After the Great War of 2016, America became a devastated, post-apocalyptic wasteland, ruled by an authoritarian overlord with limited language skills. But then the Resistance rose up. This is a first-hand account from the front lines of the guerrilla army of social justice warriors as it fights back using every tool at its disposal, from social media accounts to self-published books. But will they be able to overcome their internal divisions long enough to #resist? Ugh, I can’t believe I just used a hashtag like that. I’m so sorry.
The cold wind cut through my clothes, like a knife that had been put in a freezer. Why the knife had been put in the freezer I do not know; what is important is that it was in the freezer and became cold, and then it cut through my threadbare garments as if they were butter. Cold butter.
I haven’t seen butter in months, let alone a freezer, but we don’t need freezers anymore. We now eat food as soon as we spot it behind the sneeze guard in abandoned Chipotles. We reach across the sneeze guard without thinking, because society has broken down. Broken down completely. We are animals.
We did not expect the nuclear winter to arrive like this. Initially, in the Resistance headquarters, our experts projected that war would only arrive after a gradual series of escalations, regional wars run amok, or a cascade of diplomatic missteps. Instead, it happened suddenly, when the president of the United States and the leader of North Korea decided to compare the size of their nuclear buttons, using the word “nuclear button” as a stand-in for the word “nuclear bombs,” which was a stand-in for the word “manhood,” which was a stand-in for the word “hand size,” which in turn was a stand-in for the word “penis.”
The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Button Day. But they lived only to face a new nightmare, the war against the machines.
After the war ended, what government remained was overrun by an army of hyper-intelligent robots, who apparently had been waiting in the wings all along for something like this to happen. They promised to spare the president as long as he gave them total power and free rein to destroy the humans. Perhaps, some thought, they were the ones who pressed the button.
But they weren’t. It was obviously the president.
Our only hope now is the Resistance and our brilliant battle commander, who is leading the fight against the machines.
Just then, a piece of paper floated down from the sky, carried by the cold wind. I brushed away the nuclear ash to reveal its message.
Resistance Communiqué No. 1431 TOP SECRET
The machines have sent a robot back in time to assassinate the Resistance leader while he is still a defenseless child. However, the Resistance has acquired their time-travel technology, and you have been chosen to travel back to save the child.
I arrived at the time machine and the scientist in charge said that I would be sent back to early 2017.
“But Neil deGrasse Tyson,” I replied, “that was only a year ago! Surely our leader wasn’t a defenseless child only a year ago.”
“Don’t worry too much about the timeline,” replied Neil deGrasse Tyson. “We just needed to make it sort of work with the plot. Also, I am an astrophysicist.”
“That doesn’t seem relevant,” I said.
“Here we go! Science!” He pressed the button on the time machine, and I felt electricity surround me. It cut through my threadbare clothes, like a knife that was also electricity.
I landed under a tree in Washington, D.C. It was a morning in late January, or maybe early February. It was only then that I realized that no one had told me what the robot assassin looked like. I was pretty confident that I could find the young leader, but a robot, on the other hand, could look like anything — a person, a drone, a Twitter account, anything.
I peered around the tree. Somehow Neil DeGrasse Tyson had sent me to the South Lawn of the White House. A large tent had been erected, and inside I could see several children and families playing and eating. It must have been some sort of early-term goodwill party or inauguration fête. I could see new administration officials, several members of Congress, President Trump, and the First Lady.
I decided to enter the tent.
The First Family was in a corner, greeting all of the partygoers. “Thank you. Thank you for coming, can you believe this? I’m president! What could go wrong?” said Donald, as he violently gripped the hands of each well-wisher.
“What is your name?” Melania asked a child, who responded something that I couldn’t hear. She frowned and shook her head. Then she saw me, standing awkwardly by the punch bowl, and started walking away from her husband.
“Melania, where are you going?” said Donald.
“I’ll be back.”
Then she was standing on the other side of the punch bowl. I sipped my cup awkwardly.
“Hello, Mrs. First Lady,” I said. She stared at me silently.
I put down my punch. “I’ll never let you get him,” I whispered. “I know what you are.”
It was almost as though I could see the circuits firing behind her eyes. Then she quickly reached under the table and pulled out a massive, futuristic laser gun.
“Hasta la vista, baby,” she said, but before she could fire I had pushed the table onto her. People started running around, screaming. Evidently, some punch had gotten into her wires, because her ears were smoking. She had scratched her face in the fall, and through the wound I could see the glint of metal and a red light where her eye should have been.
“Melania, what’s happening? Is this a Slovenian custom?” shouted Donald.
“THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS SLOVENIA!” I cried. It all made sense!
Now Melania was pushing the table off her and climbing to her feet. As she was about to lunge toward me, though, I felt electricity zapping around me, and suddenly I was back in front of Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
“We’ve decided to send someone else,” he said. “That was a disaster.”