It was April. Lazarus rose and unfolded into a standing position.
His head nearly hit the ceiling. He yawned and bent over, wincing
with pain. He rubbed his slouched back with a bony hand. He looked
up and watched as drops of rainwater fell through a crack in the
ceiling and proceeded to roll down his face. His body was wet
with muddy water. He took a step to his left and made another
notch in the wall. It had been exactly 41 years, 8 months and
* * *
The sunlight was a fiery red in Washington, D.C. It shone brightly,
blanketing the city with a warm glow. Locals flooded the narrow
streets and did their best to dodge vendors.
Posters of a man dressed in a black suit littered the sides
of buildings and store windows. His eyes were wide and menacing.
Below the picture, thick black lettering read: "THANK YOUR
PRESIDENT FOR FREEDOM. THANK YOUR PRESIDENT FOR JUSTICE. THANK
YOUR PRESIDENT FOR A STRONG AMERICA."
Loudspeakers blasted throughout the streets. "Good morning,
Americans! This is your president. Please join me in the pledge
of allegiance." The city stopped moving. The people were
quiet and attentive. They spoke in unison.
"We pledge allegiance to the flag of the American Utopia
and to the honor and strength for which it stands, one nation
with liberty and justice for all."
The loudspeakers sounded again. "I would like to remind
the public that this year's annual Presidential Play will take
place on April 7th at noon sharp. I trust everyone will be attending.
Strength over weakness, dominance over control. Thank you, Americans.
Live well." The bustling in the street continued.
* * *
"277 C. 278 C. 279 C." A man in a blue
suit and a top hat trudged through the dark corridor with a disgusted
look on his face. He had a handkerchief pressed to his nostrils.
Beside him was a guard. The guard wore red clothing and a tall
cap that said "OFFICER."
"280 C, yes, he's quite fit for such a performance.
He won't try anything funny," said the guard.
The man in the suit spoke. "Isn't there anyone
older? Someone with a little darker skin?"
"Yes sir, of course, sir. How about this man?"
"Who is this?"
They looked through the glass at Lazarus as he stood
calmly in the corner of the dark and tiny room. He was looking
at his hands through oily hair that covered just below his shoulders.
A wool-like beard covered his face. He slouched over.
"What is he charged with?" said the gentleman
in the suit.
"Prisoner of War. He fought for the Southern
Resistance in 2074, sir."
"Oh, one of them? Perfect. Let me speak with
The guard entered the tiny room and approached Lazarus
with large, swift strides. "286 C. Your presence is requested
outside. Put on these restraints." Lazarus took the thin
metal handcuffs with shaky hands and placed them around his worn
wrists. The restraints cut deep into his skin. "Now step
outside." Lazarus stumbled out the door. He took tiny steps.
He had not walked this far in a very long time. His old frame
creaked with every step. "Move it!" The guard cracked
his back with a large red stick. The pain was nearly unbearable.
Lazarus' eyes filled with water. He quickened his steps and panted.
Outside the thick metal door the gentleman in the
suit stared at Lazarus with disgust. "He's perfect."
The gentleman and the guard chuckled. The man in the suit spoke
again. "You look like one of those dirty Meksiquans. You
truly live up to the reputation of your kind. Putrid stench, weak,
emaciated body, long disgusting hair. You'll do quite well. The
president will be pleased." The gentleman passed Lazarus
a rather thick packet of paper. The front page read:
Annual Presidential Play
The Conquest of the Southern Horde
"You will play the part of General Markeiz, the Southern
revolutionary war leader from Meksiqua. It should be easy for
you. You did fight for him, after all. Memorize your lines. The
play will be held this Saturday outside the Presidential Palace
at the capital. And remember, do nothing to offend the president.
It will only make death come quicker. You're lucky to be given
this opportunity. Most of your kind rot in these cells until they
die. We're bringing you back to the real world. Hear that, scum?
After 40 years you can finally live again. But not for very long,
of course." The guard and the man howled with laughter. "Ha!
Thank you guard, take him away now."
Lazarus was thrown violently back into his room, thudding against
the wall. The two men walked back down the corridor, their voices
fading in the distance. "Is there anything else you need,
sir?" said the guard trying to be hospitable.
"Yes I need a second in command. One more for the part of
"I can't thank you enough for ridding me of these filthy
creatures. This is going to be one bloody play."
"That's what we hope for."
* * *
"Good morning, Americans! This is your president. Please
join me in the pledge of allegiance." The people spoke in
unison. "We pledge allegiance to the flag of the American
Utopia and to the honor and strength for which it stands, one
nation with liberty and justice for all." There was a pause.
"I would like to remind the public that this year's annual
Presidential Play will take place at noon today on the grounds
of the Presidential Palace. I'm sure you will all be there. Strength
over weakness, dominance over control. Thank you, Americans. Live
* * *
"286 C. Up! Get up, you dirty bastard. It's time to go.
You have a grand performance today! You better not make a fool
out of the president... You are not an American, and don't ever
forget that. Now let's go." The guard dragged Lazarus outside
of his cell and through the dark, narrow corridor. Lazarus had
memorized everything. Every cue, every line, every pause, every
subtle intricacy of the performance he was to give.
He walked slowly, watching the dim lightbulbs flicker above his
head. Then they reached the doors to the outside. They stood there
for a moment. Lazarus was staring at the doors with awe. "You
stay with me. You do not leave the carriage. You do not say a
word," the guard spat. Lazarus continued to stare. Then a
clicking sound and the doors were open. The guard pulled Lazarus
outside towards a metallic square-shaped carriage attached to
two very weak looking horses. Precious sunlight poured over the
old man's wiry frame. He basked in the sunlight and let the cool
breeze blow through his hair. It had been 41 years since he became
a prisoner, 41 years since his life was taken away. He had not
seen the sun for decades. He had forgotten what it felt like on
his skin. The sounds of birds chirping, the feeling of the hot
dirt road on his bare feet, the smell of the fresh air: all were
sensations that even his dreams had been unable to recall for
so many years. Nothing had ever seemed so beautiful.
Lazarus climbed into the carriage and stared out the window.
A single tear rolled down the old man's face. The carriage began
to move. The guard insulted Lazarus with every bump in the dirt-paved
road. But Lazarus could not hear him.
* * *
"Ladies and Gentleman! It is a pleasure to see all of you
here this afternoon to join us for this monumental occasion. Welcome
to the Annual Presidential Play! This year's performance is entitled
The Conquest of the Southern Horde. I trust you will all
enjoy it," said the president proudly. His voice echoed throughout
the decorative garden scenery outside the Presidential Palace.
The crowd cheered in exultant praise. They clapped and whistled.
Somewhere a young boy shouted. Lazarus stood behind the violet
curtain listening to the noise and looking at the scene through
a tiny slit in the curtain. President Pilot was wearing imperial
armor. His breastplate and helmet glistened in the sunlight. In
his hands was an automatic rifle. He signaled a man offstage.
The curtain opened.
There stood Lazarus. Behind him stood several men, all of whom
were wearing tribal dress. They each carried a prop: individual
sets of heavy metal weaponry. One bore a mallet, while another
had an axe. Lazarus' long, spider-like fingers clenched a sword.
It was a rusted broadsword that was almost too heavy to carry.
The crowd gasped. The play began.
"You filth!" cried President Pilot. "This land
shall be claimed for the American Utopia! By the end of this day,
your blood shall be spilt and I will bring justice! You will pay
for all of the wrongs you have caused!" His voice echoed
throughout the palace courtyard. Lazarus stared and did not move.
The audience was horrorstruck. There was silence. President Pilot
squinted his eyes towards the old man. Then the raised his voice.
"Did you hear me, you wretched barbarian? I said your people
will pay!" Lazarus stepped forward slowly, on wobbling legs,
dragging the broadsword across the ground. The president took
a step back and looked around nervously. The crowd shreiked at
the old man's audacity. Then Lazarus spoke.
"Me llamo Lazarus. Soy de Mexico," he said.
The audience gasped with disgust.
"What did you just say? You dare speak in a forbidden tongue?!
These words are punishable by death!" the president screamed.
Lazarus spoke again. "Me llamo Lazarus."
A wave of chatter spread throughout the audience. Men and women
were on the edges of their seats. Pilot pointed the rifle at Lazarus'
chest. "I demand you speak in a tongue we all understand!"
he shouted. He was furious. The audience held their breath while
their great president panicked. His hands shook. His breathing
was heavy. All was silent for a long while.
Lazarus spoke again. "My name is Lazarus. I am from Mexico.
I defended my nation from American invasion."
The president shouted. "Enough! Your name is General Markeiz!
You will obey my order! I am the ruler of America!"
Lazarus quickened his step towards President Pilot. "My
name is Lazarus! And I am not American. I fought for a free country.
And I will die a free man."
"Yes," said the brave president, "you shall die."
And without a second's hesitation, President Pilot raised the
rifle and three shots rang out into the air.
Lazarus collapsed to the floor. He stood on his knees. The broadsword
clattered to the ground. A pool of blood poured from his chest
and snaked across the stage. His dark skin shone in the sunlight.
Pilot stood tall with his smoking rifle in hand. He stepped closer
towards his wounded pray.
Lazarus spoke once more in a strained whisper. "Me llamo
Pilot cocked his gun.
"Yo soy Mexia"
A loud crack pierced the air. The final shot. Lazarus collapsed
backward, the hole between his eyes spitting red mucus as he fell.
Dust flew into the air as the lifeless body thudded against the
stage. There the old man lay, very broken, and very dead.
The president stood still for a long while. Finally he cleared
his throat and spoke. "Look what I have done! I have killed
their leader! I will take the rest as prisoners of war. The horde
is done with. I have restored order! This is a victory for the
American Utopia!" There was a pause. And then slowly, as
if on queue, the audience broke into applause. Then the applause
grew louder and louder still until the chorus was deafening. President
Pilot smiled and bowed. "Thank you." he shouted so all
could hear. "This is why we are the most powerful nation
in the world! This is why we are proud to be Americans!"