The people who got “just what they needed” in that Twilight Zone episode didn’t have to explain to the CIA, MI6 , Interpol, and Scotland Yard, why it was they got “what they needed” at just the right moment before something very bloody and violent happened.
He was in London for a strategy meeting. Young and smart, already an executive of Royal Shill Oil’s Nigerian subsidiary, sandy-haired Peter kept a smirky grin on his face as he strolled past shops and cafes along Marylebone High Street. The brick and glass store fronts all looked alike to him; he wasn’t paying much attention in any case. The inconvenience of lawsuits trying to get Shill Oil to clean up the crude still oozing all over Ogoniland was more on his mind. But he needed a jacket; he’d arrived from Nigeria thinking summer and the last couple of nights had gotten down to 50-F.
Each display of men’s clothing seemed very upscale and tweedy behind shiny windows. “Too old-farty,” he said aloud, as he paused in front of a shop, under an awning, and peered at some hunting jackets. “Durrant’s,” he read the gold-painted name on the blue-painted door to his right. He was thinking how bored and tired of he was of shopping when he abruptly realized he was locked in a stare with someone swimming deep inside the amber light of the interior. “No,” he whispered to himself, “don’t want that. No….”
But it was too late; the figure walked rapidly toward the exit, then burst out, hand extended. “Welcome! American? I’m sure we have something for you!”
Peter felt ambushed, but he really didn’t care. “I need a jacket, something casual but still formal enough for a government conference.”
“Please, follow me, I think I have just the thing.”
Peter hesitated, then shrugged and moved past the other’s extended arm as it propped open the door. Once inside, he waited as the salesman hurried ahead of him, into a back corner of the small shop. Peter followed, noting how the place smelled like wool and leather.
“I believe this is what you need!” The stocky, nondescript, middle-aged man stopped and fanned his fingers at a jacket worn by mannequin directly in front of them.
Peter took one look and his mouth formed the word, “Wow.” He reached out and fingered the fabric. “What is that?”
“It’s something new. Made of ceramic yarn. Flame proof, projectile proof, basically it’s like armor, but light as a feather. Bomber- or flight-jacket style with a hood. Here, try it on!” And he deftly slipped the garment off the mannequin, held it by the shoulders for Peter to slip his hands into the sleeves; the salesman helped him shrug it into place.
Peter glanced over at the triple mirror to his left, against the back wall. “Wow,” he said again. “It looks like snakeskin.”
“This particular version is woven in a diamond-back rattler pattern; grays and whites and blacks and browns. Symmetrical, basically a standardized pattern; not meant to be a replica of snakeskin. The manufacturers plan on creating them with different weaves, like herringbone and tweed check, and the like.”
“So, is this going to be too warm for a summer night?”
“Oh no, the ceramic cloth lets your body breathe while at the same time completely protects you. Bullets can’t pierce it, but you know, with a muzzle velocity of 3,300 feet per second an AK-47 or AR-15 round can still crack your skull or break a few ribs and cause abrasions.”
“Huh?” Peter asked absently. He was too busy admiring himself. “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“Ceramics are the future. Should be anyway. I mean, what’s the most plentiful thing on the planet besides water? Sand! Oil companies in bed with governments helped give us a petroleum based society. But ceramics are the future.”
“I’m in the oil business, you know,” Peter said smugly. “Just in from Africa for a meeting.”
The salesman nodded. “So how do you like the jacket? I can sell it to you–since it’s a prototype–for €100.00.”
Of course the modern world is more like a scene from Brazil, than an episode of the Twilight Zone. There wasn’t any warning except a sharp increase in air pressure, a suffocating silence. It was instinct, pulling the hoodie up and huddling in fetal position under a table as reality flew in all directions chased by fire, sharp objects, and falling debris. Amidst the swirling smoke and dust, the groans and cries and sound of sirens, maybe his legs were broken but one thing was certain, being the only one left alive at a Royal Shill Oil executive strategy meeting, wearing a flame-proof almost invulnerable jacket made of an unknown ceramic fabric–someone would have some explaining to do.