Anthony sat looking at a heavy drizzle of rain through the large glass window at the forefront of “Pebbles” café. He was in a limbo of emotion, detached from this wintry scene. It was as if he was suspended between two perfectly balanced tendencies, not knowing whether to mourn or to rejoice. It was for the moment peaceful. Like sitting on a mountain top, resting, before the descent.
He had just come from an interview. No, interview was the wrong word – “initiation” came to mind as he supped his tea. All through his life he had observed the rules. Aspiring to the ideals of truth, freedom of speech, fair play and hard work but it never seemed to capture the success he dreamed of in his career as author and radio presenter. He knew he had as much talent as some of his peers and in recent times took time to reflect on his position. Yes he realized that he lacked some of the ingratiation skills to endear himself to those who seemed to have the power to promote him further but nevertheless felt that they should have had the intelligence to rise above such shallowness. Yet up to the most recent times this approach had reaped little reward and this had worn away at his moral fibre until one day he swore to acquire a more mercenary approach to his life and career. Yet at his moral core there remained an unshakable tendency to revert to his old principles. About one month previously he sat in this very café nurturing this newly acquired descent into disillusionment and resentment when he was approached by an elderly grey-haired and bearded man whose name was Michael. He offered to help him break through the rut in which he floundered and to get him accepted into the inner circle of the less well known “Presenters Guild”.
“You must in return, report to me every detail of what transpires during the course of the next series of events if you accept this one time offer and if you are successful .”
Anthony searched his face some tell-tale sign of this stranger’s motivation or emotional status but could not find anything behind his placid soft gaze and unwavering eyes.
“If you know so much about this – group – organisation or whatever, then why do I have to act like a double agent?”
“The only danger will be that of being ostracised by your peers and considering your present predicament it won’t be altogether that much different from where you are right now. As to my reasons they need not concerned you.”
Despite the subterfuge here was a semblance of truth in his words and Anthony decided there and then to go with this cosmic play.
“You’ve got a deal then although I’m curious as to why I’ve been picked for this venture.”
“We’ve quite a way to go yet so let’s allow events unfold as they may. I’ll arrange for us to meet again to begin your briefing sessions.”
They arose and shook hands and he departed.
For Anthony the events that followed that meeting seemed surreal to say the least.
A letter had arrived by post to his apartment two days previous and requested him to attend a meeting hosted by the media Presenter’s Guild in Piperhall Manor this morning.
This was the promised opportunity Michael had spoken about.
“Piperhall” was an old period residence fronted by a long driveway lined with trees whose branches intermittently arched across giving sections of light and shadow until you arrived at the large wooden, half open doorway at its entrance. There he was greeted by a man dressed in a grey suit who beckoned him through a hallway and up a stairs to the entrance of a room overlooking the gardens outside. Three men whose faces Anthony recognised sat at a large table at the other end of the room. At the threshold the usher placed a hand on his arm and bade him to wait at the doorway. There was a quite formality about the entire procedure.
“Neophyte Anthony you have been monitored by your peers and hence accepted our invitation to join the Order of Presenters. This is your initiation. Are you prepared and willing to be tested on your commitment and knowledge of the philosophy and purpose of the Order from this portal onwards?”
“Yes I am prepared and willing.”
“Then repeat the Holy Mantra and advance and be seated before your peers”
“Gloria in Excellus Media”
Anthony walked the length of the room and seated himself on a draped wooden seat. He began to worry slightly that he hadn’t taken Michaels tutoring seriously enough. Somewhere there had been scepticism as to the ultimate reality of this affair that caused him to be a little reluctant to throw himself fully into the learning. However now was not the time for doubts, so he decided to continue as if in total confidence and commitment?
The man on the right lent forward and smiled.
“For today, the guardians of this portal to success and fame in return for your dedication to the order and its goals and ambitions are from my right: Rhino the advocate, chairing the meeting Patrixo and myself, the tabulator. My name is Jocifus. You are welcome.”
The others nodded and muttered their greetings.
“Can you recite the Neophytes confession?”
“Confiteor Media impotenti. Beato Patrixo Archangelo, beato Jocifus babtistae, Sanctis apostalis Rhino et Marinome, et omnibus Scantis quia ……….
“Enough.” Said Patrixo, while raising his hand. “We generally accept that neophytes know their Confiteor and you seem to be no exception. Tell me why you wish to be initiated into the guild of master presenters if you’re confessing your short-comings to an “impotent” media? ”
Michael had admonished Anthony that this question was at the heart of the Guilds mission statement and it was essential that his answer would satisfy his interviewers today.
“It is the ultimate paradox which we aspiring presenters must embrace. Media is of its nature impotent! It is the grand illusion of this technological age and perhaps it has replaced religion as the opiate of the people. It is not real. It is the pied piper leading the masses with its enchantments and clever spells. As a reflection of what is real or newsworthy it is as impotent as a corpse.”
“Then it is also glorious and as profoundly potent as God himself. In the hands of our corporate and political leaders it can be used for the greater good to lead the masses towards order and sophistication. It advances the goals and aspirations of those with the wisdom, education and experience to lead society to ever greater glory for the good of all mankind. It can rally the troops to whatever cause will promote these projects or quell the rumblings of sedition with the potency of Merlin’s magic or put them to sleep like a master hypnotist.”
He noticed a subtle smile cross the lips and eyes of Jocifus as he jotted eagerly in his oversized ledger. He hoped his poetical waxing hadn’t been over-done. Was it a look of satisfaction or derision?
“Tell what do you believe about the world’s affairs neophyte?” asked Patrixo.
“What do I believe? I believe the news and am guided by the presenters who are the priests and gurus of the new millennium. I believe in justifiable wars and the heroic actions and honourable deaths of the warriors of our uniformed brigades. I believe in our struggle against terrorism and al-Qaeda.
I believe that Osama bin Laden brought down the twin towers and influenced the collapse of the third. I believe he was buried at sea.
And I believe in global warming and that genetically modified food which is the present and future hope for the starving millions. And I believe that the scare mongering, disinformation and controversy surrounding the agrichemical industries could throw us back into the Middle Ages.
I believe the best chance of surviving cancer is to cooperate with the consultants and take the medicine.
I believe that fluoride strengthens your teeth and vaccines keep us safe from disease and biochemical attack from foreigners and a myriad of diseases.
I believe that landing on the moon was the greatest achievement of the last millennium and that the drug industry is on the brink of solving the bee colonies collapsing and …”
“And do you reject conspiracy theorists” interjected Jocifus in a somewhat excited tone and leaning forward almost lifting himself out of his chair.”
“And all their works” said Rhino raising his two hands in the air.
“Yes, yes I do”
There was a short silence while each gathered his thoughts. Jocicifus began to write again and Patrixo nodded to Rhino.
“Lastly” said Rhino composing himself and allowing his excitement to return to a more serious presentation with a furrow between his eyebrows.
“Can you describe what strategies you might use to deal with those characters who might try to lure you into allowing them to use the public airways to promote their own nefarious and personal agendas?”
“Well a few common ones come to mind. Firstly one can always ask them if this opinion they have is a conspiracy theory. Most people don’t like it when you say this and become defensive and begin to water down their approach.”
“Proper order too” came a low retort from Rhino.
“Then I might say that society at large does not agree with them or perhaps that this discussion is for another day or better still that we’ve discussed this at length already and that we’re not going to go over it all again. Also these individuals have websites and our researchers almost always find a link that leads to another link that suggests some subterfuge or another. Then at the end of it all I always say that ‘I’m merely doing my job sussing out the quacks from the professionals”
“I like it!” retorted Rhino glancing towards Patrixo.
“Would you have any opinion of your own?” asked Patrixo.
“Well here we are at the kernel of the matter. Our leaders have always taught us to forego our egos in favour of the higher good. In our capacity as professionals do we not have to do the same? Like a policeman our job is to uphold the law, not to question it. Ours is to present, not to question the higher deliverances of the peers. We may use our discretion on the lower planes but leave the higher ones to those who know.
“How do you mean” enquired Patrixo.
“We may discuss the history but not the creators of it. We may discuss al-Qaeda and where they hide but never their innocence. We may discuss the need for medical services but never the efficacy of the treatments. We may discuss the influences that brought us to war but not those who profit from it. We may discuss the colony collapse of the bees but never anecdotal causes no matter how obvious. It is not for us to indulge in any critical thought but to be true presenters of our higher governance for the greater good and the public order – embracing the original paradox – omnipotence and impotence.”
Again there was a short silence as they threw knowing glances and nods in each other’s direction, then back to Anthony. Patrixo stood up.
“By the power invested in me as the chair of this initiation I now, by unanimous agreement, deem you prepared to pass into the inner higher realms of the guild of media presenters. Congratulations.”
They all arose and without further formalities they were gone and Anthony was escorted to the door.
His tea was now cold and the drizzle of rain outside had cleared. His phone rang, it was Michael.