The bar was dimly lit. Though the ambiance was a happy side affect of the low lighting; the real reason for the dusky tavern was recent order I33 or the “Electro Rationing & Redistribution Program” which prevented any public space from using more than 110watts per bulb. There was a potent odor of sweat, dirt, and whiskies….straight. Thanks to order C54 or the “Functional Repurposing of Dihydrogen Oxide” ice was not a luxury this working class could afford. A panorama of faces drooled into their short whiskey glasses, all lit by the neon buzz of the telemonitor. Despite the group’s aching backs and whisky drowned spirits their minds were still sharp from their mandatory eighteen years of “Automized Neuro-Educational Conditioning” and took a keen interest in the televised political debate for High Chancellor. Though most felt there was little difference among the candidates, the debates were generally an amusing and somewhat stimulating display, like the little cartoons in the newspaper where you must spot the minute differences between two pictures. Ever since the “Anti-Deception Act” which required politicians’ vital signs to be monitored for any trace of dishonesty, candidates slowly merged into an indistinguishable mesh of grey political correctness. Promises were almost never made, and questions were rarely answered directly. For the men watching the live debate in O’Malley’s Whiskey Bar, the whole charade was a back and forth of verbal acrobatics seeing who could say the most, without really saying anything at all.
Two desalination workers, one could call them friends, were sitting at the corner of the long mahogany bar nearest the telemonitor. They both watched, with little emotion, the candidates work their way around the issue of, “Mishandling of Middle Income Human Resources” or workers abuse, an issue the two men knew well, just returning from their 60-hour workweek in the desalination factories. The question was, “How will you ensure, with the declining value of the dollar and shrinking profit margins in major industries, middle income human resources will be able to provide the proper sustenance for their familial units?”
The current High Chancellor had the floor and was in the middle of an etymological arabesque into a moral back handspring. His disposition was stoic and grave, standing tall in his grey metallic suit.
“…..you see, because men WANT to provide their family with food. I aim to feed my family everyday. There are many ways to do this. We need to work together! Need I remind everyone of the Contaminated Air Crisis? I was Chancellor when people were struggling to breathe! And look now! People are breathing nearly the same quality of air then before the crisis. I want to help our working class…”
The Chancellor’s “Truthometer” broadcasted in the corner of the screen, resembling a tremendously complicated heart monitor, began to fall ever so slightly. Approximately 3BPM increase in heart-rate, .02CM increase in pupil dilation, .05 deviation from standard respiratory intake, and a .13 variance in vocal tonnage and frequency. Though the variances weren’t enough to signal falsehood, the Chancellor quickly changed directions.
“…uhhh, oh! And let’s not forget Senator Trujillo’s support of the Corporate Finance Reform Act!”
The two men at the bar both picked up their whisky glasses, pausing just before reaching their lips, let out a hopeless sigh, and took a swig. The younger worker’s face pinched at the taste, the older remained statuesque raising two fingers to the bartender and pointing at the now empty glasses.
“I think it’s time we let our new candidate, Senator Noah, speak.” The moderator chimed. “Senator Noah, would you take a moment to address the crowd and the viewers at home, tell us about yourself, why you’re running for High Chancellor, and what you plan to accomplish.”
“Thank you Madame.” Senator Noah began. “My fellow Occidentals, I will be direct with you. My campaign is about change! I see millions of you suffering, struggling to live. With me as High Chancellor I will provide every Occidental with all the resources necessary to live a happy fulfilling life!”
The men’s heads in the bar perked up, like dogs hearing an intruder. All eyes were fixed directly on Senator Noah’s Truthometer .1 unit increase in BPM, 0CM in pupil dilation, .02 difference in respiratory intake, and .06 variance in vocal tonnage and frequency. He wasn’t lying. The air in the bar stood still, and any low grumbles of conversation stopped immediately.
“I have a plan to put every Occidental back to work in decent jobs. No more Zinc miners, no more medical trial subjects, no more desalination factories!”
The truthometer remained unchanged.
“I will clean our air to the standards before the Great Occidentalization. I will provide every family with water. Clean water! I will end the war and regain peacetime conditions with Eurasia! I propose a bright future, one where the sky is not covered with smog and the Sun shines! If you choose me as your next High Chancellor, we will prosper once again!”
All of the workers gaped into the telemonitor with disbelief. Although politicians of the past would have been entitled to explain just how they would accomplish all that, the bewildered candidates on stage, and wide-eyed workers in the bar knew that the “Ideological and Political Mental Property Act” meant that anyone with such grand plans would refuse to reveal their means. Besides Senator Noah must have a great plan, because he was not lying, and therefor, he believed he could fulfill all his promises.
“My god.” The older desalination worker whispered, maybe to his companion, maybe to himself. “Can it be true?”
“It must be true!” shouted the younger companion amongst the rising excited voices in the bar. “You saw the truthometer! He’s got a plan! I can’t believe it! I gotta tell my wife! Barkeep! I said ‘Barkeep’! Two more for me and my friend here!”
The older worker looked ahead, at nothing in-particular, with a face like he was working out some complicated arithmetic in his head, jerking it side-to-side now and then as if he came to the wrong answer after each long equation. The bartender arrived with the drinks.
“Put ‘er up Frank!” exclaimed the younger worker. “To a bright future… No..no… to seeing the Sun again… Nah even better, to getting outta that damn factory!”
The companions touched glasses and the younger worker threw down his whisky with all the youthful vigor and cheer he had left in him. This time it was Frank who pinched his face at the aftertaste.
6 months later…
Senator Noah won the position of High Chancellor in a landslide victory. Despite the other candidates’ attempts to discredit his character and integrity, even resorting to running ads featuring his drug addicted cousin and tri-sexual step-father, the working class came out in record numbers to support the Noah campaign. Today, Noah was to give his inauguration speech and reveal his master plans to fulfill his promises.
O’Malley’s Whisky Bar was buzzing like a beehive full of workers. People were jammed in shoulder-to-shoulder celebrating and laughing and drinking. Frank and his younger co-worker were sitting in the exact same spot as the day of Senator, rather, High Chancellor, Noah’s first appearance. The young man was exuberant. He was drunk and cheerful and would pound his fists rapidly on the bar with a closed eye smile, almost a grimace, biting his bottom lip to contain his excitement. He was not alone in his anticipation.
“Oh man I can’t wait, I can’t wait, to hear what he’s got planned!” He said to no one in particular. “Can you believe he won?” This time to Frank. “I tell you what as soon as I get outta that factory I’m ‘a get me a house with water. Clean water. No more lead tests for my baby girl!”
Frank sat back casually, like an unmoving rock in a turbid sea of enthusiasm. He seemed to be the only one not drunk with hope, but solemnly sober with doubt.
“Hey SHUT UP! This is it! He’s on he’s on!” shouted the young worker.
Everyone fell silent.
“My fellow Occidentals,” the new High Chancellor began, “I want to thank you all for supporting me and entrusting me with the position of highest responsibility in perhaps the entire world. I could not have done it without all of you at home. All of the working people out there searching for a better life. I’m sure you are all very eager to know the path to this better life. I’m sure you wish to know how we will move forward to better jobs, cleaner air, and peace amongst our enemies. Well my fellow Occidentals, I will share that with you now. My plan to this better world is very simple. I need only one word with which to reveal it; God.”
“God?” hummed the crowd in O’Malley’s Bar. Eyes darted to the corner of the telemonitor.
“Yes, God.” Continued the High Chancellor, “I know religion has been dead for many decades now. I know even the word ‘God’ may be foreign to many of you. But I assure each and every Occidental out there, if we pray to God, he will lead us to the better future that I have promised! This and only this is my plan to that better world. So I ask you all to join me in prayer and await this better world to come. God bless each of you at home and God bless Occidentalia!”
The telemonitor went black. Everyone began to look at each other for an explanation that no one could produce. Some questioned if they should pray. Some began to cry. Slowly the quiet calm sinking feeling that possessed the crowd, as if in a free-fall, suddenly and violently hit the ground. Everyone began to panic. Everyone began to shout. O’Malley’s Whisky Bar erupted in chaos.
Frank was once again the tranquil body among the stormy pandemonium. No expression of surprise, nor disappointment, nor anger rested on his wrinkled face. Blank. He picked up his whisky glass, stopped just before reaching his lips and murmured, this time to himself, “Belief and truth, o dearest friends, if only one proved the others ends,” and he finished his glass of whisky straight.
“Beliefs are more dangerous foes to truth than lies” — Friedrich Nietzsche