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Ashes of a Nation

How Democracy Dies

By Allison OesterlePublished 2 years ago 8 min read
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Ashes of a Nation
Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

The wavy lines and snowy fuzz around the edges of the screen were even more pronounced than the last time Kayla had turned on the TV.

A male newscaster announced, “Twenty-five days after the election, Senator McVey is still refusing to concede. All precincts have reported in, with 306 electoral votes going to Democratic candidate Manuel Castillo and 232 votes going to his Republican rival, Senator John McVey of Maine. The reactions in their two camps could not be more different. First, let’s take a look at how President-Elect Castillo’s supporters are responding.”

The view on the TV shifted to a post-election rally. Manuel Castillo stood at a podium in front of a cheering crowd of people. Many of the attendees waved miniature American flags or posters bearing slogans like, “A New Day for America!” or “Castillo & Avanessian Forever!”

Castillo smiled at his supporters. Then he waved his hands to signal for quiet.

Slowly, the clapping stopped.

“My fellow Americans, thank you for your support. On November 4th, your nation called, and I’m proud to say that you answered. You voted for a new America, a better America, where everyone will have a voice. Where all people, regardless of wealth, race, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status, will have a chance to enjoy the America Dream. We promise safety, respect, and dignity for all!”

He raised his arms, and people cheered.

“But the hardest part still lies ahead of us. Embracing our fellow Americans, the ones on the other side of the aisle, so that we can build a better future for all. American will once again be a shining beacon of hope for the world!”

Cheering and applause drowned out his next words.

The scene shifted back to the newscaster sitting at his desk. “So, in the Castillo camp, we see jubilation, excitement, and willingness to move forward and work with the opposition. In the McVey camp, it’s a very different story. Let’s take a look.”

The TV showed images of a tall, thin man standing in front of a podium. The crowd cheered, but they were angry. Their faces were hard. Their signs bore messages, including “Stop the Steal!”, “Demo-RATS Belong in the Gutter” and “Castillo Win = Fraud.”

“We all know what happened,” Senator McVey shouted. “You fine people did your job. You showed up at the polls, you voted! You stood up to those crooks and scumbags in Congress! You did what they didn’t have the courage to do—take this country back from the liberals!”

The crowd cheered.

“The liberals want to give away your country! They hate hardworking Americans like you. When they couldn’t beat you, they cheated. They lied. Manuel belongs in jail.”

The crowd cheered again.

“Don’t let them steal your country from you! Fight back! Be ready. This country needs proud American patriots like you, hardworking people who—”

Kayla pressed the fast-forward button on the VCR. The screen showed a series of different newscasters and protests.

“—the electors meet around the country in their state capitals,” the female newscaster announced. “To recap for our viewers, on November 4th, voters actually cast their votes for their state’s electors. They’re not voting for their preferred presidential candidate. State electors are the only ones who can directly vote on the presidential candidates. Technically, state electors aren’t required to vote for the candidate who won the majority vote in their state. It’s a provision that was added into the U. S. Constitution by the Founding Fathers, and it’s that fact that is of most interest today.

“In a scene that has become more and more common since President Donald Trump lost his reelection bid in 2020, protestors have gathered in every state capital across the nation. Their goal is to convince the electors to cast their votes for Republican Senator McVey instead of President-Elect Castillo, who won 306 electoral votes compared to McVey’s 232 votes. Castillo also won 51.3% of the nationwide popular vote, while McVey only won 46.8%. So President-Elect Castillo is the clear winner of both the electoral vote and the popular vote, but you wouldn’t know that from the crowds in the state capitals today. Now we’re going to join correspondent Lauren Ballick on the ground in Springfield, Illinois.”

The view shifted to a split-screen with the first newscaster on one half and a brunette reporter holding a microphone on the other.

“Lauren, can you hear me?”

The image of Laura filled the screen. A heart-shaped locket dangled at her throat.

“Loud and clear, Melissa. As you said, I’m here today in Springfield, the capital of Illinois. As it has in nineteen of the last twenty election cycles, Illinois went Democratic, with 57.5% of the vote going for Castillo. But you’d never know that from talking to these protestors outside the state capitol building today.”

The view panned out to show a bearded man standing next to Lauren. He wore an American flag draped over his shoulders.

“Sir, can you tell me your name and what brings you out here today?”

“Sure I can,” he drawled. “I’m David, and I’m here to defend freedom, justice, and the American way!”

“What do you think of the election results? To remind you, Senator McVey only received 40.6% of the popular vote in Illinois.”

“Lies! Fraud! There’s proof of rampant voter fraud. We’re here to stop the liberals from stealing the election, just like they’re trying to steal our country!”

Kayla forwarded the video again. Scene after scene of protests and violence flipped by within seconds.

“After a lame-duck period marked with protests and widespread unrest, we’ve finally made it to Inauguration Day, January 20th,” a male reporter standing in front of the White House announced. “Senator McVey’s supporters intensified their efforts to overturn the results as the inauguration approached. During the last few election cycles, both Democrats and Republicans have become less and less willing to tolerate losses. Cries of voter fraud and vote tampering have become common across both sides of the aisle. Will this be how the great American democratic experiment ends? Will we go down in history as the country that failed due to bigotry and intolerance, and our growing distrust of one another?

“Well, according to soon-to-be President Castillo’s supporters, that answer is a resounding ‘no.’ Their excitement has only increased as Inauguration Day approached, and they’re out in full force today to celebrate their win.”

The TV showed scenes of large crowds gathered in Washington, D.C. They cheered and waved American and rainbow Pride flags in the air. Then the scene panned to police in riot gear.

“Security forces are also out in full force today. After the unrest of the last three months, they’re taking no chances. The FBI has reported an uptick in domestic terrorist communications, and arrests are up as well. The goal is to have a peaceful transition of power. It wasn’t so long ago that this type of civil unrest following an election would’ve been unthinkable on American soil.”

The reporter touched his ear. “And now we go live to the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where Manuel Castillo is about to be sworn in as the 51st president of the United States.”

The view shifted to show a woman in a purple coat stranding in front of a podium.

“It is my distinct honor to introduce the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, to administer the presidential oath to the next president of the United States, Manuel R. Castillo.”

Both Justice Roberts and President-Elect Castillo climbed onto opposite ends of a small platform erected on the stairs. Castillo’s wife, Rosalina, held a large bible in her arms. Her husband placed his left on the bible and held his right hand in the air.

A shot rang out, and Manuel Castillo fell.

“Oh my god!” the reporter cried. “It appears as though the president-elect has been shot!”

People screamed and ran. More shots were fired. Justice Roberts and Rosalina toppled to the ground.

“We’re bringing this to you live, folks. The U.S. has never seen anything like this. It appears as though Manuel Castillo, his wife, and the chief justice have been shot. Security forces are scrambling to contain the crowd and get the president-elect to safety. There’s no word yet on Castillo’s con—”

There was a loud boom and the image cut off.

The TV played a few images of static, and then the grim face of a female newscaster appeared. “Today marks one week since President-Elect Manuel Castillo was murdered and the bombing at the capital. Violence has spread throughout the country, with militia groups capturing elected leaders around the country. Senator McVey’s supporters held their own swearing-in ceremony and have declared him to be the 51st president of the United States. The U.S. military has mobilized to combat the threat. The country stands on the brink of a second civil war.”

The video ended, and Kaya ejected the tape. She put it carefully back in its sleeve and returned the video to the shelf. The shelves were the only furniture in their tiny, one-room shack. A line of laundry was strung across the room, and there was a fire pit in the corner.

“Why do you watch that every year? It’s not like it will change anything,” her brother Kevin complained. He sat on the ground with his broken leg stretched out in front of him.

“Maybe not, but I want to remember,” she replied. “We’re running low on supplies. I might be gone for a few days this time. Most of my usual spots have already been picked clean.”

Kevin shrugged and returned to his book. “Whatever.”

“Do you need anything? Do you have your gun in case someone comes?”

Instead of answering, he waved the weapon in the air.

Kayla frowned. That went against every gun safety rule they’d been taught, but it wasn’t worth the argument. She put on her bulletproof vest. Then she grabbed a backpack and the gun their daddy had left her. He’d gone out on a supply run two years ago and never came back.

“Happy Fourth of July,” she said before disappearing into the hellscape that America had become.

Sci Fi
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About the Creator

Allison Oesterle

I'm an unrepentant chocoholic, a lover of all things cute and furry, and a writer of science fiction and fantasy.

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