The first entry in the diary of Jesse Charleston Maith
Sunday, 3 September 14 N.G., 1728 hrs.
When did you start to question everything?
I remember. I wish I didn’t.
That damp, chilly late March morning was the day I contracted an incurable mental virus, a disheartening pestilence just waiting to metastasize.
A day or two after Praise Day in the year 8 N.G. (New Genesis), nine years after the Endgame Conflict, and eight years after this wonderful “Utopia” known as the Divine Republic of Freedom was born, my Uncle Bob and I were at the Rockefeller Grounds in Midtown Manhattan. What I saw there began my transition into the world-weary, confused smartass I am today.
Why am I reminiscing about this? Because according to uncle Bob and my aunt Stacy, my life will change tomorrow when I begin attending the most prestigious lower educational institution in the DRF and the world: Everton Academy.
Uncle Bob, that bitter, calculating man that “raised” me, decided that because my mother lay in a hospital bed dying of cancer, and because my father was already dead (killed in the Endgame Conflict before my birth), to teach me a harsh lesson. Like most eight-year-olds, I thought the world was this magical place. I didn’t know much about the Conflict then, and I had not understood this silly country of ours.
On our hovertaxi ride gliding over the Hudson River, Bob said he was taking me to a show. I should have asked him what kind. I should have been suspicious about the questions he posed.
“Do you know of the Rockefeller Grounds, Jesse?” he inquired, adjusting his aviator glasses perched beneath his side-parted salt-and-pepper hair.
“I learned in school that before the Endgame Conflict, when the DRF was the northeastern United States, it was where an enormous Christmas tree stood.”
Bob feigned a grin and planted his left hand against my black coat. “Well, that tree is part of a bygone era. Thank Joshua.”
“We will learn about Joshua Evans next week.”
“As you should. Greatest man since Jesus. Sacrificed himself and saved millions of lives by defusing that Hathaway bomb in Times Square. Without him, you, me, your aunt and your cousins do not exist.”
“What are we seeing today, uncle Bob?”
“An important piece of Freedomian culture. Once we get to the gates, Divine Cloaked Forces agents will search us. Stand still and keep your mouth shut, and try to ignore the heavy police presence, too. I trust you’re mature enough to handle what you’re about to see today.”
“Why will the Divine Cloaked Forces be there?”
“The Ultimate Minister is attending.”
“Francis Stewart?! Wow!” Ah, poor, naïve eight-year-old Jesse. I didn’t even know back then why Bob smiled at that name through his normal blank stare. “Uncle Bob, is my mom going to be okay?”
“I hope so. I believe it.”
He lied to my face. Her cancer was terminal. For the love of Joshua, I miss her.
And this is why I’m starting this diary. Mom encouraged me to write my thoughts. I figure now is a quality time to begin, now that I’m a little wiser about the world. Perhaps if she were still around, I would not be so conflicted or angry. If she weren’t bedridden on that day, I guarantee she would have told Uncle Bob to get lost.
But alas, there we were at Rockefeller! Once we reached the corner of 6th and 46th, the scene appeared and felt strange. The drizzle misting down from the low-lying gray clouds had ceased, and a new metaphorical storm emerged. We started walking on this maroon carpet bordered by velvet ropes, guarded by police. Beyond the ropes was this hostile, incensed crowd shouting obscenities and holding up signs handwritten in black on paperboard and holographic signs with red font. Feeling curious, I started reading the signs:
YOU-KNOW-WHO IS A MURDERER!
SARAH BOYNTON IS INNOCENT!
REPEAL THE THIRD!
PEACE OR DEATH!
“Uncle Bob, who is you-know-who?” I asked him.
“Don’t look at them, Jesse,” Bob snapped, then pushed me forward. “They know nothing.”
“What’s the third?”
“NO MORE QUESTIONS! KEEP WALKING!”
Intimidated, I complied. I tried to distract myself by observing the skytrains hovering fifty feet above me, but when we reached the steel-gated entrance to the Grounds, it became impossible to ignore the agonizing cries amongst the sign-wielding crowd:
“You know who must die!”
Then, I heard Bob angrily mutter: “Ungrateful knuckleheads! Go back to your damn pryvie district. You deserve to be economically and intellectually different!”
Once we got beyond the gates after being frisked by the carbuncle-gold uniformed Divine Cloaked Forces, I noticed something stranger. There were clusters of people calmly lined up single file facing enclosed marble stations with the sign WAGERING STATION holographically hovering above. Was this a race? A fight? Why were there protestors? Nothing seemed right.
Finally, we reached the red-carpeted walkway leading to the seating area. Between the bleachers on either side, the view ahead was like nothing I had seen in pictures of the USA-era Rockefeller Center. Instead, it looked and felt like a cathedral from the Roman Empire. The skating rink and public gathering space didn’t exist, and the super-tall building where the Christmas tree once stood in front of was now the background for a white limestone platform with a hundred-foot DRF flag unfurled behind it; a gold cross, ten white stars, red and blue background. On either side of the center of the flag were two twenty-foot-high centrifugal torches. The steel gates obscuring the street view from above the Grounds made it look like a prison.
After settling in my seat, I noticed an older couple taking selfies with DCF agents in front of the platform. Behind us, two men in business suits were studying their wagering tickets on their ultraphones. Then, what I heard in the surrounding chatter almost forced me to eavesdrop.
“Thank Joshua we live here.”
“This is so exciting!”
At 1258 hrs, the collective mood at the Grounds grew to great anticipation. People in the upper rows began clapping and chanting ‘D-R-F!’ Then, to my left, I noticed two people standing up and whistling: the actor Jayden White and the singer Kayleigh Jarsonski, each dressed in colorful leather attire.
At 1300, a hush befell the crowd as a drumline chorus played a DCF marching band filled the air. Then, the Ultimate Minister, Francis Stewart, 275 pounds of belly fat beneath his black three-piece suit and all, emerged from behind the flag alone like a king approaching his throne.
The entire crowd stood as one, and Stewart raised his arms skyward in the Joshuan pose.
“HIS MAGNIFICENCE!” they chanted. Ah yes, His Magnificence, the infallible, absolute Francis Bernard Stewart! Shamelessly, he thanked the attendees for praising and greeting him, then gave permission to sit.
Bob whispered to me: “that’s you-know-who. Be sure to show respect.”
“Oh,” was all my bewildered self could say.
Then after he made what seemed like a billion praises to God and Joshua, Stewart proclaimed in that ear-grating baritone: “Let the show begin!”
Three more people emerged from behind the flag to thunderous applause. Flanked between two armed, camouflaged Divine Marine soldiers was a redheaded woman in an orange jumpsuit, hands tied behind her back. After escorting her to the center of the platform, the Marines pointed their GT-87 laser rifles at the barely twenty-ish woman and demanded she kneel. Her face was coma-white, and her short pixie hair appeared as if it just received an electric shock. She coughed violently and moaned.
I wish she were an actress. Repulsively, she was not faking it.
The crowd then rose as one again, and I felt the need to break my silence.
“What’s going on, Uncle Bob?”
“Pay attention, Jesse. You’ll see.”
Stewart then stood over the woman and said the words that changed my mental disposition forever and still echo in my mind to this day.
“Sarah Boynton,” he boomed, echoing throughout the Grounds. That Sarah Boynton. That referred to by the signs outside. “You are convicted of four counts of treason by violation of the Third Indentation of the Divine Treatise of Freedom, which states that no Freedomer shall ever criticize, denounce, or question the Ultimate Minister by name or title. Your sentence: death. Have you any last words?”
While the crowd reacted with deafening hooting and hollering, I despairingly fixated my eyes on a teary, red-eyed Sarah. “Curse you, your Magnificence!” she laboriously shouted. “One day, your reign will end! It will be the greatest thing to happen to this country!”
Stewart grinned with maleficence. “Thank you, Miss Boynton,” he yammered. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, if you chose ‘drawn and quartered’ as your execution style, congratulations!”
Random shouts of ecstasy and groans of disappointment echoed in the air after attendees studied their betting slips. Moments later, jubilant applause.
Sarah screamed in pain as four granite pillars, plus a fifth at the center of the stage, slowly ascended from underneath the marble platform. The cheers reached a crescendo as nylon rope from the corner pillars tied to Sarah’s hands and legs and the noose wrapped around her neck.
Desperately, I stood up and reached toward the stage as my uncle demanded me to sit. Suddenly, two DCF agents rushed toward me, and ordered me at laserpoint to sit down. All I remember as the agents tussled me back to my seat was Bob shouting: “I’M SORRY, OFFICERS, HE’S JUST A KID!”
He’s just a kid. I lost all respect for my uncle after that. The DCF was pointing lasers at his eight-year-old nephew, and he shook their hands and thanked them for their service!
This was his idea of toughening me up. This was his idea of molding me into a man. This was the reason he saw fit to distract me from my mother dying: to witness that important piece of Freedomian culture: a public execution!
My uncle and all attendees felt entertained by a woman being killed! Was I the only mortified one? It sure seemed that way! Seeing Sarah on that platform; forlorn, and desperate while those five pillars rapidly ascended skyward, slicing off her arms and legs, detaching her head and spilling gallons of blood and guts spilled near my feet, nauseated me.
I couldn’t save her. What’s worse, no one else attempted to. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel my heart beat beneath my chest; all because I was powerless to stop this abuse of humanity. I was powerless to stop His Magnificence. This was when I contracted this virus of angst and rebellion.
Now, over five years later, this infection has metastasized to my mind and soul; a teenage malaise of disillusionment and cynical contempt for authority that may never get cured unless, one day, God willing, I stop His Magnificence.