18:46, April 15, 2054 (GMT-5)
Arlington National Cemetery
That night, Julia Hunter ordered sushi in her apartment and watched coverage of Slack’s botched press conference from her living room couch. Days later, Slack’s panicked response to the question of Castro’s death continued to air and look even worse in the news.
Hunter picked up a piece of salmon sashimi with two chopsticks while Karen read the next story: Castro autopsy reveals common sense confirms wrongdoing and White House lies.She dropped the fish into her lap.
The withheld autopsy information exploded. Each channel’s prime-time host will show a printed copy of the report to the camera. They read the entire section aloud, describing the dimensions of the marble-sized clump of cells that had inexplicably lodged in Castro’s aorta, and excerpts from the autopsy itself, in which the leading physician concluded: “This can’t be the same thing. heart.”
Within an hour, truth-tellers were flooding the streets of cities across the country. As Hunter scrolled through the channels, news crews in Lafayette Park were interviewing more and more protesters, and she recognized one of them; it was the man in her wheelchair. We met her on the subway. She thought of him often. Now she knew who he was: retired artillery sergeant Joseph William Sherman III.Below his name on the screen were these words: Truther Volunteer Organizer. She put his name in a search engine and learned that he had lost both legs in the Spratly Islands and that a Chinese nuclear attack on San Diego killed his wife and three daughters who lived at nearby Camp Pendleton. Hunter could hear in Sherman’s voice how deeply he resented a president who, while alive, had flaunted constitutional norms by trying to cling to power for a fourth term while his successor Mr. Smith is now flaunting constitutional norms by refusing an autopsy and refusing to be transparent about his predecessor’s death.
“Point your camera here,” Sherman said, pointing to his missing legs. “I sacrificed this for my country, and you’re going to lie to me… and you’re going to lie to everyone.” usHe gestured loudly to a group of truthers who had him at the center, the core of whom were veterans, dressed in old military uniforms with medals hanging from their breast pockets. “It’s a lie to say Smith is the legitimate president, when” he clearly participated in the killing of Castro. Is this what America is like now? Dreamers revel in the power of authoritarian presidential leadership. As long as it empowers a few , just lie to most people.” Sherman held the camera with his hand and focused on his persistent blue eyes.
His tone was so firm that the reporter felt compelled to answer him, and she said in a soft voice: “I don’t know.”
“Of course you don’t.” Sherman leans into the camera. “President Smith,” he began, “you are illegal. You will find that ordinary Americans – we patriots – demand to know the truth about your crimes and the excesses of the Dreamers.” Leadership from the man who stole the presidency. We have served our country before and we will serve this country again. Don’t even think about placing your predecessor on shrine in Arlington.” Sherman turned around. Turn your back to the camera and then walk away.
News cuts to commercial break.
Julia Hunter rested her head on the arm of the sofa, still staring at the screen. The exhaustion of weeks washed over her. While waiting for the show to return, she fell into the dark wilderness of sleep. Deep in this sleep, early in the morning, she began to dream: in the dream, she fell asleep in her girlhood bedroom and was awakened before dawn by a noise, the sound of something hitting the floor. Her surroundings were familiar, adobe houses. A ranch house in New Mexico where Sarah Hunter was raised. Wearing her pajamas, she carefully closed the door behind her and walked into the dark hallway. At the end of the corridor, a ribbon of light emerged from the base of another door. She started walking down the corridor. The tiles were cold under bare feet. As she got closer, she could hear what sounded like a struggle.