In the first and second parts of my trip through Divided we Fall – an anthology from October 2020 predicting the dystopian results of Joe Biden being elected president – I encountered the Mormon Church being criminalised, conservative military officers being “disappeared” and Donald Trump himself being literally torn apart by a leftist mob. It was pretty boring to be honest, but having passed the halfway mark I may as well soldier on. Here are three more warnings of things to come…
“The Ballad of Becky and Karen” by Jon Del Arroz
To quote a Trump-era tweet from the author of this story, “shitposting works as marketing. This is why we is president now.” True to his philosophy, Jon Del Arroz delivers a few thousand words’ worth of shitpost starring a merry cast of caricatures.
Becky and Karen are two parochial San Francisco white girls who support Black Lives Matter, despite being hopelessly out of touch with the issues connected to the movement. When Karen posts a photo of herself holding up a sign reading “Say their names”, Becky clicks “like” even though she has no idea whose names are being referred to. Since they’re progressives in Divided we Fall, they also spout dialogue like “I can’t believe I just microagressed” and “You should probably watch more mandatory diversity training videos.” Becky has seen Donald Trump murdered on television, and fully approves: her philosophy is that “[n]o matter how micro their aggressions, racists deserved to be put down like animals.”
Noticing that the social media photos of their fellow activists are lacking diversity, the pair decide to head into Oakland and film a video: “All we need is to find some marginalized people to dance with to show we’re one of them and they’re included”, declares Becky. Ignoring a “No Whites Allowed “ sign and heading past the nearly-collapsed remains of the Oakland Tribune building (“Allegedly some kind of bomb had gone off there during the Great Peaceful Protests of 2020”), the two friends stumble upon a group of appropriately marginalised people:
“My friend and I wanted to come out and show solidarity with your Black lives. You matter.”
There. She’d said the words. The men stared at her incredulously. The one who’d spoken burst out laughing, and then so did the others.
“What’s so funny? We were hoping we could film a Dik Dok with you to show people we’re all human and equal.” Becky crossed her arms.
The large Black man flashed a smile, gold teeth showing, diamonds sparkling across the front. “Oh, there’ll be some dicks docking tonight. Jamal, get them.”
A man in a blue hoodie advanced toward them. So did three of the others. Every instinct in Becky told her she should run, but she refused. These instincts were the root of racism. Jamal grabbed her by one arm, tugging her toward him. He was so big, forceful. Becky struggled, but his grip was firm, and she’d never be able to get out of his grasp.
“I didn’t give you consent to touch me,” Becky said.
“Becky! That’s racist,” Karen said. She offered her arm to the next Black man.
So, Becky and Karen’s lives of empty Internet activism have left them woefully unprepared for the harsh realities of inner-city life. Who, then, has the kind of hard-earned world experience to save them? Karen’s boyfriend Kyle, of course – because he plays a lot of video games. Getting wind of what happened to the two girls, Kyle grabs his father’s Biden-banned firearm and sets off to the rescue. He’s never used a real gun before, but that won’t matter: “He’d fired all sorts of guns in video games, The HK416, the ACR 3. AR-15s seemed like noob weapons by comparison.” As the story spells out, the entire world seems like a video game in the violent Biden era, and the hobby that Kyle’s parents disapproved of can now serve him well.
Meanwhile, Becky and Karen are taken by their captors to the story’s main villain: Tony Stevens, a wealthy white tech entrepreneur who acts as head of the Black Lives Matte Oakland Chapter…
He’d used his funds as an initiative to fund the protests and had appeared several times on nightly news to talk about white privilege, fragility, and how everyone needed to force equality by ensuring African-Americans had equal representation in all neighborhoods, even ones like his own. Becky had found him to be stunning and brave. Very few white men would admit to such privilege and create solutions like diversity quotas within neighborhoods.
It turns out that Tony is involved with sex trafficking. Becky is shocked at this development, but avoids making objection: after all, “African-Americans had endured slavery for hundreds of years. It made sense for them to buy and sell her and Karen like property. That was only fair.” The negotiations between Tony and the kidnappers briefly become heated, but Tony wins the argument by stressing his connections to Governor Newsom. But then Kyle arrives guns blazing, and takes out the gangsters:
Four Black men lay on the ground, dead. It dawned on Kyle that they’d kidnapped Karen and Becky. These girls thought they were making some great statement of equality, but they’d ended up kidnapped by these lowlifes. When wold they learn? Virtue signaling never accomplished anything. It only got people hurt.
Kyle then kills Tony and gets Becky and Karen over to his car. To his dismay, Becky immediately begins admonishing him four killing the four gangsters: “There were Black lives snuffed out here… Because of you!” she proclaims. “This is just another sign of systematic racism.” Kyle responds by getting into the car with Karen and driving away, leaving Becky behind.
In case you’re wondering, yes, the story does find room to bring up the pandemic (that troublesome ghost that haunts the anthology) and again uses this detail to comment on the school system:
[S]chools had never come back in the San Francisco Bay Area after the COVID-19 outbreak. Though the fears of the virus had diminished, Governor Newsom had determined that schools created too much inequality, another symptom of systematic racism in society. That made sense to Becky. If Black children performed poorly on their schooling compared to whites, the only sensible thing to do would be to remove the thing that created the disparity.
“Supermax” by Lee Thompson
You may remember that back in late December (a couple of months after Divided we Fall was published) Trump pardoned a bunch of convicted war criminals. Well, you’ll find no prediction of that controversy in “Supermax”, which depicts questionable pardons as being – of course – a Democrat deal.
In the story, prisons across America receive orders to release large numbers of their most notorious convicts, many of them Al-Qaeda terrorists. In some cases the prisoners’ sentences were commuted due to the pandemic (which, as the anthology has already established, is part of a Democrat plot anyway) while others have been pardoned by President Biden himself. The media is aware of this, but keeps quiet at the behest of the government.
The prison officials given these orders are aghast, some even considering the possibility of refusing the order and going to prison themselves. Things become even more alarming when CIA agents start turning up to shuffle the officials away to safehouses, although the prose doesn’t quite convey the gravity of the situation:
“What’s this about?” I squeaked. I was so surprised at the manhandling. I hadn’t been treated like this since I was a small child. “Take your hands off me! I will not be treated like this!”
However, it turns out that the CIA agents are against Biden’s terrorist-pardoning ways and are secretly working with the prison officials to sabotage the plan. Together, the patriotic conspirators begin plotting to kill the terrorists before they can be released:
“We could put them in jobs where they’re likely to get hurt, then give them the wrong drugs accidentally? We need to switch around some of the workshops anyway,” Randall suggested.
“Good, that’s good. Our medics are generally high anyway, so that’ll be easy to manage. What else?”
“What about that so-called heart-attack drug, can we get some of that stuff?” Jones asked.
“Sure, but who wants to lose their job for being filmed while injecting these people? Not me, that’s for sure.” I said. “You know they record everything here.”
Although various methods of homicide are proposed, explosives are quickly decided upon as the best course of action: (“We can use their own tricks against them, make a bomb they can run over to take them out”). The plans are put into motion with success:
Someone placed explosives under the frame of the bus in several key locations, then the bus continued on its way, one of the prisoners being made to drive. The timer would go off in just one minute, so Agent Johnson and crew followed at a reasonable distance to make sure everything went off as planned. The crump, crump, thud was heard by everyone in the car; Agent Johnson smiled grimly. There were no survivors.
There are a number of issues with this story. I could bring up the curious assumption that Biden (vice president to the administration that killed Osama bin Laden) is actually best buds with Al-Qaeda, for one. There’s also the story’s complete refusal to address any ethical questions raised by the extrajudicial execution of freed convicts. Above all, though, what really stuck out to me was how the author came up with a reverse-prison break narrative that could actually have made a pretty gripping thriller – and still ended up with something this boring.
“For the Children” by Rick Cartwright
This is one of the longer stories in the anthology, and given how tedious the previous entries were I went in with a good deal of trepidation. I shouldn’t have been concerned – this one was utterly hilarious.
Jack, a single father whose wife was killed by a careless driver, heads to the library for a copy of his 5-year-old daughter Jessica’s favourite book: Just So Stories. When he arrives, however, he sees a truck outside bearing the words “Public Works Administration, Truth and Reconciliation Commission”. We’re told that the Public Works Administration had been created by executive order immediately after Trump was killed, and was subsequently nicknamed the Antifa Full-Employment Act: “Jack agreed, since it was clearly a payoff to get the rioters off the streets”.
When Antifa’s down the library, you know trouble’s a-brewing. Sure enough, Jack meets a librarian who fills him in on the details: “Those awful federal people are roughing up Ms. Sammons because she won’t let them take our books! They hurt Billy when he told them to back away from Ms Sammons”. He then sees the scene for himself:
He entered the main library just in time to see a kid dressed all in black push Ms. Sammons into the little elevated writing area where people filled out requests and library card applications. The old woman fell back, the base of her skull striking the edge of the counter with an ugly crack. She collapsed to the carpeted floor. He saw Billy Lockhart lying in a pool of blood.
The police arrive and detain the two violent male agents while the third member of their group, a purple-haired woman, offers shrill protests as purple-haired women in stories like this are wont to do. Alas, it’s too late to save either of the victims: Billy is already dead from being stabbed, while Ms. Sammons later dies in hospital. Back at home, Jack has to explain the librarian’s death to his daughter Jessica:
“So she’s in heaven with Mama now?”
Tears formed in Jessica’s eyes. “Who’s going to read the stories at library story time now?”
I fully expected the answer to be “a drag queen”, but surprisingly enough the story misses that trick.
Jessica is also unhappy that her dad wasn’t able to take her favourite book out; Jack decides to placate his daughter with a Kindle edition of Just So Stories – only to find that it and every other book by Rudyard Kipling has vanished from Amazon. After emailing the site, he receives a reply with a link:
Clicking on the website, Jack learned that the Commission had deemed Kipling “problematic” because of his “jingoistic colonialism.” Any library facility that received federal funds or grants were to remove his works forthwith. Private businesses were asked to “voluntarily remove such authors.”
Reading on, he found that “any retail organization that fails to abide by the Commission recommendations will no longer be eligible for inclusion as a federal vendor, and any federal employees making work-related purchases at any such organization will not be eligible for reimbursement.” Well, that explained Amazon.
Meanwhile, thanks to the effects of another executive order, the agents responsible for the library incident get off scot free. Jack also learns that all three have criminal histories but were released from prison prematurely (tying in with the previous story). The two young men are both rapists (and “alumni of Portland and Kenosha”) while the purple-haired woman is – in a personal twist – none other than Megan Brooks, the driver who killed Jack’s wife. They were still able to get their jobs, however, because of “an executive order prohibiting the consideration of past criminal status in federal hiring”.
Fortunately, Jack has a tough-guy ally in the form of 6’8”, 300-pound former marine sergeant Jaymes Cunningham, whose daughter was dating the murdered teenager. Jaymes sees the recent occurrences as just the latest stage of a long-running agenda: “The enemies of this country are playing a long game. Hell, I’d never have gotten my PhD dissertation approved if I’d been a white man… it was ‘The Democrats during the Civil War. The party of slavery, the Klan and Woodrow Wilson.”
As it happens, Jaymes has already killed the two male agents, having caught them raping his daughter. He now needs Jack’s help for a couple of tasks: one is hiding the bodies, the other is smuggling library books to safety.
During the latter operation, Jack is confronted by the purple-haired villainess (“I know you’re behind all the old women librarians hiding all the colonialist, fascist propaganda people like you use to twist the minds of children and lie to people”). Holding Jack at gunpoint and threatening to smear him as a child sex trafficker if he fails to comply, she orders to be taken to the stockpiled books.
Jack decides to lead on her on a wild goose chase in an abandoned mineshaft. His plan is to sneak out while she’s lost in the dark, but – oops! – she uses her cigarette lighter and causes an explosion, killing both herself and Jack. The story ends with the orphaned Jessica receiving a copy of Just So Stories from Jaymes at her dad’s funeral.
There’s plenty of unintentional comedy to go round with this story, but the part that really made be laugh out loud is the shameless plug for Baen:
The “problematic list” was long and varied. Besides Kipling, there was Thomas Sowell, PJ O’Rourke, Sarah A. Hoyt, Thomas P. Kratman, Chris Kennedy, David Weber, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Z. Williamson, John Ringo… Jack saw a pattern.
He called up the Baen site. It redirected him to a Department of Justice website proclaiming that the web address had been seized as part of an ongoing investigation. There were several pictures of individuals Jack recognized from the dust jackets of some of his books. In the center was a dark-haired woman with glasses. Under the pictures was a caption,
“THE ABOVE INDIVIDUALS ARE FEDERAL PERSONS OF INTEREST. IF SEEN, CONTACT THE DOJ AT THE NUMBER BELOW. DO NOT APPROACH. THEY ARE CONSIDERED ARMED AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.”
Well, that’s it for another instalment of my series on Divided we Fall. Join me next time as I mop things up with a look at the final three stories in the anthology…