Martha stood in front of the window, arms crossed, eyes looking beyond her reflection and past the blackened ruins of the old Capitol building. Her hands caressed the soft fabric of her new jacket. She only caught her image when she turned her head to watch the rolling blackout approach. That was when she noticed the pinched tight corners of her lips and squinting eyes. It was a tense look and it made her look like an old prude. And even though she was seething she relaxed her face and produced a hint of a small smile. Much better, she thought.
The city spread before her like the spilled contents of a toy chest; some neighbourhoods were black as Hades and would probably remain that way for years. Others glittered as if the jewels from scattered tiaras caught the light sending it skyward. She watched as the slow blackout hit grid after grid, creeping down those sparkling neighbourhoods. Neighbourhoods which had been untouched by the war.
Her mouth tightened again. Tonight, of all nights, she had made it perfectly clear to the Chief Electrician that the lights were to stay on. It was important to show the nation that everything was under control at the Capitol. How could the country trust that the government was in charge, and strong, when they couldn’t even keep the lights on here?
It was President Colburn’s fault of course. He should have consulted with her before beginning his collection of scientists, those unholy researchers, engineers, professors, and the myriad heretics which infected the population. When people who were on her black list suddenly began to go missing she had panicked, thinking that somehow they had discovered their danger and fled. She had no choice but to send out the Army of God, those loyal souls sworn to do her bidding during this holy crusade.
But even then the infrastructure had already begun to break down, communications were intermittent, and The Collection had become a pogrom. Thousands had been imprisoned, killed, tortured, and even burned at the stake. But hundreds of thousands had escaped, flown the country.
Well, good riddance!
Martha shifted uncomfortably; a small voice whispered, “Your fault” in her ears. She did not like the feeling and shook her head in denial; she brought dry fingers up to pat her hair back into place. Of course it was coiffed and sprayed into a solid mass and hadn’t moved. The Holy Helm, she knew the office staff joked behind her back. She patted it again.
“Nonsense,” she said out loud.
She had been given this task by God himself. The nation, not her, had been desperate for a clean sweep. It was worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. The campaign had been a long time in the making, beginning fifteen years before as a grass-roots movement, supported by money from like-minded big spenders. In the beginning they had played their hands very close to their chests; only a few God-fearing party members knew what they were willing to do to redeem their country. To rid themselves of the blasphemers and heretics and to give the pious their rightful voices in a country that had been taken over by Satan.
Yes, it was true that the power was not working as it should. And yes, most of the schools and hospitals were either empty or closed because The Cleansing had swept away most of the teachers, and doctors were few and far between. Yes, the country was fractured. Some states had actually seceded, joining other countries, or trying to stand on their own. But who needed California, Washington, or any of the others? They would come back, hat in hand, begging to be let back into the union.
And yes, she had to admit things were a mess. Cell phones no longer worked, the airwaves were quiet in many parts of the country, power grids were dark, food shortages had decimated the population in the large urban centers, and water had to be hauled by hand. But as her mother used to say, “You have to break some eggs in order to make the cake.” And that’s all she was doing now. Baking a new and more desirable cake.
But now the war was over.
The country, the biggest part of it anyway, was in the hands of the righteous.
When the blackout hit the New Capitol building and her office plunged into blackness, Martha turned and lit the large candle on her desk and then walked around the room lighting all the others. It was almost time to go down to join the celebrations for the first new Independence Day of the nation.
All the monsters under the bed, and in their damnable closets, had been swept out and eradicated, the new constitution was completed, and the godly were about to inherit a newly risen nation. She walked to the door and brushed invisible lint from her jacket, then turned the knob and walked into the hallway, a gentle smile on her face. The Captain saluted her and then followed her downstairs.
A short balding man met her at the bottom of the stairs. “Remind me to speak with the City Manager,” she said. The Chief Electrician would be replaced by someone more competent.
Then she would have to do something about the President. She had a short list of three new candidates in mind.
“Dark Reflections” by gullevey. Creative Commons Flickr. Some rights reserved.