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The Shutdown

"The Shutdown" came to me as a poem first, but I made it into a flash fiction, as I wanted to spread its message. In recent times, certain political factions are pushing censorship and I have the feeling that it would be fine by them to restrict our public libraries to uncensored books. I can see that might lead to something more drastic, too. Ray Bradbury stated that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 because of his concerns at the time (during the McCarthy era) about the threat of book burning in the United States. This flash is my way of saying the threat could very well be nigh again.

They barred the library doors today. Men in uniform stand patrol, armed and ready. Their lantern jaws are set firm, lips in a straight line. Stoic women, also armed, jog up and down the block, buttocks moving like pistons. Someone dashes from a building, a hand-held reader clutched close. Shots are fired; I don't stay to find out more.
I've packed the car with books, little room for else. It is my car, his gift to buy my silence, to make up for the bruises real and otherwise; never marry a politician who has no use for literature, has no use for a wife that does.
I am reminded of a poem fragment, its author's name lost to time:
"Eagles have left their nests to vultures.
The barren palm trees whimper for their loss
there are ceaseless storms, mud is everywhere
while two-legged insects multiply unchecked."
Perhaps it was Vonnegut. Long dead and buried now, his books banned after the last election. Just as well he never saw his warnings come to this.
The car radio plays Ibsen, bassoons herald the trolls. I roll down the window, taking a deep breath to calm my racing heart. I'm aware of Pyr Gynt's Hall of the Mountain King, foreboding notes of the oboe, a palpable stench of fear.
Am I leaving that, or taking it with me...?
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Author Comments

Marge Simon lives in Ocala, Florida and is married to Bruce Boston. Her works appear in publications such as DailySF Magazine, Pedestal, Dreams & Nightmares. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, "Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side," and serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees. She won the Strange Horizons Readers Choice Award, 2010, the SFPA's Dwarf Stars Award, 2012, and the Elgin Award for best poetry collection, 2015. She has won three Bram Stoker Awards ® for Superior Work in Poetry, two first place Rhysling Awards and the Grand Master Award from the SF Poetry Association, 2015. In addition to her poetry, she has published two prose collections: Christina's World, Sam's Dot Publications, 2008 and Like Birds in the Rain, Sam's Dot, 2007.

- Marge Simon
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