The light came down from all directions, blinding Governor Prokop as he walked to the podium. Everything in his sight seemed shrouded in a panoramic splash of color. Absently, he recalled a picture in his history textbook of a Mardi Gras festival, taken back in the 21st century. The light, as it struck his eyes, caused Prokop to blink and squint for a few seconds. As he shaded his face with his hand, however, the haze he felt around him faded. To his left, a sprawl of glass and plastic, long and sinewy like flames in a fire, came into view.
Welcome to Haventon, he thought. The pinnacle of modern man. On the other side, hundreds of cheering people gathered before him, mostly dressed in orange or cyan, with a few reds toward the front and greens dispersed among the crowd. No one would have the tastelessness to wear brown or gray to such an event. The faces Prokop could make out were lit by smiles as they beamed at their speaker. The governor’s people seemed genuinely glad to see him. At this moment, however, Prokop saw a sinister tinge to their expression. The brightness of their clothes seemed too bright, the smiles too wide. I must be getting paranoid, he thought as he scanned the public for a familiar or comforting face. There was none. His gut began to sink.
A whirring interrupted his thoughts. The microphone, which was now below his chin, adjusted itself so it pointed just above his chin. Supporting the microphone was the podium, a round, metal base with its own wires and gears hidden from view. Prokop raised his hand and waved to the crowd. After some cheering and clapping, the crowd fell silent.
Clearing his throat, he began: “My brothers and sisters. . .”
The sound of laughing interrupted him. A single snicker, having no source but loud enough to clearly tell, burst from the crowd. Nothing changed on Prokop’s expression, but he felt a cold drop of sweat in his brow.
“I came here with a message, one from the depths of my –“
He was deafened by the sound that came. Hundreds of voices, all at once, cackled with maniacal glee. Alarmed, Prokop scanned the audience. Every once-smiling expression had morphed into the same, despicable smirk. The sound of his mockery built up as more people joined. Even more, each individual voice increased in volume, becoming bolder.
Prokop looked down, unable to bear the sight of his audience. Suddenly, he turned to look behind him. The podium had adjusted itself to trap him, surrounding him with a steel barricade. If he tried hard enough, he could climb over the five foot barrier and run. These were his people, though; he must face them as his comrades.
As he looked up from his enclosure, he heard the sound of footsteps. Before Prokop could register what happened, several members of the crowd rushed to seize him. The governor had no time to escape his assaulters before they grabbed his arms. In a few seconds, dozens of people reached for Prokop’s arms. He could only see the outstretched hands at his sides, closing anywhere from his wrist to his bicep. None of them pulled or pushed, only groped, searching for something. Suddenly, a hand to his right reached above the rest—
Prokop woke up drenched in sweat.
It took a few seconds for him to notice a staccato ringing filling his ears. Almost by reflex, his right hand rose to his phone’s digital display beside him, pressing against the cover. The beeping faded, leaving the room in silence. Prokop sat up in his bed and looked around him. On the opposite wall, a red satin curtain covered a floor-to-ceiling window. Outside, darkness shrouded his neighborhood, as it was still night. To the window’s left hung a portrait of his father, staring into the distance with a proud and stern face. As he looked to his left, he saw the stucco walls with various scenes of trees and foliage painted onto them. Despite the beauty of the scenery, Prokop sometimes felt a sense of regret upon seeing it. If the house’s builder had not convinced him that pictures of nature were necessary to fit with the “new” and “fresh” wave of this century, he would never have painted the walls.
He looked at his hand. It still rested on the phone, which itself laid flat on a mahogany bed stand. Dropping his arm, he read the display: 4:35 AM. He sat in his bed for an entire five minutes. Throwing down the covers, he jumped onto his feet, almost running to the bathroom.
As he got ready in the morning, he prepared himself for the day ahead of him. Today, the Prime Minister himself, Michael Alonge, had invited Prokop as a guest to his speech. Prokop had met with Alonge in a couple of Alonge’s campaigns. The governor admired the man, but had so few opportunities to be with him. He was, after all, the prime minister, and a quite busy one at that. Already, a mental checklist began to form in his head:
Script for my speeches? In the binder in the living room.
Phone? Beside the desk.
Wallet? In today’s pants pocket.
Are my license, ID, and credit cards still in the wallet?
Prokop continued this throughout his morning routine.