Don’t matter what we sing
Every window we open, they jam another door
They gladhand, pander, lie for the king
It’s our song, but their score
—Jake Pray, “What We Sing” (first documented performance: February 15, 2003 at the pre-invasion anti-Iraq War marches in New York City)
me: violet, i’m so sorry. if you need someone to come over . . .
Sent at 3:16 PM on Sunday
Violet: he never liked you, you know
Sent at 4:43 PM on Sunday
Violet’s new status message—
Two bleeding hearts drank ginger beer/and mocked and stung their gingered fears/to know the future, and still die here. Rahimahullah, Jake.
NEW YORK CITY MEDICAL EXAMINER
NAME: Jacob Nasser
RACE: White (Arab)
DATE OF DEATH: 3/17/07-3/18/07
DATE OF AUTOPSY: 3/21/2007
TIME OF AUTOPSY: 3:36 p.m.
DATE OF REPORT: 4/1/2007
FINAL PATHOLOGICAL DIAGNOSES:
I. 25 MICRON TEAR IN CORONARY ARTERY, POSSIBLE INDICATION OF SPONTANEOUS CORONARY ARTERY DISSECTION
II. MINIMAL DRUG INTOXICATION
A. Probable non-contributory drugs present:
1. Acetaminophen (2 mg/L)
2. Cannabis (30.0 ng/mL)
Jacob Nasser was a 26-year-old male of Arab descent who died of undetermined causes. The presence of a 25 micron tear in his coronary artery might indicate SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection), however it was deemed too small to lead to a definitive finding. The presence of cannabis was small and non-contributing.
The manner of death is determined to be: COULD NOT BE DETERMINED.
M. Andy Pilitokis
M.D., LL.B, M.Sc.
Chief Medical Examiner
Andrea Varens, MD
Associate Medical Examiner
Jake Pray (Jacob Nasser) prelim autopsy notes [Recovered]
Last saved with AutoRecover
4:33 AM Thursday, March 22, 2007
The subject was first discovered dead in his holding cell the morning of March 18th in the “Tombs” Manhattan Detention Center. The subject was discovered with a rope in his hand, and so police at first surmised it had contributed in some manner to his death, but there are no consistent contusions on the neck or, indeed, anywhere else on the body.
A preliminary physical examination reveals what looks to be a normal, healthy twenty-six year old man with no signs of ill-health or infirmity (beyond the obvious).
Drug interactions? Probably SCAD, poor fucker.
I saw him. I went to the hallway to get a coke from the machine and I saw him. Leaning against the wall looking out the window. Oh fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. I’ve been staring at his sorry face for the last two days, I oughta know. Maybe he has a long lost twin brother?
Mom was right, I should have gone into
The New York Post
Anti-War Songster “Scored” Dope, Autopsy Says
April 2nd, 2007
Bad news for the anti-Bush peaceniks who’ve turned Jake Pray into a martyr: turns out he was stoned on dope (the equivalent of “one joint of strong chronic,” according to a well-placed source) when police took him into custody. And he died of a “spontaneous” heart attack. Not police abuse.
Of course, you didn’t hear any of that damning data at the packed memorial service in the ultra-liberal Riverside Church this Sunday. In fact, Pray’s memorial service sounded more like an anti-war rally.
Violet Omura, a Columbia grad student who spoke at the memorial, had nothing but contempt for the city’s Medical Examiner. “It’s ridiculous,” she said. “It’s like if you shot me in the head and the autopsy said I had died due to ‘spontaneous brain leakage.’”
Pray’s fellow protesters were convinced police abuse was responsible. “[The police] really picked on him at the rally,” said Billy Davis, a close friend who had been present at the protest. “Guess they saw his skin and hair, you know, and drew their conclusions,” Davis said, referring to Pray’s Palestinian heritage. “They called him a terrorist. Said ragheads like him were responsible for bringing down the Twin Towers.” Davis also accused the officers of using tasers on the unruly protestors. Conspiracy theories abounded at the memorial of how the non-lethal crowd-control devices could have contributed to his death.
In a statement issued today, the Police Commissioner denied all accusations of wrongdoing by the officers on the scene, and restated the findings of yesterday’s autopsy report. “Should any new evidence surface regarding this case, rest assured that we will pursue it with all due diligence.”
Rock & Rap Confidential
“What We Still Sing”
Issue 4, Volume 78; May, 2007
Jake Pray may never have had a hit song, but to the latest crop of anti-war protestors, “What We Sing” has the same iconic resonance that “Bring the Boys Home” or “Masters of War” had for their parents. And over three hundred youngbloods turned out for the memorial of this iconoclastic musician, held this past March in Riverside Church.
Jake Pray was born as Jacob Nasser to Palestinian immigrants who settled in suburban New Jersey when he was just three years old. His father was a professor of Linguistics and Cultural Anthropology at a university in the Gaza strip who was forced to emigrate after he received death threats for his political positions.
Not surprisingly, Pray became a lightning rod for activists across the world when his life ended in Manhattan’s “Tombs” detention facility. He was arrested after an incident with police during the anti-war protests this March. The autopsy report declared its findings inconclusive. The police commissioner, in a written statement, called Pray’s death a “tragic incident.” The arresting officer taunted the twenty-six year old man with racial slurs like “raghead.” He shot 50,000 excruciating volts of electricity into his body, and then detained him in unspeakable conditions for endless hours. A tragic incident? The mind would boggle, if it wasn’t so painfully predictable.
The larger meaning of Jake’s life was best captured by Violet Omura, a twenty-five-year-old graduate student in the Physics department at Columbia.
“Perhaps the experiences of his parents in the occupied territories influenced his decision to turn to political activism and the thankless efforts of those who argue from right, not expedience. But I think, perhaps, that he mostly just wanted to tell, he just wanted to sing, he just wanted others to know they had a voice. Our parents were optimists. They gave us “Imagine,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” We’re not pessimists. God knows Jake wasn’t a pessimist. But he wasn’t so sure that singing could change anything. Some people complain that “What We Sing” is bleak. I disagree. It’s furious, it’s strident, and it’s real. Jake wanted to change the world, but he couldn’t hide from the fact that it might never change.”
Billboard Pop 100
Issue Date: 2007-5-19
#1: Beyonce & Shakira: Beautiful Liar
#2: Gwen Stefani featuring Akon: The Sweet Escape
#3: Fergie featuring Ludacris: Glamorous
#4: Avril Lavigne: Girlfriend
#5: Diddy featuring Keyshia Cole: Last Night
#6: Tim McGraw: Last Dollar
#7: Mims: This Is Why I’m Hot
#8: Jake Pray: What We Sing
#9: Gym Class Heroes: Cupid’s Chokehold
#10: Fall Out Boy: This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race
TUCKER with Tucker Carlson
Original Air Date: 5/20/07
TUCKER CARLSON: Jake Pray has been in the news a lot lately. After all, the blame-America-firster’s mysterious death in police custody, his illicit marijuana use, and his surprise hit song, “What We Sing,” have made him the perfect martyr for self-defeating liberal elitists.
But now, one of Pray’s own radicals has come out against him. In a damning exposé published in the online fringe-left newsletter Counterpunch, James Sullivan has laid bare the despicable anti-Semitic and vitriolic anti-American hate that underlies the rabid far-left.
Welcome to the show, Mr. Sullivan.
JAMES SULLIVAN: Thank you very much for having me.
TC: We know you were detained with Jake Pray at the Chelsea Piers before he was taken to the Manhattan Detention Facility. How well did you know him?
JS: Well, when you’re as heavily involved in the peace movement as I was, you kind of get to know everyone. Jake was, you know, dedicated. A bit too dedicated. He was a musician, but you could tell it wasn’t really about the music for him. It was about the fame. People loved him. I did too, for a while.
TC: But eventually you realized—
JS: Yeah, you know, he was just full of—sorry, yeah, full of it. A bit of a megalomaniac.
TC: I understand that you’re also a musician? Did he ever support you, or . . .
JS: Never. Jake really resented the presence of another musician in the, well, what he would have called the “inner circle.”
TC: Now, I’m going to read a passage from your Counterpunch article. It’s pretty damning, detailing what happened the afternoon you were both detained by the police. You write: “Pray was furious after the arrest. On the ride down to the pier he just sat in the police truck shaking and clenching his fists. His girlfriend, Violet Omura, tried to calm him down, but he just lashed out at her, called her an ‘ignorant bitch’ and a few other expressions I’ll choose not to print here. He was always like that, in fact, willing—and sometimes eager—to take out his own personal frustrations and failings on others. Billy Davis and Violet and his other cronies are trying to claim that the police officers called him a ‘raghead’ that day. If they did I never heard it.” And then, further on, you write: “Around the police, Pray was like a rabid dog. At Pier 57 it was like something had popped. He wasn’t quiet anymore. We all heard him: Violet and Billy and the rest who are trying to pretend that it didn’t happen.”
You go on to list some of the epithets Pray hurled at our men in blue, some of which are not, um, fit for television. Could you share some of the milder ones?
JS: [Laughter] Yeah. They’re—sure. “Filthy murdering bigots,” that was one. He said they were all “closet fags,” and accused them of ah—“practicing on Abner Louima.” He just wouldn’t stop. Finally, one of the officers tried to get him to calm down. He had dark curly hair, a big nose—you know, obviously Jewish, and Jake nearly tackled him. Said “his kind” was supporting genocide and maybe “they deserved what they got.”
TC: “Deserved what they got.” What do you think he meant by that?
JS: I think it’s obvious. He was saying the Jewish people deserved the Holocaust.
TC: Wow. Now, I hear you’re starting to distance yourself from all this and the so-called “peace” movement.
JS: Yeah. Actually, I’m [Laughter] yeah, I’m halfway through Atlas Shrugged.
TC: [Laughter] How do you like it so far?
JS: Really good. It’s giving me a new perspective.
Jake Pray, the radical anti-war protestor and singer, died as a result of police abuse on the night of March 17th, 2007. This fact, supported by activists present during his arrest and reports from within the holding facility itself, has been systematically covered up by the New York City Police Department and coroner’s office. This is just a part of an overall, covert strategy to undermine the vocal anti-war movement with acts of state-sponsored terror. Jake Pray, whose anti-war songs had energized a new generation of protestors, was first on their list because of his growing influence. COINTELPRO had thousands and thousands of pages about John Lennon in their files, because he posed a similar threat. In this age of increasing government control and ongoing illegal wars (one million dead and counting!), Jake Pray’s powerful voice and even more powerful message posed an unacceptable threat.
But guess what? So do we. And we resolve to uncover the TRUTH about Jake Pray’s murder and bring his message to the world.
December 15, 2007
[UPDATE 1/3/08: For our official statement on the allegations made by James Sullivan, please visit our FAQ.]
Just Another (Libertarian) Weblog: Ron Paul 2008!
Rockin’ For the Fatherland
Posted January 4, 2008 5:45 pm by BigFish
Well, Billy Davis over at JakePrayTruth has finally responded to the accusations James Sullivan made such a big splash with a few months ago.
Short version: ‘Ole Jimmy is an opportunistic lying asshole.
Still, we have to thank him. “Practicing on Abner Louima” is an expression now enshrined in my soul. Hey Jake, wherever you are, I never look at a toilet plunger without thinking of you. (Unfortunately none of the inexplicably frequent ghost-sightings of Pray these last few months have involved home plumbing equipment. Though I hear he was spotted outside The Pink PussyCat last Thursday).
In other news, the redoubtable Jimmy Sullivan has made himself a webpage! Check out the “latest music” section. And here I had thought right-wing volks-rock had gone out of fashion in the Third Reich.
Oh. Never mind.
To: Professor Violet Omura <[email protected]>
New York University
Department of Applied Physics
From: Zacharias Tibbs <[email protected]>
15 East Rock Way
March 16, 2015
Dear PROFESSOR Omura:
I hope you are prepared & have sat down to read this letter for I have here enclosed the most ASTONISHING and SECRET mathematical formula whereby all events heretofore UNEXPLAINED by the greatest scientists of the world are rendered clear by a simple proof. If you do not believe this, don’t trust me, but read on for yourself!
I see from reading your very fascinating articles and biography that you once had the privilege of knowing the great Jake Pray, whose every album I own. Would you believe me if I said that this GREAT MATHEMATICAL PROOF would even make clear the mystery of the rumors of his ghostly resurrection and spectral warnings of future wars & conflicts? Have I intrigued you? Yes, of course, for you have a keen intellect and open heart and would surely not want to deny your colleagues the benefit of the knowledge I have so HUMBLY stumbled upon.
Merely scroll down to see the world’s greatest secret revealed . . .
p(R) = (As * (t(d)/Gw)) * B/V
Thus, the probability of any INDIVIDUAL, upon their DEATH & DEPARTURE from this world, becoming a REVENANT is revealed . . .
Where As = Astrological Sign, with the following values assigned:
- Aries = .2
- Taurus = .5
- Gemini = 1
- Cancer = 5
- Leo = 1
- Virgo = 3
- Libra = .7
- Scorpio = -1
- Sagittarius = 2
- Capricorn = 0
- Aquarius = 1
- Pisces = 2
As determined through intensive STUDY of GOD’S HOLY WORD & observations & deductions of a PERSONAL nature.
t(d) = the time spent in the process of dying
Gw = the number of GOOD WORKS performed in their lives, with the average being 500 for a CHRISTIAN and less than 100 for ALL OTHERS (& in particular those of the apostate MORMON faith)
B = that which belongs to BEELZEBUB, otherwise known as SATAN or the DEVIL. The values are assigned thusly:
If the subject is a Mormon, B = 1000, for all MORMONS shall surely walk the EARTH for ETERNITY
For ATHEISTS, B = 500
For CHRISTIANS of pure and godly EVANGELICAL faith, B = 0.1
For ALL OTHERS, B = 1
V = the number of verses in our HOLY BIBLE the departed knew & memorized in life
But perhaps you, in your SECULAR University and GODLESS education, do not understand the true significance of explaining the REVENANTS among us. For do not mistake me, the revenants are responsible for all manner of WEIRD & UNEXPLAINED events. Not merely ghosts (like that of your (sadly GODLESS) REVENANT & FRIEND Jake Pray), but also such sundry as possession by DEMONS, ALIEN ABDUCTIONS, and sightings of UFO’S!
Even the INEXPLICABLE behavior of SUBATOMIC particles through the EXTRA DIMENSIONS is caused by these revenants & of course not to mention the riddle of GRAVITY.
I am sure you can see the potential of this astonishing EQUATION and I will be happy to travel to the GODLESS city of New York to discuss it with you further. Though you are only an Assistant Professor, I feel you are the perfect VESSEL of this KNOWLEDGE.
Yours in RESPECT & ANTICIPATION,
you can bet that I have no aspirations to be the perfect VESSEL for your KNOWLEDGE, or even the person who has to open your crackpotty emails (what, you didn’t think I got the first three?)
but I’m drunk and bored and this is definitely the worst day of my year, so I’ll bite. taking it as a given that you wouldn’t know a quantum theory of gravity from a hemorrhoid, why don’t all these horrible sinners and atheists and (!) mormons just go to, you know, hell? seems easier than having billions of revenants wandering the earth like thetans or something. you’re not a scientologist, are you?
I don’t know what you might have read or whatever about jake and me but you honestly can’t believe that a godless intellectual like yours truly believes the woowoo crackpots who say he still shows up at their rallies?
god i wish he did.
(I mean ‘god’ in a purely rhetorical, godless way, of course).
violet, future revenant
Disregarding your DRUNKEN (and, indeed, Godless) aspersions on my theory & character, you have indeed hit upon the crux of the matter.
For through other EQUATIONS & RESEARCH, I have hit upon the fundamental truth: these revenants do not go to HELL, for we are ALREADY LIVING THERE.
Yes, I say. The present EARTH merged with BEELZEBUB’S kingdom on the night of MARCH 20, 2003.
I trust you recognize the date? Yes, for your friend Jake Pray was present at every RALLY and PEACE MARCH in protest of this war, which I of course included in his calculation for GOOD WORKS.
Contemplate our SINFUL world and tell me that you do not agree? We have been DENIZENS of hell for the last twelve years!
And as a side note, I am of course entirely OPPOSED to all false gods, including the ABSURD teachings of SCIENTOLOGISTS. I must thank you for reminding me of them, for both they AND Mormons should receive a Beelzebub score of 1000 . . .
When would you like to meet?
Warp & Weft: An Inclusive Community for Alternative Paradigms and Progressive Politics
Virtual Town Meeting (Excerpt)
Transcript and Audio archived on the community bulletin board
Original event April 1, 2017
[Rose_Granny] Thank you all for inviting me here today. I’m Rose, and as my husband used to say, I don’t look much like my avatar. [Laughter] I’ve never really believed in ghosts. Oh, I’ve heard stories and some were eerie enough to make me shiver, but I’ve lived a long time and I had never seen anything to make me believe that any part of us could survive after death.
When my husband died last year, after a long and painful fight with liver cancer, I was devastated. I decided that it was my duty to make Harold’s life count as much as it could, by taking his ideals and courage and using that to further work he would have approved of. So I became, at age 75, a political activist. I attended rallies. I spoke up at virtual town meetings like this one for our local congress members. I made signs, I wrote letters, I organized petitions . . . and I discovered Jake Pray. I’d heard “What We Sing” on the radio years ago, of course, but at the time I hadn’t paid any attention to the man or the story behind the song. When I learned of how he died, I was shocked. How could such a young man, with such promise of the future, die so suddenly? He had no serious drugs in his body. There were no signs of violence, self-inflicted or otherwise. He was found dead on the floor of his holding cell, with a bit of rope in his hand.
And then I saw him. Perhaps it will not surprise most of you to learn that I mean this literally. I saw Jake Pray, sitting beside me in the dark early-morning during a sit-in protest in front of the White House. A rope was wrapped around his left hand. He looked very young—the exact image of the twenty-five year old I’d seen in all the pictures. Still, I tried to rationalize it as an uncanny coincidence, a kid who happened to look just like him.
“Aren’t you cold?” I asked, when I saw his short-sleeved t-shirt. He smiled and shook his head. The cold obviously didn’t bother him. That’s when I knew he was a ghost: it was at least twenty degrees that morning.
All these questions bubbled inside of me, but I was so nervous I didn’t know if I could get them out. “Do you think we’ll be able to stop this escalation with China?” I finally asked.
He looked very sad. Just then, a friend tapped me on my shoulder. I glanced away for just a second, but when I turned back, he was gone.
Would it surprise you to learn that I attended that sit-in on March 15? And yes, India sent the first cruise missiles into Nanjing two days later.
Warp & Weft Message Boards
Topic: Jake Pray was MURDERED and gov’t is COVERING it up!
Date: April 2, 2017 – 3:34 EST
Rose_Granny is a government dupe. She says “there were no signs of violence,” but how can we trust the coroners report when it was commissioned by the same government that first marked Pray for assassination?! That’s like trusting the tobacco industry to give an accurate autopsy to the Marlboro man! Billy Davis, who was THERE, said the arresting officer called him a ‘fucking raghead’ and ‘commie’ and that he was a ‘mass murderer’ who ‘flew the planes into the Twin Towers.’ This jerk couldn’t wait to get his hands on Jake. Just consider a few things:
Why is the coroner report dated APRIL 1ST?! A subtle hint, maybe, that all is not what it seems? APRIL 1, 2007 was a SUNDAY. Who publishes a coroner report on a SUNDAY? This is a fucking ten-year-old April Fools’ joke, people!
He had a ‘spontaneous cardiac artery dissection’ but he only had a 25 micron tear? How was that enough to kill him? Do you know how big 25 microns is? Half the width of a STRAND OF HAIR!
Where did this famous rope come from? Violet Omura, a respected physicist, was his lover at the time. She visited him a few hours before he was discovered dead. She says he seemed distressed by the racist cop’s treatment, but showed no signs of chest pain or anything that could lead to his “spontaneous” death! Significantly, she saw no rope anywhere in the cell! Where did it come from? The forgotten remains of a top-secret government “alternative interrogation” technique, imported from our gulags in Guantanamo, Stare Kjekuty and Iraq?
Jake Pray was tortured to death by our own government. Maybe the reason he’s haunting us, Rose_Granny, is because he wants the truth to come out!
Warp & Weft Message Boards
Topic: Re: Jake Pray was MURDERED and gov’t is COVERING it up!
Date: April 2, 2017—3:45 EST
omura did it. evidence from “not a factor,” the last song he ever wrote:
The invisible hand blasts the cradle
Spreading peace by throwing bombs
We feast beneath the master’s table
Sating growls with salvaged crumbs
Save the world? It’s just a song
she told jake to provoke a fight with those officers. the NSA <i>paid</i> her to be the yoko ono of the antiwar left.
Excerpt from Real Ghosts: The Warp & Weft Guide to Specters and Revenants of the 21st Century by Dede Star Flower
HarperPenguin, New York, 2018
The accuracy of his revenant predictions is quite remarkable. Two days after the New York Medical Examiner saw Pray’s ghost in her office building, the Iranians kidnapped fifteen UK soldiers. In 2009, a cocktail waitress sighted Pray in an alley, and that very night the US dropped the first round of tactical nuclear weapons on Iran. In 2011, Amina Okrafour was marking the anniversary of John Lennon’s death in Central Park when she saw Pray’s ghost. The next day the Chinese government shipped 1000 support troops to the Iranian front. The list goes on: thirteen activists see Pray at an anti-globalization rally in Sweden; the next day India tests a nuclear bomb and the cease-fire ends in Kashmir. When San Francisco representative Linda Xiaobo reported seeing Pray during a ceremony in the Mojave desert, we all knew that the talks to bring India into NATO were a certainty. Sure enough, a few days later, the US honored its obligations under the treaty and declared itself officially at war with China and Pakistan.
As a revenant, Jake cannot stop these horrors from occurring, but he can stand witness to them. He can accuse us, like Hamlet’s father, of not doing enough.
Written Communication from Zacharias Tibbs; Topeka, Kansas
To: Violet Omura, NYU, Department of Applied Physics
Date: November 18, 2020—10:44 pm, EST
Perhaps you have wondered why I have not yet responded to your Communication which you sent to me this past April. In fact it is because I have UNDERTAKEN to follow your kind & SAGE ADVICE and read those very ERUDITE & SCHOLARLY works by the great Einstein, Feynman & Chatterjee. I found the latter’s work on M-THEORY and the QUANTUM GRAVITY SYNTHESIS most Fascinating, though I must confess that I found a great deal of it Difficult, and indeed, sometimes quite IMPOSSIBLE to understand. GOD, it is clear, has GIFTED her with a great mind. As did HE to YOU.
It’s strange, I thought upon my completion of these works, how very CLEAR my errors in the past are to me now. Though I maintain my belief in REVENANTS & the HOLY SPIRIT, it is clear that my EQUATIONS & THEORIES, which I had thought could explain the WORLD, were not worth a Greasy Rag. I see the DEPTH of THOUGHT of those PHYSICISTS exploring the universe, and I feel a small INCHWORM in comparison. I must thank you for your most UNUSUAL & FAITHFUL correspondence over the years. Without it I fear I would never have understood my Gross Errors.
I have also Considered your Strange words to me regarding your SAD & PAINFUL feelings of guilt & regret over some mysterious Life Event. I say to you that your grief GRIEVES ME, for I know that you, too, could find solace in the LORD, if only you would open your heart to HIM. You say you Cannot, because “a scientist does not work from faith, but evidence.” This is a Worthy Philosophy, but I say that because I KNOW GOD EXISTS, the EVIDENCE for him will someday be FOUND. Cannot you SEE His HAND in Chatterjee’s Equations?
Can you not SEE that the reason your friend Jake still WALKS AMONG US is because he is a Revenant on Earth?
I await your Response with great Eagerness & Anticipation.
Excerpt from “Changing the Score: My Life with Jake Pray”
Vanity Fair, May 2025
by Violet Omura
Before I say anything else, before I tell my story, or what little I’m privileged to know of Jake’s, let me make this perfectly clear:
I loved Jake Pray. For a certain period of time he, and the anti-war movement, were my entire life. When he died, that life fell apart so completely that for the first and only time I considered suicide. In some ways, on some nights, that pain has never left me. I could never have harmed Jake. Those who suggest otherwise reveal a lack of understanding about our relationship so profound I can only pity them. To those whose critical faculties have not been addled by baseless conspiracy-mongering, I offer my story.
. . .
I first saw him at The West End, in December of 2003. I was a senior at Columbia, a physics major so obsessed with quantum mechanical particle interactions and Feynman diagrams that I had only dimly registered our country’s illegal invasion of a sovereign state. (Such ignorance was possible, then; over a certain income level, foreign wars didn’t touch your daily life.) I gleaned my news from articles my sister sent me, or my suitemates’ overheard conversations. I felt the appropriate outrage, and promptly forgot about it. What, after all, does outrage look like at the Planck scale?
Later, while drunk, I would amend that rhetorical question: what does it sound like? The bar was packed that night. Some were the typical Friday-night crowd of loud freshmen and bored frat brothers, but others had heard Jake at the big rally in February and were excited to see him again. He didn’t even perform “What We Sing,” the song that was already turning into an anthem. It didn’t matter. Jake had a voice that stuck you to your chair and forced you to listen. Almost gentle, with an ironic bite. “Like fresh ginger,” a simile-inclined local reviewer once called it (and Jake and I laughed until we had to stop to breathe. We ate in Chinatown that night; he bought me ginger beer). His falsetto was eerie; his bass rough. Sometimes his vibrato wavered so wildly you thought he might lose the note, but he never did. His lyrics were passionate and only sometimes political. He had thick, wavy brown hair; a high forehead; wide eyes with camel’s lashes; and a chin that dimpled when he smiled. He was young, talented, and beautiful. I was twenty-two, and I felt as though I’d just crawled from Plato’s cave.
I introduced myself after the set. He bought me a drink. We talked, I don’t remember about what. For all I know I babbled about brane-theory and quantum gravity all night. I had never been very good at talking to people. But he didn’t seem to mind me. He told me a little about himself. He had graduated from NYU that year as a film major, but he didn’t want to make movies. And the usual: he was appalled by the Iraq war, President Bush, our foreign policies. He quoted Chomsky, which was familiar, and Said, which surprised me. He said he had met Edward Said as a child, when his parents had first moved to the States from Palestine. I asked him if he was Muslim; he said he was a “closet atheist.” He asked me if I was religious; I said I was a physicist.
He took me back to my dorm that night; my philosophy of alcohol consumption at the time did not include moderation. He kissed me as he pressed the call button for the elevator, as though I might not notice if he were doing something else.
“Do I get your number?” he asked.
What odd syntax, I thought, many years later. Like it was a game show and my number was the all-expense-paid trip to the Bahamas.
. . .
My good friend Billy Davis, who died last year, spent his life advocating for a full inquiry into Jake’s death. I find it ironic that even now, in the midst of our global war with China and Iran, the relatively insignificant Iraq War has so much cultural relevance. Perhaps because it is the first moment when our generation, collectively, began to realize that something had gone terribly wrong in our political and social system. Jake’s death symbolized too much of that moment for us to ever let it go.
. . .
They took us to Pier 57, that detention center turned toxic waste dump where they liked to herd activists during overcrowded demonstrations. Jake was furious that day, on a manic high. He was no stranger to racism—was any Arab living in New York City after 9-11?—but the arresting officer that day reveled in a particularly nasty brand of invective. “Raghead” was the least of it (and if Jimmy Sullivan can even tell the difference between his mouth and his lower orifice, I’ve yet to see the evidence). After they arrested us, Jake could hardly sit still. The floor was covered in an unidentifiable sludge that slid beneath our shoes and smelled like decomposing tires. We were all chilly and desperate to get out. Jake went to ask the officers when they would release us. I never heard what they said to him, and I never got to ask. Jake started yelling and shouting. His hands trembled as he gesticulated, like a junkie coming off a high, though I knew that he hadn’t had any more than half a joint. I remember being terrified, afraid that they would shoot him. When they set off the taser, he dropped to the floor like a marionette loosed of its strings. He groaned, but he couldn’t even seem to speak. The police officers laughed, I remember.
What did he yell? “Pigs,” certainly. But Jake hated few things more than he hated the ongoing Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and he would have never used the despicable anti-Semitic tripe certain opportunistic faux-rock musicians attribute to him. We had been unlawfully detained and verbally abused. Did Jake’s behavior represent a failure to turn the other cheek? Of course. But he never meant to be a martyr.
. . .
I went to the Tombs late that night, after they released us from the Pier and arrested him. His lawyer said the police insisted on detaining him for questioning and were charging him with “disorderly conduct.” Jake was happy to see me. The police had confiscated his guitar and one of the officers conducting the interrogation was a real (to put it more genteelly than Jake) ignorant racist. I asked Jake if he was okay. He said he was, but he couldn’t wait to get out of there. There was no rope in the cell that I can recall.
He was acting a little more restless than normal. Tapping his fingers against the bars and rocking back on his heels like a smoker with the DTs. It didn’t seem remarkable at the time, and it might be that I am merely creating false positives, searching for a clue where none exists.
He held my hand before I left and kissed my palm. He liked romantic gestures.
“There’s something happening here,” he sang softly. Buffalo Springfield.
I kissed him. “I’ll get Neil Young and the gang down here tomorrow.”
“I’ll see you, Angel.”
It was the last thing he ever said to me.
But he had never called me ‘Angel’ before.
Written Communication from Violet Omura, NYU, Department of Applied Physics
To: Zacharias Tibbs; Topeka, Kansas
Date: December 25, 2025—1:05 am, EST
I woke up twenty minutes ago and couldn’t fall asleep. Chaterjee has posted a new paper on the public archives. Did you see it?
It’s been a while. Hope you’re doing okay.
Merry (godless) Christmas, Zach.
Written Communication from Zacharias Tibbs; Topeka, Kansas
To: Violet Omura, General Communications Inbox, Columbia University Physics Department
Date: March 18, 2027—6:01 pm, EST
[Hi! This message has been approved by your filters, but contains some questionable material. Would you like to proceed?]
[Okay! Message below.]
Though I know you have not heard from me these past two years, I hope you do remember our long correspondence and will still read my messages despite your new Tenured Position at the venerable Columbia University.
I have not Written due to increased Problems with my Health and also, perhaps more importantly, a crisis with my Faith. You might think that facing Death & the Great Beyond, as I am (a persistent Cancer, which no medicine can treat) would drive one in to the Bosom of their Lord, but I find myself instead Contemplating the letters you have sent me over the twelve years of our correspondence.
You have presented to me a mind steeped in rationality, who does not even let deep grief over personal loss sway her to the side of a comfort that she does not feel has a basis in reason. Is Faith a Good Thing, I ask myself? As a child, I loved mathematics. At the library, I read books about Pythagoras and Newton and Einstein. But in the end I preferred Money to Knowledge, as any Ignorant eighteen-year-old might. I passed over my chance at College. My Father got me a good job as an auto mechanic in his Cousin’s shop. Last year, I retired. I had worked there for Sixty-Five Years. I had kept my Faith and raised children. I had read the Bible and tried to use Math to Prove the Beauty of it.
I have wondered why I still Wrote to you, Professor, when you so Clearly held my Views in Disdain. I think now that I Respected the Knowledge you held. The Mathematics that I had loved in Childhood are your Life’s Work. I thought if I could Convince you of the Truth of my Faith then it would not be Faith any longer but Reason.
And now, I think I have failed. I face death without the solace of Christ and I think it is not as Hard as I imagined in my youth, but hard enough.
With My Thanks and Respect,
Written Communication from Violet Omura; Brooklyn, New York
To: Zacharias Tibbs; Topeka, Kansas
Date: March 19, 2027—3:20 am, EST
Call me Violet. Would you like to meet for lunch sometime soon? I know of a great fondue place on Flatbush Avenue (that’s in Brooklyn, where I live).
Audio-Visual Transcript of U.S. Internal Investigations files
Originally archived on the diffuse-network, proprietary GlobalNet, intercepted and transcribed by Chinese Intelligence
Subject: Omura, Violet; U.S. Scientific Authority and Academic;
Date: September 12, 2027—2:22 am, EST
The subject’s apartment is dark. She walks to the window overlooking the street. She removes her shoes and stockings (a run in the back: 4.2 cm). The subject’s hair is styled in an elaborate bun. She removes several bobby pins and tosses them to the floor. The subject empties a small, gold purse onto her coffee table.
- One (1) funeral program. The cover reads: Zacharias Tibbs: He was Right with Our Lord
- One (1) small rolled marijuana cigarette.
The subject lights the cigarette with a match. Upon completing half the joint, she extinguishes it on the windowsill.
OMURA: [Soft laughter]
The subject turns from the window. She abruptly ceases almost all movement. Her breathing resumes after 2.4 seconds. It is at this point that the subject begins to behave very erratically. Her eyes are fixed at a point in the room, as though she is interacting with a person, though motion sensors and audio bots indicate she is alone. The subject has no known history of mental illness. [NOTE: However, our own psychiatrist has stated that her behavior here strongly indicates a psychotic break possibly triggered by the marijuana usage. Hearing voices is common in such incidences.]
OMURA: What . . . Jesus Christ. Jesus Fucking Christ, what’s going on?
The subject pauses. Her body relaxes and her head movements are consistent with someone listening to someone else in conversation.
OMURA: Jake? Holy fuck, what was in that pot?
The subject takes two steps forward. [NOTE: The consulting psychiatrist has determined that the person to whom she believes she is addressing herself is standing between the coffee table and her couch.]
OMURA: What do ghosts look like at the Planck scale . . .
OMURA: Zach did this?
3-second pause. She shakes her head.
OMURA: Maybe. Yes. In a strange way. He could have changed the world. But he fixed other people’s cars.
The subject begins to cry. Her hands have a pronounced tremble.
OMURA: Jake, oh fuck. Fucking God, why are you . . . why now? I never believed, not once, and fuck do you know how much I wanted to? I could kill you! Christ Jake, 30 nanograms of pot and not a fucking drop of lithium!
12-second pause. A siren is heard in the background.
OMURA: I knew that. You think it makes me feel better? I should have known! The DTs, I said. Like you were manic. I saw it all then. I’ve known it all for years. 30 nanograms of pot, 2 milligrams of Tylenol. 0 nanograms of your fucking life.
The subject steps closer.
OMURA: Then why did you? Oh, you came back from the grave for me? God, my maudlin subconscious.
OMURA: Like Hamlet’s father? Did the ghost love?
OMURA: Like me. Jake . . . if you’re real and not my own degenerating brain . . . I’m sorry I asked you taunt—no, listen, I should have known what you were going through. I shouldn’t have put you in that position. Not with those trigger-happy assholes. Engineer a conflict? Get it on the news? What a fucking cunt I was.
The subject is silent for nearly one minute and thirty (1:30) seconds. Halfway through this period, she closes her eyes and shudders. [NOTE: From the heat patterns in her body, it appears as though she is having a sexual reaction.]
OMURA: The last thing you said to me, what did it mean? Why did you call me Angel?
The subject opens her eyes and looks around. Apparently, the room now appears empty to her. She staggers backwards and sits on the couch. After a minute (1:00) she begins to cry with audible sobs.
OMURA: I don’t know either.
War Desk: For Immediate Release
September 14, 2027 (SEOUL): Accounts of Chinese warships equipped with long-range nuclear warheads heading into the Hawaiian archipelago have been confirmed, and evacuations of major targets on the United States West Coast will begin within the hour.
© 2009 by Alaya Dawn Johnson.
Originally published in Interfictions 2,
edited by Delia Sherman & Christopher Barzak.
Reprinted by permission of the author.