Tonight we visit a world fast becoming a suicide cult. Fact has given way to feeling; reason has fallen to hysterical parroting of the party line. Apathy is no longer an option, because they're coming to your town, your street, your house. Conformity is the rule in a society where the individual is a rebel who must not be tolerated. Future archaeologists will scratch their heads while sifting through the rubble, grateful they missed that hard left turn into The Twilight Zone.
Chester relaxed on his mist-shrouded back porch, his haven since retiring from farm work. Not that he'd had a choice--some trillionaire had bought all the farm land. His new hobby, writing stories, required more work than he'd bargained for. Currently it meant stepping back to practice creating a mood. He eased back and forth on the sofa slide, listening to sounds outside the protective screens. Damned mutant mosquitoes.
The screen door creaked open, then slammed shut as Earl came out. He operated a small heating oil business being squeezed to death by reams of new regulations. Plopping onto the sofa, he almost caused Chester's coffee to spill.
"What's shakin'?" Earl glanced at the notebook. "Still writin' fairy tales?"
Chester set his cup aside. "I'm working on mood right now. Hear that bird?" A lonely two-note call echoed, a defiant declaration of life. "Here's my take on it."
Earl read the passage. "Beyond the haven came the chickadee's TSVEET tsveet call." He handed the notes back. "Yep. That's a chickadee all right." Next he presented his own handwritten flyer. "I thought you could look this over, Mr English Major."
"Let's take a look here. . . .'Thirty dollar special. We'll spray a thin coat of oil on your lawn to destroy over-wintering insects'." Chester shook his head. "Who are you fooling? This is a way to dispose of used oil without paying a recycling fee--and making money to boot! City hall will shut this down quick."
"Well, shyte it all." Earl squinted at a humanoid shape loping past the tractor shed. "You heard anything on the news about weird stuff goin' on?"
"Not a thing. Not the earthquakes, the high altitude spraying to block the sun, nothing. But word is getting out from people leaving the big cities. It's a war zone. I'm starting to understand why Homeland Security bought a billion rounds of nine millimeter some years ago."
Earl made a tongue razzy. "Conspiracy nuts. Hey, you watchin' the game tonight?"
"Bread and circuses," Chester said. Earl didn't get it. Just then, four members of the friendly local national guard came out, masked to the gills and in full camo. What little flesh that was visible was covered with sores.
The leader consulted his pad, stared at Chester. "Your health passport has not yet been activated."
Chester shrugged. "I decline to follow the masses over a cliff, that's all. I can still buy food on the web, buy gas at the pump, and see internet doctors."
"Not anymore. Your assets are frozen until you comply."
Gunfire sounded along the north ridge.
"Maybe I better go," Earl said, obliged to squeeze around the unyielding soldiers. "Got a wife to protect somehow. Guess I'll throw rocks at anything that breaks in. Got no guns, honest."
Chester grinned. "Think about all the movies where aliens attack. Actually, all they'd have to do is wait for us to do it ourselves, then move right on in." He sniffed moist decay on the breeze. "Is this fog ever gonna lift? It's been three days."
The leader ignored it. "Your appointment is in three days. Don't miss it. And be careful what you write about--you could be classified as a domestic terrorist."
"Says you," Chester muttered when they'd gone. They didn't know about his food and weapons stockpile. He cautiously opened the screen door on his end and whistled. A misshapen monstrosity appeared out of the gloom, greedily snatched at the offered sausage biscuit. It seemed to have a distant memory of the rifle.
"Tell all your fellow passport holders," Chester said. "We've got work to do."
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