The Scream (4)



The Scream (4)
by Niki Tehranchi

PART 4  (last)

There was no escape for the Screaming Man and Mona Lisa. Ruthlessly pursued by hordes of paparazzi, they desperately fled from one place to the other until they eventually had to stop. Lisa was about to give birth. Holed up at the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco, the expecting couple clasped their fingers together and began to wait. Outside, the media was waiting too. It was a siege worthy of Troy. Instead of weapons, their enemies had cameras, microphones, and wire connections.

The enigmatic Italian beauty’s belly was getting fuller by the minute. Her pains had gradually begun. Speculations abounded. Would she give birth to twins? Had she undergone an in vitro fertilization? Was the Screaming Man really the father or…?

The couple was the obsession of all the people in the world. Hope began to re-surface in people that somehow they would be okay. Things could and would, after all, go back to normal. With the Screaming Man and Mona Lisa lay the key to what had happened to all the others, the disappeared. Now that they had been found, they must be brought in. They must be questioned.

The people demanded some decisive action from their leaders. The leaders met at the General Assembly where they mulled over hundreds of draft resolutions, all in televised debates. The television stations were only too grateful to be able to air some material again over their airwaves. The people were also content to glue themselves back to their screen, watching these strange looking people debate in languages they had never heard of.

Some calm, a semblance of peace returned to the formerly warring neighborhoods of the major metropolitan cities. All eyes, all minds, were turned towards the small principality in the South of France where the siege of the two famous art icons and future parents tenaciously continued.

One day, in the early hours of dawn, Lisa woke up screaming, holding her belly. It was time. The doctors and nurses assembled. The baby slipped out quite swiftly, in a matter of seconds. They put her, a beautiful, tiny girl, in the arms of her mother. The Screaming Man, his hideously contorted mouth mercifully hidden by a hospital mask, leaned towards his new family. For the first time, a certain softness had descended into his eyes, as he looked at this delicious creature cradled in his wife’s arms.

This serene scene was violently interrupted when creatures in opaque helmets and olive fatigues burst in the door. These were U.N. soldiers, seizing the Screaming Man, Mona Lisa and their new baby in a surprise attack. Unbeknownst to the general public, a secret meeting of the world’s superpowers had yielded the inevitable conclusion that a joint military attack was the only solution to bring an end to this situation.

One of the doctors caught an indelible image with his cell phone camera, an image that ignited worldwide outrage and kept talk show hosts and political pundits feverishly busy for weeks. The image was of the newborn baby, crying out in terror as a machine gun aimed directly at her pale, pink cranium. Dark and slick, the weapon looked like a giant insect preying on its frail, fleshy victim.

The world leaders defended their actions. In emergency situations such as these, they explained, there was simply no time for fruitless debates or diplomacy. The Screaming Man, with his bulging eyes and quivering mouth, was dangerous, a real threat. There was no telling what this megalomaniac could do, would do, if not stopped. In any case, both prisoners had been arrested without so much as a scratch on their priceless heads. They were now being held in detention in Rome, awaiting their trial at the International Criminal Court.

The baby was fine too, various mouthpieces informed the world in press conferences. She was being closely monitored by the best scientists and art historians in the world at an undisclosed location, for her own safety.

In a controversial move, the ICC’s prosecution team charged the Screaming Man and his consort with genocide and other war crimes. For what could the events of the past year be interpreted as, if not for a war on the world’s most precious values, a veritable cultural genocide that had seen more bodies missing than under the Khmer Rouge regime, the chief prosecutor emotionally pleaded in her opening statement

It was now the turn of the Screaming Man to reply. Though many high profile attorneys had solicited their services to the two defendants, they had decided to represent themselves. Lisa, worn out by the recent birth and too distraught to think straight in the absence of her child, had agreed to have her spouse speak for the both of them.

The Screaming Man got up, stumbling a little at first under the glare of all the bright camera lights, dodging a few microphones clumsily dropped too close to his head. The people in the audience, the jury, the Judge even, almost imperceptibly bent their bodies towards this imposing figure, clad in his sober prison uniform.

The first surprise was the voice. It came out young and harmonious, very unlike the twisted face that it came from. At the same time, there was a weariness to it, a fatigue to his vowels, a despair to his consonants, that made one realize this was no ordinary young man talking.

“My name is Uriel.” The Screaming Man began simply. “I was born in 1910 in Oslo, Norway. But I existed long before I was captured in a painting. I existed since the beginning of time. No…”

The Screaming Man put a hand to his sweating forehead and continued.

“No, I am older than time itself. I was already wandering the universe before the concept of time even started to exist. Time is just another invention by man in his endless quest to regulate, normalize, legalize and standardize all aspects of what he calls “life.”

The Screaming Man paused again while the crowd around him murmured quite loudly.

“He is a madman.” Some whispered. Others just nodded their head. All were transfixed.

A loud knock from the Judge’s gavel restored silence and Uriel continued.

“For years, my kin and I inspired the best among you with our magnificence. Michelangelo, Ibsen, Mozart, Hafez, Rumi and so many others. We agreed to be their muse. We agreed to be captured in their paintings and sonatas, their verses and their songs. Their works of art, as you call them, were only rough translations of the unattainable light that we represented. They had caught only a glimpse of it and it was enough to almost blind them.

"For years, you watched us. Many times, you paid great tribute to us, gazing at us adoringly, kneeling down in tears, for we had touched you with our beauty. Other times, you walked listlessly before us, not even really looking at us, but nevertheless you were still affected by us. What you never knew is that we always watched you back.

"But what we saw was not splendor, it was ugliness. What we saw was not light, it was an abyss. For all the joy and happiness we brought, we only received grief and disgust in return.

"We saw you gleefully burn your kind in the incandescent flames of thousands of jubilant auto-da-fes. Cut out babies from their mothers’ wombs to use them as target practice. Greedily fight over the still warm bodies of your ancestors.

"We saw you lustily hack each other’s limbs with instruments of torture. Gorge yourself with food and wine while neighboring children with their hollow eyes hopelessly dragged their meager skin and bones away from watchful vultures, patiently biding their time.

"We saw you wash yourself with the skin from of your victims, adorn yourself with the gold and silver fillings of their teeth, enrich yourself from the tragedies that befell them. We saw you make children turn against their parents, siblings kill each other, parents drown their child from fear that their cries would alert your ruthless soldiers to their hiding place.

"Rapes celebrated. Mutilation and torture sanctified. Lies and treachery rewarded.

"We watched and watched, and kept watching as you invented new ways to maim each other, burning the skin right off your bones, drowning your lungs in acrid smoke. We did not give up. We were your only hope. We felt responsible for you.”

The Screaming Man’s voice broke at this point. He looked down and it was not difficult to see that he was trying hard not to break down completely. He turned around to look at his wife, whose smile was as constant as ever. He took a deep breath and spoke again, his voice cracking a bit.

“You accuse us of theft, kidnapping, of genocide, of I don’t know how many crimes. But the simple truth is, we all left out of our own volition. We simply could not take it anymore. You exhausted all that was good and strong in us. There was nothing left to keep us. The memories of those who so long ago managed to communicate with us became mere shadows.”

The Screaming Man’s voice became firmer.

“We came of our own volition and now we have left of our own volition. You have no right to detain us. You do not own us. We never belonged to you. It is clear now.”

An angry hiss swirled through the crowd, and then turned into full blown shouts of anger. The Judge could not bring back order to the court and as such, terminated the day’s proceedings. The Screaming Man and Mona Lisa were led away by the guards under loud boos from the audience.

The trial was speedy. The prosecution team only put half their efforts. They felt that the Screaming Man’s outrageous speech has already sealed his fate. How right they were.

With a rage akin to Caliban looking at his hideous reflection for the first time, the Jury promptly convicted the duo of all the charges and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

The Screaming Man’s indictment of humanity had succeeded where all the previous wars, religions, and nationalities had failed. It had united the people. True, they were united in their common hatred for the judgmental Uriel, but united nonetheless. The disappearance of the characters of the world of art, literature and other mediums, had a curiously positive consequence for the staggering economies of many countries. A new industry had been borne, employing thousands of formerly skill-less and down on their luck individuals: That of Character Hunter.

The people pursued their targets aggressively, with no concern over whether they would be captured dead or alive. The hunt was on. Heroes were bred and legends born. It was like a return to the Wild, Wild, West. The improving economy combined with the focus on the hunt for non-human fugitives led to a decrease in human against human crime. People were actually thriving in this brave new world. They were happy again, happier than they had ever been.

When the news came that the Mona Lisa and the Screaming Man’s baby had died while in the care of a Swiss physician at his Geneva clinic, most shrugged their shoulders, stating this was inevitable, that this child was an aberration, a creature that never ought to have been. No one bothered to check why the body was so swiftly disposed of, cremated and scattered away before a proper autopsy could be performed. Rumors of gruesome scientific experiments gone awry on the infant were dismissed as “anti-human propaganda” and thus quickly laid to rest. Accusing anyone of being “anti-human” was now the weapon of choice for silencing anyone who dared to put forward any criticism of this euphoric world that the majority enjoyed living in.

On a cold February night, Peter Bergen, the new curator of the famous Munch Museum in Oslo, stood alone before its most famous painting, long after the visitors hours had ended. Although invisible to the naked eye, the painting was imprisoned behind a new electro-laser field devised by scientists to ensure that the Screaming Man and Mona Lisa, or any other character, would never be able to escape from their frame again. As he stood there, Peter thought he could detect a desperate plea in the eyes of the creature staring back at him, his face as distorted and lugubrious as ever against the blood red sky in the background. In fact, the more he looked, the more Peter believed that the Screaming Man was trying to communicate with him, to tell him something.

“I wonder what he wants.” Peter thought to himself. “To ask about his child perhaps? Or his wife? Maybe they do have feelings like the rest of us, after all… ”

A small cough behind him startled the museum curator. It was Niels, his chief security guard, bidding him good night.

“Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?” The elder Niels inquired, looking suspiciously at the painting on the wall.

“No my dear fellow” his superior replied “In fact, I will walk out with you.”

The two men exited the salon without further chitchat. A few minutes later, the lights were turned off, the darkness falling on the Screaming Man, finally silencing him.

(The End)

>>> Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3


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very interesting story. I

by ukraini (not verified) on

very interesting story. I want to translate him into the Ukrainian language. and is there this work on farsi?

Azarin Sadegh

A masterpiece!

by Azarin Sadegh on

My dear Niki, What can I say other than it is a masterpiece! A classic! Witty, original and so contemporary...Excellent plot, melancholic voice, and an absolutely amazing protagonist! I should read it over and over to discover all the hidden meanings and its logical meaninglessness, and to enjoy its incredible absurdity. You are phenomenal my dear! Keep writing. You're made for it... Azarin

Niki Tehranchi

Merci Jahanshah Jaan

by Niki Tehranchi on

I thought I had lost my imagination when I "grew up" and it was only when I started to write for this site (with your continued encouragement) that I found I had not lost it at all, I had just misplaced it for a long time in a dusty drawer :-)

Jahanshah Javid

Original, human

by Jahanshah Javid on

This story had so many interesting aspects. The plot was brilliant -- the fact that world famous art characters just walked off in disgust. Very original, exciting, and thought provoking. I wonder what you'll come with next. Whatever it is, your gift of imagination will keep us glued to the screen.