Sixteen years later
Brookfield, Illinois May 31, 2036
To be at the Brookfield Zoo with her family on a bright, sunny day like this had always been Kiki’s dream, even If the zoo was thigh-high in garbage-water. “Can we go see the lions?” Kiki asked.
“Of course!” replied Mac-Daddy. So the McGillicuddy family (a young, stolid, Irish-American clan of four) followed the path down, sloshing in their waist-high waders in the direction the lion-shaped arrow was pointing. Like always (of course), there was nothing to be seen in the lions’ area except rocks and fake trees.
“Sometimes, the best things come to those who wait,” said Mommy-Mary to red-haired Kiki with a wink.
“They’ll be out,” Kiki’s tall, pimply, teenaged brother, Mick, assured her, “You’ll see.”
Time passed, and Kiki started to get jumpy, kicking at the bobbing bottles and cans (although the zoo did do a remarkably good job of diverting most of the floating waste away from their property).
“Don’t kick the trash, honey. Germs.”
“Daddy?” Kiki said abruptly, “Why is United America called ‘The Big Pony’?”
“Well, because of the smaller size, pumpkin,” Mac-Daddy explained. “Our country used to look like a big horse when I was your age, but then it got smaller, and now it looks more like a pony.”
At this point, Mick, very much meaning to rock the boat, cut in: “But that was the old United States...”
“Cool it, Mickey…” warned Mac-Dad.
“...Now,” Mick continued, “the entire continent of North America is called America-United. Or United-America (or something like that; no one’s really sure). But currently, in real, factual-fact, everyone says United-America looks like a three-legged buffalo because American-Canada is its round back, and Mexico-of-America looks like the buffalo’s gigantic penis—“
“Mick!” exclaimed Mommy-Mac furiously, the tip of her nose bright red.
“(...much the same way Italy used to look like a boot...)” Mick continued bravely on, “(...but now, with its swallowed-up shores, it’s nicknamed The Bootie).”
Kiki’s freckled face conveyed merely confusion. “‘Booty’? Like a butt? OK, wait, if the whole American continent is called The United-Americas,” said Kiki, “then what’s South America called?”
“We don’t like to talk about that,” said Mr. McGillicuddy, happy to change the subject as he spotted something: “Oh, look, Kiki!”
Kiki glanced where her dad was pointing, and she witnessed an actual, real male lion, featuring a large, shaggy mane, ambling out majestically to recline on the rocks.
“Oh, my goodness!” exclaimed Kiki. “Look!”
“Well, you better hurry before someone else comes.”
So Kiki raised her long rifle and shot the lion in the face. Everyone cheered! A pink golf ball rolled down the chute and came to rest in a gold cup. Dad took the ball and read what was written on it, hammily proclaiming: “...aaand the little girl gets three free extra rounds at the penguins!”
“The penguins are so boring, Dad,” complained Kiki. “They don’t move fast.”
“They do when they swim!” laughed Daddy-Mac. “Good luck hitting them then!”
“I could...” Mick confirmed quietly.
“Let’s do the penguins next time, not now!” said Mommy-Mary, turning to her husband and whispering, “Come on, Mac, we gotta go. Weather.”
“OK, everyone, time to go! We’ll visit the penguins on the way out!” Mac-Daddy declared with a wink in Kiki’s direction.
At that moment, however, it started to rain on that previously sunny day, hard, and all else was suddenly moot. The ‘Cuddy family jogged/sprinted/jump-waded through the water along with other zoo-goers towards the parking area, everyone picking up speed with every passing slippery, high-water-hurtling step. It began to almost feel like a spontaneous running race, but everyone knew the race was against the gathering mud storm.
Reaching their Super Deluxe just as the heavy stuff started to come down, Daddy-Mac fired up the Ol’ Hummer-With-the-Five-Foot-Struts and jockeyed for position with the others who were commencing their manic treks home in similar hi-rise, aquatic-friendly Four-Wheelers.
Lightning soundlessly streaked the bright red sky, illuminating the tornado clusters below. Then, five seconds later by Kiki’s count, two cranium-shattering thunder explosions (causing everyone to flinch or shriek) boomed, signaling the actual storm was five miles away and closing. “Like giant spinning tops under a fireworks show,” is how The Dear Leader once described what He now called “The Fabulous Weather Shows of The ‘30s.” It really was a kind of awe-inspiring sight if you chose not to see the forest for the trees.
As always, “Mac-Daddy” McGillicuddy had to select his driving routes quickly through the torrential downpour, between the dozens of dirt (now mud) road-paths and byways that wound along the dangerously fragmented, earthquake-ravaged highways and roadways of old, now rendered utterly useless.
(The fractured concrete monoliths formerly known as “roads” were, in truth, little more than obnoxiously large obstacles nowadays, always in the way of seemingly every single place anyone wanted to go). The word “infrastructure” wasn’t used much anymore. These days, you pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps and made your own infrastructure. Often though, these new, makeshift-transportation mudpaths inspired nostalgic feelings in fortyish-year-olds like Ma and Pa McGillicuddy since they mostly cut through what used to be the front and back yards of the old, dilapidated, suburban houses and schools of yesteryear.
Frustratingly, Daddy-Mac seemed to always choose the most aggravatingly slow paths, frequently having to detour around large houses or stuck cars. On this trip, though, only once did Mick have to get out and push, and this was chiefly because the McGillicuddys’ tires were, as always, at least four feet wide, newly gnarly and knobby, highly expensive, and usually pretty damned kick-ass. Tires meant survival in United America today, as proved all too plainly by the poor suckers behind them who were now and forever stuck on the loamy bypaths and lo-ways, helplessly unable to budge as the superstorm loomed rapidly onward and over them.
In all likelihood, they would all be dead by morning, those inhabitants of the cars who got mudstuck. It was one-strike-and-you’re-out in this present clime; everyone had agreed to that.
Because everybody had chosen this life. Over and over again, with increasingly large percentages, the American public chose this in every election since The Shocker of 2016.
Were the elections rigged?
Was there ever active hacking into voting machines or voter rolls and other kinds of “miscounting” of ballots?
Did gerrymandering and dark money insure the popular vote never actually “won” the election?
Yes. The Supreme Courts made sure of that. And so did the TXXXP Electing-College (The President re-named the Electoral College after himself in ‘29 by signing a bill declaring its “eternal-Forever-existence” (“Like the stamps!” He said), calling it “The TXXXP Electing-College Forever-Law”).
Were the elections “fair”?
(An archaic term, only understood (and rapidly being forgotten) by the older generations.) The American public had simply accepted, after a while, that you had to win by a landslide these days, or you didn’t win because the other side always cheated (pathetic shrug).
And of course, Americans asked for these faked elections because they voted time and time again to elect the very people that looked the other way. Why did America decide, ultimately, that this rigged electoral process was good enough? Some feel the answer was summed up best in 2029 by then-twenty-six-year-old congressman Jim Weymouth of Kansas when he opined:
“Humans beings don’t possess the capacity to be nice to their future selves anymore.”
That rung strangely true and became somewhat of a mea culpa moment for the entire nation as its piercing rightness sluggishly dawned on everyone. So... subsequently, United-Americans begrudgingly learned to live with the philosophy that they asked for: Do not make a mistake or you’ll be incarcerated in the West Virginia State Pen or dead. Because unless one had enough TXXXP-PardonBucks lying around, there would be no other chance given.
And that’s why you had to have great, great, just great tires like the McGiliCuddys and a great, great four-wheel drive to boot. Or you and your family could be dead any time the need arose to leave your underground abode, for any reason at all. These daily flash-mud storms could kill.
Now: If one felt bad after losing a loved one in these newer, larger storms, the answer was TXXXP television. The TXXXP Administration would soothe its public through RAMFOX chirpees, or the government-owned RAMFOX News Channel, which was mandatory viewing at least five times a week (and the Administration wasn’t kidding about that either; outside the plush, heavily televisioned capital cities, there were multitudes of bolted-down, vandalism-proof, fifty-foot-high communal TVs out in the dusty wilderness, all over the Four Sticks and beyond, guarded 24-7 by Wizards so the have-nots in the wastelands could watch too). To console grief-stricken Americans who had lost loved ones in the superstorms, the Administration would frequently remind its constituents that any grieving-type people were supposed to think on the legendary, Old West wagon train journeys of the 1800s, and then they wouldn’t feel so sad if someone died: “...Because, remember, families would routinely lose four or five kids or more on those nation-crossing wagon-train treks! And also remember,” The Chosen One TXXXP added sagely, “that was actually at a time when America was also considered ‘Great’ as well! So take heart.”
So in a nutshell, “Stop Your Bitchin’ (but in a good way)” were the thoughts and prayers the Administration offered everyone because they needed to stress that all of this current carnage being inflicted wasn’t the Administration’s fault, and it wasn’t even that odd, historically, if you thought about it (which they clearly had been doing, a lot).
At last, the McGillicuddys’ Super-Deluxe Hummer-Z swerved into the driveway of their basement-level house in KXCH Manor, Rockford, which sounded fancy, but was basically a slum. Their former hometown, the city of Chicago, was gone, after all, gone like the poles, swallowed by Lake Michigan (amongst other things) (more on that later) and replaced with Rockford, Illinois, as the temporary, primary bastion for any open-minded Liberals left in the upper Midwest, outside the domed capital cities. (The full, “official” name of the region where the McGillicuddys resided now was “Loser-Sanctuary-Dirty-Chicago” or, more commonly, LSD-Chitown (which rightfully returned to Chicagoans the fun acronym of L.S.D. since the long-submerged Lake Shore Drive was obviously gone forever). It was never fully explained why Rockford, a good eighty miles from used-to-be-Chicago, was called “Chicago” at all, but LSD-Chicago (i.e. Rockford) was one of the two places left where the BASILs (Bad, Angry, Sad, Idiot Liberals, coined by Erik TXXXP in ‘30) were allowed to exist nowadays).
There were ten domed capital cities in The-United-America now:
Kansas City 1 (the one in Missouri. Not to be confused with “The-Kansas-City-2-Losers” on the Kansas side, the only other open-air, openly Liberal Bastion in America besides LSD-Chicago),
Aspen-Colorado (mostly preserved for TXXXP Family vacations after Denver was obliterated in the Miller-Time bombings),
The Rapid City Sea in South Dakota,
...and then along the West Coast:
Salt Lake City-Utah and
The McGillicuddys, for one, would have loved to be in Cincinnati or Saint Louis, the two closest domed capital cities in proximity to them, but they didn’t have the TXXXPBucks.
Not anywhere near.