I’ve got to get the hell out of here. This corridor feels like it’s closing in on me, like every step I take someone is stretching it out further and the walls are getting closer and closer. I can’t breathe. It is probably right behind me, but I can’t look back. Have to keep running.
I think I see a door ahead. Finally. Please be the exit. It looks heavy and rough, like two uncarved slabs of oak were propped up in the doorway. I press against the right side of the double door, putting all of my weight forward. Please don’t be locked. I’ll die if it is locked.
I heave, digging my foot in to the bare dirt of the floor. The door lets out a tired wheeze as it starts to budge. A faint sliver of light breaks through the newly made crack, growing larger with each push. Thank Christ, I might have a chance. I close my eyes and focus all of my energy into the door. It opens wider. Wider. Come on! Wider. The door swings open and I fall through, landing not on bare earth but on a floor of ancient, weathered stones. I look up to see paper white half-faces, peering out at me through black hooded robes. I stand up and I see hundreds, thousands of identical faces staring back at me.
The room is literally a cavern, with uneven walls sloping up 50 feet to the stalagmite dotted ceiling. Rusted iron braziers line the sides of the room. The walls curve around, meeting at the concave far side of the room. Past the sea of faces, atop a rickety patchwork stage of reclaimed wood, stands a a stooped, graying old man. He looks out of place, wearing a light blue dress shirt with rolled up sleeves and khakis.
“It seems like we have a late arrival,” the man says. His voice sounds tired and raw, but I feel drawn to it, to hear what he has to say next. “What’s your name, son?”
“Jo-Jordan Velasco… sir,” I sputter through my own name. I look to my rear and already the door is blotted out by black robes.
“Nice to meet you, Jordan. Can I ask what brings you here.”
“I… I don’t know. The last thing I remember was… I was on Facebook and I-I was writing something about how I’m sick of dynastic politics, how I think Hillary and Jeb! are terrible candidates. I said that I wish there was a candidate who could make a real difference,” more and more people shuffle behind me, always looking, all of them staring, as the space ahead of me grows larger. I walk forward. “And then the next thing I remember was being chased down this hallway by… by something. I don’t remember how I got there or-or what was chasing me and-”
“Here I am,” he says, spreading his arms wide, welcoming.
“What… what do you mean?” I walk forward. “Who the hell are you?!”
“I am the difference. I am the change,” my path to him opens up.
I reach the edge of the stage. The people urge me up the stairs, but they don’t need to. I know that the only way it up. The man meets me half way and puts his hand atop my head. Warmth emanates from his hand, surging through my flesh and bone.
“I am Father Bernie and this is your new home,” he says. He towers above me. I am nothing before him.
Your… your name is Father Bernie and… and th-this is my new home,” as I say it the words begin to feel right, start to feel natural as they roll off my tongue. This feels wonderful.
“Turn around and look at your new family,” his eyes sparkle in a deep green, like wells of jade. I turn to face my family. They smile in reply. I am complete. These people, they are just like me. They all want the same things as me. We are all the same. We are one. We will change the face of this nation, then the world. We will forever love Father Bernie. We will forever fight for him, for what is right. This is where we belong. We smile.
* * *
The gymnasium was well over capacity, with barely an inch between people and more being funneled through every entrance by the second. Dozens of vehicles, buses, vans, and even freight trucks, idled outside as people ran hurriedly into the packed room. In the center of the wriggling mass of people was a small bald patch no more than 12 feet wide.
“Make way! He’s here!” cried a voice from one of the far corners of the room. The chatting and murmuring of the crowd came to an abrupt stop.
“He’s here?” “He’s here!” “He’s here,” echoed hundreds of voices, ricochetting throughout the chamber and creating a deafening, formless din. A line formed suddenly, connecting one of the doors with the stage that sat in the middle of the basketball court.
In walked Bernie Sanders, the flaps of his ill-fitting blazer and wisps of white hair flapping erratically. The people stopped talking again, the residual noise being overtaken by the drone of the massive AC units and the solitary pat of Bernie’s shoes slapping the floor. The walls of people to his sides wriggled and fidgeted, wanting nothing more than to reach out and touch Bernie’s soft, supple skin, but holding back out of sheer reverence. Silent tears fell from the faces of every man and woman in the building. Bernie reached the center of the crowd and ascended, ending at a small podium.
“People of Des Moines, thank you for showing up to voice your support,” Bernie’s voice crackled through the tired gymnasium speakers. “As you can see, the turn out is amazing. 4,000 people in this room, 10,000 listening from the outside, and several thousand more watching this on the internet. We’ve evolved from a political campaign into something more, something greater. Together, we have become a movement, a force of ceaseless momentum that will drive us to victory in-”
“We love you Bernie!” shouted a woman from atop the concrete bleachers.
“Ha, thank you very much, ma’am,” Bernie said with a wave. “And I love all of you. This campaign is not based chiefly on change, although we certainly will change this nation for the better, but on love. We are bringing people together. Black and white. Christian and Muslim. People gay and straight. We have all become one voice, one mind, and soon enough, all of the world will say the same. You will not look at someone and think that they are a Hispanic Jewish woman, you will look at her as part of you, part of your whole. We will not allow our opponents to dismantle our fellowship or break this bond. We stand united!” the people cheered and yelled, clapping frantically until Bernie raised his hand. Another silence.
“They tell me that nobody can take on the establishment, to fight the corporations and free the people of this nation from the egregious wealth inequality that plagues our nation. Well they are wrong! I have come to release your shackles, to free you from these chains and let you be free! Only when these restraints are removed can you truly ascend! I will lead you!
“I have a message to the billionaire class; your days are numbered. The hour of reckoning is upon you. Repent now and maybe you shall be spared when my judgment rains down from the heavens and your kingdoms crumble to ash. Also nine dollars an hour is not a living wage!”
“Woo! Bernie 2016!”
“Feel the Bern!”
“The Bernmentum will never stop!”
The crowd erupted again, but this time Bernie didn’t stop them right away. He stood there, letting the mania wash over him like a storm blown wave. The fanaticism flowed through him, with each bit of praise or snappy slogan making him more powerful.
“More. More!” Bernie yelled, breathing in the sweet scent of victory. “Yes, this group will do nicely.”
The doors slammed shut. Bodies slammed against them, trying in vain to free themselves. The lights flickered and went to black.
* * *
Jordan sat in his darkened bedroom, his face awash in white-blue light. His thumb flicked mindlessly as thousands of friend requests, shocking news stories about Kardashians and Taylor Swifts, and all manner of clickbait cascaded by, largely ignored.
“No, I do not want 10 free Farm Bux or gems or whatever,” Jordan complained to nobody in particular. “People need to get a life.”
One post in the feed caught his eye; it was from his mother. It read, “I can’t believe where this country is going!!!!!!! First the gays get married and then all of these illegals!!!!!!!!! Why can’t people enter this country legally like my parents and the rest of my family did!!!!!!!!!! We need some real strong conservative in the White House to get this country back on the right track!!!!!!!!!”
“Jesus, Mom,” Jordan said with a roll of his strained eyes. “Get with the times already, it’s 2015!”
Jordan suddenly felt inspired to do something about the ailing state of this increasingly closed minded nation of sheep, so he clicked on the new post button.
“People, wake up! We don’t need more of these same old politicians running this country! Jeb! will be just like his brother and Hillary has been up to her neck in scandal since the 80s. We aren’t a monarchy, people, so stop enabling these political royal families. I wish there was a candidate who wasn’t a corporate shill who would make a real difference.” He hit send.
A few minutes later, as he was halfway through completing a quiz about which Disney Princess was his spirit animal when he noticed that he had a new notification. He put the quiz on hold and tapped on the little bell icon. It was a comment from his coworker, Harold Goldman.
It read- “Dude, you should check out Bernie Sanders. He isn’t using Super PACs and is all about socialism and stuff. He’s pretty cool.’ The comment was accompanied by a link.
“Hell, it’s not like I’m going to bed anytime soon,” Jordan said before clicking.
He skimmed through the website, which outlined Bernie’s stances and opinions, as well as citing his consistent voting record and involvement in the civil rights movement. He was intrigued. At the bottom of the page was a banner ad that said, “Like what you read? Attend the next Bernie Sanders rally at Des Moines High School.”
“You know what, I could really get behind this guy and the rally is only half an hour away. What’s the worst that could happen?” Jordan clicked on the ad and RSVP’d.