Going to a lake for the weekend so no story tomorrow and maybe not on Sunday either. Seventeen straight days of stories is pretty good though, yeah?
The bombs went off but only one mattered, and the Capitol disappeared, evaporated in the blast, the bright erasing light. What followed was chaos and darkness for days and then the lights came back but the chaos stayed for a few more weeks. Not chaos like looting but chaos like soldiers killing citizens in the streets because everyone who made orders went out with the light. The bomb.
He was the leader of the opposition. Tall and gaunt with a thick red beard hanging over his chest and just wisps of blonde curls over his scalp. He got attention when he stood up to O– and called him a pusillanimous bastard for the bomb. Lots of talking followed that. Or, not so much talking, but monologues. They speak that way here, even still. It’s not necessarily civil but everyone gets a chance to talk, though that was sort of an empty rule before he came around and just demanded it by talking over everyone. Boisterous and emphatic, they called him a true believer in the Cause and that Cause was liberty. Not for the few or even the many but for all. He made us all ashamed that first day we noticed him.
See, the bomb. About half of us were in on it or knew it was coming, though we continued to preach nonviolence and civil disobedience and disruption and direct action. But what could be more direct than annihilating the Capitol? The meeting that day was to discuss what had happened but to make no apologies. O– was careful in that. He exclaimed loudly what happened and how it happened and then implicated all of us in his conspiracy. He told us some of our sisters had died in order to make this dream reality and that we are all members of the same sorority. The Cause.
But then he stood up raging and it was as if a whirlwind swept through the room. He threw chairs and he appeared to grow as he spoke, his shadow spreading over all of us, indicting everyone present, and especially O– and all who knew of his plot, his conspiracy.
By the next day he was the unofficial leader. A term he deflected constantly, saying there were no individuals that guide history, only the swell and motion of human endeavors.
After we all began to follow him, even those of us who took part in the bomb, he became even more energetic. Crowds formed around him in the chaos of sectarian violence and they stopped. They listened. Through the howls of violence and the shrieks of gunshots and the bellows of bombs they listened to him and he made them believe in peace, togetherness, and freedom.
I came to him nights and found him a different man. So gaunt because he never slept or ate. He survived on books read in the half light of our wrecked country caused by our violence. His voice was soft and gentle, his eyes hooded, and his mouth hung open or his lips sucked between his teeth. His delicate touch and coarse beard, the shadows spread everywhere, the sweat covering us.
I love your beard, I said.
Women need to take a bigger role, he said turning away, writing in his journal.
What do you write?
SIx months later we were underground. He told us that the revolution continued.
We believed him.
They hooded us in the middle of a rally. Who knows how many died that day. For a week, we were held in silence, alone, in the dark.
When I saw him again he was beardless, his chin so thin and pointy, cuts on his bony cheeks.
What have they done, I said and O– laughed, said: You should’ve heard him as they cropped him.
I told them, he said, my revolutionary: I told them I only grew my beard because revolutionaries have beards.
We laughed till there were tears in our eyes.
And now the guns are in our eyes. They asked us if we wanted cigarettes and then he spoke for the last time in this life, but his journals will be found and this new military occupation will fail. His last words before our heads erupt in Death:
Smoking’s bad for you and the environment.