The Long View 2008-08-24: A Week before Labor Day
I find this satirical blog post by John J. Reilly pretty apt for the mood of our times. If you want a little context of what he was getting at, try this longer story “After the Eighth Day” for how the universal apocalyptic module in the human mind can transform ordinary politics into, something else…
When John wrote this in 2008, the world was not yet beyond satire. Now might be different.
A Week before Labor Day
His cellphone rang at 3:00 A.M. Even before he was awake, he had found it on the side table and opened the screen:
t gate s open.
& 2 shal ride abrest
Damn spelling reformers, he growled to himself without finishing the message. He rolled over to go back to sleep. Then he heard the running footsteps on the street below, and the first of the explosions.
He got out of bed and opened the window.
“You, fellow,” he said to one of the hurrying shadows. “What is all this commotion?”
“¿Porque eso tumulto?”
“Can you not have heard? The announcement was already made five minutes ago. The Awaited One has chosen Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware to be his vice president, and to exercise all authority in his sight.”
“Wait a minute: how come I had to ask you in Spanish, but you answered me in English?”
“Because the Awaited One has already brought us all together!” the shadow exclaimed before it scurried away.
He dressed quickly and went down to the street. The ways of the neighborhood were crowded, as for a festival. Everyone was rejoicing. Some slew themselves for very ecstasy. He moved with the majority toward a local park, where a bonfire had been made in the central gazebo. Full of passionate intensity, the people were throwing into it their vanities, the better to prepare for the New America. As they moved in widening gyres away from the central flame, the red light illuminated the complimentary campaign tattoos on their hands or foreheads.
* * *
The Alternative Senator walked with furrowed brow throw the second third-floor sitting room in the southwest wind of the Telluride House. Golden light from the westerning summer sun played through the treetops on the nearest ridge. I told them as much as I could about how many houses I have, he reflected as he crossed the room. Then he opened the large wardrobe on the far side and stepped inside.
A linen closet opened in the House at Arrakis. The Senator stepped out and smiled amicably at some completely blue-eyed servants who were passing in the corridor. They were not startled by their master’s arrival, since they were used to this kind of thing by now. He entered the Weirding Room, coughing once in response to the dense, warm air. The sunlight through the overhanging glass was not nearly as yellow; the sun had a distinctly reddish tint.
I was surprised to find I had so few properties at home, he thought as he examined some of the new flowers. Part of the deal he made after his plane crashed through that first Door over North Vietnam was that he would always be able to find his way home. Maybe that was why there had to be relatively few Doors at home, so he would not confuse them. After a few minutes, he left the flowers and turned the latch on the door of a small potting room.
This property was among the Senator’s favorites. The walls were round and low. The semi-subterranean corridor was bright with sunlight from the porthole windows on the southern exposure. Reaching the far end, he exited the round door and settled down on a stone bench shaded from the late afternoon sun. The Senator consoled himself with the thought that he would have been in danger of sounding like a snob if he had tried to explain how many houses he owns. Anyone who explains aleph null is going to sound like he is showing off.
The Alternative Senator caught sight of the Gaffer in the distance. He indicated by gestures that, if the Gaffer had a moment, the Senator had some thoughts on the state of the taters.
* * *
Meanwhile, in a printing shop on the outskirts of Beijing, the workers were hurrying to complete a run of fliers that were to be distributed at the very end of the Olympic Games. The number of fliers to be printed was surprisingly small. Some thousands would actually be dropped over the Birds Nest Stadium, but computer enhancements would ensure that the world would see billions of the one-page sheets raining down over every inhabited place in China.
The sheets were printed in the jagged, willfully unsymmetrical characters imposed on China in the 1950s by angry spelling reformers. The sheets read:
I am Ozymandias,
the Son of heaven.
Look upon my sound-and-light show,
and pay no mind to those
* * *
At this point, the world was not yet beyond satire.
Copyright © 2008 by John J. Reilly