I’ll see you again next week, kids. Here’s a free story for you — my valiant attempt at Apex’s Halloween fiction contest. Congratulations on the winners!
GET OUT AND BLOAT
copyright 2008, Jonathan C. Gillespie
“I tell you, it’s a new game since we’ve given the damn things the right to vote. Those bastards–sorry, don’t run that, okay?” And Paul Orson dives back into his sandwich.
He’s a no-nonsense man, a portly fifty-something that spends fifteen hours a day in a suit. They couldn’t handle him in the private sector, but his campaign gigs ram candidates into office with the brutal efficiency of a toddler attacking a stack of Duplo blocks with a hammer.
If Paul’s your strategist, people put you into power. But this election was different, and although his customer, President-elect Price, has achieved that most magic of titles, Paul says this year was his last. And your company landed exclusive rights to his memoirs.
He comes up from his plate with mayonnaise on his chin. He nods over behind you, you follow his gaze. Something is clawing at the frosted glass of the restaurant’s windows, fingers outstretched. It used to be human, then it wasn’t, now it is again thanks to a piece of paper.
“28th Amendment, my ass.” says Paul. “And I don’t care if they’re not infectious anymore, we need to be better about our security.” Another figure approaches the first. It turns and follows as the newcomer motions to it.
“Anyway,” says Paul. “What you really want to know about is Deerknob, Ohio, don’t you?” And your grin gives it away.
He drops his napkin on the table and leans back with a satisfied sigh.
“So we’re down eleven points in the polls going into the primary, and Price is losing it, you know, with all the exhaustion and everything else. Complaining about a hundred thousand miles, lost years off his life for nothing. But we know Ohio’s the key, like it almost always is, and I got the Hail Mary that’s going to get ole’ Price to the endzone. Tell him to relax, help’s coming, at polling places across the nation.”
“Now understand something, straight up: protestors are a special breed. Either passionate on an issue, or just crazy. Kind of like our shambling friends out there–no happy medium. We had the loonies that day in Deerknob. You know, dumped buckets of blood on themselves, said we’re all going down for letting this happen. But most of them shut up when they heard the armored truck.
“It comes around the corner, Price’s campaign slogan on it. The driver’s sitting pretty in the cab. We didn’t expect it to work, we really didn’t. But we had an army of those things following the truck. Easily ten thousand. The first dozen was just coming in.
“The few pulses that came to the polling location aren’t pleased about it, but they can’t legally do a thing. They get out of there quick, back over to the enforced side of town. But the law hangs around, guns loaded, just in case. The walkers generally didn’t bite anymore, but why take chances?
“Our opponent starts wondering why he didn’t.”
You ask if Governor Willard was actually there that night.
“What? Oh, good Lord, no. I meant that shark Ben Bradford. Strategist. Smells blood in the water like I do. Almost.” He grins at that.
“You remember the fed voting system for the walkers? Six lines, pictures of the candidates over each. A walk through each line equaled a vote. We weren’t checking registration cards, but pictures were taken of each ‘voter’ to be sure no vote counted twice elsewhere. So we’re watching the only two lines that matter–all the rest are dipshit third parties and one abstain line. Price is starting to come around, says maybe all the armored televised campaign trucks we sent into the wastelands might have helped after all. Me, I’m watching our new key demographic file towards the lines.
“We got no way of knowing if this works or not, even with being allowed to do ‘lures’, like the truck, something I took advantage of and Bend didn’t. I chuckled at Ben as I notice the first walker in our line. I’ll never forget that first one–half his skin was missing, and his left arm was a burned cinder. But he had a stupid grin on his face. He seemed to really register Price’s promises of more live cattle into the wastelands.”
“Price is watching his numbers start to shoot, and Ben is looking on in utter horror–when one of the protestors gets stupid. He comes charging out of the line, over the barricade, and he’s got an American flag. Harps on about brainwashing and welfare states. Two Deputies jump the barricade to come after him.”
“He makes it into a cluster of them, this stupid kid, and waves the flag in their faces. Bad move. Sudden movement spooks em’. One of them, this fat S.O.B, slashes him across the face. That’s it. Blood in the air. And they’re already riled up.
“They rip skin off him, then hold him down and start to go for his liver. He’s screaming and his girlfriend is screaming and the deputies are drawing their guns, and I shout at them to stop, that they know better than to shoot. The deputies back up. The walkers glance up once at them, but they leave them be. Kid’s kibbles, girl goes into shock. Family tried to sue us, we settled out of court. Lost some votes, but hell–that’s any campaign. And it doesn’t really matter any more, does it? The future goes to the man offering the most meat for the cattle.”
You wonder if that was a Freudian slip, absently, as your stomach rolls. You down a glass of water. Paul doesn’t give you much time to recover before he’s shaking your arm.
“Relax, kid. Order some desert.” He rises from the table. “When I come back from the john, I’ll tell you about Florida.”
He grins. “That’s where we really woke the dead.”