The year was
2018, and everybody was either with us or against us. Those who
were with us were good and those who were against us were evil.
Nobody was in between. Nobody was neutral. Nobody was allowed to
not preserve our freedoms. Nobody was allowed liquids or lighters
on aeroplanes, except officially licensed and armed Air Marshals,
who, due to the stressful nature of their work (they kept shooting
the wrong people), were permitted to smoke in toilets anytime after
take-off and before landing. All this with us and against us was
due to the PATRIOT Act, which replaced the Constitution in 2015,
and due to the unflagging vigilance of agents of the Department
of Homeland Security.
about living with us or against us still weren't quite right, though.
Winter, for instance, had all but disappeared, driving people crazy
because they could no longer ski. It was during that muggy season
of Swinter (Spring/Winter) that the DHS men took John and Nina White's
fourteen-year-old son, John White Junior, away.
It was tragic,
all right, but John and Nina didn't do anything about it because
they were with us. Nina embroidered a special doily to hang above
the fireplace to proclaim she was with us. John, although raised
to believe in the Second Amendment, relinquished all his guns under
the "Everyone's Doing It, Why Don't You?" campaign because
he was with us. Nina and John were proud to be the first in Oklahoma
City to be implanted with government-issued RFID chips. They were
tuned to a government GPS satellite. Every second, the government
knew where all the with us people were.
John and Nina
were at the Will Rogers World airport. They had arrived the requisite
twenty-four hours in advance. They were planning a trip to Warming
Island off the coast of Greenland. A long time ago, when they had
paid their fee and were licensed to marry, Nina asked John why it
was called Greenland not Whiteland if it was permanently covered
in snow, and he had replied, Why is cocaine called Blow not Snort?
Unbeknownst to him, this comment triggered a Person Of Interest
report and appeared on his Permanent Record at DHSdb.com.
The line to
the Screening Area moved at a pace of twelve people per screener
per hour as regulated, unless it moved slower, for no other reason
than it was permitted under TSA Union Rule #224 subsection 111(m).
John watched the markets on his hand-held. Nina watched one of the
flat screen TVs dotted throughout the area. On CNN, a heavy-set
Tyra Banks was interviewing Anna Nicole Smith's teenage daughter.
Nina wondered whether Anna Nicole Smith's teenage daughter had flown
to the interview on a private jet. She pitied her if she had. Imagine,
missing out on the TSA!
A siren sounded.
Everyone looked up expectantly. Over a loudspeaker, a voice announced:
Terror alert! Terror alert! Due to recent suspicious terrorist activity
in Bora Bora, the National Threat Advisory has been modified from
Mildly Elevated/Moderately Elevated (Chartreuse Yellow/Lime Yellow)
to Moderately High/Almost Quite Severely High (Carmine/Vermillion).
in approval. A few applauded. "Isn't that wonderful!"
the lady in front of Nina and John said with a wide smile. She removed
her spectacles and dropped them into one of the metal bins that
lined the walls of the holding area. Moderately High/Almost Quite
Severely High (Carmine/Vermillion) meant eyeglasses, hand-helds,
breast implants, anyone who had had gastric bypass surgery, and
any form of footwear was now banned. John dropped his hand-held
in the bin and started to remove one of his government-issued flip-flops
— most passengers now wore these Kerry's while traveling — when
his wife said, "Why not wait until we're nearer the detectors?"
on one leg and slapped the soft rubber sole against his thigh.
want to get your feet dirty. Think of the germs. Remember when Barbara
Walters did that show about the staph-resistant virus strains crawling
all over airports? Remember? That time her jaw moved?"
an AAU on my PR?" John said but he lowered the shoe back to
never Almost Against Us you for that!" Nina sounded horrified,
then less certain. "Would they?"
to think whether they would or not, but became distracted by the
voluptuous naked woman who squeezed past him. For an extra fee,
FastTrak passengers could report unclothed and bypass all but the
probe section of the screening process. Moral activists were lobbying
to get FastTrak passengers into separate terminals but a small vocal
group, Trakers Are People Too (We're TAPT In!) had delayed
not right that money buys you that sort of convenience," Nina
said, frowning at the barcode jiggling on the woman's buttocks.
"It's only fair that she should wait for her probe like the
rest of us!"
it, honey," John said, watching the woman's ass disappear.
"It's people like that who make the system fall apart."
On TV, the
Tyra Bank's interview was suddenly interrupted by a news bulletin.
The graph to the right side of the announcer's head ticked up from
"Breaking" to "Snapping" to "Crackling"
to "Smashing." Nina tried to recall if she had ever seen
Smashing News before.
and Gentlemen — " the announcer said and read from a sheet
of paper. His hands trembled. My, Nina thought, it must be Smashing
if they aren't using a teleprompter. "John White Junior, age
fourteen, has escaped from an undisclosed CIA facility where he
was being held on suspicion of being a Terrorist. He is a
Terrorist. He is a threat to National Security. He is
a threat to Coalition Safety. He is AU and must be regarded
as a WMD."
of John White Junior with his arms shackled behind him and a black
hood pulled down over his head flashed on screen before a voice
snapped, "Not that one, you BLEEP!" (Thankfully, the FCC's
APP — Auto Profanity Plucker — kicked in followed by a subliminal
shot of bonsai kittens, which the Department of Health and Human
Services had discovered obliterated the preceding image from a viewer's
mind.) The photograph was replaced by a CIA-approved shot of John
White Junior with a surprisingly long beard for a fourteen-year-old.
He was dressed in a camo vest strapped with dynamite and stood in
the mouth of a cave. In one hand, he clutched a vial labeled "Anthrax,"
and in the other, a bloody sword. Behind him rose a small nuclear
— the woman in front of Nina and John blinked unseeingly at the
screen — "does this, this, Terrorist," she almost spat
the word, "look like?"
see this Terrorist, this Weapon of Mass Destruction," the announcer
said, "you must, I repeat must, do everything in your
power to apprehend him. You are with us."
us," the people reiterated.
On the screen,
a sudden loud explosion was heard. Screams and shouts and Oh My
BLEEPs came from the television sets. The photograph was gone. A
living, breathing John White Junior filled the screen.
sunken smooth cheeks and huge brown eyes, John stood in the center
of the studio. Tyra Banks and Anna Nicole Smith's teenager daughter
and the announcer and the technician and cameraman cowered on their
knees before him, expecting to die.
the decider!" John cried. "Do you hear? You decide!"
He looked straight at the camera. "You decide! Decide for yourself!"
His velvet eyes were piercing. "You can choose a world that
isn't about being with us or against us, or with or against anyone,
or anything. You can choose a world in which we all," he started
to sing, "believe in love, love," his voice rose. "Love
is all we need." John paused and stared into the camera. "Consider
a world not with or against anyone, anything, not with or against
me, but against them. Them!" He pointed his finger at
the screen. "Against," John swayed from side to side,
as though he was hearing celestial music from above. "Against,"
he said again and leaned in close, "You know who."
At that moment,
you know who used a battering ram and broke through the door. The
black-clad, body-armored, balaclavaed SWAT Team stormed into the
studio carrying submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, carbines,
tear gas canisters, flashbang grenades, tasers, pepper-spray canisters,
Pepperball guns and high-powered sniper rifles. They were followed
by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special
Response Team (SRT). Who were followed by the Drug Enforcement Administration
Mobile Enforcement Team (MET). Who were then in turn followed by
the Federal Bureau of Investigation Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). Who
were followed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Weapons
and Tactics Team. Who were followed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Special Operations and Response team (SORT). Who were followed by
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Response Team
— the cameraman was allegedly an illegal immigrant from Mexico.
Who were then followed by the Department of Energy Office of Safety
and Security (OSS SRT). Who were followed by the Department of Energy
Special Response Force (SRF). Who were followed by the Marshals
Service Special Operations Group (SOG). Who were, last but not least,
followed by the Felony Investigative Assistance SWAT Team unit of
In the moment
before John White Junior was dead and hit the floor with four-hundred-and-eighty-seven
bullet holes in his body, he wondered where the Department of Homeland
It was then
that all the television sets around the airport gave a high-pitched
shriek and displayed the same sign: "We Have a Problem. Please
A moment later,
a picture of bonsai kittens splashed across the screen. Then the
announcer came back and said: "You are with us."
our baby, will always be with us," John and Nina whispered
before they could stop themselves. They looked at the chanting crowd
who yelled as though one, "With us! With us!" and, as
John and Nina White slipped off their flips-flops and joined in,
cheering as they waved their shoes over their heads, they wondered,
"Who still believes in love?" but yelled, "With us!
With us! With us!"
Gericke [send her mail]
lives with her husband in Chinatown, New York. She writes essays,
fiction and the occasional dodgy poem.