I: The Man with No Tattoos

was dragged through the streets by a mob
of women, whose distinguishing features are
black ink markings sketched across their faces,
their necks, breasts and bellies; painted, too,
as a bullseye between their legs and covered in
stripes from their upper thighs, down their legs
to below the ankle. Many are missing ears.

There are hundreds of such women. Their
teeth have been filed into points. After killing
the man without tattoos, the heavily inked women
devour his naked corpse. They fight over
leftovers, parts strewn along the road. A few stay
behind to lap the bloody foam from the street, licking
up the warm puddle along with the grit and filth.

At a distance stand tattooed males, marked heavily
as well, some burned with branding irons on their chests
and buttocks. None has hair. Many have fewer than
ten fingers and an equal number have been relieved
of their testicles. They stand awkwardly, half-starved,
crying in the dark hoping against hope to be offered
scraps. A few cling to each other and howl like dogs.

It is against the law to eat a male with tattoos, his
markings distinguish him from the unregistered,
who lack legal status; they fall prey to desperate
marauders. A male carrying weapons will be shot
on sight by bounty hunters or militia. Untended children
are hunted for their flesh, valued above all for its
tenderness, which means it can be eaten raw.

At night, it is especially dangerous to make a move.
Patrolmen frequently catch site of homeless nomads
hiding in the woods, strays as they are called, people
vulnerable to rape or murder, both male and female, by
soldiers, peace-keepers, patrolmen of various stripes,
and then by people of their own kind whose claim to
authority is their physical strength or mental agility.

This is all that remains, this remnant, now that the peace
has been arranged. People herded into camps are starving.
It is rumored that many ran for the hills or were carried
away on makeshift canoes. Weeks of defoliation
and toxins released into the waterways make survival
doubtful. It has essentially become against the law to live.
No one can feed or take care of the living.

People are being paid to kill themselves. There is little
ammunition. Capital cities were destroyed, hence the absence
of administration. Governments, local and beyond, disappeared.
Corpse removal is all that the administrators can manage.
Los Angeles County alone has twelve million bodies to dispose of.
Others were vaporized in the final offensive. To limit transport,
oversized ovens on the backs of eighteen-wheelers make the rounds.

One hears talk of victory. It is hard to make sense of such language.
What exactly has been won? Washington was struck. So, too,
New York, Miami, Houston, Philadelphia, and LA. City life no longer
exists, not in the common sense of the word. People are filmed running
through the sewers. They turn up from time to time in the rubble. There
are no hospitals. There is no medicine. Food distribution centers have
all but disappeared. Only patrolmen and cannibals thrive.

What can be celebrated and is a relief is the refreshing lack of lying.
After years of propaganda and spin, the vile vaudevillian rhetoric has
ceased. The charm doctors and elite spokesmen are gone. They were
the first to go. Many disappeared. The ten-million-dollar word-whores fled.
The stacked barbie dolls who left the weather channels to speak for the state
department and executive branch were butchered on live television by rebels.
It is the only sign of hope, now, that their affront to decency has stopped.

II: Reindeer on Fire

Who started the fires? Many are drawn to the flames—men
and women in equal number. They clamber to draw closer. They
take off work to travel: the flames climb higher, engulfing, filling
the skies. The smoke gets in everything; there are ashes in the houses,
in the carpets. Paintings melt. Many stand still and hold out their tongues.
They tear off their clothing. They crave the heat. They’re excited
by the smell of ruin. They’re delirious.

The fires mean trouble. The people can’t tell the difference between
fireworks and flames. They welcome the fires with tribal dances.
The women bare their breasts. It excites the men. The logs in the fireplace
have rolled into the living room but the people are too drunk to push
them back. They’re laughing. They’re excited that something’s finally
happening. They’re so bored the thought of burning the house down
makes them giddy.

The gals want their backsides smacked. The men get close enough
to the flames to singe their body hair. The women shriek. Parents
no longer watch over their children. Many are seen to run into the flames.
Some fall and are burned alive. The air fills with the stench of flesh.
Fathers shrug. Mothers weep. Their children carry fiery logs about,
throwing them into the windows of passing cars. They take hot sticks
and poke out each other’s eyes.

The parents don’t know what to do. They debate. Some declare with
a sense of urgency there is nothing to be done. It’s fate. The museums
are ransacked. The libraries, emptied. They desperately raid the theatres
for wood from the stage floors. Great fires are set. They move closer
to the flames. They’ve burned their clothes. Nothing remains. They feel free.
They push the children away and commence to fornicate in the ashes.
The men relieve themselves on the hot coals. Some catch on fire.

The fires eventually die out. They move back to the caves when the sun
sets. There’s nothing to eat. They lack water. The men and women crouch
in their earthen holes and cry. Some brave women venture out but quickly
regret it. Most hide themselves deep within. Much, if not all, is lost.
When there was fire and song, nudity seemed sexy, but now the women
are cold. They huddle and cry. They feel ugly like insects. The men don’t
caress them; they kick them away. They fight. The sexes are not equal.

III: Year of the Rat

Today is the Day of Unanimity. Universal suffrage and mandatory
disclosure. Your vote is tattooed on your forehead. We must choose
the Benefactor in Chief, the source of our guaranteed incomes and
free tuition. Now the government selects student majors. We clamored
for it and we got it. The end of liberty and the secret ballot. The good
citizens of the Only State wake each and every morning to reruns
of Forrest Gump.

We enjoy a four-ounce cup of regulation chocolate milk and a gummy
bear vitamin. Then to the bath house for a good soak and a State-monitored
enema. They took my friend Jessie away for kissing someone of the opposite
sex, caught in a sting operation in Malady Park, a wooded area where nympho-
maniacs look for heterosexual perverts. Nathan got picked up for drinking
out of a large Styrofoam cup. He dumped his state-dispensed 4 oz. Jolly cup
designed for kale and fish egg smoothies and guzzled home brew instead.

I live with my State-authorized male partner. Our incomes will double
if we marry. We are expected to adopt and raise three children, two from
the Ivory Coast and one from Nepal. We have six months to accept. If not,
we will be castrated and turned into State Drones, our right to live together
rescinded and our workloads doubled. We will be marked for early death,
45 for men, women at 50. We’ve both been targeted because we are old
enough to remember living in a state of liberty.

Back then, people were permitted to go outside to eat, defecate, or fornicate
at will. During the Confiscation Wars, we lost our freedom. Permanent curfews
are now imposed along with Contentment Schedules. Millions have been gassed.
All guns now belong to the State. Freddy and I are allowed to fuck once a day
from 8:45 pm to 9:15 pm. Water is allotted from 9:16 pm to 10:00 pm for showers
and toilet. As we have no kitchen, no eating is permitted within our dwelling,
not until we adopt.

We take our meals at work. If we don’t work, we don’t eat. My school serves
three a day, each at 750 calories. I must watch my weight. Diabetics are murdered.
Obesity has been outlawed, so I must maintain a BMI below 30 or I will be recycled
for body parts. Gratitude sessions are held nightly. I missed mine and will be fined.
Freddy attended so his salary will not be cut. If this continues, Freddy will be
assigned a new partner. Men and women cannot co-inhabit. Breeding is restricted.
I will be sent to live in a prison complex for the Ungrateful.

No one has ever graduated from Gratitude School; it is a lifetime sentence.
The Benefactress herself is known to loathe the Ungrateful and personally
supervises the punishment blocks. Testicles removed in Castration Clinics
from males who refuse adoption are fed to the Benefactor’s prized herd
of Shropshire rare breed hogs, bred for her and other royals exclusively.
Severed organs are scattered on pasture lands stretching as far as the eye
can see. It is rumored that the pork is sold at $1000 per kilo to private armies.

Today I learn Freddy has been assigned to a reproduction unit. If he sires a child,
he will be released from adoption duties. I must report to Gratitude Learning Center
#267, just outside Maya Angelou City. My life is over. They revoked my teaching
license. I will be required to track signs of “adverse proclivities” and “perverse
yearnings” among men who surf porn sites. They will be targeted for “imminent”
elimination. I just found out I will be castrated for my failure to fulfill my social
contract. I am to be renamed and given diversity training.

Some trace the end to the Confiscation Wars which, admittedly, were brutal.
Others claim the end came with the revival of official lying, and the Supreme
Court’s decision to allow the President or Benefactress, as she prefers, to disguise
herself as a Person of Distinction by wearing digital masks of persons such as Marie
Antoinette, the late Queen of England, Elizabeth II and, most recently, Neil Armstrong,
the famous astronaut, who appears in full drag. The Benefactress is a transsexual.
The Constitution forbids a man with a penis from serving as Our Honored Mistress.