's 2018 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by saint salt (email)

Half of me wants to say that everything started because we didn’t give a shit, but the other half of me is saying that this all was a foregone conclusion. People did give a shit. I gave a shit. The right people didn’t, I guess.

I’m sitting here, in my room, at 2:40 AM, on the morning of November 4, 2036. It was Election Day yesterday, and today, it isn’t. The campaign is over. I haven’t looked at the news in sixteen hours. I don’t want to go to sleep. I don’t want to stay up, either. I want to stay in this moment of uncertainty. But it’s not uncertainty, exactly. I’ve just figuratively covered my ears with my hands. And I can’t keep them there for the rest of my life.

I started typing because I wanted to put down a record of what happened for future generations after all this ends up destroying us, so I suppose that’s what I’ll do. But it’s hard to figure out where exactly to start. I guess I’ll just go chronological. It doesn’t feel right, but that’s the easiest way to do it.

....God, there’s no way I can say this that won’t make it sound ridiculous, So I’ll just say it. The next President of the United States has no political experience. He initially got famous as a SoundCloud rapper in the late 2010s. That’s not all there is to it -- Jesus Christ, that’s not all there is to it -- but that’s the gist of the first part. The stage name he used was Aholic, and he was just about exactly the same as the other rappers of the time. He had wild tattoos and long, unkempt hair, and a general disregard for just about every law imaginable. His music was aggressive and rough, filled with sharp 808s and drilling synths that picked at a sober listener’s brain. The lyrics were invulnerable. He sounded like a god. His voice was soft but poisonous, with a way of turning a dumb phrase into something millions repeated for weeks on end. I won’t deny that I was one of those millions - I was a college student when he was 20 and at the top of his game, and if a party was on you could pretty safely put money on an Aholic track coming up on the playlist. He was inescapably popular for ten minutes, and then he announced he was going on a spiritual retreat to Mars. Kanye did it, so I guess it wasn’t that big a deal - but Aholic never could reach those heights again. Sure he returned from his “great awakening” on the Red Planet, and he released new music, but it wasn’t the same. Maybe he accidentally did reach Nirvana or whatever, and that took all the fight out of him. In any case, music had moved on, and Aholic was irrelevant.

Until he wasn’t. Out of nowhere, he was on the ballot, 35 years old. In a way, this made some sense. I mentioned earlier that he was always in trouble with the law, which is true, but the thing is, he was never convicted. It would make headlines that he was part of a massive racketeering group or something, and he would end up acquitted every time. I didn’t mention yet that his face was free of tattoos, and the rest of them could be covered up by a smart-looking suit. I didn’t mention yet that he was white, and freckled, with the kind of boy-next-door good looks that, paired against a chuckle and his BIll Clinton-y southern drawl, could convince any Mississippi judge that he could do no harm. And for those who were hesitant to acquit him straightaway, well, he had ways of slipping free from the law’s grasp.

I also didn’t mention that when he ran for the presidency, he ran under his birth name, Chester Cummings. Thank you, President Cummings. Here’s your coffee, President Cummings. Some documents for you to sign, President Cummings. It really, genuinely, sounded normal. He didn’t make any mention of himself being Aholic during his campaign. His opponents sure did - it was mentioned in a debate one time, but he just smiled and said “yes, that was me. Next question.” And they moved on. He gracefully acknowledged his past and his party instantly forgot about the dumbass kid who punched cops and extorted businesses for protection money. It seemed to everyone that he played the good ol’ boy card so straight for so long that it just became his reality. We never saw a tattoo or a rhyme for the entire campaign.

His platform was vague and sensationalist and nationalistic, and you’d think after falling for this once we would be better-equipped to deal with it again, but apparently not. It was a character thing. Where the last guy like this was all bluster and bombast, Cummings delivered this ghastly rhetoric with straight-faced, blithe, down-to-earth simplicity. He made it sound reasonable. There was passion in the way he talked, but no fury. He came across, for all purposes, as a seasoned candidate with a genuine understanding of how to fix this country. But he wasn’t! He wasn’t. And as opponent after opponent dropped out of the race, caught up in the wave of the “Voteaholics,” what choice did we have but to take him at face value?

His opponent was Stacey Abrams, an embattled former Governor of Georgia, who’d fought tooth and nail for her position and overcome decades of racism and legal finagling. She was his exact opposite in every way. She called him out ruthlessly on every inch of his horrendous behavior, dragged out the ugliest parts of his past, laid down concrete plans for how she would improve infrastructure and curtail the global warming that was decimating the planet, and most of all, didn’t buy his 180 degree life realignment for a second. And most of her supporters were the same way, but there was a camp of equal size that, seething, shouted her down. The news media was dominated by Aholic. His charity, his generosity, his all-round Good Guy Factor. Nothing about his policies. Everyone on the left suspected there was money changing hands for this glimmering media portrayal when he’d promised nothing, but personally, I never believed it. People liked seeing this rapper up on the stage being treated as an equal to someone who worked for her position. For people who didn’t care about politics, it was funny. It was a joke.

People started goofing on Aholic partway through the campaign for spending an excessive amount of time getting makeup done before going out on stage or for TV. There were SNL bits where Pete Davidson, dressed in the omnipresent smart-looking suit, gave interviews while being assaulted from all directions by arms holding powders and puffs, smudging up his face as he talked. Memes thrown around Tumblr and Twitter showed him as the Joker, as Effie Trinket, as Gamzee Makara. Before long it became evident that Aholic was trying to cover up a mole on his forehead, and that is when people really started taking the piss out of him. The left started quoting Phineas & Ferb and sharing pictures where the mole was photoshopped to nauseating sizes. The right fervently defended him, saying if they did the same to the Democratic candidate they’d be branded racists, inadvertently revealing that they couldn’t possibly think of a way to photoshop Abrams that wouldn’t be racist. In response to all this, he sided with his fanatical devotees and stopped the makeup entirely.
“This is me,” he said, the mole looming larger and larger on his face literally by the day. He never seemed bothered by it, smiling and shaking hands even as his skin bulged out almost an inch on his forehead. It started looking almost pointed, and he just kept kissing babies and saying he’d get what’s wrong out of America and start putting what’s right back in. A few weeks ago, it ruptured, and revealed a hard black mass underneath it. He assured us his doctors said it was nothing to worry about, and he continued on the campaign trail as the skin withdrew. We were all, to put it mildly, concerned. What was going on with him? It clearly didn’t impact him much, but it was worrying. If he won, would he be, like, okay? His Vice Presidential pick was scarier than he was, a real hardline Christian type who was well respected in the Republican Party for his advocacy of conversion therapy and his vehement hatred for Planned Parenthood. If this tumor (It’s Not A Tumor, said the memes) grew fatal, would we have to put up with him as President?
The questions kept coming and he kept waving them off, same as he had done his whole campaign. “Trust me, it’s fine.” That was his response to everything. Trade deals, states rights, the four-inch black spike protruding from his forehead. It would bleed occasionally. He carried a handkerchief in his breast pocket and wiped it clear around the base. If he brushed the spike it would twitch. Doctors were completely baffled. An 85-year-old Dr. Ben Carson, out of the public eye for a decade, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times explaining that he didn’t know what was happening with Cummings, ending it with “This is a mystery to me, and I’m afraid.” It made front page headlines worldwide. Cummings never acknowledged it.

During the final debate, a week ago, Cummings looked like a goddamn unicorn. The thing poking from his forehead was easily three quarters of a foot long. You could see it pulsating. Every time Abrams referenced it she got more desperate. She started with the line of attack that with this thing poking out of his forehead and his own refusal to comment on it, he was clearly covering something up. Cummings flatly denied it to uproarious applause. “I’m as honest as I’ve ever been.” When that didn’t work, she changed tactics to questioning his health, if he was well enough to take over the highest office in the land.  Cummings had the gall to make a plea to the moderator for Abrams to stop discussing his appearance.
“How would she like it,” he said, in that sweet Southern drawl, “if I were to make political attacks on her based on the color of her skin?” The moderator, a no-name conservative schmuck from Fox News, agreed point-blank. He instructed Mrs. Abrams to stop discussing Mr. Cummings’s visual appearance. And then Abrams made the worst mistake of her entire presidential campaign: she got angry.

Abrams accused Cummings of point-blank racism. She accused him of dismissing genuine concerns about his health and understandable doubt about what was going on with him. She accused him of brusquely ignoring the struggles of marginalized people, of trivializing economic inequality, The audience clapped wildly for her, her half responding just as excitedly as Aholic’s half had. For a second, everything was perfect. Then Aholic simply said, “Well that was rather rude.” His half erupted in raucous laughter.

For a female candidate, especially a black one, to get visually furious during a televised debate was political suicide. The cartoons over the next few days were disgusting. They were genuinely appalling. For drawings like the ones that ended up on newsstands and Facebook feeds, accusing her of being a baby, a hypocrite, a rage-fueled monster, to get as much mainstream coverage as they did completely broke the Abrams campaign. There was nothing left to do. Polls swung wildly in Aholic’s favor.

At a campaign event two nights ago, Aholic sneezed at the mic. When he did, the spike plowed aggressively out of his forehead, blood spurting from the space around it. It hung limp, about three feet long, from his face for about ten seconds, the entirety of the Houston auditorium dead silent. People started taping on their phones. In seconds this was headline news. Reddit went thermonuclear. The shape now protruding from his forehead was long, thick, and spindly, deep black, slimy, segmented, and sinuous. it had thin, needle-like projections sticking out from its sides, one pair per segment. It raised itself up in the air, extending like a tentacle from Cummings’s head. His blood sloughed off its back. Some of the projection... well, I'll call them what they are. Some of the legs had bits of brain matter stuck to them,

“Well, this was bound to happen sooner or later,” he said. “But don’t worry, it’s fine!” The martian embedded in his skull opened its eyes. They are beady and green, and everyone in the world has seen them. Aholic was not his own. He was not in control. And as the centipede finally unfurled itself, Aholic did the strangest thing.

He recovered. He finished what he was saying, something about never raising taxes ever again.

And you know what?
Every damn hand in that auditorium clapped for him. Everyone clapped for the thing that was making him do its bidding. As far as I can tell, there was no compulsion. The thing had no power over anyone but Cummings. But his audience, the ones that would vote hardline red til the end of their days? The bloody scene in front of them, the pieces of shredded frontal bone on the podium in front of what was left of Chester Cummings?
None of it mattered to them, because the alien told it like it is. The alien knew what the people of America wanted. The alien was the perfect candidate. It’s in Cummings’s home Mississippi now, still campaigning, waiting for the election to be called in its favor. It will use Aholic’s mouth to deliver its victory speech.

When last I looked, he was leading polls by seventy percent.

I cannot wake up and face a reality where the President of the United States is a dead man. I cannot face a reality where the populace would rather elect a dead, possessed white man over a black woman who dared to get passionate about this country. I cling to the hope that one day we will wake up and change our ways, because there is nothing else left for me to do.