This story is by Nicholas Killham and won an Honorable Mention in our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Nicholas is a spare-time writer from all over. He hasn’t written anything he’d like to read yet, but it’s surely coming.
The United States of cunting America just fucking tried to kill the fucking Prime Minister of cunting Australia you CUNTS.
Zac highlighted the sentence and tapped delete.
Citizens of Australia, I speak to you tonight at a crossroads for humanity. The story of man is boundless, but taking a long enough view, one can identify seismic turning points. I believe future observers will label this such a moment.
He sat back in his chair and into the storm that had swept through the vaults under Parliament House. Bodies swirled around him, a stream brushing and bumping at his elbows, voices entangled in a panicked hum. He took a breath and focused again on the keys.
Our intelligence services have uncovered, and averted, an attack on my life. The planned assassination of your Prime Minister. More disturbing still, they have provided me with evidence enough that I can say to you now, with great confidence, that this act of war was perpetrated not by a traditional foe, but an ally—The United States of America.
Zac glanced at the time. The PM would be delivering this speech outside the nation’s centre of government in a little less than twenty minutes. Calling for what, a war with history’s greatest superpower? A handwritten apology with flowers?
Yes that’s right folks, Uncle Sam screwed the pooch on this one. You know why? Because we have a bit of uranium for sale and some wrong-headed spook prick thought it might be going to China instead. When actually, as my precocious young speechwriter Zachary will tell you, that was by no means foregone. Zac in fact has written me two superlative addresses, in preparation for my decision on the matter at the conclusion of our strategic review. Unfortunately for Zac and for lovers of great oratory, neither speech will grace this world because MY DAUGHTER’S FUCKING FIANCE IS AN AMERICAN FUCKING SPY.
Delete, delete. Ten minutes left. Zac lay his forehead on the keyboard and tried to summon the enormity of the moment. Four years of courting, the media swoon, a fraudulent romance. Ill-informed pillow talk. A poisoned cheesecake baked for a lactose-intolerant world leader. Post-war alliances in tatters at the hands of a twenty-something-year-old cut-rate James Bond in flip flops and a Yankee hat.
The details of the attempted attack on our country, and its motives, must necessarily remain classified for now, in the interest of national security. I can assure you, however, that this is an unprompted, unwarranted act of aggression. I call on our remaining allies to unite alongside us, to condemn this cowardly and unlawful deed, and to explore seriously a package of diplomatic and economic sanctions. Above all, I call on you to grip with all your might the ties that bind our global community, a peaceful and prosperous brotherhood built over the past century, cemented with the blood of countless fallen and growing stronger as each new generation arrives into a world of unheralded opportunity. We must not allow a rogue nation, however strong, to lead us back into a past we’ve worked so hard to leave behind. The story of humanity is still ours to write.
Zac hit print without proofreading, stood and swerved through the throng, pushing his way through bodies to hand the paper to the Prime Minister. The clamor in the room died as he scanned the single sheet. “Good,” he said, without looking up. The sound returned like the blast of a hairdryer and Zac backed out, leaving the bunker to find his seat on the hastily-erected stage on their Parliament’s front steps.
Sitting to one side of the platform, he scoured the crowd of journalists and lawmakers, assembled on the promise of fireworks. The front row was a who’s who of the country’s political hacks—a line up of editors from The Age, The Herald, and an international contingent headlined by China Daily’s Australian correspondent.
The Prime Minister arrived flanked by security and senior aides, waving the audience back into their seats as they stood to receive him. His entourage split and he took-centre stage, laying Zac’s words before him on the lectern.
“Citizens of Australia, I speak to you tonight at a crossroads for humanity …”
Zac turned back to the crowd, tremoring with the electricity of the moment and primed for real-time reaction to the most important thing he’d ever write.
“The story of man is boundless, but taking a long enough view, one can identify seismic turning points.”
Less than a paragraph in, Zac felt a breath-stealing dread that he’d lost the audience. The crowd was shuffling, heads turning sideways, a tidal shift entirely independent of Zac’s eloquence and wit. It took him a moment, then he found the missing puzzle piece—an empty chair and China Daily’s man in Canberra missing from view.
The air exploded.
The noise echoed off the building’s stone walls, back across the audience, sending them running scattered around the man-made lake and down the grass slope away from the Parliament. Zac half sat in his chair, seconds passing as he processed the scene on stage.
The lectern was empty and the Prime Minister’s security team were hunched over, shouting into radios and orchestrating patterns in the chaos. Thoughtless, Zac found himself above the bundle of guards, looking for a line of sight through the bodies to what he knew lay beneath.
The mess spun as he waited for the confirmation, then a glimpse of blood and fabric hit him like a train. Falling sideways, he caught the lectern and spun to give it his full weight. A wave of sick rose through his legs to his mouth, but his vision crystallized on the wooden surface, a shard of his speech pinned to the top but his words torn and gone.