The Country/The Country

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10. 'There Will Be Change'

“Everyone knows,” the studio reader intoned, “that change is hovering in the wings in the form of Karol Pegasso. Today a spokesman for the leading candidate promised that ‘Changes will come. You can rely on it.’ But, the spokesman said, it was not yet time to make to make any specific plans public. Details were still being ‘ironed out.’”

Did those details involve people like him? Keel wondered.

Would he be ironed out?

Then, abruptly, the camera cut to a crowded room apparently bursting at its seams with excited bodies packed closely together and making a lot of noise. From the look of the place, a bland function room, it was a convention of some sort. The camera, though evidently far off, focused on a few men surrounding a mike. Then a lot of chanting and foot-stomping told Keel he was watching another rally for the man now widely described as the ‘Leading Candidate.’ He missed hearing the name of the location (they all looked the same). The Pig’s bodyguards kept the cameras to the back of the hall, so the shots of the speaker at the podium were always a little vague, a little shadowy. Everybody knew of Candidate Pegasso, but nobody got a very good look at him.

Anyone who approached with a camera in his hands found someone standing between him and the candidate. Now ‘the candidate on-verge-of-election.’ He was a voice, not a face. And the voice was a species of hoarse bellow, uttering a rhythmic staccato: words fired off like machine gun bursts.

“There will be changes. There must be changes. Change will come. The people demand it. So the change must come!"

A booming shout at the end of the cadence.

A lot of noise at these rallies, Keel reflected, but very little got said.

Then something, abruptly, without warning, something inexplicable happened inside him, and Keel heard what the others, the people at the rally, were hearing. Some force or power outside himself, perhaps emanating from the scene transpiring on his television screen, tore open an interior or liminal scrim, a protective boundary in his own mind, and the real words, the real scene, became clear to him, forming in his mind with no defending ego to keep them at bay. Stunningly, overpoweringly, heady beyond reason or restraint, an exhilaration that overwhelmed any checkpoint of his rational consciousness poured the hot lava of desire, of orgiastic Dionysian ecstasy, into his brain.

“We will take back what is ours! We will take back the flag!”

Huge booming shouts, waves of sound -- was some noise amplifying device at work? Some reverb machine, like the device an electric guitarist controlled with his foot?

People shouted, but appeared also to laugh and cry.

“We will take back the mansions! The palaces! The chariots of power!”

Waves of hysteria.

“We will bring down the heavens and put them here on earth!”

Images of wind and starlight blew through Keel’s state of wonder.

“We will knock down the old walls that keep the people from the power --”

Shouts: ”Knock them down! Knock them down!”

“-- and build up the new ones!”

Rhythmic chants: ”New Walls! Build them up! Build them up!”

“Beautiful walls,” the speaker promised. “Filled with bones and skulls! With shining jewels for eyes that watch in the night and keep the shadows away!”

Hysteria. Swooning.
“We will take back our silver and gold! Our diamonds and our jewels!

“We will take back -- ourselves!

“We want our humanity back!

“We know where it’s gone! Where they’ve taken it -- and we want it back!

“We know who it really belongs to. It belongs to UZ!

“They stole it -- And we know where they have it!

“They’re keeping it hidden, keeping it all for themselves, leaving us only our animal skins -- our fingers and toes--!

“Those nails and teeth!” Still louder. “Show them to me, people!”

Teeth emerged from evil grins. Nails grew into claws as hands waved in the air.

“That’s right! There they are! You got ’em -- We need ’em! We need ’em all!”

Hands wriggled. Cheers ballooned. Bounced off the walls. Ricocheted. Echoes running into echoes, like waves in a tank of water.

“That’s how we tear apart the phony curtains and fake screens, the lying words they hide the country behind! The false fronts of the big shots! The leets!

“We knows it’s still back there! The big prize behind the curtains! Behind all the phony talk and the bullshit explanations! And we’re gonna take it back! UZ! Our country!

“The Country of UZ!”

Keel came back to himself, oddly breathless. He blinked. Felt an urge to drink some water; to urinate.

Is that what people watched, and heard, on their TVs every night?

He shook his head, in denial. He must have been awake-dreaming. He knew he did that. But when he tried to recall in detail what had been running through his brain, his senses,

he could not remember precisely what he was awake-dreaming about... It was often like that. Something took hold of his waking, front-brain consciousness while the rest of his body puttered along smoothly on automatic pilot.

Happily, it didn’t appear that he’d missed anything important. Nothing of interest was happening on his TV screen. He watched the local network’s ho-hum nooz a little longer. Nothing tonight about the disturbing sign on the message board.

Nothing about the rock thrown at the Dormands’ house.

Keel started to rise from his chair, slowly, a little stiff. But something stopped him from leaning forward and turning the TV off.

At the very last-second end of the half-hour segment that inevitably preceded the extra-long commercial break, the screen stopped in its tracks -- went black -- and then instantly came back to a remote shot of a correspondent (Chucker?) standing beside a police officer, both figures posed in front of a cruiser that appeared to be parked on a tree-lined road.

The report (the correspondent explained) concerned a woman, presumed elderly, possibly clouded in mind, believed to be wandering after dark in the woods of Green Hills Park.

“Lost,” Keel heard the officer say abruptly, biting off the word as if regretting it. Then adding, “We think she may be lost.”

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