They Found Saddam Hussein
They found Saddam Hussein.

They found him lying, sprawled, in the cellar beneath his presidential palace. The strings were hanging limp from his hands, and his face was buried in a puddle of clear goo. An open trapdoor above him.

His head was empty. Not just empty, but actually hollow - it had no back, and was made of a material like flesh-coloured plastic, about a centimetre thick. You could see all the features of his cheeks in monochrome inverse from the back. Nobody would touch him to roll him over, at first - all fascinated by the head.

The eyes, empty holes - eyeballs lying some distance away, separated, dry marble-like rocklike orbs. Wireless, tubeless marbles, with iris and pupil widened slightly.

... and somewhere in a dark secret room, a secret darkroom as point of fact, deep in the bowels of the Pentagon, Cheney and Rumsfeldt replace the Ever Ready batteries at the base of Bush's skull, and begin a little gentle repair work with the soldering iron ...

They did eventually take Saddam away. The body was certainly his, anyway, and nobody seemed inclined to look for the rest of his head, almost certainly from part-fear of finding it... so they scraped up the goo from beneath his face, from on the tiles, with test tubes and radiation suits and gloves, and flew it to laboratories for testing.

Of course, no conclusion was reached, other than that it was goo. Some of it had changed colour by the time the labs had received it; some had turned green and glowed in the dark, some had become slightly pink and was now of biological origin, although no-one was quite sure what; some had evaporated and become helium alone; and some had vanished completely.

Hordes of experts ran their fingers, instruments and minds over the face - they too found it impossible to agree on what it was. It was, they proclaimed, some kind of polymeric plastic, but were unable to decide what. It changed, they said, from day to day. Even though, in a strict world, that were impossible.

So those in charge ignored the experts, and as an interim measure, placed the face on display in the room it had been found in. They left the original lighting intact, these dark yellow bulbs embedded in the walls, and the blackened beams in the roof; this room so out of place, so strangely terrifying with that - thing - on a table, eyeless looking at you...

... and at 10 Downing Street, London, Tony Blair stared blackly into the shaving mirror with upturned lips. He always seemed to be smiling, and hated it, but couldn't change it - was just the way his face was made. He brought his long, sharp steel razor to the glass and looked at its reflection in wonder, and think whether if he cut his lips or cheeks off he could look more sorrowful, whether the blood would help, or whether he was just after the pain...

So it sat there, being displayed as a kind of dreadful warning, while the scientists fussed and told people not to touch it - but the inevitable will happen - and when a few American troops came by, there was nobody on duty. So dares were made, and one of them picked it up, and put it on. Blue eyes suddenly blinked through the empty holes, then fitted exactly - then a moment of sudden surprise showing - then he removes his hands from the sides of his face. There's no join mark. Laughter, and then he tries to take it off. He can't. Confusion. Chaos. He's tearing at his cheeks with his nails in blind panic, bringing spots of blood. Calling for help to his comrades, who have not been trained for this sort of thing, and whose laughter has rapidly faded to shocked/horrified silence...

And he stumbles outside, followed by terrified soldiers; outside, a patrolman is suddenly faced with Saddam Hussein - readies to shoot - cries of "Don't fucking shoot!" but too late and heels headover goes into gutter faceup skyfacing ending dead...

So eventually the body gets moved, and rolled over - and those doing the rolling can suddenly see ground through empty eyes, and there is no flesh... there is only a centimetre's thickness of pinkish-coloured plastic, with Saddam's features in sharp relief...

... and in his unobtrusive house, Admiral Poindexter, Nixonian criminal robbed of his neo-Illuminati and Total Information Awareness Campaign, squints through his telescope into the living room of the Pakistani family who have just moved in across the street ...

Orders were given for the mask's destruction. It was loaded into a secure truck, and taken to the base; there, it was placed into a large incinerator, which was set to a setting that could destroy almost anything, and left overnight...

Those living in the base awoke next morning to a roasting smell, and when the cubic-metre chamber of the incinerator was opened, popcorn poured out - a cubic metre or so of popcorn, smothered in butter and salt. Greasemarks on the walls, and when waded through, the mask propped up in the corner, against the two walls...

The face was then shipped to another laboratory, specialising in destruction. It was measured, weighed, photographed, then laid in a clear rectangular tank, into which was poured a carefully-measured amount of organic solvent. All was measured and recorded on the impersonal core of the computer in the next building. Cameras trained on it, it was left.

... and in his kitchen, Gordon Brown takes the Budget out of the freezer, far too late... in his desperation, he tries to defrost it in the microwave, he's due to present it in an hour - but spirits duty is still frozen ...

When the scientists returned the next morning, there was no solvent; but the mask still leered from the bottom of its tank, surrounded by bladderwrack. A small bed of limpets was clinging desperately to a rock at the other end.

The film was all blank.

So eventually they gave up, and buried it in a lead box far beneath the spot where it had been found. They left it there, and sealed up the room.

Nothing happened.

Humanity moved on - mountains moved - geology continued its slow dance. Men move fast, dancing through life. Continental plates groan, and slowly edge their way out of bed.

Hills like caterpillars crawled across the face of North America.

Slowly, as seen from space, a face began to take shape in the mountains and the glaciers and the hills and the deserts. Eventually, it became clear.

Then, suddenly, the work of men, a spark on the other side of the globe filled the earth with fire, which quickly died... and then the Earth vanished, leaving only Saddam's spinning mask in space...