OPERATION PHANTOM FURY
Written by Paul Laverty
(For all those who will not be remembered today, 11th September 2011, tenth anniversary.)
YEAR – 2030. SOME RUN DOWN BAR:
A tough looking burnt out character, (EX-SOLDIER) someone who has been living rough, with deep raspy voice, thick Scottish accent, and around 50, (someone with an edgy presence and great energy) wanders on to the stage, he is in some run down bar, with just the barest shadows/silhouettes of other ghostly figures present which we can’t clearly distinguish.
Hauntingly, deliberately, he begins to whistle the first few lines of ‘A Scottish Soldier’. Then complete silence again till a screen in the bar (some futuristic screen equivalent of a juke box) suddenly bursts into the jolly and sentimental version of the same song, sung by Andy Stewart, hair greased back, kilt swaying, with even a Saltire fluttering on a castle turret behind him…
Please watch this video clip.
[Singing, eyes staring into the camera] There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier, Who wandered far away and soldiered far away, There was none bolder, with good broad shoulder, He’s fought in many a fray, and fought and won. He’s seen the glory, and told the story, of battles glorious, and deeds neforious, but now he’s sighing, his heart is crying to leave those green hills of Tryol… FADE…
The figure on stage, looks round at the frozen picture of Andy Stewart stuck with his mouth still open… and smiles.
Fuckin’ break yer heart that man wouldn’t it? Nuthin like a wee song and dram tae git yi going again eh? (Pause) Ah wuz that soldier… Ah’ve seen the fuckin glory a’ right…Ah’ve got a wee story fir yis a’ right… But first things first…
Shouting, out of all proportion.
Ah blame the parents!!… Fucks sake… they were well warned, spelt oot so even a fuckin Arab could catch on… [quietly] Ah remember like it was yesterday. ‘Nae shaggin!!!’ It’s no fuckin hard tae understand is it? Dead easy… thou shall not shag!… If yi didnae want weans… keep yir tadger tae yersel… Nae shaggin! Nae weans! Nea problem!…[as if it is clear] Ah rest my case!
Kitchen equipment… [chuckling to himself] it’s fuckin hilarious man… it a’ started wi delivery o’ kitchen equipment… Falluja, Iraq, 2004… remember they American contractors who got lost in Falluja? Doon the wrong street, roon the wrong corner, mobbed by the Rag Heids, pulled fir their motors, stripped, torn, lynched and hung fae a bridge as they delivered a set of fuckin cupboards… that’s heroic eh?
Ah still hid life in me then… Falluja, Iraq, 25 years ago… as Ah saw those bodies sway I knew it wouldnie be long… [inhaling deeply] It’s the only word I know yi can smell, and by Christ did it stink…
‘VENGEANCE’… it’s a word yi can feel tae, sort o nasty, rumblin’ in yer gut… Ah’m no a wordy prick but the chaplain gave me a wee quote that stuck in ma heid… didnae understand it then… ‘Before you start your journey of revenge, dig two graves.’ Confucius. But Ah’ll let yi intae a wee secret… armies never use a smelly word… like aftershave, words give away yer position man, so they baptised it (snapping to attention) ‘OPERATION PHANTOM FURY!’ That’s no a joke by the way. That’s a real hard-on o’name eh? Or if yi say it like this… [gently] ‘Phantom Fury’… sleek, elegant, like a panther.. .[drifting]… So long ago noo.. Fuck ma memory’s goin… Yi see… Ah breathed in some o’ the shit tae… and Ah git mixed up… Effects yer brain that dust does…
But Ah still blame the fuckin parents!! Did Ah tell yi that?
(As if pleading, upset)
If they would have just listened tae their ain fuckin doctors… they were well told man. ‘Nae shaggin’…
(Struggling to concentrate)
Anyway… me and my fellow squaddies had a grand view o’ Operation Phantom Fury… We were sent North tae back up the Gringos, cut aff the ‘rat runs’ o’ the Rag Heids… Dogwood camp, no far fae Falluja… and whit a show the Yanks put oan man… They know how to put oan a show… bombed the fuckin place tae smithereens…
Noo this is where Ah’ve got to git a bit technical… life is in the ‘detail’ as the devil well knows… It’s a’aboot ‘penetration’… the army is really big on ‘penetration’… Wee question fir yis… What flies faster than superman but is 1.7 times denser than lead? What burns at 10,000 degrees Centigrade on impact? What slices through armoured metal and fries the bastards inside? What penetrates a bunker where the forces of evil wank in the dark? [Really asking the audience] Well, whit is it?…
(If no answer)
‘Depleted Uranium Munitions… DU ordinance’… No as thick as Ah look eh?
We drapped thousands o’ tons of the shit… Remember that small fry slimy wee dick Geoff Hoon, Minister o’ Defence? ‘Astonishingly effective’ he said…Yeah, ‘astonishingly’ so… But just one teeny weenie wee problem they kept under their caps.. it’s fuckin’ radioactive in’t… and on impact 70% vaporises, turns into dust including uranium oxide… which has a half life of 4.5 billion years…That’s a fuckin long time even fir a mountain… so every round, tens o’thousands o’ the bastards over the years, fae tanks tae canons, vaporising, spreading the shite on every puff o’ wind… and turning the cradle o’ civilisation intae one big dirty bomb site festering wi cancer… and that’s whit did it fir me… breathed in a’ the superman dust in fabulous multicoloured Falluja…
Sudden, spitting it out again, unconnected.
Ah blame their fucking parents!!… But there’s nae proof by the way nae proof at a’… just like there wuz nae proof o’ Agent Orange, nae proof of Gulf War syndrome… a’ ‘idle speculation’… so when a’ the dust had settled so tae speak and Ah went hame Ah began tae feel like shite man… me and thousands o’ others… ma memory is fucked up noo… and that’s the best part of me…
Another long pause.
Ah’d be a liar if Ah said Ah didnae feel sorry for masel… but yi know whit?… Ah learnt this in the army… misery is fuckin relative… yi lose a leg and yi feel shite… Yi meet yer buddy who lost his bollocks and yi feel like hoppin up and doon on yer stump wi delight… So Ah felt like an Olympic Champion ready fir a marathon when Ah saw whit happened next…
Long sighs as he pulls himself together.
That’s when it started man… that’s when it started… The Phantoms… The Phantom Furies For Real… they picked a right good name… Ah’m no fuckin mental by the way… No Hollywood Phantoms… None o’ that pussy post traumatic stress shite in the delicate corners of ma wee mind… Ah mean real genuine flesh and blood fuckin Phantoms carried for nine months by the women of Falluja… real labour, real legs spread apart, real childbirth… and then the fucking screams… no o’ the mothers… no o’ the bairns… but o’ the midwives because of whit was cradled in their arms… yeah… wee fuckin Phantom Furies for real!
The ex-soldier spins round to confront the screen.
Above, replacing Andy Stewart, we see the photograph of a child, with misshapen and shocking head, out of all proportion to the tiny and what seems like scalded body, and made to look even more horrific by the bulbous feet at the end of match-stick legs…
Imagine pittin’ that tae yer breast man?… That wid test a mother’s love eh?
Other shocking photographs are shown on screen.
Ah’m no exactly a Mother Teresa by the way… But Ah did feel sorry fir the poor wee sods…Ah mean… they were still runnin aroon in their Da’s baws or their Ma’s Fallopian tubes in Falluja of 2004… they wurnie even born when we turned it tae dust… Ah,smell that word again?… Maybe that’s whit got me?… They wurnie even born… our wee gift tae the future… Then mair o’the wee Phantoms kept popping oot like an army o’the Damned…
We see more real photographs of Falluja new born.
…some even had two heids… bumpy heids… half a heid… a few cyclops tae wi just one eye… intestines ootside instead o’ inside, half a brain where it shoudnie be… a few crackers there eh? Extra digits… six fingers here six fingers there… ok if yi want tae play the flute, but no much good if yi didnae want to terrify the neighbours… But nae proof mind! Did Ah say?… Hiv yi noticed that?… When Squaddies or Rag Heids, or Grunts or slanty eyed Vietnamese git fucked there isnae any proof… ever! ‘Idle speculation’!!… Experts told us it could have been caused by the water, by the inadequate nutrition, or by STRESS… stress it seems is greatly underestimated… why didn’t these fuckin stupid ‘mithers to be’ dae a wee bit o’ yoga… or sign up fir a Pilates class when they found oot they were up the duff?.. It’s no as if there is a shortage o’ mats in the Middle east for fucks sake… Soon the question wuznie, Is it a boy? Is it a girl? It was, (pause) Is it normal? What shape is the heid? How many eyes? How many fingers… are its insides, inside?
Moment of silence.
Ah couldnie git these fuckin’ weans oot o’ ma heid man! So thank Christ, at long last, somebody had some common sense… That’s when their ain doctors told them… stoap hivin weans!.. Stop shaggin… but did they listen?… No, did they fuck… Now dae yi get me!?… Ah blame the parents!
He stares up at the empty screen.
…This is the wan Ah keep seeing… ‘The Commander’ Ah ca him! Top Spastic Spongy Feet Number1!… Close up Ah see him… he’s always the first to crawl ontae his flying carpet as night time falls…
On screen, a figure takes shape – We see the hideous figure of a real baby, ‘The Commander’, sitting propped up on a magic carpet, with goggles on, Biggles like, flying through the sky.
…then Ah pan roon to see his buddies, Phantom Furies, thousands o’ the wee bastards mount their magic carpets tae… the humpity backed, the one eyed… the mangled the twisted… (more disturbed) then the buzzin in ma heid nearly kills me as they take off and come straight fir me like we did tae them… intestines trailing as they speed through the night a’ six fingers on each hand gripping their flying carpets… What a buzzin in ma heid man… always at night… dive bombin me as Ah try to brush ma teeth… wee fuckers git inside ma pajamas, under the covers… Up ma nose, up ma hole… inside ma brain… And then intae ma fuckin soul man,[pause] and that’s no a nice place… Ah can feel them drone inside me noo… Jesus Christ nae fuckin peace ever once yi meet the future…
Long pause as he heads to the edge of the stage.
(Slowly, emphatically, torn, barely holding it together)
We fucked their weans man… that’s the truth… No just then… but intae the future tae… Ah did this…
But who sent me?… And who paid for it? Eh? Ah wuz an altar boy before learning tae kill… ‘whoever would harm one of these little ones, it would be better for him if he had a heavy weight fastened about his neck and thrown into the sea…’
Sometimes Ah wish, with all ma heart, that wuz true…
Silence for a moment.
(Cheery) Am Ah mistaken, or is there a bit of negativity in the air? Nuthin like a wee song and dram to cheer us up… Ah’d like to ask yi one and all, to unburden yersels and forget we financed all this, and join me in a little song…
As the ex-soldier sings the song, the silhouetted shapes in the bar come to life… Some have enlarged heads, some have two heads. Others have misshapen backs and twisted bodies, but as they dance they sing in background harmony to the soldier’s raspy version of the song…
On screen: ‘The Commander’ lip syncs some harmony and, like a swarm of bees, other flying carpets with the mutilated fly into formation behind him, like the Red Arrows…
Our ex-soldier, as close as he can get to Andy Stewart, hips slightly swaying, jauntily belts out the song as the army of Furies croon along in harmony too…
And now this soldier, this Scottish soldier, Who wandered far away and soldiered far away, Sees leaves are falling and death is calling, And he will fade away, in that far land. He called his piper, his trusty piper, And bade him sound a lay, a pibroch sad to play, Upon a hillside, a Scottish hillside, Not on these green hills of Tyrol. (Building to chorus) Because these green hills are not highland hills, Or the island hills, they’re not my land’s hills And fair as these green foreign hills may be They are not the hills of home. And so this soldier, this Scottish soldier, Will wander far no more and soldier far no more, And on a hillside, a Scottish hillside, You’ll see a piper play his soldier home.
He’d seen the glory, he’d told his story, Of battles glorious and deeds victorious, The bugles cease now, he is at peace now, Far from those green hills of Tyrol.
The Shadows drift off and Furies disappear from screen.
The ex-soldier starts to whistle the song again, ever so gently, then walks off as the notes fade…
A shout from the back.
11th September 2011