15th November 2022
6 minutes read
The Last Terrorist
translated by Owen Good
15th November 2022
6 minutes read
According to Kaminszki, the Loopers’ numero uno, the desire to timehike was a desire for an age’s technical limitations. Enough digitalization, back to the barbarian semi-analog times! Pining for the past was nothing more than longing to hand ourselves over to the past’s physical circumstances. If anyone knew, it was him.
“No basic piece of retro,” he added, then tossed the coronation orb in the back seat. The metal sphere bounced once, landed on the floor, and rolled under the driver’s seat.
“Christ,” another Looper stifled a yelp, “is it still sacred if he tosses it about?”
“No better place for it!” snapped Kaminszki,
getting into his own car, another Alma Futura, and drove off into the neurotic, afternoon traffic.
“How seriously should I take him?” I asked Gyökeres.
“Kaminszki? He’s the biggest troll there is! He gets all his crap from sitcoms but don’t think he doesn’t stand by it. Everything he says – I mean everything – is deadly serious!”
“Thanks, I’ll bear that in mind,” I said. If I’ve learned one thing in my line of work it’s that if somebody lets themselves be filmed, they must want to send a message. Otherwise, what would be the point?
After Kaminszki left, most of the company scattered, while I stayed with Gyökeres, he had the most usable material, a still unraveling, mythical story. We were driving across the bridge towards District 12 when the car radio switched to breaking news and broadcast the latest NatInfo.
“By dawn the streets of the capital were filled with thousands of placards picturing a Rubik’s Cube in dark, autumn pastels, above the words: “EVERYTHING I SAID ABOUT MY FATHER, I SAID ABOUT THE COUNTRY.”
Gyökeres grinned. NatInfo still gave me a weird feeling.
“I wonder when they’ll ditch their current grant-funded scriptwriters,” because that’s how it was. One bad analogy was enough, one connection overlooked and these talented national copywriters could sling their hooks. And would end up in an outer District 8 deli, brewing specialty coffee and buttering egg bagels. A while ago I could have applied for a position in radio. My academic friend had paved the way for me and then asked:
“Would it be problematic for you politically?” I said it wouldn’t. But I didn’t go for it. My girlfriend and I had agreed that in itself it wouldn’t have been political, it wasn’t even a position. And besides,
where would the consistency be if out of principle I didn’t accept this little public money, only to later protest its unlawful distribution?
The newsreader continued casually, moving on to general matters, incidentally to politics:
“An analysis of the words written on the placards is still to come, but according to certain inside sources the situation may be serious. The text may reveal a mindset which for years we’ve kept contained, quashed, extinguished, but now is showing signs of life. The act of terrorism was claimed by the Loop Group.”
“The what…?” shouts Gyökeres. “They still can’t get our name right…”
“It’s intentional. Their best card is to snub you. It’s a good sign.”
“They’re scared of you. It’s for the audience. If the plebs believe you’re so insignificant your name could be ‘mispronounced’, it’s an open-and-shut case.”
Gyökeres started to cool down. He lit up a red Symphonia. My jaw dropped. Finally something from the past.
“Did that come from there too? Can I see it?”
He nodded. I was sweating. I asked for one. We smoked the socialist-era cigarettes together.
Gyökeres exhaled characteristically. Real smokers don’t play with the smoke. Everyone is different, true. “Not long ago, someone chalked a line from an Endre Ady poem on the wall of the Astoria. We got the blame… but they should know better, we’re not that cheap.”
I laughed but said nothing. What does it matter anyway, I thought. I wanted to know how everything was connected.
Placards, poetry, the Rubik’s cube, and the orb.
That’s right! It was somewhere in the back of the car. Supposedly Kaminszki chose the Alma Futura because nobody would think to look there. It’s easiest to hide things in plain view, a trademark of his smuggling work.
From the very beginning I had to vow not to question the operations. I could watch, I could record, but I wasn’t allowed to see the inner workings because the effect would be lost. As Kaminszki said: it’s time for the present. So it was, the Futura’s interior was for me merely a source of comedy and a purple haze. From the passenger’s seat I could try to reach under Gyökeres and inspect the package but I’d rather not screw with him.
Still: the Rubik’s cube! I was certain it would be the key to the riddle. The Rubik’s cube as a tesseract of the country’s mindset. But what does the quotation mean? EVERYTHING I SAID ABOUT MY FATHER, I SAID ABOUT MY COUNTRY.
Meanwhile Gyökeres shifted up a gear. He turned sharply off the bridge, then headed north along the Danube.
After an abrupt change of lanes, I got back to work.
“Surely not Jablonka?” I asked.
Gyökeres grinned. Jablonka, indeed. Stupid question.
“Okay!” I said. I might as well change the battery in my device, I thought, and then pressed the docking station onto the car’s electricity source. This was an elite district after all.
Halfway the radio tunes in again. It regurgitates the usual messages:
We are Earth’s last hope.
“I don’t get this sudden change of perspective. Since when are we interested in Earth?”
“Take it at face value, it fits their narrative flawlessly,” corrects Gyökeres, “It’s purely the nation-state striving for totality! The point is that the outside world doesn’t enter our own, and that we rule the outside world.”
I understood the hardline local’s viewpoint, I just wanted a pureblood Looper to say it on camera.
We turn at the Jablonka Center’s car park, Root shifts down, and steps on the gas, when I notice his expression has become stern.
“Ever play the Pancho Simulator?”
“Don’t stress! I can follow you but I can’t cover you. I’m neutral by principle, you know,” I crossed all ten fingers.
“It’s not a game, Little Detective. If you don’t know the ropes, say goodbye to your teeth. So? Pancho?”
“Investigative Journalist. Okay. I’ll follow you, it’s all good,” I answered, then lazily knocked the charging docking station between my legs.
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Máté MakaiMore about the author
Owen GoodMore about the translator