After The End…
The Capitol Building
Mid XXI Century
“Get out of my way, peon!”
“My apologies, Madam Senator,” I said as I moved myself out of the doorway.
I kept my eyes downcast as Senator Egelston-Smith waddled through the door, not only because she was the main sponsor of the “Stare Rape” criminalization bill recently signed by the Perpetual President, but because I found her 300 pound bulk and close-cropped neon green hair repulsive. Of course if I voiced this “wrong thought” out loud, I’d end up getting sent to a Re-Americanization Center.
Waiting until after she turned the corner I then walked into the Senator’s office, pulling my vacuum in tow. I had had long ago come to grips that being a janitor (pardon, “Managing Cleanliness Engineer”) was the best job I’d be able to get. It didn’t matter that I was a brilliant physicist with a significant first-author publishing record, I wasn’t “the right type” for all the jobs I applied to.
Since the expansion in scope of the EEO laws in the 2020s that set quotas in all but name, those that were the best candidates for jobs often didn’t get them. However, if you were “connected” or a member of “a historically aggrieved group” (as defined by the Perpetual President’s Department of Fair Employment), then you were golden.
So instead of studying the decay data of subatomic particles and solving differential equations, I pushed a broom and emptied garbage cans.
Sighing, I plugged in my vacuum and began cleaning the floor. The Senator had left today’s Washington Post on her desk, which shouted the headlines: “ECONOMY GROWS BY 0.05%: UP FROM PREVIOUS QUARTER OF 0.025%, ECONOMISTS PLEASED; FED THINKING OF RAISING RATES TO -2.5%; DOW RISES TO 75,000”
Most regular people (a dwindling number as the years went by) stopped believing what the Media was saying a long time ago. I personally knew of two people who were “feature quoted” in a few pieces that were never spoken to by a journalist at all. Fabrication was the norm for the Media to push whatever Narrative the Perpetual President wanted. Some people would call this propaganda under their breath, a few ignored the news altogether, and many believed every word the Media spoke.
Besides, why would you want to criticize the Media if it meant a stint in a Re-Americanization Center, since you were technically criticizing the Government? Most people, which included myself, just kept their mouths shut and tried to make the best of a now dreary future.
Inflation. Lack of jobs in your skill set. Fear of denunciation. “Privilege taxes.” Antagonistic sexual politics. Lack of beauty. Sullen and wary faces on the train. A self-masturbatory media. Garbage in the gutter. Broken and cracked streets. Brownouts. A Socio- and Political-Elite that flaunted their power over the “wrong thinkers.” Small, dingy apartments. No new ideas. Scientific research to support preconceived conclusions. Lack of trust between people. Water from the tap you had to boil before drinking. The high crime rate. Lack of certain goods in the store. Constantly walking on eggshells with what you say and do.
It was hard work to keep this mental discipline day in and day out. Most days I went home exhausted and burned out to drink away my current lot in life. Those of the people I knew that didn’t get rounded up during The Great Arrests ended up utilizing the government sponsored euthanasia to end it all.
The Perpetual President rids himself of his enemies, one way or the other.
I finished up my menial task of vacuuming the floor and left to go take the first of the six mandatory half-hour “wellness breaks” we were given “for our benefit.” I hated this interruption of work, even if it was menial. You could never get anything significant started without one of these breaks interfering. Sighing interally, I stowed the vacuum in the maintenance closest and walked to the Wellness Room.
The Wellness Room was no different than break rooms anywhere else in the country. A snack machine full of healthy, yet tasteless and unsatisfying snacks. A bottled water machine ($10 each). An instant coffee machine (provided by Starbucks via Federal contract). Beaten up tables with somewhat rugged plastic chairs. On the opposite wall from the door was a large poster of the Perpetual President with the slogan “Real Americans Work Hard!“. Opposite the poster was a flat screen TV that constantly had the state news channel on. The TV couldn’t be turned off, but the volume could be lowered and ignored.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down so I wasn’t looking at either the poster or the TV. Some other workers were already there talking animatedly to each other, which I didn’t understand because I never learned enough Spanish. The last English speaker disappeared six months ago.
Mostly during these breaks, I just spaced out and dutifully sucked down the caffeine that helped me get through the day. Once upon a time, I would bring a book to read on these breaks, which ended abruptly. I was casually “cautioned” by my supervisor (a short black woman) that the author of the novel I was reading was under scrutiny by the Department of Literary Fairness, and that I wouldn’t want to get caught as “one who reads hateful literature.” She even confiscated my book and later notifed me that she shredded it.
That novel was just getting good too.
A blaring note rang from the remotely raised volume TV, jarring me from my sullen reminincing. I looked up at it out of habit.
“Fellow Americans, please remember that today is Election Day and it is mandatory that all good citizens cast their ballot by the close of polls tonight! If you cannot get to the polls, please contact your voting district representative for transportation to the polls or for Televoting options!”
Crap, I forgot about that. Voting nowadays was mostly for show, consisting mainly of plebiscites for the most recent action of the Perpetual President. Despite having a supposedly “secret” ballot, there was the constant fear that if you didn’t vote “Yes” you’d be tossed in a Re-Americanization Center for “seditious acts” or “hate mongering.” I sighed at yet another hassle and drank down the remainder of my coffee. Standing up, I went back to work cleaning toilets and vacuuming floors.
The queue at my polling place was moving forward at a decent pace. I was tired, and by the haggard looks on other people’s faces, they were too. We all wanted to get this hassle over with. My mind wandered for a moment and I wondered for who and what I would end up “voting” for.
Nominally, the country became a one-party state via one of the Perpetual President’s Executive Orders many years ago. I had some recollection of the other political parties that existed from when I was a teenager, but I didn’t pay much attention to anything other than sports and chasing girls at the time.
Digression aside, every political party that wasn’t the Democrats was banned and made illegal, their leadership and prominent supporters were jailed in the newly established Re-Americanization Centers. This was the start of the first round of “The Great Arrests.” A few outspoken GOP-supporting family members, and also some friends who were libertarian were some of the people I personally knew that got swept up in the arrests. Armed opposition was short-lived, especially after the first few being quelled by a very compliant military’s use of thermobaric weapons.
I finally got to the table that my voting district representative sat at. She looked bored and her short-cropped orange hair didn’t help to distract from the look of disdain on her face at having to deal with “the regular people.”
“American Card out, and step to your right to undergo biometric verification.”
I handed her my national ID card, which she swiped and verified information on a computer screen (mostly just to see that I wasn’t a “hate criminal fugitive”). She handed the card back and I stepped over to have my fingerprints and retinas scanned. A green light flashed, and I was led by a high school aged volunteer (sex undeterminable, so I flipped a coin mentally) to an unoccupied voting screen.
She gave the usual instructions on how to operate the touchscreen, and if I needed help with either translation or completing my ballot I should call one of the Poll Workers for assistance. I nodded in the affirmative, and she left with a quick smile.
After laboriously going through the “How To” directions on the touchscreen, I finally got to the ballot. As usual, it was “correctly” pre-filled out for the running candidates and “Yes/Si” for the two plebiscites concerning something I didn’t know or care about. Absentmindedly, I changed a “Yes/Si” to a “No” and then back to a “Yes/Si” before hitting “Complete Ballot.”
My mandatory duty complete, I went home to my apartment for a tasteless ration meal of reconstituted chicken and rice.
At least I had a full bottle of “medicinal” whiskey to help me sleep.
I awoke in the middle of the night to a loud crash at my door. Sitting up in my bed in a drunken stupor, I was blinded and deafened by the flashbang tossed through my splintered door. Next thing I knew I was outside in my boxers, handcuffed and being led to a Department of Fair Justice “Special Action Squad” paddy wagon.
Looks like my “time” had finally come, and to honest, I didn’t care at all…