The Day the Tanks Came
By Kashif Thomacz Richardo
Published by Kashif Thomacz Richardo at Shakespir
Copyright 2015 Kashif Thomacz Richardo
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We laughed as he announced his plans for the top job in the world. No one could believe that the campaign was to be taken seriously. We laughed at his outrageous comments and his farcical plans. We were fairly safe on our sceptred isle, just across the channel from France. Even if the Americans were stupid enough to elect the idiot they would realise that he wasn’t suited for the role and we’d have someone more moderate in a few years. It wouldn’t affect us; it was a US problem.
We stopped laughing as his support grew. I hugged my wife longer each night. On some level I’d guessed what was coming, but denied it on the outside. To the world everything with me was normal, I still played with my son, I kissed my wife goodbye as I left for work. Most damning, I ignored the stares that were given to my neighbours, it was just some idiots listening to another idiot on TV, they’d get over it.
Then it happened, the Presidential Primaries were announced and he had become a bona fide candidate. Rather than a fractured support network, now he had his party’s complete support. With that came extra media coverage and money. Not that he needed the former; he’d risen to fame on a tide of extravagance and inherited wealth that led to his own television show. Without that he would never have had access to the notoriety he now assumed. Our twin US and UK cultures, and tendencies to make people famous for the sole reason that they were already famous had come back to haunt us. It was only meant to be entertainment; we weren’t supposed to take them seriously.
The jesters had taken over, we had risen these fools above others for they were mindless parodies of all that we hated about the society we resided in. More and more of these people came forward to endorse the growing campaign. Perhaps they were more canny than we gave them credit for. Knowing what I know now, to save my family, perhaps I should have done the same. Instead we poked fun, memes distributed via social networks and the internet. We parodied the parody, instead of weakening him it just made him stronger.
I should recap. His mantra of hatred had been based upon sheer unadulterated racism. In a world divided by poverty and inequality, a world where white people had been masters of their planet but a few short decades ago. This resonated with their sense of entitlement and loss of identity. He offered back what they had lost, gave them a scapegoat for all they now suffered instead of telling them they should not expect a free ride based on a poor education. We had fostered the entitled, rich and poor alike and tolerated their bigoted notions as protected by free speech.
Then the attacks came. At first, it seemed like they came from outside our borders, but then they began to come from within. Those who had been shunned and marginalised by overt and implied racism lost their faith in our systems and began to be radicalised. They said it was in the name of God, but their actions showed no similarity to the message they said he preached. Peace was their way, but their way was signposted by guns and knives, every pitfall lined with improvised explosives. The flashpoints, as always, were centred in the past and the Middle East. Outrage at the Jewish Nation, hereditary pain felt from the Crusades and a sense of loss at the proud traditions of the region in the face of colonisation. Extremists harkened back to the glory days of the Caliphate, convinced that their illiterate rule and hatred of intelligence would lead to a golden age of philosophy and enlightenment. Their creed was to send the vulnerable and gullible to their deaths in the name of a God who would surely disown them for breaking the most sacred of his tenets. Their threat, although real and though they recruited from amongst us, seemed distant and unreal. Sooner or later they would run out of children to blow up, surely?
Like a wind to a flame, the atrocities uttered by the Presidential hopeful fed straight into their campaign, he was at once their greatest threat and truest ally. As London and New York burned again, we all hugged our families tighter and longer, pulled the covers up higher; restless sleep came harder every night. The bombs started in earnest. Children, both victim and perpetrator, ushered into the hereafter, fuelled by preachers of hate. Our police, security forces and armies struggled to stem the tide, a thin line against the oceans. They failed as riots broke out across the entire United States, shops were burned, innocents dragged out into the streets and beaten. This was not the work of the Islamic militants, however; this was the work of others, fuelled by distrust of those with a similar appearance to the militants. Those innocents were victimised over a long terrible weekend of pain and suffering. We watched helpless as the television broadcast these scenes of barbarism into out homes.
My wife turned to me that night, fear in her eyes. She didn’t have to say anything, but she looked at our son and I knew what she was thinking. What kind of world had we brought him into? Will he end up twisted into a brute by a radical fear monger? I couldn’t say anything, I didn’t know. Perhaps that was part of the problem, we didn’t say anything. We watched, convinced someone would do something. I just squeezed her hand harder and blinked back the tears.
We went to work that Monday as though nothing had happened. We ignored the graffiti on the wall, spreading dissent and lies. It was the same old rhetoric that had failed before. “Send them back where they came from,” “Islam out,” “We don’t want Sharia Law” and “Kill the Ragheads.” The slogans burned into the minds of the impressionable and disenfranchised, the illiterate and stupid. We saw more shaved heads from that day. More big sturdy boots, red braces.
Marches happened on a weekly basis. Our government, already Right Wing, started to look moderate in comparison to the new groups. Their appeal was to the Right Wing and so they lost ground politically, votes went against them in Parliament and a hodgepodge of policies were implemented as a result of Private Members bills. Some were progressive, some oppressive. The laws swung one way and then the other depending on how the newspapers reported peoples’ beliefs. Knee jerk reactions dominated politics both here and in the US. A riot would result in progressive legislation on hate crimes, a bombing in new security measures directed at Muslims. We bought new locks, not to replace the ones we already had on our doors, but to augment them.
A new fear arose, the fear of words. Words such as “sympathiser” took hold, becoming a synonym for conspirator and collaborator. We took to circuitous routes to avoid being seen near mosques and areas mainly populated by Islamic people. We were afraid to point out that the idea of “sending them back where they came from” was idiotic as many Muslims were born in the UK and US. Part from fear of being branded a sympathiser and part from drawing attention to this issue, for without somewhere to send those born here what could be done with them?
My wife and I were shopping when our son pointed to an Asian gentleman in a turban and uttered the word “terrorist.” He was too young to know the pain he caused, or even what the word meant. We could only shush him. We couldn’t explain that the man was not likely to be a terrorist probably having lived here for many years. We couldn’t explain that he wasn’t even a Muslim, turbans being a sign of the Sikh faith. This fact was brought home to us when a group of skinhead youths gathered around us congratulating us on our parenting skills. I cried that night with shame, as did my wife. It was just a word he had picked up either at nursery or from television. Kids pick up the damnedest things. Why did it have to be that?
Television was relegated to after our son was asleep, but it would often be shut off at the slightest sound from upstairs in case he came down and learned some other hurtful remark. It was all we could do to try and stop the infernal influence. We learned from other parents at nursery that the vilifying of Muslims was even happening in children’s programming, not overtly but it was an underlying theme. He would be too young to join the gangs roaming the streets, but how long before he would want to sneak out of the house to beat some poor woman to the ground for wearing a hijab?
Even shopping became a political issue. I noticed it first when going to the checkout buying chicken. I was stopped by the checkout assistant.
“You realise that chicken is halal right?”
“Oh, I didn’t realise. Erm… Can I put it back and choose another one?”
“Sure, you know you can tell by reading the packaging?” he asked.
“Sorry, I didn’t think.”
“That’s okay, I’ll wait.”
I walked back through the store the eyes of the entire queue fixed on me, this man buying Muslim meat. I felt so ashamed, not for choosing the chicken. For God’s sake it was just a chicken, I didn’t care if it was halal or not. The fact that I didn’t say it at the time was what hurt. I did not have the courage to back up my beliefs that vilifying a quarter of the world’s population was wrong. What made it worse was that the sole tear on my cheek was seen as shame at almost buying a halal chicken.
“Idiot! Why don’t you bugger off with your Asian pals?” muttered one man as I returned to the checkout.
I returned home, too ashamed to admit to my wife what had happened. She hugged me and prepared the chicken I had picked up. The non-halal chicken tasted like ashes in my mouth. Normally I couldn’t tell the difference but that night it was tainted with my cowardice.
We put my son to sleep and steeled ourselves for the news broadcasts, as though sensing people wouldn’t want to watch the news, filled as it was with new news of terror, they had interceded the timetables of films, sitcoms and documentaries with short news bursts. All filled with hate and bile from celebrities and politicians. Perhaps I wouldn’t have remembered the chicken incident if it hadn’t been for that night. That was when it started, the presidential hopeful had been appointed to represent his party. He had been tried in a court of public opinion and emerged victorious.
The rich entitled and the poor, ill-educated flocked to his banner in droves and the rhetoric intensified. The news was filled with his face and message. We had been sure that saner minds would prevail and he wouldn’t be allowed to continue. Instead he and his support had grown. His party changed from a far Right Wing political movement to out and out Fascist. There was no dissention in the ranks; private disciplinary hearings took place behind closed doors to decide the fate of all who chose to disagree with him.
Journalists on both sides of the Atlantic took to “outing” anyone with a past link to Islam, which in the UK wasn’t hard to find. Helping a neighbour a few years ago, giving a lift to his mosque when his car broke down and the busses were late was seen as sympathising. Helping out when he was collecting for the Red Crescent in Syria was seen as supplying terrorism. We stopped talking to some of our neighbours and friends, some were Muslim and some had spoken out in defence of their friends. Others, we didn’t want to associate with given their Right Wing extremism.
Since the advent of mobile technology, conversation had taken a downturn, but now commuting was largely in silence, no one knew who would say something, or inform the media about an innocent statement taken out of context. We sat in fear of the man next to us, or the woman behind or the child staring from across the aisle. Fear purchased our silence oh, so cheaply.
We were required to show ID cards upon entry to the city centres, we stood in line before armed private security contractors each and every day like cattle. Once a week someone was turned away, and they shuffled off knowing they would likely lose their job, their home and be forced to ask for handouts from the government, with inevitable delays for “security checks” and claims that their actions had lead to voluntary termination of their employment.
Our neighbour, Tanveer and his wife Shameena, knocked on our door one evening.
“We came to say goodbye,” Tanveer said.
“Why? What’s happening?”
“You have been a good friend to us over the years, but even you have grown distant. We have realised that we cannot stay in this country much longer.”
I ushered them inside. unable to believe what I had heard.
“You were born here! You’re talking as though you’re an immigrant returning home.”
“That is how we are seen now.”
“Not by me, not by everyone.”
“By enough. How many call me names as I go to work? How long before I am turned away at the checkpoints?”
“You can’t let a few racists dictate how and where you live,” I pleaded.
“You ask too much, it is not just a few racists. There are those who believe the lies and they are in the majority. There are only a few who speak out to stop this.”
“I’m not in the majority. I’m not a racist, there are more like me.”
“Yes, there are. There are many like you, but you are not one of the few. We must leave before history repeats itself and they come for me and my family in the night. I didn’t come to start an argument and lay blame,” Tanveer replied with a sigh. “You have been good neighbours, you watched my daughters when my wife got sick and for those moments I am grateful to have known you, but we must go. Goodbye.”
I don’t know if Tanveer, Shameena and his two daughters, Aisha and Jamila, made it out. We never saw them again. I hope that he made it somewhere safe, where his daughters could walk down the street without fear. A place without people like me, who were too scared to do anything. I remember the night my wife and I had an argument and she left. It was Tanveer who came over and talked me out of my anger, telling me that I was throwing my marriage away over something that didn’t matter. Sitting me down and explaining that it was only my pride that was hurt not my relationship. Driven me to my wife’s mother’s house to beg for forgiveness, given me the strength to admit that I was wrong, to make the hard promises, the ones I had forgotten making the day I married her. In her grace she had come back home, because of him. Without him the birth of my son, a mere year later would never have happened and I would never have known the pride and joy my son and my wife brought me.
My wife and I sat stunned in our living room in our comfortable suburb. It had just hit home to us that the rhetoric was invading every aspect of our lives, driving good people from us and ours. I called in sick the following day, as did my wife, not able to face the stern faces at the checkpoints and the disapproval if there was a rejection of an entrant. Each production of the ID card a mute acceptance of what was going on.
As if sensing our fear of what may come to pass, one group stood out in America, the artists and academics. Historians and writers alike joined with the opposition to the presidential candidate. Logic and reason were swiftly followed up by satire pointing out the fallacies in his policies and statements. They highlighted the evil inherent in his rhetoric. Sketch shows aired clips of him making outrageous statements with footage of the host shaking his head in disbelief, lost for words at the sheer idiocy.
It did no good. Society had worshiped at the altar of anti-intelligence for too long, these intellectuals were mistrusted and rumours of pro-Islamic conspiracies surfaced. These rumours detracted from the message, removed the sting for the candidate. Slowly, ratings for those shows dropped and people lost themselves in more Reality TV shows, unwilling to commit to viewing potential seditious material. The ill-educated were unwilling to believe or were incapable of understanding, and the rich were thinking of all the profit that could be made with a combination of a resource vacuum and tax breaks for the rich that would inevitably follow if the candidate were actually elected.
The votes were counted; we sat with baited breath as they were announced. As expected the Bible Belt had supported the candidate, lost in a past of conservatism and historic racism they had flocked to his banner in droves meaning that his lead in those states was unassailable, the voices of the moderates lost in the clamour. The night dragged on and one by one the states voiced their results. California, Washington and New York had all voted against him in large numbers, being the most progressive states this was not unexpected. Vermont, a traditional state also voted against, possibly offended by the reduction of liberty inherent in his statements. To our dismay the voting did not mirror our hopes, he had won. The traditional non-voters had turned out in number, both for and against. Unfortunately the type of people who didn’t normally vote were made up in the majority of the type of people who didn’t trust in intellect and trusted what their friend in the bar told them rather than in evidence or historical example.
As the new president commenced his victory party, my wife and I went upstairs to check on our son. As we gazed on his peaceful countenance she leaned against me and started sobbing quietly.
“It’ll be alright, it’s only America. He can’t get elected here.”
“He doesn’t have to, it’s already started here. They made redundancies at work last week.”
“The economy is in bad shape, it has been for a while. There’s bound to be redundancies every now and again as we try and get back on our feet.”
“It wasn’t the redundancies as such; it was who they made redundant.”
“What do you mean?”
“Think about it. You can’t be that blind. If everyone who is Muslim or Asian is held up at the checkpoints, who is going to have the most late marks against their name?”
“But we’re held up too.”
“Do they search you? Do they insist on a detailed computer check before letting you through?”
“Don’t ‘but’ that! You know as well as I do what is going on! You know what comes next.”
I slept on the sofa that night, my wife could not bear to look at me. I apologised the next day, confessed that I had been in denial about what the election had meant for the UK, but she didn’t seem appeased. I had fallen short in her expectations and that was a scar that wouldn’t heal quickly.
The party didn’t last any where near long enough, the president got down to business quickly. First to be hit was Broadway, a number of plays were shut down as seditious. The one that hit the headlines was a production called “Allegiance,” a musical about the unjustified interment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Films and Television suffered similar raids. The writers and actors in these productions were offered a choice, issue a public apology for their involvement in these un-American activities or be branded “sympathisers.” We all knew that the trials for treason would follow. Most bowed to the pressure, fearful for their careers and possibly their lives. The retractions were wooden and unbelievable. Some were battered and bruised as they appeared on the news via a remote feed from God knows where. A few did not appear, they issued no retraction and the media crucified them in their absence.
The same plays, films and shows were halted in the UK as well, not with the same show of force, but subtly. They just disappeared. People stopped going to see them or turning on the TV and runs stopped suddenly without warning. When they continued fires would break out. Midnight showings of “Das Experiment” at art house cinemas were suddenly cancelled after a fire broke out in London, mid-showing, killing several patrons who did not escape in time. “Schindler’s List” was pulled from airing twenty minutes before it was due to start. The various Right Wing parties abandoned their names and formed a coalition under the name “The British Party of The People” and as various liberal politicians disappeared from public life, their presence and majority in Parliament grew. All public buildings now bore their symbol in the forms of flags and emblems.
Interment! The answer to an attempted bombing of the supports of the San Francisco Bay Bridge at rush hour. All US forces stationed domestically were scrambled, as were the National Guard. They swiftly placed all serving Muslims in stockade and placed large wire fence enclosures at various military bases around the country. Air bases were the location of choice as the runways were filled with these temporary pens. Into them Muslims and Asians were herded at gunpoint. The military was under orders that they were potential enemy combatants. The borders closed, while measures were put in place to halt the travel of Muslims into the country. Ironically, Muslims were also stopped from leaving so they could be interred. The argument was that they would swell the ranks of the terrorists in the Middle East.
The president announced all of this after it had happened, while there were a few Muslims unaccounted for, most had been rounded up successfully. He chose to announce it at a party rally and the applause, even through the television was almost deafening. He raised his hands in triumph to receive the accolades of power, palms outstretched at arms length.
“Still think this will pass?” my wife whispered.
I didn’t have the heart to respond.
“I thought so.”
A week after the internment measures were concluded the trials started. George Takei, the writer and one of the stars of “Allegiance” was first. He had refused council, he must have known as we did watching it that any defence in law would be useless now. The trials were conducted as Military Tribunals. In the middle of a moving an eloquent speech describing the treatment of himself and his parents in World War II and likening the situation the Muslims found themselves in to both that and the Ghetto in Germany, the trial was halted and he was dragged from the Chamber for the Tribunal to find him guilty in his absence.
A march of people dressed in the iconic Star Trek yellow jersey he had worn in the original series was dispersed by automatic gun fire the next day. Surveillance footage was reviewed by the authorities and we were told that anyone found to be on that march would be arrested shortly and tried as well. Science Fiction fell off the television schedules from that day on.
“They’ve announced a list of ‘safe books’ that are authorized,” my wife announced as she returned from work one day.
“Who? The Americans?”
“Not just the bloody Americans!”
“The People’s Party?”
“Yup, it’s just a matter of time now before they announce an unsafe list. I have a feeling most of the books we have in this house are likely to be on that one.”
“I’m not sure how safe having that souvenir Koran you picked up in Jerusalem is to have in here.”
“It’s in Arabic, I can’t even read Arabic!”
“Like they’ll care! It’s a sodding Koran!”
“Fine, I’ll bury it at the weekend along with anything else that they might ban.”
“Good—Darling, you know I’m no happier about this than you are, but it has to be done. Remember, we aren’t destroying them, just burying them.”
“I know, I know— But books! They’re just books.”
My wife shot me that look, the one that says “I know, but just do it before I have to start shouting.”
The weeks that followed were punctuated by more and more ridiculous bans, seeking to eradicate the Muslim influence on our culture. In a move of such fear induced moronism, even curry was banned. It went so far as to extend to curry sauce served with chips. How curry was meant to be seditious I never worked out, but such was the atmosphere of the day, the demands, ever more outlandish were implemented and never complained about. The next day it was pyjamas.
The president started announcing that America had lost its way, that the War on Terror was being held back by a lack of traditional values. The rhetoric of “One Nation Under God” started being used to end his speeches. The anti-Muslim message had started to peter out, massive gains in Syria and Iraq, with dark net reports of mass graves and massacres were commonplace. The US and UK, with help from other allies who were, even now following policy decisions from the president, had smashed the terrorist camps with massive indiscriminate bombing and artillery strikes. Ground troops were pouring into the Middle East daily to reinforce the territorial gains.
In the UK, pubs had started playing the news channels non-stop. There was no more music in these venues, apart from specialist music pubs, who were licensed to allow live music. My wife and I had ceased to socialise any more, failure to agree quickly enough with the broadcasts brought suspicious glances and muttering. Opposition to the War was considered to many to be treason and we recognised the signs. To allay suspicion we both paid our dues and purchased membership of The British Party of The People. We both threw our sashes and badges on the floor with disgust when we returned home from that expedition. The days started with a standardised start time and a playing of the national anthem. This had been piped through our mobile devices, how they had infiltrated the operating system was a mystery but every morning at 6:00am “God Save the Queen” would wake us up.
Talk of God, and Britain being Christian had become commonplace at work. It had fallen from favour in recent times, but was now re-emerging as though we were in the Victorian period. Talk of abomination and sin were the topics of the day, abandonment of God had allowed the Muslim menace to arise, and it was this that must be rectified. I am an atheist and I saw the fallacy immediately apparent. People got annoyed when you try and bomb the hell out of other countries, particularly with a common religion. It was the same way the president had come to power, spreading fear and panic in his wake to cement his power. Brian, a data entry clerk from accounts had been found outside beaten to a pulp for being “queer,” he never returned to work. It didn’t take much to work out some of his colleagues had been behind it.
The War had continued with guerrilla tactics being used to delay the ground offensive, more and more troops were required to hold ground already captured, bunkers and bastions started to spring up across the Middle East, and started spreading into Afghanistan and the Indian Subcontinent. The president, under the guise of The War on Terror, had succeeded in aggressively colonising much of Asia and had effectively made vassals out of the European states. Only one place looked to stand free of these structures, for Africa would be easy pickings if the Middle East was quelled. That place was Russia, despite its appalling record in human rights it was beginning to be the most moderate country in the world. It stood like a dark menacing defender poised to interfere. It had made no secret that it would brook no interference with what it saw as its sovereignty and it continually refused to cooperate with the allies even though it too was pursuing its own war against the terrorist organisations. Whether this was an ideological choice or not was anyone’s guess as the Russians did not seem to follow any coherent foreign policy. They were the lesser of two evils.
I reached a tipping point when the show trials made a return to television, as the number of possible criminals had reduced, either through interment, or through the trials reaching their inevitable conclusion, so had the trials until they were few and far between. Little were we to know that it was just the first phase that had ended. Dragged into the dock in a mass of chains was the celebrated magician, Derren Brown. Openly gay, he had been extremely critical of the new policy of Christianity as state sponsored religion. Before the president came to power, he had made a number of programs about various practises of certain Christian preachers, none very complimentary, ranging from faith healers to purveyors of the Holy Spirit. Citing his psychological techniques as a danger to the Tribunal making a fair determination, he was hauled off before he could even answer the charges against him. In his absence he was found guilty of perverting the national character by using his position to promote homosexuality, which was against God’s command. Various other charges including heresy and blasphemy were also listed.
“Grab Shaun, pack your bags. We’re leaving!”
“What?” my wife replied.
“It’s time to go, they’ve established the Inquisition. Witch trials, the whole bag of tricks. We won’t be able to hide from that.”
“But, our whole lives are here.”
“So will our deaths, and that of our son. That, or he’ll be raised by the state to shoot anyone they feel like arguing with. Can you abandon him to that for a few more days, weeks or months here? We. Have. To Go. NOW.”
“We could take some time to get organised, properly plan what we are doing.”
“We don’t know when they will come for us. Now is the only time, and we may have left that a little too late. We should have left when Tanveer did.”
“Where will we go? What will we do, you don’t even have a plan!”
My wife was crying, clawing at my clothes as I tried to find the bare essentials to put in the car. No, I didn’t have a plan, just the get the hell out of the UK. Right then, that was enough of a plan.
“Russia, we’ll go to Russia.”
“Because it’s the only place left we might survive long enough to see our son grow up.”
She cried all the way to Dover, I had to pack all her things myself. Our son, I had put in the car, she hadn’t lifted a finger. To her credit she hadn’t stopped me, and I hadn’t been exactly gentle in persuading her. I still had a few bruises from when I had dragged her to the car. I was sorry about that, but we didn’t have enough time for me to explain and I hadn’t been in a frame of mind where I could have done that. I had panicked.
We paid cash and the car to a fisherman at Dover, I had begged for him to give us at least twenty-four hours before he reported the incident, to tell the authorities we had forced him to do it. He had refused, we were the last he was going to take and he wasn’t coming back. He was going to cruise the coasts of Africa plying his trade in the warm equatorial waters. I tried to explain that Africa was probably next, but he wouldn’t listen. He dropped us off with a wave and a hug.
“Godspeed to you and your family, wherever you end up.”
We managed to scrape together small exchanges of currency, which wasn’t easy without proper travel documents. A few Pounds converted to much less than their worth in Euros. Our life savings dwindled drastically, but we got enough to pay for fuel and a doddering old banger. No mean feat, considering I was relying on the French I learned back at school. Not exactly suited for a midnight flit across occupied France. My wife had obtained an old dog-eared map of Europe from an elderly couple who claimed their grandparents had been in the resistance. We tried to put money in their hands but they refused to take it. They even scraped together enough for a few meals for our journey when they saw how little we had with us. It would appear that the machinations of the president had not found their way to corrupt all men’s hearts.
As we drove towards the French Riviera, a detour that would attract less border issues, my wife navigated, only punctuating our journey with directions. I felt that the upheaval had been harder on her than for me. She had been the one with a grand image of our house when we had viewed it for the first time, kids, a dog in the back garden, when Shaun was old enough to pitch in to help him learn responsibility. Now we had abandoned that dream and were half-way across Europe, almost penniless and on our way to try and start over in a country where we didn’t even speak the language. I tried to analyse where it had all gone wrong, why we hadn’t seen this coming. I couldn’t find one defining moment, but we had known all along. Not being Muslim we hadn’t had to come to the realisation as quickly as Tanveer and his family, but it had been there. The pattern had been laid down in history, a financial crisis, a madman who came to power with an axe to grind and power as his goal. What had been done had been done too late.
Luckily, Monaco had no real involvement in the struggles around the world, being seen as too small and unimportant to even be invited to take part. We were also advantaged by the small amount of luggage, we didn’t look like we were fleeing an oppressive regime, more like lost holiday makers. My wife even came out of her reverie to play the scolding wife when I chose to ask for directions to Italy from the border patrol to make sure they didn’t think we would be staying. They let us go with a cheery wave and a “Bon Voyage” on their part, a sigh on our part when we were out of sight.
We were almost at the Russian Border when a military jet in the distance caused us to pull over under some trees to avoid hostile attention. We couldn’t be sure that the Russians were not seeking out refugees or that our own allies were looking for anyone fleeing ahead of the new wave of trials. We had turned off the engine to conserve fuel, of which we were running desperately low. After the jet passed, the engine refused to start. We had no choice but to abandon the car and much of our possessions. We simply couldn’t carry them and our son. We walked the last few miles in blistering gales and biting cold. Having glanced at the weather report when we left, we knew the weather would be bad and had put on as many items of our clothing as possible before leaving the stricken motor vehicle.
As we got to within a mile of the border we noticed the traffic on the roads had grown more frequent, and by the time we reached the fence we were part of a veritable convoy. Others like us were fleeing France, Germany, Italy and, of course, the UK. Many of us were relegated to travelling on foot, the lucky ones had cars and vans. The vehicles were full by the time they reached us and so we had to trudge on in step with the rest. So much for my plan to slip across the border unnoticed.
The fence had come as a surprise. Russia had closed its borders. No one was being let across. Russia did not exactly have the resources to support a vast refugee influx and so we had to hunker down huddled with the others to see what would become of us.
As our breath misted in the air, a movement at the back of the mass alerted us to the fact that something was wrong. Suddenly everyone was shoving and pushing their way towards the fence, clawing their way up it, only to be roughly shoved back down by soldiers on a platform at the back of it. When that did not dissuade the desperate masses, shots rang out. Lines of men, women and children fell from the chain links to be swallowed up by the ocean of humanity. Knowing that to try and climb the fence even on our own was suicide, let alone with a small child we turned to see a dark line appear on the horizon. The hum of engines quickly became a roar. As the dark tide drew ever closer we could make out turrets, the line of tanks stretched across the whole horizon. When they were close enough we could make out emblems, American stars, the Union Jack and the Tricolours of the European Alliance.
Track to track, the tanks moved forward, neither stopping nor slowing down, even when they reached the sea of people. Some pushed away and moved towards the fence, sending those at the front into the hail of bullets. Others stayed where they were and tried to attract the attention of the drivers of those machines of death. They were crushed beneath the tracks, torn down screaming. As though sensing that the refugees may in desperation tear down the fence with their weight, the tanks opened fire. They started at the back and began to methodically fire further toward the fence.
How had it come to this? Was I in part to blame for not standing up to the rhetoric in the beginning? When it would have made a difference. The horror erupts around us, screams and blood flying through the air. I pull my wife and son down into as small a target as possible, knowing that there is no escape from this. This is our last moment together, one last hug before the end. We try and close out the horror and turmoil around us. I whisper to my son that everything will be alright, I lie to him to spare him the thought that it won’t ever be alright, so his last moments are spent with as much love in his heart and mind as possible. I tell them both that I love them, that I’m sorry. I hear the words back, we hug and wait for the end.
I love you my darling wife, I love you my son, who brought my life into the light in a way I did not know possible.
I love you both so much.
So very, very much.
Thank you for reading my book. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave me a review at your favorite retailer?
Kashif Thomacz Richardo
A chilling alternative history short story detailing the rise to power of a modern demagogue in America from the perspective of a non-descript British family. As the infringements of liberty and freedom progress past the borders of America, directly impacting on Britain the societal changes force the family to assess their actions and a decision as to how far they will go to hide in anonymity within a regime they cannot begin to condone.