The Victim

Chapter Four: Victory

Fireworks

I feel dizzy, my head heavy. All I can hear is a ringing noise. I look down. Part of a car plate is stuck in my left thigh. The pain is strong, very strong. Something blows up. I search for the president with my eyes, but I can’t see her. There are several dead bodyguards in the small stage where we were, and more civilian corpses from the audience. I open my mouth to scream, but no sound comes out. Then I see a man with an assault rifle and a bandana. I look into his eyes and he looks into mine. He points his gun at me but a shot in the chest takes him down. Suddenly two men are carrying me.

All I can think of is that this is real. We haven’t planned this. These people hate us enough to have tried to kill us. Is the president ok? I hope she is, she has to be. The bodyguards rush me to a car and drive away to the safe location. I’m on the back of the car, covered so I can’t be seen from outside. My heart is racing so fast I fear it might explode. I know the people in the car are trying to speak to me, but I can’t hear a word they say, still deaf from the explosions.

Eventually we reach the safe place and they move me again. I’m taken to an underground bunker. I feel my head spinning and the urge to throw up. Finally they place me on a table and sedate me. I wake up in a room with no windows. Mother is there, smiling at me. The twins are there too, just watching. I’m paralyzed and can’t move. I try to scream but no sound comes out. Mother comes toward me and I know she’ll do something horrible when she gets to me. Then it’s as though time stretches and she’s coming to me for hours as I keep trying to scream.

Suddenly I’m in a dining room, my old dining room from… F-word! Uncle is crawling toward me. I’m sitting, paralyzed. I want to scream “No!” “No!” but my mouth is sealed and my feet and hands are bound to the chair. “Are you ok?” asks a familiar voice. “She’s coming back,” says another. My eyes hurt, but I still open them. “Thank god, she’s alive,” says my rock. I don’t understand anything. Slowly it comes back, the attack. I gasp to speak, but my mouth is sandpaper.

My rock gives me an ice cube to suckle. It tastes like heaven. “Wh-what happened… is she ok?” I ask. The faces look away. “We were attacked… We’re still being attacked. We need you.” I don’t get it, but it doesn’t sound good. I look around the room. “Where is she?” My daughter takes my hand with tears in her eyes. “She died, mother.”

I. I, “No,” I say. The tears well up in my eyes. “No, that’s not possible, she—” “She received a shot to the head during the firefight. She died there.” I feel like I’m drowning. This can’t be real, I must still be in my dream. “Leave the president to recover now,” says a doctor. Wait, what? I, I can’t be the president. Not without her. She’s the president. Someone tell this moron!

They leave me to “rest.” I’m high as a kite and hallucinating with my dead friend from school. An infinite period of grief later, doctors and nurses appear, accompanied by my rock. They give me something that clears my head. “Come on, we need you up, you don’t know what it’s like out there.” I’m pushed outside on a wheelchair. My wounded leg is bandaged up and I feel a pain pulsating from it. They take me to a room full of high-ranking military officers and all the state secretaries.

First I’m quickly sworn into presidency. “Madam president,” addresses me one of the military officers. “We need you to make a press conference ASAP. The death of the former president was not an isolated incident. Eight states have declared that they do not recognize the authority of the federal government. A group of military officers led by a rogue general has declared that they had to ‘step up and defend democracy.’ There is talk of a ‘new election’ in those states.”

“You have shut them down, right?” I ask. Their faces are dismal. “The acting president didn’t want to commit to any course of action,” he replies. Of course, I forgot we have a spineless jackass as house speaker, who is next in the succession line after me. “When is this election?” Their faces are even more concerned. “It’s going on now. People think you’re dead or about to die, and they wouldn’t have recognized you as president anyway.” I need time to think. “Everyone but my rock clear out. I’m going to prepare my address to the public.”

They leave us alone in the room and we start working on the speech. They made the mistake of assuming I was finished. Huge mistake. Two hours later, I’m facing a live camera on the basement, like a terrorist. I have to speak from a wheelchair and I’m wearing no makeup. “Two days ago took place the worst day in the history of this democracy, of my life.” I start. “The president died. I almost died. And now, a part of the country has turned its back on democracy.”

I stand up from my seat, trembling with pain. The cameraman focuses on my face. “You have turned your backs on democracy. And I won’t let that happen.” Blood starts pouring through the bandage though I don’t see it. “I will stop this unconstitutional ‘vote’ immediately. I will catch that turncoat general and judge him for high treason. I will send troops and restore order. I. will. defend. this. democracy!”

After my public address, I reconvene with the loyal military officers. First of all, I put as many people from the military on my side. Apparently my speech didn’t make its effect on some of them who refuse to obey my orders. Eight military bases claim they only answer to the turncoat general. So I authorize an operation to simultaneously strike all eight bases with tactical bombs.

The operation is carried out during the night. At the same time, soldiers are deployed to the congress of each rebellious state to restore federal rule. The congressmen were trying to barricade themselves in there, but the soldiers come through windows using smoke grenades and flashbangs. The next morning, the country wakes up to a whole new situation. I, and nobody else, am the undisputed president.

During the morning, one general brings me a file with intel on the location of the turncoat general. “Do you want me to send a team to capture him?” he asks. “Good, good,” I reply. “Above all, capture him alive. Do not let him die, under any circumstance.” After the news breaks of my operation to bomb our own bases and seizing the state congresses, the rebellious leaders, including the turncoat general, urge “the People” to take their guns and “resist the tyrant.”

My actions confirm some people’s fears that the federal government is out to get them. Chaos breaks out in several parts of the country where survivalists ransack stores for ammunition and supplies to then run and hide in their bunkers. I get reports of hundreds of deaths resulting from this mass hysteria. Protestors swarm to state congresses and other places to demand my resignation. Federal officers and policemen are shot in the street by armed militias. Looting and lawlessness take over.

During the afternoon, I address the country once more, this time better dressed and made-up. “We’re at the height of a war that started as an argument and has now turned red with blood. But mark my words. This war will not last long. This war will only have one victor, and it will be democracy. Democracy will defeat all those who oppose it, as it always has, as it always will.”