2007: An Allegory
The year is 2007. But this isn't the world you know. It stopped being the world you know back in 1949, when Nazi Germany defeated the allied forces in Europe, and the invasion of America began. They won. The United States, along with Europe, Asia, and most of Africa are now under the control of The Fourth Reich—the political descendants of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.
September 11th never happened—there was never an Osama Bin Laden or even a Saddam Hussein. In fact, there are no Arabic people at all, because they were completely exterminated in the 1950s—right after the Jews.
There is still a United States of America, however. There is still a President and a congress; there are still judges and police officers, although they are hand-picked and owned by the Nazi rulers. This puppet government allows Americans to continue doing what they do best: Make money. The majority of it goes to pay the heavy taxes imposed by the Nazis to finance their security forces throughout the world, leaving most Americans—especially non-cooperative ones—in poverty.
There are basically three different types of citizenship in America now. Well, technically only two. Nazi citizens are at the top of the food chain. They come and go from Germany, and view America as their playground. American citizens are their servants. But Americans aren't the lowest on the chain--those would be the immigrants, who aren't even citizens and never will be, since legal immigration has been abolished. But they still come, because as bad as it is in America, it's worse where they came from. They are disliked by Nazi and American citizens alike, although neither is above using and manipulating them when it serves their purposes.
Times are hard for once-proud Americans, and gangs have begun to thrive again, each with its own ideas about what went wrong with democracy, and how to fix it.
The Resistance was the first gang to form—or perhaps they just never stopped fighting at the end of the war. They are mostly underground terrorists, fighting Nazis in small, disorganized groups. They don't like immigrants, but will tolerate them if they are willing to fight. They hate the Nazis, but they hate the Aryans even more.
The Aryans were the second gang to form—American citizens who were tired of war and violence, and began to cooperate with the Nazis. They hold most of the government positions, and value stability above all else. The Aryans don't like immigrants, but will tolerate them—and any other group—as long as they don't “rock the boat” or cause trouble with the Nazi authorities.
The newest gang, quickly gaining popularity among the people, are The Righteous. Like the Aryans, they realize the futility in fighting the Nazis, but—like the Resistance—they haven't completely given up. They are the descendants of the Christians and religious people before the war, and they have put their hope in God for a solution. They believe that losing the war was a punishment from God, and that America will only be restored when it returns to the innocence and purity of its early years. Because of this, they hate most of all the thieves, prostitutes, and drug dealers—people they believe are displeasing to God. Most of these people are immigrants, who turn to this lifestyle when they are forbidden from legal employment.
And so, the Righteous fight against the immigrants, the Resistance fight against the Nazis and the Aryans, and the immigrants—as well as those with no gang affiliation—just fight to survive. Times are hard, and there isn't much hope. Except for one thing: Twenty years ago, rumors began to circulate that a secret code had been discovered in the text of the United States Constitution—hidden by the founders in the event that someday, America might fall. The rumors claim that the plan is a blueprint to unite the country under a new kind of leader, and a new kind of democracy. Many believe the code and the rumors are just a hoax, an urban legend—but some are desperate to believe in anything that offers hope.
Naturally, those in the resistance hope the leader would be a military leader, like General Ulysses S. Grant, or General Eisenhower. The Aryans dream of a political leader—a new George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln. And of course, The Righteous want a spiritual leader, someone like Martin Luther King, or even Billy Graham. For several years, they argued and fought about the Constitution code, the new leader, and the new democracy. Now, the rumors are rejected or forgotten by most, although a few still cling to the hope they offer.
Speaking of rumors, there is one other gang that is rumored to exist, nearly forgotten and lost in the noise. When the war was lost, it is said that some Americans ran away to the high mountains and deep forests of America, living in hiding from the Nazis and the violence of the cities. Like the Righteous, they were religious people, who believed that God would rescue America when the time was right. But rather than blaming others, they believed a person should start by fixing his or her own life. Supposedly, they live in isolated communities away from the rest of civilization, doing exactly this. They are known (by those who claim they exist) simply as the Mountain People—wild, mysterious, and unseen. Until this summer, that is.
The summer of 2007 began in a drought. It hasn't rained in over a year, and this summer quickly became the hottest and driest season on record. Grass, plants, even trees have withered and died. The drinking water—what little there is to go around—has a dusty taste to it, and the smell of sweat is in the air.
You have come to the city of Denver, Colorado, to see a man called Crazy Eddie. People say he is one of the Mountain People, ragged and weathered in appearance, and that he wandered down from the mountains two months ago without a word of explanation. He runs a tattoo parlor near downtown Denver, where his reputation is quickly spreading across the city and beyond.
People don't come to Crazy Eddie and tell him what kind of tattoo they want. Instead, he talks to them, and listens as they pour out the stories of their broken, disappointed lives. Then he begins his work, painting the misery, heartache, and regret right onto the skin of his subjects in colorful and intricate patterns. The finished work is lifelike and beautiful, often bringing tears to the eyes of its beholders. Virtually everyone who has received a tattoo from Crazy Eddie says that it changed their lives.
You have come on a busy day. As Eddie works his art in the large but crowded parlor, he talks to people in his audience about life, God, and the state of the world. At this point, two members of The Righteous step out from among the crowd. They are easily identifiable by their suits and clean-cut appearance, which contrasts with Crazy Eddie's shaggy beard, faded plaid shirt, and torn jeans. Surprised murmurs fill the room, because everyone knows that The Righteous don't approve of tattoo parlors and those who frequent them. Nevertheless, they are here, and one speaks up: “Pretty impressive work, Eddie.”
“Thanks,” Eddie replies. “You next?”
“You know, with talent like that, you could be the next Picasso or Van Gogh—maybe if you painted on canvas or paper or something.”
“I'm no Picasso. Van Gogh, neither.” Eddie looks looks past his questioner, and addresses the entire room. “Look. I paint pictures on your skin to give you freedom and hope. But someday...” Here Eddie pauses for a moment. His voice gets softer, and faraway look comes into his eyes. “Someday, someone will come along who can paint freedom and hope right on your soul.” He resumes his work, still talking. “That's who you're looking for. That's who we're all looking for.” The scorching sun slips below the horizon, and slowly, the crowd begins to disperse.
The next morning is hot and dry, like all mornings are now. Eddie is opening the parlor, talking to you and a few other early risers. The door chime rings, and a young woman walks in. She is slender and delicate, but there is confidence in her step. She isn't quite beautiful, but she's not quite plain or ordinary, either. When Eddie sees her, a grin breaks out on his face. “Cousin!” He crosses the room to embrace her, and then introduces her as Josephina. Josie to friends. Josie-Cat to her family. “What brings you to Denver, Josie-Cat?”
“You, cousin. I came to get painted.”
Eddie is surprised. “No,” he says, and lightly touches her cheek. “Look at this skin—there is more beauty in this empty canvas than any picture I could paint.” They go back and forth for awhile, but Josie is persistent, and Eddie finally agrees to give her a tattoo. It takes most of the day, and draws a crowd of admirers—certainly this will be one of Eddie's greatest works. When he is finished, he gently cleans the blood and ink from her back. Most tattoos take weeks to heal and look presentable, but Josie's tattoo is somehow different. Covering her entire back is a magnificent and lifelike American eagle, its wings outstretched past her shoulder blades, its talons extending down the small of her
back. The room is awe-struck and silent. And inspired.
What happens next is unexpected and difficult to describe. The eagle turns its head and lets out a fierce cry. It steps right out of the canvas of Josie's back, and gazes intently around the room, then up at the roof which seems to fade into nothingness, revealing the blue morning sky. Extending its wings to full width, the eagle hops, then soars into the air, climbing higher and higher until he is a dark speck against the gathering clouds. At that moment, a loud peal of thunder sounds from above, and the sky begins to rain.
As interesting as Crazy Eddie is, his cousin is even more so. She begins to attract a crowd of her own, and you find yourself among them, following her around, listening to her stories, and wondering who she really is. You're not alone. Whispers, rumors, and excited murmurs are always nearby.
“I heard she's from Las Vegas.”
“Las Vegas? Nothing good ever came out of that place.”
“Did you see the eagle?”
“No, but I heard about it. Did that really happen?”
“I think so. I mean, I saw it, but it was just so weird.”
“What do you think it means?”
“I don't know, man. I don't know.”
A month has passed. You and a few others have gone with Josie back to her hometown of Las Vegas. Tonight you are all at the hospital where her grandmother works the evening shift as a nurse. It's a windy night, and lightning flashes across the sky. Josie is visiting patients in the cancer wing, when the power goes out completely. Medical taxes to the Nazi government are high, and there is no back-up power. Seconds later, flashlights appear down the hallway, and a voice is calling, “Josie-Cat? Are you there?” Josie's grandmother comes into view with a man in doctors' scrubs. “There you are, dear. Please go with Doctor Martin, and help him get the power back on. There are seven patients on life-support, and two of them are children.” She turns to the doctor. “Do whatever she says. She'll help you fix it.”
Josie looks up from where she is sitting, and you catch a quick expression flash across her face. Annoyance? Exasperation? It's hard to tell, and gone in an instant, as she gets up to follow Dr. Martin out of the room. Her grandmother stays behind, telling you some story about something strange Josie did as a child. It isn't too much later that the whir of machinery comes to life, and the lights return. Leaving the hospital that night, you glance back over your shoulder. Las Vegas, the city of bright flashing neon, remains completely dark. Only the hospital stands out—lit up in the darkness like a solitary beacon on the vast, dark sea.
It is summer again, and you've been traveling from city to city with Josie for almost a year now. There are a handful of you who have become close to one another, and to Josie. You don't always understand the things she says and does, but now you're at least convinced that wherever she goes, things happen. Things are happening. And you are a part of it. For the first time, your life has real meaning and promise. Every day is a surprise, a learning experience like no other.
The fourth of July finds you and your group in New York city—a great place to celebrate, except that independence day is no longer celebrated. It has been forbidden by the Nazis, as America is no longer independent. All that's left of the Statue of Liberty is her feet—the rest was destroyed in the invasion. Still, the statue's remains draw their fair share of visitors this time of year—if only as a sad memory of what America once was. Around the base of the statue are several slick-looking men with baskets full of rocks and debris. For a price, they'll sell you what may or may not be a piece of the fallen statue. “Buy lady liberty...cheap!” is their loud and unceasing pitch. You look over just in time to see the lightning flash in Josie's eyes, annoyance quickly mounting to rage. In a flash, she has picked up a bent, rusty golf-club from the rubble, and is now making straight for the horrified salesmen, screaming and swinging, swinging and screaming. You aren't sure whether to laugh, cheer, or pretend you don't know her.
Later, as you help Josie dump the remaining baskets of “liberty-rock” into the ocean, a coast-guard boat docks at the island, and some Aryans in uniform approach. Following them is an agitated young man in a suit, who looks like he might be one of the Righteous, or else one of the men Josie chased with a golf-club. The Aryans question you, Josie, and the others for a few minutes, but seem satisfied and ready to leave when the man in the suit bursts out, “Who do you think you are, woman? We own this statue—what gives you the right to interfere?”
Josie looks him in the eyes and says quietly, “You don't own this lady liberty. And she isn't destroyed...yet. But when you do destroy her, I promise you this: She'll be back on her feet in 72 hours.” The Aryans have left now, and Josie reaches for her golf-club again. As the man retreats hastily, he calls back over his shoulder, “You don't know what you're talking about, woman. The Nazis destroyed this statue forty years ago, and she ain't never coming back!”
It's early fall, and you've been in New York for several months when the doorbell rings one night with someone wanting to see Josie. This is not unusual, except that this time you recognize the visitor immediately—her name is Nicole Demos, and she's a sharp, outspoken leader among the Righteous. She even has her own radio talk show, which makes some among your group a little worried about why she's here. But the fact that she's come late at night, and alone, reassures you.
After the small talk is over with, Nicole tells Josie, “I've been keeping tabs on you for the past year, ever since the hospital thing in Las Vegas. You're turning heads, and making a lot of people upset, but I think you might be on to something.” Her voice lowers and she says, “I want in. I want to know what it's all about.”
There's an awkward silence in the room for a second or two, then Josie says the last thing you expect to hear. She looks at Nicole and says, “Go jump off a cliff.”
“You heard me,” says Josie. “Go jump off a cliff.”
“Hey you don't have to be rude; I just—”
Josie cuts her off, “No, I'm serious. If you want to fly, you can't keep clinging to the ground.”
“Oh. But you don't mean I should literally jump off a cliff, do you?”
“You're the expert, right? You tell me.” Josie looks at all of us now. “I didn't come here to tell trade secrets, or to answer made-for-TV questions. I came here to teach you a new kind of freedom. And to deliver a message: The ones who sent me—the ones who invented freedom—are real. I'm the living proof. I've experienced freedom that goes beyond what a country can give you, or what money can buy you. And I want you to be free, too. Unfortunately, some of you,” and here Josie looks at Nicole, “some of you will continue to live in slavery by your own choices, chained to the ground because you can't—or won't—make the jump.”
Later that month, on the road, somewhere between New Jersey and Maryland—the leaves have already changed colors, and are beginning to fade into the dull brown that signals the coming of Winter. You and your companions stop at a gas station and go inside to ask for directions. While you're gone, Josie asks the gas station attendant to fill the tank of the car your traveling in. The man is obviously an immigrant, and he is surprised when Josie gets out of the car and strikes up a conversation with him.
“Don't you know what I am, Miss?”
“If you knew what I was,” Josie says, “You'd be asking me for gas instead of the other way around.”
“What, you work for a gas station too?” The numbers on the gas pump begin to whir, as it counts gallons and dollars.
“The gas you just put in this tank will run out someday, and so will the gas at this station. And eventually, so will most of the gas on this planet. But I know an energy source that will never run out.”
“Well,” laughed the attendant, “you better get a patent on it quick.”
Josie looked at him, and said, “Antonio.”
“Hey—how'd you know my name?”
“Antonio, stop hitting your daughter. It isn't right.”
“What the—? You can't—”
“Give your boss back the money you stole. And forgive your brother. He didn't know.”
Antonio is silent for a while. Then, “Who are you?” The pump clicks, indicating the tank is full.
“I'm the one you've been waiting for, Antonio. I can help you.”
“I'm an immigrant, Miss.” He leans back against the gas pump and looks down at the ground. Ain't nobody coming to help the immigrants.”
Josie lifts his chin until his eyes are level with hers. Her eyes are kind, as she says, “A day is coming, my friend, when it won't matter where you're from or how you got here. It will be enough that you are here, standing next to me.”
When you come out of the gas station and see Josie talking to the immigrant, the group is concerned for her safety and her reputation, and quickly urges her back into the car, and back onto the road.
Back in Las Vegas for the holidays, things seem uncharacteristically quiet. Too quiet. Until one brisk afternoon, you, Josie, and several others are walking the streets downtown, when a Nazi military officer in full uniform begins to follow you. Fear races through your heart, and you think, “That's it—this is the end. They're finally shutting us down. You quicken your pace, and so does he, finally overtaking you, and positioning himself right in front of Josie—blocking any chance of escape. The Nazi addresses Josie in broken English—something Germans rarely do—and tells the story of his teenage son who is dying of AIDS. It's a moving story, but you aren't sure why he's telling Josie. She's an American citizen, and voluntarily helping the child of the enemy is out of the question. It seems Josie agrees with you, and she begins to walk away, muttering, “That's all you people ever want...magic tricks.”
Before she's gone two steps, the Nazi cries out, “No! He's my son—he will...die if you don't come.” At this, Josie turns around and looks hard at the man. Although his proud eyes brim with tears, he holds her gaze.
“Go home,” Josie says softly. “Your son is fine.” Then she turns and walks away. You and the others follow her home, but the image of the proud, sad Nazi is stuck in your head, and later that night you slip into town to see what you can find out. Finally, you hear from a local bartender about a crazy German officer who bought drinks for everyone in the house earlier that evening...in celebration of his son's miraculous recovery. Two days later, the officer and his family show up on Josie's doorstep. The curious band of followers you've been a part of just got a little bigger, and a lot more strange.
As you pack your bags to head east again, you reflect on all that's happened in the past two years. Who is this amazing, surprising, and sometimes frightening girl you've dropped everything to follow? Where is she leading you? And how far are you willing to go, if and when things get dangerous down the road?