Hell in a Handbasket – by Christopher Cho

This country’s going to hell in a handbasket, Hog thought to himself, as he adjusted the scope on his high-powered rifle. The portly man stood in dirty overalls, one button unbuttoned for comfort. He wore a nondescript hat, hoping it would camouflage him in the nondescript room atop the nondescript building, conveniently located catty-corner from where the most powerful person in the country was to be sworn in to office.

With the back of his hand, Hog pushed back the dirty red curls and sweat that fell into his eyes. It had been days since he had allowed himself to sleep, months since he had been able to do so soundly. How anyone could get any sleep at all with that monster being elected to office was a mystery to him.

Hog’s tongue smacked the roof of his mouth. He eyed miniature bottles of liquid courage. Tiny bottles of whiskey zapped down to compact size and sold for a dollar or two at the gas station nearby. They were intended to be celebratory, enjoyed only after completion of his mission, but it wouldn’t hurt to indulge one or two now. Ease his shaking hands, his rattled nerves.

They were all the same, Hog reckoned. Cold blooded. Untrustworthy. Slits for eyes, and mouths like snakes. Speaking only in seductive untruths, serving to only take, to manipulate, to twist and weaken this nation and all the people in it. But Hog saw through it. And Hog could save them, if only he could get the goddamn scope on the goddamn gun to properly focus for once.

In the days leading to his election, the serpent soon-to-be-sworn officially revealed himself as the filthy beast he was, and Hog was sure that was the end of that nonsense. People would see him as the monster in man’s clothing that he was, and would surely cast him out. Run him out of the country if he was lucky. Drawn and quartered to be made an example of, if he was not.

But what happened instead was a sure sign of the end-times. Rather than rightfully gathering pitchforks, people gathered flags, homemade signs, stenciled t-shirts. Rather than dousing the monster in venom, they instead riled up wicked support. He was not alone, and the more he garnered fans, the more others came out like him. They had been living amongst us all along, right under our noses, shoveling their shit in our faces, laughing at our ignorance. Well, Hog wasn’t taking it no more. If it was a war they wanted, he’d take it right to their slimy door.

These people threatened to take everything he had ever known, but he wasn’t gonna let them. People wouldn’t understand at first, they’d call him crazy. Until slowly, day by day, twenty-four hour news cycle by twenty-four hour news cycle they’d discover the truth, he was a hero. Hog was the only sane person left. And they’d cry, and the masses would mourn, begging for a second chance. Nancy Grace would interview the girl that blew him off in High School, and Becky would sniffle and talk about what a mistake she had made, how she had always had a feeling that Hog was special. “But now it was too late.” the blonde bitch would goad.

It was all in his manifesto. “Look,” he’d explain, “I know things is hard right now.” He wrote with pen, in cursive to reinforce the severity of the circumstances. “I know a lot of things is happening. Our world is changing, and it feels like there ain’t nothing we can do to stop it. But what I’ve done today is proof that there is. We can start a revoltion.” Fuck. Pen was a mistake. He hastily scribbled out the proof of his mistake and replaced it with “war”.

Hog went on to apologize to his parents. He doubted they’d notice his absence, probably preoccupied with his little shit brothers and sisters. But he knew they’d see his message one day. He hoped it was on the TV, a handsome news-anchor with a fancy tie and a twenty-dollar haircut, delivering his words directly with all due solemnity. He had a feeling he wouldn’t get to deliver the message himself.

Finally, he’d close with a rousing call to action, “Despite what they would have you believe, it IS us against them.They claim to be just like us. To want, just like us. They claim to want to live in peace. But that’s not true. I know it, I’ve seen it. They seek to destroy the way we live. They seek to feed on our flesh, to drink our blood.”

“And I’m not gonna let those goddamn Lizard-People do that to us.” Hog wrote, “To me.”

Hog’s warm breath dispersed in the chilly air as the sea of people below gathered to the Presidential podium. His fingertips were numb with cold despite wearing gloves. He cut the tips off for dexterity and sensitivity, but now he just regretted not having the extra warmth. He clumsily fumbled at the chamber of his weapon, readying it, barrel tipped out the window.

A child’s balloon in the shape of some sort of dinosaur floated past his room and he quickly receded for fear of being seen. Confetti and streamers flew freely on the streets beneath. Human and Lizard alike staggered, drunk on libations and celebration. Some sang. It’s funny, Hog never knew “Hail to the Chief” had lyrics.

“Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,”

Were they reading? This was ridiculous, did someone pass out lyric sheets?

“Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.

Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation,”

The words began to cut through him, a chill rose through his spine. This was brainwashing. That was the only explanation. What did those fucking Dracos promise you, Hog thought, technology in exchange simply for “acceptance”? Leaps in knowledge and medicine for a little subservience? It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t acceptable. Hog knew he couldn’t be alone in this feeling, but he felt alone now as he sat, rifle in his lap, beneath his nondescript window.

Music began to play, the sound of horns soared through air, and large drums kicked in his chest. The crowd rose and cheered, still not loud enough to drown out the next line of that ridiculous song,

“In proud fulfillment of a great and noble-”

“Fuck this.” Hog protested. He snapped back to position, rifle steadied on the windowsill. The applause of the rally below him rose to unbearable levels. The enemy walked on stage.

Accompanied by his wife and servicemen, the dirty Reptilian approached an older gentleman as he was introduced,

“-It is indeed my honor, to administer the Presidential Oath of Office to the next leader of our United States, Mr. Sv’kcorak Vsttfrst. Please rise.”

The President-Elect, Mr. Vsttfrst, walked upright, wearing the finest tailored suit money could buy. But even in his expensive Italian shoes he seemed to slither. The dark navy blue of his suit complimented his shadowy green scales. His cufflinks twinkled and glistened in conjunction with his shiny eyes as they darted, seemingly seeing all around him in three-hundred-and-sixty degrees. He appeared to be smiling but it was hard to tell, his sharp red tongue darting to and fro.

“Please raise your right hand,” Chief Justice insisted. And Sv’kcorak did. “And repeat after me.”

“I, Sv’kcorak Vsttfrst, do solemnly swear,” Chief Justice stated, and Sv’kcorak mimicked.

“That I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States to the best of my ability.” Sv’kcorak’s reptilian voice croaked, ironically enough, and his three-hooked claw wavered slightly. The scales on the back of his palm expanded and contracted, giving his hand a shimmering illusion.

“I will preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States.” The voice felt far off now. Hog had heard enough. Scope be damned, this was his moment, and he was going to take it. He closed one eye. Despite the images being blurred, and giving Hog a mild headache, it was still easy to pick out the man-sized gecko. His finger closed on the trigger as the voices droned on over loud speaker. He could hear the Lizard’s voice all around him. The Oath was over, 21 guns raised simultaneously.

Hog took a deep breath, and as the guns in tradition fired, so did he. His timing was off by a millisecond. Only an apex predator could have distinguished a difference in the sound. And Sv’kcorak did. The beast wheeled around with breakneck reflexes, impossibly making eye-contact with Hog, over 10 stories above him and half a block down. But as he tried to speak, no words came out, and as he extended his razor-sharp claw to give his men direction, a crimson flower began to bloom across his chest.

As the soon-to-be-ex President collapsed, his wife, Annie wordlessly embraced him. It was as if he had tripped over a piece of furniture and she had caught him. She fruitlessly tried to keep the blood from spilling out of his chest as a panic spread throughout the swarm of people, quickly turning from a crowd to a mob. Annie returned her hand from her face, seeing it to be covered in blood and her own mascara. She had begun to wildly weep and moan, like an injured beast, and had not realized it. The security, in trying to subdue the mass, had only succeeded in turning them on one another. Fists and claws tore at each other. Blame hurled in the confusion. And above it all, Hog stood, proud and terrified.
He removed the screw-top cap to his miniature bottle of booze, and as the door to his nondescript room, in his nondescript building bowed and then splintered, he knew he had won.

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