Monday 13 July 2020


"See? I'm fine." He moved to pull the mask from his face, and someone yawned with a bored expression on her face. She didn't particularly care that some rich political fuck was demonstrating his narcissistic delusion that he was immune to the virus through force of will, and neither did a lot of the other people attending the assembly that day. No one really gave a shit, other than that it was an interesting spectacle. Same as all politics. Same as everything involving the rich.

He grabbed the flaps of the mask, the little loops that went around his ears, and removed them. The mask didn't fall off. The mask stayed on. Someone must have put an adhesive on it as a prank. All right, several people in the audience thought, this is getting interesting.

He pulled at it further, and said, "You see, this is supposed to happen." Bewilderment. He was supposed to receive this prank mask? The contours of the game had changed. Instead of some depressed insomniac staffer who'd be fired and probably beaten by cops later that day and evicted later that week gluing his mask to his face as a last act of pathetic resistance against forces she had no hope of fighting against, was he somehow in league with some idiot frat boy nephew of one of his campaign donors to play this as a prank on the voting public at large? Likelier reality is that he was trying to play this off that way so that even though the liberal stations would devote several hours to him gluing the mask to his face by accident now the conservative stations would be able to devote several more hours to explaining to them how he was actually pulling a pretty king move by pranking them all into thinking he's developed brain damage or something. Pretty great, huh?

He pulled at it more, and a couple grunts came out of his throat. He grabbed the loops a little harder and pulled harder. Several people at this point noticed tears coming out of his eyes. A couple people in attendance laughed, because he was known for laughing at other people in situations like this where they were crying because something abjectly humiliating had happened to them in the public eye. Several more people in attendance became uncomfortable, because really, what the fuck was going on? No one had any idea what to make of it. The laughter that remained grew less and less sure of itself. Some of the people remaining silent laughed themselves, involuntarily, not because they found the situation funny but because they were watching a 67-year-old man known for boasting of his sexual and physical prowess struggling to remove a simple surgical mask from his face and that was honestly kinda sad.

He yanked harder and gave a guttural shriek that reverberated throughout the auditorium. Some blood dripped from his cheek. The discomfort gave way to concern. No one but him screamed, but various people stifled the urge to. He pulled further, some sort of wet sticky ripping sound coming through the mic, squeezing its way out of the PA system. Was this supposed to happen?

The mask came off. He held it in front of his face and lowered it. The first thing people noticed was the worms. Thousands of them, in various colours, all wriggling from his lower face. Some looked more like snakes than insects. And they didn't appear to be an infestation or anything. They looked like a natural part of his face, just waiting to emerge from beneath his first layer of skin.

Still, no one screamed. Not even when he opened his mouth to say, "As I told you, I'm fine," and a combination of blood and what looked like green-tinted vomit leaked out of what appeared, at one time, to be his mouth, which was now oddly triangular in shape. Not even when his obvious cough—still hadn't quite beaten the virus—produced globs of shit that crawled away with legs that appeared and disappeared seemingly at random.

Was this the ultimate result of the virus...? the girl who had yawned wondered, now gazing with an interested expression on her face. I'd heard some crazy shit about it, some shit about mutations, but y'know, that was all things insane people said. Is this what its final stage looks like?

"I heard that," he said, glancing at her momentarily. "No, I'm not telepathic, I just have better hearing than your average American. Part of what makes me so fit." He said that with a chill in his voice. "You were talking to yourself a bit there. You're a leftist, right? Leftists are crazy like that."

The girl blushed slightly, but imperceptibly, even to him.

"Nah, I'm just an honest politician. All the people in Albany are liars and crooks, just like in Washington. No one gives a crap about the average American, but I do. I give a crap about you to let you know what we're like, you see. This is just what happens after a while in business, y'see? You do enough coke, you pay the right guys to bomb a couple countries, you fuck a couple 11-year-olds just for the thrill. Come on, haven't we all done that?"

Most people stayed silent. This one construction middle manager identifiable by his "Construction Workers 4 Branton" shirt got up and said, "I mean, who among us hasn't done something a little wrong in order to blow off some steam?" to which one lady and a guy several seats away from her wanted to shout "What the fuck, not me" but were too utterly shocked to ultimately do so.

"Look," he said, "you spend enough time in power and money, no matter what, this happens. The rich and famous, y'know, they have this kind of bacteria, I dunno what the hell, but suddenly after attending the same dinner parties and orgies and wine and cheese get-togethers you contract it or something, and then it's all the pressure that causes it to, what's the word? Metastatise, or something like that. It metastasises and you get this, after that weird combo feeling, where you're on top of the world but you also wanna ralph, this sort of change in your body. Makes you feel numb as hell and your emotions more intense all at the same time."

A middle-aged lady stood up. "Even President Jacobs?"

"Oh believe me, even Jacobs. Might've infected him myself back in twenty-thirteen. Back when he was just a governor of this fine state, which he totally wrecked and drove into the ground, by the way. Really, everyone you see in power. Doesn't matter what they claim to believe or anything. Really, these little wormy things—my doctor tells me they secrete some kind of hormone or whatever that they haven't ever seen before. It creates a sixth basic emotion. That's what all the Democrats and Republicans really believe in."

At this point the girl who yawned and her friend the row behind her began exchanging confused text messages, so as not to be overheard. The friend had wanted to ask what this emotion felt like, but the girl replied, "i don't think that wd work lol / he's basically saying its totally out of the realm of normal experience / like how do u communicate what the color green looks like / u cant / same w emotion / if someone cant feel sadness howre u ever gna explain to them how it feels[,]" to which the friend replied, "Yeah you're right / Honestly tho this is so weird / Like how we're able to have this convo just kinda talking almost normally even tho whatever the fuck is happening."

He concluded his speech, "Really, you're not gonna get anything different out of any other politician. Same shit, different day. But I'm not gonna lie to you. I can fix the economy, easy. I can get rid of the immigrants, no problem. They're all gonna lie and say they can't. They're gonna lie and say that illegal aliens matter more than our own citizens, that moochers matter more than hard-working Americans. But how can you trust them on that, when they won't even admit to the face worms or the prostitutes? You can trust me, I'm the only one being honest about that, and that's a biggie, so you gotta trust me to be honest about the other things."

The girl and her friend went home. She considered that she'd rather have a liar who can implement good policies than a marginally honest politician with shit ideas. They replied that this was the kind of choice that an abusive partner forces a victim to take, that the only rational response was to burn their whole shit down. She thought maybe yeah, but it'd probably cause needless suffering. But maybe as a last resort.

Fifteen years later, the girl texted her friend again. They didn't respond; they had died years prior from dehydration. Lived in one of the dry states. The girl knew that. The world population had been drastically reduced by war, famine, plague, flooding, and fire, and still, they had died due to health care and water rationing. The government scientists, which had half the planet under military occupation, concurred that the current population was still above the optimal amount, which they determined as around 500,000,000, for the world to keep existing with enough labour to keep the economy going without unnecessarily burdening it, and recommended sterilisation of the lazy and infirm in order to ensure optimal performance. President Branton, and all others like him, were exempt.

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