Clinton Bryant is a member of the Witness Protection Program and by submitting this story is taking a big chance of a mafia style reprisal. Despite...read more the great personal risk to himself, he loves writing and tries to write fiction that people will enjoy reading. Hopefully by the time of this reading Clinton will not be sleeping with the fishes!
SENATOR PETE WHEELER stood before the podium, looking at the blonde in front with tits like confederate cannons. Pip, his nickname, adjusted his notes, glaring out at the dark town hall, but really his eyes were moving over the blonde. He gasped, coughed, took a sip of water and started again.
“What an honor it is to join this part of my constituency. That’s why I love coming out here, the peace and beauty of this place and the good common sense people are something the fat cats in Washington can’t understand.”
Pip looked out at the audience, black as night. It was like a textbook he saw when he was flunking out of college, before learning there was such a thing as paying the pin heads to write your papers. It was a picture of space, black as a well digger’s ass and speckled with stars like diamonds. That’s what the audience was like minus the diamonds. Then again, Mrs. Two Gun salute was still there to catch his eye. He waited for applause, but there was only a smattering and the suck of the air conditioner.
Pip moved on.
“You know some people believe the way you live your life, the traditions your parents and grandparents have passed down are passé.” Pip paused, waiting for a hoot or someone to shout their approval. Goddam it, he told Nolan his speech writer not to put stuff like passé in. None of these retards knew what that meant, probably thought it was some kind of omelet. He’d have Nolan’s balls when he got him on the phone. Six hours out in the sticks without Sissy his assistant, and the party goof doesn’t even show up. Pip felt like what he was, naked out front of a crowd as rowdy as the population of a graveyard.
“They want you believe that what your elders taught you, the sacrifices they made were wrong. That what happens here on Main Street doesn’t matter. They want to tell you that your God and my God is dead and to believe is to be foolish. But we know different. We know that what happens right here, is the most important thing in the world.”
Pip raised a fisted hand, stubbing the air with it. The hayseeds loved that kind of thing. What they understood was fighting, clubs and fists and guns. Cheers rose up from the dark hall. Pip waited for the swell of applause, which finally rolled in like a dinky wave that crashes against your shins. It wasn’t much, but it was something. The blonde was smiling. Her lips were cherry red, hair pushed back in a curly tangle. Her face was pale and powdery, like she hadn’t seen the sun for a few years. How many years wondered Pip? Eighteen he was hoping. Last year he picked up a girl who turned out to be sixteen. The party sent one of their cops over, threatened her with jail and gave her a grey hound ticket. Pip was on the straight and narrow, he’d check ID, before caucusing with Miss Teen America.
“They want you to put your faith in the government, to convince you that the old ways are wrong and the status quo is the laws our lives should be lived by.”
Someone in the back yelled, “Hell no!” Applause erupted from everywhere and Pip halted, soaking it up. It was hard won and now that he got the adulation Pip was happy, but he understood why he hadn’t visited for his first term. The blonde smiled, slapping her hands together, her legs crossing and re-crossing like the speech was getting her where she lived.
“Friends that’s why I’m here today. I’ve served you faithfully, as a symbol of the old ways of all that is good about small-town America. Allayed before me tonight is all the purity and tradition that makes this country great.”
Pip winced. Goddamn Nolan with that allayed shit. Next time there’d be a syllable count. Pip shuffled his papers and looked out at the crowd. People were standing, some moving into the aisle.
“The good book says the evildoers sins will be crimson and the just will be lily-white and beautiful. What I’m asking you is to let me be your symbol. If we must sacrifice, let me be the lamb that lies down with the lions. Let me be the symbol for your purity. Let my sacrifice be yours.”
The crowd jumped up. The people in the back rushed forwards and the people in the front rows stood, crushing against the small stage. Pip stepped back, suddenly frightened, not knowing what was happening. The microphone squawked with feedback and Pip stumbled, taking a dive over a chair. When he got his eyes around people were grabbing his arms. He didn’t know whether to struggle or not. How would it look for him to start punching his constituents, but he was scared It was like Night of the Living Dead with people swarming and grabbing, trying to take chunks out of you. Pip tried to stand, but too many people were around and he couldn’t get to his feet.
The close hot faces stared at him, eyes bright pricks of brown, blue and green. Hands grasped him, legs stepping over him. He was going to pass out. The hall spun and the darkness crashed over him like a black chandelier. He thought of George Bush senior puking all over the Japanese prime minister, looking like an old man losing his lunch at Denny’s, instead of the president of United States. The best way to lose is to not look like what you’re trying to convince people you are. Pip couldn’t help it though. His eyes fluttered. The blonde girl was close. Her perfume was rose and lavender and a thousand flower scents. Her grin pushed her pale cheeks back, lips stretching away from teeth white as marshmallows. The lights flickered and Pip’s eyes roved down to the blonde’s mountainous cleavage. And then he passed out.
Black...like deep dark space, like a coal mine in a black hole. The wind blew his hair. Torch lights flickered on the outskirts of the dark like souls trying to find their way to heaven. Pip’s arms and legs were tied to a hard trellis of wood. Leather thongs whined around his wrists as he jostled’em back and forth. Pip was sitting on a mound of rock and the deep dark blackness was a great lake. The waves rolled and crashed, though he couldn’t make out the water. What the hell was going on, he wondered. These loony bastards kidnapped me. Pip saw the headline twirling on a newspaper, stopping like they did in old movies, so he could read it. “Senator Kidnapped by Liberal Fringe.” Hell if he kept alive, this might seal his re-election. Play it dead solid perfect, Pip old boy, he said. Everyone’s looking for something, find out what they want and give it too’em.
“We’re lucky to have found you,” said a dark shape standing behind him. Pip couldn’t see it was a man, until he stepped from behind him. He was hooded, wearing one of those long coats like an evil monk in a Hammer Horror movie. The man threw his hood back to reveal a thin wrinkled face. A push broom mustache covered his narrow lip. More than anything he looked like someone’s uncle.
“Name’s Linus. Would offer you my hand, but seeing as you can’t shake it.”
Linus shrugged his shoulders. His fingers went to his mustache and stroked it. He looked nervous to Pip.
“Names Senator Wheeler, but you call me Pip.”
“Pip,” repeated Linus, as if tasting the word.
“So what’s going on here Linus? How’d we come to this juncture? I mean I hear bout people wanting to string up politicians, but this is a might literal. I mean I’m from upstate.”
Pip’s voice went hysterical at the last few words and he shut his eyes, trying to get ahold of himself. Linus drew his index finger close to his mouth. He noticed Pip watching.
“Sorry I’m a bit twitchy, wife’s made me quit smoking. Can’t sleep and my hands been jumping all around like spiders. What you call it, when you got to have something in your mouth?”
“Oral fixation,” said Pip. The words made him relax, like he was talking to some old gent at a rubber fish fry, listening to him babble about grandchildren and the price of gas.
“That’s right,” said Linus. He shucked his hands in the pockets of his robe. Suddenly he was hidden in the darkness, a floating head talking to Pip.
“What you said got to us tonight. Before you came, we were in a precarious situation. This town was founded by proud people with magic and strength. But the world has crept in lately.”
Linus pushed a hand to the small of his back, as if the world had caused the soreness there. “There’s tradition here, the kind you were talking about. You ever hear of human sacrifice?”
Pip couldn’t make his lips move. A crust of ice froze him, though sweat was sliding down his face. “Sacrifice,” was all he managed.
“Yeah, well it’s gotten a bad name lately. Used to it was an honor and we used to pick a leader, a representative and sacrifice him. Not that they were all men, we killed women too, but people tended to frown on it, especially if they were lookers.”
Linus uncovered his hands and looked out towards the lake. Pip saw the fire light moving, flagging and dancing up like someone stomping out embers. But it was people. Their song floated up to him and he was sure they were wearing robes and holding torches. “Problem is that we ain’t had anyone like you come out since 1960’s. You remember Pinky Everson?
Pip rolled his wrist, drawing circulation into them. It was hard to concentrate with Linus talking about human sacrifice and the flames down by the water and the people in robes chanting and singing.
“Well he came here, and we sacrificed him to waive off the bad spirits that might come here.”
One termer, thought Pip that’s why he didn’t remember him.
“In the sixties you could still have mysteries, no one raised a fuss about him, not like they will with you,” said Linus.
“But I have to thank you. If you hadn’t worked out, my granddaughter was up on the chopping block. You saved me and her mother a lot of grief.”
“You can’t do this. I wasn’t talking about this when I said sacrifice; I was just talking, just trying to get you guys behind me. Don’t you know how these things work?”
Pip’s words came fast, whirling from his mouth in a blur that was a definite no-no on the campaign trail. But these freaks wouldn’t kill him without getting a piece of his mind first. Pip let loose, told him the town was a sewer with an area code and the only reason he came out here in the sticks was to squeeze a few votes in case the election was close. Pip went on for what seemed like a half-hour, philbustering about the intelligence of the town and how places like this were the ignorant bones on which the party built their houses. Linus’ face dialed down from the friendly uncle to an old man finding out his grandson’s stealing his social security.
Pip’s throat was sore when he finished. Felt like a string of razor blades was drug up from his gullet. He couldn’t talk anymore, which was good because he was pretty sure Linus was gonna punch him. The old man glared at him for a minute, then took out a ragged looking cigarette from the robe and lit it.
“You and me are alike,” said Linus, exhaling smoke. Down by the lake the chanting started up louder and both of them looked down there.
“You’re not what I call a true believer and just between you, me and the crow that flies, neither am I. There don’t seem to be sense in it. I understand fertility rites and the maypole and even a good old Walpurgis night for a little fun, but this is just window dressing.”
“Thank God,” said Pip. “Let me go and we’ll just forget about it. Tell them I was a liar that I wasn’t who they thought I was.”
Linus blew smoke and though his face was serious his eyes seemed to be laughing.
“Truth is I’d love to let you go, but that ain’t how the world works and we know it. If you go, my granddaughter will die. In my world the two of us are liars and that equals out, so what we both know shouldn’t change things.”
Pip screamed, the kind of cry that starts at your balls and radiates out. If Linus hadn’t shoved a gag in his mouth, he would’ve broke every pane of glass in town. About that time the music kicked up. Linus threw his cigarette away, put two fingers under his tongue and let out a loud shrill whistle. The others were coming. The fire light moved outwards and on that burning little horizon, a cadre of robed figures rose out of the darkness, materializing right in front of Pip. He struggled, pulling his arms and legs against the leather thongs. They were bound too tight and the harder Pip pulled the more his circulation died, until his feet and hands were blocks of ice.
They carried him, about six men all wearing evil monk robes and sweating and cursing under their breaths at the weight. The firelight grew as they came closer and soon he was set down before a group of torches stuck in the ground. Under the hoods of the robes were the people who’d attended his speech. They looked like plain folks. Maybe a little flushed, a bit gypsy-eyed by the singing and the firelight, but not too different from most conventions. A longer pole was stuck in the center of the burning torches. It towered above them. A burlap sack was stuck on top, the whispers of thread blowing lazily in the wind and smoke.
“This fellar is going to be our sacrifice,” said Linus, scrubbing his mustache like his conscious got caught there.
Pip expected more, but that was it. No grandiose speeches or drum beating. A chirpy man with eyes like a minnow drug him forwards and leaned him down on a post hole. Pip looked up the pole. The gag was deep in his throat and the people around him broke into a chorus of Amazing Grace. What kind of torture cult is this, he thought absently. Now he saw what was up the pole wasn’t a burlap bag, but a canny old skull staring down like some insulted gargoyle. They sang in their robes, salty and off-key like every church he’d ever heard. Pip clenched his hands together and prayed. But the voice sounded wrong, too much like the speech and not enough like him. He gave up, hoping God would get the gist. Pip kept looking up, though the gag was down his throat and straining against the rope made his neck hurt. He wouldn’t look at them. Pip watched the deep dark of night until he couldn’t hold his eyes to it. And then he finally looked, as the singing came to a crescendo and the ax flashed its villain’s smile in the firelight and the senator’s head resting on the pole winked at him and welcomed him to his next office.