The electoral crisis in The Commonhope of UZ -- that fictional country much like our own -- draws to a head as my serial novel "The Country/The Country" moves toward a climax on the eve of the November 6 Congressional elections. Mr. Pig, the autocratic candidate who manipulates his country's creaky Voting system -- intimidating opposition voters and casting a mind-control spell over his own supporters -- orders his backers to march on the nation's Capital and install him as their new leader. In the darkness before dawn Citizen Keel broods on taking matters in his own hands in a wholly uncharacteristic act of violence. But in her hideout in the hills, opposition leader and seer Mrs. Nathan calls on ancient spirits for assistance and receives a message, from somewhere, concerning "a wall of flesh."
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We're in the final week of my serial novel "The Country/The Country," with postings scheduled for today, Friday, and Monday, Nov. 5 -- the day before the Congressional elections.
I appreciate the support and words of encouragement I've received from numerous readers. Some of you took the time to write generous reviews and post them on the novel's online home. I thank you again for your attention and your kindness.
Here's an excerpt from Chapter 45. We begin with the drama taking place in the thoughts of the seer Mrs Nathan:
The ancient ones said they were ready now.
Nothing worked the way it used to, of course, when the world was young. The world had not been young for some time now. Still, it was there, going on anyoldwhichway. That was something.
Some of the ancient ones were tired of being ancient. Renewal was the only answer, they argued. Build it anew. Time for 'a new.'
New what? someone asked.
Not up to us, the others demurred. Our job was to do a job we were set up to do. It's not to knock things over and start up everything from scratch all over again.
Well whose job is it, then?
Don't know. Probably something stronger, and younger. Like a comet, maybe
Are comets young?
Who knows? Maybe a hole 'nother yoo-niverse young.
So what do we do, just wait around to be destroyed?
Created? Destroyed? All that's beyond our understanding. It's not our business.
We really don't know anything, do we?
No, we don't. You're right. We don't even know what we look like. In order to do that you have to be someone else to do the looking.
Now how can you be someone else and still be yourself?
Can't. Be like stepping on your own feet.
Swallowing your own tongue, another one said.
Actually, people do that.
It had been harder, harder than she remembered, to get their attention. Was that because she was older as well?
But, hey, they were the ancient ones. They shouldn't have any problem with 'old.'
Still, she argued (with herself), if you pursue something that isn't ready yet, you simply push it further away. You cannot grasp the ineffable with both hands and pull it from its hiding place. You only cause it to shrink away and hide deeper in the darkness, which is always there, which is spinning toward the dawn in its own good time. You have to wait.
But it was hard to wait.
Sometimes Mrs. Nathan found it hard as well merely to keep her eyes open. She did not wish to miss the call when, eventually, it came. It was hardest of all to remain powerless as the Leading Candidate moved toward what was clearly meant to be the Last Campaign. The minds of her followers, the workers and messengers of her hive, have supplied her with images enough to show her what was happening in the darker, scheming mind of the One Who Would Be Ruler.
She saw, if darkly, the shadows of his intentions. How they loomed across the country. She saw the smokes and fires in those intentions. She saw the monuments rise to the new ruler. She saw the divisions darken between those who brought great bags of numbers to the tower of the ruler, and those whose fortunes were filled with holes. She saw the sands run through their fingers. Saw the tatters of their communities. Derelict factories, empty houses. Abandoned villages.
The peoples who had not favored the new Ruler separated, willingly or not, from those who did, their opportunities shrinking. She saw masses of the disfavored 'others' cleansed from the land. Gathered into herds and driven from their homes toward the borders of other realms, smaller, less powerful countries that the Ruler forced to accept these deportees. Though these lands did not want them since they had people enough of their own. Still, they were driven. Fences pierced. Borders crossed. People herded, forced along by men in uniform bearing weapons.
She saw the Permanent Campaign, leather-lunged followers cheering decorated representatives of ACE, Ass-kicking Community Enforcers, the ruler's favored arm of government.
She saw other men, armed men, walking the streets of UZ's cities and towns with the slouching superiority of the conquerors. The New Force with its new uniforms of a dirty northern green, the boreal green of the cold, polar-tending places, patrolling the streets with automatic weapons. Given a wide berth by ordinary folk, the permanently occupied citizens of the Commonhope of UZ.
New armies rise, restless for purpose, domination, spreading the gospel of strength.
She saw the Festivals of Money. Grand, palatial interiors inside the transparent many-storied towers of the New Wealth, mirrored and chandeliered, fitted with ice sculptures and artificial waterfalls; with cascading gardens of hanging flowers made of vinyl, where snowfalls of paper currency floated down from the balconies to the laugh-choking, breathless hysteria of the costumed guests, wearing the gowns and uniforms of Long-Past Eras of wealth and ostentation: the bangles and boas, and feathers and cockades and robes, and caped splendors of the regal courts of ancient regimes... Saw them squealing and laughing and scurrying and squabbling among themselves to gather up huge handfuls of the carelessly dispossessed wealth of the nation.