A Peaceful Transition of Power
“Ungrateful cocksuckers!” Mr. President screams at the top of his lungs. It was the day after election night, and the final results were in; Mr. President had lost his reelection.
We open the door to the oval office just as the words escape his lips. “Worthless, every last one of them,” he continues, failing to notice our entry as he lays his hands on the windowsill and squints outside at the sun.
“Sir.” My commanding officer, General Guy, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, interrupts his tantrum. “You requested me.” Mr. President turns hatefully from his window to face the three of us: General Guy, Colonel Person, and myself—a “lowly” major relative to the ranks around me. His appearance is that of any president: a saggy, old white man who reeks with the stench of terrified children (and other transgressions that would be unlawful were he not above the law).
“I was hoping I would be able to just send you back home without it coming to this, but the people have cast their votes. Today marks the end of America’s ignorance—and the beginning of the largest, best military campaign in the history of all military campaigns.”
“I don’t understand, sir,” Guy replies blankly. The president pushes his disheveled toupee out of his eyes, drawing a deep breath and regaining his composure.
“We’re going to nuke them.”
“Them! All of them! The whole fucking world. North Korea. Russia. China. I want all of our nukes assembled and launched as fast as you can make it happen.” He loses his composure as quickly as he found it. I notice his secret servicemen shoot each other sideways glances, apparently as surprised as we are.
“You know what that would mean for the world, don’t you Mr. President? For America?”
“To hell with the world and to hell with America! Fucking idiots wouldn’t know a great leader if one grabbed em' by the asshole. I’ll show them. I’ll show them the hugest, most powerful man the world has ever seen.”
“You would let American citizens burn?”
“I would watch them choke on the ash.”
Most people imagine the president walking around with a small black briefcase from which he can press a button and reign nuclear terror upon his enemies at any given moment. But this isn’t the case, and such a briefcase doesn’t exist. In reality, the president orders a general to order a colonel to order a major to order a sergeant to order his airmen to ready and launch a nuke at whatever the target may be—assuming the president is crazy enough to consider nuclear warfare in the first place, which, in defense of his ego, this one apparently was.
“You don’t mean that, sir. I’m going to give you a minute to calm down before we do anything crazy.”
“That’s an order, General Guy!”
“Fuck your order, Mr. President.” At this the president charges the Chief of Staff of the United States Airforce, grabbing him by his uniform’s collar.
“How dare you defy an order from your Commander in Chief?” General Guy bats his arms away.
“You aren’t my Commander in Chief. The people have cast their votes, remember?” Guy says, monotone and calm as ever. The president growls through his teeth, his face mere inches from Guy’s. Then he looks past my general at me, apparently forgetting that next in charge would be Colonel Person.
“Arrest this man at once,” Mr. President says to me dryly, completing another tantrum-composure cycle.
“Go to hell,” returns Guy, who unholsters his sidearm and blows Mr. President’s brains across the room and onto the same window he peered so hatefully from only minutes before. Then, thirty seconds of chaos.
Secret Serviceman Number One unleashes and unloads his handgun into Guy as quickly as Guy had the president, but Colonel Person puts three holes in Secret Serviceman Number One’s torso before the man in black even notices Person’s pistol drawn. Secret Serviceman Number Two, in turn, fires a bullet straight through the throat of Colonel Person, whose blood erupts from his severed jugular, spraying droplets into my mouth just as I open it to yell “Drop your fucking weapon!” at Secret Serviceman Number Two, upon whom my sights are now fixed. He tries to swing his weapon from Colonel Person to myself, but I blow his hand off before he can steady his aim.
“Goddammit! Fuck! You motherfucker!” He writhes in pain, clasping at his bloody nub with his uninjured non-nub.
“I told you to drop your weapon,” I say, my hands shaking a bit now that the situation is resolved and I’m not reliant upon the adrenaline scorching through my veins for protection. I walk towards the man and he backs away from me until his scapulae scrape the wall behind him. Then he sinks to his tailbone and begs for his life. Ignoring his tears for the moment, I kick his fallen weapon across the room as I pass it. Holstering my own weapon as I come within a few feet of him, I position my own back against the wall and take a seat shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow survivor. “Man, what a fucking mess we’re in huh?”
“You fucking shot me.” He groans.
“Only because you shot Colonel Person.” A moment of silence.
“What are you going to do now? Will you follow Mr. President’s orders?”
“Well, normally I’d follow Person’s orders, who I’m sure would have followed Guy’s. But Guy should technically have followed the president’s. It’s a real clusterfuck, you see.”
“I guess the only question now is who you voted for.” He cracks a pained smile. I laugh a little.
“Nice try, but I voted third party. I would ask what you think I should do, but the answer seems obvious.”
“I didn’t vote at all, actually. Don't believe in it.” he replies. The pair laughs hysterically for a minute that feels like an hour, before Secret Serviceman Number Two winces and clutches his disfigured wrist.
“Sorry about that, mate.”
“Don’t be, I was aiming for your head. Thanks for sparing my life.”
“Don’t mention it,” I tell him. Another moment of silence, this one much longer. I don’t know what to do; when I joined the military all I wanted was to go to school for free, maybe see the world a bit. Never once did I imagine myself sitting where I am now, in a red-stained White House with a dead president and the fate of the world in my hands; never once did I imagine myself doing anything but getting that GI Bill, getting out, and getting a degree in Music Education—teaching kids like me how to get so good at saxophone that they would never have to join the fucking military just to go to school.
“You know,” says Secret Serviceman Number Two, breaking me from my trance of self-pity, “When Mr. President’s supporters hear that he was shot they’ll blame the other party. Conspiracies will spread like wildfires through both sides, and before long we’ll have civil war. It’s been a long time coming, but this—this will be the last straw.”
“Damned if we nuke, damned if we don’t.” I chuckle. “The best part is that the last two shitheads standing between the U.S. and destruction don’t even believe in the system they’ve sworn to serve enough to participate in its politics. That’s gotta be sadder than any conspiracy the web will feed people.” As the words leave my lips I make my decision and pick up my cellphone. “Sergeant Smith, Operation Tuileries is a go. That’s a direct order from General Guy. I know, but there’s no other option. Believe me.” I hang up.
“So? What did you decide?” asks Secret Serviceman Number Two as I hang up the phone.
“You’ll see soon enough. If you have a wife, kids—anyone you love, really—you should call them now.”
“Like right now.” He pulls out his own phone and struggles to dial his wife’s number with his non-dominant hand. She answers and he says that he loves her, and not to ask any questions—just to put their oldest child on. He tells the child the same thing, followed by their middle child and finally their youngest. I try to call my mom, but she doesn’t answer.
In a few minutes we will see a flash. Then we will hear a pop. Our ashes and dust will mix with those of the Capitol and the Supreme Court and the White House and everyone inside. Finally—well, I don’t know what comes finally. Perhaps a new Mr. President and a new White House. Perhaps a declaration of war on China or Russia or whomever, a global unification of ashes and dust. Or, perhaps, just maybe, a new system of institutions fundamentally different from the ones whose ashes compose their foundation—a system built on the backs of something besides slaves, sustained by something besides a 51-percent-mob rule that shifts sides every eight years but depends on war funds from bombing foreign children no matter who’s in charge—will emerge. Perhaps something peaceful, I think to myself as divine light blinds my eyes. Perhaps, but I doubt it.