The Party – Chapter 12: Mara Brown

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 12: Mara Brown

Mara kept her face neutral. Mr. Clarke had helped her set up four job interviews. All for menial positions, most of them pool secretaries. Men didn’t seem to want that kind of job, so they were still open to women. Her current prospective employer was the nicest of the lot. At least he wasn’t leering at her chest and drooling.

“Yes. I’m available immediately, Mr. Zeeman.”

He nodded. “I’ll have to admit, this job seems a little,” he paused, “beneath your talents.”

What was she supposed to say to that? He knew women were being kicked out of anything higher paying or with more responsibility. “Um.” She shrugged. “Circumstances have changed. I needed a break.”

Ron Zeeman pressed his lips together as he nodded. “Of course.” He looked over the folder he had open on his desk. “You seem personable and efficient. Can you start Monday?”

She smiled. “Yes.” What a relief. She hadn’t wanted the job search to drag on too long. “Eight in the morning at HR?”

“See!” He grinned back at her and stood up. “Very efficient.” He held out his hand.

Mara stood and shook the offered hand. “I hope so.”

After about an hour in the company’s HR, filling out forms and receiving the in-processing plan for Monday, Mara left the building. Getting the job was a huge relief. As she walked to her car, which she was able to save from being sold by selling most of her furniture, she thought about a tiny celebration. Lunch out, she decided. She’d been pinching pennies so hard they screamed, but with an income promised, a little splurge seemed appropriate.

She stopped at a mid-range nice restaurant she’d never been in before near her new job. Mara didn’t want to run into any old neighbors, ex-co-workers, or old friends. The mix of pity, disgust, and finger-pointing she’d received since being branded nigger-lover was more than she wanted to deal with. She just wanted to relax and have a nice meal. In the restaurant, soft music playing in the background, she ordered a salad, with salmon, as her splurge and a glass of Riesling as the celebration. When the waiter brought the wine and had left, she lifted her glass to herself. Well done, Mara, girl. Well done. A job. A place to live. Away from the old life and on to the new. She sipped and sighed as she set the glass down.

Her new life. She remembered weeping the first night in her new apartment. At about five hundred square feet, there was really no living room. Her single bed sat opposite the apartment door. The walls hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint in decades and the curtains were so dirty and dusty she’d choked as she’d tried to pull them closed at dusk.

Now, she thought as she sipped more wine. Now with a steady income, she could get new curtains, paint the walls, and perhaps get some sort of bed that tucked away so the room could be used as an actual living room. Anything to keep it from shouting “Loser”, and “Despair”, at her every time she walked into it.

The waiter brought out two fresh, hot rolls and while she didn’t normally eat bread, she indulged. Mara had just torn one in half and was slathering butter on it when she happened to see her new boss standing at the entrance. He gave her a nod.

Her heart dropped. Oh no, she thought as she watched him talk to the hostess. He nodded in her direction. The wine in her stomach turned to acid. Oh no. He’s coming over here. She put the bread down. The hostess stopped at her table.

“Ms. Brown.” Zeeman nodded to her. “I’m surprised to see you.”

“Yes.” Mara swallowed and smiled. “A little celebration. For my new job.”

“Excellent. I find people don’t celebrate their victories as often as they should. Would you mind if I join you?”

She pasted on a happy face. “No. I wouldn’t mind at all.” She nodded to the hostess. “That will be fine.”

“I’ll send the waiter right over,” the hostess said.

“Thank you,” Zeeman smiled as he took a seat opposite Mara.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ve already started.”

“No problem.” He looked at her bread plate. “I love the rolls here. Enjoy.”

Feeling more than awkward, Mara tore a tiny bit of bread from the roll and put it in her mouth. What seemed so delightful a minute ago now tasted like sawdust.

The waiter hustled up and Zeeman ordered a scotch on the rocks, and his meal, the same salad that Mara had ordered. When the waiter left, Ron Zeeman explained. “My doctor is after me about cholesterol. A salad is what my wife insists I eat for lunch.”

“It’s funny,” she said. “That’s the same salad I ordered.”

Zeeman laughed. “Perfect! We’re in sync.”

While he talked about the business, and what she could expect, Mara nibbled at the bread. Then, the dreaded questions.

“My son is graduating Harvard in the spring. My wife, Lois and I are so proud of him. Any children?”

A pain filled Mara’s upper chest and throat as she fought off bursting into tears. “Two,” she decided to tell him. “A boy and a girl.”

“Oh. Lovely. How old?”

“Eight and six.’

He looked up from his rolls, realizing she was in distress. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to pry.”

She sipped from her water glass. “That’s all right.” She took a deep breath and told him about her husband and children. “I’ll understand if you don’t want me to work for you.” Mara folded her hands in her lap and studied the crumbs that had fallen on the tablecloth.

“Nonsense. Don’t worry about a thing.”

She looked up—tears in her eyes. Mara found a sympathetic face gazing back at her.

“Nothing to worry about at all.”

The relief hit her like an avalanche, and she cried.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 11 – Devon Brown, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Chapter 11: Devon Brown, #9280970

Devon Brown, now number 9280970, stood in line in his cohort. That’s what he’d learned to call his group. It was physical education time. PE the instructors called it. There was weightlifting, calisthenics and running. All out in the hot sun. He’d overheard two instructors talking in the first week and so knew he was in the mountains of North Carolina. So that was something, anyway. Not much other information came through. Not that he had time for it.

Instructor Orville called out for jumping jacks. “Begin!” he shouted.

Devon began to jump. Perfectly in sync with the rest of the cohort. The boys in his cohort had all arrived the same day, twenty of them. They’d learned fast that stragglers were punished. If the stragglers proved unfit, the entire cohort would be punished. Devon had experienced his share. He eyed the slim rod at the instructor’s waist. A cattle prod. His first time had been the first day.

He’d fallen asleep at the desk, hands folded in front of him. Instructor George had zapped him as he sat at the desk, and he woke, thrashing on the floor, blood pouring from a cut on his forehead from hitting the desk leg beside him. After much shouting about falling asleep in class, Instructor George had jerked him up from the floor by the front of his shirt and slammed him back into the chair.

Devon remembered lifting his hand to feel the cut when the instructor slapped the cattle prod on the desk making him jump. “Did I tell you to move!” he’d yelled.

“No.”

“No, sir!”

“No, sir.” After that Devon let the blood run. When they were lined up to go to chow, Devon had been taken to a small clinic. A doctor had looked at the cut. Then cleaned and put a bandaid over it. No cleaning his face, no kind words. Just the basic medical care then sent back to his group, now eating dinner from trays in a cafeteria where there were a lot of other boys, not just his group.

No one looked around. He was seated at a table with his group. A tray of food already there.

“Eat,” Instructor George had told him.

Devon picked up a funny looking spoon with little points on the end and scooped up macaroni and cheese. It was cold and gross and he really wanted to spit it out. The boy across from him shook his head and scooped his food into his mouth, chewing then swallowing. Devon followed suit. He was very hungry. He’d not eaten since the picnic which already seemed years ago.

That was his introduction to what the boys were calling The Camp.

Instructor Orville shouted stop. And the boys came to attention. “Burpees!”

Devon hated burpees but he dutifully, and in sync, did them. He was going to be glad when the hour was over.

The day was filled. Up at six in the morning to an alarm bell. Rush to go to the bathroom, dress, make his bunk, and fall into formation in just fifteen minutes. March to breakfast, usually oatmeal and fruit but once in a while, eggs and toast, or once, pancakes with syrup and fruit. Then math, then English, then PE. Another class, Russian, then lunch. That was generally soup and sandwich and a piece of fruit. Apple, mostly, but there was a banana once and once a pear. Another class, science, then another PE session. After that was reading. Silently. The instructor assigned the book. A final class of the day, government. That was a strange one, as far as Devon was concerned. All about the glorious President for Life, and how the government was put together and worked. Then it was homework, still sitting in the classroom. That went on until they were marched to supper. This was the one meal with something different every night so far. Even with three meals a day, he was usually hungry. No seconds were ever offered.

Then they went back to the classroom and finished their homework. If they finished before the others, they could continue reading their book. At seven at night they were marched back to their dorms where they could shower, dress in their sleepwear, and take care of their shoes or other gear. Talking was permitted but quietly. No loud talking, laughing, and certainly no shouting or horseplay.

Bedtime was eight-thirty, sounded by the same alarm that woke them in the morning. Devon was ready for bed by then. The stress of the day, doing everything perfectly so that he wasn’t zapped, took a lot of energy. He didn’t have much time to think about her during the day but just before falling asleep, he thought about his sister, Caitlin. He hoped she was doing okay, that she wasn’t being punished too much. With the lights off, as long as he was quiet, tears could flow. He worried about his little sister. Was she doing the same thing he was? And what about his father? Where was he? And he missed his mother. What happened to her after they’d all been taken away? Did she know where he was? Would she try and call him? He didn’t know. None of the boys in his cohort had received any word from their families.

He sniffed and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. Devon fell asleep but generally woke several times a night from nightmares. Monsters, chasing him through the dark with electric claws.

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 10: Duncan Angelson: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 10: Duncan Angelson

“What’s the President doing?” Duncan Angelson shuffled reports as he asked.

“In his room, in front of the screen bank. Same old, same old.” Andy McGuire at in the chair in front of the Chief’s desk and waited for the Chief of Staff to continue.

“How’s that new manager working out for the Twitter operators?”

“Good. She knows the President’s history, his usual hot button topics, and has today’s list of propaganda. No problems since we fired the last manager. It was a good idea, setting up that office. The President’s tweets go to them, they clean them up and then post them. Have you seen some of his raw tweets? They make no sense at all.”

Duncan nodded. “Yeah, they had to be monitored. It was getting out of hand.” He paused, the asked, “Any problem from the old manager?”

“No, sir. He’s sticking to the agreement.”

That drew a snort from Duncan. “Ought to. He’s being paid off enough.” He drew a deep breath. “Here’s what I need. The Party has agreed that select people we’ve picked up can be released.” He tapped his pad. “I’ve sent you the criteria for the releases. Associated family, if any, will also be released.”

Andy’s pad dinged and he opened the document. He scanned it quickly. “What about these people’s homes, jobs, whatever we took?”

Duncan shook his head. “Reparations will not be offered. They’re lucky they will be released.”

Andy thought that was unfair but he kept his mouth shut. “Very well. I’ll set up a committee to look at the internees and start the process. First ones out should be in about three weeks.” He rubbed an eye. “What are we doing about Popov?”

Duncan rubbed the back of his neck. “The guy is insatiable. Wants everything for Mother Russia.” He leaned back in his chair, resting his head back and staring at the ceiling. “He’s trying to take our nukes. We told him we want ours back. He pretends they’ve been lost.”

“Lost!” Andy blurt out. “Are they really?”

“No.” Duncan sat back up. “He’s stalling. Probably has his engineers in a lab, disassembling one or more to find out our guidance systems or something. The Director of National Intelligence is having a stroke, wants those nukes back ASAP.”

“I can hardly blame him,” Andy was shaking his head. “What’s the next step?”

“Sanctions, not that they bother Popov, but we’ll freeze his and his oligarchs’ bank accounts. That will get their attention.”

Andy took a note on his pad. “I’ll get the sanctions process moving.” He looked up. “What about the dissidents? They’re not on the release program, are they?”

“No. They’re in a whole other category.” Duncan leafed through his reports then put them back down. “I am concerned about the creation of dissidents, though.” He drummed his fingers on his desk. “There seem to be more than ever now. We clean up one cell and three more pop up.”

“How does that happen?” Andy looked puzzled. “We don’t televise them or allow demonstrations. So how are the cells being formed?”

“That’s what I’d like to know. Do some research, will you? On the fine art of dissidents or whatever you have to do. Some egghead professor somewhere knows how these things happen. Or maybe even the FBI or CIA will know. They’re communicating somehow. Let’s try to nip this in the bud before it becomes a real problem.”

Andy nodded and made another note. “The doc wants to talk about the President.”

That brought another sigh from Duncan. “What about?”

“He said he’s not liking the President’s health. Wants to review options. Do we need the First Lady?”

Duncan shook his head. “No. She’d divorce him if she could. Make him an appointment to see me. Might as well get the news sooner rather than later.” He picked up his pen, then put it down again. “That brings up the replacement. If the President dies, we need to have someone lined up and ready to plug into place. Start a list of possible candidates. It will all have to be cleared through the party, of course, but we might as well get the ball rolling.”

Andy made another note. “Is that it?”

“Sure. Let me know if there are any hiccups with any of those items. Keep them all on the down low. Usual disclaimers and non-disclosures. You know the drill.”

Andy stood up. “Got it.” He tucked his pad into his suit coat pocket and started for the door. He paused, hand on the knob and turned back to the Chief of Staff. “Just off the top of my head, Chief. Those people we release, we’re not making reparations. Isn’t that going to make them dissidents? I mean, we’re turning them lose with nothing. Their lives were ruined.”

Duncan scratched an eyebrow. “No. They’ll be counselled before release concerning any errors in judgement. They won’t want to go back to the camps, especially not as dissidents.”

“Okay.” Andy nodded. “If you say so.”

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 9 – Stacy Zimmer – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 9: Stacy Zimmer

Stacy Zimmer opened the newspaper that had been left behind by someone as she sat in her local coffee shop. She’d chosen a table in the back. She couldn’t bring herself to sit anywhere else in the store. A view of the entire place was in front of her with no windows or doors behind. She felt better that way. Less chance for error. She hated errors. That’s what got people killed. She knew that from experience. Lots of experience. But that was past, she reminded herself. Past. It was over. She was home. No need to be defensive.

The barista called her name and she jumped. Stacy sucked in a breath. No problem, she told herself. No problem, just coffee. She quickly surveyed the shop, a couple of grandmas, a lone guy on his laptop, two twenty-something women, nothing a threat, she assessed as she slid easily from her chair to walk calmly to the pick-up counter. Nothing to see here. Nothing. Nothing but, she still eyeballed the guy. Suit, laptop and briefcase. Big enough to hold an IED. No, she told herself. This is the States. Nothing here. Nothing here.

Her hand shook the cup of mocha latte as she went back to her table. Nothing. Nothing. It wasn’t working. She felt trapped, here at the back of the store with no way out. She grabbed her backpack and her drink and headed out the door. She was three hundred feet from the shop before she could breathe. Moron, she thought. What the hell? It was just a coffee shop. But that’s not the newsreel that was rolling through her head. That was different. That was the sandbox. That was her and her crew, laughing, taking pics with the local boy selling tea. Tea for Christ’s sake. The boy had called them over. “Tea,” he said, smiling. They’d all laughed. He couldn’t have been more than ten. “Tea, Tea.”

Tears ran down her face unnoticed. God damned tea. She’d never drank it again even though that was her favorite. Her morning ritual. Now it was coffee. She stopped in the park, sat on a bench. Her breathing came back to normal as she popped the sipping port on the coffee. She drank and stretched her back taking a deep breath. It was okay. Not a problem. Just a little scare. Nothing to be worried about.

In the open she felt better, more secure. Daylight, clear lines of sight. Not boxed in. Much better. She took a deep breath. Better. Better. She took a sip of the drink and set it on the bench beside her then took the day’s paper out of her pack. It was good. Read the paper. Drink the coffee. The birds sang in the trees nearby and moms were starting to arrive in the park, their little darlings let out of their carriages and set free to toddle in the grass. Yes. This was fine.

Then Stacy read the third page. The government was taking veteran’s retirement and disability funds to create a wall along every continental U.S. border. All about self-defense, she read. But vet’s payments would be cut by half to solve the discrepancy. Half? HALF? Stacy lept up. She couldn’t live on half. Half wouldn’t pay the rent. Half wouldn’t pay for groceries. Half wouldn’t cover her co-pays for her meds. Even in her mental state, she understood she needed her meds or she’d be worse off than she was now. No. NO!

A mother walked by, stroller in front of her, staring. Stacy realized she was hyperventilating, fists clenched, and teeth bared. She shook herself and tried to smile. The look on the woman’s face made it clear she wasn’t reassuring anyone. She grabbed her pack and stuffed the paper into it as she rushed off.

How can this be, she raged as she raced away from the park? I did my time. I was promised. How can they? How can they?

It was late afternoon when through sheer exhaustion she finally came to herself. She had no idea where she was but realized she was hunkered down behind a building, back of a big trash receptacle. A man sat cross-legged a few feet away.

“Hey.” He gave her a nod from behind another of the big trash bins.

She nodded. “Hey.”

“You okay?”

Stacy drew in a deep breath. Despite having missed her meds schedule, she did feel almost normal. “Yeah. Think so.”

“Afghanistan?”

She nodded.

“Get that myself from time to time.”

She took another deep breath. A fellow soldier. “Yeah.”

“Flashback?”

She looked him over. Old field jacket, unit patch still on the arm. Greasy jeans, tattered sneakers about to fall apart. “Kind of.”

He shrugged. There’s a shelter, if you need it. Not too far from here.

She thought it over. It was almost promising. “You stay there?”

He chuckled and shook his head. “Hell no. They’ll slit your throat for your shoes in there.”

She smiled. “Thanks then. I think I’ll pass.”

He nodded. “What set you off, if I may ask?”

“G’ment. Assholes. Taking our pay, our meds.” She still shook. This was too much.

He spit off to the side she wasn’t on. “Assholes.”

She nodded. “They promised.”

“Yeah. They always promise.”

She looked closer. He was grizzled, wrinkled. He was a lot older. “The same?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Same old, same old.” He sighed. “What’cha gonna do about it?”

Stacy blinked. “Do?”

“Yeah. Do. Don’t cha think they’ve about worn out their welcome?”

She ran her fingers through her short brown hair. “Like what?”

“You been readin’ the news the last three years? You think it’s a quirk that it’s just us white soldiers left? Just takin’ our pay? Just throwin’ us away? You’re young. You can do something.”

Stacy stared at him. Do something? Fight back? She didn’t think she had anything left.

He looked at her. “You’ve got the skills.”

She stared back. “So do you.”

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 8: Captain Flynn – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 8: Capt Flynn

Captain Tyler Flynn’s notebook chimed with an incoming message. It was from Commander Green. Flynn sighed. Report to the Colonel immediately. That was never good he thought as he rose from his desk and headed for the door.

At the Colonel’s office, the secretary, a Sergeant, sent him right in. Tyler missed the Colonel’s old secretary, Arlene. She’d been the Commander’s secretary for at least ten commanders and knew everything there was to know about the base and how to get things done but since the female purge two weeks ago, of course, a male had to be put in her place. Sergeant Boyle was good, but he had to look up everything and just wasn’t as efficient.

Flynn stopped in front of the Commander’s desk and saluted. “Captain Flynn reporting as ordered, Sir.”

The Commander looked up from his pad and returned the salute. “Good, Flynn. Have a seat.”

The Captain sat in one of the wooden chairs in front of the desk.

The Colonel tapped his notebook as he began. “Flynn. I have some good news.”

Flynn braced himself. In this political climate, he didn’t trust anyone to have good news.

“We’re restarting the promotion system and you’ve been selected to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.”

Tyler thought for a minute his heart stopped. He consciously took a breath. “Thank you, Sir. I’m surprised.” He reached across the desk to shake the Commander’s hand.

“Glad to do it. With the promotion system down for so long, it made things like retention very difficult. If it had gone traditionally, you’d be an LC already, so Personnel just caught you up.” Congratulations, Captain.”

Tyler stood and saluted. “Thank you, Sir. I really appreciate this.”

The commander stood and returned the salute. “It’s effective the first of next month so you have time to update your uniforms.”

“This is great news, Colonel Green. My wife is going to be thrilled.”

“Good.” He sat back down. “That’s all, Captain.”

Flynn pivoted smartly and strode out the door, his mind bouncing from one thought to the next as we walked back to his office. Once there, he called his wife, Laura. She suggested they celebrate by going out to dinner and he agreed.

Word spread as the Colonel brought one officer in after another to tell them about their promotions. Not a lot of work was getting done as men traveled from one office to another to congratulate the promotees.

Outside at quitting time, Captain Dean Joyce met Flynn in the parking lot. “I hear congratulations are in order for you,” he said as he held out his hand.

Flynn shook it. “You too. Major, right?”

“Yeah. And you went straight to LC. That’s great. You must have passed the loyalty test.”

“Loyalty test?” Flynn felt as though he’d been punched in the stomach. “I didn’t take any test.”

“Remember your sister-in-law? That was the test. You handled her like any other undesirable. Even with her sobbing and begging, you kept your cool. The higher ups liked that.”

“Oh. Just being professional.”

Joyce clapped him on the shoulder. “Well done, Flynn. You’re going to be going places now.” He moved on to his car.

Flynn walked slowly to his car, watching Joyce get in and drive off. A loyalty test, that was what was going on? Zuri’s time in front of him was excruciating. He couldn’t sleep that night or for several nights he was so upset about having to pass his own brother’s wife into the system. He’d argued with his own wife, Laura, about it in strained whispers, because they both were sure their house was bugged.

He reached his car and got in, but just sat there, not even rolling down the windows to let the sun baked heat out. How many other things had he done that were loyalty tests? Tyler tried to think back but nothing in particular sprang to mind. Wait, he thought, right after the President announced he was President for Life, a lot of soldiers disappeared. Had the brass already begun purging the ranks even then? Other things sprang to mind. Orders tasking him to do crappy missions rounding up undesireables, coloreds, Jews, and activists. He nodded to himself. All of those were tests to see if he’d kick up a fuss.

Sweat began to trickle from his armpits. He turned the car key and rolled down the windows. The fresh air felt good. Tyler pulled on his seatbelt and put the car in drive then pulled out of his parking spot. And now, a promotion. Was the testing done? Was he deemed loyal? He’d have to talk to Laura about this. Let her know. She could be set up for tests, now that she was a housewife. Who knew which woman was working undercover, looking for malcontents? She’d have to be careful who she talked to.

He drove home carefully. Traffic violations were now severely punished. He wondered for a moment about Captain Joyce. How did he know about the loyalty testing? He worked in Supply. Maybe Joyce was undercover. Tyler shrugged to himself. Maybe not. With things the way they were now, anyone could turn in anyone else for suspicious behavior or comments. He’d have to be careful too. Watch what he said and to whom. He sighed. He missed the old days. How did they get to this point? It didn’t matter, he thought. We’re here now and we just have to survive it.

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 7: Bill Brown Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 7: Bill Brown #9645990

Bill Brown, now known as 9645990, got up on command, went to the tray window and slid his empty breakfast tray and rice paper spoon inside then lined up along the cafeteria wall with the others in his cohort. It was time to go to work.

He’d been surprised when two weeks into this nightmare he’d been transferred from the facility he’d first been taken to and sent here.

At a command, they all began to march, single file, out of the cafeteria.

He thought he was going to be shipped to Africa or something but no. He was here, in a huge factory, where he’d been assigned to an engineering drafting shop. It made sense, he thought as they marched along. Why waste perfectly good brain power? The work wasn’t easy, but it was boring, though fairly matching what he’d been doing his whole adult life. Drafting had never been his favorite thing to do.

At his office the cohort stopped on command. The guard shouted out his number. He stepped out of line and saluted. A modified Nazi salute he had been horrified to learn the second day he’d been at the receiving facility. That first two weeks was an intensive course in learning that he was no longer a free man. The bruises had only faded a week ago. The cohort moved on and he went into his office. There were three other men in there, already at their drafting tables. No one looked up.

He sat down and picked up his Computer Aided Design pen without addressing the others. The cameras in the four corners of the ceiling made sure that they understood that while there was no guard in the room, they were being watched.

The first week was difficult. He’d never worked on 3-D CAD software, but much was the same as with the software he had used before so the learning curve wasn’t too big. After that, the work was dull. This week, according to specification, draw a gear. Actually, a different gear every day. No one told them what the purpose was of any of the drawings they completed. But he did know that everyone in the room was working on mechanical parts. No telling though, if they belonged to the same project.

That was just one of the things that nagged at him. Taking pride in his work before always entailed knowing what the big picture was. What the smaller parts fit into. Now, it was just this. A single drawing. He was already bored.

A chime rang. Everyone stopped what they were doing and lined up at the door. A guard came and escorted them to an exercise yard. Bill had been surprised, the first day, when he realized they were being allowed outside. “Half an hour,” the guard had said. Some headed for a quarter-mile track where they began walking. Others for a weight area where they began lifting. There was some talk, but only about the weights or the weather. No other conversation.

One guy, number 9062579, introduced himself in a low voice. “Come with me. We’ll walk.”

Bill nodded and they headed to the track. “I’m Bill.”

“George. But never call me that. That’s a punishable offence.”

Bill nodded. “We get to do this every day?”

“Rain or shine.” George began swinging his arms around. “This helps with keeping limber after leaning over the desk all day.”

Bill did the same. “I was surprised how good breakfast was.”

“Sure. We do work, they feed us well. Gotta keep the farm animals in tip top shape.”

“What?” Bill stared at George.

George snorted. “That’s what we are now, you know. Animals. We earn our keep, we get treated well. If we don’t, well, I’ve seen many a man leave on a stretcher and not return.”

Bill didn’t know what to think about that. “Why?”

“Because good food, exercise, plenty of rest keeps us in good shape. I’ve lost forty pounds since I’ve been here. No booze, very little sugar—it’s the diet my doctor had been trying to get me to use for years.” He snorted again. “He was right. I feel better than I did when I graduated from college.”

“How long have you been here?”

“About six months.”

That’s when a whistle blew. A guard, back near the building pointed at them. George waved. “We gotta split up. They don’t like it when we talk together.”

With that he sped up, leaving Bill to trail behind. Since he was getting out of breath, he let George go and slowed down a bit. He thought about what he’d heard. He didn’t like the idea that they were considered farm animals. But everything to this point had surprised him.

Now, two week later, he pondered everything he knew so far. He knew he was in a Wagnall Aerospace Industries factory. Their logo was on everything. That he and the other men were slave labor was obvious. Cheaper, he realized, to keep the men healthy with good food and exercise, than to feed them poorly and have them get sick. Sick men didn’t produce well. He swung his arms around first in sync then as a windmill, then back the other way. George had been right. It helped with the back strain. And he could tell he was losing weight, even after two weeks.

But, was this going to be his life forever? Slave labor? Even if he did get good food and exercise, this isn’t all he wanted. He was only thirty-six years old. He missed Mara, and the kids. Maybe he could write them? This was really the first time he’d had time to think about more than surviving these new circumstances. Who could he ask? He’d try his cohort guard. That’s who they were supposed to go to with issues.

He took a breath and at the chime, started back to the building. Yes. He’d ask Officer Fernald. He already felt better.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 5 Duncan Angelson – Friday Flash Fiction Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 5: Duncan Angelson

After Andy McGuire left, Duncan got to work. He knew exactly why Mr. Joe Evans, The People’s Party leader, wanted to talk. There was much to do. Too soon, his secretary, Wendy Ackerman, buzzed. “Mr. Evans to see you, Sir.”

He punched the intercom button. “Send him in.”

As the door opened, Duncan stood and walked around the desk. “Joe. Good to see you.” He held out his hand.

Joe Evans strode in and shook hands with the Chief of Staff. “Good to see you, too, Duncan. It’s been too long. Emily says you and Monica need to come out to the farm for dinner.”

“Let us know the day and time, Joe. We’d love to come out.” He motioned to a loveseat in the middle of the room. “Have a seat. What can I do for you?”

Joe Evans sat down, his bulk nearly filling the loveseat.

“Drink?”

“Scotch. No ice.”

Duncan nodded and poured his best into a heavy, squat, cut-crystal glass. He poured one for himself then handed over the glass before sitting in the armchair across from a small, glass-topped coffee table.

Evans sipped, smacking his lips. “You know how to take care of a visitor, Duncan.”

Duncan smiled and put his lips to his drink, then placed it on the table. “I know you didn’t come all the way into Washington for a Scotch.”

“No.” Joe Evans sighed, drank again, and held the near empty glass in his lap. “You reading the Immaculata reports?”

“The summaries, of course. A full report when there’s something of interest, why?”

“Well, it’s a good thing, bad thing sort of issue. The Immaculata were very efficient. We had them started rounding up dissidents and activists before the President’s second term was only half over. And you know, by the time it ended, we’d put all of our people in place and had the electorate whipped into a frenzy about illegal aliens. Then we rolled back all the civil rights legislation since 1959. The next three years, we had anyone not a citizen and anyone with any Negro or Chink blood rounded up, or nearly so. This last year, anyone turned in by people they knew who had even the smallest amount of black, chink, or Hispanic blood was fair game.”

He laughed. “Damn but that marketing campaign was effective. Suspicion, greed, jealousy—all of it ramped up until we were working 24/7 on rounding people up.” He drank the last of his scotch and motioned, asking for another.

Duncan nodded and got up, taking the glass to his little dry bar. “So, what’s the problem?”

“It worked too well. The Immaculata are rounding up people now with so little taint in their blood that we’re damn close to making it up.” He took the glass from Duncan and drank some more. “We’re not sure what to do now.”

Duncan sat back in the armchair. “Are the people being turned in actually bad people? They complain about the president or the party?”

“No.” Joe Evans waved away the thought. “Matter of fact, a lot of them are party members and donated to the President’s reelection. Voted him President for Life, too.”

Duncan rubbed his cheek. He could feel the stubble already forming. “How about letting some of them go, then. You know, they were examined and found clean, politically correct. It might be time to show how fair the party is.”

For a moment, Evans rubbed his chin, nodding, as he thought that idea over. “Perhaps. I’ll take it to the committee.” He sipped, then changed the subject. “How’s the President?”

Duncan shook his head. “It’s like minding a child. But we knew that six years ago. How’s his wife?”

Evans sighed. “She’s happy to be in New York. Their girl is in that special school she needs. But Mrs. Margaret Masters wants to divorce. We can’t allow that.”

“Any particular reason? I mean other than she knows he’s a horndog?”

“She wants to be free to see other men. Understandable. She’s only thirty-two. But we can’t allow that.”

“What about if she sees men discretely? Would she go for that?” Duncan was thinking furiously. Maggie Masters knew the whole story. If she decided to spill the beans, that could cause a huge problem. Mainly for her. Duncan didn’t want that. He personally liked Maggie and her daughter, Bectie. It wouldn’t do for her to have an accident.

A slow head shake from Evans was the answer. Then he shrugged and drank another sip. “Maybe. I’ll take that to the committee too.” He sighed again. “We can play off anything that happens in the press, of course. Most of the media outlets know where their bread is buttered now. But there’s always a few reporters still willing to kick up a fuss.”

Duncan shrugged. “What about the President. I don’t think there’s enough hookers in the country to satisfy the lecher-in-chief.”

“Start bringing back the ones he started with. His dementia is far enough gone by now, and the girls all look the same anyway, he’ll never know.” Evans drained his glass and rose ponderously from the loveseat. He smoothed what little white hair he had into place. “The doc’s giving him a clean bill of health?”

“Yeah. As much as possible. Dementia has it’s health side effects, you know.”

Evans nodded. “Do what you have to. By the time he’s too sick for any appearances, we’ll have the entire country nailed down.” He turned to the door and took a step. “Oh.” He turned back. “The Eastern Federation wants a sit down on nuclear issues.”

“President Popov?”

“Right. When they rolled over Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Germany, they acquired a lot of material.”

“I’ll set something up.” Duncan walked Evans to the door, opened it and shook his hand. “Give me a few days.”

“Keep in touch.”

Duncan nodded and went back into his office as Evans waddled out of the secretary’s office. Nukes, he thought. Great.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 3 Devon Brown, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 3: Devon Brown

Devon trembled in the backseat of a monstrous black SUV beside his sister, Caitlin. The truck was so big, the officers had had to lift them both up to the back seat.  Both of them had their hands handcuffed behind their backs. Caitlin was crying, calling out, “Mommy, Mommy,” snot running down her face. That bothered him. His mother wouldn’t like it but what could he do?

He didn’t understand. Did Daddy do something wrong? Why’d they take him away? Why did the soldiers take him and Caitlin away? He slid a little closer to his sister so that they were side by side. What was going to happen? Where were they going? He was too short to see out of the windows. When he tried to crane up, all he could see were rooftops. He stopped when the soldier riding up front told him to sit back.

They drove for a long time. He was glad when Caitlin fell asleep, her little blond head against his shoulder. He was too upset to go to sleep. His hands were full of prickles, but he didn’t want to shift around, it would wake his sister. Every few minutes the soldier checked his mirror, watching Devon. It scared him, so he sat very still.

It seemed like a long time but finally the car pulled up to a gate. The driver’s window went down and a soldier stuck his head in to look in the backseat. “Go on,” he said, and the car went in. They came to a big building and the car stopped at the front door. The two soldiers got out and Caitlin woke up as the doors slammed shut.

“Devon?”

“We’re here,” he told her as the passenger doors opened at the same time. The driver pulled him out of the car as the other soldier pulled Caitlin out. Devon’s legs had fallen asleep along with his hands and he collapsed to the sidewalk, skinning his knees.

“Stand up, kid.” He pulled Devon up by the back of his t-shirt.

“My legs are asleep.”

“Great.” The soldier kept hold of Devon’s shirt and joined Caitlin and her guard at the door. They went in and nodded to the soldier at the desk near the door. He nodded back and they went across a lobby and down a hall. There were a lot of halls, Devon thought, and soon, he had no idea where they were of what was going on. They were taken to a place where people in white uniforms, like doctors, took them after the handcuffs were taken off.

The soldiers left and the aides made them undress. Devon had trouble. His hands didn’t want to work. One aide had to undress him. Devon didn’t like that but there was nothing he could do. They were sent into a shower together. Devon helped Caitlin wash her face and when they came out, they were given gray cotton pants and shirts with numbers on them to wear—and picked up and put in barber chairs. Devon didn’t think he needed a haircut, he’d just been a few days ago with his dad. The barber took clippers and ran them over his head. Horrified, he watched as they did the same to Caitlin. She began to cry and fight them. One of the aides grabbed her hands and told her to shut up. It was over in just a moment, her blonde hair scattered all over the floor.

They were escorted to another place and a doctor looked at them. Then another place where there were other kids, standing in lines. Girls in one and boys in another. Caitlin didn’t like that and started crying again, calling for Devon. An aide came down the line and slapped her and told her to shut up.

“No!” Devon yelled and began to go to her. An aide grabbed him by the arm, slapped him, and shoved him back into line so hard he fell. “Get up, kid.” And the aide walked away. Devon, shaking, stood up. He’d never been hit by an adult. Never. He didn’t know what to think. Caitlin cried quietly, watching him, as the line kept moving. She reached the desk first.

“Six years old,” the man said. He waved his hand and an aide led her away. She didn’t want to go and fought the aide, but it did no good. He dragged her, screaming, “Devon,” until they left the room. Then it was his turn.

“Eight years old,” the man said as he checked a tablet. He waved and an aide took Devon away in a different direction than Caitlin had went.

“What about my sister?” he asked.

“Shut up,” was the only answer.

They entered a room where there were other boys sitting at desks. Devon saw that the boys sat, hands folded on their desks, eyes straight ahead. Not one boy turned to see him come in.

The man in the room checked his tablet, then nodded at the aide, who left.

“Boy. Pay attention. I’m Mr. George. You are now called 9280970. Remember that. It’s the number on your shirt. Say it.” He stood, staring at Devon.

“9280970,” Devon said in a voice that cracked.

“Good. There is no talking unless you are asked a direct question. Is that understood?”

Devon nodded.

“Do what you are told and it will go easy on you. If you disobey, or don’t follow directions, you’ll be punished. Do you understand?”

Devon nodded again. He tried to swallow but his mouth was dry. This place was scary.

“Sit over there, Row four, chair six. That is your place.”

Devon nodded and walked over to the seat.

“Hands folded on the desk. Eyes to the front.”

Devon did as he was told. This is not good, he remembered his father always saying. He was right.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 2 Capt Flynn – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Just by happenstance, I recently picked up a copy of Trevayne, written by Robert Ludlum. In his introduction, he mentioned that he wrote the book after the Nixon Watergate scandal. In part he says of Watergate: “Here was the government, the highest of our elected and appointed officials entrusted with the guardianship of our system, not only lying to the people but collecting millions upon millions of dollars to perpetuate their lies and thus the controls they believed were theirs alone to exercise.” He goes on to point out that their meaning was to keep the country theirs. Not yours or mine, or even the neighbors across the street or across town. Only theirs. “The rest of us were somehow neither relevant nor competent. They knew better, therefore the lies had to continue and the coffers of ideological purity kept full so that the impure could be blitzkrieged by money and buried at the starting gates of political contests.”

It was like that during Watergate.In my humble opinion, it is even more so now.

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 2: Captain Flynn

Captain Tyler Flynn closed the electronic notebook after Bill Brown was taken away. On either side of him, Lieutenant Daryll Moss and Lieutenant Lee Woden, stood up. They’d been at the interviews all afternoon.

“Why do they all say the same thing? I want to slap every one of them.” Moss shoved his chair under the table.

“I hear ya.” Woden did the same with his chair and they headed for the door. “You’d think one of them could say something original.”

“Captain Flynn?” Moss stopped a moment at the door. “More of this tomorrow?”

“Yep.” Flynn tucked the notebook into his briefcase. “The round-up are continuing.”

“Jesus Christ.” Woden opened the door. “Who knew so many non-whites were in the country. Like that last guy. Didn’t even know he was black?” Woden shook his head. “No wonder the country’d gone to hell in a hand basket.”

The officers left the room. Flynn headed for his office. “See you tomorrow, guys.”

“See ya,” the two offices said as they went the other direction.

Flynn knew the statistics, a good portion of the country had genetic markers for other races than Caucasian. That poor bastard Brown was turned in by a neighbor for unpatriotic activities. Flynn saw from the report it was bullshit, but the genetics didn’t lie. So he’d been rounded up. Flynn sighed to himself. Cameras were everywhere so there was no show of questions or remorse allowed about carrying out commands from headquarters.

At his office he locked the notebook in the safe, it had records of thousands of people in it, and checked for end of day messages. Nothing important, he was relieved to see, so he headed home.

The next morning, he was in a meeting with the Commander, 43rd Mobilization and Relocation Squadron and other squadron department heads. It was near the end of the meeting and Flynn was feeling thankful nothing strange was relayed today. Since President Master’s had declared marshal law and declared himself President for Life, things had been crazy. Hopefully it would settle down now.

Commander Green cleared his throat. Flynn looked up. That always signaled bad news. “Gentlemen.” The commander took a breath. “Any remaining female officers and enlisted in your departments are hearby issued orders to report to Personnel for honorable discharge.”

All around the table, each department head’s notebook began chiming. “Those are the orders. Share that information with your female subordinates and send them on their way. They’ll have a week to clear base quarters if they reside there. Personnel will take care of everything.”

Flynn was relieved. The Immaculata had been male only from the start, the seventh year of President Master’s legal presidency. He’d hate to face good subordinates with that news. The other people didn’t look happy but said nothing. There was nothing to say.

He wasn’t so relived at the next announcement.

“Lastly, the transport company we’ve been using for prisoner transport has lost their contract. Now we’ll be using Weyland Industries beginning Monday. They’ll also be responsible for prisoner feeding. You’ll find new forms available to you starting Friday. Call Contracting if you have any issues. That will be all. All hail President Marshall.”

“All hail,” each man at the table responded in unison. Then they all rose and left the room.

Outside the command admin, Captain Dean Joyce caught up with Flynn. He checked the hall around them and in a soft voice asked, “Isn’t Weland Industries owned by the President’s sister?”

Flynn gave a short nod. “Yep.”

“Isn’t that nepotism? At the least, conflict of interest?”

Flynn gave Joyce a look, eyebrow raised.

Joyce took the hint. “None of my business, I guess. I just hope they feed these poor bastards better than the last company. I wouldn’t feed that swill to my dad’s pigs.”

A short shake of the head was Flynn’s response. “Seventeen hundred calories is the regulation. Doesn’t say anything about the gourmet level.”

“I guess.” Joyce dropped back and turned right into his corridor.

Flynn agreed with the guy, but he wasn’t going to say so. Too many cameras and out in public spaces especially, microphones too. He was sure his office was bugged. He was also sure his car was too. No matter. He’d joined the Army fifteen years ago. He’d pledged to support and defend the country every four years since then. He’d been chosen to join the Immaculata. An elite force, he’d been told. Part of Homeland Security, helping to combat attacks against the United States.

And so it seemed, the first couple of years. They’d rounded up several groups identified by the FBI and the CIA as fomenting dissent and radicalizing youth, especially in urban areas. He thought he’d been doing some good. Now, this wasn’t what he’d signed up for but there didn’t seem to be any way out. His own wife was Army. While he didn’t have any female members, his wife worked in Communications, the squadron commander, for Pete’s sake. Dinner was going to be unpleasant.

At his office he reviewed the interviews for the day. He was a third of the way through the list when a name popped out at him. Zuri Flynn. His breath caught in his throat. It was his sister-in-law. His heart sank. Her family was Jewish. His brother was going to be crushed. He loved Zuri.

Flynn closed his eyes. Thank God there were no children. That would be too much. Why did they put her in his interview room? A message, he was sure. If it could happen to his family, it could happen to anyone. He leaned over and grabbed his trashcan and vomited. Better to get it out of his system now. He wouldn’t be able to offer any emotion in the room. Zuri would be devastated.

Thank you for reading.

The Home, Part 3: Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 2 here.

Morgue__Table_by_anaisroberts from Deposit Photos

The Home, Part 3

Ralph and Mike waved. I waved back.

In the doctor’s office the guard motioned me to sit down.

Jenkins nodded to me. “Mrs. Nathan.”

“Doctor.” He wasn’t too bad as the aliens went. At least he could speak clearly.

“You took a walk this afternoon.”

I waited. Let him ask me a question. I wasn’t going to give up anything I didn’t have to.

He fiddled with his pen.

If he thought I’d be uncomfortable with a long silence, he was wrong. I had been a counsellor and knew all the tricks of the trade. I folded my hands in my lap and waited in the blessed quiet.

The clock on the wall behind him ticked off the seconds. Loud in the quiet room.

“Why did you leave the dayroom, Laurie?”

Score one for me. He spoke first. And now he was trying the friendly familiarity tact. When I entered I was Mrs. Nathan. “What do you mean?” I put on an innocent face. I was having fun for a change.

“The staff tell me they found you in your room.”

I shrugged. “I don’t recall.”

He tapped his pen on the desk top and took a deep breath. “Now, Laurie. Let’s not be difficult. What’s the problem today? It’s not like you to be a trouble-maker.”

“I could use another blanket on my bed.” If I had to be in here, let’s see if I could get something out of it.”

“Perhaps you were confused?”

“I’m not confused. I’m old.”

Jenkins wrote a note in his book, glancing up at me as he wrote. “We’ll see about another blanket.”

Well! I was surprised at the quick capitulation. “Thank you.”

He nodded and checked his file. “You’ve been with us six months now. How are you enjoying your stay?”

I did my best not to grind my teeth. Enjoying my stay? Did he think this was a resort? “I’d rather be home.” Who knows. Maybe he’d listen.

“Hmmm.” He flipped though the file. “It says here you were having difficulty at home alone.”

“No. I wasn’t.”

It was his turn to shrug. “Your son thought so, Laurie. You were falling, unable to keep your home tidy.”

“That’s not a crime, last I knew.”

“But it is a health and safety issue. Your son was very worried about you.”

“So I can check out at any time?”

His head slowly shook. “I’m afraid not. Your son signed you in. Don’t you remember?”

I did remember. I was furious with Stan. I told him it was just a cold. I was fine but he insisted that I needed full-time care. I had been helpless because I’d made him my health proxy after my husband died. For just in case. Now I was here. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“You’re seventy-eight, Laurie. It’s time for you to relax and let others take care of you.”

“I can take care of myself.” I clenched my hands into fists. He didn’t answer and that made me even more furious.

“We can’t have you wandering around, Laurie. I think a few micrograms of benzodiazepine would be appropriate. To keep you calm.”

“I’m calm enough.”

Jenkins nodded but pushed a button on his phone. The door opened and the goon who’d dragged me in here came in and stood behind my chair.

“Carl. Please take Mrs. Nathan back to the dayroom. There’ll be a new prescription for her in the file.”

Carl, if that was its real name, put a hand on my shoulder. My skin crawled. The interview did not end the way I had hoped.

“Laurie, we’ll talk again.”

I snorted. Some talk. I stood up as Carl squeezed my shoulder. I jerked it away form him and marched out of the office ahead of the goon. I plopped into my chair. When the goon left, Edna, Ralph, and Mike leaned over to look at me.

“What happened,” Edna whispered just loud enough to be heard over the noise box.

“I lost. The so-called Doctor Jenkins prescribed something to keep me calm.”

Ralph looked horrified. Mike and Edna were concerned. “Oh, no,” Edan cried out.

I had my arms crossed in front of me to control my shaking. I didn’t want to end up like Ralph, drooling and mindless most of the day. “My own fault, walking in there with an attitude.”

Mike asked, “What did he say?”

“He said I can’t sign myself out, for one thing.” My knee started bouncing. “I was sick when my son signed me in. I’m fine now. I could go home.” The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. What was wrong with Stan, signing me into this pit?

Edna put a hand on my arm. “I’m so sorry, Laurie.”

I hated the comfort her hand on my arm gave me. I wanted to be angry. “Can you see that all of the staff are aliens?” I asked it suddenly. I wanted confirmation that they saw what I did.

All three of them looked around in alarm.

“Shh.” Mike put a finger over his lips. “They’ll hear!”

Ralph looked sick. I wondered if he was going to throw up.

“So you see it, too?”

They all nodded but were keeping their eyes down.

“We need to do something,” I said.

If anything, Ralph looked even more sick.

“Do what?” Edna asked. “We’re helpless in here.”

Mike and Ralph nodded.

“Crap!” I put a hand on my knee to keep it from jumping up and down. “The first thing we have to do is stop taking their miserable drugs. They’re making us stupid.”

Ralph brightened. He was always better in the afternoon. “How?”

I grinned at him. “I don’t know. They’re pretty diligent about making us swallow those pills.”

“We’d have to make sure we act as though we took them.” Edna stared at the ceiling.

“Docile.” Mike nodded. “Not too active.”

“But then what?” Ralph asked.

“We get out of here. I’ve had enough.”

All three nodded.

I sat back in my chair. We had a team. Now we needed a plan.

Return next week for Part 4.