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DOHA 2031

Brown, line, light, dark, creme, circle, beige, contrast, shadow, haze, white, another line. David continued to lightly trace his fingers over the photograph centered on his desk. The image taunted him, pulling him toward an uncertain darkness. 


What’s in an image? It sounds like a silly question to ask, but really think about it. Composites of shapes and colors, we live our entire existence processing a series of successive images, one after another. In each of our own heads a movie reel of visual frames keeps turning from the day we’re born until the day we die, even when we’re sleeping.


Images are representations of our reality. They show us how to think, to feel. When we hear something, we can never be entirely sure that thing is real. But when we see something, we place trust in that thing. 


We need to see to believe.  


Why is that? Why can’t we just trust what we hear, what others write or talk about?


David hesitated, momentarily forgetting about the squadron of Tu-95 Bear bombers en route to destroy the entire airbase, as he stared down at the image before him, a pixelated portrait of a man’s face freshly photocopied onto a single piece of loose leaf of paper, stapled atop a folder that contained the man’s dossier, his entire life’s story summarized in 47 pages.


After a few seconds of losing himself in the image, conscious that he was being watched by the other officers who were awaiting his command in the dingy and poorly illuminated vestibule of the quonset hut that housed his detachment, acutely aware that they only had maybe at most another 30 minutes before the world around them would burst into flames, David realized that he had an impossible choice to make, one he would have to make privately, that he had little time to debate. 


An inner tension turned to nausea. This was not a position he ever fathomed he’d be in.


Glancing down at the other two dozen faces scattered haphazardly across his desk, David began to hurriedly stack the bundled folders to prepare to depart. Once he had collected the entire catalog he stood up and gave the order.


-Wheels up in 15.


Everyone exited the crescented oblong temperature-controlled corrugated steel structure in the southwestern quadrant of Al Udeid to return to the chilled nighttime desert air. As David and the other officers swept across the 20 yard walkway between the administrative building to the airstrip’s main apron, David’s gaze drifted off into the distance. He stoically watched the dunes beyond the fenceline ominously linger. The wind was starting to intensify and he could hear the dunes preternaturally groan, as if they were plotting among themselves to seize the facility.


David imagined himself slowly being devoured by the dunes as they enveloped the base, a proxy of his despair for the near-term events that were about to unfold, the sands of time scheming the demise of him and everyone he cared about. He thought of his late wife and wondered what she would think about his present dilemma. A great sadness suddenly overcame him. 


He missed her. 


It had been swift. First a cough, then a lump, then a CT scan showing that over the course of only a few weeks the cancer had spread from her lungs all the way to her brain.


Alone in his wife’s room in the ICU, David had spent the final days of his partner of three decade’s life helping to feed and bathe her as she fell apart. The hardest moments came when she started losing her sense of self, when her personality disbanded and she became semi-demonic, spewing the most hateful of personal insults you could possibly imagine for no reason other than the lesions unimpededly continued chewing away at entire sections of tissue inside her head.


Losing the person you love, the person you’ve dedicated your life to, is perhaps the greatest loss we can experience in life. It had been over ten years since David’s wife had died, but the pain of her absence for him was still just as strong as the day that she had passed. His feelings for her never diminished.  


In the years that followed, David became more and more disillusioned. His world darkened. The color that once had painted the tapestry of his living experience was gone and eventually replaced by a bubbling anger that accompanied his melancholy. 


You could say he had become jaded, understandably so. He fundamentally had begun to mistrust that there was any certainty and that the only person he could rely on was himself.


What had he done to deserve this?


His downward slide toward pessimism gravitated David toward a growing movement of others who felt similarly harmed, not necessarily for the same reason, and in many instances not without reason. What they all had in common was that society had failed them in some way, that the system could not be trusted, that they should disengage from the world rather than put faith in others to be there for them.


As David embraced this new package of ideas, adopting more politically extreme views in tandem, a wedge grew between him and his son, who despite his mother’s passing, had arrived at the opposite conclusion, the idea that, given the lesson of the ephemerality of life that his mother’s fast death had traumatized him with, we all should waste no time in taking for granted the moments and opportunities we have to share with others, that we should embrace the world instead of running away from it and lean on others rather than push them away.


After all, YOLO.  


And so David and his son had ended up on two different sides of the same fight and had become estranged. This night just so happened to mark an exact decade since David had last seen or heard from his son, who had completely vanished the day following the Insurrection without any explanation. 


In the aftermath of the Insurrection, David’s son had given up on trying to break through to his father. He had failed to show his Dad that love could overcome hatred, that everything didn’t have to be so dark, that he could heal and find happiness once more, that there was hope, that the whole point of life was to show up for others, not to tear each other apart.


David’s son wasn't any smarter than his father. He had learned everything there was to know from his Dad. At one point the two had shared the same beliefs and values. I’m able to offer this explanation for their separation in hindsight, which itself isn’t even fully complete, but it’s important to note that neither of them ever really understood the underlying cause of their split while they were still alive.


David arrived at the base of the mobile staircase leading to the C-17’s hull, along with the rest of his crewmates. Flanked on both sides by six MPs stood the two dozen prisoners who David would now take custody of to transport back to Bolling, their ultimate destination Re-education Center 1. The prisoners had arrived at Al Udeid only days before, which had been converted into an intermediate processing center for all US officials OCONUS incarcerated following the President’s final executive order. 


The prisoners began to shuffle one-by-one to board the military aircraft. They looked petrified knowing fully what fate awaited them. David was expressionless as he checked his registry of names for each as they passed, his mind swirling to the live broadcast from the Oval Office that he had watched earlier in the week.


-On this day of our great nation I am here to assure all Americans that I am here to protect you. We have known for quite some time that the deep state has conspired to run this beloved country of ours straight into the ground. They are trying to destroy us, to ruin the futures of our sons and daughters, jeopardizing the safety and prosperity of you all, my fellow patriots. And so hours ago, I issued a directive that all members of the US Intelligence Community are to be arrested, all of their assets seized, and convicted with treason. The vast majority of these enemies of our unbreakable union have already been imprisoned and are being relocated to detention facilities as we speak, where we will attempt to re-educate them to serve the public’s interest once more.


When the final prisoner arrived, David abruptly grabbed the man’s left arm.




-Yes, how did you know my name? It’s David, Captain David Smith, welcome aboard.


David had heard of the news that his son might be in danger, but he didn’t believe it until he saw the image of him with his own eyes. He slung a rucksack onto Sebastian’s back, gripped Sebastian’s right shoulder as hard as he could, and whispered.


-Under no circumstance should you take this off, son. It’s time to go home. I love you.  


After all of the prisoners had boarded David entered the cockpit where his first officer was already inputing their itinerary into the plane’s flight control system.


-Lieutenant Davis, stop what you’re doing. We’ve just received new orders. Our destination has changed.




Agape in the New Testament is the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. In Scripture, the transcendent agape love is the highest form of love and is contrasted with eros, or erotic love, and philia, or brotherly love. In John 3:16, a verse that is often described as a summary of the Gospel message, agape is the word used for the love that moved God to send his only son for the world’s redemption. The term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow humans, as the reciprocal love between God and humans is made manifest in one’s unselfish love of others.

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