Yesterday’s Front Page
Dateline, Washinton D.C.
In a historic moment, President Lennon and First Lady Yoko, along with Secretary of State M.L. King, met with former President Kennedy and his new wife Marilyn.
The meeting, which took place in Kennedy’s compound, was reportedly to lay the foundation for the President’s new “World Peace Initiative”. Unverified rumors of marijuana legalization reform are in the air, as is music on the compound’s loudspeakers. Reporters have not been allowed inside but the songs from the Beatle’s most recent album, “Abby Hoffman’s Wonderland”, can be heard almost a mile away, and Domino’s trucks have been seen making regular deliveries.
In other news:
* The senator from Cuba has launched legislation to add the state’s symbol to the US flag instead of another star. Opponents say that the Hammer and Sickle would clash with the rainbow stripes pattern adopted just two years ago.
* Upstart technology company Microsoft has folded, citing their inability to compete with Atari/Commodore for market share.
* Stock for the business giant Edsel has split yet again, as its new hybrid model becomes the most popular selling electric car in both the US and China.
* The Cleveland Browns football dynasty continues as they claim their 12th Superbowl.
* Pre-release orders of best-selling novelist Dusty Grein's newest blockbuster have hit 5 million, and his company Rhetaskew Publishing has just bought another new printing firm to help complete the runs of this, his 100th book.
© 2018 - dustygrein
#fiction #amwriting #althistory #prosechallenge
Stopping the Assasination
3789, October 23
“Welcome to the Great Time Games!” A voice blared over the speakers nearly deafening us all. “If this is your first time, let me go over the rules.”
I glanced over at David, my friend. He was rubbing his hands anxiously on his jeans, wiping the sweat from them. This was his first time in the Games and I could understand his nervousness. When it was my first time, I was terrified, but, before we get into that, let me explain what the Game is.
The Games are a series virtual reality games in which you “go back in time” and change things. For instance, you change the fact that George Washington was the first president or you change the fact that America was never founded or discovered. That’s what it is.
The Games are also a very high point in society. If you win, you are given hundreds of offers to any college you want to go too, anything. But the stakes are high.
When it was my turn in the Games, I was supposed to stop the Boston Tea Party. Let’s just say, it didn’t happen. I was in the same spot as the tea. In the ocean.
“The rules are quite simple and if you follow them, you will have a better chance to win. Rule 1: Don’t intervene in other things. Rule 2: You work as a team. The more people you have working for you, the bigger the chance of winning. If you follow those two simple rules, you have a chance. Let the Games begin!” The voice was drowned out by all the cheering. David turned to me and gave me a nervous smile.
“It’s okay buddy,” I patted him on the back. “I’m here and I am a pro at this.”
“But Crystal, what if we are actually changing time?” he asked. He shrugged. “That’s dumb, never mind.” Something itched at the back of my mind but I pushed it away and focused on David.
“You’ll do great,” I grabbed his arm and pulled him over to station number 148.
“What’s our mission?” I asked. I hooked up in the vest and headset and then helped David.
“Stop the assassination of Abraham Lincoln,” the woman said. She handed me a fold-out tablet with all the information I would need. “You already know who did it, how it happened, and when it happened, so it should be easy. If you ask me, I think you’ve got it easy.”
“Thank you,” I nodded. She pushed the button and the world melted away.
The fold-out table vibrated in my hand and I pulled it out.
“April 14, 1865,” I read. “The day Lincoln was assassinated. It’s close to five-thirty right now, so we only have a couple of minutes to find this place.” I glance over at David.
“Why are we in different clothes?” he asked, looking down at himself.
“We aren’t. The vest you’re wearing is programmed to help you fit in with your surroundings, for instance, if we were going to the zoo, we’d probably look like clowns.
Got it?” I explained.
“Okay,” he stood up and brushed his pants up. “Where do we need to go?”
“Ford’s Theatre in Washington,” I said, reading off the tablet. I pushed a couple buttons and a map popped up.
“Which would be north,” he said, reading over my shoulder. We headed in that direction.
“So, what do you think so far?” I asked him. I’d noticed that he had loosened up a bit and wasn’t as nervous. He was still wiping the sweat from his hands though.
“Okay,” he said. “I’m still nervous.”
“We only have maybe an hour at the most to get to this Theatre,” I said. “Speaking of which, I think we should find out what time the show is.”
“Good idea,” David said. “Who should we ask?”
“Let me handle this,” I said. I walked up to the porch of some drug store and peaked my head inside. “Hello there ma’am, do you know what time the show starts at Ford’s Theatre?”
“Yes, honey,” the lady smiled. “Six o’clock sharp.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” I slipped back out the door and turned to David. “Six o’clock.”
“Good, we don’t have that long to wait,” David said. “Who did you come with on your first time?”
“Just someone,” I said.
“Who?” he pressed.
“I don’t know,” I put a hand on the back of my head, trying to stop the itching sensation.
“I don’t remember.” I looked up at him and his green eyes bore into mine. I looked away.
“How exactly do you win?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Whoever completed their mission first and in the best time is the winner,” I said. The itching sensation was gone but it still bothered me that I couldn’t remember.
“So,” he paused, thinking. “Whoever has the easiest mission.”
“Not really,” I said as I ducked out of the way of a pedestrian. We were getting closer to D.C, so there were more people. “Last years winner was had to stop the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He had to argue with those guys for like four hours! But yes, he got it done before anyone else.” I laughed.
“That means he met Franklin, Jefferson, all those guys,” David breathed. Okay, there’s something you need to know. David is a history geek and he’ll tell you that himself. He doesn’t care what you think about him, but he does come in handy in the Game.
“Yeah,” I sighed and rolled my eyes. “There’s Ford’s Theatre.” I pointed up ahead. There was a white building with two massive doors that had some beautiful designs on them. There were two rows of windows, several on the bottom and three on the top. “Let’s go.” I quickened my pace, pulling David along behind me.
“What do you know about John Wilkes Booth?” I asked. I pushed open the doors and our outfits instantly changed. I was wearing a big, poofy dress with five skirts underneath and David was wearing a powdered wig and a brown suit. I burst out laughing at the sight but stopped when I got a nasty look for one of the ushers.
“John Wilkes Booth was a famous actor who sympathized with the Confederates but he stayed where he was to do his acting career. It was five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered that Booth did the assassination. Booth and a couple other men had made plans to kidnap Lincoln but they were foiled, leaving Booth this only other option.” David paused for a breath but I cut him off before he could continue.
“That’s all we need to know,” I said.
I walked briskly into the main room but instead of finding a seat, I took a sharp turn to the left, cutting off to the side of the room. I found a door marked. UPPER BOOTHS ONLY it said. I pulled on the handle and it sprung open. We lept up the steps, taking them two at a time. We reached the top and ducked into one of the many rooms.
“Which one is Lincoln going to be in?” I wondered out loud.
“Fourth,” David whispered in my ear.
“How do you know that?” I asked, turning to him.
“I had to search a lot on Google but I finally found it,” he smiled.
“Let’s go,” we ducked back out into the hallway and quickly located booth 4. We slipped inside and hid in a little closet over to the side.
I grabbed the tablet out of my back pocket and quickly changed our outfits so we were in something less noticeable.
“Now we wait,” I whispered. About fifteen minutes later, the booth door opened and Lincoln and the first lady came in. David gasped and I clamped a hand over his mouth.
“Don’t you dare,” I whispered. “Be quiet!” He nodded and I removed my hand. The show started soon after that and the President and his wife focused on it and nothing else.
“There he is,” I said to David. The booth door had been pushed open and a man poked his head in. He slipped the rest of his body in, pulled out a .44 gun and moved forward.
“STOP!” I lept out of the closet and between Booth and Lincoln. Booth aimed the gun at my chest and was about to pull the trigger.
The First Lady screamed like bloody murder and guards came rushing into the room. Abraham Lincoln was white as a sheet as he was escorted out. Booth glared at us as the guards took his gun away and put him in handcuffs.
“I’ll kill you for this,” he growled.
“Will not!” David laughed and I joined in. They dragged him away.
“We’ll need to ask you some questions,” as guard said. “And, on behalf of the President, I would like to thank you.”
“Oh, it’s no problem,” I waved it away.
“Just stay here and someone will come and escort you to the Police Office in a minute,” the guard left the room. David and I high-fived as the world melted away.
“You won!” The woman that had hooked us up yelled. She wrapped her arms around us, hugging us. “You did it!”
“Yeah,” David said, the enthusiasm draining from his voice. “We did it.”
“Why aren’t you excited?” I asked.
“Look,” he pointed to the machine that we were hooked up too. Blue and white streaks were being flung from it. The strands writhed all over the room and out into the main room.
“Get out!” the woman screamed, fleeing us into the main room. “Get out!” David took off, but I stopped.
“What about the others?” I yelled. The blue and white were starting to whirl around me.
“We can’t save them!” he yelled, grabbing my hand and pulling me behind them. “It’s rewriting time, we changed a fixed point, which changed the future which means our present is changing! It’s the same thing that happened last year. You couldn’t remember your partner because she was erased from time! She never existed!”
The tendrils of light caught our arms and legs, pulling us to the ground. A tendril slipped over my face and I tried to claw at it, trying to get it away, but I couldn’t move. Slowly, my vision became all white.
I sat up in bed, my sheets were twisted around my legs and covered in sweat. It's just a dream, just a dream, I thought to myself. I took a deep breath, trying to calm my beating heart. I looked around my room. Same as before. I heard footsteps outside my door and stiffened, too scared to dive back under the covers.
“Honey, time to get up, the Games are today,” a face peeked inside. My Mom. I grabbed my phone and checked the date. October 23. It was the day of the Games and I had one mission.
#Fukushima Was the Beginning Of the End,
the Radiation Seeping Into Our Oceans;
Causing Mutations & InSanity;
From Fish to Man.
Driving Them to Feast On the UnInfected;
a World Damned.
I Still Dream Of the Food Riots,
When we Could No Longer Eat From the Sea.
the Crashing & Burning of Cities;
Parents Eating Kids.
Cops Going Door to Door
Rounding People Up For the Cattle Camps,
the Old & Sick Shot
& Cooked In the Street.
How I Survived Still Mystifies,
aLone & Not One Friend;
All Ways Running,
Running For the Hills.
So Many Things Have I Done
& the Things I Know I Will Do
Just To Survive Another Setting Sun.
How Many Lives Must I Take
to Pay For Mine.
What if world war one had played out differently?
Michael Reynolds, a fourteen year old boy with a new found ability to traverse the timelines and visit alternative histories. After stumbling onto a timeline very different from our own, a world of narrowboats, horse drawn carts and a population who still wear clothing last seen at the turn of the twentieth century, Mike takes his friend Greg to the local library there to find out why...
* * *
The reference section was a small reading room at the back. Fortunately it was empty. They began by looking at the shelves.
“How do you expect to find anything here? There’s no computer to search for topics or anything.”
“Obvious, duuuuh, look.” Mike walked over to cabinet with lots of little drawers. One side was labelled author and the other subject. He went to the “HL-HZ” drawer, found history, flicked through for history/modern, found the shelf number and headed over to the one indicated. “You’ve seriously never used a card index?”
“Never needed to. This one looks good.” Greg grabbed a thick leatherbound volume. “The modern history of Britain, 1850 to 1990. An analysis.”
They sat at the table and Mike skimmed the first few chapters. “Not too sure on our own history but nothing unusual yet, what about you?”
“Don’t ask me mate, if it wasn’t made after 1999, I’m not interested!”
“Ah, this bit’s different! I’ll just pick out the highlights. “In 1912 the Austro-Hungarian empire became more and more militaristic, invading several smaller provinces on their borders. It wasn’t long before Germany, led by Kaiser Wilhelm, cousin of King George was drawn into the conflicts. Meetings held in private between George and Wilhelm in November of that year ended in a violent confrontation with Wilhelm returning to his ship with a bloody nose and a black eye. Later that week they declared war on Britain and immediately began moving troops to the French border. Blahblah Britain began recruiting, blahblah first conflict of the war between Britain and Germany was January 1913, blahblah… Ah… Peaceful football match on Christmas day 1914 ended in a bloodbath when an officer attempted to stop the game and opened fire on the Germans. Ouch! That’s one of the defining moments of world war one! Skim skim, etcetera etcetera, March 1917. Peace talks between Archduke Ferdinand”
“Hang on. Didn’t he get himself assasinated in 1914?”
“Not here he didn’t, obviously. He wouldn’t be available for peace talks otherwise. Peace talks between Archduke Ferdinand and the British government ended when the talks were bombed, killing several key members including Lord Kitchener.”
“Hang on…” He leafed back a little… “Ah, secretary of state for war… You’ve seen the your country needs you poster… Think everyone has. Him.”
“Ah. Right. Got you.”
”Anyway… Ferdinand escaped unscathed. People believed him to be responsible. After that things went downhill.” Mike flipped through a few more pages. “British workforce at critically low levels. Conscripting all the older men into the war and all the women into doing the men’s work resulted in a massive under-employment. Trains fell out of use as all the engineers capable of repairing them were in the trenches. The tracks fell out of use for the same reason, a lot ripped up because the iron was needed for the war effort. Canals returned to the fore as the sole means of long distance transport with only two railway lines maintained, the one between London, Crewe, Manchester and Glasgow and the one from London to Newquay in Cornwall. Yaddayaddayadda, end of the war. Peace forcefully declared in March 1951 as all nations involved realised they had no-one left to do the fighting. Even Canada and the USA were massively underpopulated by then. China, Japan, Australia, India… Seems the Spanish flu thing didn’t happen here, but the war outdid it for deaths.”
“OK. You convinced me, it is interesting. What was the total in the end?”
“They kept a tally until 1930 when the count was in total for all sides, about two hundred million dead, twice that permanently maimed. They gave up counting, then. Looks like the world ground to a halt for a good twenty years after the war. It was 1970 before international trade started again. Everyone was too concerned with feeding their own people. Radio exists, but few people can afford one. The BBC’s tiny, only two radio channels dedicated to anything but government communications. Even most of the mills closed when all the machines broke so it took them years to get those back into production… We are back in 1900 as far as the tech level’s concerned, they might even lack vaccinations and antibiotics here.”
Mike put the book back on the shelf.
“For now, might come back with a notebook though.”
The Great Spirit
Look at my vocabulary list ShiMa. I see the word incantation. You know that is a word I don’t have to study. The stories you have told me of our spirit family offers such peace and the sacred incantation is something not to forget.
Yes my ShiPea. You have a good memory and ahh it is true; such a legend of comfort; told to me by my ShiMa and I assume passed along through the ages by all the ShiMas on our Cherokee family tree.
Can you tell me our story again ShiMa? When you speak of it I can feel the heartbeat of the spirits and someday I would like to tell my children our story just as you do to bring them the same comfort.
Of course my love. It would be my honor. We honor the spirits each time we speak of their power and we must always hold them in our hearts with gratitude. As you know, without them we may not have been sitting here as living souls. Dear spirits work through me once more as I share your wisdom:
Start at the beginning ShiMa.
Yes, my Shipea.
....There was a man that braved the sea and came to our great land in the year of 1492 named Christopher Columbus. Bringing with him, besides the notion that one could own sacred earth, he and those that followed him brought their curses. In the years that followed his first steps on our sacred land, demons traveled with Christopher Columbus that threatened our very survival.
Collectively, our tribes were said to be 90 million strong. Who were they that came but few? Why did they not want to know the true spirits living in our hearts? They spoke of their Lord Jesus Christ. They felt sure that their ways should be our ways and they should have dominion over us, but they would soon enough be proved wrong.
As expeditions continued to arrive, all praising Jesus they continually disregarded our way of life. They brought with them wares, new plants, animals and disease. Deadly curses of disease. One of them we now know as smallpox. Our healthy strong people were dieing by the hundreds, then thousands. Heads of tribes: Cherokee, Iroquois, Algonquin, Apache, Blackfeet and many more all decided it was time to unite and fight back. They held many meetings. We would stand up to the white man and Jesus. We would fight the curse with a unified strategy and outsmart them.
During that time the Great Medicine Man noticed with his keen eye that upon the animals of the wood chewing on juniper they demonstrated a surge in energy. He made a topical potion of juniper root, sassafrass, pumpkin blossoms and corn silk. He also concoted a healing tea of Black Cohosh, Echinacea and Hawthorne. His recipes were disseminated at the tribal meetings and word traveled fast and far that we believed we had found the formula to stop the white man’s curse.
But none of this would have been achieved without the help of the Great Spirit above. With the rhythm of the powwow drum and the rattle of blackeyed peas, each evening when our work was done all tribal families came together holding their wampum as an offering and recited the noble and sacred incantation:
Dear Great Spirit up above
There is a great enemy that has come
To rip you from us and destroy us
We honor you now as we always have
It was you that gave us breath and life
And it can only be you that will taketh from us
You have taught us to respect every living thing
To be good and do no wrong; to love mother earth
Will you allow the white man’s tyranny?
We beg you to save us from the wrath apparent
Let us walk in the strenght you have bestowed
Let it be only you responsible for our annihilation
And you responsible for our survival.......
And as it is known in the history books, smallpox vanished from our great land and we were once again strong in body and numbers; free of the curse. This did not stop the white man from trying to curse us again through the years and as you know they came with weapons foreign to us. Loud weapons of noise and lethal consequence. With the help of the Great Spirit, we made it be known our strength would not be broken; outsmarting them time and time again, and again their curses would be blocked. Most of the white men left knowing that their weapons could not overtake our One body of millions, but there were a small number that stayed putting down their weapons, embracing our peaceful way of life, living in communion with us, the Great Spirit and the earth and sky......
ShiMa. Thank you. I feel them. Our spirit family. I feel love. But you forgot to tell me the very end of the story.
Oh yes. Forgive me. Those that stayed gave us with gratitude the gift of their knowledge, helping us to communicate with their language and eventually opening schools of learning. We must be thankful today for the white man, for had it not been for the few you may not be studying that vocabulary list this very evening my ShiPea. But never forget. All thanks go to the Great Spirit above.
Yes ShiMa. Yes. Such truth you speak.
A Huge Defeat
July 4th, 1777
A year ago today, we experienced the greatest loss in our short-lived history. How could we expect to win, we were a small and weak colony compared to the whole of the British empire. Sure we had the French on our side but their help joined a little too late, and now we were experiencing the consequences. It was almost like the revolution never happened, but way worse. You weren’t allowed to talk about it, if you did then both parties of the conversation mysteriously disappeared the next day without a trace of them even existing. They were forgotten quickly by most. Even the words liberty and freedom were banned and if you so much as started saying them you were punished severely.
They had eyes and ears everywhere. Nobody trusted anybody. With good reason too. If you caught someone doing something against the rules and didn’t inform the authorities about them then you were punished even worse. Sisters reported brothers, wives reported husbands, even parents reporting their own children.
We essentially were being ruled by a dictator instead of a king. Everyone lived in fear of slipping up and facing the consequences. No one was allowed in or out unless they got permission straight from the Royals. There was even a wall built around us and any who tried to run away were killed on the spot without question. We were essentially a colony of slaves, we worked without pay and then were given the bare minimum of food to keep us alive. All the resources from our factories and farms were sent straight out of here. We didn’t get to own anything; property, clothes, or even our time. There was a strict schedule that if you didn’t follow you would face harsh discipline.
I think Britain wanted to use our colonies as an example for the rest of the world. To prevent any other revolutions or rebellions from taking place. If that worked or not we will never know, as we are not allowed to know any information on the outside world. Just by writing all this down I could be subjected to years of torture before a cruel and painful death. I guess, I find the risk to be worth it. Just so that maybe, years later, the chance of someone finding this diary and reading the history of our revolution and what it was like before. And maybe just maybe there can be hope once more for the American colonies.
Well, I've got to go... I'll write more at a future date hopefully,
Sincerely, Paul Revere
Friday the Thirteenth
Dear Future Historian,
I write to you on the thirteenth of April in 2018. Friday the Thirteenth. A day for bad luck. I don’t see how much my luck can get worse. I started the day rooting through years-old garbage for food stuffs (anything edible would suffice).
I live in the Los Angeles area, a WWII boomtown that went bust long ago. Now it’s filled with rats, cannibals, and folks like me who have nowhere else to go. This city is surrounded by deserts and ocean, locking in all those who could not afford to flee during the last two riots. I’m an old man now, sixty-three to be exact. I don’t know how much longer I will survive, hunger being an ever-present torture. I grow tired of the taste of rat meat, vegetables being a forgotten bliss, and I’m too weak to hunt down and kill another man to eat his meat (too old to be subject to such a fate myself). With this letter, I hope to communicate with future generations, to let them know how an empire can collapse, as they have done throughout history.
When I was five, I remember watching the first televised presidential debate. Our TV was fascinating to me, the smell of the plastics and metal, the bright glow of the black and white screen, the noise it made when you first clicked it on. I was glued to it every Sunday morning before church. But this time my parents were watching with close intent. I knew nothing about what they were talking (my understanding of Nixon’s attacks on Kennedy coming later as an adult), but I could tell my mom and dad were focused sharply on the conversation. I remember my mom saying something about Kennedy being handsome, to which my dad got into one of his tempers, yelling at her, eventually hitting her in the face.
Nixon narrowly beat Kennedy. His first term was an exciting time for America. We invaded Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, East Germany, all within his first year. Eisenhower’s disarmament policies were nixed; my hometown of Chatsworth became a nuclear production hub, churning out the things by the thousands. America expanded, and we were all grateful for Nixon. Our main export was military dominance, and we doled it out wherever we could. The Russians were shaking in their boots. It was a beautiful time.
When he was reelected, the chant was “Four more years.” Four more years of expansive military expeditions were a great idea, but it came at a cost to social reform, education, and community infrastructure. Eisenhower’s highways were collapsing, the negroes were growing restless, and major universities were closing. The private school, USC, was forced to close by eminent domain, becoming a military base (they converted the old Coliseum to a helicopter maintenance hangar).
During this time, the Russians focused on education and technology. They invested heavily in computers, with an entire city being created for engineers and electronics researchers (Chernobyl). They created the internet, this being the greatest invention of the twentieth century in retrospect. They ceded much of their eastern bloc countries to the US in the sixties, preferring to address domestic concerns and focus on the future, becoming a hegemony for peace and prosperity.
When 1968 came, I was thirteen years old. I knew little of politics, only that my dad adored Nixon, and my mom sheepishly followed his lead. When the president declared a restructuring of government, most people were happy. He would now be our supreme president, outlawing presidential elections and dissolving state governments. He set up an absolute monarchy, with public executions of the senators and representatives who opposed him. He used people’s fear of the Russian and Chinese communists, who threatened our new German, Indo-Chinese, and Asia Steppe provinces. Through televised propaganda, the nation became codependent on Nixon. We needed him, because the alternative was frightening.
Our only allies were England, Canada, Mexico, and Israel. The latter of these brought the ancient wrath of the Arabs, who fought a war of attrition against us in Europe and Asia Minor. The Turks soon took an outright opposition to American Imperialist policies, vowing to fight off any new attempted invasion. Nixon put them to the test in Afghanistan. This turned out to be a failure for the Americans. We were there for the entire decade of the seventies, and the early part of the eighties. I did two tours of duty myself, fighting the dug-in Taliban. The Turks eventually invaded East-Germany and liberated them to rejoin their western brothers. We left Afghanistan in 1985, the first war we lost.
The nineties saw a decline in both national pride and Nixon’s health. Our supreme president was showing signs of alcoholism, sometimes showing up for public appearances too intoxicated to remember why he was there. With no male heirs, he decided to make a successor out of CIA Director George Bush. He started making appearances with him at his side, soon letting Bush do all the talking. In 1994, Nixon joined his wife at Yorba Linda Cemetery. The nation mourned, not knowing what would happen next.
Bush I became a president of secrets, fighting clandestine wars all over the world. He enabled a military coup in Turkey, aiding the Armenian Invasion of ’96. He and the Israelis broke the House of Saud with assassinations of the top family members. His close friend, Sadam Hussein of Iraq, was let loose on Central Asia, fighting Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria. The new millennium came, and George Bush II came to power (by assassinating his own father).
Bush II was outwardly aggressive and quite ruthless. He turned our country into an absolute war machine. Citizens had no rights unless they served in the military. Over eighty percent of our young people joined the armed forces. We were bloodthirsty as a nation, soon annexing Canada and Mexico, invading all the Central American countries. He even fought battles in Antarctica. He started taking direct control over the countries in which his father installed puppet regimes. The sun did not set on Imperial America, until September 11th, 2008.
A contingent of Arab Freedom Fighters (they called themselves the Islamic State) let loose a devastating attack on New York, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. The attacks all followed the same strategic plan. A dirty bomb was detonated, suicide bombers would drive truck bombs into major government facilities, and sleeper cells would clean up the mess with foot patrols and technical they had hidden in their garages. Oddly enough, many of these sleeper cells were Americans, poisoned by propaganda on the internet. My own city was hit with two dirty bombs; one centered in downtown, and the other in the Port of Long Beach.
Though Bush survived, his empire was in shambles. Deserters fled posts in far flung colonies, leading to revolutions all over Central America, Indo-China, and the Middle East. Russia and China capitalized by helping these new nations set up utilities, infrastructure, and fiber optic networks. America was secluded to North America, and her people were demoralized. Mexicans and Canadians rioted. New Yorker Refugees flooded boats headed for France, who agreed to take asylum seekers. Los Angelinos were divided racially, causing massive riots, lasting up to a year in the case of Watts Riot of 2015-16. This presidency ended with a bang, when W put a 45-caliber pistol against his temple in the Oval Office, November 8, 2016.
A billionaire land developer from New York took office soon after (I don’t even want to say his name). DT was old, perhaps senile. He ceded too much to the Russians, having developed a close friendship with their president Putin. States like Alaska and Hawaii, used to autarky, seceded and formed the Central Pacific Confederation with the former colonies of Guam and the Philippines. The mainland continued to shrink as China took over Canada, and Russia took over Mexico. Which brings us to today.
I recently heard something about Texas and her fight with Russo-Mexico. It called for volunteers to fight to the death, resist the invasion at all costs, burn crops and poison water supplies so the commie bastards can’t use the land. I think I might try to find my way over there. It sure beats sitting around here, starving to death. If I can make my way to Pomona, they have a transport taking people every first of the month. I write this letter now, hoping to make it to El Paso by May. Maybe Friday the Thirteenth can be good luck for me. I’ll start my journey now, hoping this letter finds you in the future, and that I have a happy ending.
Captain Cook’s Great Misadventure
Captain James Cook and his First Fleet sailed into the warm waters of the Tasman Sea. Crisp sunshine beamed down on the ship's decks as the crew took in as much Vitamin D as they could. Many long weeks had passed since the sea-faring party had been able to relax. The journey from England had been fraught with illness and starvation; many of the dead convicts were offloaded as shark fodder. Still, Captain Cook was optimistic. Within his sight was the glorious coastline he would soon plunder in the name of Great Britain. He'd already thought of a wonderful name for this part of Australia - New South Wales.
“I hate to be a downer, Captain, but I don’t think ‘New South Wales’ is catchy enough,” offered Cook’s second-in-charge, Lieutenant Zach Hicks.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Cook replied. “It’s perfect. And besides, the King will love anything I suggest. I am his favorite.”
“Right you are,” said Hicks. Arguing with his superior had never helped in the past. The Captain regularly ended a debate he wasn’t winning with an illogical declaration or threat of keelhauling.
Cook packed his pipe and lit the tobacco. Nothing like a nicotine fix to complement a lungful of fresh ocean breeze. He stood smiling for a few moments, considering the fame and fortune that would be his on returning to England. Years and years of preparation (done by officers inferior to him, of course), grueling hard labor (also thanks to lower-ranked boatmen), and substantial investment (again, none contributed by himself) were about to finally bear fruit. Cook was ecstatic. But his joy-bubble was rudely busted by frantic shouts from the crow’s nest. “Bloody hell,” he mumbled and set his pipe down on the stuffed hessian bag closest to him.
A nest of burnt tobacco tumbled out of the pipe’s chamber, an ember or two still burning. Smoke soon became fire and fire soon engulfed the sacks parked at the base of a mast. Within seconds, flames tore up the mainsail and jumped to adjoining ropes that had been thoroughly dried out by successive fine days.
“Hicks! Hicks! Raise the alarm and get all hands on deck!” ordered Cook. “I look away for one second and all hell breaks loose. My job is literally now just putting out fires. Good grief.”
But Cook’s comments went unheard, drowned out by the screams of officers and convicts running to douse the flames that had spread through the bow and were roaring towards the barrels of gun powder.
There was a massive explosion. Bodies and debris flew into the air and then, quietly and slowly, the ship’s stern started taking water. More screaming ensued as people scrambled to cling to anything buoyant. The ship’s carcass eventually slipped beneath the surface and by nightfall, there were no survivors.
* * * * *
The crews of the remaining ships in the fleet observed the blast from afar. There was certainly no grieving for the Captain, whose obnoxious personality had won him few friends throughout his career.
“Oh well. We’ll soldier on without them, shall we? Long live the King!” the master said.
The fleet sailed for two more days before reaching what would become known as Botany Bay. On disembarking the first ship to land, the commanding officer saw a near-naked native man standing in the distance. The officer laid a peace offering on the ground and backed up to his party. The native man and his off-siders approached the new arrivals. Amazingly, the two groups began to communicate. They agreed to share the terrain and its resources, and to resolve any future conflict without bloodshed. Aboriginal populations continued to flourish and the European newcomers studied their ways. Despite originating from vastly dissimilar backgrounds, the settlers and the custodians of the land overcame their differences and built a harmonious existence that still thrives today.
The Silenced Voice
Stanton and Anthony went out of the country together after the failure to achieve the voting rights for women. The NAWSA fell apart shortly, seeing no point in continuing the struggle after being so harshly ridiculed by the members of the Congress. Whether they reluctantly denied us our rights is truly beside the point, although the evidence seems to confirm that there was some form of blackmail involved. We will never know now, will we? The women’s suffrage movement has suffered a blow from which it is almost impossible to recuperate. Where did it go wrong?
That seems like a fair question. In the last two decades of the 19th century, that was the most frequent topic in all social gatherings attended largely by women. As a former activist, there was hardly much to do anymore, therefore I have often graced them with my presence and soon felt sick from the hypocrisy, apathy and general lack of the sense of urgency. What were their pretty little heads thinking, I wondered. I’ve watched them stroll around in their daily dresses attempting to put on a brave smile, whilst the light in their eyes faded...and faded ever more. To get so close and get denied, that might be worse than not attempting to reach it at all, one might say. Not because it is not noble to strive for the rights you know are yours- it surely is, but rather because the defeat is that much more devastating when you are unable to walk the last couple of steps and when the sweetest dream is interrupted before its conclusion by the person on a train sitting next to you to inform you of the approaching station; station that is not even yours. How helpless would you feel, my friend? Just enough to continue your life all the while the regret takes you away from your suffering sisters of yesterday and gradually eats the core of your restless being. The question was not answered, and consequently, that is what has happened to us.
There were some rumors, oh, there always are. Elizabeth Cady Stanton has been drafting a document, apparently to be named ‘Declaration of Rights and Sentiments’ but the unnamed and peculiar disease of the soul has prevented her, women often mentioned the name: melancholia. Some of the men in power laughed for days when they heard of this. One reportedly said: ‘What in God’s name is that? A poor excuse, I tell you. That is precisely why women are, and rightly so, a weaker sex. Apart from my mother, she is an exception above all exceptions. A fine president she would be. Do not tell her of this’, then a long laughter followed. The other said: ‘Yes, this was my opinion as well. Always excuses, gentlemen. They are wasting our time! They do not wish to vote or dare I say, work at all, only to reap the benefits. Same old, same old’, and couple of others nodded. The third said: ‘I must agree with the general opinion. Again, except for my mother and my wife; both well-educated, accomplished women. But they must remain ladies above all’. Thus, the conversation stopped and was never seriously continued afterwards. We will never know if the said Stanton’s document would have changed a thing. I shall not take it as an excuse, not after what has been said. Therefore, I will tell you swiftly how these last few decades looked like and felt for me. One must save the precious time of others.
The turn of the century saw the need for more industrial workers, but the women refused to get involved in any sort of labor. They felt they would not be equally valued and would be exploited even worse than the children workers. Once bitten, twice shy; and rightfully so. With the World War I around the corner, the volunteering help that was indeed, greatly needed, attracted no desire of women to participate. They turned to their hobbies even more stubbornly, trying to revive the almost forgotten 19th century virtues of the so called ‘accomplished lady’. There was a rising number of women (some even mothers) who fled their families leaving everything behind to seek a new beginning overseas. Some took their children with them on exhausting journeys into the unknown. New Zealand, a British colony and the first one to give women the voting rights, was the most popular choice and was beginning to thrive economically after enabling women to enter the work force. I have thought about it on numerous occasions, I will not lie. Only one thing has stopped me. I sensed a change on the horizon.
But firstly, let me finish my tale. After the Great War ended a fraction of suffragettes appeared and those were the activists that could not accept their fate and they grew extremely violent. They sought help from different sources, even from some of the Italian mafia families (of whose deeds is still not much known) and formed their own secretive groups. Some of the more influential women organized a financial help for them, mainly to stop a new rising trend. Those were the women that refused to marry. Who would tolerate such scandalous behavior, they whispered. These women saw no benefit in being treated as their mothers were and have decided that the best action is, well, the absence of action. They swore to never leave their family homes and let me tell you frankly, many were not pleased with this. Additionally, the number of female suicides shot up. As the country prospered in the 1920s, there was hardly anyone in the mood to celebrate. Parties organized by many great men went almost unattended by women. A sorry sight it was and nothing to be remembered. As both male and female spirits went down, we all felt some change ought to come.
The society feels it stronger now with the new war at sight. I am not in my youth anymore, but I will be reborn on the day we succeed to bring our dreams to life. It will happen, I am certain, since there is no way anymore but forward. After all, we, the women, want to serve our nation with our minds, our working hands and our ready hearts. Most of us do not wish for the violence on the streets no more than to see our companions unhappy, but we are desperate for our voices to be heard. Silenced voices of the past, they cannot be neglected no more; for if we should keep strolling this way we are headed with all certainty in our empty places nothing shall remain but the dead, murderous silence.
Hannibal of the Alps
A small man strode into a large tent. He spoke quietly, “Gen. Hannibal, sir... your greatness....”
“What is it?” Hannibal peered over a stack of scrolls.
“The troops are rested... yet restless. There has been a terrible accident.” The minor attendant shifted his weight, averting his eyes from the chief commander of Carthage’s armies.
Hannibal rose to his feet and strode around the table to face the man. “Have our supply lines been cut by the Romans?”
“No, sir. Something has happened to the animals.”
Hannibal grabbed the man by the shoulders and shouted, “Which animals?”
“Some of the... uhh... exotic animals went missing early this morning.”
Hannibal shook him and cried, “Which exotic animals? What kind?”
The attendant’s eyes widened as he replied, “The elephants.”
“How many of the elephants?”
The attendant paused for a moment. “All of them.”
Hannibal released the man and strode away, incensed. “Send out men to search for them. They can’t have gone far, not in this blizzard.”
“They were found not long ago.”
Hannibal turned, the expression on his face was hopeful. “Were any lost?”
The attendant closed his eyes and whispered, “All of them.”
Hannibal tore at his clothes and screamed. “How did this happen?”
“They walked too close to the edge of a cliff and... slipped, sir. They were found far below, frozen.... All of them.”
“How are we supposed to defeat the Romans without elephants to trample them? Our men aren’t capable of such valor. Send word to Carthage. All hope is lost. And tell them to send more elephants.... All of them.”