There is a beach of dead leviathans; leviathans of culture, of industry, of social class, of intellect, of control, of force, of oppression, and of protest. They lay in the sun with the bones not covered by their fatigues and uniforms picked clean by the crows, seagulls, and ravens that fly overhead.
The official name on the maps was Moonglow Beach, but among those that lived in the city, it was known as Coup d’état Beach, for the common occurrence of revolution in the country in the last few years kept the beach well stocked with fresh fodder for the scavenger birds.
How did this latest revolution begin? How did the world end recently? The options were plentiful, and a page of options could be presented with a heading that advised the reader to circle three or four, and assume that those were the real tipping points that pushed reason, control, and decency into madness and violence:
Food shortages/protests in the streets/the strangulation of the press/the upper class abusing the lower class/the death of civilians due to military aggression/the secret police disappearing too many people/the mysterious deaths of students on campus that were feared to be government sponsored/the threat of invasion/the threat of financial ruin/the fear of immigration/the threat of informers in the government seeding corruption/the disdain of the working class for both those above and below them/crippling student loan debt/corruption and decadence in the countries political parties/the culling in the suburbs/skinheads overtaking the supermarkets/suppression of the internet/industry overtaking all of the green spaces/a depletion of natural resources/globalism/the ignorance of those in power to see climate change as a threat/the lax firearms laws/an armed public/an unarmed public/an unaware public/an aware public/gentrification of the cities/police clearing out the ghettos/militarization of the media/coffee shortages/complete rerouting of education funding to fund armament companies/All Lives Matter protesters murdering Black Lives Matter protesters/mandatory minimum sentencing for minor drug offences/prison riots and prison escapes/complete lack of rights for political prisoners/the surveillance of the populace through illegal digital means/the elimination of due process/Anarchy groups forming in all of the major cities/a crackdown on social justice/illness crippling those unable to afford healthcare/a lack of good literature/a lack of religion/too much religion/mass-media being seen as a charade/all news being seen as a charade/the rise of the blogosphere/the suppression of emotion/rounding up intelligentsia for camps/armed militia in control of the national parks/closing of the main highways/nothing but bad pro-nation pop music on the radio/fuel shortages/rationing of bandwidth/the closing of the libraries/no fire departments to put out the fires/because it was time/because someone needed to stand up/because someone made martyrs/because someone slayed someone close to someone else/because history repeats itself/because the change of countries is cyclic/because we ignored the signs/because of the bomb/because of who won the election/the election was rigged/outside influence of other nations/too much junk food/too much corporate lobbying/everyone distracted/a lack of reproductive rights/the jackboots of the privileged on the throats of the lesser/the rise of the alt-right/the lackadaisical apathy of the left/suppression of free thought/drones hovering in the skies of all major metropolitan airports/restriction of travel/checkpoints/ration cards/forced movement/stamped on treaty rights/stamped on constitutional rights/nothing good on TV/terrible air quality/increased rent/tent cities napalmed in the fly-over states/genetic tested unreported/barbed wire on top of all of the walls/hostile architecture/unemployment/depression/anxiety/the voices told us to do it/terrorist attacks/foreign terrorism/domestic terrorism/too many buzzwords/not enough ammunition to go around/life/death/fate.
Circle three or four, and then continue on.
The echoing metronome click of thousands of combat boots on the roads replaced the crows of the rooster in the countryside, and the sounds of horns and church bells in the cities. Many watched from the windows. The young boy watched them from the second floor apartment he shared with his mother. Many a time she had pulled him away from the opened window, which had no screen, out of a fear that he would fall out into the street, but today, as the soldiers marched past, she did nothing to stop him from pressing himself far outside the frame. She came up behind him and watched as well, and ran her hands through his blonde hair, and kissed his head, and softly told him that everything would be all right when a sergeant or a corporal startled him by screaming out marching directions in the street below.
On the university campus, students cut classes to watch the march. People quoted old books from history, some remarked about recent news articles they had read, others called up their previous thoughts about how something like this could always happen. Nobody said anything directly to those marching, but there were curses and jaded remarks said quietly. Nobody cheered. There were no waving flags. After a few minutes, most walked back into their respective department buildings, only to find that their teachers were still outside, clutching their syllabus books and watching with fearful eyes. Some had seen this in other countries. For others, the fear that gripped the base of their spines was new. An anthropology professor wiped away a single tear. None of the soldiers that marched looked at any of those who had gathered to watch them. A woman with a notebook remarked to her friend that she had never seen so many rifles in one place, that she’d never even seen guns that weren’t holstered on a police officers hip before. Inside the offices of the student newspaper, the editors and writers were working on articles about the march through campus, while the EOC ordered the photographers outside to take pictures.
“What if they don’t want us taking pictures?” asked one of them, curious as to whether or not someone would break rank to smash his camera.
“A display like this is intended for the history books, or propaganda, of course they want pictures taken.”
Off the tall walls of the history building, the metronome echo of the march seemed to gain even more volume, to seem to become almost deafening.
In the office of the mayor downtown, three secretaries worked to shred documents. Everything was to be destroyed. Some claimed that this would damn the office to appear guilty, as the shredding proved that they had something to hide, others higher in the command structure of the municipality knew the real plan; cars that were to use back roads to take the mayor and his wife into exile. Those who knew of the plan for exile were struck occasionally with the idea that if they were left behind, then they would be the ones held responsible for the destruction of information. Some made their own plans to leave, to escape, as they didn’t want to be at all present, when military officers came to take control.
The buses all still ran on time, with their routes changed to avoid the march.
In the city library, librarians worked to pack up anything that would be considered subversive literature into non-descript crates that had formerly held food supplies. They had all agreed that something needed to be done to save the books before their were all dragged into the streets to be burned, or taken to warehouses to be put under lock and key. The thought of all of this knowledge, all of this printed prose describing every facet of human life, going under the torch was too much to bear. Each staff member had decided which sections and subheadings they would each take, which author each one felt personally responsible for saving, which classic work each of them felt was worth risking their own lives for.
One took the Russians, and philosophy:
One took The Beats:
One took the Lost Generation:
Someone remarked during the process, that they now had all been forced to answer the question, “if you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring a few books with you as your ship went down, which authors and books would you bring.”
In the back of the Library, where at times many people had come to study and write, the usual sounds of the flipping of pages, the hum of outside traffic, and the air conditioners could no longer be heard. Now, there was only the sound of marching reverberating through the windows of an empty library.
We always wondered how we would do under tyranny. Would we be an example of a populace trodden upon? Forced to live in fear and toe the line that had been forced upon us by those above, with all of our dissent reserved to secret bedroom conversations between spouses and our closest friends? Would we be remembered in the history books of other nations as a country that never resisted its oppressors, and let them walk all over us for half a century or more before any paltry resistance could be mounted? Or would we be a nation that rose up against an iron fisted dictatorship with a full heart, and an intolerance for ignorance? A nation’s people that resisted violence and the police state with motivated violence of its own, smashing the power above, and dragging its caustic leaders and their mistresses out into the street to string them up from ESSO signs and pelt them with bricks? We had always wondered, and now we were forced to find out.
“Chuck all of the servers in the microwave. There’s one downstairs in the staff lunchroom.”
“Why? I don’t believe we have any secrets to hide on any of them.”
“Probably not any. But all of the personnel files, and all of the information on everyone who worked here is on those servers, and I don’t want to give whoever’s taking over any help in finding anyone, regardless of what they’ve done.”
A cocktail party; interesting wines, plates of small food, and well dressed people with lengthy titles, letters after their names, and impressive degrees and trades that they don’t build factories were mingling about. It was a little early in the day for booze, but to the hostess, it seemed the kind of day, and the kind of moment in the life of the country, that needed early release. The sound of soldier’s boots was distant and faint this high up in the apartment building, the lack of street noise an advantage of living in the penthouse, yet everyone in attendance still seemed to notice it, still seemed to cock their heads toward the sound that came in from the open window, and some even seemed to tremble the tumblers in their hands now and then, before taking a healthy swig of expensive scotch or gin, to try and stop that lurking fear that seemed to grip most everyone not in uniform on that day.
The hostess remarked that everyone she knew was trying to make the most of it, that in the coming days everyone would see if there was anything to actually worry about. Most of the experts that she had talked to had said that it wasn’t going to be all bad, and that most people wouldn’t even notice a day to day change in their lives.
A doctor who stood nearby drinking his fourth heavy glass of scotch, remarked that those who couldn’t notice what was happening, or couldn’t see the coming changes as anything but catastrophic, needed to at once be sent to his office because they were, “pardon my language, going fucking blind.”
The hostess just laughed, and took another sip of her wine, although anyone who could look closely at her eyes would have seen a vacancy of gaze in them when the drink touched her lips. Herself, she had always been someone who had tried to put a positive spin on a situation, to not let fear rule her life, to not think about it, to not let it into her well decorated home and taint the perfectness that she and her husband had built for themselves.
Yet fear, is what she felt now, fear is what she had been feeling ever since she heard the heel of a combat boot strike pavement from twenty stories up, and fear is what she now spent every waking moment trying to suppress.
A fear: the door to her apartment is kicked open, and her and her husband watch in horror as rifle butts smash all of the decorative vases, watch as boots stomp through all of the potted plants and kitchen dishes, watch as a giant of a soldier with drug addict eyes and a mouth of rabies slobber shoves all of the books and magazines out of the bookshelves and sets them alight in the middle of the throw rug in the living room, before he grabs her husband by his hair and takes him out to the balcony to toss him off.
They had never been political. They hadn’t voted in years. This did nothing to abate fear.
You could hear the sounds of the marching boots outside, even in this warehouse basement, blocks away from the march, and with the sound of a dying man’s gurgling breath clogging the air of the room; you could still hear the boots. The garrote wire strung around the throat cut deep into the flesh.
One man pulled on the wire, stealing life from the one whose life would soon be over. Another man moved around the room smoking a cigarette, his movements like a predatory animal. The smoking man pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked his messages while the feet of the dying man kicked and scraped the cement floor of the basement.
The sound of boots outside were drowning out the Chet Baker record she put on. She’s painting metaphors, and her brush, which usually moves in time with Baker’s trumpet, is now moving to the rhythm of the soles on the pavement, and it’s changing the painting into something she never thought it would be. The colours suddenly become violent, and she uses more reds and oranges, with the bristles viciously swiping and stabbing into the canvas in time with footfalls. On the floor above her, she can hear her neighbors yelling out the window in support of the march, and she can’t drown it out. She can hear them supporting the troops, and she can hear the troops themselves, and it is slowly draining the vibrancy out of the calm bubble of inspiration that she usually crafts for herself.
The needle clicks back on her Chet Baker record, and now there is only the sounds of the neighbors and the marching soldiers outside. She looks at the canvas and what she has painted, and a monster stares back at her.
She softly weeps, the crying mixing with the sounds above to come out sounding like someone is cheering her on in misery.
In the back of the limousine, he consulted a piece of paper. It was to be destroyed by the end of the day. It listed individuals that were to be removed by the time the sun rose tomorrow morning. The list was not specific as to how this would be accomplished, but the man reading the list knew the methods well enough to guess. Those who lived on the outside of the city would probably be shot while they walked to get their morning paper, those within would be eliminated by quieter methods.
He had been the one to compile the list, after a month of research of subjects that would present the most resistance to the incoming regime. His research had been a combination of the analyzing of social media feeds, illicit tapping of phones, library rentals, web searches, and a cohesive list of movements, and what circles were met with when those movements occurred. This research had led to the list growing in size with each meeting leading to bigger targets; those wishing to fight ended up working harder at being bait than as partisans. Friends betrayed friends without even knowing that they were doing it. The key was to not take action until it was possible to eliminate all of the elements at once, so as not to tip off that surveillance was being accomplished. In a way, he thought, this method was like solving a mathematical problem, where each piece was solved and figured, until the whole enterprise could be brought to answer. However, most mathematical problems did not come to the following conclusions:
Shot dead and left in ditch.
Killed with his wife and child, living area set on fire.
Sealed in and burned alive with the rest of his organization.
Poisoned along with her fiancé.
Shot and left dead in the street.
Strangled to death. Books and writings confiscated and destroyed…
On and on, for seven pages.
He put his reading glasses on and leafed through the pages, and it felt better to see the names that he looked at as problems, as something other than human beings, as nothing more than text spit out by a printer. His research would lead to deaths, but he would not be the one to pull the trigger, and because of this, he would be able to sleep at night while others screamed.
The banners were unfurled from the roofs of the buildings of the downtown core. Walls of black and monolithic fabric blocking out the windows of the offices and catching just enough to breeze to look like laughing mouths. At the center of power, the building where those in command took to the steps like the party of an unholy wedding, a grotesque collection of uniforms, expensive suits, wrinkled skin, jeweled wrists, chests of medals, and false prophet talismans descended the marble steps and waved and lifted fists in the signs of their choice. Their eyes all catch the black of the banners, giving the onlookers the impression that a host of the recently dead had emerged from catacombs under the city to rule a soulless rule.
A black sedan pulls up to the sands of Coup d’état Beach. Two men in uniform get out and walk around to the trunk. They pop the lid, and pull out a man in a business suit with a pin of the country’s flag pinned to the lapel. The man in the suit does not resist, and keeps his eyes down, in hopes that looking at the sand, the driftwood, and the shells of the beach will calm his mind enough to let him die a courageous death. His designer shoes sink into the sand, he stumbles, and one of the soldiers behind him laughs at his attempts to right himself.
He stops walking when the waves begin to meet his feet. It is only then that he finds the courage to look up and around him. On all sides he is surrounded by those he worked with in the pursuit of governance; the opposition, his own party, the minority parties; all of their members lie shot and dead in the sand of Coup d’état Beach. The blood from their exit wounds mingles with the seawater that rolls in.
He hears the sound of a gun being cocked, he hears the sounds of the carrion birds and the sounds of the waves, and then he closes his eyes. Before a shot sends everything to black, he swears for a moment that he can hear the sounds of boots.