Middle of Nowhere Productions

Middle of Nowhere Productions

Falling Man (Don DeLillo) Extract.

Amir switched from English to Arabic, quoting.

Never have We destroyed a nation whose term of life was not ordained beforehand.

This entire life, this world of lawns to water and hardware stacked on endless shelves, was total, forever, illusion. In the camp on the windy plain they were shaped into men. They fired weapons and set off explosives. They received instruction in the highest jihad, which is to make blood flow, their blood and that of others. People water lawns and eat fast food. Hammad ordered takeout at times, undeniably. Every day, five times, he prayed, sometimes less, sometimes not at all. He watched TV in a bar near the flight school and liked to imagine himself appearing on the screen, a videotaped figure walking through the gatelike detector on his way to the plane.

Not that they would ever get that far. The state had watch lists and undercover agents. The state knew how to read signals that flow out of your cell phone to microwave towers and orbiting satellites and into the cell phone of somebody in a car on a desert road in Yemen. Amir had stopped talking about Jews and Crusaders. It was all tactical now, plane schedules and fuel loads and getting men from one location to another, on time, in place.

These people jogging in the park, world domination. These old men who sit in beach chairs, veined white bodies and baseball caps, they control our world. He wonders if they think of this, ever. He wonders if they see him standing here, clean-shaven, in tennis sneakers.

It was time to end all contact with his mother and father. He wrote them a letter and told them he would be traveling for a time. He worked for an engineering firm, he wrote, and would soon be promoted. He missed them, he wrote, and then tore up the letter and let the pieces drift away in a rip-tide of memories.

In the camp they gave him a long knife that had once belonged to a Saudi prince. An old man whipped the camel to its knees and then took the bridle and jerked the head skyward and Hammad slit the animal's throat. They made a noise when he did it, he and the camel both, braying, and he felt a deep warrior joy, standing back to watch the beast topple. He stood there, Hammad, arms spread wide, then kissed the bloody knife and raised it to the ones who were watching, the robed and turbaned men, showing his respect and gratitude.

One man on a visit did not know the name of the town they were in, outside another town called Venice. He'd forgotten the name or had never learned it. Hammad thought it didn't matter. Nokomis. What does it matter? Let these things fade into dust. Leave these things behind even as we sleep and eat here. All dust. Cars, houses, people. This is all a particle of dust in the fire and light of the days to come.

They passed through, one or two, now and then, and sometimes they told him about women they'd paid for sex, okay, but he didn't want to listen. He wanted to do this one thing right, of all the things he'd ever done. Here they were in the midst of unbelief, in the bloodstream of the kufr. They felt things together, he and his brothers. They felt the claim of danger and isolation. They felt the magnetic effect of plot. Plot drew them together more tightly than ever. Plot closed the world to the slenderest line of sight, where everything converges to a point. There was the claim of fate, that they were born to this. There was the claim of being chosen, out there, in the wind and sky of Islam. There was the statement that death made, the strongest claim of all, the highest jihad .

But does a man have to kill himself in order to accomplish something in the world?

They had simulator software. They played flight-simulator games on their computer. The autopilot detects deviations from the route. The windshield is birdproof. He had a large cardboard illustration of the flight deck in a Boeing 767. He studied this in his room, memorizing the placement of levers and displays. The others called this poster his wife. He converted liters to gallons, grams to ounces. He sat in a barber chair and looked in the mirror. He was not here, it was not him.

He basically stopped changing his clothes. He wore the same shirt and trousers every day into the following week and underwear as well. He shaved but basically did not dress or undress, often sleeping in his clothes. The others made forceful comments. There was one time he took his clothes to the laundromat wearing someone else's clothes. He wore these clothes for a week and wanted the other man to wear his clothes now that they were clean, although clean or dirty didn't matter.

Don DeLillo

Falling Man


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