Boskeopolis was a shithole.
Don’t ask me how it happened
so soon after O’Beefe
had officially declared himself mayor
in Mayor Chamsby’s disappearance.
Most would say that considering
Boskeopolis’s economic, environmental,
& overall social system for the last 2 decades
that Boskeopolis was headed this way, anyway.
Still the extreme changes in just a few days were shocking—
as if the world’s script were
allergically reacting to some parameter in O’Beefe’s code.
’Twas an unreal city1 under the variegated fog o’ winter—
fog so thick the city was permanently in the infirmity o’ twilight.
’Cause o’ this, the previously blooming groves
that’d put the “Bosk” in “Boskeopolis”
shriveled & withered till
they were but naked bones, hair & skin
scattered round their bent feet as if under radioactive rays.
Replacing the subtle life o’ these trees
was the loud mimicry o’ life
mysteriously emerging from the city’s many shadows.
Taxis throbbed & waited
for unsuspecting citizens to draw near for a ride
only to be devoured by a monstrous face
suddenly blinking on the hood & bumper.
Middle-aged men with blue faces
chased innocent civilians with metal canes.
Violent hours in liquid clocks gang up with
possessed petroleum pumps,
wide-grinned records, &
coffee mugs running so abruptly
that they splashed their indigo serums o’er
the cracked & rusty streets,
feeding its kilometer-stretching stains.
& all throughout,
neon smoke choked throats,
while a cacophony o’
beeps, buzzes, zips, zaps, wooshes,
whirrs, plplplps, & scratches
nesting in ears like heart worms—
till one’s brain runs out o’ nutrients.
Though Autumn woke early in the morn—when the sky’d still be black e’en before the city’s mutation—she remained ’side Dawn, not wanting to deprive herself or Dawn o’ warmth.
’Sides, she could use the time to think. How strange it seemed for her previous patterns o’ action to suddenly lose their context. Usually she’d push herself to constant action, saving her pondering for her computer’s many delays.
She had to admit a tinge o’ emptiness @ the lack o’ her laptop—the 1 important possession she’d had for a noticeable length o’ time—& coffee.
I thought getting older was s’posed to make one less spoiled; but I seem to be getting weaker, lazier… softer.
She tried to breathe mo’ slowly to calm what she called her “paranoid predictions.” She clutched Edgar’s arm ’neath her jacket mo’ tightly.
’Twas the uncertainties that were the true trouble. In truth, they didn’t have a true plan: they merely stayed in their egg till either the crows came to lay them or an enemy came to crack them @ a brick wall.
How that crow would look—¿Chamsby finding a way to get the city back on his side & returning it to peace? ¿Someone else assassinating O’Beefe & returning it to peace?—she had no idea.
If she had to guess, their egg wouldn’t hatch for a long time.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a noise. Then she heard a click & saw a light beam splash o’er her & Dawn.
“Hope I haven’t ruined your beauty rest.”
From ’hind the glare of the flashlight she could faintly see O’Beefe like a ghost.
“¡Hark!” Autumn shouted as she put on her shades. She turned to Dawn & shook her. “¡Cannoli! ¡The fucking Feds are here! ¡I told you they’d come! ¡I fucking told ya! ¡They’ll force their fucking chips in our head now!”
Dawn murmured for a few seconds before slowly rising with wincing eyes. She picked up her pince-nez & put them on.
“¡I must say, Sirs! ¡This is most indubitably uncivilized!” she said with a finger raised.
O’Beefe’s grin only widened.
“Those are sure nifty costumes you got,” he said. “Maybe you can find some time to needle me some before the needle’s finally stuck in you 2.”
“¡We are most certainly not your tailors, Sir!” said Dawn.
Autumn clutched her by the shoulders. “¿Did you not hear him? He said he’s gonna stick 1 o’ his needles into us. Probably try & give us the dick disease, like they gave Capone when he didn’t pay their fascist taxes.”
“Not so rough, Sir Carpaccio, you’re ruffling my ruffles,” said Dawn.
“As I said, those are nice disguises you got there, Madames Springer & Summers,” said O’Beefe.
Then he moved his flashlight round & stopped on the backpack.
“Agent Mellow Yellow, be a doll & search through that pack o’er there.”
But before he could e’en say yes, Autumn grasped the pack by 1 o’ its clasps & hugged it.
“¡O’er my dead body!” she shouted. “¡My shit’s not for you commies to just take whenever you want!”
Dawn adjusted her pince-nez.
“I affirm. This is truly a violation o’ the Queen’s oaths gainst invasion o’ privacy without a warrant, I warrant you.”
O’Beefe snapped a finger.
“Agents, shake these 2 out o’ their zany costumes so we can finish this before I faint from the smell o’ them.”
“Um, ¿what if they’re… you know… not dressed ’neath?”
O’Beefe turned to him with a wink & a finger gun.
“Then, my boy, you’re 1 lucky guy.”
By this point, Autumn & Dawn had already leapt to their feet & scrambled back into the shadows, only to bump into the rubbery substance of someone. Just after, ’nother light clicked o’er them.
“Err, I don’t think you should be leaving,” 1 o’ the guards said as he picked Autumn up by her arm.
“I’ve got the other 1,” ’nother minion said as he held Dawn by the arm.
Autumn immediately twisted gainst the guard’s grasp while simultaneously shoving her foot in his crotch, only for the other minions to join in & hold her down onto her chest, her arms locked ’hind her back.
“A feisty one, ¿ain’t we?” O’Beefe said as he stepped toward them. He held his hand out & said to the general group o’ guards holding Autumn down, “Give me her pack.”
Agent Razzmatazz did so & O’Beefe dug through it, during which he found a black plastic bag. He checked inside & was unsurprised to find a pile o’ bones & a skull staring in terror @ his smiling face.
“Good morn, Sir Winters. Funny how you’d be kicking cans with Madames ‘Carpaccio’ & ‘¿Cannoli’? Don’t tell me those other bitches dogged you, bra.”
Edgar didn’t reply. After a minute o’ terrified silence, O’Beefe closed the pack, hoisted it o’er his shoulder, & led the rest out.
“Get up,” said a testy voice.
Lance’s eyes peeled open hazily only to pop fully open @ the sight o’ a man in white police uniform.
“All right. Move out,” barked the officer.
“¿What?” Lance practically squeaked.
“I said move out. This isn’t your personal bed, Our Magnificence.”
Lance could feel the fury flush through his veins. Wouldn’t it be great to have this slob fired. ¡“Our Magnificence,” indeed!
But he knew that’d risk being arrested, & that risking arrest would risk being caught, so he silently rose to his feet, feeling his legs ache from pressing gainst the hard wood o’ the bench all night. Every bone felt the imprint from hours o’ ceaseless chill breaking through his flimsy newspaper blanket, leaving his nose stuffy.
Great. Now I’ve probably got a cold. ¿How am I s’posed to survive in such savage circumstances?
Lance stood, packed his body together tightly to insulate gainst the cold with his hands in his pockets, & shuffled ’way as quickly as his feet could take him.
Each awkward step in his clunky tennis shoes only served to remind him o’ his drabby costume. He still wasn’t sure whether he should be glad that those daft broads had given him clothes that contrasted so sharply gainst his usual attire or bitter @ the additional reason for the authorities to look their fat noses down @ him.
He settled for being bitter ’bout the whole ordeal, regardless.
& to think, if I were smart & just left the world to its corruption, I would’ve been safe & sound in my comfy castle. ¡But nope! I had to play the d’Anconia & venture into the inferno, only to be dragged down into the bottom circle with the rest o’ the cretins.
I s’pose the only thing to do would be to get a job & lay low till I can save up ’nough for a plane ticket to a civilized country, like the United States. I wonder why they haven’t done anything to stop this obvious injustice.
Since nobody in this city seems to want to e’en try getting a job, considering the sheer unemployment, it shouldn’t be hard to get 1 if I actually try.
Though he received “Sorry, we’re not looking for hires right now”s the 1st few times, he did finally get an application from a McCheesy’s that seemed primary-school-level simple. However, he found he had trouble with the very 1st line.
I ne’er e’en bothered to make up a name, ¿did I?
Piero Sraffa. Quick, think… If they see you hesitating they’ll think something’s not right with you.
Look @ me. They should think that ’bout me already.
Yes, but they might not hire you.
He naturally started with an Ayn Rand or Terry Goodkind character, only to remember he should distance himself from his previous self as much as possible. “Hank Galt” was just too obvious.
He pinched the bridge of his nose & strained his eyes.
¿John Smith? No. ¡Michael Hudson! That’s too obvious.
Wait a minute…
¿Michael Hudson? That’s not obvious. E’en if someone tied that name to the dreadful economist, surely no one would mistake the true me for admiring his ideas. ¡Perfect!
He quickly filled out the rest o’ the form, making up the rest so that it wasn’t too unbelievable. Then he handed it to the bored clerk & ran out in triumph.
Ha. That’s so easy.
Hey, wait: ¿how am I going to know if they’ll hire me or not if I don’t have any phone or computer to contact me from?
O well, I guess I’ll just have to come in every day or so & ask ’bout it.
The pang in his stomach continued to irk him, however. He knew that it wasn’t healthy to go so long without proper nourishment, & could see that from the exhaustion he felt already, so early in the day.
No need to panic. You just need to use your practical mind to figure out how to get food temporarily while you wait for them to make their decision. Considering how scarce labor is, they’re bound to be desperate to hire someone soon, so it shouldn’t take long.
& yet, no matter how much he considered the question as he walked down the frosty sidewalks, a practical answer eluded him.
Autumn mused on the absurdity: while she was packed with numerous other colorful characters when she was jailed for mere stealing, she was given her own cell after purportedly attempting to assassinate the mayor through a terrorist attack. Then ’gain, she s’posed perhaps a normal person would’ve preferred the company o’ others—e’en other menaces to society—to loneliness.
She would’ve preferred company if that company were Edgar, or e’en Dawn. Then ’gain, she could understand their fear that together they could better plan a manner o’ ’scape.
I probably won’t see either o’ them e’er ’gain.
I probably won’t see anything anymo’ in a few weeks.
The least those bastards could’ve done was to finally settle with me before I raked them down with me.
She took deep, slow breaths as she stared @ the ceiling on the top bunk—where they should’ve put her a long time ago: queen o’ her own castle, isolated from everyone else as a pathogen. Dawn probably would’ve found that joke both humorous & sad.
She won’t anymo’. Not when they’re holding her & Edgar down like animals, ready to put them down with a need…
She gripped the edges o’ her mattress, & then stopped when she realized that was futile, too.
There’s no use miring o’er the problem. Must devise a way for us to ’scape @ all costs. Remember what Dawn said, just have to—¡O shit!
Autumn clutched the sides o’ her face as if she found it difficult to breathe.
¡I forgot! ¡The fucking psycho juice! ¿How am I going to take it now? ¡Shit! That’s going to fuck me up, isn’t it. ¡Augh! ¡’Course this happens! Every time I e’en try putting myself back together, an earthquake suddenly wakes & causes me to shatter ’gain. It’s why I don’t e’en want to bother anymo’.
& Dawn’s not e’en round to snap me out o’ my episodes.
Edgar’s not e’en round to soften me with his manufactured niceties.
I’ve finally succeeded @ isolating myself from those I threaten.
It’s just me by myself.
Me by myself with just my mind.
That’s not a safe place to be.
He couldn’t be surprised. He knew he’d ne’er ’scape the darkness.
It’s fitting that this’ll be where I… the end o’ me.
For once in his life he tried to keep cool his melting spine; but the darkness conspired to set a flamethrower to it, causing his bones to rattle @ the rattling that attacked the iron bars o’ his cage every so oft & the squeak o’ hinges from destinations invisible to his eyeholes.
Dawn couldn’t stop herself from rocking forward & back on her bed, causing its frame to creak. Dawn hardly noticed: she latched onto the edges o’ her bed, staring wide-eyed @ the wall ’head o’ her.
She was in a dream world. She had to be: there was nothing to feed her insatiably-hungry attention.
’Sides, how else could she interpret the situation she found herself in.
Surely they can’t actually go ’long with have us executed. ¿What danger could any o’ us have caused? I mean, surely no one could be so cold-hearted as to kill innocent civilians as part o’ some scheme to become mayor.
She knew Autumn would’ve disagreed. “That’s exactly what politicians do—exactly how they get their power in the 1st place. ¿What, did you think they got where they were by handing out cakes to everyone?”
But that’s TV stuff—people who cackle & rub their hands together.
¿& what ’bout everyone else? Surely they wouldn’t let this go on. Not all o’ them. Not most o’ them.
It couldn’t end this way. Somehow we’ve got to get out o’ this. There has to be a way…
This winter feels colder.
Gray lifted the collar o’ his robe & then shivered with his hands in his pockets as he stumbled for his car, the bodyguards always in the corner o’ his eye.
You’re being paranoid. He’s youthful & naïve, but not that bad. It’s only the complications o’ modernity reaching us.
He stopped, his hand feeling his beard. He thought he could feel ice crystals, but quickly dispelled that thought as foolish.
Perhaps that was the ’scuse people used before.
He waved ’way these concerns & replaced them by warm thoughts o’ melted chocolate & finishing that snowy-forest jigsaw puzzle, only to run into a crowd o’ people shouting & holding signs.
Well, I’ll give them that: they succeeded @ 1 goal—I surely have no question o’ the message they’re trying to deliver to us.
He tried carefully edging round them, only for a smaller crowd o’ journalists to walk up to him with a flurry o’ questions:
“Minister, ¿what safeguards are there to prevent the Mayor from abusing his security powers?”
“¿What is planned for next year’s election—if there is 1?”
“Minister, ¿will you take a picture with my cat, Don Quixote?”
Gray stood staring down @ the frosty grass. As oft when he thought, he yanked on his long beard.
We’ve been negligent. We’ve let things go to far. We’ll have to fix that.
Felix could feel the fur stand up on her skin as she sat legs-dangling o’er Violet’s couch & watched Violet yell into her phone.
She’d ne’er seen her so angry in all her life.
“This is a democracy, if I am precise. The Constitution specifically prohibits circumstances such as these precisely for the historical consequences the flouting of such mandates has caused—a history in which Boskeopolis harbors its own role, you should recollect—¡& I will have you apprehend from the disinterested viewpoint of a citizen who voted against Mayor Chamsby in the 2016 election that I am most confident that he, being a libertarian, would be frenetic @ such… such… behavior!”
Her chest heaved & fell in slow, heavy motions as she stood silently. Felix could hear scribbly voices ’scape ’tween the phone & Violet’s ear, though all o’ the words got mushed together on the way to her ears so that she couldn’t understand any o’ it.
“I comprehend,” said Violet. “Yes, I respect the desideratum of insulating us from homicidal malefactors as much as any other citizen; but Boskeopolis operates under the stipulation of ‘innocent until guilty in the highest probability,’ & I must reiterate that you have not yet substantiated the accused’s culpability. ¿How can you expect that citizens dwell under a sensation of impregnability when it is impossible for them to even ascertain that the veritable terrorists have been delivered to justice?”
Violet paused ’gain, her stance loosening & the angry flush fading from her face.
“I am ’fraid I cannot do that. I know @ least 2 of the people who stand accused & I can vouch for their innocence—& shall continue to do so until I see strong evidence for otherwise… Yes. Yes, thank you.”
Violet said some #s—probably giving them her # so they can call her back later—& then pressed a beeping button on her phone & pocketed it.
Violet released a sigh o’ relief as she walked o’er to Felix.
“My profound condolences for all of these personal vexations caused by these circumstances—& in great probability only exacerbated by my belicose argument on the phone recently.”
“No, it’s all right,” Felix said to her hands, her voice weak from going so long without use.
Violet sat next to her. “Do not fret, compatriot; I am certain that this is merely a misunderstanding & that the government will set things right. They would ne’er allow themselves to harm innocent civilians; & I am positive that Madame Summers & Sir Winters are innocent—& would be inclined to bet that Madame Springer is innocent, as well.” She tapped her hands on her knee rapidly. “¿Would you be of the belief that Madame Springer is incapable of such a crime? I mean, as an acquaintance of Madame Summers & a years-long compatriot of Sir Winters, I would be inclined to doubt it; but I must confess a lack of knowledge in regards to Madame Springer’s general moral compass. However, if you declare that Madame Springer must be innocent, I will trust your judgment.”
“O… I dunno,” mumbled Felix.
From what she remembered o’ how Autumn would talk ’bout herself, she’d probably say herself that no one should trust Autumn & that she would be capable o’ doing anything.
Maybe she has some uncontrollable problem like I have, thought Felix. ¿Isn’t that what she told me? Just like I have an illogical… uh… hatred o’ myself, she does bad things out o’ habit—or something like that. Maybe that’s what happened here. Maybe she did do the bad thing & now feels very bad ’bout it.
The problem with this possibility is that Felix was unsure what how she should think ’bout it. ¿Who would I be to judge when she doesn’t judge me for my many problems?
But then, ¿how can I just stupidly defend her when I have no idea what’s going on just ’cause she was nice to me?
Heck, that may be the reason why she was nice to—
She stopped herself. You’re not s’posed to think things like that, ¿remember? ’Sides, it’s silly: Violet’s nice to you, & she isn’t… isn’t bad. & Violet says Dawn & Edgar aren’t, so they probably aren’t, either.
Still, Violet was right ’bout the “personal vexation” she felt. For as much as people liked to say that ignorance is bliss, not knowing what’s right made it truly hard not to think the wrong thing.
Lance hadn’t realized what a drag hunger was till now, leaning gainst the brick wall o’ the coffee shop he’d just tried applying to. So dizzy was he that ’twas an effort to keep from falling onto the floor & sleeping. He sniffed, feeling the gooey sickness inside his stomach & throat caused by the icy rain he’d been subjected to nonstop for multiple days. On days when he felt like this he should be in Chamsby Castle under his warm covers, his favorite cartoons blaring…
Those days are dead. Stop obsessing o’er them. You’re a new man now.
He couldn’t help thinking how much he prefered being the ol’ 1.
I bet 1 o’ those rats took o’er my castle, too.
He knew he still had blood round his bones, e’en if it took an effort to charge them. Hunger hadn’t stopped them yet. So he trudged on ’head to the next commercial building—e’er onward, till he had his success ’gain.
His attention was snatched ’way by a noisy crowd standing @ the end o’ the corner. Squinting, he could see messages in marker: “O’Beefe the new Clay” & “Say NO to ’70s politics. ¡Democracy Now!”
Hmmph. It’s ’bout time some o’ these bums started doing something ’bout such an outrageous usurpation.
Still, he hesitated. Knowing the depths that O’Beefe hung & the way the police harassed such an upright citizen as Michael Hudson, he knew danger was bound to come to these protesters.
Now is not the time for cowardice. ¿What, d’you think someone will just come by & oust the throne-stealer for you?
He wasn’t sure what he expected. Reality seemed upside-down now, slipping through the slits ’tween his fingers every time he grabbed for it. ¿How was he s’posed to do anything for himself when he couldn’t e’en understand what was happening to him?
Maybe that scoundrel knows I’m here & is abusing his tyrannical power o’er the economy to force all o’ these businesses to reject my superior work just as some sick jape.
¿Then isn’t this the perfect chance to stop him? Your people are shouting for John Galt to make his appearance.
But I can’t just reveal myself in public now…
¿Why would you need to? ¿Who cares ’bout your name or your appearance? Your brilliance should sway them through this disguise.
There’s no hesitating. No going back. ¡Just act!
& so he stepped toward the crowd.
Though a daily schedule was forced onto her through comings & goings & specific meal, waking, & sleep times, Autumn still lost track o’ time. Only her faint memory o’ the stifling heat & sunny skies outside & the current chill & icy concrete outside reminded her that she’d gone through a’least 1 summer & back to winter ’gain.
¿Was it only once?
¿What’s taking them so long to have me killed?
But what bit into her mind mo’ was, ¿Are Edgar & Dawn still ’live?
She hadn’t seen them since she came here, almost a year ago. Prevent us from forming conspiracies, Autumn thought, feeling as if acidic poison were swimming round her head, her cheeks sucking inward.
1 o’ the downsides o’ Edgar’s habit o’ cooking for them was that every bite o’ plastic rice & teriyaki chicken that appeared to come straight from her high school cafeteria reminded her o’ Edgar’s absence & made her lose her appetite—or rather, made her lose her appetite for losing her appetite, made her hungry for the gurgling pinch in the center o’ her stomach.
Fuck them & fuck their food. Drag me into this dungeon & then fucking feed me. ¿What’s taking them so long to have me killed?
Bastards. They figured out my main punishment: keeping me from self-punishment. No sharp implement to be found.
Though she checked many times, now she’d accepted this fact & ’stead just stared @ the cold gray stones o’ her dungeon—albeit 1 with nicer beds than they have in their true home, as well as a TV she ne’er used. She could also ask for books from some library. She wanted to ask for The Anarchist Cookbook just to be a dick, but figured the limited humor wouldn’t be worth the repercussions.
You’re getting soft, & look @ where it’s got you: get ’way with theft—save 1 instance—for years only to get death row for a crime you didn’t commit. I see what Dawn means ’bout the government being “well-meaning.”
It wasn’t as if she were getting bored—quite the opposite: time always went too fast for her, racing past her before she e’en had time to think ’bout it & understand, till eventually it’d all run out, all be wasted like sand dumped in the garbage.
The door squeaked—not a high-pitched squeak, but a low, droning squeak o’ heavy bars. Fuck. ¿Why don’t they just go ’way?
¿What’s taking them so long to have me killed?
A guard stood in front o’ her bars.
I’m not s’posed to come out @ this time.
’Less it’s my time.
Autumn was surprised. She was surprised to feel buried under fear. The end—not just o’ her, which would be all right, but o’ her & Edgar & Dawn & the surprising opportunities that seemed to be ’head before she was dragged in here.
Damn Dawn. Got my hopes up just in time for them to be snatched ’way.
The guard unlocked the door. “Come on out, Madame Springer; you’re being released.”
Autumn had to smile, e’en though she knew ’twas for a dumb reason. She couldn’t not remember Dawn’s insipid “analysis” o’ that stupid game with the tiny animals & the eugenics or whatever she said happened ’hind those animals being “released” ’cause o’ some “ivy points,” or some nonsense.
She was e’en mo’ surprised to find these thoughts had lifted her spirits. She slid off the top bunk & stepped toward the door.
“You don’t look very happy ’bout it,” said the guard.
Autumn looked up @ him with blank eyes & retorted, “I’d have preferred to go my own way, but you hid all o’ the knives & rope.”
“You should be glad we did,” he said; “you’d still be stuck here if you tried.”
“So they are savvy ’nough to punish a suicidal person with a refusal to kill them.”
The guard turned to her with a puzzled look.
“We said we’re releasing you; not giving you the needle,” he said. “You wouldn’t be walking round free like this if ’twas the other.”
Autumn didn’t hear the 2nd sentence. She was too busy staring wide-eyed ’head o’ her while seeing nothing.
Scarlet recognized this feeling: precognition. A volcano eruption after so long dormant, how everyone doubted, only to have the reaction from those they knew nothing ’bout spit right back into their faces.
“He’s the 1,” she whispered to her comrade as she leaned toward him with a finger stretched out. “Look @ him: he’s a natural.”
Carmine stroked his fake beard & adjusted his glasses. He needed neither; he just thought ’twas funny to look the role. They didn’t need to be humorless stiffs, after all.
“I’m amazed he’s gone on so long—almost 3 hours.”
“He’s driven. You can’t blame him, though, with how things have been going under that pampered shill Chamsby, & now his fascist dragon,” said Scarlet. She turned to Carmine. “I’ve ne’er heard o’ him. ¿You think he’s just your average working class thrown ’way into unemployment like the rest?”
Carmine stared wide-eyed. He adjusted his glasses ’gain.
“I don’t know.” Carmine laughed. “Maybe he’s still in the holiday season.”
When he finished his speech, they walked up to him through the gradually dissipating crowd, eyes focused purely on him.
Scarlet had to admit he looked rather ridiculous in those shades—’specially when it wasn’t e’en bright out, but already twilight. Still, ¿who was she to judge one’s personal preferences if they didn’t harm one’s fellow person?
“We were engrossed by your speech, Sir Hudson,” Scarlet said as she reached a hand toward him.
Hudson was breathing heavily, his pupils still dilated as he looked up @ her face. He’d had that amazing mix o’ fear & indignation throughout the speech, but now he seemed to only have the former.
But then he straightened & said, “Thank you, Madame.”
“¿You new @ this? I must apologize, but I haven’t seen you before,” asked Scarlet. “Would’ve expected someone with your talent to be mo’ notorious.” Then she & Carmine laughed lightly.
Hudson nodded. “I usually didn’t participate in politics till now; but when Chamsby was so… obviously rid o’ by skeevy means, well… we can’t stand by such offenses to our republic, ¿can we?”
Hmm, he’s a bit naïve; but then, ¿can you blame him with all o’ the propaganda blared @ us from our boob tubes 24/7? We can dispel those myths. What’s important is that those rich clowns in their hubris opened ’nother mouth hungry for class consciousness.
She shook her head. “No; but we tolerate it, anyway—including all o’ those pampered politicians from both the so-called left & so-called right.”
“¡Exactly!” Hudson shouted with a fist in the air. “I’m glad someone else thinks this.”
“O, there are many,” Scarlet said with a nod. “The media doesn’t want you to know that, which is why they’re so unheard o’. They want you to think you’re ’lone to make you ’fraid, to keep you silent & obedient. That’s ’cause they know how powerful we are when we’re not.”
Hudson’s eyes shrank into a shrewd glance. He began rubbing his chin. How Scarlet had seen this sight so many times—so many youth whose minds were opened to the hidden key that locks them in their cages o’ misery, ¡& how excited they become when they learn that they have the power to smash that lock!
“¿You’re telling me you can help me… that we can get rid of O’Beefe &… make us safe ’gain?”
“With persistence & passion we can do anything,” said Scarlet.
That was when Hudson’s eyes lit up, & Scarlet knew that the capitalists’ gift o’ yet ’nother member into the Socialist Worker’s Party o’ Boskeopolis was in the plastic.
O’Beefe knew the heater had been cranked up to high when he itched with sweat in the midst o’ winter; & though the golden light shining from every lamp off every wall was a treat @ 1st, being subjected to it so constantly began to hurt his eyes.
It took forever for those ol’ growths to hobble their way o’er to their chairs; so O’Beefe sat back, watching the epic war ’tween his 2 thumbs while the room filled with the unnerving sounds o’ chair legs screeching gainst a floor that probably hadn’t been cleaned since World War II.
When all o’ the li’l noises slowed,—they ne’er stopped: every rustle o’ every 1 o’ their sagging sleeves on their robes that probably hadn’t been washed since Columbus’s arrival reminded him o’ the skull-emptying silence occupying this huge dome all for itself—he allowed himself to glance upward. They were mo’ hesitant now than usual.
He smiled,—those were always cheap to hand out—clasped his hands together, & stretched them out.
“¿What brings you fine fellows here so soon? I thought we wouldn’t have ’nother exciting meeting till the end o’ the month.”
Leading minister, Earl Gray, cleared his throat. He was always doing that. Grossed O’Beefe like no Friday.
“Mayor we have some urgent news to tell you. Unfortunate news for you.”
O’Beefe didn’t budge a centimeter from his leaned-back position, his eyelids held thick as mustard.
Gray continued, “Mayor, I understand that you take the security o’ Boskeopolis with utmost seriousness; but time & time ’gain you’ve been ignoring protocol. The Constitution…”
“Hey, man: every good leader’s gotta break some rules to keep the country from breaking.” O’Beefe tsked as he pointed hand guns @ Gray. Gray’s long eyes & stretched mouth indicated that he didn’t find this amusing.
After a short pause, Gray resumed: “& yet the streets are aflame with protesters, rumors spread o’ citizens disappearing. Your polls are abysmal, Mayor. Many are calling you the new General Clay. I, ’course, disagree—& I would know, as I was in parliament when Clay fell.”
O’Beefe tried to keep from rolling his eyes. These ol’ coots wouldn’t shut up ’bout their silly superstitions. How could such boring people take hold o’ such a position as the ruling class & ruin it.
O’Beefe replied, “Some o’ the greatest leaders in the world weren’t popular. Abraham Lincoln was called a tyrant & was e’en shot, & yet now he’s seen as a hero. ¿Do I have to be shot before our nation values me the same, or do Boskeopoleons only value ‘authoritarians’ when they sing the tune o’ that bearded bum, Marx? I a’least continue to allow everyone their freedom to call me a tyrant—e’en those who clearly don’t make good use o’ it.”
“If I may be forgiven for saying so, Mayor, Sir Lincoln was caught in the midst o’ a civil war in his country & did whatever he could to stop it; you seem to be trying as hard as you can to create 1.”
“Tell that to the guy who was mayor before me,” said O’Beefe.
“Yes, ’bout that…” said Minister Cornflower.
O’Beefe sat up & smiled. This was getting interesting.
“Don’t tell me you actually believe the rumors that I tried to have him killed,” said O’Beefe. “I thought you were s’posed to be the sane 1.”
“The story ’hind the impostor faking Sir Chamsby’s accusation is incredible…”
O’Beefe shrugged. “I’m sorry I’m not going up gainst saner people. You’d expect mo’ rational behavior from terrorists, huh.”
“& yet the evidence for these terrorists is so scant,” said Gray.
O’Beefe crossed his arms. “That’s not true. I’ll have you know that despite your insinuations o’ my laziness, I have kept a close report with my security team, & they’re making great progress on sniffing them out.”
“You’ve had good progress in harassing political groups that oppose you,” said Minister Carnation. “For god’s sake, Mayor O’Beefe: you’re not e’en subtle; you literally just rip off Clay’s techniques wholesale. ¿Do you think this is the 1970s ’gain?”
“With as much as you bring it & Sir Clay up, I almost think you do,” O’Beefe said with a cheeky grin, while in the back o’ his mind he thought, God, how I wish that numskull Chamsby put mo’ effort into having her lose her election. He has no one to blame for his own dumb self for his trouble.
Won’t make that mistake this year.
Carnation’s eyes twisted in confusion. “That doesn’t e’en make sense. ¿Why would I complain ’bout something if I want it to happen? Mo’ that I’m obsessed in my opposition.”
“On that subject,” said Earl Gray, “there’s the concern o’er your… quite zealous attempt to replace as many military leaders & guards with your own associates, without telling us or holding votes for those that need them.”
O’Beefe’s eyes widened. “I don’t understand how that could be controversial…”
“That was how Clay was able to break down parliament when he rose to power,” said Carnation. “As I said, you’re not e’en being subtle.”
O’Beefe rolled his eyes. “Well, I must praise you for your bravery in speaking up when I practically have a knife to your neck.”
Earl Gray broke in with a cough: “That’s ’cause we’ve learned from history & quickly arranged for parliament’s security to be handled by standard protocol—while still allowing you your discretions for your own security, I might add.”
Yes, I noticed, you decrepit cockblocker.
O’Beefe did a slight bow. “Well, I’m glad to hear so many gracious words for my difficult time trying to keep this great city from tearing itself apart. I must say, you do wonders for your nation. Now, if we’re done…”
“We’re not,” said Carnation.
O’Beefe smiled @ her. “My insides are quite tender, Madame.” Carnation scowled @ his lack o’ honorific. “I don’t know if I can take much mo’.”
“We have mo’ in mind than just talk, Mayor,” said Earl Gray.
“¿Is that so?” O’Beefe’s mouth was almost bursting with such humor. ¿You truly threatening me, gramps? You’d break a hip trying to make 1 swing @ me. “¿Et tu, Gray?”
“We’ve come together to hold a vote for impeachment, Mayor,” said Earl Gray.
O’Beefe paused a beat, & then slapped the table & laughed.
“That wasn’t a joke, Mayor.”
“Trust me, it was,” said O’Beefe, leaning closer, eyes crusting with darkness. “The people would ne’er let you get ’way with it—& I doubt most o’ you will risk your careers, e’en if some o’ you threatened them.” He eyed Carnation, Cornflower, Indigo, & Gray.
“Those in favor o’ impeachment, say ‘aye,’” said Minister Gray.
O’Beefe maintained a Mona Lisa smile as he saw 13 o’ the 15 ministers—mo’ than the requisite 3/4ths—raise a hand & say aye in cultish unison. Most—’specially the Silvers & that ditsy Pink—had thick-lidded eyes aimed downward. A few o’ the Golds he usually worked better with, such as Cyan, kept their eyes averted. The 2 who voted nay were the only White—some clod who somehow stumbled his way into parliament by spewing populist nonsense—& a Clear who has made it his life goal since the 8 years he’d been in parliament to go gainst parliament in any way possible.
I’m sure they already got together in secret to contrive this agreement. There’s no way they’d dare to risk such a vote without already being sure they’d win.
O’Beefe leaned on 1 o’ his elbows with the other hand stretched o’er the table, his thick fingers drumming its shiny surface.
“Boy, that sure was a hoot,” O’Beefe said with a smirk. “¿Can we return to serious topics?”
“We have 1 mo’ issue to vote on,” said Gray.
The right side o’ O’Beefe’s lip curled up. “¿Is this where I’m sent to the camps?”
“We have been discussing the issue o’ mayoral overreach for months,” Gray continued; “though parliament worked hard to curb as many excesses as possible during the breakdown o’ the Protectors’ rule, it’s clear we haven’t done ’nough. The committee we set up October has written a few bills that should patch up a few o’ these problems—including greater supervision o’er military matters. Due to how doubtful Sir O’Beefe’s claims were in regards to domestic threats, I recommend we improve our budget by cutting that down—or better, accepting mo’ assistance from the US, which would be a far cheaper means o’ handling military affairs.”
O’Beefe had to admit the ol’ fool’s cleverness here: 1 o’ the major flaws o’ the Golds was their worship o’ the US, thanks to them being viewed as the leader o’ their economic fairy tales—not to mention many influential conservatives being North American. That fool, Chamsby, ’course was similar. ’Cause o’ this, this bill—most certainly contrived by the Silvers out o’ their mindlessly short-term view o’ finances that leads them to throw most o’ it ’way to lower-class losers who have li’l influence o’er mo’ practical uses—Golds will be left in a tight spot. They can’t balk @ letting good ol’ Uncle Sam play a greater role; so they’ll surely vote yes, tightening the US’s grasp on Boskeopolis further, when that arrangement should be reversed.
“As an easy & safe way to calm the populace, we should also consider releasing those o’ O’Beefe’s ‘Special Team’”—Don’t think I didn’t notice the sarcasm, ol’ fart—“accused o’ attempting assassination gainst Sir Chamsby.”
Most o’ parliament nodded silently. Yes, befriend the terrorists as Grampa Gray demands, peons.
“¿What should we do with O’Beefe?” asked Carnation. “We still don’t know if he had any involvement in Chamsby’s disappearance—not to mention the other crimes he’s committed.”
Ah, so the commie bitch shows her true Leninist colors, O’Beefe thought with a smile still curling further.
The rest o’ parliament were less bold, though: they exchanged nervous glances, followed by King Gray decreeing, “That might stir the public too much. We want to avoid that, not to mention the tedious process we’d have to go through to prove he’s truly committed crimes. I don’t think it’d be worth it. No, I think for the Boskeopolean government’s sake it best if we put all o’ this ’hind us.”
’Gain, the sheep nodded—’cept Carnation, whose solid flat mouth didn’t hide her discontent from O’Beefe 1 bit.
They continued to discuss their bills for “curbing excess mayoral powers” while O’Beefe continued to watch them steel-eyed as a scientist might watch ants carry peas in & out their hole.
When he saw them close & stand from their chairs, he said, “O, ¿are we finally finished with this game then?”
“Good night, Sir O’Beefe,” Earl Gray before turning with the rest o’ parliament & walking out.
O’Beefe rose his fist & shouted, “¡This is treason, you know!”
Gray stopped just before the door & turned. That got the ol’ bastard’s attention. But Gray calmly said, “I hope for your interest that you won’t return to cause trouble, Sir O’Beefe. You have much you can do outside government; it’d be terrible o’ you to waste that opportunity by breaking the law.”
“You should aim that @ yourself,” O’Beefe called out, followed by a thrust o’ his finger & a laugh.
“Show me 1 clause o’ the Constitution any o’ us broke today,” said Gray. “Sir, I have studied the Constitution longer than you’ve lived; I doubt I could make that simple a mistake.”
“Aw, save your weasel words for someone dumb ’nough to fall for it.” O’Beefe winced. “¿You think you got ’way with this that easily? I wouldn’t delude yourself, gramps.”
“’Twas only so easy due to the inexperience o’ the obstacle,” said Gray. “I told you, O’Beefe: you’re no Clay. Clay wasn’t nearly as delusional as you are. That made him actually a threat.”
Gray turned & left before O’Beefe had a chance to respond.
This must be a trick, Autumn thought as she stood before the desk in some lobby-looking room while the clerk purportedly retrieved her stuff.
She kept 1 eye on the clerk while the other surveyed the rest o’ the room, only for both o’ them to latch on Dawn entering from the opposite hall—so odd-looking in an orange suit. Dawn’s eyes widened as much as hers did. Dawn ran up to her, which caused her to glance uneasily to the side for signs o’ opposition; but the clerk didn’t act perturbed @ all.
Dawn wrapped her arms round Autumn & practically crushed Autumn gainst her chest. Autumn was surprised to realize she was doing the same.
“¡Autumn! ¿You doing all right? ¿Can you believe they’re freeing us?”
“¿Where’s Edgar?” asked Autumn, her voice mildly muffled by the pressure o’ Dawn’s shoulder on Autumn’s throat.
“I haven’t seen him yet,” said Dawn; “but I’m sure if they’re releasing us, they can’t be keeping him o’ all people here.”
We still don’t know we’re being released; & though we may know Edgar as the sweetest person on the planet, they only know him as a creepy skeleton.
She didn’t bother saying this, however. No need to drive Dawn’s spirits down with hers yet.
& anyway, they soon saw Edgar follow the guard out ’nother hallway. Autumn couldn’t help noticing how he shook & how haggard & bumpy his skull was till he glanced up & gaped @ Autumn & Dawn. After what felt like an hour-long pause, Autumn & Edgar rushed toward each other & tried crushing each other.
“I thought I’d ne’er see you ’gain,” he said in almost a gasp.
Autumn couldn’t respond. She made due with sucking on Edgar’s mouth—all that she could say in so brief a statement, it’d make Strunk & White proud.
Then Autumn did think o’ something to say: she whispered, “Let’s get out o’ here as quickly as possible.”
She led him toward the front door, glancing ’hind her with a fearful eye for both Dawn & to see if anyone were going to stop them. Dawn scampered after them; but no one else followed. Every step surprised Autumn.
They can’t be letting me go. They can’t be. Any minute now, they’re going to pull the carpet under me & slaughter us together—or worse.
But they made it out the door, cringing under the sharp yellow rays o’ the sun & the equally sharp frigid wind already shooting into their nostrils.
That was when she saw the crowd surrounding the front o’ the building.
O shit—¿is this it?
Something looked odd ’bout them, though: they shouted off-key from each other, the combination o’ their shouts seemingly smothering each other quieter than just 1 would sound. They held signs that said “Say NO to Protectors Politics,” “I speak for those who have been silenced,” & “Free Springer, Summers, & Winters.” Despite the last, Autumn still felt herself freeze up.
¿What do these people want with us? she thought. ¿Do they think ’cause we were jailed that we’re capable o’ o’erthrowing the government or something? ¿Or do they think we know where Lance went?
That made her realize with shock: ¿What e’er happened to Lance?
Her blood froze. ’Less he found someone he could trust—a family member or something—there’s no way he survived hidden for this long.
“You have no idea how much I missed you guys,” Dawn said as they walked down the street, Dawn’s head ’tween Autumn & Edgar, her arms round their outside arms.
Thick fog poured out Dawn’s mouth, the liveliest in this refrigerated wasteland o’ bone-thin bare boughs, pale skies, & turf mineralized with chunks o’ ice.
Autumn didn’t respond: her attention was rapt by the sidewalk.
Dawn pressed her cheek into Edgar’s face. “I missed you pretending to laugh @ my shoddy jokes just to be polite.” Then she pressed her cheek into Autumn’s. “& I missed you telling me which potions were great, knowing that if you said it’s good, it must be.”
After a pause, Dawn asked, “¿Is something wrong?” to Autumn.
“No,” mumbled Autumn.
“Well, that sounds convincing.”
“¿Do you have any idea o’ what’s going on?” asked Autumn.
“¿What do you mean? The crowd already told us: O’Beefe’s been deposed.”
“But… ¿why did the crowd want us released so badly?”
Dawn threw her arms up. “’Cause we were innocent. Well, a’least we were innocent ’bout terrorism—I don’t know ’bout trespassing. But that’s certainly not worth a year with li’l time allowed outside & without trial.”
“Innocent people are punished all o’ the time,” said Autumn. “¿Do these people make a big fuss o’er everything else?”
“You ne’er know…”
“I find it hard to believe they’d have the energy to fight every problem in the world,” said Autumn.
Dawn laughed. “So you admit your expectation is impossible.”
“My expectation wasn’t that they help everyone; ’twas that they help worthier people. As you said, we’re not innocent, truly—I’m certainly not. I mean, I can’t say I’ve ne’er wanted to blow up Atlas Tower.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Yes, you were so close to doing so, too.”
Then she sighed & tightened her grasp on Autumn’s shoulder. “Androgyn, you must be truly down after being in there for so long. To be honest, I feel like burying myself under some snow—well, I would if it weren’t so cold.” Dawn stuffed her hands into her jacket pockets & shivered.
“It wasn’t nearly as bad for me as ’twas for you 2,” said Autumn.
“I can see by your cheerful disposition.”
“For some people, cheer is the least cheery emotion one could imagine possessing,” said Autumn.
In truth, Autumn couldn’t decide if she felt… some fulfilling warmth that made the crispy chill outside actually rather pleasant, or the boiling tar spread o’ self-loathing. Either caused her eyes to burn.
¿What did they do, anyway? ¿Or did they do anything? I don’t understand. Dawn says, “O, they deposed O’Beefe”; ¿but who’s “they”? ¿How? ¿Did those people with signs? ¿Just like that? The government should’ve just smashed them down just like that, as they always do. ¿Did the government get rid o’ him themselves? ¿But why? ¿What did he do that was different from what any before him did? ¿& what use would someone with the power to make it happen get from releasing us?
& then, ¿why were those people there in the 1st place? ¿What were they doing there? ¿& why would they care? They seemed safer ’way from that jail than in front o’ it.
“There. Look, Autumn.” Autumn’s head jerked up. “If you’re so self-conscious, you can give a few ₧ to him. They returned your money, ¿right?”
Autumn saw someone sleeping on a park bench, only to gape when she noticed the pale face… & then the shades… & then the attire.
It couldn’t be… ¿could it?
“Autumn, ¿did you hear me?”
Without turning her face, Autumn said, “¿Is there a store nearby?”
Augh… ¡’Gain! So much for privacy in this fetid shithole o’ a city, Lance thought as he sniffed & rubbed ’way as much o’ his snot & tears as possible from under his newspaper fort.
But this time ’pon waking to the familiar shoulder shake, ’stead o’ seeing a cop, his heart spiked @ something worse.
He jumped up & back, clutching his body together into a protective ball.
“¿H-how did you find me?” he said as he glared @ Autumn.
He could see the skeleton in the corner o’ his eyes to Autumn’s left & the one in the long green jacket in the right corner, sitting halfway on the bench edge.
Autumn held out a bag o’ BBQ chips.
Despite his immense urge to snatch the bag & devour it in a second, Lance asked, “¿Is this s’posed to be a joke?” with eyes flaring half in indignance & half in remaining horror.
“It’s still sealed,” said Autumn, her posture & eyes unchanging in their stiffness.
“¿How did you find me?”
Autumn shrugged. “We weren’t looking. We just happened to see you.” Autumn turned to her fleshy cohort. Lance’s eyes followed. “Dawn was the 1 who pointed you out, actually.”
“I didn’t know ’twas him. I thought he was just homeless.” She stared @ Lance with wide, concerned eyes, which only caused Lance’s blood to boil further. “¿Have you been out here for a whole year?”
Lance’s eyes flared. “Yes, thanks to you. ¿How did you recognize me in this disguise?”
Dawn looked confused.
“O…” Autumn began. Lance turned to her & felt bile rise when he saw her smile & say, “Ey, you don’t remember Madames… Fuck, ¿what was it?”
“Carpaccio & Cannoli, my good chap,” said Dawn.
Lance’s eyes widened a second before plummeting into a cringe.
After recovering, he asked, “¿So you were ’hind this?”
“¿’Hind keeping you out o’ the jail we were locked in—or worse?” said Autumn. She held the chip bag further out. “¿You want this? I s’pose you won’t care after we tell you the better news, anyway.”
“¿What?” asked Lance.
“Your promoted drummer boy O’Beefe’s gone.”
“Parliament impeached his stupid ass. Don’t know who they replaced him with. Actually, we only heard this from some protesting hippies with signs, so I doubt you’d take their word as valid.”
Lance tried to keep his expression still. Don’t tell me ’twas… that 1 group.
“Anyway, from what we heard, you’re apparently in a good word,” said Autumn. “A’least, most seemed to treat you mo’ as a victim than a villain.”
“I am a victim: I had everything taken from me.”
“& now you may be able to get it all back, if you happen to reappear,” said Autumn.
Then she took a deep breath. Lance had to admit, she looked e’en worse than usual. She probably wasn’t lying ’bout the jail part—though that could’ve just been for stealing.
She continued, “Now, granted, this still may be risky. I don’t know—you ne’er know who could be lying. I mean, we’re your enemies, so we could be lying. You’ll have to make the decision yourself.” She shook the chip bag. “Now, ¿you want this or not? I don’t want it to go to waste.”
Without moving, Lance replied, “I’d rather not benefit from theft, e’en if Boskeopolis has stolen mo’ from me than most could e’en count.”
“Didn’t steal it,” said Autumn. She took a hand, reached into a pocket o’ her sweats, & then pulled out a sheet o’ paper & held it out to Lance. “Got a receipt.”
“You could’ve just taken the money.”
“Maybe. Could’ve gotten it from Dawn.” She turned to Dawn. “She sells potions, the exploitive capitalist.”
“That makes sense,” said Lance. He took the bag & then turned to Dawn & said, “Thank you.”
Dawn, glancing @ Autumn’s puffy smirk-scowl, laughed & said, “It’s truly Autumn’s money. I think she was joking.”
“It’s unimportant,” said Autumn, looking clear ’bove Lance’s head. “We should go, anyway. Many things to do.”
PARLIAMENT OUSTS MAYOR O’BEEFE
By Thursday O’Beefe | January 3, 2022
ATLAS TOWER — On January 3, Boskeopoleon ministers confronted Mayor O’Beefe in parliament & voted to have him impeached. Currently they have no plans for a replacement, placing parliament leader, Earl Gray, as “interim mayor” for now.
According to Minister Cornflower, this was an “unfortunate but necessary extreme act” chosen as a “last resort.” She went on to cite protesters from the Socialist Workers Party as their primary inspiration. Minister Gray did not seem to offer a statement.
However, some worry that this action may set a dangerous precedent o’ granting parliament excess power. This & parliament’s subsequent decision to cut Boskeopolis’s military & replace those losses with mo’ US-funded military has caused many to compare parliament to General Clay. Some plan to stand @ Atlas Tower & protest January 24, the day that parliament plans to release suspected terrorists Autumn Springer & Edgar Winters.
According to a 2022 Nectarine poll, 72% o’ the public claims to feel uneasy ’bout the future o’ Boskeopolis, with 24% saying they are “very uneasy.” A comment by 1 anonymous citizen ’mong many Boskeopoleons: “I’m ’fraid to e’en raise kids here. ¿What will this city be like when they get older?”
Correction: Earlier we stated that 28% o’ Boskeopoleons as “very uneasy” ’bout the future. This has been changed to the accurate #.
Boskeopolis was a shithole o’ times,
’twas a paradise o’ times.
’Twas an unreal city under the variegated fog o’ winter,
’Twas an unreal city under the variegated bloom o’ summer.
So go the boom & bust o’ the seasons.