aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Interlude ק: Bush

I.

January 20, 2001
Washington, DC

The clock struck inauguration day; unfortunately, no one had yet figured out whom to inaugurate. Absent a winner to step down in favor of, President Clinton continued to to govern. More and more grievances and countergrievances with the electoral process made their way before a ploddingly slow Supreme Court. The nation waited.

By early March, the Court had thrown out Gore’s strongest case, a set of hanging chads in Salish, and the smart money shifted towards the Singers and Republicans with only an outside chance that the Democrats would make up a few thousand votes in Georgia.

But they didn’t call Bill Clinton “Slick Willie” for nothing. The 42nd President declared that he wasn’t feeling well – a touch of the flu, maybe – and resigned his office. Vice-President Al Gore took over as acting President and promptly launched several new court cases revolving around obscure details of the constitutional amendments admitting Ontario to the Union. The Democratic strategy became apparent: drag out the electoral process as long as possible, while Gore gradually become so established in the Presidency that there would be immense pressure on the Supreme Court just to continue the status quo. Protests filled the National Mall. But of course everything was perfectly legal, and even if it hadn’t been, the Supreme Court’s schedule was booked until next October.

The Untied States Army had been through a lot. They’d resisted Thamiel’s invasion in the 70s and mostly been massacred. They’d fought the War on Drugs in the 80s and still had nightmares about hundreds of thousands of drug-addled soldiers marching against them in perfect coordination. They’d invaded the Persian Gulf in the 90s to defend the Eridu-Xanadu Consortium from Saddam Hussein. Many of them had only just gotten back from marching with the Comet King against Yakutsk. More than anyone else, they understood upon how thin a ledge the country balanced.

Now that ledge was starting to shake precariously. Demons had been spotted in Siberia again. The Other King’s necromantic sorties around Las Vegas were seamlessly transitioning into a full-fledged zombie apocalpyse. The Comet King, the one civilian leader whom they really respected, was missing in action. And all the civilians could do was spend four months debating hanging chads while a giant leadership vacuum gaped at the very top of the command structure.

Dick Cheney, Bush’s vice-presidential candidate, was a former Secretary of Defense and Halliburton CEO. He knew the military-industrial complex like he knew the back of his skeletal claw-like hand. So he started talking to people. Wouldn’t it be nice, he asked, if a friend of the military held power during this difficult time? Instead of that pinko Gore? Instead of (God forbid) Ralph Nader, who wanted to give up the Names that provided our only strategic advantage against the inhuman forces surrounding our borders?

And so in mid-March 2001, with no fuss at all, a group from the Pentagon walked into the White House and declared George W. Bush the 43rd President of the United States on account of his clear victory in Georgia which the Supreme Court would no doubt confirm very shortly. A second group from the Pentagon walked into the Supreme Court, had a couple of friendly words with the justices, and lo and behold they very shortly confirmed Bush’s Georgia victory. A third group quite strongly insisted that Al Gore accompany them to a nice place in the country so he could consider the implications of the Supreme Court decision free from outside distractions. And a fourth took Ralph Nader to another place in the country – far away from Gore, just to make sure they wouldn’t distract each other.

It all went so smoothly that the American people were left with only a vague sense that something unusual had happened behind the scenes. But who cared? The long dispute was finally over, Al Gore’s underhanded tactics had failed him, the Supreme Court had made a ruling in record time, and the right man was in the Oval Office at last.

On March 20, only two months late, Bush put his hand on the Bible, swore the oath of office, and told the American people:

“We are not this story’s author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet, his purpose is achieved in our duty. And our duty is fulfilled in service to one another. Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today, to make our country more just and generous, to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life. This work continues, the story goes on, and an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.”

I’m glad that nowadays our country requires our president-elect to undergo a medical exam to prove he is human. But I wish there was also a rule that he had to consult with a kabbalist before deciding to end his inauguration speech with a reference to the Book of Job.

II.

January 29, 2002
Washington, DC

President George W. Bush stood before the assembled Untied States government. Executive, legislative and judicial officials alike stared back at him.

“As we gather tonight, our nation is at war; our economy is in recession; and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our Union has never been stronger,” he lied.

As lies went, it was a venial one; presidents have been giving the State of the Union address for centuries, and no matter what disasters may be unfolding outside the Capitol, within its walls the state of the union is always “strong”. Still, this year it sounded particularly jarring.

“We have,” admitted the President, “experienced many setbacks. The divisions of the last election still hang over us. Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia have seen rioting by so-called Singers. Thanks to the work of our law enforcement officials, we have sent these factions a clear message: that though everyone has a right to express their opinion, nobody has a right to use violence and disruption in the service of a political message.”

Unbeknownst to him, a group of protestors had unfurled a “FREE REVEREND STEVENS” banner just outside the Capitol Building. If television still worked, no doubt the news shows would have cut to an image of the demonstration; as it was the radio broadcasts passed them by. Stevens himself would die in jail a few months later due to what the coroner would rule “natural causes”.

“This year also saw our nation mourn the death,” Bush continued, “of a man who was a hero to me and to an entire generation of Americans. None of us will ever forget Jalaketu West, the Comet King of Colorado, who died in battle in the Never Summer Mountains last July 29. He was a ray of hope during a difficult time, and one of the rare figures who could gather bipartisan support at a time when our nation has been far too polarized. We continue to support Coloradan militias in their battles with the so-called Other King and wish for a swift and peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Great Basin.”

There were few Coloradan protesters outside, because even then the transit over the Great Plains was difficult, but the President was well-aware that some of his western constituents were far from happy with the amount of support the federal government was giving Colorado. There were even accusations that Washington was trying to stand aside in the hopes that it would prove to be an intra-state conflict and that the Other King wouldn’t bother the Union if the Union didn’t bother him.

“Finally,” said Bush, “we need to remain strong against the threat of terrorism. My good friend Senator Henderson was slain earlier this year in a letter-bombing condemned by all peaceful and civilized people. The terrorists hate what we represent. They hate our freedom. They will stop at nothing to destroy our way of life. But we are fighting back. We’ve identified the cell responsible for the Senator’s death, a group called BOOJUM led by rogue placebomancer Dylan Alvarez. They’re the same group believed to have conspired with Lord High Magician Mark McCarthy in the murder of the Board of Ritual Magic. But with the help of all the brave people in different government departments and all around the country working on this case, we’ve got Alvarez on the run and are tightening the noose around his neck. Some of these people are here with us tonight. People like Robert Mueller, director of the FBI. Like Michael Gellers, a police officer who successfully defused a BOOJUM bomb in Philadelphia. Like Sonja Horah…”

President Bush spontaneously caught fire. “HELLLPPP!” he screamed as the entire executive, legislative, and judicial branches watched on in horror. “HELLLPPP…HELL…”. By the time Secret Service agents reached him at the podium, he was already a charred corpse.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say – in the midst of his laughter and glee – he had softly and suddenly vanished away – because Dylan Alvarez had hacked his teleprompter to display the Mortal Name.

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