Chapter Seven – Policy of Truth
“This is not a Dawson’s Creek reunion,” Jay told them as they walked.
The former tracks looped into a particularly severe crevice that climbed towards the sky like a tear in the mountain. Small sounds echoed and amplified within like a pyroclastic blast. They exited into more grayness and the acrid stench of vinegar, formaldehyde, and sulfur.
The wind didn’t purge the smell, only intensified it.
The ash began to fall shortly after.
The grey haze of morning uncovered an unsurprising and impotent landscape. As the day progressed, the scenery changed little.
People were scant. They saw maybe six specters who ghosted like wolves into the background amongst the threadbare abandoned buildings and rotting homes. They were the derelicts left behind that hid in the shadows of a broken civilization—scavengers sifting thru remnants invisible, likely hiding from those that would do them damage once discovering the subtle differences. Their faces muddied and blurred. The faded raggedy t-shirts the only thing about them that attracted eyes—eighties, white, pop culture patriarchal saviors and distorted reflections of their generational tethers they couldn’t quite escape doubtlessly slaughtered in the fray. So many of those casualties avoided liberating themselves from their ancestral fetters. Yet, these contradictory fragments remained, acclimated in whatever this was.
Were there others? Soldiers? Resistance? Clones? All in the same? Dualities of living deceptions combined from those young and old that fought and fight still for the freedom to just be? Were they us? And the busy brainchild of the producer of this shitshow? Jay reveled in Niko’s theme of manipulation and counted that upon her brilliance, so, it wouldn’t surprise her if they indeed turned out to be soldier-clones in Niko’s vast helter-skelter production.
Trevor held out his hand as bits of dandruff floated from the sky: “Is this ash?”
“Yes,” Jay replied and stopped. Sitting down on the closest large rock, she pulled out a black decagonal water generator and took a big drink staring at them as they stood around her like sullen statues.
Their unawareness remained. As was their urge to defy. The impulse abated slowly, like the creeping crawl of evolution.
Then it would be a whole lot slower, Jay told herself.
Reese asked from where.
“From the prisons. Where do you think,” she responded rhetorically.
They glanced uncertainly at one another.
“I don’t understand,” Ben claimed, looking for something bigger than what sat in front of him—inconvenient truths long ignored.
A rerun, Jay repeated her lines: “They incarcerated those left after…and put them in prisons. Those that don’t re-educate…or assimilate—adapt if you wanna get pseudo-scientific—that don’t meet certain…standards, they torch.” She flattened her hand to catch a few flakes. “This—this is what’s left of them.”
“This is—this is…people,” asked Ben, a disgusted curl twisted his lip and uglied his face. A brief moment of clarity and possibly memories flashed across his face then disappeared in a green flush.
“What’d you think they were building all those detention centers for? Just undocumented immigrants?” Jay laughed sarcastically tired of this same ole song and dance.
Cody started to say something then stopped. He glanced at Reese who had the same question.
“Yes,” Jay answered standing, moving past them, bumping hard into Cody’s shoulder as she passed: “Fucking asshole racists,” she mumbled.
Jay experienced their questions like they were her own, far away, across time, like a distant voice in her head. She heard and felt everything they thought and experienced. It was fucking painful. Every pungent thought filtered through her like a disease. Like the fifty-some times prior—was it only fifty?—their attitudes had not changed.
She didn’t know why Niko kept on with this goddamn experiment. What Jay felt and experienced, they needed to feel—each and every iteration. It wasn’t exactly rocket science.
She stopped and took a breath. Coughing away some flakes, the grossness gripped her. She pushed it away.
This wasn’t about Jay. This was about those people lost. Those people through time that died painfully—their stories denied. This was about a quest to serve a greater truth—one not sanitized; one incorporated towards the many with an insight towards a self-awareness they’ve yet to find; one where innocents still await them along with said truths; this truth, like this land, meant for many, but only a few truly perceive.
From apathy to empathy—an evolution few actualize.
That was the quest they were all on. Over and over and over again.
There’s a bigger picture here. One Jay knew then, that she knew now, that she’s always known.
Had she always known? Probably not. She needed to listen to her—Niko—as crazy and fucked up as she was. Niko knew what she was doing.
Jay’s purpose in life was to meander—never to lead.
Regardless, Niko was her captain, oh captain, and her work endured. She had to trust Niko, and Jay rarely trusted.
She stopped and looked behind her. They stood loitering.
“You know what,” Jay told them. “We’re gonna try something different. I’m tired of this continuous warped mind bullshit.”
Their faces coiled into a confusion.
“What,” Nat asked.
Jay reached for her armband. “We’re going on a little trip. Come here,” she ordered them.
They looked at each other then moved hesitantly towards her.
Jay recalled the first trip so many trips ago. Climbing out of that nasty creek water, they were immediately on her. An openly hostile confrontation. A blinding mindfuck—the distrust so acute, it felt like a million needles puncturing her brain and body. She dragged herself to the crate, pulled out a gun, and shot them in the head to stop the pain it was so horrific. Her shots were awkward and she missed a few times—not accustomed to the weight of the gun—before she eventually hit all of them, emptying all fifteen rounds into Niko’s experimental aberrations.
She knew she was just as aberrant as they were. She didn’t feel any different, but who said she was normal? She never felt normal—especially around them.
Niko and her crew—indifferent to many of those acts—took detailed notes.
Afterward: “Do you have anything to add,” she asked.
Pissed off, Jay screamed “no!” at them.
“You will go again,” and Jay did. She lost count how many times after fifty. The same results—the variations as elusive as progress—if any.
It would be pointless to explain any of these.
That insanity quote came to mind, repeatedly. There was also a metaphor here. Niko knew it. Jay was just too tired to see it, till now. Maybe she didn’t wanna. It was the same ole, same ole. History repeating.
What was that Max Weber quote about politics being the strong and slow boring of hard boards? Count science in that same medley of pain. Hell, count relationships with family in that same realm.
Jay tapped on her wristband. The gate opened. The event horizon rippled slightly with the wind.
A hitch in breath behind me: “What is that,” Cody asked.
Jay turned to them full and with the accompanying hand gestures, explained: “This is a gate—or portal, if you will. It connects to a spaceship in geosynchronous orbit with three crew—two synthetics named Bian and Tinta and a commander and scientist, Niko, who is a bit of a stoner, but brilliant. The spaceship, called Truth—after the very remarkable and heroic Sojourner Truth—and its crew are from the Saturn colonies…and the future—obviously. They created these mutated clones”—she gestured towards their bodies—”and merged our twentieth and twenty-first century consciousness and memories as an experiment in…I guess you could say sociology—dimensional sociology to be exact. I think that’s what Niko called it in one of her stoned states. I dunno if she was serious because she was so wasted. It’s a spiritual philosophical kind-of-wasted, you know—like on mushrooms.”
Jay’s voice dropped as she looked off and pondered the what ifs of stoned Saturnians. She looked to them for connection and agreement for something shared, but then recalled with whom she was talking—puritanical rubes sheltered and oblivious and dismissive. She tried not to judge, but she wasn’t perfect, so, there it was. They would never do psychedelics.
“Anyways,” she continued, “this is the fiftieth-something-plus iteration—I think—of said experiment and every freakin’ time y’all manage to fuck it up cause you’re racist as fuck.”
The holes in their heads got larger over the course of Jay’s speech till the end when they snapped shut like a Venus flytrap in obvious anger. She mulled briefly over how being called a racist was more offensive than the actual racism—same ole, same ole mundane mediocre white racists where nuance lost and bluntness praised.
All of them riled, except Trevor. He laughed—a kind of yeah, so what laugh. “You’re not serious,” he laughed again.
Each a variation of racist—the so-called spectrum of racism from the ‘I don’t see colors’ racism to the outright, in your face kind. Trevor was that blunt tool—literally and figuratively.
Oh, how that trope proved cliché and tiring.
Jay shook her head, rolling her eyes. Imagine being told that aliens resurrected you, gave you new and somewhat improved mutated bodies, and that you kept fucking it up by being a racist douche and the only thing you pulled from the conversation was the outrage that someone called you racist. Well, except Trevor, who apparently embraced his bigotry.
Jay sent Bian and Tinta a message: “I’m coming through and bringing them.”
Before anyone could object: “Follow me if you wanna know the truth,” she walked through.
© 2020 Pamela Gay Mullins