Zimmerman, Captive of the Dar

by

Kevin James Miller



I.

Henry Zimmerman came out of the hearing room, aching for a cigar. But he had made promises to his wife, children, and grandchildren -- oh, and the doctors.

There was the usual problem of ignoring the reporters. In the crowd, a young man held a sign reading "STOP THE CRIMINAL U.S. WAR MACHINE." Zimmerman yawned as the young man was smacked in the jaw, handcuffed, and dragged away by two Secret Service agents. Zimmerman pushed his glasses back up his nose. The great friendly wall that was Jake shielded Zimmerman.

He and Jake made their way outside to the waiting limousine.

Lost in thoughts about the prime interest rate and the GNP, Zimmerman was well settled behind the dark windows of the limo when he realized Jake had gone off someplace.

Eddie the driver was bound and gagged.

In front of Zimmerman was a tiny old man wearing a helmet. Carved onto the helmet, above the tiny man's dark eyes, was a series of concentric circles. The tiny man sported a very long beard. He pointed at Zimmerman a stick whose end crackled with white energy.

II.

Oh my God, Zimmerman thought. He reached to open the door and flee.

Looking out the window, he saw that the world was gone. In its place were vast, liquid pools of orange, purple, and yellow.

After a moment's hesitation, Zimmerman tried to grab the door handle, but from the tip of the tiny man's stick shot a white bolt. It hit the car door, inches from Zimmerman's hand. He froze and the weird kidnapper shook his head.

"Are you going to co-operate?"

"Against kidnappers? I doubt it, no matter how scared I am."

The little man turned his stick on the bound and gagged Eddie. Another bolt of white light shot out of the stick.

It burned a hole in Eddie's head. Blood and brains poured out. Eddie's eyes registered agony, then the blankness of death as they rolled up into his head.

Zimmerman felt like an iron hand was squeezing his throat, heart, and stomach. He prayed he could keep his dignity enough not to faint, vomit, or soil his underwear.

He clung to the car seat. It was not just a question of the savage murder of Eddie, and what that said about how the kidnapper would deal with further resistance. There was also the fact that Zimmerman was certain that the car was not on solid ground.

After minutes, hours, Zimmerman couldn't tell, he felt the car settle down onto something. After staring at his captor for so long, and trying to avoid the sight of Eddie's gory corpse, Zimmerman looked over at the car's windows.

There were no more liquid pools of orange, purple, and yellow. Two small red suns hung side by side in the sky.

III.

They were parked on a vast yellow plain. The car door opened. Zimmerman saw that outside, two rows of little men with helmets and beards, and wearing robes, stood on either side of the door. Each of the helmets had the design made up of concentric circles. The lines of little men stretched out as far as Zimmerman could see.

"Time to get out, Mr. Zimmerman."

"Since you know my name, I'd like to know yours."

"It's Torb. Get out or we'll drag you out."

Zimmerman got out of the car, cursing the arthritis in his knees. He wasn't a tall man, but he looked down at the little men with the beards and the helmets. Each of them held a wand, similar to Torb's.

Zimmerman's kidnapper was suddenly beside him.

"Okay. Let's go."

"Go where? Where are we, anyway? What are your people?"

"I'll answer as many as your questions as I can, on our way. Now let's go."

Torb marched Zimmerman down the facing rows of little men.

"Now can I ask some questions?"

"Of course," Torb replied.

"Where am I?"

"Not on Earth."

"Yes, thank you. I think I could have figured out that much." Zimmerman gestured to the two red suns. "The mere fact that I just was taken on an interplanetary voyage is enough to -- "

Torb said, "You've gone a little farther than to another planet." Zimmerman opened his mouth to say something but found he couldn't even form a question. "Some of your scientists --"

"Some of my scientists?"

"Your fellow humans," Torb explained.

Of course they aren't human, Zimmerman thought. I must be going senile if I haven't figured that out yet.

"Some of your fellow humans might call this, 'another space-time continuum.' This is Glar-dari-tig-lanaye, and we are the Dar."

They were approaching a mountain. It was still at least a mile, away, however. The row of tiny men (tiny Dar, Zimmerman thought, correcting himself) stretched all the way to that mountain.

Torb and Zimmerman passed a large rock. On the ground, near the base of the rock, were little groups of fruits and vegetables. Like, like Zimmerman searched for the correct word. Offerings. On the rock was carved an image of concentric circles, just like on the Dar helmets. The craftsmanship was amazing. The whole image was huge and there was, perhaps, half an inch between each circle. Zimmerman, proud of his mathematical abilities, found he couldn't estimate the number of circles the image made up, so overwhelmed was he by the odd sight, here in the middle of one odd sight after another. He was also still reeling too much from the savage murder of Eddie to think clearly. But the Presidential advisor couldn't resist asking a question.

"Torb, what is that?"

"It is a map, Mr. Zimmerman, of everything that is. Now you are to meet Yev, leader of the Dar. He will want something from you. If you are a wise man, you will give it to him."

IV.

At the bottom of the mountain, Torb turned Zimmerman over to two other Dar, but with taller helmets and longer wands. The two Dar took Zimmerman onto a path that led up the mountain.

After a walk that lasted, perhaps, a quarter of an hour, the two Dar bought Zimmerman to the mouth of a cave. They nodded and pointed with their wands, gesturing for Zimmerman to go in.

Trying not to tremble, Zimmerman did.

Torches sticking out of the wall lit the cave. After another long walk, Zimmerman came to a throne where upon sat another Dar, presumingly Yev. Above Yev, worked into the design of the throne was, once, again, the image of the concentric circles.

Yev looked like the rest of the Dar, but he had no helmet, no wand, and his beard was ivory white.

On either side of the throne stood posts, and stuck onto each post was the head of a Dar. Zimmerman wasn't any kind of medical expert, but he guessed from the stench and the state of decay that these Dar had been decapitated about a week ago.

"Greetings, Yev, leader of the Dar."

"Hello Henry Zimmerman, advisor to the President of the United States of America, of Earth."

There was an awkward pause.

"It's peculiar, a prisoner being allowed such proximity to his captors' leader. Your guards are all the way back at the mouth of the cave, and I don't see you with any weapons."

"If you wish to test the security capabilities of myself or my guards you have my permission to, if you so desire, attempt to physically overpower me, and, if you can, escape back to Earth, and evade re-capture by the Dar."

"Among humans, I am considered an old man. I have no taste for such behavior, even when I was much younger. Torb said you would want something from me."

"You saw the map, I assume."

"Yes. Most, um, interesting."

"Oh, much more than merely interesting, Mr. Zimmerman. The relationships between the different circles of the larger reality are arcane and complex. Some of which happens in one affects some of what happens in the other. The wisest of the Dar have devoted their lives to discovering the exact nature of these relationships. It has always been beyond my capabilities to make any of these discoveries." Zimmerman smiled the smallest of smiles, and looked just over the head of Yev. "Ah, I see from your reaction that, perhaps, you are thinking, 'Has Yev just admitted that he is not the wisest among the Dar? Why then is he their leader?' Some of what is true on Earth is also true in Glar-dari-tig-lanaye. If someone is not a leader because of great wisdom, why else would he hold such a position in life?"

Because he's powerful, thought Zimmerman. He looked at the heads on the posts. Because he's ruthless, he thought. Zimmerman felt, again, like trembling. "Ah, and now I see your expression is anything but a confident smile. Perhaps I don't have to explain the way of things to you."

"Yev, what do you want from me?"

The ruler of the Dar leaned forward. "The economic health of the Dar depends of our trade with the Frimble. A lizard-like people. Quite tedious, to be frank. They can speak of nothing but of their vegetable gardens. What we trade with the Frimble is Erllim, a substance mined from this very mountain." Yev paused. "And we of the Dar have discovered that the amount of Erllim is directly connected to the economic policies of the United States of America, of the Earth." Yev leaned back and, in silence, contemplated Zimmerman.

Henry Zimmerman tried to gather and focus his thoughts. "Let me see if I'm following you. The supply of Erllim is running low, because of U.S. economic policy, and you want me to get that policy changed?"

Yev applauded. "Bravo!"

"Well, I don't understand why you didn't just kidnap the President. It's obvious the Dar have the power, magic, whatever it is to do so."

"Yes, ah, with all due respect to your leader, Henry Zimmerman of the Earth, some humans, powerful humans, are products of their advisors, more than other influences."

Zimmerman considered this statement for a second, and then shrugged. "Look, great Yev of the Dar. I wish nothing bad for your people. But you must appreciate I can't advocate economic policy that would harmful to my people." Zimmerman took a deep breath. "Even if it means you will kill me, like your man did to my driver." Zimmerman didn't feel even remotely brave as he said this.

"What I have to do in order to get you to behave we will, if necessary, get to. I'm sure it will be a lot more complex than having you put to death, the deed done in a brief moment, although that is well within my power." Yev stroked his long white beard. "But let us return to you, or rather the decisions you help make for your tribe. You say current American economic policy is helpful to your people."

"Yes, of course."

Yev stopped stroking his beard and grinned and laughed. Zimmerman, feeling a greater flame of fear, wondered if it would be insulting to take a few steps back.

"Henry Zimmerman, you are not among the fools and rogues for whom courting their pleasure has been your life's pursuit. Beneficial to your people? I haven't the time and patience for your foolishness, or your jests. You humans use way too much of this limited source, 'oil.' Regarding all goods, the United States of America uses and the rest of the Earth produces, yes? You buy hundreds of billions of your dollars worth of services and goods more than you sell, almost two hundred billions of that since the beginning of your 'millennium.' A neat trick, possible only because the People's Republic of China of the Earth, not always in the past your friend, and maybe not your friend in your future, has loaned the United States of America tens of billions of your dollars. Henry Zimmerman of the Earth, you serve a tribe whose illusion of wealth has, gnawing at its roots, a debt of trillions of your dollars. You are involved in two wars with much smaller nations, wars that never seem to end, even after their official endings. And for this, the services of your warriors, this costs you, for every one of your years, more hundreds of billions of your dollars." Yev hopped off his throne. "Now, do I lie? Is anything I say a lie?"

"Well, no, but "

"But what, by the circles of the great reality? As a leader of my people, I am concerned first and foremost with their welfare. But you! Advisor to the leader of the most powerful tribe of your planet! What, oh what, is your prime concern? It obviously is not the welfare of your people!"

Zimmerman picked his next words carefully.

"Great Yev, leader, ruler of the Dar, it is not my place to discuss with you matters of politics and ideology among my, uh, tribe. But it is precisely politics and ideology that I must contend with in my role in the United States of America."

Yev held his hands behind his back and looked up at Zimmerman. "Then you are saying 'no' to me."

"Well, let's just say I'm not saying 'yes.'" Zimmerman paused. "I'm sorry." He visualized a sudden, burning hole in his head, and his blood and brains pouring out, like with Eddie.

"I am sorry too, Henry Zimmerman of the Earth, for the trouble you're going to have breathing."

Zimmerman felt his heart pounding hard in his chest. "Why am I going to have trouble breathing?"

And just like that, Zimmerman had exactly that sort of trouble.

His glasses fell off his face and hit the floor of the cave. He heard the lenses shatter.

He wanted to make some cry of pain, but found he could make no human sound. Some instinct drove him to reach up to his face, to touch his head.

And he felt nothing human.

He felt something cold, wet, hairless, slick, clammy Sweet God! He felt gills!

He now had the head of a giant fish.

Yev said, "Because fish don't breath, Henry Zimmerman. At least not air. Another one of the connections between Earth and Glar-dari-tig-lanaye. We both have air."

Zimmerman looked around for anything resembling water, so he could have at least temporary relief. It was yet another challenge. His eyes were now located on the far left and right of his new head. It was difficult moving his head and focusing through his new eyes.

He saw no water anywhere, so he was dying, and dying fast.

Zimmerman collapsed to his knees, the arthritis that afflicted them now meaning nothing.

Yev stood over him. "You can't say, if you could still speak, that I haven't been patient with you, Mr. Zimmerman. Torb could have done something like this to you, although he would have needed the wand."

I don't want to die, Zimmerman thought. His statement a moment ago to Yev, that he would die rather than alter his mind, he recognized now as a huge lie he had told himself. I'm an old man, but I still don't want to die, not just yet, and I sure don't want to die like this.

He heard Yev's voice. "I don't enjoy having to do this, Henry Zimmerman. And it is a fine, clear day here in Glar-dari-tig-lanaye, and I would prefer not to kill anybody, if I can help it. If you would now give me what I want, nod."

With his dying will, Zimmerman nodded his giant fish head, putting his remaining energy into it until Yev could make out the nod, and change Zimmerman back.

V.

In the Oval Office, the President looked across his desk at Henry Zimmerman.

"Well, Henry, that's quite a radical set of recommendations you just made."

"Yes, I guess so, Mr. President. But I honestly feel they are in the best interest of our country."

"Oh, I have no doubt you feel that way, Henry. Excuse me a moment, won't you?" The President held a finger over his intercom.

"What? Oh, of course."

"Good." The President pressed the intercom. "Lynn, are you out there?"

"Yes, Mr. President," said Lynn's voice over the intercom.

"Type up a letter of resignation for Henry Zimmerman. He's going to have to sign it when we're done in here."

"Yes sir."

The President lifted his finger off the intercom.

"Resignation?"

"Now, Henry, don't go all weepy on me. I'm sparing you the indignity of firing you. I can't have a key member of the team not working off the same page as the rest of us. You understand, don't you?"

VI.

In the weeks following his "resignation," Zimmerman watched the media reports as Sebastian Mylonas, one of the President's old oil industry friends, was appointed and confirmed as Zimmerman's successor. Zimmerman waited a few days, until he was sure Mylonas was settled into his new office, and then gave him a call.

"Henry! Wonderful to hear from you! No hard feelings, I hope? You know how Washington is."

"Listen carefully, Sebastian. What I'm about to say isn't going to make any sense to you, for now, but what I'm about to tell you I what to make sure you get correct, when you speak of this conversation to others. Although I'll deny it to everyone you know, everyone you know now."

"Um, okay, Henry. This sounds weird, and confusing, but you have my full attention."

"Good. Tell Torb and Yev I really, really tried, and tell them I say 'Hi.'"

"What? I don't understand."

"You will. It's out of my hands, Sebastian. Now you're the one with all the power. But, as you will learn, there is always somebody else with more."

THE END



2005 by Kevin James Miller

Kevin James Miller lives in the suburbs of Chicago where he is a college English teacher. Over 70 of his horror, fantasy, science fiction, and crime stories and poems have been published. His book THE CRAZY COLORED SKY AND OTHER TALES is available from Silver Lake Publishing.

E-mail: Kevin James Miller

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