Short Story: Preserving Society

I sat on my couch staring at a television that flickered with images like something from a nightmare. I kept hoping I’d wake up. The longer I waited to, the more obvious it became I wasn’t going to. That this was real. News reports were blaring, but the anchors’ tones were different. They mocked-mourning and sadness. Those emotions were nothing more than expertly crafted table-readings. It was sickening to behold, but I was too numb to notice.

The talking heads were doing what they did best. Talking. About another presidential assassination. They’d become more common in the last decades. People outright refused the position or title now. They feared the inevitable. No one blamed them. ‘Course, that didn’t keep the poor bastards’ heads from being splattered like dropped watermelons. Or their cars from being bombed. Or their homes. Or any of the other insanity the rebellion had taken to.

It was a difficult time. One of revolution. This was worse than any yet. Bloodier than the American revolution. Bloodier than the French Revolution. Any of the Arab Springs. Bloodier, simply by virtue of its battleground.

The U.S. was a hot-bed of dissent and protest. When those things inevitably failed the aggrieved, the riots started. It was difficult to say they ever failed. They never had a purpose. The eventual repercussions were no less undesirable:

Militias formed with growing frequency. States, counties, municipalities, embraced their rights, superseded the Federal Government where they could, because they could. That meant catering to the lowest common denominator– the loudest blatherers of so-called majorities regarding things more terrible than fair.

Eventually the National Guard got involved. Then, when they too, failed, the Army. It was the first time in history that our military patrolled to keep order. The truth was, there was never a snowball’s chance in hell it could. Everyone knew that. Even I did. Most of us “unaffiliated” just kept our heads down, noses to the grindstone. We started thinking or talking about leaving. It was just griping, at least in most cases.

Passports were denied en-masse soon after. It became obvious anyone wanting to leave wouldn’t have an easy time of it. The Feds wanted to keep everyone in-country, paying rising taxes for the forces oppressing them. Meanwhile the locals wanted sworn or blood oaths to defend their beliefs. Otherwise you were a spy. It was asinine, but then, it had been.

The first ripples of chaos came with the first presidential assassination. It wasn’t the only assassination at the time, surely wasn’t the last. The bloodbath hadn’t yet begun. Even now I doubt it’s at full-volume. Every time we think that, some bastards kick it up to a new eleven.

I was just a laborer. Just trying to feed my family. Occasionally I griped; about unnecessary security check-points, about guarded work-sites, about “wellness” stops on roads, and searches at every place of public gathering. But it was just that; griping.

The turning point was the talking heads’ first allusions to “refugee camps,” and “protective re-locations,” alongside “fears for our fighting men and women.” The euphemisms were thin. Smoke-screens. It was the beginning of a round up aimed at political dissidents, prisoners. People I knew began disappearing. Men I worked with– women too, gender didn’t matter– just up and gone. Sometimes, their lives and families went with. Sometimes, they didn’t. It wasn’t difficult to see the “protective re-locations” were involuntary.

Anyone not touting the Feds’ line were watched. It was like the Cold War Russia portrayed in the US media. Lots of dystopia. Lots of shadow games. Lots of state-sponsored murder. All the same, there was no denial of how bad things were. The disappearances were as much political maneuvers as insurance against further aggression. Fat lot of good it did in the end.

I didn’t know yet how it was happening. That is, how people were being picked from the crowds. I learned the hard way; a decade or so before before, we’d learned the government– our government– was spying on us. It was so wholly and thorough that the volume of information being collected could never be fully sifted. Not by humans. It was never meant to be. Instead, it was fed into a secret database. Every person was identified, profiled, and connected to the collected datasets. Phone transcripts. Emails. Forum posts. Illegal audio and video recordings. Every opinion, every thought, and every belief ever espoused within range of an electronic device was collected.

It’s not difficult to see where we were headed. Orwell was nearing a perpetual-motion disaster with all the spinning he was doing in his grave.

That night, of the fifth presidential assassination, I was staring at the TV, absolutely dead to the world. Dead inside. Dead, in that special way of one who’s endured more trauma than one has a right to– and yet is about to experience more.

If I’d known those would be my last moments as a free man, I might have done something more worthwhile. Anything more worthy of themselves. Instead, I stared at the TV. The talking heads drooled through the air between me and the box in stereophonic sound and 4k-ultra-high-definition.

The door to my living room exploded off its hinges. I barely blinked. I was a junkie nodding off. Filled brimming with drool and stoned by it. Nothing in the world could bother or affect me. The smoke hadn’t even cleared when the masked military team encircled me. They brandished rifles. Screamed unintelligibly. I knew enough: I was being “relocated.”

Turns out, “it was concluded I might present a security risk” given “adequate motivation.” When my wits finally returned, reality re-focused. I remembered my ages-old griping. It was the check-points and such. Everything I’d bemoaned was recorded, logged, later used as rationale for imprisonment.

The camp isn’t so bad, I guess. It’s no Ritz. No skid-row. But I can’t complain, really. We get three meals, a place to sleep. Freedom was nice, but it wasn’t for us. Not yet. We never cared for it. Maybe one day we’ll be willing to earn it again. Then again, who could fight for the insanity we left behind? Who’d want to?

Maybe the talking heads should do a segment on that; why’s society worth preserving in its current state? I’m not holding my breath or anything, but I’m betting if they did, they’d be hard pressed to find honest answers.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Light-Walkers

Uniformity is,
conformity for,
a perilous pitiless,
beast in the night,
whom knows nothing of fright,
nor of those whom walk in the light,
and so hastens the collective goodnight.

And with it comes,
the armies of darkness;
humans mad with desire and fire.
Ruled by fears and told dangerously beautiful lies,
to fight and ultimately die,
for what they believe will allow them to rise,
but is, in fact, only cementing their demise.

The mire is thick,
a drug for mind-sick,
counting off lies,
as does the heart tick,
absent though it may seem,
it is never far,
‘specially for those,
with the deepest of scars.

As they change,
the darkness,
one must wonder:
what form of madness,
did they from,
reality, sunder?

A cold moon rises.
Blood bathes the blades.
Crimson and steel.
Both tepid, real.
Stained with light and dark blood alike.

By firelight,
camps and engines burn bright,
there is no denying the sight;
light and dark-walkers alike,
bleed red as kinfolk might.

As the blood glistens,
blends with dirt,
the charge ripples–
a ceasing wave.
For dark and light abound,
and so too doth red blood.

At last those whom walk in light,
joined by those whom walk in the night,
see the true enemies revealed.
And without their commanded armies,
they find death is real.

Bonus Poem: Steel and Blood and Bone

Through lightning, rain, and thunder,
howls a wind blowing cold.
Footsteps by the window echo,
smoke-filled hallowed air.

Come all ye together hither.
Listen and behold.
For the mountains have long listened,
to what the trees are have now foretold.

On the wind a battle rises.
Steel and blood and bone.
Sky darkened, fields ashen,
life faded and burned ‘fore old.

As the night it creeps upon us,
a hallowed horn is blown.
Up the ramparts stalk the massive-kin,
allied against our solemn throne.

And if perchance a failing wind,
should utter unto all,
Then a distant, tolling bell,
shall sing then of the fall.

And if perchance a sailing win,
should blow us from the halls.
We’ll sing then of the better times
while here we stand ever tall

Steel and blood and bone at dawn,
‘neath blackened despairing suns.
How the wizened will be vanquished,
know only the blessed ones.

Bonus Poem: We and the Feeble

Mountains crumble beneath our feet,
we march on the morrow,
what an a-mazing feat.
That we and the feeble,
have managed to beat,
the collective ensemble,
into hasty retreat.

The world of war,
that’s broken with sorrow,
above it we soar,
we and the feeble,
well-known to more,
than those we resemble,
as the masters that from it tore
peace and serenity,
for the brazen and poor.

The seas that run red,
twist and turn, borrow,
the bodies of dead,
from we and the feeble,
whom left them instead,
of stayed to assemble,
as the vigilant fled,
after their sanity,
as away their feet sped,
away from the battle,
with arms shielding head.

We stand in victory,
once more certain that ‘morrow,
will rise as we see,
that we and the feeble,
know nothing but to be free,
from that horrid ensemble,
that we ever let flee,
with hearts gripped by vanity,
them unlike us, to be
beneath death and its terrifying rattle,
That was our plea,
to ensure that the able and feeble alike,
no longer for them, took knee.