Friday Night Story


It’s called ‘amok’ on the Malay Peninsula in southeast Asia. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica relates this: A Malay will suddenly and apparently without reason rush into the street armed with a kris or other weapons, and slash and cut at everybody he meets till he is killed.

He wouldn’t stop the car, not for eight miles at 95 miles and hour. My heart races, and I open the door, wishing to whatever god protects civil servants that I wasn’t the first officer on the scene. My feet hit pavement and crush a thin layer of gravel as half a dozen other cruiser doors open. His door flies open hard enough that it hits the car, smashing a handle-sized dent into the cherry red paint. And he doesn’t even notice.

The Norse legends tell of the berserkir, the “bear shirts” in the charge of Othinn. In battle they raged with ferocity, and were nigh unkillable. Modern scientists have theorized that this state was caused by alcohol, mushrooms, and insanity, but the only hypothesis considered even remotely plausible has to do with self-hypnosis, men convincing themselves thoroughly enough that they’re invulnerable to the point they eventually are.

“Lay down, on the ground, with your hands on your head and your legs spread apart.” He can’t hear, doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care. And he keeps coming towards me. “Lay down, on the-” he reaches out to me, and I hadn’t realized how close he was or how long his arms were. I can feel the warmth coming off his fingers, smell the sweat dripping down his craggy palm. Reynolds hits him with the taser. He stops, but doesn’t fall.

The Irish hero Cú Chulainn, the Hound of Culann, was rendered invincible by the riastradh, a frenzy that twisted him inside out. Reynolds shocks him again, and it’s like he doesn’t feel it. Monterey and Surrey and Perth charge at him with batons, and concentrate on his legs, his knees and his ankles. It isn’t until one of them strays and hits him in the head that he falls to one knee, but it seems like it was only from surprise, and he starts to rise again. Another shock, and another half dozen baton blows, and it isn’t until Kowalski clotheslines him that he gets on his back.

The most infamous usage is probably Juramentado, from the Spanish, juramentador, to take an oath. The Juramentado were mainly a Muslim phenomena in the Philippines. They purified themselves, and shaved their hair and eyebrows, and proceeded to kill as many of the occupying Christian forces in an attempt to be killed themselves. The Juramentado believed this final sacrificial act would secure a quick entrance into heaven. To foreign military officers stationed in the Philippines, they were seen as a menace, and caused General Pershing to issue an order that all officers carry firearms at all times. The passenger just sits there, stone still. I lean in, and over the sounds of fists and boots on meat and bone, I can hear him whispering a prayer, although I’m not sure if it’s even in English, or to any gods I’d recognize.

Phencyclidine became a street drug in the sixties. It quickly developed a reputation as an honest policeman’s worst goddamn nightmare. Users may act manically aggressive, but it was the feeling of invulnerability and dissociation of pain that made it truly dangerous. And he doesn’t stop, he’s barely hit the pavement when he starts back up, and he’s more determined than the officers, more afraid or more fearless than them, and he’s back up. He takes away Perth’s baton, and raises it up over his head. Perth is in shock, and puts his hands over his face, as if that will save him. I whisper a prayer, although I don’t say it aloud or even in English, and I can’t think of any god who’d answer, and I put a bullet between his eyes.

There’s another term for it: suicide by cop.

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