(The New American Apocalypse
Table of Contents: Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four; Part Five; Part Six; Part Seven; Part Eight; Part Nine; Part Ten; Part Eleven; Part Twelve; Part Thirteen; Part Fourteen; Part Fifteen; Part Sixteen; Part Seventeen; Part Eighteen; Part Nineteen; Part Twenty; Part Twenty-One;
The sky rumbles. The bosses lumber around with whips. Tentacled things in three-piece suits writhe around the perimeter. Do 12-legged monsters dress to the right or to the left, do you think? It hardly matters. What matters is this: they have shown up. That they would even deign to show their faces around here speaks volumes. Well, I say “faces,” but only about half of them have a “face” in the way that humans traditionally think of them. Perhaps the word “visages” is more apropos?
Mr. Baldwin smirks at me. “They’re scared.”
“No they’re not.”
“As close to it as they’ve ever been.”
I hope he’s right. Having seen the leader of these vile forces, ‘hope’ may be all I have to go on. I think back to the phone call last month, trying to ascertain the fate of The Girl, being greeted by an ominous voice instead. An emissary? Surely not the Beast, itself. I don’t believe that monster does much in the way of talking. Its maw exists only to feast.
“What are they nervous about?” I ask.
“The coming siege.”
“Wait, you mean this shit is actually working?”
Mr. Baldwin merely nods.
Is it so impossible to imagine? Art, culture, rhetoric…are these things inspiring rebellion? Revolution? Has our simple aid lent strength to the guerrilla revolutionaries fighting back against the tide of darkness? Perhaps. Mr. Baldwin seems to have more faith in the matter than I do. Maybe he knows something I don’t.
“When the time comes,” he tells me, “you still have your job to do.”
“What?” I ask, having all but forgotten my previous mission.
“Poems of the Apocalypse. Your own personal Frankenstein monster.”
“Did you read them?”
“What did you think?”
Mr. Baldwin chuckles. Shakes his head. “I think you’re low down. Way low down. Maybe you stared at the Abyss too long. Hell, maybe you took the Abyss out for a few drinks and spent a night shacked up in a motel with it. You wrote the book as a black hole for hope. It was a spell. The words were magic. People who were Fighting the Good Fight gave up when they read the thing. People who were on the edge of madness took the leap.”
“Well, yeah. I figured that part out. But I mean…was the work any good?”
“Passable?” I ask.
“Passable,” he confirms.
And wouldn’t it just figure that my most important piece of work was merely passable? Isn’t it almost predictable that the most important thing I’ve done in my life is something I did while brownout/blackout drunk, hammering dumbly away at my keyboard in a state of depressive nihilism and Azazoth lunacy? That it would be ‘passable,’ at best? Of course it is.
Why did I ever get into this business?
I can’t believe this shit.
Technically, the camp workers aren’t slaves, per se. Not even wageslaves, really. They’re indentured servants working to pay off an unpayable debt. So, not ‘wageslaves’ but ‘interest-slaves.’ Debt-slaves. Old fashioned indentured servitude, gussied up by pretty corporate language and finance law-speak. Our shoulders are yoked by red-penned debt. By impossible interest rates. By fines and nickel-and-dime strategies imposed by our bosses.
And, apparently, some of the workers view that as a fair thing.
Now, I’m familiar with the ideology of a Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaire, but this takes it a step too far. There are people bound here who believe the tentacular, faceless, void-worshiping bosses might actually promote them. There are people here who believe they might one day start their own void-worshiping business! They think that they might be able to lease out a loan to an even poorer person at an even higher interest rate than their own and turn that weak-tea concept into a bustling void-worshiping bank!
Fools, at best. Monsters, at worst. Humans, nonetheless.
Some of them attacked Mr. Baldwin last night. They brought mostly fists and feet to the assault, supported by an assortment of words. They called him a “rabble rouser,” a “commie,” a “union-loving scumbag,” and, of course, a “nigger.” Not to mention all the other usual epithets and reprisals one might expect a red-blooded American debt-slave to call the men trying to fight on their behalf. The list is endless and repetitive. The creativity of its inventors extends only to finding more nonsense syllables to string together in insult. I’m sure whoever reads this is already familiar with the vocabulary.
After he’s brought inside half-dead, he rests. His face is marred with bruises and his lips are rouged with blood. We have to find someone to cover his morning shift censoring library books and his afternoon shift of skinning the dead for consumption. I guard him through the night and one of the other inmates–er, employees–takes care of him while I work the early afternoon away by revising history books to suit the needs of the Great Darknesses.
The next morning, I air my grievances to him. Do these fools not realize the tremendous fight he’s undertaken on their behalf? Do they not see the risks of the mantle he’s borne for them? Can they possibly believe these undulating aberrations reaping the rewards from their labor have their best interests at heart? (If they have hearts, that is. I’m uncertain about the specifics of their grotesque anatomies.)
“You don’t have much experience rallying folk, do you?” he asks.
“I’ve written a couple pieces here and there.”
“Uh-huh. They get much of a reaction?”
“Not really. One guy called me a white-knighting faggot mangina. Y’know, on the internet. Before.”
He stares at me.
“Yeah. I guess it’s not really the same. Another guy said he would fuck me up if he ever saw me, but I didn’t really take him seriously. It was all online.”
He continues staring.
“I used to go to rallies and stuff when I was younger. Less afraid. You know, peaceful protests and stuff…large groups…” I clear my throat.
He laughs. It seems to hurt him. “That all?”
Still laughing, he says: “Thank God you only got the one job to do, then.”