by William M. Brandon III
I kept to chain restaurants, bustling plazas, and busy coffee shops—anywhere with a tv—until the tingling ends of my nerves numbed. The din of narcotized Presidential pronouncements faded far left of field and I sat there, day after day tending to my legion of parked condescending missives.
I tried hard to think of the money I was making instead of the vile undercurrent of hypocrisy I was shoring up. The subscriptions ranged from one hundred dollars per month for a standard Wish you were here, to the deluxe $1000 soul-crushing guilt subscription which laid out in great personal detail, every last thing your Raptured loved one thought you had done to deserve eternal hellfire.
I tried hard to think about the hope, deluded as it is, that belief gives to those hungry to judge. Most people had their minds tampered with at a young age, and it’s hard for anyone to walk back that foundation. I can testify.
We are receiving new reports that an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court is in critical condition at an undisclosed location. It appears to have been a failed assassination. The DC Metro Police have no suspects, and at this time claim they have no leads. The Justice’s spokesperson just gave a press statement over the phone.
…She was attacked in broad daylight, by persons who were intimately aware of her movements. Just like all of her peers before her. We cannot pretend that these systematic murders are a coincidence. We cannot remain silent when the media won’t even say her name…
We all wish the Associate Justice a very speedy recovery. With only one Justice remaining, the President could very well remake the entire court in his image within the year. We live in very exciting times, right Sarah?
“Wait,” the news story cut through, “when did that happen? They replaced eight Supreme Court Judges?”
“You got me buddy, who cares? Bunch of criminals anyway. You need a refill or what?” The bartender assumed, correctly, that I had just pulled out of a drunken haze.
“No, I’m good. I’m being serious, that’s never happened before. Not in this country.”
“What the hell do you know? No one gives a shit what you think unless you are a job-provider. We finally have a government that understands us.”
“I feel like I know more, it’s just all jumbled…”
“Here’s the thing, if you don’t like it, you can move to another country, problem solved.”
I couldn’t believe people still said things like that. I tipped poorly and left.
As I stumbled down Selma Avenue my phone buzzed again. I was in no shape to talk to anyone, it would have to wait. I made it to Pathos right before the evening crowd intensified, and pulled up a stool near the end of the bar. I ordered a glass of water and sat in the dark, refusing to drink until the sick man appeared.
You are already drunk Declan, what are you trying to prove?
“That I still have some control.”
The man whispered but would not appear. Control. That’s a very loaded word. You should check your text messages.
“No thanks. Probably…”
It’s not your mom.
“Ah, there you are.” I looked the dying man in the eye, and his flesh hung tenuously from his skull. When I turned to ignore him, his cast reflection behind the bar was skeletal.
You should check your text messages.
We call upon our people to express their Faith through prayer. This concludes your day of Worship. God bless our United State.
The alert comes three times a day, if you’re into that sort of thing.
“For the record, I’m not.”
Doesn’t matter, does it? You get the message from El Presidente just like the rest of the morons.
“I’m pretty sure someone will tie this up in court. You can’t just…”
Which court Declan? There aren’t any left.
“They can send me messages about gods and godlike things until they are blue in the face. You’re right, it doesn’t matter.”
Here’s a thought. Maybe you’re right, and there is no god. Maybe there’s only an agreement to keep that a secret. Secrets have always had supernatural power.
“The Congress hasn’t presented legislation in years, they just provide legal cover for the President’s Executive Orders.” I wasn’t sure how I knew that, or why I said it.
Look around Declan, this is our world now. It’s not coming, it’s been here for a long time. Your apathy never protected you.
“My apathy? I’m not responsible for this…”
But you are Declan, responsible for every encroaching inch, each creeping schism you ignored because it did not affect your life. None of that matters now. What else did you see while you were inside the system, Declan?
…Is a racist little troll. What else Declan? What were you trying to forget?
Her ugliness had been enough, and the realization that as I apologized for her cruel beliefs, I had only stacked brick and mortar against her Wall.
“It’s an incredible eye.”
“They are watching at all times.”
“Labeling us unCivil when we think.”
Yes. Your little pity party about dear old Mom is complicity.
“I can’t bear to lose her, or this job, or my station in this new society.”
Why do you think they hired you? Greg knows you’re weak, he knows your weaknesses. You were cheap to dazzle, and cheap to maintain. A little funny business with dear old Mom’s records brought you to heel, reminded you of your responsibilities, without lifting a finger.
The dying man’s flesh had fallen completely away. To his audience of one, he presented only his raw core, nothing but hollow clacking bones devoid of sinew, devoid of mass.
“Then it doesn’t matter what I do.”
It never has.
“I should look after myself.”
The vast universe beyond the flagging databases was a churning cauldron. Data sets grew and evaporated like bricks in a massive breathing barrier. By freeing the data from structure, the system could devour information with reckless abandon and maximize storage potential. No thought was given to what is, or is not, important. The great eye’s mission was only to collect and accuse.
I wrote a short, three-part script and introduced it into the main system via USB thumb drive. I waved to the cameras in the server room before locking the doors to the suite. The elegant—if I do say so myself—lines of code corrupted the flagging databases and rendered the massive stockpile of personal data a seething, chaotic mass, impossible to detangle. Before self-destructing, so to speak, the attack sent the paid-for messages of condemnation to the damned, en masse.
My actions were redemptive kindling
amidst a firestorm.
I should have gone farther,
but it was the last chance I got.
William began his lifelong roadtrip in the deprecated sands of Las Vegas, Nevada. As a result of a military patriarch, and unabated restlessness, has changed addresses fifty-six times in forty-two years. He is a father, a husband, and his work has been published by The Rumpus, in a special anthology supporting Mines Advisory Group, in the not-for-profit fiction anthology The Cost of Paper, and novella SILENCE was published by Black Hill Press.