When Democracy Dies

A short story from The Collection of Gruesome Inevitabilities, a work in progress.

When Democracy dies—

When we all live in the stink of government highrise tenements — hallways and doorways tagged with smut and gangster graffiti. Meagerly rooms overlooking a squalid city stained in the stench of slaughterhouses and dark-alley bagnios; the view through a grimy kitchen window over a leaky faucet on a rust-stained sink. A squalling baby on a ragged mattress. A hungry, snot-nosed toddler pulling at your pants. The TV blaring some indoctrinating cartoon.

When you’re mired in selfish grief, harboring a strange, slippery sense of longing.

When no one has any more than anyone else and everyone receives the same government stipend called equality. When every cupboard begs for the same meager rations of questionable ingredients. And every evening sees the same laughable economic progress report.

When all you have to look forward to is a repeat of yesterday. Of yesteryear.

When wilderness shrinks to a crowded park in the city center with its symbolic weeping willows. Its koi bloated and floating belly up in a filthy fountain of the reigning leader. Its feculent grounds litter filled with hypodermics, condoms, feces, and doped-up panhandlers rambling incoherently.

When you commute on crammed mass transits, vulgar and laden with the funk of greasy perfumes, warm piss, and the sour sweat of cheap bootleg whiskey.

When “Healthcare,” medications, and vaccinations are mandatory and you’re not allowed to breathe without a mask.

When they analyze your every word, thought, and expression, scouring for any trace of dissent or discontent. And every broadcast, commercial, and billboard airs a subliminal warning: be happy, fulfilled, and loyal to the state.

When your idle time turns to thrumming through mind-numbing games on your spyphone, but you never take time for painful self-reflection or the troubling contemplation of something more than an overshadowed existence.

When finally you’re empty of ambition and devoid of curiosity. When your imagination draws a blank in every corner. When fear and cowardice fuse a bitter taste in your mouth.

When the world turns gray and death resembles a reprieve, you’ll know they’ve won:

Liberty is dead,
and so it is read,
on the Gates of Nevermore.