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“Bill…Junk…Bill…More junk,” Yuki narrates as she flips through the various envelopes and catalogs fresh from her mailbox. “Ah, shit,” she pulls out a piece of paper the size of a postcard.
“What is it?” Her assistant inquires, taking down decorations. It seems like it was only yesterday he was putting away all the Halloween stuff.
“Property taxes due.” Yuki’s eyes scan the cardstock. “Education, libraries, emergency services, infrastructure all basically the same…it looks like the leeches in the council added some horseshit categories.”
“Not surprising,” her assistant says, sealing a cardboard box.
“If only our honest and fair Council-members had a tenth of the misery instilled upon them as the ones in tonight’s tale.”
The man in the shadows smiled as he wrapped up his presentation, stepping further away from the projection of charts and graphs. He made not a sound crossing the already silent room and took his seat among the other Council-members. None made eye contact with him, nor did any of their mouths open to question or protest. Their words caught in that little bit of space between their brains and lips. So much could be said in response to the newcomer’s proposal, not only in regard to any logistical issues, but all the moral dilemma as well. The exuberant twinkle in the dark pools of the man’s eyes crossed with the arrogant smirk stitched across his face made more than a few of his fellow Council-members wonder if they, in fact, knew what the hell they were on the shores of, or if they were fully prepared to move ahead and face the possible consequences of their actions.
But you already know the consequences you face if you sit back and do nothing, the man’s voice rasped in their minds. A part of his speech came back to them all: ‘Are you willing to stay where you are and let the tidal wave of this town’s financial calamity wash over and drown everyone? Are you willing to resign your post and flee while your fellow townsfolk curse your names for eternity while they’re swept beneath the current? Or, gentlemen, would you rather use your means to stand beside your fellow citizens and keep them afloat—to do whatever is necessary to save them? As well as earn a little kickback for your efforts.’
The other twelve Councilmen glanced at one another, trying to read the others’ faces. Each of them had their own aspirations, some greater than others, but none less important to the respective dreamer. For example:
Stuart Carpenter, a member for a good ten years, owned the local bookstore and had hoped to build another in the neighboring town, and, if all went to plan, then another. A second shop most definitely would put him on Easy Street; any more after that, the better. A national chain or even a regional one was a bit of a stretch, but a challenge he welcomed nonetheless.
Wesley Cunningham was the youngest on the board, having just cleared his second year of college, working toward becoming a lawyer. That coupled with mingling in local politics, he hoped one day to work his way up to the big leagues and leave the countryside for good.
John Malone, head of the Council, dabbed a handkerchief at his weathered face. He was pushing sixty-five, just counting down the days until his retirement. There was much needed relief in sight for him; not only was this his last stint as Mayor, it was to be his last on board, in any respect, of the City Council. Even with the money in his savings, and the retirement fund at his fingertips, he refused to go down a failure.
As for the thirteenth Councilman, Gordon Lynch, much about him remained a mystery. He’d only come to town a few years before, a vacancy among the Council and a fateful inquiry by the newest resident led to his addition.
“What say you, fellow Councilmen?” Gordon asked, breaking the silence finally.
Another moment’s pause, and then Mayor Malone spoke up, “Has anyone any questions for Mister Lynch?”
“V-very well then. All those in favor for the proposal by Councilman Lynch, raise your hand.”
Eleven hands went into the air, the Mayor’s trailing after.
“Congratulations, Gordon. As soon as you can get into contact with your associates, you may begin.”
“Thank you very much, Mister Mayor,” Gordon beamed as he rose from his seat, “fellow Council-members. You will not regret this decision today.” He put on his sunglasses and bid farewell his comrades as the emergency meeting was adjourned.
The scene plays out as it has countless times over what feels like eons for the thirteen members of the City Council; countered by the angry voices and sobbing of the various townspeople they vowed to help. Each of them then watch, superimposed over the meeting, as the corporations roll in, shredding the wooded areas and flatten the earth; evicting citizens from the land they claim as their own. Those that surrender are given very little in compensation to what the land’s revenue ultimately reaps. Those that refuse are persuaded to leave—sometimes in the harshest of ways that aught not be repeated. The apparition before each of the Councilmen shows the brilliant blue skies turning black and hazy with the smoke of the chains of factories sprouting up like unnatural weeds. Even with closed eyes, all of them are forced to see the poorer inhabitants rounded up among the brick and steel in the most dangerous (but affordable) neighborhoods. They see old and young alike succumb to violence, to substances aimed at taking them away from the nightmare around them.
All thirteen Council-members spend every waking hour of their day and every second of what little sleep they are afforded in this endless loop…that damned meeting…all those people rotting and suffering and dying at the hands of what they started.
And if that isn’t enough (oh, no, not even close), with every single soul that is broken by their fair city, a change occurs to the Councilmen’s bodies. It is painful and grotesque, simply put. For every dream shattered or life snuffed out, a lesion grows. Bones snap and skin expands, tearing and bursting at the seam. From out of their skulls permanent marks grow, reminiscent of tumors. Over the weeks and months, agonizingly, they reach further upward, a macabre obelisk of scarred flesh and pus. There isn’t a single one of them that doesn’t try to dull the pain one way or another.
Cunningham once tried a healthy dose of self-pleasure to refocus the sensations in his body; he spent an hour and a half building himself up and denying until he was sure that the finish would wash away all the pain, if even for fifteen or twenty seconds. What he got instead was thirty minutes of unrelenting anguish. When he finally erupted, all that spilled forth was molten tar and what he could only assume was ripe sewage. His body shuddered again and again, expelling impossible amounts of waste to the earth. He’d have castrated himself if the strength was there, but as he succumbed to the pain, his extremities buckled and went numb while he helplessly writhed in an ever-growing puddle of his own filth. Some members tried smoking to help alleviate the pain, all that did was cause a further growth at the top of their heads, in which a hole appeared, and descended straight through their sinuses. Dark clouds soon billowed out, a burning sensation ran up their faces, just behind the eyeballs, and up two yards out into the open air. The smokers huddled together, a cloud of smog hovering around them, eyes burning and skin crackling.
All thirteen Council-members plead to themselves, occasionally aloud to end the suffering; offer deals to whatever god or demon bestowed the curse upon them. Not once do any of them attempt to right the wrong they committed, not even so much as utter an apology. The thought never crosses any of their minds.
Perhaps if greed were not in the way…perhaps if the sense of entitlement above all others dissipates…perhaps if their own stubbornness lifts and allows them to admit to themselves and others that they were wrong, then maybe—maybe—the infinite tortures before them would dissolve; life for everyone would go back to the way it was before it all went so bad…but it doesn’t.
Decades pass and nothing changes. It is not in the nature of these elite, even on such a small scale, to recant their sins. They still have the visions, they still wear the marks upon their bodies, a reminder to them and the world that the pains and cries of the meek and those left behind in the name of ‘progress’ cannot always be silenced.
“Geez…are you sure about wishing that on someone?” the assistant asks, eyeing his boss.
“In a damn heartbeat! Vultures, the lot of them! Did I ever tell you about the local Board of Education?”
The assistant raises his eyebrow. “No, you haven’t.”
“Then allow me to fill you in with this hot gossip…”