September 4, 2015

FICTION BY JOHN RICHMOND: "THE FUTURE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES"

John Richmond has “wandered” parts of North America for a good portion of his life.
            These “wanderings” have taken him from a city on the Great Lakes to a small fishing village (population 400) and then on to a bigger city on the Great Lakes- Chicago- then, eventually, New York City.
            Since then, John Richmond has made his way to a small upstate New York town and has sequestered himself in his office where he divides his time between writing and discussing the state of the world with his coonhound buddy- Roma.
            Recently, he has appeared in the The Corner Club Press, The Tower Journal, Stone Path Review, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Rogue Particles Magazine, From the Depths, Flash Frontier (N. Z.), The Birmingham Arts Journal, Riverbabble (2), The Writing Disorder, Lalitamba, Poetic Diversity, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, Embodied Effigies, ken*again, Black & White, SNReview, The Round, The Potomac, Syndic Literary Journal, Ygdrasil (Canada), Slow Trains, Forge Journal, and is forthcoming in The Corner Club Press, and The Greensilk Journal.








THE FUTURE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
      
     
     He repeatedly checked his watch as he walked quickly down the hallway, stopping only momentarily to be cleared through the various security checkpoints.
    “Colonel!” he would be addressed in rhetorical fashion and saluted as he cleared the palm-print and iris scans.
    “It’s amazing, what it has come to,” he said to himself as he waited for his DNA analysis to be completed- and cleared- before he entered the elevator.
     Inside, there were neither buttons on a wall panel nor floor designations overhead to tell him where he was or where he was going.  But, there was one thing that he knew for certain- he was headed down.  He had been on the same elevator countless times and it never ceased to unnerve him that it had nothing that would tell him how far or how deep he was traveling.  Then, after what seemed like an indeterminable amount of time, the doors finally opened in a near-to-silent wisp.
    “Sir?” the Marine guard waiting for him on the other side of the door asked, almost perfunctorily.  He stepped off the elevator and the Marine stepped forward in near simultaneity.  
    The Colonel knew that if he- if anyone- made it this far, everything else was nothing more than a formality.    
    “Colonel?” the Marine half-asked and half-entreated.  
    “I know, I know”-
    “Sir,” the Marine interrupted in a way that only repeated proximity and familiarity would have allowed, “the General has been asking about you.”
    Together, they turned left and began walking down a brightly-lit corridor.
    The Colonel nodded in appreciation of being apprised.  “Thank-you, Captain.  I’ll take care of it.”
    They proceeded forty yards before they reached the entrance to the epidemiological scan chamber and an escort transfer point.
    “Colonel!” the Captain said as he turned, saluted and then walked away.
    “Sir?” an Air Force Major asked.
    “How are you, today, Alex?” the Colonel inquired.
    “Just fine, sir,” was the reply.  “The General, sir, he asked me if I”-
    The Colonel nodded.  “I’ve heard.”
    “Yes, sir!  If you would, sir,” the Major said and indicated toward the door of the chamber.
    The Colonel entered, heard the door close and seal behind him and then waited.  It was what had now become a routine procedure to screen for any illness or disease, however ordinary or exotic.  The process took no more than thirty seconds after which a door on the opposite side of the chamber opened and the Colonel stepped out.
    He was now alone- unescorted- for the final thirty yards from the chamber door to the conference room.  Moving briskly, he traversed the distance, opened the door and walked in.
    The room that he entered was as expansive as it was deep.  In the foreground, there were a number of conference tables and chairs.  Mounted on the walls around the tables were dozens of television monitors.
    Sitting at one of the tables at the near-left was an Army General, watching any number of the monitors.  He turned when he heard the door open.  “Steve,” he called.  “Where have you been?”
    The Colonel closed the door and entered the room.  “Just putting on the final touches on our end, sir.”
    “Well, all right,” the General conceded, “but, you almost missed the beginning of it.  Come on, get yourself a drink and sit down.”
“Yes, sir,” the Colonel responded and then walked to a small counter on the left side of the room.  On the counter were a number of bottles of bourbon, scotch and vodka.  Above the counter there was a shelf upon which there were a number of different kinds of glasses.  Beneath the counter was a medium-sized refrigerator primarily intended for ice cubes.  
The Colonel took a glass, dropped two ice cubes in it and then filled it with Dewar’s Scotch.  He took his drink and sat down to the right of the General.
    “Did I miss anything, sir?” the Colonel asked.
    The General shook his head, midway through a sip of his drink.  “No, nothing.  The only thing that’s been on has been a bunch of interviews with computer experts, average citizens and- believe it or not- an ethicist or two, probably one from each side of the aisle,” the General said, ending with a laugh.
    They sat in silence and sipped their drinks for a few moments before the Colonel finally spoke.  “Do you think they’ll buy it, sir?” he asked.
    The General took another sip before answering.  “They bought it during the primaries, the conventions and the general election, didn’t they?”
    “That’s true,” the Colonel said with a nod.  “But with all due respect, sir, this is the inauguration.  The nation is going to see their next president sworn into office as a holograph, emphasis on the homonym, “hollow.”
    “No,” the General began as a correction.  “Technically, he is an “Infinity, Hyper Advanced Generation Projection.”
    “Sir?” the Colonel asked in a respectfully yet facetious tone, “I think that the General knows what I mean.”
    The General nodded a silent acknowledgement to the point being made.  “Steve, it’s not a matter of the public buying it, per se.  It’s really a matter of the public accepting it- almost wanting it- because it gives them a political reprieve which- as you know- is also a social reprieve.  I’m sure that you’d agree that for the body politic to deal with eleven terrorist related- linked- presidential assassinations in the last- well- close to fifty years, they need- literally- a break.”
    “I agree, sir,” the Colonel agreed, “but it all seems, well, just, sort of strange.”
    The General laughed.  “Steve, talk about understatements!  Of course it’s strange- it’s beyond strange- it’s bizarre!  Think about it- and I’m sure that you have, that’s not what I’m saying- they’ve programmed the party platforms of both the Republicans and the Democrats into what?  Their candidates for president?  Someone- one of two somethings-  you should elect?  Talk about an indication of how insane the world has become.”
    The Colonel nodded, took another sip of his drink and stared at the news reporter on the television screen, directly in front of him.
    “Looks like they’re about getting ready to start,” the General said as he pulled himself to an upright sitting position.
    Sir?” the Colonel began with turning his head away from the television screen.  “Do they really think that this will end it?”
    “End what- the killings?” the General asked.
    “Yes, the killings, the assassinations,” the Colonel responded, now turning to look at the General.
    The General took the index finger of his right hand, put it in his glass and played with the ice cube while deciding how to answer.  “He’s a computer image, for crying out loud,” the General finally intoned.  “Of course it will bring an end to it.”
    “I understand that, sir,” the Colonel replied and glanced back to the television screens.  “But what if the terrorists decide to disrupt the computer program, the imaging?”
    “Steve,” the General said, “I’ve been told that the security is foolproof.”
    The Colonel laughed- what in retrospect would be seen as a disturbing laugh- finished his drink and stood in order to return to the bar so as to fix another drink.
The General turned in his seat and followed him with his eyes.
    “Steve?” the General began, “what the hell is so funny about that?”
    The Colonel poured more scotch and added even less ice in his second drink.  “Sir,” he began, “I was just thinking about what you just said that you’ve been told and its juxtaposition with one of Murphy’s Laws.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Well, sir,” the Colonel continued as he returned to his chair, “Murphy says that nothing can be ‘foolproof” because fools are ingenious.  My point, sir, is that it seems that the continuity of our nation’s domestic and foreign policies comes down to being based on nothing more than Murphy’s Laws.  That’s why I laughed- at the absurdity- at the reductio ad absurdum.”
    The General sat there sipping on his drink and thinking about the point that the Colonel had just finished making.  “I’ll take it up with the other Chief’s, tomorrow,” he said, almost like a voice-over to the news reporter who began informing the viewing public that this historic coverage was now going “live” to the steps of the Capitol Building for the swearing in of the next President of the United States of America. 
~John Richmond

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