Fiction


“Hey, Sis?  You realize that the guy who’s selling you the laptop lives out in Frackville, right?”

I leaned over my sister’s shoulder and whispered a few non-English swearwords.  “Why the hell would he be out there?”

“I dunno.”

“So this means I have to go outside the city limits, then.”

“It’s only an hour’s drive beyond the wall.”  My sister shrugged.  “People do it all the time and they’re fine.  Katie went outside just two weeks ago to visit family.”

Mother emerged from the living room, her face drawn.  “Right into the middle of the Disturbance.  This laptop worth this to you?”

“I need a laptop to do my work.  No worries, Mom.”

***

I continued to tell myself I wasn’t worried even as I got ready for my trip in front of the bathroom mirror.  I pulled my hair back and stared at my face, belatedly regretting all the time I spent lounging in the sun over the summer.  Was my skin a bit too tan?

Maybe it wouldn’t matter.  Even though I had chosen my rattiest jacket and ripped jeans, it was painfully obvious I was a cityfolk.

I grabbed my knife and purse.  It really was going to be okay.

***

At the checkpoint, a pot-bellied bearded man with a gun slung across his back sauntered up to my car.  I rolled down my window.

He nodded.  “Hello there.  Purpose of trip?”

“Just travelling to Frackville to purchase a laptop.”

“Mmmmm, going shopping, huh?”  He eyed my purse eagerly.

“How much is the toll going to cost me?”

“I don’t know yet.”  He chuckled.  “You got your ID on you?”

I handed my metropolitan ID card to him.

He scowled darkly.  “Maria?”

“I’m Ukrainian,”  I snapped.

“Oh.  Yeah, I guess your last name does look Russian.  That’s okay, then.”

“Can I go?”

“Not sure.”  He leaned into my window.  “What are you doing trying to go into Nowhere unaccompanied, anyway?  It can be dangerous for females around here.”

“My father died defending the city during the killing days,”  I said coldly.  “It’s your militia’s fault that I don’t have a male guardian with me.”

To his credit, he looked abashed at this.  He cleared his throat and stepped back from the car.  “I see.  We need to run one more quick check on you, ma’am.  Rob?”  He gave my ID to the other guard, who was holding a tablet.  “Check her voting record?”

Rob typed my name in.  “She didn’t vote at all last election.”

“Lucky for you,”  the first guard said.  “You won’t get hit with our wrong candidate surcharge.”

“Great.”  I felt relieved and, for once, grateful for the political cynicism which led me to be a non-voter back in 2016.

“We’ll be nice.  Let’s make your toll payment an even hundred bucks.”

I forced a polite smile, made the payment and accepted my ID.  As I slowly drove away, a truck came to a stop at the checkpoint, and the guards gestured at the truck driver to get out so they could inspect his goods.  I heard the driver yelling obscenities at them, and I sped up until the checkpoint was out of sight.

***

The laptop seller lived in a little white house in Frackville’s mostly empty downtown area.  Across the street, there were a couple of abandoned buildings, with a Trump poster peeling away from one of the brick walls.

I knocked on the door.  A skinny old man cracked it open and peered out at me.

“Hi!  I’m here to pick up the laptop?”

“Nice to meet you, Maria.  Come on in.”

His name was Gus.  He grinned at the knife on my belt (“They still don’t let you have guns in the city?”) and then vanished into the back of the house.  I sat on the sofa and waited.  There was a cross hanging in the entry hallway, but I noticed a distinct lack of Trump portraits.  This was an encouraging sign.

I smiled at him when he returned, bearing the laptop.  “I see you’re not a big fan of President Trump, eh?”

He fidgeted nervously.  “May his soul rest in peace.”

“Amen.”

President Trump had been assassinated soon after the beginning of what we all called the Disturbance–because nobody wanted to call it a civil war–but the Disturbance rolled right along without him.  It was common for the residents of the Nowhere lands to give a place of honor in their home to portraits of the Martyr President, sometimes building miniature shrines in his memory.

After his initial moment of anxiety, Gus relaxed.  “Yeah, I never did like him much.  He seemed like a big talker to me.  Seemed like a fake.”

“Doesn’t that get you in trouble around here?”

“Me?  No.  I leave the militia guys alone, and they leave me alone.  I’ve lived here forever, anyway.”

I examined the laptop.  It was small and the keyboard was wearing out, but it would have to do.

Gus shuffled his feet.  “Sorry, I would offer you some coffee, but I only have a tiny bit left, and I don’t know when the roads will be clear for me to go get groceries.”

“That’s okay.”

“So what kind of work do you do?”

“I knit handmade hats and scarves.  I sell them online.”

I glanced up at Gus.  “Would you like my website address?  Maybe I could make you something?”

“No need for that.  Doubt I could afford it.”

There was no time for me to hang around any further.  I stood up and looked out once again upon the desolate street.

“Are you ever angry at the militia, Gus?”

“Angry?”

“About what they did to your town?”

Behind me, I could hear his soft laughter.  “The town has always been like this, before the militia ever came.  There haven’t been any jobs in Frackville for years and years.  Why do you think the people here voted for Trump?”

***

I opened the car door.  I couldn’t wait to leave this dead zone and go home.

Somewhere in the distance, the small figure of an armed man crossed the road.  The sight should have made me scared, but instead it made me sad.  How had we created a world like this?  How had we allowed this to happen?

The curtains in the front window of the little white house moved.  I didn’t want to make Gus uncomfortable by staying there too long.  I got in the car and started on the drive back to the checkpoint and my exit out of Nowhere.

 

 

Natasha wrinkled her nose at the computer.  It was another e-mail from that annoying Eurobrat chick, inviting her to yet another lame party.

There would be many selfie-worthy parties around town this weekend, but this wouldn’t be one of them.  It would be an event for a good cause and it would be full of the depressing people who cared about good causes.  Beers For Prairie Dogs!  the e-mail proudly proclaimed.  Natasha had seen enough.

She was about to delete the e-mail, when something caught her eye.  Could it be?  Was one of the Kardashian sisters really going to be calling into the event live?  And who knew she cared so much about prairie dogs?

***

Her plan was to hang out in the corner of the room, close enough to hear that sultry Kardashian voice, but far enough not to have to interact with any of the political dorks.  It might have worked–except that, unfortunately, Eurobrat was there.  She spotted Natasha’s hiding place and came running over.

“Oh, I’m so glad you could make it!”  Eurobrat gushed.  “This is such an important night for us.  Have you signed our petition?”

“Yes,” Natasha lied.

“Great!  Wow, it feels like I haven’t seen you in forever!”

“No, you haven’t,”  Natasha mumbled.

“Well, you should join me tomorrow.  I’m going to go door-to-door canvassing for Representative Funkhousen.  It’s going to be so much fun!”

Natasha had no idea how to respond to such a pathetic statement, so she remained silent.  During the awkward moments that followed, she had plenty of time to examine the sweater which Eurobrat was wearing.  It had a giant embroidered owl on it.  Her eyes then wandered to a table with a bowl of chips, which the young activists were ravenously attacking.  At the far side of the room, people were waving their arms and excitedly yelling out answers to trivia questions.  Zoning Laws Quiz, the sign above them read.

A few of Eurobrat’s friends had gathered around them.  They were all equally bright-eyed and enthusiastic.  One of them, a pony-tailed guy who had been entertaining everyone with tales of his tree-climbing protests, gave Natasha a careful once-over.

“Hey, how’s it going?  Have you seen the latest poll results?”  he asked her.

“Oh, I don’t keep up with that stuff.”  She shrugged.  “I hate all politicians, anyway.”

He shook his head.  “This isn’t about you liking them.  It’s bigger than you or me.  One wrong choice in the election, and the country could end up moving backwards.  We could go to a very dark place.”

She stared at him with interest.  She didn’t believe anything scary would actually happen to the country.  And what difference did it make who was President?  She never noticed any.  This guy sounded like he was into conspiracy theories.  But if he cut off that long hair, he could be pretty attractive.

She smiled at him.  “Wanna go out for drinks after this?”

He smiled back.  “No, but I’ll be at a rally for the new corporate tax Sunday.  I would love to see you there.  You could help raise money for our income equality organization?”

Her face fell.  She hated doing sales and asking strangers for money.  What was it with these people?

“Is this the only thing you ever do for a hobby?”  Her voice was edged with irritation.

“Well, yeah.”  He still sounded unnaturally cheery.  “Why are you here?  Don’t you want to work for the revolution?”

The revolution?  What did that even mean?  She now felt embarrassed that she briefly considered going out with this guy.

“I’m a little concerned that you can’t give me a clear answer.  Are you sure you’re truly committed?”  His cheerfulness was melting away.

“Yeah.”  Her eyes darted back and forth.  When was the Kardashian call going to happen?

“She’s totally committed!”  Eurobrat defensively put an arm around her friend.  “I’ve known her for years and she’s a fabulous person.”

Their conversation was disrupted by a loud voice.

A particularly skinny activist had climbed up on one of the tables.  “Welcome to all my fellow warriors!  Thank you all for being here for this world-changing event.”

Eurobrat and her friends cheered and applauded.

“As some of you may know, a certain Kardashian sister is a supporter of our movement…”

There were scattered boos around the room.

“We had hoped to convince her to call in tonight, but her schedule is a bit crazy.  But I’ve got exciting news.  She did agree to post a picture of a prairie dog on her Instagram.  Please share the picture on your social media, tell your friends to do it too…”

A wave of cold rage washed over Natasha.  So these losers had lied about a celebrity phone call, just to lure people here.  She had wasted her time with a bunch of nutjobs.  Random drunken clubbing would’ve been better.

“Personally, I’m glad that this event will not be tainted by an association with a reality TV star,” Eurobrat sniffed.  “Wanna go take a look at the prairie dog shirts, Natasha?  They’re so cute!”

“A prairie dog T-shirt?”  Natasha asked through gritted teeth.  “What makes you think I would be caught dead wearing such a thing?”

“Um…you seem upset,”  Eurobrat said.  “Can I hold some space for you so that you can work through your feelings?”

“Yes, I would love to tell you exactly how I feel!”  Natasha screamed.  “I can’t believe I even came to this dumb party!  All I wanted was a chance to talk to the Kardashians…”

Eurobrat stepped back.  “But…what about helping us?”

“You’re such fucking idiots!  You really think your party’s going to change what the government does?  Nobody cares.  And I don’t give a fuck, either.”

She turned on her heel, leaving everyone with their jaws dropped, and stalked out.

“I told you you should be more careful about those invitations you send out, Eurobrat,” she heard someone behind her say.

Once she was out on the street, she could breathe more easily.  She was, indeed, working through her feelings.  It still wasn’t too late to go somewhere else.  The next party she would go to would have people drinking cocktails, wearing the latest fashions–you know, doing the things that really mattered.

Dedicated to all the disappointed elves

She worked her magicks in the darkest recesses of a D.C. conference room, her navy blue pantsuit blending perfectly with the shadows.  Lady Hillary bent her head over a makeshift altar and chanted the incantations that would turn her into the Ruler of the Free World.

Just as she was halfway through her TPP spell, the door of the room flew open and a slim silhouette appeared.

She turned from the altar and sighed heavily.  Naturally, it was one of Bernie’s elves.  Many of them had by now acknowledged defeat and scurried back to their woodland communes to tend their tiny herb gardens, but a couple of die-hards here and there were still trying to mount attacks on her.

The Bernista had flowing locks and big, bright eyes.  She was followed into the room by her unicorn sidekick.  Lady Hillary glared at them with impatience.

“You’re never going to give up, are you?”

“It’s not too late!”  the elf proclaimed with a trembling voice.  She threw her hands up and wiggled her fingers in the air.  “I cast my positive vibrations upon you, oh dark one!  Acknowledge that you are not the rightful nominee!”

Lady Hillary cackled.  “Spare me this amateur stuff.  You do realize, of course, that I have persuaded the majority of those in the Democratic Party to vote for me.”

“It’s all lies and fraud!  It cannot be true.  Bernie is the chosen one for this time.  Did you not see the Goddess send down the little bird at his rally?  Do not question the bird!”

“Enough about that stupid bird already…well, never mind.”  Lady Hillary softened her tone. “Look, you and I both know that the only way to defeat the Donald is to make an alliance with me.  Be reasonable, my little one.  You want to believe in good witches, but that’s not how the world works.  Although I do so admire that pure heart of yours…I feel as if…I must have it…”  She reached out her hand toward the glowing center in the elf’s chest.

“Don’t touch me!” the elf squealed, backing away.

“Or what?  Your Bernie will save you?”

“Bernie will save everyone in Americaland.”

“Ha!  You think his wizardry is truly powerful enough to make all his promises come true?  He will have to raise taxes.”

A slight smile played upon the elf’s lips.  “Ah, but you do not know about our secret weapon. Our unicorns aren’t just adorable…they also fart money.”

“Is that so?”  Lady Hillary stared at the unicorn with great interest.

“I feel a little put on the spot,” the unicorn said.

The elf tilted her head.  “Now will you concede the battle?”

“Concede?”  Lady Hillary laughed.  “Clearly, you do not understand the kind of power you are dealing with here.”  As she said this, she expanded and grew in stature, until she towered over the Bernista.  “I am not merely the Democratic candidate for President.  I am also a crazy leftist and a sell-out Republican at the same time.  Simultaneously responsible for too much war and too much appeasement.  Too calculating and too loud.  Too easily influenced by corporations and by socialists.  I contain it all, the left and the right, the masculine and feminine, every policy and none of them.  I am the everything and nothing of politics.  Try to stand against me and you will be consumed by the void.”

The elf covered her face, but she was past saving.  Her bright eyes turned black–she had gazed into the heart of the political machine.  One more moment, and she vanished into a puff of glitter.  The unicorn pooped out a little pile of cash and fled.

Lady Hillary shook her head.  “Always the same with these creatures.  So much fire, so little strategy.  It’s a shame–this one was cute.”  She turned back to the altar.  “Ah, yes.  What should I do next?  Where is that spell to get Bernie’s endorsement?”

He grew irritated with their questioning.  They were members of the lamestream media, forever doubting the things he needed to do.

“It’s understandable that some people had to be arrested, but did they have to be shot?”

“They were troublemakers.  They were rioting.  Okay?  This is what happens.  Linda?”

“Do you have anything to say about the 30% unemployment rate?”

“That’s temporary.  That’s only temporary.  Sometimes there needs to be a little pain.  I’m about to bring amazing jobs to this country, believe me.  You have no idea.”

“But how will you do that, when…”

“Okay.  You’re done.  I already told you, honey.  Amazing jobs.  Hey Rick, how are you?”

“I’m doing very well, thank you.  Mr. President, you have increased domestic oil production…”

“We’re drilling everywhere.  Drilling everywhere.”

“…You’ve also removed excessive regulation, making it easier for our corporations to grow.  We’re getting richer by the day.  My question is, how much more glorious and powerful is America going to become in the near future?”

“You don’t even know, buddy.  So much glory.  So great.  Number one.  Number one.”

“Thank you for your inspiring answer.”

“No problem.  Let’s see…Dan?”

“Mr. President, you’ve shown that you are not afraid to punish our enemies, even if it means using nuclear weapons.  The American people are grateful for your help and protection…”

“You’re laying it on pretty thick, pal.”

“Hahahahaha….”

“But I do know that they’re grateful.  I know they are.”

“What do you tell the naysayers who say that you’ve made the world a more dangerous place?  That the civilian casualties in our strike on London were too high?”

“Those people were losers.  They had to be bombed.”

Another reporter chimed in.  “But those Americans who are protesting your policies…”

“They’re losers too.  That’s why I had to lock so many of em up.  Losers belong in jail.”

“Don’t you think that…”

“All right, I’m finished with this question.  We’re done.”

“Mr. President, please…”

“Hey Gary, will you remove this guy?  Will you take him outside?  Thank you.”

“What?  Hey, hold on!  You can’t do this!”

“Mr. President, you can’t just remove journalists because they ask you questions you don’t like.”

“You again, Linda?  I thought I told you before, sweet cheeks.  Security, take them both outside.  And make sure to help get them sobered up when they’re out there.  And don’t go easy on her–they wanna get equal treatment, right?”

Once the noise of the journalists getting dragged out of the room died down, the President nodded and lifted up his hand.

“Okay, we can keep going.  Kelsey?”

“You are obviously a man who cherishes and protects American women.  Where do you think that quality comes from?”

“That is a great question, Kelsey.  Believe me when I say that…”

A few decades had gone by, and still the war went on.  Nobody in the country even remembered who Osama bin Laden had been, although some had a vague memory of a terrorist getting killed at a televised White House dinner.

And yet, every Friday afternoon the same thing continued in my hometown–the old hippies came out to protest.  The real 1960s hippies had died out by then, but these folks proudly carried on the tradition.  They slouched down Main Street with signs proclaiming hilarious things such as “Troops Out Of Iraq!” and “No Money For Israel!” and “Funding For Infrastructure!”  They circled the downtown blocks, screaming at a President who couldn’t hear them, and who wasn’t listening anyway.

I could hear them, though, every week when I left the office.  The company I worked for manufactured toy drones, and I was always worn out after a long day of customers with malfunctioning drones which crashed into trees or attacked their children.  Friday was when I would treat myself — fries and a beer at my favorite downtown pub.  Even as I chewed, the hippie chants echoed in my direction.  Rain or shine, they were there.  And she was there.

I did my best to keep my eyes on my plate and avoid eye contact as she went past the glass. But on that particular day, much to my dismay, she came in to talk to me.

“Hey, Mom.”  I managed to fake a weak smile.  “I’m very tired right now, so…”

“Can’t I even say hi to you anymore?”

“Not if it turns into another crazy rant…”

“It’s not crazy.  It’s not crazy to tell you that your job is bad for you.  You’re wasting your life. You hate those stupid toys…”

“Oh, sure.  And you’re not wasting your time doing this?”

“I’m doing it for my country!”

“Look, Mom.  Nobody cares.  Your country isn’t paying attention.  This is my one reward for my shitty week–could you please leave me alone?”

“Okay.  Have a good dinner.”  I felt her move away and walk out behind me, but didn’t look back.

But once I’d finished my beer, my anger faded away.  Alcohol made me sentimental.  So what if she wanted to walk around and yell with her anti-war sign, or tell me about all the conspiracy theories she’d read on the Internet?  She was retired, and retired people got to spend their time doing whatever silly stuff they felt like doing.  Hell, maybe I’d join her at the rally.  I wouldn’t hold any signs, of course–I didn’t want any embarrassing pictures of me online–but I could applaud the speeches and pretend to chant along a little.

I paid for my meal and went to the city square, where the marches ended every week in a sparse, hoarse-throated rally.  I must’ve taken too long, because the square was empty by the time I got there.  The cops were half-heartedly arresting one or two people.  The grey-bearded little man who liked to throw eggs at them was being led away.

No rally, no protest, no chance to chant.  No chance to make it up to Mom.  It was now drizzling miserably.

I heard indistinct shouting to my right.  It was the other protester who was there every week — the one with pictures of chopped up babies.

“You’ll burn in eternal Hell!”  he boomed at me through his bullhorn.

He eyed me with suspicion as I approached.  I handed him a twenty.  “For your church,” I said.  I didn’t tell him that I felt sad for him.

He glared at me, but he did pocket the twenty.  In return, he handed me one of his anti-abortion brochures.

As I walked away, he called after me:  “Remember, God doesn’t just want your money!  He wants your soul!”

I laughed.  How sweet of him to assume I had one.

It happened just as I flopped down in my chair, ready to relax after a long day of work.  I had been looking forward to an hour or two of mindless social media scrolling.  My brain was in the process of shutting down already.

But then the phone rang.  I stared at the jangling beast angrily.  I never answered the phone anymore.  Who would be asking me for money now?

Going against my instincts, I picked it up.  “Hello?”

“Hey.”  It was a friend of mine.

“What’s up?”

“Why did you unfriend me?”

“What?”  What was she thinking asking me that question?  Didn’t she know that went against every rule of etiquette?

“I’m not an idiot.  I can see that you’re not on my friends list anymore.”

“It’s nothing personal!  It was a social score thing.”

“Oh, okay.  You’re right then, it wasn’t personal.”  Her tone was sarcastic.

“See, that’s the problem.  You’re way too sensitive about this stuff.  It’s only Facebook.  Jesus.”

“I don’t know.  You took it seriously enough to unfriend me.”

“Well, you keep posting political crap.  What’s the point of that anyway?  You know that arguing politics online is a waste of time.”

“Maybe…”  She hesitated.

“Look, I’m not going to tell you what to do with your life.  It’s your own business if you don’t care about your social score, but you’re bringing everybody else’s score down, too, because they’re friends with you.  You can’t blame people if they want to back off from that.”

“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to do that to you.”

“There are only a gazillion other topics you could post about…your cats, your favorite restaurants.  Things you’d love to buy.  Those kinds of posts would make your friends happy, and they’re approved by Facebook.”

“You know that I do try to post updates about my life.”

“And that’s the other problem.  You’re way too negative.  Negativity brings your score down, too.  The last couple of updates you made were whiny.”

“I got fired from my job.  I wasn’t feeling very happy.”

“Do I have to explain the basics to you?  Just make sure to add something positive to your post to balance it out.  You know, say something like I feel kinda sad today because I was fired, but I know a much better job is just around the corner!”

“But I don’t think there is a better job around the corner.”

“You don’t really have to believe it.  Just stick it in at the end.  Everyone will get what you’re trying to do.”

“Sure.”  She sounded defeated.  “I don’t understand why we have to be so obsessed with our social scores.”

“Well, maybe you don’t care about getting discounts on your expenses, but I do.  Not everyone can afford to pay full price for everything.  It helps me out when my score adds up.  If it goes up by 200 more points, I can get a bigger TV.”

“Okay.  Congrats.  I’m happy for you.  I guess I’ll keep my opinions to myself from now on.”

“Social media just isn’t the place for them.  You can tell people your opinions face to face.”

“But we never talk in person anymore.”

“Erm…”  I had no idea how to reply to that.  I squirmed in my chair, trying to come up with some pleasant but noncommittal answer.

But I didn’t need to.  There was only a disconnected beeping in my ear.  She had hung up on me–thank God.

Note:  This story is my attempt to imagine what an American version of the Sesame Credit program would look like.  Sesame Credit is a social media program which the Chinese government is in the process of implementing.  This article is a good basic breakdown of how it’s supposed to work.

I snuck up the stairs to our apartment, sweating, dripping with shame.  I had committed the darkest possible sin:  I had voted Republican.

Never had I imagined it would come to this, but one fine day, it happened—I couldn’t handle yet another tax hike.  A new campaign was going on to increase the alcohol sales tax to help the schools, and as much as I loved schools, I loved beer more.  At this rate, I soon wouldn’t be able to afford my drinking habit.  So I voted against the tax measure and for the Republican candidate.

Even though our town was under liberal rule, it allowed the continuing existence of the local Republican party, mostly due to the smug knowledge that almost nobody would vote for them.

This was my one comfort.  No matter how guilty I felt about my vote, it would be a minority voice, to be swept away by the election winds.  None of my loved ones would be any the wiser.

Still, my conscience weighed me down.  I had nausea and panic attacks when I went to bed.  I felt as if I had, in some indirect way, raped somebody.

And then the tax measure failed.  The Republican candidate didn’t get elected, but fifty-five percent of our town residents quietly voted against the tax increase.

My friends gathered to mourn at our place, ashen-faced.  They were in shock.

“How could people be so short-sighted?  So selfish?  I mean, really?”  Nova wondered.

“I feel like burning something down,”  Julian stammered.

“Maybe the voters like to get drunk,”  I suggested.

“I guess so.  I’m glad they’ve got their priorities,”  Nova said angrily.

“I wish I knew some Republicans, so I could argue with them right now!”  Julian said.

I refrained from comment, at least until later that evening.

***

“Ah, so how does it feel to be me for once?”  RedGirl asked.

“Go ahead, you can gloat,”  I said.

“I can’t believe that you actually did vote Republican.  What happened?  What made you see the light?”

“Not so fast.  I still plan to vote Democratic in the general election.  It’s just that our local lefties are so inept.”

“Sure.  Well, being a political minority isn’t easy.  But remember, you’re strong.  You can survive being a social pariah.”

“You’re not very good at the comforting thing.”

“Would you like to come to a Whiskey Party rally with us?”

I had seen what the rallies against the local government looked like:  lots of waving of tri-cornered hats, guns and American flags.  “Er…no.”

“Okay, but you’re always welcome if you change your mind.”

***

It was when I made the fateful decision to check my Facebook that the temptation appeared.  My sister had Liked the I’m So Happy Measure 569 Didn’t Pass! page.  I knew it was a bad idea, but here was the chance to assert a different opinion for once, and it was so deadly easy—all I had to do was click.

I moved the mouse back and forth nervously.  The word Like glowed and danced before my eyes.  I felt as if I was about to climb the barricades.

I clicked Like, turned off the computer and rolled into a ball under my bedcovers.

An hour or so later, Julian came into the bedroom.  When I peeked out from under the sheets, he backed away in horror.

“Don’t do that, baby.”

“I don’t understand what you’ve changed into,” he said.  “I thought I knew who I was sleeping with.  Now it turns out I’ve been having sex with a…a conservative.”

“You haven’t.  This was only one issue, one election.”

“One issue ruins everything, Blue.  You’re not pure anymore.”

“Are you serious?  Where are you going?”

“I need to be alone so I can deal with this Like thing.”

“Will you be coming back?”

“I don’t know.”  I heard the living room door close behind him and then the sofa squeaking underneath him.

At work, all my stuff had been packed up into a box.

Leah was tense.  “It’s too bad.  We could have been sisters in the struggle…”

“Maybe I can Unlike the page.”

“No, it’s too late now.  You’ve crossed the line and you can’t go back again.”

Jobless and possibly single, I went to the only place I could think of where I could express my powerless rage.

***

A large man in a tri-cornered hat bumped into me and my cardboard box.  “Get a job, whiner!”  he bellowed before joining the rest of the shouting throng.

The Whiskey Party rally in front of City Hall.  Small but loud, with a whiff of insanity.  It fit my mood perfectly.  I strained my eyes until I found RedGirl.  She was lifting up a sign which read “Arrest The False Messiah,” referring to the President.

She wagged her sign at me in greeting.  “Hey,”  she said.  “I Liked your Like on Facebook.”

I nodded.  “Thanks.  You’re the only one who did.”  I hesitated.  “After all this time we’ve spent fighting each other, you may have been the one who was right.”

She gave a sideways glance at the protest.  “Can we walk away from here for a few minutes?”

She let her sign slump at her side as we walked.  “You’re the only person I can talk to about this…   I think I’m going to vote Democrat in the upcoming election.  I’m scared of the cuts in retirement and Medicare and everything…”

For a moment, we faced each other in silence.  “It sounds like we’ve both secretly sinned against our ideologies,”  I said.

“Ideologies can get so difficult,”  RedGirl sighed.  “So now what?  Which side am I on again?  And what are the sides?”

I pondered it.  “As horrible as the realization is, we may be on the same side.”

She shuddered.

“I know, I know.  But when it comes down to it, we’re both getting screwed.”

“Well, I am, at least…”

“Whatever.  My point is, take a look at the Squircal guys and how their approach to life works.  No matter which political group is in charge, they’re always in power.  They have no problem with being the government or a corporation, depending on which suits them better.”

“Yeah…but that’s how the world is.”

“Really?  Why is it that they get to do all the things they get to do?  Why do you have to spend your life doing what they tell you to do?”

“Fine, fine, it’s true and it’s painful, okay?  What do you want me to say?  It’s not like I can do anything about it.”

“By yourself, you can’t do very much…but what if we joined forces?”

RedGirl was quiet for a while.  Finally she said:  “You know how you could never fly, and I could?”

“Yeah, I’m kind of a lame superhero.”

“Let’s try holding hands.”

I wasn’t at all sure this was going to work.  RedGirl took off, pulling me along with her at first, but as we went on, I felt it happening—I became lighter, and then we were flying together.

We didn’t have to say anything to each other about where we were going.  We sped as one in the direction of the tallest skyscraper in town.

***

The Squircal men were none too thrilled to see me on the top floor of their building.

“Not you and your democracy crap again.  We don’t have time for this,”  one of them said.  He saw RedGirl standing next to me.  “Oh, good.  Take her away,”  he ordered.

She refused to move.  “Boo-Boo, you’ve been lying to me about the economy.  I don’t believe you anymore.”

He groaned in annoyance.  “Look, there’s a nice fat bonus in it for you…”

“No.  We’re sisters,”  she said, and took my hand again.  Now that we were united, our energy was finally strong enough to defeat Squircal.  It grew into a giant ball of purple light and shot gleaming rays into the sky, piercing the clouds.

The executives squealed like a herd of pigs.  Exposed to our light, their skin burst and the air escaped out of them, until they crumbled and there was nothing left of them except a few shriveled lumps of charcoal.

As the dust cleared, the sound of fluttering wings was heard.  The Bat briefly perched on the remains of his followers, sniffed at them with contempt and then flew away again, no doubt to search for new and better minions.

The fight was over.  The skies were clear.  My sister and I stared at each other across the empty Squircal offices.

“Yay us!”  She pumped her fists in the air.  “So, what happens now?  What kind of political system do we have now?”

“Um…I think it’s up to us,”  I said.  “We build it.”

“Oh.”  She leaned against the wall, the first traces of fear and regret in her face.

I looked down at my hands.

THE END (FOR NOW)

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