Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Day The Dead Came For The President

He was golfing when he heard the dead were rising. Of course, he didn't know then that they rose for him, but he was whisked away, anyway. By helicopter he was taken to a lift, which took him down to a bunker, deep down in the dark, which probably wasn't wise, but then wisdom wasn’t really his thing.

read moreHe received reports from his generals and advisors, suggesting strategies and writing statements urging calm, words he spoke into the dead fish eye of a camera lens, his own blank eyes staring right back.

The dead were rising but there was no cause for alarm. No cause at all. For they don’t attack, they don’t answer back. They’re just walking, walking, walking, so just stay in your home.

Rumours that one in four is a soldier have not been confirmed. Combat green and khaki, the dried brown of old blood simply adds to the camouflage. Just stay in your home.

The dead were walking, walking, walking. Then someone thought to think about the direction they were taking.

The dead were coming for the president.

He tried a parley, written and honed by the twelve finest psychologists in the land, delivered by a hostage negotiator, disguised as a general with a bullhorn, gold pips glinting in the sun. Four short words that earned twelve hours overtime and a new holiday home: “What do you want?”

And the answer came back, through a thousand throats filled with dust:

“An End.”

He tried to hold them back with electric fences and barbed wire, machine gun nests and nerve gas. Minor delays, nothing more. Thick steel doors, beaten like drums, ripped like paper. The secret service threw down their lives defending their charge, lay dead for a second, then got up and became part of the problem.

The president sat alone, in a replica of his office, listening to the battle rage outside as they fought to defend him. Then worse than the noise, came the silence.

A sigh, a rustle, a dragging. The handle of the door slowly moved and the president stood to meet the dead. And even though the room was small, somehow it took them all, row upon row upon row.

The president puffed out his chest and stuck out his chin. He was the president after all. He tried to stare them out, but it is hard to outstare an empty socket.

“What do you want?” he asked.

A murmur through a million throats is a deafening thing. He stemmed the blood from his ears with a monogrammed handkerchief.

“We invoke a law older than man:

When the living are rendered powerless, when their law is laid waste, when they have been imprisoned and bribed and murdered and lied to, then the dead will rise.

For you cannot bargain with the dead, you have nothing we want. You cannot threaten the dead, you have nothing that scares us. You cannot hurt the dead, we feel no pain. You cannot bribe the dead, for money is paper and paper decays.

You cannot lie to the dead. For we know.”

But he tried anyway. He knew no other way.

He spoke of freedom and pride, of the strong protecting the weak. He told carefully written stories which explained away all crimes.

“An End.” they breathed.

He told them of the menace beyond our shores, that plans to eat our children and rape our women. Of the need for more weapons to keep them from our door.

“An End.” they breathed.

He offered them medals, medals for each and every one of them. He spoke of “acceptable losses” “collateral damage” and “friendly fire”, the lies like ashes his mouth.

“An End.” they breathed.

He bowed his head.

“An End.” he sighed.

Some swear they killed him then, slowly tore him limb from limb, his expression one of resigned relief, or that they advanced and crushed him beneath their cold dry feet.

Some say he joined the dead, then went on to deal with other leaders in other lands. That he did more good dead than he ever did alive.

Others insist that he survived, that his people found him the next day still sitting at his desk, surrounded by the dust of the dead, who knew that leaving a leader alive and terrified is the best way to bring swift change.

But all stories agree about his desk. Old and oak, with three lines clawed deep into the wood:

You can lie to the world,

You can lie to yourself,

But you cannot lie to the dead.

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