However, if I were going to release only one short story from HM as a single, "The Caliphate" would definitely be it.
To begin with, this story, while speculative in nature, is unique in that it technically fits into the espionage/political fiction category. (Most of the stories in Hay Moon--including the title piece--are horror/supernatural stories.)
"The Caliphate" is set in the near future, in which an Islamist terrorist group has smuggled nuclear weapons into the Toronto, Canada area, and has established a fledging Islamic republic.
The story focuses on two college friends---Phil Scherer and Marty Frazier--who must deal with their status as collaborators. Both have been inducted into the Islamic Guard, an organization that has been charged with implementing the rules and restrictions of the new regime. The conflict occurs when one of these young men decides to mount his own private rebellion against the Islamists.
Opening pages of "The Caliphate"
a short story
by Edward Trimnell
Marty Frazier stopped to adjust the shoulder strap of his Uzi before heading down the long, gleaming expanse of Concourse A. Although he had been in the Ontario Islamic Guard for more than eighteen months now, he found that he was still uncomfortable with weapons—especially the automatic and semiautomatic kinds. He took a few steps forward before stopping once more—no doubt looking awkward by now—and double-checked the gun’s safety. The terminal was packed with what passed for Monday morning congestion these days, and Marty was taking no chances.
The sight of young men with guns had become commonplace over the past three years, and most of the passersby in Toronto International Airport didn’t even give him a second glance. Nonetheless, he kept deliberately to the side of the concourse, beyond the main flow of pedestrian traffic. Despite the authority that his gun and his uniform conveyed, he was almost shy about displaying either. Especially the gun. So far he had never had an occasion to draw the weapon in a threatening manner, and that was just fine with him.
He spotted Phil Scherer in the distance through the crowd, walking in the opposite direction on the far side of the concourse. Marty held his hand high in the air and waved. Phil acknowledged the wave with a nod, and veered toward him. Phil was also wearing a Guard uniform, and carrying an automatic weapon of his own. People stepped aside to give him a wide berth as he threaded his way through the crowd.
Marty leaned casually against the wall and waited. The airport loudspeaker crackled overhead. It was the midmorning call to prayer, which most Ontario residents still ignored. What else did Harb expect? The announcements were in Arabic after all, which almost no one in the Canadian province understood. Just the other day Ali had asked his opinion about reading the announcements in English. Marty had replied that English-language summons to prayer were an excellent idea.
Marty smiled as Phil drew near, but Phil’s gloomy expression was unwavering.
“Anything going on?” Marty asked.
“Nope. A quiet one today. What about you?”
“Nothing so far.”
“If we’re lucky it’ll stay that way.”
“You said it. Insha Allah.”
Phil stiffened and glared at him. Marty immediately realized that his last two words had been a mistake. He began to say more, but Phil cut him off with a wave of his hand. He stepped closer, until the two of them stood no more than a foot apart.
“Don’t quote the Quran at me.” Phil spoke in a low, raspy voice, just above a whisper. “We’ve had this conversation before, haven’t we? After all, it’s not like Ali’s here.”
Marty was taken aback. He and Phil had been friends at the university. In fact, Phil had acquired his position in the Ontario Islamic Guard through Marty’s connections.
Moreover, Marty was Phil’s squad leader. He could technically write him up for insubordination, if he wanted to.
But that wasn’t Marty’s style—especially not with a friend. “It’s not exactly the Quran,” Marty explained. “Insha Allah just means, ‘God willing.’ That’s all.”
“I don’t care what it means.” Phil looked over his shoulder, making sure that no one was standing within earshot. “Look, let’s just drop it, okay? You know I don’t like to talk their line when it isn’t absolutely necessary.”
“Fair enough.” Marty did not want to argue. “But speaking of Ali, he wants to have a meeting with us at one-thirty this afternoon. In the office downstairs. Room 115. That’s why I called you over.”
“What’s it about?”
Marty shrugged. “Beats me.”
Phil hesitated. “All right,” he finally said. “I’ll be there, I guess.”
Now that was an interesting way to respond to an order from Ali. Marty raised his eyebrows at Phil as if to say, It’s not like it’s optional.
Marty was eager to let Phil go on his way. Although they were still friends, there was a certain quality about Phil that sometimes made him uncomfortable. Since Phil had joined the Ontario Islamic Guard, Marty had detected a growing ripple of barely restrained rage just below the other young man’s surface. He didn’t believe that Phil would ever turn on him, but he wasn’t eager to put this belief to the test.
“Well, Phil, I’ll see you at 1:30 downstairs.”
“I’ll see you then.” The muscles in Phil’s throat were visibly tense. “Bye.”
Marty watched Phil walk away until he became lost in the flow of people. He shook his head and pulled two coins from his pants pocket. Good old inscrutable Phil. He had to play the tough guy routine to the last, didn’t he? Phil was an ex-high school wrestling champ who could seemingly bluff any guy who challenged him, or—for that matter—charm any girl he wanted.
Well, that might have been important before. But it didn’t mean a thing in the Islamic Republic of Ontario. Did Phil even realize this?.......