Volume 30, Number 3

The Thing in the White House

Bev Jafek

We have little love for The Thing in the White House, the latest to be elected President of the United Economic Zones. We know of course that he was the least intelligent candidate, therefore the most qualified; the latest from the powerful 1% Party. Competition was keen, however, to be the least intelligent, and the winner acquires a certain awe from his countrymen. We strongly believe that the economy cannot be properly managed by any President who does not have this essential attribute. Intelligence, as we learned as toddlers, is one of the greatest enemies of the Social Conflict Contract that has replaced the Constitution.

The latest Thing has a plump, shapeless body, somewhat like a baby, with an orange head of hair that is always sculpted with hair spray. His face, however, is covered with equally orange skin and as such makes us think of an ancient, shriveled baby that grew up barely changed, yet tinted orange by some terrible accident of fate. Like a baby, he does behave in an angry squalling manner and appears to require unconditional parental love from those around him. No one knows exactly how he was elected, though his qualification as least intelligent has never been challenged, and we do believe that he has Made the United Economic Zones Great Again.

He regularly keeps up a stream of toots, barely coherent messages that sound directly into the Device implanted into the brains of all citizens of the United Economic Zones. Vaguely, he does manage to communicate that he is pleased with all supporters and furious with all who are not, both in his government and the citizens at large in the Zones. His toots have thus far failed to support his political adventures.

Ah yes, his political adventures. We know what they are from the chord of toot in our internal software. He has thus far, however, been mysteriously unable to synchronize his toots to our Devices. With each failure, his toots become more erratic, paranoid and angry; the toots all the more dissonant and incomprehensible to us.

But these are just my diffuse thoughts, no doubt partially random, as I make my daily preparation for War. Shooting and bombing are my function in the Social Conflict Contract, since I have been declared, like 99% of the population, to be Expendable, the lowest order of society. The military function, as we all know, is Endless War, one of the more attractive professions to those declared Expendable. Otherwise, I would only be employable in jobs refused by robots. My class, of course, supported the election of the Thing as strongly as the 1% Party. There are only two political parties in the United Economic Zones, as has been the case throughout most of our history—the 1% and the Ninety-Niners. The Thing is, of course, from the 1% Party, as are virtually all of our elected officials.

The Endless War is declared continuously on other nations, so I do get a chance to See the World from time to time, a great benefit of my employment. But, the Endless War is also declared against individuals and organizations within the country that have been critical of the Thing. We all know it would be deeply unpatriotic to allow these entities to go on living.

We are all very Happy in the United Economic Zones, since all those who are not are extinguished in our Wars. This practice has led to some confusion as to who or what is actually still alive, though it does make it easier to continue our Warfare. We completely accept the irrefutable logic that only War is good for the economy, as is our complete lack of allies in the world at large. The seditious idea of allies was soundly defeated some time ago, and we are all very Happy that it has not resurfaced. Our repugnance for allies is one of the chief accomplishments of the Thing in the White House and will no doubt be highlighted in his legacy. Beyond shooting and bombing, we know very little about the rest of the world, except that it might contain living beings. We do know that most of it is underwater, as there has been a thirty foot sea level rise under the Thing’s administration.

We have no idea what he actually does with his time, though he has an army of supporters working for him. They come and go at a furious pace; non-loyalists are extinguished daily, an inevitable consequence of the Thing’s vigorous and energetic personality. It is widely believed that he spends a great deal of time playing an ancient game—golf—on the White House lawn and elsewhere, though this is uncertain as no one can see over the huge Walls surrounding the White House. We do know that it is a house, and it is white from archival images implanted in our Devices.

The Thing loves Walls, and they are also listed as among his major accomplishments. There are new Walls all over the country, a few of which are opened for a trickle of international trade heavily guarded with tariffs. All of these factors, we understand, mean that the economy is roaring with health. This is the inevitable result, given that the Thing is the least intelligent candidate put forth as well as our reliance upon Walls, Warfare and compulsory Happiness.

Well, I am on my way out to make War. I have a full suit of bulletproof armor made of the most advanced light weight material. I believe I will be making War within the country today, so there is some godforsaken mess of non-loyalists out there. Within the last year, however, I was called upon to fight internationally. I am very proud of this and my profession. The 99% Expendables are the most patriotic comrades in the history of the nation. Equally, they are the most ferocious in Warfare. It is a very respectable profession, and all are Happy, displaying that Happiness profusely.

It is a Happy day: a tiny shaft of sunlight shows through the gray ooze of air. The air is unbreathable, and I am of course wearing an oxygen mask, as do all other patriotic citizens. I am glad to leave behind my noble bunker. We live in very small spaces with room for little beyond our beds and our Oracles that feed us all of our information concerning the outside world. We have no possessions, but that is part of our well-acknowledged nobility and another of the accomplishments of the Thing. Our bunkers are placed in Towers of particular delight to the Thing. He has created more Towers and Walls than any other President, also part of his legacy.

As I reach the street, I see Towers everywhere and fighters running in streams. In most instances, we do not know whom we are fighting, another effect of the software glitch that renders the Thing’s toots incoherent, though we are assured that the 1% Non-Expendables are working diligently on this problem. Besides, running in mindless throngs is one of our most important and basic skills, a trait we understand we have inherited from birds. It is therefore part of our human biology; that is, those of us who are actually alive. We’re never quite sure of whom that might be. We run for extended times, have no idea how long and are ready to kill at any moment. I’ve listened carefully to the Thing’s stream of toots, which remain incoherent, though they are reminders that he is still there, no doubt alive, planning more War or playing golf, in either case fulfilling his duty to us. All the Towers (filled with so many bunkers) are magnificent to us as we run in mass, our weapons poised in front of us. We are thrilled that there is such a quantity of Towers and bunkers behind Walls, “from sea to shining sea,” as once tooted to us.

We are tooted to halt and sit, and I pick an alley for my rest period. There is something about alleys that I love. They suggest a kind of unplanned, wild world that exists at the edges of our mighty cities. Something strange might happen in an alley. I am thrilled that a desire for such a place still exists in me, no doubt from the distant past. As I slide to sit on the alley floor, I realize that I am overcome with nostalgia for something, I know not what. There are several words—“wild” and “nature”—that elicit a strong emotional response in me, though I do not know why. I have even seen bits of grass sticking through the cement of the alley floor. I thought we had effectively killed it all. I should ask the Oracle in my bunker why I feel this way, but I have been strangely secretive about it. I can only say that I have curious moments of deep feeling from a source I do not recognize.

What is this I see? Someone is coming. He or she slides down the side of the building and sits on the alley floor across from me. Is there another who has strange, deep feelings for a “wild” environment? I wonder. I move my head forward to see what I can of his/her face. It leans forward to me, too. I am shocked and pleased by this aberrant behavior. Clearly he/she is alive.

Suddenly, I am overcome by emotions I have never found in myself before, somewhat like the nostalgia that occasionally overwhelms me. I have a powerful urge to merge with this Other who has chosen to sit beside me in all the wildness of the alleyway. I reach over. It reaches, too. This is an unknown experiment, something we have never considered before.

Shockingly, I engage in an ancient reflex: I kiss the Other. I lean back smiling, wondering what the Other is feeling. Terror: the Other places its weapon before me. It wants to shoot, to wipe me out. Bang! And I am lying on the floor of the alley, blood flowing profusely out of my torso. So it was never true that my armor was bulletproof: the Thing needed the option of killing me. But, of course, I am Expendable.

I am nearly finished, soon to be nothing at all. I hope no one thought I was disloyal to the Thing. I hope this fervently, though I will never know. But, there is another feeling, much stronger. I feel that I am unquestionably alive, though not for long. I always had my doubts, and now I know. A smile comes to my lips. It is the last.