There was a man who was infiltrating the unlocked homes of strangers, armed with only a portable audio device. Once inside the home, the man concealed himself in an unoccupied room and covertly increased the volume of his device to full power. When he pressed play, the device unleashed a one-minute-and-thirty-second-long recording of an assault rifle opening fire, ten years previously, on shoppers at a crowded mall in Davenport, Iowa. The attacker’s objective was twofold: first, in the short-term, he wished to inflict on his victims feelings of panic and fear. Second, in the long-term, he hoped to injure his victims’ sense of security at home and in public, which he was able to do, invariably, to great effect.
For three weeks, the attacker, Liam Manning, 23, an unemployed white male with the equivalent of an associate degree in welding from New Castle School of Trades, terrorized the denizens of Crawford and Venango counties. Then, finally, one night, Manning was captured. He was interrogated by police. They asked him, Why?
“Why would you prey upon the innocent? Don’t you realize people can’t sleep at night because of you? They can’t relax in their homes in front of the television. They can’t jog in the park or go grocery shopping without feeling as if they might be ambushed, at any moment, by a gunman.”
Manning shrugged. “The way I see it,” he explained, “I’m a first-class terrorist. All these other guys are schmoes, chumps, amateurs. I don’t need to shoot anybody. All I have to do is play a little recording.” The police locked Manning up in a state penitentiary where he awaited trial.
Six days later, a man wielding a portable audio device of similar design interrupted a showing of The Magnificent Seven at a movie theater in Guthrie, Oklahoma after unleashing a recording of the same sounds of public melee employed by Manning during his spree in Pennsylvania. As members of the audience scrambled for the exits, the attacker munched popcorn and slurped on a soft drink in his stadium-style seat replete with reclining mechanism and dual cup holders, awaiting the arrival of police.
The following Monday, a nine-year-old boy in Indiana, Pennsylvania played the recording in an elementary school cafeteria and two children, both boys, were life-flighted to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh for what at first appeared to be myocardial infarctions.
“There is no rhyme or reason to the motives of these criminals,” Chief of Indiana, Pennsylvania Police, Rod Mirth, announced at a press conference. “There’s no way to predict an attack such as those being suffered by people in communities across the country.”
Chief Mirth could share the information, however, that according to sources, each of the attackers, including the elementary-school-aged boy, had downloaded the audio weapon off of the Internet at a cost of $0.99.
About the Author
Sam Leuenberger’s fiction has appeared also in The Gravity of the Thing, Fourth & Sycamore, and is forthcoming in Glint. He lives north of Pittsburgh, PA where he has written and directed three one-act plays and (sort of) continues to teach. He cuts grass and runs a weedwhacker for Thompson Lawn Care, for whom he has worked ten seasons.