art by Jonathan Westbrook
For the People
by Ronald D. Ferguson
"I speak for the president." Drugs make the words difficult to say, but the man asked about my job.
"He's not the press secretary, but our sources say he regularly sees the president. Hmm. Charles Milford. Top security clearance. Maybe a speech writer. He'll do."
"We need someone who sees the president every day. Who's in the inner circle? "
Assuming the question is for me, I answer, but only because I have no choice. "The Ten." I consider glancing down when he positions the laser scalpel over my stomach, but my head won't move.
"The Ten? I thought there were fifteen departments in the presidential cabinet."
I smell roasting flesh. Mine? Curious. Doesn't hurt. Would I mind if it did?
"The cabinet provides the faces of power, secretaries of defense, state, etcetera. The control strings stretch behind the scenes. Who knows the unseen puppet masters?"
Another of them asks me a different question before I can reply with, "I do."
"Will you see the president today?"
Silly question. I see the president every day. I need the feedback. "Yes."
"Two to four in the afternoon." Easy to remember. My work hours are regular.
"My God! How much explosive do you intend to pack in his abdomen?"
"Enough to take out a city block. If we're lucky, we'll get the vice president, too."
"He looks pregnant. Security will check him over if we send him looking like that."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Take out his small intestines. He won't need them. That should eliminate most of the bulge."
"Fine, but we'll have to make sure he doesn't eat lunch."
"No problem. We won't release him until just before his appointment. I'll include a false memory with his other instructions. He'll remember eating a big lunch before arriving for the two o'clock meeting."
"Hey Charlie." One of them leans above my face. Blurry. Do I know him? He continues. "You're doing a great service for your country helping us take out this fascist regime."
"He's got no idea what you mean. His synapses have lost their snap."
"Come on, Chuck. Impartial viewpoint. Do you think we can kill the president?"
A question for me. I reply, "No one can kill the president."