Publisher’s Note: Originally published the day after the election, November of 2008, but somehow, weirdly seems fitting today.
It was a time of peace, it was a time of war. Everyone wanted heaven but dealt in hell’s prizes. Soldiers fought in the deserts, civilians fought in the streets. The politicians bickered on television, the reporters begged for exclusives. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer. In short, it was no different than any other stretch of time on this pallid people infested globe.
The recently departed American president could not complete a sentence, nor claim victory in the popular vote. The challengers sat in million dollar mansions and pondered stock prices more than party principles. In tenements and ranch houses, the masses flocked to one side or the other, based more on calculated moral stances than issues or even their own pocketbooks. Promised tax cuts mattered little next to the platform’s position on unborn children. The intellectuals surrendered twenty years prior and formulated wordy theories explaining their opinions and the faults of their opposites. Fighter planes screeched over oil-rich provinces independent in name only, the national guard holding cities they could not pronounce for ideals they invented for their leaders.
Prisons overflowed with felons who bought a joint, while rapists walked free. In California, every news room and available camera focused on a yuppie who killed his wife, while a thousand computers stole an election without a peep. From sea to shining sea, billion dollar record companies sued nine year olds for downloading three minute songs they heard on the radio. Life savings disappeared into the coffers to fund the ad campaign for the next Britney Spears, except this time, it would be twins! The best-selling books were filed under self-help or were elaborate conspiracy theories wedged into current events. Class rooms in Kansas taught that the lord created the world in 7 days, even while the Hubble space telescope glimpsed the fourteen-billion year old remnants of the Big Bang.
Reporters caught up with Loretta Biggs outside her Topeka church and asked her how she explained the fossil record if the world was indeed created on October 23, 4004 BC. “Well, young man. Of course God buried all those bones to confuse you high-falutin, too-smart scientistologists. Halleleujah and Amen.” They cut her rendition of the Lord’s Prayer to launch into a toothpaste commercial. Dentiment. Great-tasting and plaque-killing.
Russia, the declared loser of the Cold War, hurried to tiptoe as close to utter collapse as was possible without actually holding a civil war. They spent a decade bombing a breakaway province or two and battering their own army’s morale into dissolution. The apparatus of Soviet government continued on with a different head, for a time a new born democrat and then his throwback prodigy who disliked democracy enough to keep the regime from imploding another few years. Nuclear reactors popped like blown fuses, but mountains of soil and dollars - not rubles, no one would take them anymore - kept the lid on the mushroom clouds. The Russian mafia sold their most beautiful daughters to American internet users who could not get dates on their own, but did not know how to order call girls within their hemisphere. A thousand nuclear weapons probably got lost, though no one could recall since no one paid guards to keep track of them for the better part of a decade. Rollicking elections fostered a sense of democracy, even while a prophylactic factory tried to pay its workers in condoms when it ran out of money. The same workers rioted when a vodka tax raised the price by thirty cents per liter. Life expectancy among men dropped two decades in a little over five years once the less fair sex of Russians realized that their particular democracy made them neither richer or freer, nor did it make their wives Swedish or their country more than a third-world superpower has been. The Germans slaughtered the Jews and even they got the Marshall Plan.
America thought the better of itself since it still could afford to invade the occasional country or two, even if it did have a tragic cost in hundred-story office buildings. A million jobs telecommuted to India and the skilled middle class became mop-jockeys and drive-through monkeys. Too close-to-call elections led to the replacement of paper ballots with untraceable electronic ones. Immense multi-nationals reported false profits for years upon years, lied to their stockholders and jumped ship right before the iceberg with golden parachutes. Kenneth Lay did not serve a day and kept his mansion in Boca Raton. Jimmy, the stoner down the hall with all the tattoos got three-to-five upstate for owning a bong. They euthanized his two dogs since he had no family to take them. Martha Stewart did three months hard time, although the commentators could never agree on whether it was funnier or sadder. Late night talk shows got the most mileage out of every event, almost as if their script writers had a hand in the events of the day. A fake news show on Comedy Central won Emmys for journalism. Telling the truth was a laugh and passing on the lies was a fact.
All these things passed as the twenty-first century began. All around this dance of events, the workers trudged to dying factories and employees lined up at punchclocks for their menial work as janitors, sales associates, customer managers, and administrative assistants. The bureaucrats lilted easily on their thrones of senate seats and corporate board rooms. A wind lifted in the backcounty, whirling dusty through the ditches and small towns, twisting through back alleys and high rises, ever rising into the coming whirlwind.
Dr. Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.