Terminal Transit, Book IV ‘The Million’ (excerpt)

Eventually the Million became too much even for this put-upon city and so the cull began. Like rabbits or badgers or kangaroos or any other vermin that threaten to overrun their environment, it became necessary to trap and snare and corner the corpses in order to start disposing of them. For small groups it was a simple affair for Army units with flamethrowers to set the corpses on fire and cremate them where they gathered. However, for the rest, something more drastic was required.

The city’s fire appliances were mobilized and drove slowly through the city looking for large groups of corpses to gather together. Slowly, and as if they were herding sheep, the fire engines drove these groups before them using their water cannons. Any stragglers were simply incinerated or crushed beneath the tracks of a unit of Scorpion tanks deployed to support the round up.

North of the Liffey the corpses were herded onto the motorway and then forced towards the airport. Three of the runways had been commandeered for the cull and as the corpses were pushed onto the runways they were sprayed with aviation fuel from a line of tankers and then incinerated from a safe distance. The fires burned for a day and a half and the plumes of smoke were visible in all directions, hanging heavy in the air like mournful clouds.

On the Southside, the remaining parts of the Million were driven down to the quays and then along towards the docks. Helicopters hovered above the streets and the images on the television showed thousands and thousands of angry corpses shouting and berating as they headed towards their second doom like some perverted public parade. Once at the docks, the corpses were forced down a funnel made from containers, sprayed with fuel and then ignited and driven into the water.

The shocked and saddened city watched the purging of the Million with a mixture of horror and regret. These were relatives, after all, but no one seriously considered it a good thing that their nearest and dearest had returned to them cranky and cadaverous. Mac, for example, was really relieved when Sibeal and many others was finally driven from Front Square by water cannon and herded down to the docks. It had broken his heart when he lost her the first time but losing her this time was a blessed relief. ‘That wasn’t the Sibeal I remember,’ he said to himself, echoing the thoughts of thousands of other shocked relatives. ‘She was never that angry.’

Sensing an opportunity to assert its significance once more, and also seeking to tackle head-on the serious questions of about resurrection and eternal life that the return of the Million had caused the country to start asking, the Church sought to take the initiative. An extraordinary general meeting of the Bishops’ Conference was organized at the national seminary and following three days of discussion and prayer, and approval by the Holy See, the Conference’s conclusions were communicated to the country during a live Mass broadcast from St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral.

Primate Donal Grammaticus was a ruddy-looking man whose easy life made his robes flow less loosely than they would on someone else.

‘We are gathered here today in response to the many recent calamities which have caused us all to question our values as a country. When nature presents us with something we do not fully understand we simply have to trust in our faith and be certain that anything that happens has to happen for a reason. We cannot look to science for answers. Nor can we look to Man. For both are unknowing in the face of such mystic wonder and so all we can do is put our trust in the Almighty.’

The Primate drew breath.

‘As 2 Corinthians 4:18 reminds us all, we should fix not our eyes on what we see ‘but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’’

Mac watched incredulous. Inteachán sat beside him. The old man was growing angrier by the minute.

‘Donal always was a slippery customer when he was at college and now with a country unable to comprehend what has just happened he conveniently explains it all away by falling back on the old mysterium fidei routine.’

Mac sniffed.

‘Mystic wonder, indeed! More holy claptrap designed to trick the stupid into not asking any more questions.’

‘Are the NotBeSpeak part of God?’ asked Inteachán innocently.

Mac smiled at the child’s question.

‘It may be the case that God is not part of anything anyway, as has been proved, perhaps, by the NotBeSpeak’s arrival. After all, whether we like it or not, they have made themselves known to the world. That has to count for something. This would also explain why the church is seeking to reassert its authority here.’

Mac paused for a moment, remembering the trip to Dún Aonghasa.

‘It may very well be the case,’ he said sadly, ‘and using the vernacular so beloved now by this sorry country, that God has simply been the subject of a hostile takeover bid and now finds himself having been bought out by the NotBeSpeak.’

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