18:46 April 15, 2054 (GMT-5)
Arlington National Cemetery
That night at her apartment, Julia Hunt ordered sushi and watched coverage of Slake’s failed press conference on her living room couch. Days later, Slake’s panicked responses to questions about Castro’s death continued to air and appeared even worse on the news.
Hunt held up a piece of salmon sashimi between two chopsticks as he read the chyron of the following story: Castro autopsy leaked by common sense confirms foul play and White House lies. She dropped the fish into her lap.
News of the withheld autopsy exploded. Across all channels, prime-time anchors showed the camera printouts of the report. They read entire sections aloud, describing the dimensions of the marble-sized mass of cells inexplicably lodged in Castro’s aorta and the transcript extracted from the autopsy itself, in which the chief internist concluded: “This cannot be the same heart.”
Within an hour, Truthers flooded the streets of cities across the country. As Hunt flipped through the channels, a news crew in Lafayette Park was conducting interviews with the growing mass of protesters, one of whom recognized; he was the man in a wheelchair he had met on the Metro. She had thought of him often. He now learned his identity: retired Gunnery Sergeant Joseph William Sherman III. Below his name on the screen were the words Truther Volunteer Organizer. He put his name into a search engine and discovered that he had lost his legs in the Spratly Islands and that the Chinese nuclear attack on San Diego had killed his wife and three daughters, who lived in the area. nearby Camp Pendleton. Hunt could hear in Sherman’s voice how deeply he resented a president who in his lifetime flaunted constitutional norms by clinging to power for a fourth term attempt and whose successor, Smith, now flaunted constitutional norms again by retaining a autopsy and refusing to be transparent about his predecessor’s death. .
“Point your camera this way,” Sherman said, pointing with his thumb at his missing legs. “I sacrificed them for my country and you’re going to lie to me… you’re going to lie to everyone.” us.” He gestured widely toward a group of Truthers who had placed him in the center, the core of them veterans, dressed in old military uniforms adorned with medals hanging from their chest pockets. “It is a lie that Smith is the legitimate president when he so clearly participated in the assassination of Castro. Is this what America has become? Dreamers drunk with power led by a president-dictator. “He lies to many as long as he gives power to a few.” Sherman kept the camera focused with his insistent blue eyes.
His tone was so determined that the correspondent felt compelled to respond. In a meek voice, he said, “I don’t know.”
“Of course not”. Sherman leaned toward the camera. “President Smith,” he began, “you are illegitimate. They will discover that ordinary Americans – we, the patriots who demand the truth about their crimes and the excesses of the Dreamers – will not be led by a thief, by someone who stole the presidency. We served our country before and we will serve it again. And don’t even think about trying to place your predecessor on the hallowed ground of Arlington.” Sherman turned around, turned his back on the camera, and walked away from him.
The news went to commercial.
Julia Hunt rested her head on the arm of the couch, her eyes still glued to the screen. Weeks of exhaustion washed over her. While she was waiting for the program to return, she fell into a dark and wild dream. Deep in this dream, in the early hours of the morning, she began to dream: Here, in the dream, she is asleep in her girl’s bedroom and before dawn she is awakened by a noise, the sound of something hitting the floor. . Her surroundings are familiar: the adobe ranch house in New Mexico where Sarah Hunt had raised her. In his nightgown, he carefully closes the door behind her and steps out into the dark hallway. At the far end, a single sliver of light escapes from the base of another door. She starts walking down the hallway. The tiles are cold under her bare feet. As she gets closer, she can hear what sounds like a struggle.