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.
I crouched with three other Resistance fighters by the side of a fire, nibbling at the remains of our Thanksgiving meal. Turkey. Turkey was the name of the squirrel we were eating.
We had discovered Turkey outside of headquarters a few weeks earlier, sitting under a withered oak tree, protecting an acorn that it had buried. Back before the Election, I recalled, squirrels would hide acorns, scurry away, and forget the locations over the winter. But now there are almost no acorns left. Turkey the squirrel guarded his treasure with the stubbornness and determination of a coal tycoon in a panel discussion about climate change.
Painstakingly, I had gained Turkey’s trust by feeding it with the seeds I had found in the ruins of a farmers’ market. I had also repeatedly stated, “I am an ally,” which is, of course, true in a general sense, but not when applied to squirrels.
As we were finishing our meal, we heard footsteps approaching. Quickly, we hid the squirrel bones in our tattered coats, expecting another scavenger to attack us for the remaining morsels. But the man who appeared walked with a cane. He wore a vest, a bowtie, and an overcoat, from which his other hand emerged, extending an old piece of paper towards me.
I took it as he whispered, “We have trouble in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”
Resistance Communiqué No. 13 TOP SECRET
Early in the 21st Century, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT advanced bureaucratic evolution into the next phase – a being virtually identical to a civil servant – known as a Mulvaney. The Mulvaneys were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the presidents who created them. Mulvaneys were declared illegal – under penalty of death. Special Resistance squads – BLAME RUNNER UNITS – had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection, any trespassing Mulvaney. This was not called execution. It was called retirement.
I had seen those words before. I looked back at the man. “I’ve left that life behind me long ago. It’s only a distant memory, from my early days in the Resistance.”
“The Resistance has only been around for a year.”
“Well, it feels like it’s been longer than that.”
“But you’re the best Blame Runner we ever had.” He leaned toward me. “One last job. What do you say? For the Resistance.”
I nodded silently, and he led me away. We arrived at an abandoned room on the first floor of a vacant building, with a window looking out onto the street. There was a table and two chairs, and on the table lay the machine used for the test employed to determine whether someone was a Mulvaney or a real government official. I sat down.
In the other chair sat a man, disheveled, his tie loose and his shirt grimy. He was holding a box of donuts in his lap; evidently, he had been apprehended after obtaining his breakfast treats. The world used to run on Dunkin’. But now, our jelly donuts are empty. An abyss.
I set up the machine, attaching the electrodes to the man’s face and placing the eye monitor in line with his pupils.
“Now, I’m going to ask you a series of questions,” I began.
“Do you really think I’m a Mulvaney?” I could see his pupil dilating in the machine’s monitor.
“That’s for the test to determine.”
“But I was already confirmed. By the Senate,” he added. “For a different position, but still.”
“I will present you with a series of scenarios and questions. Please answer as simply as you can. And keep in mind that your reaction time may be measured.”
“I don’t see why I need to do this.” The man lifted his donut box. “I am the director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau! I was appointed! I brought donuts!”
I began reading the test script. “You’re walking down a street in the middle of the winter and the only building you see is a payday loan store—”
“I would investigate it for abusive practices,” he interrupted me. He had been well trained. Or he was the real deal. I glanced at the readings on the machine. It was so hard to tell these days.
I continued to the next question. “You are stranded in an airport because of inclement weather. It is very crowded and there is no food. A woman is arguing on her phone with her credit card company—”
The door burst open with a bang. A woman ran in. “Don’t listen to anything he says!” she gasped, panting to catch her breath. “He’s a Mulvaney!”
“No, she’s a Mulvaney!” said the potential Mulvaney.
“I’m the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” she announced. “Here’s my card.”
“Here’s my card too,” said the man. The cards looked identical. They were both a seven of clubs.
“I can’t tell the difference,” I finally said. “I’m going to have to test you both.”
“I have a favorable judicial ruling!” cried the man.
“It was only the first decision in a long and drawn-out process that will probably continue long after the term of the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ended!” roared the woman. I didn’t know what she meant. This argument was between one potential Mulvaney and another potential Mulvaney.
“Please, calm down and let me continue the test,” I said. “I promise we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
But then the man suddenly jumped up. I tried to grab him but he evaded my grasp. He crashed through the window and leapt onto the street. “Oh no you don’t!” yelled the woman, sprinting in pursuit.
I pressed a button on the desk, and an alarm sounded. It echoed through the empty streets as I watched the two figures chase each other into the darkness. The rain was turning to snow. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.