The Footsoldiers (I/I)

Footsoldiers question pie to achieve their goals.

It is January 18, 2004. It is still dark, but the sky to the east is red.

Professor Jones looks out the window. “Tomorrow,” he says, “we’ll have peace.”

That’s the word. It’s in the air. Everyone knows it’s coming.

It used to be that things like this were secret. It used to be that you needed to dig through volumes of old lore, and spelunk the depths of the earth, and travel to the arctic wastes, if you wanted to learn the truth. Their names used to be whispered by dark cults in forbidden places. But things don’t work that way any more.

These days, everyone knows.

The footsoldiers will come. They’ll bring peace.

Professor Jones goes to bed that night expecting to sleep soundly. But his dreams are troubled. He tosses and turns. He wakes up no longer entirely certain what peace means.

He goes to the bakery. That’s what he does in the morning. He goes to the bakery and he buys a donut and some coffee, and he sits down, and he looks east.

“Today,” he says.

He can hear the tramping on the road of booted feet. It’s growing closer. There’s a pipe playing strange maddening music as they come.

The door bursts open. There are three men in coats standing in the door. Or …

No, he realizes. They are not men. They have never been men. There are no eyes behind their sunglasses. There is something squirming on their backs, under the coats. They march past him. They look at the baker. Then they reach through the display case, shattering plastic, and pull free a pie.

“Why?” they whisper to it. “When? How could you?”

The pie is silent.

“Curse you,” they cry, and throw it to the ground, and blackberry filling splatters against Professor Jones’ cheek.

They turn. They walk away. As they are at the door, he asks,

“Why did you do that?”

Why did you do that?

the question plaintive in the air.

And the first of them turns.

And the first of them looks at him.

And the first of them looks at him with its eyes that are not eyes.

“We question pie to achieve peace,” it says, flatly.

We question pie to achieve peace.

Then they are gone.