Art by Terry Richmond

By Michael Mondore
Published Issue 076, April 2020

I’ve heard a lot of different things about the way the stars in the sky can trail and spin on nights like this. About luck and lunacy, both found in the same moment. Keep your eye on the prize, and don’t look over your shoulder in this odd run of luck. How else to explain?

I had stumbled into the woods to piss when the patrol arrived at the camp to kill us all, eradicate the last of the slummers on the run. Musicians, artists all, hunted by the packs. Before it became nothing to laugh about, one joker had labeled them the Critics. If so, they certainly got their revenge here, a truly bad review.

I was far back in the foliage, tool in hand, shaking the last drops off, considering a quick jive when the lights came up, and the shooting started. That, and the screaming sent me on my way, hauling trou as I picked up speed.

Less than a month ago now, music still seemed a safe enough gig. Sure there was heat, but what didn’t get it nowadays, you know? Fuck, I even saw a hot dog guy made mincemeat. Poetic justice? You tell me bubba. 

I’d played bass on my last gig ever. My bandmate, Geoffrey, had just given me my cut, and a wink, a grammer if I ain’t a dollar, but before I could even thank him a patrol had hit the front window like a fascistic tidal wave. But that was just a bad dream now, old news.

Woke up cold, face down, in the bushes, not far from the congealing puddle of puke I’d spewed when I realized they were all dead but me. I almost chucked again, but managed at the last to hold it back. No noise. They say those thugs can hear a tear hit the dirt from a world away.

Snuffling softly, rising to my knees in the low mist. Swallowing, tasting no blood, only the sour bile of a hangover on its way, and the headachy realization that I had passed out a lot closer than I thought in my drunken retreat. And for all that, they hadn’t found me. The relief came on like a pulse, almost painful. Friction in the house, as I reentered the atmosphere.

What I found at the campsite, I wish I hadn’t. It amounted to mostly burger bits, with some larger chunkery strewn about. Even poor Janey, our only violinist. Half a head here, half brain, will travel over there.

They hadn’t hit the vodka though, and so I drank to them, to it all. To the stains of society, may we rest in peace. Sorry guys, but I really can’t stay. Grabbing my tent, stuffing my pack with all that was left of our supplies, all the food and booze I could round up. A hasty goodbye. They could be watching you know. Les flics. Leaving my family to the flies buzzing back there in the clearing.

That’s my tent, under those dizzy stars. I must be leagues away from that place now, but with the drink, it’s hard to say for sure. Easier to forget them, and to forgive myself.

This thing had started in any major population, all around the globe. Intolerance maturing into a pogrom. It was the life of the party in government circles. Killing the artists, purifying their good works in the fires. Ashes, soaked with blood. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why they hunt us. God forbid they could just leave it alone, but no, not with the Final Solution just around the next bend. No camps for these degenerate pimples on the ass of society. Just pop, and cauterize. We can eliminate creativity and subversion in your lifetime, you can bet on it. 

Janey and I had both agreed that we couldn’t just run away without getting a better look at the festivities. We still couldn’t believe it was happening, the places we once freely roamed, bought and fenced by the deadly, self-serving folks, cutlets of the most rancid

pork you could imagine. And dig this. They looked just like us. Yessir, they did, making it easy to blend in as we joined the marchers heading down the boulevard towards the park and the large fire burning there. It flared and smoked up ahead of us as we approached. Cheers, laughter, screams, all mixed with an odd twanging sound. It all grew louder as we came out into the meadowlands.

The crowd flowed, then spread out. At last we could see the fire. Unbelievable, immense. We were still well back, and already you could feel the burn, and we without sunscreen. Ah well.

There were two large dozers, one to each side of the burn, huge plows busily feeding the flames. And what was the fuel, you might ask? Pianos to the right, subversives, artists, terrorists, at this point, day care workers for all we knew, at the left. The twanging sound was the piano strings breaking in the heat, the screams the less than jake baking. That’s all it took. We threaded sideways and out, finally emerging at a dead run away from that Hell.

Now it’s time to go back and sit by the tent, drink my fill, and eat the last of my staples. Later I’ll light a fire, sit back in the shrubbery, and pick off as many as I can as they come in.