The Fall of Babylon

"Thanks for helping me out today Sylvia," Wolff Sharke, the multi-trillionaire friend of hers said with a smile, "I really couldn't do this without you."

"You have friends and showgirls and all sorts of other arm candy at the snap of your fingers," Sylvia said as she carried a stack of papers behind the man. "Why me?"

"Because you are the only one of them I can trust," Wolff said. They walked through the expensive casino-resort's office floors, every bit as lush and extravagant as she would have imagined a back-office area for a posh resort would be, and then some, and got into the penthouse elevator with the man who was too rich to fail at anything he did.

Including life itself.

"These days that is a huge plus."

"Secretary for a day," she said as she sighed. "All right, I will do it if you buy me lunch."

Wolff smiled, "How about a yacht?"

"No," she said, "I don't want a yacht. I can barely take care of my cat let alone a yacht."

"Then I will buy your cat a yacht."

The elevator doors opened on the thirty second floor and Wolff let her exit first. the view of the city was remarkable, and the floor-to-ceiling glass panes some twenty feet high weighing tons each must have been made by some warehouse-sized glass making machine and helicoptered into place one at a time. The decor was all European, Italian leather, pink marbles from somewhere expensive, artwork, fountains, glass topped tables, crystal chandeliers, flowers, plants, track lighting, and even the smell of the room was expensive.

"Simply amazing," she said as the sights stopped her in her tracks.

"I am, thank you," Wolff nodded, as he adjusted the collar of his silky gray suit. "This way."

She followed him to a board-room of corporate executives and other Hollywood types all in the middle of an argument too petty for the expensive room surrounding them.

"I paid a lot of goddamned money to those politicians to look the other way and look what that got me!" One overweight executive said. "You think being a conservative Republican would get me some forgiveness of all of these harassment accusations! Shows right and left are dropping ads for my stores!"

A slick Hollywood type man in a white suit, silver sunglasses, with a blood-red shirt put out his cigar. "Us liberal Democrats don't have it much easier as well. I put a lot on money into state and senate races and this is the thanks I get? Bimbo eruptions right and left? The tabloids are having a field day with every girl that worked for me."

The fat CEO pointed at Hollywood guy. "No more dirt from my side and no more dirt from yours, do we have a deal?"

"It is out of my hands!" Mr. Hollywood chugged down a drink. "All this stuff is coming out because of Internet journalists and fucking conspiracy websites! I say we shut down all free speech because of....?"

"National security and um, what do you people call it? Oh yeah, that whole hate speech thing," the CEO nodded, "and we just go back to how things were."

Wolff stood at the end of the table with his arms out and a smirk on his face. "The cat is out of the bottle. The genie has left the building. Get a grip and learn to treat people right you two. You know, professional ethics? Honesty? Compassion? Keeping work and personal life separate? I swear the whole world has gone stupid."

Sylvie put the papers down and gingerly walked towards the exit. She didn't want to get involved. She didn't want to get involved. Get me the fuck out of-

"You...Miss?" the fat CEO said, "the only woman in the room. Tell us if you would hire a single, pretty, 20-something young female these days."

Sylvie stopped. She turned. And nodded with a smile on her face as if she were forced to answer the question at the barrel of a gun. She motioned towards the door as if she was asking to leave. She waited with a smile on her face and her foot on the loaded landmine under her foot awaiting an answer.

Mr. Hollywood cut another cigar and lit it. "And have her come back in five years claiming harassment? Hashtag not me."

"Well," Sylvie said with a gallows smile, "if you didn't harass her...then you have nothing to worry about, right?"

The two big-shots cringed, shook their heads in the negative, and guffawed. "Oh give me a break!" The CEO nearly choked on his drink. "If they come in looking young and pretty and single, that is why you hire them. If they want to have personal, private relationships on the side that is just a...benefit package. They knew what they were getting into. There is such a thing as a public corporate image versus a private one, you know."

"And Hollywood is a big party anyways!" the slick entertainment executive said. "We are all fucking each other! Everyone does drugs, a house in the hills, a hybrid SUV, and a psychotherapist on speed dial. Get over it! If you can't work in that work environment I am not hiring you."

Wolff held his head in his hands. "Sylvie, you owe me. Big time. You are nothing but trouble."

Sylvie shrugged at him. "Can I go now?"

"No," the CEO said, "you are not excused. Answer the question.  I swear this whole 'me too' thing is a big 'not her' for me. As a woman, Miss, tell me why I should hire young, especially single, upwardly-mobile females in the workforce?"

"Because you are human," she smiled, "or maybe you are not."

He shook his head and returned his attention to the meeting. "If a woman like that comes in my office I am going to tell her to come back in ten years, married, with a bible in her hand and kids on her knee. She better be wearing one of those Stepford dresses too. Then I may consider hiring her."

"We have done away with hiring women," Mr. Hollywood smiled. "New technology. We use small-stature males and computer visual effects to turn them into women so we don't have to hire them for our films. It is cheaper than a settlement ten years down the road."

She held her temples in pain. She wanted to scream. She wanted to go back to the real world where she was stupid and never knew how the real world worked.

"You are shitting me!" the CEO said. "You think we could use virtual-female technology like that in big business? To turn guys into girls so we could 'say' we are hiring them?"

"For commercials and corporate images yes," Mr. Hollywood said, "but you may have to do what we do and hire female-impersonator body doubles for the awards shows or events in person. None of the newer actresses you saw in films during the last ten years are really real or really female, you know. The good thing is we can keep the image of them constantly alive and changing to meet consumer tastes. Artificial intelligence simulates any interactions they need to have on social media.

It is pretty sweet. We've replaced them in bed with sex-robots and this is the next logical step.

And you know what? Virtual females never get old, so they hold their box office."

"And they wouldn't be texting married men in my organization either!" the CEO said. "We had one of those in marketing and it was something like a hundred thousand texts in a year to this one married guy in sales. Young single women are nothing but trouble."

She smiled. "If the guy in sales wasn't thinking with his dick you would have never had that problem either."

"Come on, you think this is just on him? If she wasn't there using what's between her legs for upward mobility this would have never happened." Mr. Hollywood laughed as he mock-thrusted his hips upward in his chair. "And they wonder why glass ceiling. It's more like a partition in a zoo to keep the shit off of us. I think I put up with all these bullshit female politicians just to make myself look good."

"I think," the CEO raised his glass of bourbon, "we have finally found something our two sides can finally agree upon."  They clinked glasses and took down a shot punctuated by an 'ahh.'

She could taste the bone of her teeth. Her face felt hot. She looked over at Wolff who had this 'oh fuck me' not-responsible-for-this look on his face.

Sylvia left the room. With every footfall on the expensive carpet it felt like the world pushed back just as hard.

Wolff followed her, silently at first, and then offered, "I apologize, they can get like that."

"I think I already knew," she said, looking at him with her brows as high as she could push them. "I think we all did. Nothing new. I am going home, and I am writing about this."

"How many yachts to buy your silence?" Wolff said. "Wait, that's not the right way to handle this, is it?"

She turned and waited for the elevator. "Your words. Treat people right. Respect. Trust. Professional ethics. What would the right thing to do be?"

He dropped his head in defeat. "Let the truth come out and deal with the aftermath. Be honest, even if it hurts. Don't try and hide it, since that always makes it worse."

"Right." She put her fingers on his chin and pulled his eyes to meet hers. "Do what is right. It isn't hard. Admit your mistakes. And learn to say I'm sorry. And learn what that means. Not this. Not what we have become.

What is in that room is what is wrong with the world.

We denounce harassment in one breath and then do it behind closed doors, or look the other way, and hope nobody notices. Even the best of us can be the worst. It isn't right and I am not excusing it. But we are human. We have weaknesses. But we can try to be better people.

And then we lie to each other and tear into one another like jackals.

Over the guilt to hide our own sins from a world hungry for blood."

Wolff sighed. "I will make this up to you. Promise."

"It isn't you." Sylvie said. "What bothers me is not what I know, but what I see. Hate. I see hate and mistrust. Man or woman. Right or left. This is not a war that we must win at all costs, where if we are guilty we find something else worse the other side did and hold that up to justify what we did. We can work on being better people and we all have weaknesses, that I get.

This is life. We fuck up. We admit our guilt. We let the system sort out the punishment, a fair one, and then we move on. In return for the truth, we seek forgiveness and try to earn that second chance.

But we can also learn to forgive as well. This is what is good for our hearts. There is the truth and what is right and that must be the light which guides us.

And there are horrible people in this world beyond forgiveness. Like those people in the room. I know that. But we have to be better than those people, not worse. That is not easy, nor is it for the weak, which is what I fear we have become. And I can't fix any of this so I feel helpless."

The elevator doors opened.

"Otherwise we are going to blame ourselves into a world where we can not live with each other."