It’s the light that hurts us first. The light scorching the eyelids that try their best to protect us, to let us slumber on. But we can’t. We have to wake up.
So we raise our head as much as we can without the pain getting too bad and we look around, only for confirmation to be almost immediate: yep — it was another wild night. We had another one of those nights, and here we are waking up, sprawled on a soiled mattress with joints that feel like they’ve been through a blender and a mouth that tastes like an ashtray left out in the rain.
Another notch on the bedpost, another Democratic primary behind us.
This one feels different though.
We survey the wreckage strewn about the room, some of it illuminated by the pale light of day coming in from the one of the two uncovered windows: the ‘Bernie 2016’ posters draped over every possible surface; the ‘Feel The Bern’ placards poking out of the displaced and rusting bathtub positioned for some reason in the middle of the room; Danny DeVito passed out and snoring in the corner atop a giant mound of Washington Posts and the New York Times.
What’s going on? What happened? We don’t remember anything. And why does it feel like the day after tomorrow?
The TV is still on. Well, in a way. It has a boot sticking out of it. Our boot, hurled in rage, the screen frozen on the last image that crossed it before our footwear did: the stern, tanned visage of a cable news anchor, her perfect blonde hair framing an immaculately chiseled face, her eyes fixed on a digital graphic to her side that she cannot see and that is forever etched into the cracked surface: ‘Hillary Clinton makes it 5 for 5 on Super Tuesday.’
Oh. That’s why the boot.
With great effort and buoyed by a cocktail of sadness and rage we stagger to our feet, only to steady ourselves on a nearby half-burnt-but-still-standing effigy of Donald Trump. We notice what it is and an instinctive swing at his face destabilises us somewhat, but luckily we lurch in the direction that we were heading: DeVito. He fell asleep with his smartphone in his hand. We grab it, weary as ever of the vicious attacks that can manifest in his sleep, and retreat back to our mattress. Slumped back down again, half upright and leaning against a wall smeared with symbols of the word ‘hope’ crossed out in red paint, we check the news.
We see that Clinton took Illinois, narrowly. We see that Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina each went to her by a wide margin — though the latter by a much smaller than expected one. And we see that Missouri was a dead heat but that Clinton just about pulled ahead in the end.
We hurl the phone against the far wall without thinking. It smashes into a makeshift map of the Middle East with pins stuck in the countries that we’ve helped turn into smoking ruins. ‘Get some more pins ready! The neocons are here to stay!’ we scream bitterly at it, only to be startled by the sound of a stirring DeVito.
We gather the essentials — the half-finished bottle of Lagavulin and the crumpled but not quite empty pack of cigarettes — and haphazardly but swiftly dash for the door before a stirring DeVito becomes a woken DeVito.
Closing the door firmly behind us we wander down the disheveled corridor — what kind of hellhole of a hotel is this? — towards the elevator while we mumble to ourselves, ‘This wasn’t meant to happen. Michigan happened. Michigan was meant to turn things around! How is everyone still swallowing this shit? We said all the right things. We have a decades’ long track record of integrity. We mobilised the people like no one before. Goddamn the party apparatus! Goddamn the media!’
The elevator arrives and, unsure of where else to go, we take it to the ground floor. It creaks its way down until the doors open on a nondescript if shabby-looking lobby. Stepping out we cross the deserted room, draining the rest of the Lagavulin and throwing the empty bottle over our shoulder, and we leave via the closest set of doors. Doors that lead us outside, straight into pain — it’s that light again. It still hurts.
Adjusting our vision we notice we’re poolside. Palm trees shade parts of the tiled floor, the pool overflowing onto it a sickly greenish hue of Not Good. We notice that further down someone has daubed graffiti on the tiles, this time in brown paint: ‘It’s all over! It’s all over! A vote for Hillary = a vote for Trump!’ Following the drip-drip tracks of paint we see the source: it’s not brown paint. It’s shit, and the culprit lies slumped face-first against the corner, trousers down and arse out, with a revolver in one hand. They blew their brains out after delivering their excre-message.
Good. Fucking ridiculous thing to write. Even in your own shit.
But the mad gibberish and despicable violence on show do little to distract us from the horrifying truth: maybe it is all over. Even with the Clinton-friendly South now gone and with the more Sanders-friendly half of the race to come, maybe it is all over.
‘I know that look on your face, you pansy!’ a gravelly and familiar voice rings out. ‘It ain’t over till the fat lady sings!’
DeVito! Standing in the door we just came in, cigarette in hand. How in holy hell does he look so chipper, we wonder, after the state we just saw him in?
‘Never mind about me!’
Damn. How does he do that every time?
‘Here, drink this!’ he says, holding out a bottle of Jack Daniels as he saunters towards us, taking a drag on his cigarette. ‘Drink up. It’s a Lemmy minus the coke.’
We drink. It tastes good.
‘I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t look good. She’s gotta lotta delegates. A helluva gap. A gap we could close, but probably now won’t.’ His face hardens in resolve and he gets that look in his eyes that only DeVito can. ‘But we gotta fight all the way. We changed this race. For the better. We shifted the Overton window and we became a mouthpiece for the millions of voices previously unheard. They have been heard now, and they will not be silenced. Even if we go away, they will not.’
We take another swig of the Lemmy-without-coke and hand him back the bottle. Wiping our mouth with the back of our hand we stare, encouraged and fired up but still disconsolate, at the shit-smeared words, ‘It’s all over!’
‘I know what you’re thinking again. I’m thinking it too: dammit, why would they vote for her? She’s just saying now what we’ve been saying for years. She doesn’t mean it.’
‘I know. It almost makes me agree with that damn shit-sign on the floor.’
Suddenly a tremor runs through the earth. The building shivers and a loosened chunk of plate glass falls from a few stories up and crashes into the pool. We shoot a look at DeVito, his cigarette extinguished by the splash, and we both run back into the lobby and through it towards the other set of doors. Another tremor passes through the ground.
Crashing through the half-broken doors shoulder-first we find ourselves mere feet away from a cliff edge, a vertiginous drop and vast fog-covered vista stretching out before us. Another tremor. This time after a smaller delay than the one before. We look at DeVito again. Something’s coming. We stare out across the expanse.
Another tremor, and something red emerges from the mist in the far distance. The top of something colossal, Godzilla-like, bobbing up and down in the fog, coming closer, closing the distance in gigantic strides.
DeVito vocalises what we’re both thinking: ‘What the…?’ when, as if on cue, a beam of light bursts through the overcast sky, illuminating the red shape still far away. We strain our eyes and squint, and some writing becomes discernible: ‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!’ The next stride brings the top of a mammoth orange head momentarily into view and realisation dawns.
‘Fuck this!’ we bark in unison with DeVito. The beast is still a way off but we both know what to do.
‘See you later, kid. Do what you need to do. Meet back here in a few months, whatever the result,’ DeVito says, as he begins shoring up the defences. We give him the nod and fly away with a nearby jetpack, catching sight of ourselves briefly in one of the hotel’s few unbroken windows — we are Bernie Sanders and his supporters.
We have changed the rules of the game.
We have shifted the national conversation.
We are still determined to beat Clinton and to change the system. But if we don’t manage to do the former this time then we know that the only way to do the latter is to return here and slay the orange beast first. Together.
After that, the future.