I couldn’t get my arm out, my leg was stuck in the zipper, and the back of the HAZMAT suit had just ripped; it wasn’t ClimateProof anymore. The Climate Protection Services should definitely be expecting a call. I ambled across the Capitol garage and entered the main elevator, pressing the fourth-floor button. Before I left the brief ride, I took a quick glimpse of myself in the elevator mirror, straightened my collar, and continued across the lengthy, narrow halls of a building I have worked in for the last 23 years now. Every day I would walk through the same narrow doors which were so nobly labeled as “Speaker of the House: Lydia Thompson”. Today was another day in which I could serve the people of the Democratic Union of America, and get one step closer at sticking it to the Republicans in the FRA.
Breathe in. Cough.
Breathe in. Cough.
I confidently walked through the main office doors and was greeted by a troupe of government employees already frantically at work, despite the clock on the wall reading a mere 7:00 am. Visibly over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived interns were briskly walking to various ends of the room, and each desk was covered in a mountain of files, papers, and folders. Maria, my secretary, was already by my side with a pack of folders under her arm, already inquisitive as ever,
“Good morning, Mrs. Thompson! How was your charity event yesterday?”
“Hey, Maria. Umm, I’ll take those folders from you…walk with me.”
I made my way towards my office, with Maria right behind me.
“So,” I continued, “Umm, yeah where was I…Oh, the charity. Yeah, it was amazing, I got to volunteer at the convention of re-wilders, and it was just amazing! We had all these events and everything --- it was really fun. You know, I never really understood how they did what they did, and one of them explained it so simply to me. They’re basically the opposite of farmers! That’s easy to remember isn’t it?”
“Umm, excuse me? Farmers?” Maria asked.
“Oh, yeah. I forgot, you don't know." I laughed out. “But basically, farmers used to grow plants and crops outside in the land before… you know… But anyway, I learned that all that re-wilders do is fix the land. They’re trying to bring it back to how it was before. A noble cause indeed. But back to business, how’s the CDS report?”
“Well, it’s not too good from what I remember.” Maria started, as she pulled out a paper from her back pocket. “Okay, so. The Critically Destructive Storms count for yesterday, March 15th, 2055, was actually quite low. We only had Hurricane Andrew 14 hitting the east coast and only about 2000 people dead. And then, we had a power outage in California, so you know, with all the heat and lack of cooling, an estimated 500 people dead. Nothing new.”
Dropping down in my chair, reclining back as far as I could, I let out a weary sigh and collected myself. How could this be? 2500 people dead in one day. All of them had families and people who cared and loved from them; all because of what we humans did to our planet. More accurately, what the Republicans over in the FRA did to stop us from doing anything about this. This just shows the fact that –
“Umm, ma’am?” Maria interrupted, “I need you to sign off on these storm report papers.”
“Yes, yes of course. Just put them on my desk, and you’ll have them by the end of the day.” With that said, my secretary left the room and shut the door behind her.
The glass walls surrounding my office made it convenient for me to oversee my staff and assess their impressive work ethic. Like the endless rows of cubicles in call centers; 12 desks, in four rows of three desks, the Office of the Speaker of the House for the DUA was constantly at work. As I should have been; I had things to do, places to visit, and I could most definitely not afford to fall into this rabbit hole every time I heard the storm report. Diverting my attention back to my desk, I managed to rummage through the clutter and open my laptop, reviewing my calendar. I had a meeting with the Committee on Environmental Affairs at 10:00, and I needed to review the bills that were passed on the floor yesterday by 12:00. Nothing too major, today was a relatively calm day.
As if I had summoned her, Maria was already at the door with a light blue folder under her arms.
“Come in” I called.
“Good to see you again, ma’am.” After a brief pause, she continued, “Yes…it’s time.”
Immediately I had come to my wits of what that folder contained. It was race managing day.
“No, please. Can we postpone this for another two days? I really don’t feel like doing this, like I need to prepare for my meeting, and I need to go ove—”
“Come on ma’am, must I remind you of your ci—”
“Yes,” I interrupted, “my civic duty to this country of keeping a diverse office. As all managers of the DUA, my staff must be completely equal with no disparities in representation of gender, religion – I get it. Give me the files, I might as well get it over with.”
“Here you go ma’am, sorry for disturbing you,” Maria said as she made her way out my office.
“No, Maria, wait. I’m sorry I shouldn’t have been that direct with you. Thanks for reminding me.”
“Of course, ma’am. No worries.”
I sat down and cleared my desk of any papers, sliding them all to the floor. Sure it was a mess, but race-managing was a priority right now. Opening the file, I looked through the statistics and noticed immediately that our homo-hetero ratio was on the dot, with six straight, and six LGBT+ employees. The white, black, Latino ratio was also at around 33% with four employees identifying as white, four as black, and four as Latino. However, what I initially failed to see, but luckily managed to spot in my final read-through, was that our gender proportionality was incorrect. It appears that I’ve been postponing race-managing for so long that, without noticing, one of our female interns quit, and Maria must have hired a male to replace her, without referring to the system.
All of a sudden, blood pounded in my ears, I could feel my heart thud in my chest. My hands shook. My feet trembled. My vision disfigured. Have we been caught yet? Has the Department of Labor sent us a 3-day notice? Will I have to pay the fine? Scenarios of police arresting me flooded my mind, and I decided to go with my calming procedure.
Breathe in. Cough.
Breathe in. Cough.
This procedure let me remain calm in stressful situations, and was a particular talent of mine. By coughing, my distressing became subliminal, and hence more natural. I collected myself and decided on my next course of action. This rather tedious and menial task now became a problem, and an obstacle I had to overcome. Naturally, I only saw one solution to this fiasco. Fire two males and get my gender ratio back in order. However, I couldn’t just fire the least qualified males, completely ruining the other ratios. This was not going to be easy.
I was fortunately distracted by one of my staff members, Julio, who burst into my office.
“What’s up, Julio? Is it her again?”
Julio barely vocalized in a trembling, weak voice, “Yes, ma’am, DTV is having an exclusive on Katrina.”
I grabbed the remote and swiftly turned on my office TV. Every time news was reported on Katrina, it was never anything good. And sure enough, the headlines read, ’KATRINA SHAMEKH AUTHORIZES MASS EXTERMINATION OF FOREIGN PRISONERS’. I despised that woman. She was a plague to her entire country.
“Sources are telling DTV, that Speaker of the House for the Federal Republic of America, Katrina Shamekh, just yesterday, March 15th, 2055, authorized an intense concentration camp, dubbed by critics as one of the harshest labor camps seen this century. The camp would host foreign prisoners as an alternative to the current punishment of exile. One source told DTV that this camp was commissioned and thought of by Katrina personally. We are hearing that this camp would physically and verbally abuse its inmate, and even torture certain inmates for disciplinary reasons and for purposes related to extracting information. Just last month, 60 African-American inmates were sent to the camp for ridiculous reasons. The official charges brought against some of them were noise pollution, littering on the street, and vandalizing public property. Grieving relatives tell DTV that all the victims did were whistle, accidentally drop some candy wrappers on the floor, and add a coat of paint on their own house. This is outrageous. This is a targeted attack on all the black people of the FRA, and Katrina is using any chance she has to lock up any non-white pure Americans. We share the same land as the FRA, and even though we might be divided by a border, we cannot stand by and witness these atrocities unfold. Wake up America! Stop Katrina! Stop the Republicans!”
Julio turned the TV off, and I looked behind me. The once bustling office had ground to a halt and gathered in my office to watch the report. There were 12 motionless faces in complete shock. I felt as though I needed to address this situation.
“Okay, so. I know what you just saw. I saw it too. And however horrible she may be, she’s just our motivation. It’s people like her that drive us to continue doing good in this world. People like her are why we work. So let’s get back to work, and do what we do best so that we can stop people like her from ruining the entire planet.” After such a shocking news report, I still didn’t feel like I had convinced myself that it would be alright. Power was in some dangerous hands right now. The best I could do now was simply get back to work, and focus on my schedule. There was no changing Katrina.
As I left my office to head to my meeting with the Committee on Environmental Affairs, I made a quick pit stop at a bathroom on the way. I had to make sure that in this hectic world, I could calm down for a few minutes, and be convinced that I was making the right decisions.
Looking at myself in the mirror all that I saw was a stranger staring back. It wasn’t necessarily a pleasant sight to see. Working as the de-facto head of government was taking a physical toll on me. I had enough wrinkles on my face, for each individual wrinkle to be able to represent a year of service in this government. After the split, the government was rattled, and some changes had to ensue. The president had become somewhat irrelevant, and I was given no term limits. I was stuck in here for as long as the people wanted.
It really was surprising that I was 60 years old, born in a time when there wasn’t all this political fuss, but it was only throughout my life that all of this hatred and division had developed. I opened the tap and was startled at the sensation of cold water running through my hands. The water pipes ran through the outside and were exposed to the harsh conditions, so I was expecting hot water; warm at best. I took this opportunity to splash my face with refreshing water, and I then dried myself with a towel. One last look in the mirror was what it took to reassure myself that I got this.
With so much going on in the Capitol, it was not possible to stay on top of everything, so I wasn’t necessarily best prepared for my meeting. I wasn’t a religious person, but in my mind, I prayed to whoever was up there for some good news now. I needed it.