They started by sinking all craft capable of leaving the island.
Elite forces in scuba gear swam the night water, around the island and through its canals, with welders and auto-muffling explosives, and boat after boat went down, gurgling and burping delicately. The few tourists awake and sober enough to catch sight of the slippery shapes moving between the wrecked hulls were promptly dispatched. However, the gondolas were left untouched, a mark perhaps of a gesture of decency that those stuck there be able to circulate their pen with relative ease, perhaps of a certain perversion that relished the thought of them fumbling themselves through the city, capsizing and cursing, without skilled pilots in costumes. The vaporettos, the large water buses that moved around and between the islands, were sunk off the south coast of Giudecca. While excessive, this was a necessary measure: no chance could be left that an Italian, out of greed or compassion, would attempt a rescue of the prisoners.
Migrant workers were massacred without notice, their makeshift rafts torched. More than one visitor, unable to sleep in the stifled air and looking out their flung-wide hotel windows, mistook the guttering flames as sign of a local holiday.
Although the truly rich had tended to forgo Venice in its drift toward total tourist saturation, the fact that the penalization of the city occurred on the last night of the Biennale meant that the gaucher varieties of the noveau riche were still there to buy contemporary art by the yard, pound, and hour, and their personal cruise ships, named things like SLAVIC DAWN and SHAHNAZ, were still anchored off San Marco. They were boarded, inhabitants taken down with silenced shotguns, and laden with incendiary devices on timers: they blew sky high around dawn, in a carefully paced percussion echoing over the city, like the tolling of bells. The rain of Gucci-logoed upholstery, body parts, and hissing champagne was the first opaque announcement to the population of what had transpired in the night.
While the boats were being scuttled, workers went down in the defunct sewers and welded new grates, installed laser sensors linked to cyanide gas jets. Floating smart mines were placed in the surrounding waters, and thermal-sensing turret guns were mounted at strategic points on the surrounding islands. San Michele, the already fortified cemetery island, became a barracks and armory, with a fleet of black Jet-Skis at the ready to hunt down any who managed, against many odds, to navigate the waters without detection. They launched predator drones, which started to circle gracefully on updrafts, as polished vultures.
Of course, many of the relatively poorer tourists had been staying on those surrounding islands. Following a long debate about two possible options (drugging them in their sleep and dumping them on the main island or strongly encouraging them that their vacations were over and that they should be glad that they couldn't afford the pricier hotels along the Grand Canal), a third, simpler option was chosen. They simply shot them in the night. A similar debate was held regarding the few Italians unlucky enough to still live and work in Venice. The hard decision was made to leave them were they were, a difficult but unfortunately necessary cost of the operation.
And so, in the course of less than 6 hours, Venice was transformed from the most popular destination city in Europe to a guardless Alcatraz. Just a generalized life sentence passed on 83,721 tourists, on those still asleep, crammed into luxury economy suites, those planning the sights to be seen the next day, those trying to get laid, those looking over photos taken an hour before, those tossing fitfully, those dreaming of strange glaciers of frozen squid ink and shameful, back-canal encounters with no less than five gondoliers at once.
At 8 in the morning, Furbino made his announcement, to the island and to the world.
Citizens of the world and prisoners of Venice,
I address you on a joyous occasion: the proud renewal of an Italy who has found her teeth once more. And in case you haven't realized, they are sharp and strong. They are the same teeth that gnawed away the fetid umbilical cord of currency that tied us to Europe.
That day, a year and a half ago, I announced a shot across the bow of Europe. A wiser breed than you all would have taken it very seriously. For we were not bellicose, were we? It was the shot of a proud and radiant beast, locked in a cage too small for its frame, a beast who had learned to use the tools of those who thought themselves its master, who held in its grand paws a weapon it knew how to use: this was the fire arm of law and finance, of will and decision. It was not a salvo to declare war: only to declare secession and warning, to tell you to keep you pasty hands away from the bars. To leave us out of your charnal games.
But you didn't, did you? You shoved your thick fingers through, you acted like you owned the place and us with it. You came by the thousands, eating our food, staining our soil, making little pouty faces for your camera phones in front of our monuments to our heritage, pissing, like sweaty, drunken boars, on the sides of our churches. You thought that you were doing us a favor by shoving your reeking money into any hole that would take it.
Well, we will not take it. And so today we offer a second shot, this time across the bow of humanity. Across the very rights you have assumed come with belonging to a nation, of having a passport, as if those allowed you to go where you wanted and do as you pleased.
As of this moment, therefore, Venice is a penal colony. We will not fill it with those who commit crimes elsewhere, but with those whose crimes took place there, on its soil and water, with those who didn't have the decency to acknowledge their crimes, calling them merely “vacations.”
Their punishment is a life sentence. They will not get the pleasure of the authentic Italian experience they so desired: we will give up none of our own to tend them, feed them, clean their filth, discipline them. You have evacuated this city of its past and its present. Very well. Let you therefore become its future. Let us see how you handle yourselves, amongst each other, with no home to which you may return. We have heard many of you saying how you “would kill to live in Venice.” I suspect you will find yourselves testing the truth of those words sooner than you think.
But we are not the barbarians here. That would be you, with your humdrum polyglot babble. And so we will not let you starve. Besides, you paid good money for your time in Venice. Therefore, crates with enough food to live on will be delivered to the docks. How you divide it up is for you to figure out.
As for you affronted nations, you loved ones back home, you shocked and appalled: are you truly surprised, or do you merely think yourselves obligated to act as such? In this day and age, what are a few lost to the damp winds of history? A few who had it coming, a few who should be proud – and will have many years to learn to be so, or to perish – to be the base material with which a nation proves that it matters, that it alone is the form capable of making sense, of erecting a proud lighthouse, in of the disastrous, darkening storm that is our age.
And for those who don't get it: don't worry, you will. Because you know that this isn't worth a war. Because you know that at the first sign of such a move, we will slaughter them all, and all your mobilizations will be for naught. Because you know, in your sluggish heart of hearts, that you will happily throw to the wolves a few of your own lambs rather than have to become hawks once more. Because you know they simply aren't worth the cost. Take it as a cheap deal on a lesson well learned. And leave us be. As an added reminder of this, from this moment forth, all of Italy's borders are permanently closed. All trespassers will be shot. We will set the hounds on you.
And for those on the island who don't get it: don't worry, you will. The passage of time is a remarkable teacher. Because you know – or you will know, when you feebly try – that there is no escape. I am sure some of you will devise grand schemes. I am looking forward to seeing their torched remains brighten the night. Should you get tired of your life, as you well might, there is plenty of water deep enough to accommodate you. But why turn your back on a lifetime in La Serenissima, even if it gets a bit wild?
I'd say I'm sorry to have to break the bad news to you. But I'm not. And it is, after all, a new dawn, on a new day, after so many years of darkness. See how clear the sky with not a touch of red, see how fast the sun rises high over us all! It looks like it's going to be a real beauty.
There was a moment of silence around the globe. First, a brief peal of nervous laughter. After all, remember the fake declaration of war on Norway hackers released from Finland's State Department World in '16? And then world leaders muttered, in a chorus of many languages, oh, you little piece of shit. You miserable, monstrous, inflated little prick. For they had been apprised of the fact that this was not, unfortunately, a tasteless gag. The footage that streamed from a set of security cameras mounted on Venice, plus the immediate condemnation from other countries, quickly convinced all that this was very real indeed. A horrible shout arose, from those in front of their screens, those pouring over email and Facebook for word from those vacationing, and from those on the island themselves, who were beginning to register the lack of vaporettos, the wrecked craft littering the canals. The corpses borne by the waves, slapping up against the stone stairs, their heads open like violet and maroon flowers. The fact that they couldn't find a cafe open for a decent cup of coffee.
Still, despite the hyperventilations, the mad rushes toward other docks where perhaps a barge remained, they maintained some degree of order. This will all get sorted out. They can't leave us here. We'll just stay calm, stick together, and wait it out. Even when a Canadian man jumped into a gondola and began rowing out toward San Michele, even when a hollow-tipped sniper bullet eviscerated him not more than 20 yards out to sea, even then they decided to keep quiet.
The normal denunciations from nations and humanitarian organizations came immediately. U.S. President Newt Gingrich denounced Furbino as “a child who has stumbled onto his father's gun cabinet and who doesn't know muzzle from butt.” Others accused him of desiring to ignite a new “Mediterranean powder keg,” albeit a century later and 300 odd miles to the west of their point of reference. The Red Cross demanded immediate access to the island. They were told “their time would be better spent elsewhere, where hope remained.” World leaders gathered quickly in Geneva to draft a resolution. Global news outlets speculated on its content, but it was generally assumed that it would involve full economic blockade, swift international censure, and threat of coordinated military intervention if the prisoners were not immediately freed.
And yet, amidst the frenzy, when they emerged from their meeting, what was presented was, to be sure, strongly worded enough (“an unprovoked war crime in a time of peace”, “unpardonable actions unthinkable from any nation considering itself a responsible part of the international order”, and other attacks relying heaving on the prefix un-). Yet it was clear to any and all that what it truly amounted to was an early admission that real action would not be taken. To be sure, they declared immediate economic sanctions and exclusion from trade, but wasn't that what Furbino himself had urged and desired for the last several years? An ultimatum was given - “You have 36 hours to immediately release those unjustly imprisoned to their loved ones and home nations” - but its careful wording excised any specific reference as to what exactly was meant by “or else you will face the full consequences of your actions.”
In short, by not explicitly declaring war, and readying for invasion the assembled nations made it clear that while they would see out the time of this ultimatum and “weigh the difficult options necessary in the face of such an unconscionable act,” they would actually follow the out given by Furbino: sever ties, leave the Italians to their own cursed devices, and take this as a relatively low loss way to avoid a larger, messier, more expensive, and, most importantly, geopolitically destabilizing war. After all, Furbino had, in a rather brilliant move, managed to align himself with a number of OPEC countries (in part by playing Italy as a victim of the ungrateful EU and their “unquestioned assertion of right to resource access”) and the Russians, whose control of westward bound natural gas had become of crucial importance in the last decade. Hence while none of these openly supported the penalization of Venice, they nevertheless crucially noted, in a joint statement that afternoon, that they were “entirely opposed to plunging Europe back into a retrograde interstate conflict.”
And so while there was a ceaseless set of deliberations, threats, sanctions, blockades, secret mission plans, and attempts to palliate the growing cries of the families of those lost to the island, it was in the night of that first day that the new Venetians knew all too well that help, if it was coming at all, was not hours away but, at the best, weeks and months off.
And it was then, abrupt as the first rock through a window, that things took a turn for the very, very nasty.