakes region, Americans have been trickling out for months. The populations of Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Buffalo are said to be at half their previous levels. Real estate prices have plummeted in every U.S. city within two hundred miles of the border with Ontario…..”
* * *
The Donovans lived on a farm near Mississauga, just outside of Toronto. Ali and the three other Harb members burst through their front door while Marty and Phil waited in the car.
“What the hell’s going on?” Phil demanded at Marty.
“Ali wants us to participate in this arrest. The people who live here have been breaking the law.”
“What have they been doing?”
“Those Harb sons-of-a-bitches,” Phil said between clenched teeth. “What I wouldn’t give to put a bullet between Ali’s eyes.”
“You’d better watch your mouth,” Marty said. “You jeopardize your life and mine with talk like that. You need to decide whose side you’re on.”
“I know which side I’m on, Marty. I’m a collaborator, just like you. But not for much longer.”
“And what do you mean by—”
Before Marty could finish his question, they were interrupted by Ali tapping on the window of the SUV.
“Get out, you two.”
Phil and Marty complied. The Arabs had the now apprehended Donovans in tow. They were a late middle-aged couple, perhaps in their late fifties or early sixties. Mr. Donovan had a fresh gash across his forehead. Marty surmised that one of the Harb members—probably Ghazi—had nailed him with his rifle butt.
The Harb member who had served as driver opened the rear doors of the SUV. He retrieved a videocamera, a tripod, and what appeared to be a massive sword contained within a sheath.
“What are you doing?” Phil asked Ali. “What is this?”
“Didn’t Marty tell you?” Ali was obviously taking a certain delight in Phil’s discomfort.
Phil turned to Marty, then back to Ali. “No. Marty didn’t tell me anything, except that we were making a routine arrest.”
“This arrest is more important than most,” Ali said.
“Why are you setting up that camera? What’s going on?”
“The Donovans here are guilty of working against Islam, in blatant disregard of Harb regulations.” Ali said.
“The penalty for their actions is death.”
“Death? Why? You can just burn their religious pamphlets, like you’ve burned Bibles and churches all over Ontario.”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple,” Ali said.
Then Marty intervened. “Phil, Harb has duly promulgated the rules against proselytizing faiths other than Islam. Everyone knows what the penalty is.”
“Marty, you’ve gone crazy. Don’t let them do this. These two people—” he gestured to the Donovans. “They remind me of my freaking grandparents. I think we’ve scared them. Now enough is enough.”
“Phil, they won’t—”
“That’s bullshit, Marty. Don’t go along with them on this. If we just—”
Phil’s tirade was cut off when Ghazi rammed the butt of his AK-47 into his stomach. Phil doubled over in pain. Then Ghazi hit him on the side of the head with the gun.
Ghazi drew a dagger from his belt.
Marty realized that Ghazi intended to slit Phil’s throat. He stepped forward between Ghazi and Phil. His voice quivering, he appealed to Ali.
“Ali, Phil is my subordinate. I’ll handle this.”
Ghazi shoved Marty back, but Marty stood his ground.
“Ali, we’re all on the same side here,” Marty said, doing his best to ignore Ghazi.
“Are we Marty?” Ali asked. “You know, sometimes I wonder about that. I especially wonder about Phil here.”
“Ali, let me handle this. Please.”
Ali rubbed his chin. “You people try my patience, Marty.”
Finally he nodded and said something to Ghazi.
There was a brief and heated exchange between the two Arab men. Then, with pronounced reluctance, Ghazi returned the dagger to its place on his belt.
Before Phil could regain his composure, Marty removed the pair of handcuffs that he kept on his own belt for making routine arrests. He pulled Phil’s hands together and attached the cuffs behind his back. Then he pulled his still dazed friend to his feet.
“Okay,” Marty said to Ali and Ghazi. “Let’s get it over with.”
As the Harb members turned their attention back to the Donovans, Marty added in Phil’s ear: “You may hate me now, my friend; but I’ve just saved your life today.”
Ali gave orders while the other three Arab men bound the Donovans’ hands behind their backs and forced them into a kneeling position. The Harb driver moved the camcorder and tripod back a few paces, sighting the Donovans through the eyepiece.
Ghazi took hold of Mr. Donovan’s collar and yanked it backward, exposing his bare neck. A shirt button fell loose onto the grass. Marty shook his head incredulously as Donovan smiled defiantly up at Ghazi. I can’t believe this, thought Marty. Donovan is embracing this as martyrdom. Who does he think he is? A modern-day St. Bartholomew braving the Armenian whips—or maybe a Daniel staring down the Babylonian lions?
The difference, Marty thought grimly, was that Daniel survived the lions. Donovan was not going to survive this encounter with Harb.
Then Marty and Donovan exchanged a brief glance. Each looked at the other as if to say, Why are you here, doing what you’re doing?
It was Mrs. Donovan who spoke directly to Marty.
“You’re a traitor!” she screamed. “All of you collaborators are!”
Ghazi gave her a hard slap across the face. She continued to shout at Marty. “You’re helping these monsters destroy our civilization! You think that buys you time? You’re already dead!”
Another slap from Ghazi—this one much harder—and Mrs. Donovan was silent.
Mr. Donovan surveyed the Harb members and their Canadian companions, turning his head to meet each of their eyes in turns. “How dare you come here and do this. We’re peaceful people. We’ve harmed no one. You’re all animals. Lower than dogs.”
The last insult had likely been calculated to be as offensive as possible. Dogs were an especially unclean animal in Islam, and to call a Muslim a dog was an unforgivable offense. Ghazi gave Donovan a swift kick in the ribs that caused him to cry out. He kicked him three more times, until interrupted by a stern rebuke in Arabic from Ali.
Ghazi gave Donovan one last kick before moving away. He spat over his shoulder and stood with his arms crossed, waiting.
The hooded Harb member unsheathed the large scimitar. Marty had never actually seen a sword like this; he knew it only from the movies. This was the sword that had saved Sinbad’s life in a dozen old adventure films. The blade was long—perhaps four feet in length. The end of the sword flared into a wide convex surface before tapering back down to its extremity.
As the driver hunched over the camcorder, Ali gave a short statement for the eventual viewers of the video, enumerating the Donovans’ crimes against the Islamic Republic of Ontario. The Donovans had preached Christianity against the laws of the state. They had worked to undermine Islam. For these crimes they would have to die, in accordance with the code of sharia and the sacred words of the Quran.
Ali stepped out of the camcorder field. The executioner raised his sword above Donovan.
“Allahu akbar!” he shouted.
The sword descended in a blur. There was a brief sound of moisture and breaking bones as Donovan’s neck was severed. In the next moment his head toppled from his body.
The body fell forward and blood began to spurt from the headless corpse. Mrs. Donovan shrieked at the sight of her decapitated husband.
She did not shriek for long. A second later the sword descended on her.
Marty was overwhelmed by the sudden carnage. He had never seen a headless body, much less two. He had never seen so much blood. The remains of the Donovans assaulted his sensibilities. The transformation was too sudden and drastic for him to process. A minute ago the couple had been hurling accusations at him, and now they were almost unrecognizable as human beings.
His head begin to swim. He feared that he would pass out at any moment.
Marty turned away from the dismembered bodies of the Donovans. He placed one hand on the Suburban, then leaned over and retched in the grass.
When he recovered himself, Phil’s gaze was locked on him, his face dominated by an expression of cold, unyielding rage. Marty knew at that moment that Phil would never forgive him for failing to provide a warning about the purpose of this trip. Whatever friendship there had been between them, it was over now.
* * *
Excerpt from CNN.com
updated 7:55 a.m. EST, Wed November 19, 2015
Islamic Republic declared in the Netherlands
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (AP)
“The Netherlands was once renowned for its liberal, live-and-let-live approach to social and political issues. In what may be history’s greatest irony, the country will now become home to Europe’s first Islamic republic since the Middle Ages, when Muslim emirs ruled in Spain…”
“Conservative Dutch politicians charge that this development was inevitable.
‘Our country’s government has tolerated the activities of violent Islamic extremists for decades now’ said one member of the Dutch parliament, who wished to remain anonymous. ‘We saw this coming and we did nothing to prevent it. If you spoke out against the Islamists, you were automatically derided as a simpleton or condemned as a bigot….”
“Leaders in surrounding European countries are divided regarding the significance of the new situation.
Conservative British Prime Minister Elaine Boswell has called for a united European front against the new Islamic Republic of the Netherlands.
On the other extreme, Jean Duvall, a European Union spokesperson based in Brussels, asserts that ‘The spirit of European multiculturalism demands that we give the Islamic Republic of the Netherlands a chance to prove itself as a viable and contributing member of the global community.’”
* * *
Neither Phil nor Marty spoke during the ride back. When they reached the airport, Marty removed the handcuffs and Phil departed without another word.
“We’ll talk later,” Marty promised his friend as he released the handcuffs.
But still Phil refused to speak.
After Phil had gone, Ali harangued Marty about properly training his own subordinates.
“Phil will probably be thrown out of the Islamic Guard. Today’s outburst was inexcusable.”
“I can’t defend what he did.”
“Why didn’t you train him more thoroughly, Marty? Why didn’t you teach him right from wrong?”
“Phil has his own ideas about right and wrong. He’s very stubborn. I’m sorry.”
“You are very lucky that I like you, Marty. Many Harb members would have shot both of you on the spot!”
“I know, Ali. I know.”
“Phil is going to face a disciplinary hearing. I heard everything that he said. That kind of talk cannot be tolerated. Especially from someone wearing an Islamic Guard uniform.”
“Ali, what Phil did today was completely wrong. We agree. But he’s a good man if we can turn him around. Like a lot of Canadians, he’s having trouble adjusting to the new reality. The Islamic Republic represents a pretty radical change for us, you know.”
“But it is the right path for you to take.”
“Yes, yes,” Marty said. “Of course it is. And Phil will be a tremendous asset to Harb as soon as he realizes this. In building the new Canada, Phil is worth more to you alive than dead.”
“I hope you can convince me of that, Marty.
“Ali, I’ll talk to him. And you’ll see a change in Phil’s attitude.”
* * *
The clock on the dashboard of Marty’s car read 11:53 p.m. Marty parked his car outside Phil’s apartment building and killed the ignition. Marty had visited his friend at home once before, and he had no trouble picking out the windows that belonged to Phil. The lights were on in his apartment and the shades were drawn.
So Phil had not yet gone to bed. That was good. The two of them needed to talk, and it had to be tonight. Neither of them could afford another episode like the one that had occurred today.
It would be difficult to patch things up between the two of them, and even more difficult to change Phil’s way of thinking. But Marty had to succeed. Phil’s life—not to mention his own—was at stake.
Marty wondered as he slammed his car door shut: What if Phil attacks me? Should I take my gun?
No, that would be a bad idea. The best course of action was to adopt a conciliatory posture, and explain why he had not told Phil in advance about the planned executions of the Donovans. He had held back in order to save Phil’s life. He had tried to prevent a fatal conflict between Phil and the Harb members. Then when Phil had flown into a rage at the Donovans’ farm, he had handcuffed his friend in order to save his life again. It was as simple as that.
Marty passed through the unlocked entrance door of Phil’s apartment building. Phil’s apartment was on the second floor.
Marty knocked twice and waited.
When Phil opened the door, he stared at Marty for a few seconds before speaking.
“Phil, listen. I know it’s late but we have to talk.”
“It will have to wait until tomorrow.”
“It can’t wait, Phil.”
Without waiting for a reply, Marty shoved his way past Phil and into the apartment.
“Marty, what the hell are you doing? You can’t just barge in here. I told you we would talk tomorrow.”
“No, Phil. Tonight. Ali is very angry and—”
Marty paused and surveyed the mess in Phil’s apartment: Drawers were open, clothes were strewn about the floor, and there were three cardboard boxes in the living room.
“You’re running, aren’t you?” Marty asked. “You’re planning to leave Ontario.”
“What I’m doing is my business. Leave now and no one will ever know you were here.”
“Listen to me, Phil. You’ll never make it. They’ve got the area sealed off. Don’t you know about the helicopter patrols? They’ll cut you down with a machine gun. Or worse yet—you’ll be captured. And what do you think will happen to you then?”
Phil reached behind his back and withdrew a semiautomatic pistol from his belt.
“Marty, you shouldn’t have come here. I didn’t want it to happen like this.”
Phil pointed the gun at Marty. Once again, the two of them were entering new territory. A friend did not point a gun at you.
“Phil, this—this is insane.”
“No, Marty. Collaborating with Harb and murdering the Donovans was insane.”
“Don’t you see? We had no choice but to go along. Harb was going to execute the Donovans one way or another. You couldn’t have saved them. If I hadn’t stopped you, Ali would have had you killed and then killed the Donovans too.”
“Marty, sometimes saving your own neck isn’t the most important consideration. There are some things that you shouldn’t be a party to, no matter what.”
“You don’t get it, do you, Phil? Have you read the news recently? There were Harb uprisings in London and Paris last week. It’s Toronto and Amsterdam all over again. Ali tells me that they’ve got a lot of sleepers in New York and Los Angeles, too. The United States is going to be next.”
“So you think they’re going to take over the world, huh?”
“I don’t know, Phil. I really don’t. What I can tell you is this: They believe in their value system, as warped as it is. And they’re willing to fight for it. They’re not ashamed of who they are. That’s their advantage.”
“And what does that say about us, Marty? Are we ashamed of who we are? Are we willing to stand up for our values? Or are we going to roll over and tell ourselves that an Islamic society is just the next phase of our history?”
“This is an interesting philosophical discussion, but not the one we need to be having tonight. I want you to think about what you’re doing. Please put that gun down.”
“Marty, get into the closet.” Phil raised the gun until it was level with Marty’s forehead. “Get into the closet or I’ll shoot you. I swear I will.”
Phil left his apartment and drove toward the American border just before sunrise. He packed the relatively few possessions that he could into his car, an old Toyota Tercel that had spider’s web cracks on two of the windows, and rust around the wheel bases.
He had gagged Marty and tied his hands behind his back before locking him in the closet. That was okay. Marty would be discovered within hours when Harb searched his apartment. But he couldn’t risk his getting loose and ruining things.
Before departing, Phil locked his front door and threw the key far into the rambling tract of pine and scrub at the edge of the building’s parking lot.
The main highway was deserted this late at night. Phil knew that he still faced significant obstacles. There were Harb checkpoints at all roads leading out of the city. But Phil had his Guard uniform, his Uzi, and the element of surprise on his side. Maybe these would be enough. Maybe.
He turned on the radio: a bit of rock music—maybe even some rap or hiphop—would help to steel his nerves, get him in the proper frame of mind. He began punching the radio’s channel buttons. He needed to find a song to inspire him.
He had forgotten about Harb’s control of all the local radio stations. Every station he found consisted of Islamic programming—some in English, others in Arabic. After a few minutes of button-pushing in vain, he turned the radio off.
Phil had chosen a route that would require him to pass through only a single checkpoint. He could not afford more than one confrontation. After that Harb would be looking for him and all the advantages would be theirs.
Before he reached the checkpoint, Phil looped the strap of his Uzi across his shoulder and placed the gun behind his back so that it would not be conspicuous when he stepped out of the vehicle. There were only two men at the particular checkpoint that stood between him and the American border—one Harb and one Canadian.
When they saw his Guard uniform, both of the men relaxed somewhat, but they still had plenty of questions. Where was he going? Did he have written orders? What was in those boxes in the back seat of the car?
They asked him to step out of the Tercel so they could inspect the vehicle’s contents.
Standing beside his car, Phil smiled and began fabricating a story about a delivery to a Harb unit camped outside the city. Both men immediately eyed the boxes inside of the Tercel. Phil had made a fatal mistake: The sentries would open the boxes and see that they contained not supplies, but his personal possessions.
The Harb guard frowned. “I’m going to have to verify this with our unit leader.”
He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket.
That was when Phil made his move. The Harb guard never even knew what hit him; Phil fired a quick burst of rounds that nearly severed the man at the waist. The Canadian—a tall, lanky man in his late thirties—tried to draw his weapon, but Phil fired another three shots in rapid succession. The Canadian fell to the ground, convulsing as he clawed at the holes in his chest.
Within a few seconds he lay still and it was over.
Phil grabbed the feet of the Harb guard and began to drag him away from the car. Then he noticed the damage that his own Uzi had done to his only means of transportation. The front and rear tires of the Tercel were punctured on the driver’s side; and the rear window was shattered.
He only had one spare tire; this car wasn’t going anywhere.
Could he take the guards’ car? He made a quick scan of the area surrounding the checkpoint. As Murphy’s Law would ordain it, the guards did not have a vehicle. Someone must have dropped them off at the beginning of their shift.
For no particular reason, Phil thought about Marty. What would Marty say about the predicament that he had backed himself into? Marty would say that he had it coming. He had bucked the system; he had refused to go along and play it safe.
But Phil had been playing a decidedly unsafe game even before his departure. Marty no doubt believed that he was running because of what happened to the Donovans. Although the murder of the Donovans horrified and enraged him, Phil had been planning to flee Ontario prior to that.
He patted a bulge in the breast pocket of his jacket. The pocket held three tightly folded pieces of paper: a crude map and two pages filled with what looked like random numbers. These handwritten notes were everything—more valuable to him than his own life, in fact. And today he would carry them out of the Islamic Republic of Ontario.
Two days ago, when his unit was on guard at the Toronto City Hall, Phil had been given a full five minutes alone in the security office. During that time, he had removed the key to Mustafa al-Benah’s office. Then he had returned late that night, entering the city hall building when the guards changed shifts. This gave him a fifteen-minute window of lax security. Once inside the building, he took the service elevator up to the fifth floor and used the pilfered key to enter al-Benah’s office.
Phil spent the better part of three hours rummaging around with a penlight before he found what he needed: a black binder containing the radio frequencies and safety codes of the four Harb missiles. The binder also contained a map that showed the missiles’ locations.
With a knowledge of the safety codes and the radio frequency, it would be possible to jam the Harb missiles. The missiles could of course be reset, and the safety codes could be reprogrammed; but this would take several hours.
More than enough time to destroy the missiles with an air strike.
Phil laboriously copied the map and the missile codes by hand. When he was done, he double-checked his work, and carefully returned the black binder to the shelf where he had found it. He left al-Benah’s office and locked the door behind him, praying that he had left no discernible sign of his presence.
The next day he entered the security office during his regular shift on the pretext of delivering some routine paperwork. When the guard behind the main desk wasn’t paying attention, he palmed the stolen key from his pocket and let it drop to the floor. Then he nudged the key underneath the desk with the toe of his boot. They would almost certainly find it there. If he was lucky, they would conclude that a guard had knocked the key from its peg while removing another from the cabinet.
And now he had launched the second part of his plan. Marty, his friend and Islamic Guard superior, was locked in a closet in his apartment. He had just killed two men. He was a fugitive refugee from the Islamic Republic of Ontario and there could be no turning back now. Soon Harb would be hunting him.
They would be angered and alarmed by the actions he had taken this morning and last night. But Harb did not know about the papers in his jacket pocket; and the papers—in the proper hands—could be used to destroy them.
The American border was perhaps five or ten miles to the south. The walk would take hours. He would need a change of clothes. The Harb commandoes who would be scouring the area before noon would be looking for an Ontario Islamic Guard deserter.
He looked around and surveyed his surroundings. To his right was a field that had recently been tilled for spring planting. Beyond the field there was a one-story farmhouse with a pickup truck parked in the driveway.
The pickup truck bore a Canadian maple leaf sticker. It was an image of the Canadian flag—not Harb’s Islamic Republic of Ontario banner. The bumper sticker looked new; it had been applied to the vehicle since the beginning of the occupation. The sticker was an unmistakable sign of opposition to Harb, but subtle enough to avoid harassment by Harb agents. That meant that the farmhouse was probably not the home of collaborators.
Someone there would help him.
“God willing,” he said aloud, recalling the words Marty had uttered the previous afternoon in the terminal. He began to make his way across the field.
“Or ‘Insha Allah,’ as my friend Marty would say.”