by Nicholas D. Stekas
forum: Utopia
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

......... ....... ..... ..




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 5 days.

* * *

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?"

"286 C."

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 him."

"Yes sir."

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
Year 2114
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."

"Yes sir."

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 General Garseeas."

"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 well."

* * *

"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 Lazarus."

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!"





copyright 2007 Nicholas D. Stekas.

Nicholas D. Stekas:

My name is Nick Stekas and I live in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. I have loved to read my entire life. My favorite authors range from Hemingway to Bradbury. I just love books! I am 17 years old and attend Governor Livingston Highschool. I will be a senior this fall. This year I applied for a Creative Writing course at Columbia University in Manhattan. I was thrilled when I found out I was accepted. For the entire month of July I lived on campus, exploring the city and writing non-stop. I cannot begin to describe how much my teachers helped my writing. This is a work that I included in my portfolio at the end of the class. Since I came home to New Jersey, I've been revising and re-reading and revising and re-reading. My hobbies other than writing include music, soccer, guitar, movies, etc.

link to silverthought.com