A horned man I met in the woods told me the country didn’t have a democracy. “It’s a plutocracy,” he said, scratching the hair of his shaggy chin. “Democracy was taken over in a hidden, long-term coup by a totalitarian system of bankers and globalized corporations. It’s a government of the rich, for the rich.”
High in the sky overhead, intersecting lines of chem-trails formed giant white crosses linked like a vast net.
“Looks like it’s gonna rain,” I said.
“Within forty hours,” the horned man replied.
“I wonder what we’re ingesting.”
The horned man nodded.
From where we were sitting, we could see the long line of limos gleaming on the road thread through the trees. A sickly trickle of river ran below like a varicose vein. The occupants of the armored vehicles hid behind tinted windows with one-way views, but we knew who they were. Slick old whites packed inside entered the redwood forest like parasitic tapeworms in the heart of the host.
I wondered if it wasn’t the chem-trails that woke me up.
Quietly through the woods we traveled for a spell. Through the dancing branches we moved with roots and the sway of green growth till we came to a place where uniformed interlopers held automatic rifles. Protectors of the parasites.
“I hear they got cell phones that shoot bullets now,” one of them said from where they watched the long line of gleaming limos.
“Those have been out for awhile.”
“They got cameras on those bullets?”
“Bullet’s basically a mini-cam. Shows all the details goin’ on when it hits. You get a video of the impact in slo-mo sent automatic to your email.”
“How long’s the video?”
“Most you can slow it down to is ten seconds.”
“That’s pretty good.”
“Yeah, it’s amazing what they can do.”
Stepping out of the trees, the horned man and I appeared behind them.
“Slug ‘em good,” the horned man said.
I had a pinch of dust already in my palm. At my directed exhalation, the powder shot forward and expanded as it landed on the enemy forces. The glistening black and yellow forms of hundreds of banana slugs instantly grew into view. Firmly sticking to clothes and skin, the slugs swelled on contact, completely covering even the automatic rifles. A muffled bubbling churned as the slugs grew bigger than actual bananas and didn’t stop until they were ten times bigger than a big banana slug, all of which took about eight or nine seconds, and then there wasn’t any trace left of the enemy at all, just a couple of smears of dark mucous, mostly from the metal of the gun.
Hundreds of giant banana slugs oozed away, jostling sword fern as they passed.
Brushing off my hands I said, “Let’s go,” and we melted into the forest.
I thought about the things that the horned man told me. What a nightmare it was to wake up to what the world had become. He hadn’t been awake much longer than me. I could see what he said was true.
“When I woke up,” the horned man said, “everything was different. The world was different. I’ve seen all this come to pass. Some say not since the Dark Ages. But that was just an isolated event, and didn’t threaten the entire planet.”
Further elaboration on this point was interrupted by the great gray helicopter that materialized overhead and began firing, indiscriminately splintering the lofty green branches between us in an otherwise ineffectual display, for I had chanted the power of protection, and the meager weapons of the enemy posed no threat to us at all.
Still, the thought counted.
Leaning back and bellowing terrifically, the horned man sent forth from his mouth a blue blaze of flame that enveloped the chopper, shook it, spun it, then dashed it as though with a giant blue glowing hand on the dried up river bar below.
Quaffing a draft from the flask at my hip, I grew ten times my size and charged down the hillside onto the Avenue of the Giants, smashing into a couple of limos.
Bullets everywhere, zing zing zing. Reaching into one of the cars I found what I was looking for.
I could hear they had orders to stop shooting. I held the jar perilously poised thirty feet over the asphalt between two tremendous fingers. There was a severed head inside.
The horned man’s voice rang clearly below. “Which head’s that?”
“Not sure,” I replied. “Looks like it might be J. Edgar Hoover.”
“Is it wearing a blonde wig?”
It was so small, I could barely tell through the formaldehyde. “Yeah, I think so.”
From the torn limo I thought I heard one of the angels of destruction squeak.
I leaned down close.
“You got something to say to me, little man?” I boomed.
“Do not harm the head of Hoover!” squeaked the voice.
Do not harm the head of Hoover? This was intolerable. “Fascist heads,” I intoned, “hear me now!” As if they couldn’t. “If you give this Hoover a damn, stop your totalitarian tide! Bringers of terror to the world, this is your chance to listen to reason. Pull out your fascist heads. Let’s go, on the hoods, pull ‘em all out. I’ll smear the head of Hoover like a goddamn booger. DO IT!”
Limo doors opened as one by one the fascist heads inside the limos were reverently and tearfully placed by their unholy acolytes onto the ticking hoods of the cars.
“Hey,” the horned man said, “the heads talk.”
“Really?” I took a closer look at the jar between my fingers. Gasps of concern for the head of Hoover accompanied arms upraised pitifully like the bobbing beaks of baby vultures. Upon repositioning the jar, I saw that the top of it had some sort of screen portion that looked vaguely like a stereo speaker. Hard for me to tell, being enormous. Inside the jar, the head of Hoover looked in every way sloshed. My shaking it around so much clouded it up, but I could see there was a hose between the speaker on the lid and the back of the head. Some sound was coming from it. It sounded like Hoover was trying to speak.
It was not a human voice, but rather an electronic simulation, a voice-box, which said: “Military warheads brought to you by… televangelist snack clown park.”
I thought about that.
“Hey,” the horned man said again, “this one speaks German. Looks a little like Charlie Chaplin. Hard to tell, though. The brine in here’s all murky. Everything’s mostly worn down to a shapeless lump.”
Ten more heads on ticking limo hoods completed the set of twelve.
“The clean little man,” the electronic Hoover voice flatly stated, “with the white plastic smile loves you. Obey.”
The fools, the damned inbred idiots!
And now the things the horned man told me about the public educational system getting dismantled started to make sense. Now I understood why this was the only industrialized country lacking a system of socialized health care. Now I could see why the entire divided nation was shackled with sugar and TV and strip malls and cheap plastic crap caught in a blanket of poison rain. The hidden fascist heads worshipped by the inbred elite had been pickled in their jars for so long, they were completely insane.
Before the spell of size wore off, I smashed the cars and stacked them on the river bar for the horned man to torch down into slug-able lumps. All the guns, cell phones, clothes and credit cards went in as well. Everything, all of it.
“You’re free now,” I said to the people who used to be evil. I had returned to my normal size at this point, and could look at these naked wretches, so newly free, as though we were equals. The horned man had the jars all set up on a long driftwood log. “Now that you’re free, what do you have to say to your fascist heads, hmm?”
At first the nouveau homeless in their redwood Eden didn’t know what to do. They just stood around looking pathetic and beleaguered like dehumanized idiots until one of them finally developed some sensible initiative and picked up a rock. The rock had a gross sort of film left on it from the big business pollution that killed the river. He didn’t seem to like to have to touch that rock, being concerned for his health, but he went ahead and threw it.
The rock bounced away well shy of the mark. Even though this character couldn’t throw a rock worth a damn, the fresher heads in the jars seemed to understand. A few of them became relatively animated and began talking all at once. But who can make any sense of that?
“More of our kind are on the way,” the horned man said, returning a crystalline globe to a satchel at his side. Giant butterflies with black light wings fluttered around high in the trees. The land was waking up. Finally, the nightmare was over.
I told the wretch with the rock in his hand he could scoot up and try a little closer.
Stewart Kirby writes contemporary fantasy fiction set in the Northern California redwoods. He has been the movie reviewer for The Independent for the past eleven years, his serialized novel Lost Coaster can now be found in The Trader, he is the song-writing lead singer for Cro-Mag, and he hosts the upcoming KMUD radio show Twisted Lit. Find him online at stewartkirby.blogspot.com.