Friday, March 18, 2011

FICTION: "Yellow Snake Pit" by Christopher Jewells

The Smoke…

"All across the country, today; outrage at what appears to be a case of police brutality."

"That’s right, caught on tape, an alleged shooting of four members of a family and the beating of several others celebrating a birthday party has been spread on Youtube and other video hosting websites over the weekend. The whole thing took place - now, you’re seeing some of the footage here and I have to warn you that it may be too graphic many viewers - but the whole thing took place at a rented recreation hall in Decatur, Indiana; about seventy-two miles northeast of Indianapolis."

"The video, leaked over the internet by unknown video vigilantes, had been kept in police custody but now officials believe that there was one other camera that had not been confiscated as evidence. The mayor and other officials are condemning the leak as a blow against ’any form of a fair look at the situation’. Investigations are now under way to discover the individual or individuals who leaked the video and are urging online media outlets to shut down the sharing of this particular video."

"I’m seeing this now in the monitor and… that-that’s just terrible."

"Absolutely. Seeing this now, I can understand how a trial can be swayed by public opinion. You, the viewer, may feel that this - what looks like unrestrained and unreasoning violence to the untrained eye - that this is just completely out of line but police officers are trained in what they do and they are out there on the street every day and night to protect and serve. The saying that a picture tells a thousand words is a constant but there’s always word one thousand and one that could change the entire prospective."

"Indeed, thank God for authorities as they really do care about you, unlike criminals and terrorists. They’re life savers and are there to tell you what needs to be done. Now here’s Tom with the weather."

Jeremy was disgusted by the video but was compelled to see it through as long as it was on the television. Seeing Tom’s pale but cheerful face didn’t douse his desire to see more, leaving him with the impulse to look it up on Youtube. Jeremy swept his fingers over his computer’s keyboard, typing the letters into the address bar at a million miles an hour; y-o-u-t-u-b, but the rest was filled in automatically. He tapped enter and the site began to load, very slowly. When it was finally at tolerable speed, Jeremy typed in a few keywords into the search bar; "police", "brutality", "Decatur". Tapping the enter key, he shifting his eyes off to the right, thinking about how this national news story had taken place in his own town. How close this was to his own home. How this could very well have been his family. Pushing the upwelling anger aside, Jeremy put his attention back on his computer screen. A plain, unimpressive message was dashed across it. "The site is down for special maintenance." "What…", Jeremy mumbled to himself. He clicked his mouse curser down on the refresh button and waited another few minutes until the same message was displayed. He clicked the refresh key again and an instant message popped up.

"Hey, Germy. What’s going on."

"Trying to find a video," Jeremy replied, after stifling his initial surprise, "I thought you were the cops or something."

"Oh, well I guess you’re looking for the party shooting video then. It’s gone bro, all the regular sites are getting ’special maintenance’, I know… I looked. Even the eighteen+ sites. You have to check the sites based outside of the U.S."

"Good idea."

"I’m full of them."

"You’re full of something…"

A small icon of a laughing face scrolled into the message window as Jeremy took his liberty to go about snooping up the video. Not long later, he had found it and watched it… several times. The video was clearly from surveillance cameras, two out of four, that were running and covering certain rooms of the recreation hall. His stomach was turning each time but he couldn’t help but stare like a junky into the monitor, stare like a zombie while; according to the message next to the video, three people died, one was shot several times and is currently in critical condition, and a large group of other family members outside of the room where the shooting had taken place were beaten, young and old, apparently for jumping at hearing the gunfire.


"Yeah, I’m here." Jeremy snapped back to the message window that had been flashing for the past few minutes, unnoticed.

"Don’t watch it too often, you might join a riot or something."

"A riot?"

"Yeah, bro, there was some protest in California about that mess and it somehow turned into a ’riot’ they say. Police went out there with their riot gear and shit and starting throwing their weight around."

"Damn, I didn’t even know. But this happened today, how did they manage to protest the same day thousands of miles away?"

"You must have been deep in the bottle. That party was a week ago, check the time stamp on the video."

This hit Jeremy like bag of cement in the stomach. The video was this old but it wasn’t reported until now? He hadn’t even heard of it locally by newspaper, radio or word of mouth. How could something like this go unreported and unnoticed?

"No way…" Jeremy typed out, putting words to his thoughts.

"Way. I read in someone’s blog that there’s already four more protests being organized in New York, D.C., Chicago and Cleveland."

"Aw man, the shit’s really going to hit the fan."

"You’re telling me. I bet it’ll be hell trying to find video for these inevitable police brutality cases too."

"You think it’ll be that way?" Jeremy typed without considering the answer himself.

"Are you kidding? Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Any jackasses so brazen as to show up and threaten a large group of angry stupid people are bound to get into a fight. That’s how wars started. Groups of angry stupid people colliding. Only, the ones with badges are quite a bit less intelligent seeing as it was stupid people with badges that started this whole thing to begin with."

"Good point." Jeremy replied after a moment of consideration.

The day seemed to hurry into night, as if trying to rush into the oncoming noise that tomorrow would bring. Jeremy had heard that the protests would take place in unison with walkouts and sit-ins, but he didn’t believe that people would really waste their time showing up to these protests. "What would people gain besides bloodied faces and a lung full of pepper spray." he thought. The person he had been chatting with suggested that there would be escalated violence that would feed itself and evolve. Jeremy hoped that this was just his friend’s big ego talking but later, when Youtube was back up, he found several videos of more claims of police brutality in the one California protest. Jeremy opened up another tab in his browser to bring up another website. This one was dedicated to saving videos from websites like Youtube that would otherwise be difficult to acquire. After a few hours of dozing in and out of consciousness as he was trying to download these videos, Jeremy heard faint voices coming from the living room. He stood up and listened a bit more but the voices only seemed to grow more indistinct. Walking over to his door, he intended to put his ear to it and really get an idea about what was going on out there without actually sticking his nose into what could just be someone else’s business. But this time the voices became relatively clear.

First, a gruff sounding man spoke: "-coming from this address. There’s no doubt about it. Now, I’m going to ask you just one more time. Where is it."

"I’m telling you, man, it’s Jeremy’s computer, but he’s asleep!" came the reply from who Jeremy knew was a friend.

"Don’t call me man!"

There was a faint thud and what Jeremy thought was a moan.

"Why don’t we just wake him up then? Where is Jeremy."

Jeremy didn’t hesitate, he ran toward his window and threw the drapes aside and began tugging at his window. It seemed very heavy and barely moved. Just then, someone began beating on his door, causing him to whip his head around to see the door bend under each jarring blow. His efforts renewed and invigorated, he jerked the window up several times and it finally gave way. The window launched upward and a massive gust of window blew his button-up shirt open and enlivened his hair like tongues of fire. A bright white light engulfed his room from outside and blinded him but the sound made it evident that a helicopter was hovering outside. He spun around and saw, just then, the door crumble to splinters under the boot of an overly armored SWAT cop. Three others swooped into the room followed by the initial officer and they each took up positions around Jeremy, who stood in a wild posture with his hands out in front of him and his fearful countenance.

Jeremy began to yell over the loudness of all of the drama "I don’t know! I don’t know what’s going on! What do you-"

His words were cut short as two officers lunged at him and seized an arm and a leg each. Another officer directed them with the pointing of his gloved finger toward a desk. The original door kicking SWAT officer produced a baton and slammed it into the computer on Jeremy’s desk, after a few more swipes of his baton, the desk was cleared of all debris more than a few inches in diameter.


The two officers holding him, harshly pushed him into the desk. He felt something warm on his back that he simply knew had to be blood.


The officer who had directed the others approached between Jeremy’s legs and produced a baton of his own. Jeremy watched mortified as the officer began to spray the baton down with mace. He knew his face was going to regret ever downloading or even looking at those protest videos. The officer drew back the baton, high over his head and Jeremy drew in his breath and tightened down his eyes.


The same felt himself propelled through the air and with a sharp pain in his elbow, he realized he had fallen to the ground. He looked around his room. Nothing was out of place, nothing wind blown and nothing broken. But who was this figure standing before him. He quickly shot his eyes up to the figure’s head. It was his friend.

"Hey man… you were mumbling and drooling on your keyboard. I, uh… thought I should wake you. You didn’t wake up when the helicopter went over and I came in your room. I knocked, but you didn’t answer so I just came in. You ok, man?" his friend said.

Jeremy looked around he room again, in disbelief. "… Yeah, yeah… I’m cool. I guess I fell asleep trying to download some stuff." he said, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

"Well… it’s done, now, man. I’m heading home though. See you later."

"Yeah… later, bro."

Jeremy was haunted but, after laying in the dark and silence in his bed for a few hours, he finally found his way to sleep.

The Fire…

"I swear, I’m moving to Canada." Jeremy typed into a message window.

In nearly the same instant, a reply appeared; "Nothing up there but beered up pussies, hypocrites and moose."


"Moose. Like sheep… or fish."

Normally, Jeremy would chuckle this exchange off and continue down the rabbit hole of conversational diversion but more serious matters were at hand. There was actually meaningful discussion intended beyond his original musing. In the weeks prior to this chat there was a lot that went on that was self-explanatory but at the same time could have used some explaining. The cold of the season could not immobilize the protests or dampen the vicious circle of civil unrest and federal overbearingness. Scores of people in smaller towns and thousands in the larger towns; hundreds of thousands in big cities and millions nationally had participated in walk-outs and demonstrations all across the United States because of increased and continuing use of excessive force on such crowds. Jeremy’s friend suggested that this may have a lot to do with a collective desire to be a victim in order to have something to stand for and counter to that; use of excessive force by police in the now countless videos that surface on media hosting websites could have to do with their insistence on discipline and order against the individuals will in favor of their view of the good of the all. He called those that supported the police and national guard "Jingoes" and those that supported the people: "rebels".

All of the major cities and huge numbers of small cities underwent their share of turmoil in the past few weeks. Nearly completely forgotten was the initial cause of protest; the little city of Decatur, Indiana. By this time, there have been more than just a few deaths, enough to make others rise up in outrage. Police forces in many towns had actually begun to run out of rubber bullets and bean-bag rounds. Tasing the protesters became a dangerous endeavor that would almost always cost an officer a bit more than his dignity. Tasers had become a weapon of choice for many city’s departments and had been used extensively in protests and in routine citations and arrests. Their widespread use only amplified the flaws with numerous reports of people dying or bones breaking from the use of electrical current "less-than-lethal" weapons. By and large, protests were being quelled with other technologies such as high amplitude sonic weapons and any number of other sight, sound and smell deterrents. Some weapons simply didn’t do what they were intended for and actually made people far more agitated than normal.

"Here, check out this video…" Jeremy’s friend said. He continued to type as Jeremy watched the video; "You see, it uses microwave radiation to literally cook people. It makes their skin feel like its burning by exciting the water in your skin."

"Goddamn… " Jeremy said, watching a demonstration of the technology. "Why are protests still going on with something like this in use?"

"Well, it has flaws."

"Such as?"

"The operator. Easy target because it’s just one person. Police lines can be forced back at their flanks and then the device can easily be taken. It can’t work three-hundred and sixty degrees, you know. There’s smaller hand-held ones. They’re taken out by well placed Molotovs or rocks or any other projectile that’s handy."


"Molotov cocktails? I figured you would have heard about those by now… at least from video games… They’re bottles of alcohol or gasoline or any other flammable fluid with a kerosene drenched rag sticking out of it. You throw them, the bottle breaks, the fire ignites the flammables, people burn; for real too, not just the water in their skin."

"That’s disgusting…"

"So is pepper spray in squirt guns. You should see some of the newer videos. Places in Ohio are running out of almost everything for the police."

"How? I thought Ohio produced a ton of that stuff for the rest of the country."

"We did. But large numbers of the factory and lab workers participate at least in walk outs. They don’t like their technologies and products being used on the people as if it were a war. Most of the labs and factories are shut down by this and scabs are hard to come by… not to mention that protests focus on places like those."

"Wow… don’t you think these things are getting out of hand? Like someone lit their… Molotov and it just blew up in their face."

"Don’t you think that the government is getting out of hand? I mean… I can’t openly walk the street here in Ohio at night because of curfews but I’ve never been arrested or even given a ticket. I’m not a criminal but I am a prisoner. What happened to freedom, you know?"

"I suppose that’s something. But the police have to do stuff like that to keep things secure."

"’Those who would give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither and will lose both.’… Benjamin Franklin."

The two then said their goodbyes as his friend was heading for the shower. Jeremy felt that of all that they discussed in the past few hours, all of his questions; they merely led to greater and more numerous questions.

"Well… let’s check out what the news has to say." he said, flicking a button on his television’s remote control.

"-it’ll be irreversibly altered forever."

"Now moving on to our daily segment, ’Sedition in the States’, here’s Jezebel Yoon with an update on the breaking news from earlier today."

"Thank you, Dick. That’s right, the breaking news, for those of you who are just tuning in was the armed protesters that have holed up in their homes, with banners and flags displayed from windows and overhangs in Ohio. The governor has requested out of state national guard units from neighboring states to help already under-equipped police officers make door to door raids to remove weapons from homes. In addition, there is a more extensive daytime curfew put into place that is co - excuse me. That is coupled with checkpoints throughout larger cities on major thoroughfares to make sure that people are going out to attend protests or help these riots in anyway."

"Jezebel, have you heard anything on the condition of the hundreds of officers injured or killed in these… absolutely unconscionable acts?"

"No, Dick, unfortunately many hospital workers are not at their posts. This is largely because rioters have caused them to stay indoors and out of danger but the government is encouraging medical workers to call into a state hotline so that they can be given a police escort to safety."

"Absolutely disgusting. Thank you, Jezebel."

"Well… I tell you, Dick; yeah, thank you Jezebel. I tell you, Dick; there is freedom of speech and then there is what the people of Ohio are doing. These… terrorists, and that’s what they are, are making life for the rest of the country even more difficult because of their selfish and unpatriotic acts. There’s no reason for this."

"I remember a time when the rule of law was valued."

Jeremy couldn’t take anymore of the uptight rebel bashing so he turned his attention out of the window. It had gotten much colder and a blizzard had passed to the east of Decatur, over Ohio. He began to wonder how the weather was affecting things there and, almost as if by request, Jeremy heard the weatherman come up on the news.

"-of that place again. You can see this line of low pressure just hugging the border here and it’s bringing loads and loads of snow to most of northern Ohio. This system won’t be giving us more than some flurries and, to the east, some snow showers. These late season storms can be tricky."

"How do you think this will affect the repugnant behavior of Ohioans?"

"Well, it should lock up the side streets and many of the main streets in the north and hopefully keep these rioters in their homes. In the southern parts of Ohio, I’m seeing rain, maybe sleet. These too should help keep people indoors and out of trouble."

"Ok, thank you for-"

Jeremy turned back to the window and saw and overcast but snow-less day. He thought it might not be as bad as they were making it out to be.

"Well… I could ask." Jeremy said, moving over to his computer.

His friend was still online but wasn’t displayed as available.

"I’ll give it a shot." he said and then typed; "How’s the weather?"

Jeremy was surprised to get a very quick response: "It’s snowing. A lot."

"Is it bad?"

"It’s Ohio."

"Then I guess the news would say it’s bad."

"And the wolves would say sheep are brutes."

"lol, well, what’s it doing to the rioters?"

"Rioters? There’s no riots here."

"That’s what they said on the news."

"The wolves have a lot to say. But trust me… there’s no riots… There are protests and lots of angry people but I’ve yet to see a non-G-man throw the first blow."

"So you’ve gone to protests?"

"I’ve observed some."

"You sure there wasn’t people there with guns or something?"

"Guns? Yes, in their homes. The protesters get chased away with all of these lethal "less-than-lethal" things and run home. The cops follow and kick down the doors of everyone on the block to do searches and raids. People are getting their computers taken away from them, TV’s too. And with the broken doors… their shelter from the weather."

"That’s crazy."

"That’s going to change."

"What do you mean?"

"Just keep watching the news, you’ll hear lies about it. All you have to remember is to read between the lines. Separate the opinion and just take the general ideas."


"I’m not going to spoon feed you, Germy… use your brain, lol."

The conversation again dwindled to a halt. Jeremy went back to looking out of his window and his friend went back to whatever his friend does.

"I don’t think there’s more too the protests than just pissed off people…" Jeremy thought to himself. "I mean… I haven’t really heard a lot of very serious stuff from people. I doubt there’s really widespread rioting there like they’re saying on the news…"

Jeremy ended up dozing off into a nap with his optimistic thoughts to keep him company. When he awoke, the sun had gone down and still there was no snow that he could see. He looked over to the TV, which was on still. The news, also, was on still. He looked over at the clock and it was pretty late.

"What the fuck… ’House’ should be on. I want to watch ’House’, not this stupid-"

Jeremy held his tongue as he saw video on the news that wasn’t very high quality but clearly showed massive crowds of people rushing through very heavy snow carrying Ohio flags. It looked like World War II footage but with modern details. He couldn’t believe his eyes. The video showed police and national guardsmen running as best they could through knee-high snow but being overtaken and tackled into shoulder-high snow drifts.

"-and there’s reports coming in that many of Ohio’s national guardsmen have deserted and joined the protests. Other states’ guardsmen are deserting to join the protests or being captured in large numbers-" the program continued.


"We’re receiving this video and a lot of our other information from news programs out of Ohio that have been overrun by agitators. We here out our station and the federal government encourage all of our viewers to ignore the propaganda coming out of Ohio and that the military will be brought in to quell these aggressions against the nation."

"What the fuck is this? Am I… I’m not dreaming."

Jeremy pinched himself to be sure. Nothing. He pinched himself harder and continued to squeeze his finger and thumb together until it hurt too much to continue doing so. He pulled his hand away and saw the pale, bloodless skin slowly return to color. Jeremy rushed over to the computer and double-clicked his friend’s name, "ToolFan1985", on his messenger.

"What the fuck is going on?" he typed.

No answer.

"Send me a message when you get this, bro."

Jeremy closed the message window and looked back to the news program. The scenes from many people’s personal cameras were unmistakable and couldn’t be spun. There was all out rebellion in Ohio. It looked as though there were countless zombies rushing through a defenseless perimeter of some holdout town. The intense snow brining their flags to life. Now there were scenes of the same sort of conflicts going on in the heavy rain and sleet. Scenes of people rushing the roadblocks in clear skies. People flooding between palm trees and into visible shaken lines of riot police. Jeremy paused, numb and silent staring at the television. He realize that the weather wasn’t clear in Ohio. That their weren’t palm tree lined avenues.

"-in several states-" the news program’s words trickled into his consciousness.

This confirmed for him that this was indeed widespread and his imagination had been a feeble whisper out of earshot of the roar of dissention that had spread beyond the Midwest.

Armed soldiers in season-specific camouflage flitted across the screen, vaguely outlined and colored behind the snow. The equipment, bearing and clothing gave him no other impression than these were really military personnel and they weren’t facing the onrushing hordes of rebels but were facing, instead, the fleeing few police and soldiers.

Jeremy stared into the television, taking in what he could from the information presented. He didn’t want to listen to the venom being spit with every negative word by the news broadcasters about these protesters, he wanted to get the raw information. The video. He recalled what his friend had said, to read between the lines. Jeremy sat back in his chair and thought about the consequences of this unbelievable situation. He turned his head to look out the window to help facilitate his imagination but something caught his eye. In the blackened night sky, there was a glow to the east. The light orange glow lit up a portion of the sky over homes and over trees and drew him to open the window for a better view. As soon as the window opened the distinct smell of smoke entered his nostrils and he knew that there was fire. That the protests were no longer protests and no longer riots. Things were now not as simple to control as the press of a Taser to the chest of an elderly California man. The death of a teenager due to a pointblank shot with a rubber bullet. The ignition of teargas to cause a fire to burn up both hostage and hostage taker. The idea had evolved.

Just as he was thinking this with the news program going on behind him, heavy flakes of snow began to drop in front of his window. One or two at first, but they began to pick up in volume and shimmer in the distant firelight.

"At least the weatherman was right…" Jeremy said aloud.

The Conflagration…

"Good morning, Patriots! All of the Chicago area provisional communities are welcoming a sunny but cold day."

"Well, Tom, another day free of terrorism is a beautiful day, no matter what the weather is like."

"I couldn’t agree more, from the -"

These silly feel-good news programs were pretty much all the TV available to Jeremy ever since the war spread. There were some locally made talent programs but mostly the high frequency airwaves were drowned out with regional news programs. The military police on their regular patrols and inspections would confiscate all low frequency equipment as the rebels would primarily use low frequency ranges for their news programs. Unfortunately, Jeremy wasn’t sure what the truth of the war was because all of the government stations projected victory. He had a hard time believing this because he hadn’t been back to Indiana for weeks.

The last time Jeremy had been home was when government troops swept through Decatur from the east, picking up and taking along all of the civilians to these "provisional communities" that were more like internment camps. He couldn’t say no enough to the feds but they continued to remove any and all civilians who could move. Those who were infirmed or unable to make the trip, usually via rail or convoy, were left behind with minimal volunteer contingents to care for them. Jeremy recalled how it was such a bullshit lie because most of the volunteers were unable to make the trip themselves. It just looked like the feds were leaving behind dead weight. He saw some families object and actually physically try to tear away from the feds, to get back to their families and homes… but with martial law and the retroactive New Patriot Act in place, any civilian openly defying government orders could be considered a rebel, tried and shot on the spot for treason. Jeremy still had a blood stain on his right shoe from one such trial…

The news program kept up its banter. How the war over Indiana was faring well with government armor pushing the infantry-heavy rebels all the way back east. The people in the provisional communities heard similar in Indianapolis. The communities (usually airports, sports arenas, transportation hubs and malls) were flooded with propaganda about how the war was going well and the benefits of being drafted. Jeremy was drafted. His orders were to be a nurse and hence he saw first hand how the supposed winning fight was going. Just like Indianapolis… the fight was going well, they said. The rebels were surrendering in droves, they said. Then suddenly, one day, government troops rounded as many people up as possible ordering everyone westward, to Chicago. From what he had heard from the injured soldiers being brought up to the convoys, Indianapolis was overrun; and what’s more is that the civilians that the feds were too time-strapped to round up actually helped the rebels. Indiana was taken all the way up to the date line, according to some. The camp Jeremy had been assigned to was hushed about the battlefields of Indiana, but in the civilian community where he stayed (for lack of space in the camp), scuttlebutt was rife with the idea that Chicago was nearly entirely surrounded and that’s why so many troops were coming back injured so often.

A knock at the door jarred Jeremy nearly out of his seat and completely out of his flood of thoughts.

"Who is it?" he called at the door.

"Naomi." came a soft voice in return.

Jeremy curled up out of his seat and opened the door for her.

"Come in… What’s up?" he said, closing the door behind her.

She carried a handbag tightly under her arm but as soon as the door closed she pulled it out and thrust it at Jeremy.

"Get your turn and pass it on tomorrow."

Since the confiscation of low frequency radios and other devices, there had been a few hand-crank radios looted from the cities along convoy lines that were passed from person to person to avoid their discovery. Those who had their turn one night would pass it on the next evening and share the news with others as secretly as they could.

"What did you hear?" Jeremy said, putting the bag between his two thin mattresses.

"Well, the rebels are saying they’ve gotten most of Pennsylvania, up to Philadelphia, but the air raids from Virginia were slowing them down. That… they would probably slowly let Philadelphia liberate itself and then they’d skirt what’s left of New Jersey and just finish up what’s left of upstate New York. They’re going to hold off on New York City until the guys from West Virginia and Ohio can get to the airfields in Virginia. Everything else has been pretty much the same."

"Did they confirm that they’d marched all the way to Maine and back?"

"They didn’t mention it but… also don’t mention anything about New England in the news anymore; if you didn’t notice…"

"I did, I just… I guess I was hoping that something good would have come of all the fighting by now."

"Then you’re going to be in for a show tonight. They were talking about a new government out of Columbus two nights ago. Someone said that there’s going to be some speech tonight from them about progress and stuff. You gotta tell me about that."

"When did they say it would start?"

"The girl didn’t tell me."

"Well… then I better start listening now, just in case…"

"Ok… well… see you tomorrow, then."

"Thanks, Naomi… and give Aria a kiss for me."

"I will."

The two hugged and Naomi departed. Jeremy watched her down the hall of the office building they were assigned to for living. It was lucky that they had met and really a miracle. They had talked before online; she lived in Michigan at the time. Ever since Detroit fell apart, the rest of Michigan barely put up a fight against the rebels. What fighting there had been extremely one-sided with Ohio rebels pushing the "Jingoes" as they were called back across the lake to the upper peninsula. Naomi was one of a few who had been taken from Michigan by ship to Chicago. Most Jingoes and feds couldn’t move fast enough. To the south, Indianapolis was just being taken and Jeremy arrived just a day before her. They waved one last time as she rounded the corner toward the stairs.

Jeremy darted back into his room and locked the door tight. Removing the bag from his bed and then the radio from the bag, he laid down next to his bed, opposite the door. Being drafted, he was given the luxury of not having a roommate to worry about. He cranked the handle for a while and listened.

" - from Wright-Patterson being held back from Illinois for use in the mountains to the east. The West Virginia and Ohio boys have been waiting for a go order into the airfields of Virginia in hopes of catching the bases off guard. Dozens of Jingo aircraft have been reported as downed."

"To the south, news from Tennessee has been slim but the President is expected to include word on the southern states in his speech."

Jeremy’s ears perked as he held the low-volume radio away from his head long enough to pick his head up and look for any shadows in the light passing under his door. Satisfied, he pressed the radio hard against his ear.

" - called for air support against New York City, but most commanders insist that Virginia should be secured first. There had been - wait a minute. I’m getting a note here that says the President is expected to make his speech in just moments. His broadcast will cut into our own so if we are bumped off the air, you should hear his voice. The voice of the youngest president in the history of North America and the first president of the F.C.O."

"F.C.O.?" Jeremy mouthed to himself.

A few seconds later, a musical tone sounded, cutting off the radio announcer and then applause began.

"Thank you… Thank you." It all sounded as if it were taking place in an amphitheater and the voice, indeed, sounded young.

"Thank you, and… please bare with me… this is my first speech in my term as interim president of the Federated Counties of Ohio. But… unfortunately, I have to say, it will be my last."

Gasps and other vocalizations rose up from the invisible audience.

"Don’t worry, don’t worry… You see, our talks have ended with a number of other states and where my presidency ends with the F.C.O., it begins anew as the interim chief of the newly formed Federated States of Earth!"

Applause and cheers erupted from the crowd and lasted for more than a minute, and eventually came to a slow stop over the "thank you"-s of the president.

"Elections have not taken place to allow me to operate in the official capacity as president of Ohio or of the F.S.E. but as soon as a ceasefire can be made… You can rest assured that elections will be held in every one of the Federated States and the F.S.E-an people will be given the opportunity to elect members of the new government. Currently, there has been a general consensus as to who is in charge of which cities and, by extension, the counties. The counties reported to me but now… I have assigned a governor to Ohio to allow me to help manage the more extensive matters of all of the Federated States.

Speaking of which, I would like to take this moment to introduce the lineup of the new F.S.E."

Another round of applause. Jeremy took this opportunity to scan for signs of movement outside the door and his windows. He then turned on the make-shift shower and sat in the bathroom as he felt it was safer.

"We, in this auditorium, set our feet down in the capital city of the federation of states, in the state of Ohio. Indiana has freely joined the federation without much more need for discussion than greetings. The people of Indiana and Ohio have moved into the Jingo-heavy states of Michigan and Illinois; not for conquest… but to give the people a choice. Without the oppression of martial law stamping out any individual choice, we stand now in their capitals with our hands extended and a message of peace. We… give them a choice. We… will not take away their freedom. Michigan, except the upper peninsula and Illinois, except the northern quarter of the state… have chosen their freedom over the numberless iterations of slavery offered by the Jingoes.

We have marched along the lakes and over the hills and mountains securing the friendship of most of Pennsylvania, excepting the easternmost quarter; nearly all of New York state, excepting the southernmost bit. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine… have not even raised arms against us, they are with us and our comrades. Massachusetts had pockets of Jingoes, holding the people in their internment camps… with some fighting, Massachusetts was liberated and the people welcomed federation with open hearts and open arms. To the south… Kentucky and West Virginia had liberated themselves from the Jingoes and requested help to repel invasion from Virginia. With speed and efficiency we and our brothers-in-arms beat the feds back over the mountains and are prepared to push them all the way back to the Beltway!"

The thunderous applause was anticipated by Jeremy but stirred him none the less.

"Tennessee, having not been heard from until just days ago has also liberated itself but stood in disarray. Kentucky and Ohio volunteers were requested by the people themselves to help keep the inalienable rights of the people inalienable and to help them preserve freedom.

Segments of other states are joining us, county by county, fed stronghold by fed stronghold. It is only a matter of time before a ceasefire must be signed. In the west, we have reports of the entire pacific coast restoring its liberty. We have been unable to communicate with these western states’ leaders but we are hopeful that with current plans, we will be across the plains in less than a month."

The speech went on along the same lines. Of all the supposed success of the rebels… or as they had become, the F.S.E. and its partially acquired states. Jeremy found this all so much easier to believe, but his thoughts would have to wait. His eyes were fighting off the sandman and he needed sleep. He turned off the shower and the radio, stashed it between his mattresses before letting himself fall onto the bed. Soon after, he fell asleep quickly.

In the morning, Jeremy woke up with yesterday’s clothes on and even his blood stained shoes. They didn’t stay on for long because he was late and needed to shower. No one had woke him and he didn’t recall hearing the reveille call from the nearby military camp that he was supposed to report to in twenty five minutes. He jumped up and out of his clothes and into the shower and started to lather up as quick as he could. The very moment he turned off the water, he heard his door open and voices come from the bedroom/living room.

"Clear. Move to the lower level."

Jeremy was stunned. Who would be checking the rooms? Even during inspections the feds would knock before entering… even if only once. The voices faded but Jeremy didn’t hear the door close. He stood their still and quiet, unwilling to spit the water he had been swishing around in his mouth out into the basin. He kept his eyes locked on the closed door through the blur of the light shower curtain.

"Hey, hurry the fuck up!" came a voice finally, and two sets of stomping boots sounded their way out of the room. Jeremy was confused, it sounded like an evacuation but he didn’t want to evacuate. He heard about all of the success going on in the east and south and he wanted to just live in peace and live in freedom. Jeremy looked down and took in a breath through his nose to spit out the water.

"What the piss…"

Jeremy was frozen.

"Someone here had a radio… I bet he tipped them off, that son of a bitch."

There was some radio fuzz and squeal that Jeremy couldn’t understand but clearly whoever was talking did.

"Let’s get the fuck out of here! Fuck the radio, corporal, we gotta bug out."

"Go on, I just gotta know how this guy got out of here."

Jeremy listened as two sets of boots pounded the floor outside the partially opened bathroom door. A chill went up his spine as he heard the slow squeak of the door opening and the sound of boots entering. The steps stopped for just a moment and then continued quicker. The shower curtain was thrust open and a fully clad soldier rolled back on his heels slightly, sharing a started glance with Jeremy.

"What the piss…" the soldier said as he began to pull his rifle around from behind him.

Jeremy was caught in a lapse of thought and he spit the water out from his mouth, into the face of the soldier who fell backward through the door wiping at his face as if the water were venom. Jeremy rushed forward and pulled the loose sidearm from the soldiers belt and held it out in front of himself.

The soldier stopped scratching at his eyes and looked up at Jeremy and smiled.

"Go ahead, nut, shoot. My squad will hear it and you’re gonna be fucked no matter what. Do yourself a favor and just drop it so you have a chance at living in one of the work camps."

"Shut the fuck up!" Jeremy said finally, constantly shifting his eyes over to the open door.

"Oh, come on, pussy… You’re not gonna shoot."

"Shut up!"

"Do it, fag, shoot!"

"Shut… up!"

"Don’t give me foreplay, bitch, I want you to -"

The sharp crack of gunfire sounded; once at first, then twice more. Jeremy held his eyes tightly closed for what felt like hours but then opened them and looked down at the soldier. His eyes were also closed. Jeremy, confused, looked at the gun he was holding and then back to the soldier. The soldier opened his eyes and looked from Jeremy down to his crotch where he had wet himself, then back up to Jeremy.

"The others are in the stairwell, light it up!" came a voice from the hall.

Just then two men went running by Jeremy’s open door and their footsteps slid to a stop. A moment later, they poked around the door with rifles up, one pointed at the soldier and the other on Jeremy.

"Who the hell are you?" one said.

Jeremy stood silent with his jaw agape.

"Well… he looks like he’s cool, after all… he caught one."

The two partially camouflage clad men laughed a bit and both directed their rifles at the soldier on the floor.

"They’re up! They’re up!" came a yell from the hallway and one set of footsteps came running down the hall.

A soldier burst into the open door, and came face-to-face with one of the rebels who had entered into the room prior. One gun shot rang out and the rebel slumped to the floor revealing the pistol in the soldier’s hand. The other rebel swung his rifle around toward the soldier and fired three shots into his chest, pushing him back out into the hallway.

Jeremy remained frozen in place until he saw movement from the floor. Below him the soldier who had found him began to raise his rifle up from under himself and held it out at the rebel in the doorway. Another single gunshot rang out and the soldier’s rifle dropped to the floor. The rebel swung around and pointed his gun at Jeremy and then at the soldier.

"You saved my ass…" the rebel said at last. "I hope that wasn’t your bed you just got brains on…"

Jeremy remained silent and frozen, a bit of smoke coming from the barrel of the pistol his was holding.

"Listen…" the rebel said, inching toward him, "Let’s get you some clothes… It’s cold outside…"

The Smoldering…

The United States was a term heard less and less in the weeks following the fall of Chicago and New York. The misinformation (that attacks on major cities would be delayed for air support) had been so well believed that many of the fed troops had been caught with their pants down, so to speak. Surrendering inside the recreation halls that they were using. Entire platoons had fled these cities or were captured in the process of fleeing. Provisional communities were left nearly untouched by the Jingoes except for the ones where VIPs or overflow military personnel were assigned.

In the last stretches of winter nearly the entire Midwest had seen the end of fed involvement. The rebels had pushed as far south as Oklahoma, holding as much as half of the five gulf states and Arkansas. By now, the entire eastern seaboard had been taken and what was called "the miracle at Atlanta" stunned the other feds and inspired the thoroughly haggard rebels. The weather had been bad in Georgia for quite a while and the city of Atlanta, a huge bastion of government control, was being sized up by large numbers of rebels. They had taken to the suburbs to the north of the city to wait out the weather but hardly had to wait long before the alarm was raised. Reports indicate, and eyewitnesses insist that there were twelve low-level tornados reaching down from the sky, hammering city directly for twenty-four minutes. When the damage had been done and all of the city’s search lights and buildings had been blackened, the rebels moved in. They announced their presence loudly and marched under a white flag; not of surrender but of truce. They gave aid to the many wounded in the provisional communities as best they could and helped secure clean drinking water and return electricity to the people. Seeing the relatively large numbers of rebel fighters, many of the feds left the city by night or surrendered while providing aid to residents. The residents themselves didn’t care. They were sick of the war and sick of being away from their homes. Many of them had never even been to Georgia or cared for either side but welcomed what looked like a sign of things to come; peace and cooperation. A miracle, some said, is an understatement.

In the west, unincorporated rebel states along the pacific and rebels from the F.S.E. (called by many "Effessians") had pinched the west and were present in almost all of the Mountain States, Pacific Northwest and Midwest. Parts of Oklahoma and Texas were in too much disarray to be called rebel states… but rather states lacking any central control where communities sometimes were required to defend themselves from others. Fed resistance had been all but wiped out.

In Ohio, elections had been in the making for a month or more with debates and planning all hurried along to facilitate proper organization in the long run. What had been a large field of candidates was primarily a one sided race. The overwhelming favorite wasn’t even legally able to run, being about ten years too young according to the constitution. However, in the congresses to remove unconstitutional amendments, it was also agreed that, by popular demand, the age limitation be indefinitely disregarded considering the extraordinary situation at the time and the widely held notion, as of late, that age is irrelevant in light of experience and ability. This was just a sign of who the people really supported.

The final debate had come and Jeremy watched intently on the television back in his former Decatur home. He had been watching his computer, but he still hadn’t heard anything from his old internet friend in Ohio. Millions had died in the fighting, but he was still hopeful. It was cool but dry, with winter fading as the war was. There were four candidates left in the race after party nominations had concluded; a democrat, libertarian, republican and an independent who was the uncompromising favorite. The inclusion of more than just the regular two parties was intended to increase voter involvement. Jeremy recognized the face of the independent on the television. He quickly moved over to his computer and checked out some of the pictures he had saved. It was unmistakable. ToolFan1985 was indeed the independent. The famed war hero and leader of the rebels from nearly the start of the fighting. Jeremy remained stunned as each candidate had given their speech, largely negatively directed at the perceived inexperience of the favorite and generally at any and all attributes (or lack thereof) constituting his personality and role as president. It appeared that with all that they said, they had done more damage to themselves as to him, as it gave the impression that they were grasping for anything and kicking for footholds. Jeremy pulled together his focus when the Independent’s turn came to give his final piece.

"Don’t believe that this election is between age and beauty; I am, after all, not that old." There was a pause for laughter. "This isn’t between ethnic lines or gender lines or any other common social notion. This is about freedom. This is about who will best preserve and defend the constitution. And rest assured, this uncorrupted constitution you have seen will be the same that it was months ago, only we have openly and formally nullified the amendments that contradict the rights of the people; with the help of the people. Contrary to my opponents’ wishes, I don’t believe we need a new beginning. What good is such a thing if we will continue down the same road with the same line of thinking that lead us to where we are today? We don’t need war. We don’t need death. And most importantly, we don’t need a restart… we need iconoclasm… a new state of mind."

The applause that erupted from the audience continued for a long while and the moderators were keen to quiet the crowd. Even with all that had happened with the former authorities, the people still gave heed to courtesy. And it wasn’t long before the audience in that auditorium evinced the national perception. The independent had won.

The president’s acceptance speech was carried live. It was full of such pomp and grandeur that it was hard to believe that this man had done so much work in previous weeks to help reform the government and fight on the front lines against the Jingoes. The end of the speech, however, was the most memorable to Jeremy and to all those who had watched and listened in all of recent history.

"Let it be known from this election and this reformation that we will not long stand aside while our rights as human beings are trampled underfoot. That we will not disperse and sulk warily to our homes. Rather we will take to the forests and regroup. We will march up all of the hillsides and encircle their crests. From high, we will call down with the battle cry of our generation. The war whoop of the F.S.E. and Ohio’s native children has been and forever will be… ’Don’t tread on me!’"

Applause ripped through the silence of one voice and echoed off of the buildings with the voices of thousands yelling out with joy and clapping their hands. Some grown men and many widows and young women wept, holding children that were orphaned. All of the deafening jubilation could have lasted for hours if not for the fact that the new president had stumbled backward and then fell into the arms of his guards. Blood was visible on his head. The freedom fighter… the president… the visionary had been assassinated.

News was slim to nil about the president in the days following the assassination. The vice president, a short and hairy man and longtime friend of the president resigned along with other members of the cabinet until the Secretary of State had become president and was required to fill in the numerous vacant posts. Rumors were spread in the lapse of official news of biblical scope. Some believed that the president had been killed by former Jingoes who sought revenge. Others, that he was murdered by the powers that be for not "playing the game". Still others believed that he wasn’t even dead. That insiders had spoke of the president being taken to a hospital where he recovered three days after the shooting and was forced out of office by religious zealots in the cabinet.

Jeremy more involved politically after that Friday. He also became more involved with being self sufficient, as ToolFan1985 had often expressed desire for, moving to a more rural location to raise food for himself and his loved ones. He kept well armed, enough (he felt) to defend his freedom and life.

July was coming to an end and, in the evening, Jeremy went out on his porch to have a drink with nostalgia. In the distance, there was a glowing in the sky to the east. He didn’t pay much attention to the news anymore so what it was, he couldn’t say. As he took a sip he recalled, staring off into the glowing night sky, a quote that his old friend had said: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

"Hell… why not." Jeremy said, stepping back inside to turn on his dusty television.

" - breaking out across Ohio this evening on the anniversary of the late president’s birthday. Police and firefighters are largely ineffective at this time. The governor has declared a state of emergency and is ordering people to remain indoors and observe the curfew now put in place."


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