Joyful Paine arose, her jet-black hair, usually waist-length, had been tied in many beautiful spirals the night before by Autumn Spring; they had spent that night together, and while Joyful could not divulge to her lover what she knew until the next day, Autumn Spring intuitively knew it would be revolutionary. So, with a degree of melancholy, but imbued with confidence, the confidence and respect of the First Peoples’ Autonomous Collective, the history of her people, the love of Autumn Spring, Joyful walked to the podium. She wore her most formal dress, reserved for special occasions like weddings and the once-a-year meeting of the First Peoples’ Leadership Council. Jamal Cohen Jr sat in his usual spot, looking directly at the seventy members; he wore his usual silver, form-fitting suit with its small blue circle on his upper right torso; with him sat a large folder, of similar size to the one Joyful brought with her. Everyone, including Mar, sat in absolute silence. The general public was not allowed inside, yet a couple of recorders, working for different, mostly small-print magazines, newspapers were too fast a medium for Park, had been allowed in to take notes.
“I am here as an official liaison, for I am, as you all know, both a member of Park’s parliament and of the First Peoples’ Leadership Council. I was chosen to speak the truths that have been entrusted to our peoples, and for this I am honored. The report I have drafted with Jamal Cohen comes out of some six weeks of intense investigations into both the archive of Park’s regional government, including delicate materials deemed ‘impermissible for public consumption’ or IFPC, contemporaneous notes, letters and diaries of both the administrator, TJ Tallie and his close associates. I needed no permission from this body to do this, under Prime Amendment thirty-seven. The objective was clear: Why did administrator Tallie accuse one of our members, Shattered, of being a spy?” Joyful inhaled deeply, the hot warehouse turned parliamentary forum slowed the already warm autumnal air to near liquid; humid, wet, sticky, thick, sweaty, the building’s doors all shut, many of the people inside afraid to listen and yet also too afraid to leave. They wanted to know. They did not want to know. A few shuffled in their seats. Mar sat upright. Glowing. She smiled at Joyful from the front row.
“The report is with Jamal Cohen; I have a report, which is largely similar, for the internal purposes of the First Peoples’ Autonomous Collective. What the differences are between the two are to be known only to the Collective. But let me assure you, fellow members, what you will learn today is threefold: TJ Tallie has used Park’s Internal Intelligence Unit to spy on Marin, in direct violation of our inter-regional agreements with them; he has likewise, contrary to our customs and agreements held the number of six Marin citizens without due cause under specious health quarantine measures, and finally Mr Tallie falsely accused Shattered of being a spy. This false accusation led to the administrator to invoke extraordinary powers, reserved only for times of war or grave emergency. He then illicitly exiled a denizen of Park, and furthermore, Tallie not only exiled Shattered but traded him for two asylum seekers who came from the south, in the Central Valley. These asylum seekers’ names will be kept private, but it has become known to us that they are of familial relations with administrator Tallie, and had been separated from his maternal side shortly after the calamity. Their escape had been in motion for some seven and half months before Shattered left, and it is our determination that the administrator used Shattered as an opportunity rescue his kin. The two are young, and it is unlikely that they knew of the Tallie’s operations, and their status, their safety here, stands. But as for the administrator…”
And so it went. A lengthy, detailed report of the various regional agreements broken by the administrator, the local laws, the Prime Amendments, the possible actions that the parliament could take. Joyful spent two-and-one hours going forensically through each and every detail. Every paper that Joyful produced led to a trail of misdeeds, broken treaties and an administrator morally fractured, and a parliament, through the sheer weight of time, as a cabin abandoned, utterly disintegrated; these papers, these details showed a larger portraiture: a people so willfully ignorant and so dutifully obedient in the name tranquility and peace that they were willing, over the course of several decades, to simply fall into a hazy, semi-lined pattern of somnolence. “We have led ourselves to the point where the near entirety of the body politic has become politically somnambulant.” Joyful Paine concluded. She walked off the stage with her large notebook, and sat next to Autumn Spring. The latter rose and took to speak to the crowd, which included the administrator.
“Now is the time, my friends, now is the time for change! Now is the time to wake ourselves out of the stupor and rethink what Park has become; we must rethink what we will become, and, yes, we must remember where we come from. Yes, we are a diverse amalgam of communities united by a calamity; collectively brought together by geography, space and time, and yes, we have survived, we have even thrived. Our proximity to Marin is a large part of that survival. Without their assistance in terms of medicine, vaccines, and – yes, at a time – defensive protections some two-and-ten years ago, we would have long ago gone the way of the others. All the others had the same resources, but what they did not have was the diversity, the initial openness, when so many came, when so many came who brought with them so many talents, flaws and all – the entire medley of the human condition… And they did not have a technologically advanced society willing to trade with them. Yes, our traditions have kept us coherent, alive and surviving, but they alone are not reason enough for our success, a success that has been so remarkable that we have forgotten… We have forgotten why it was a success.” Autumn Spring continued this way for another hour, shocking most of the already shaken audience. Mar patiently listened. Her pains, her depression, her anxieties now gone, she regained her ability to listen without responding. She sat, slightly smiling, as Autumn Spring spoke. Mar had heard it all before. Long ago. Many times. Revolution. Revelation. Regeneration. Yes, yes, she knew this story well. And she knew nearly all of what Autumn Spring would in fact ask for as the day turned to night and the night turned to day. Autumn Spring would be installed as the new administrator, Park parliamentary elections would be held over the course of three days, per the Prime Amendments, in March. The jumbled caretaker parliament would be at the will of Autumn until spring.
Yes, here we go, the votes. And…? Mar thought the issue of Shattered would be first. But Autumn Spring first called for a vote to formally remove TJ Tallie. “69-1. Motion passes.” Jamal sat with his hands busy shifting paper ballots, counting tallies and checking his large binder on procedures for extraordinary sessions; this being his first such unique experience. He reminded himself that his father presided over seventeen emergency sessions in just the first year of the transition, and five more before his death. Jamal calmly, studiously managed each vote. His weeks of seeing documentation long buried, long withheld by the sheer weight of paper in the basements of The Forum or at the Archives, his dealings with Stone about Marin’s incursion into Park; the return of Mar, a youthful, happy, settled Mar; the upending of one administration for another; the turning of a social wheel at speeds it was not designed for; all of this weighed on Jamal’s shoulders. Yet his muscular frame was not just that of flesh, blood and bone. He had a mental resilience, inherited from his father, from his family, from history; his concentration became more acute in crisis. His sister’s absence, earlier pilloried as treason during the first weeks of the investigation, yet later codified into something albeit not yet commonplace but sanctioned, as a Marin announced her citizenship, and Mar’s return explained the earliest of agreements in detail; his roaming around for documents cited by Mar; his many hours in the archives with Joyful; his late nights; all of this seemed to energize him, to propel him forward in some way, to orient him on thread of meaning that had been missing yet one he had never notice wasn’t there. Mar went about telling him where to find these primary texts – some being housed away in wild locations like long dilapidated, abandoned cabins wrapped under tarpaulin, entire dossiers describing protocols for almost every eventuality, inside layers of thick plastic, kilometers deep inside nature preservation zones.
And Shattered? Mar knew Autumn Spring to be an opportunist, but she always seemed to be able to hide it. Not this time. The vote to install Autumn Spring as the new administrator was next. “57-13. Motion passes.” Will she finally call for a vote on Shattered? He’s the entire reason she has been able to take power? Rushing for the crown. They all do that. Finally. Mar mused to herself. Shattered was absolved of all crimes and reinstated to parliament, “69-0. One abstention. Motion passes.” Who abstained? Who abstained from absolving my boy? She looked around the room. The ballots were secret. She felt uneasy. How many more votes? Mar ruminated. The answer, as the sun rose, was twelve. Of these, the most consequential released the Marin citizens at the border, opened up Park to basic electrical technology, a definition to be defined by a working committee of the various parties, and made Joyful Paine the official Coordinator For External Affairs and Exploration, a position that was likewise created in those twelve consequential votes. A long autumn would give way to warm winter and a hot spring. Mar left for Marin via drone, having received permission from Autumn Spring for the use of such technology for travel in the interim, although on a limited basis. “We mustn’t go too fast, for the isolationists will revolt.” Autumn Spring had whispered to Mar, thinking her a co-conspirator. How could she not be with me? Mar – Dr Marianne Smithson, Autumn Spring had learned from Joyful, was one of the greatest scientists of the 21st Century. But Dr Marianne Smithson was no one’s conspirator. Power tends to eat itself – Mar thought after Autumn Spring’s whispers, so near, stimulated the hairs on Mar’s ear. “Yes, dear, please take care.” And up she went.
*featured image: (Courtesy of Guggenheim)