Days from now I am expected to be in Washington D.C., for the Inauguration. I'm to become the first woman Vice President ever. The press is searching for me, eager for comments and interviews and fluff pieces.
My opinions matter now. They matter so much now that it feels like I've spent my entire life until now being invisible and silent. Every utterance finds its way into a national paper, making the headlines more often than not. Every opinion I have now is seen to speak for Women everywhere. It's a terrifying responsibility.
A month ago, I couldn't look in the paper without seeing my own words twisted and charging back at me, like Medusa's snakes coming around to bite her right in the face: "VP Reynolds Unsure on Abortion," screamed the headline of the Detroit News. "Reynolds Wants Your Guns," said the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, after I told a reporter that I'd never owned my own gun, and that I had no plans to. But, hell, I'm not for gun control. My dad— rest his soul— was a hunter, and I was raised to believe that the Second Amendment, gun ownership and "a well regulated militia" were a necessary evil to help people feel safe from a government more often inclined to tyranny than not. Or, y'know, good for putting venison on the table.
Every thing I said is important, and every one of my actions feels enormous. It's like I've suddenly grown to fifty feet tall—like Darryl Hannah in that shitty made for HBO movie— and every step I take rattles the earth and sends people screaming. My voice is a bellow that shatters glass. I cannot lie down for fear of crushing those beneath me, so sleep is impossible.
Heck, even now I can't look at a paper, from the biggies like the New York Times to small-potatoes weekly Bloom-Picayunes, without seeing at least a little sidebar item below the fold: "First Woman Vice President Elect Unavailable for Comments" or "Female V.P. on Sabbatical Until Inauguration" or, my favorite, "Where's America's Vice Presidential Sweetheart"— thanks New York Post; very professional.
This is all very melodramatic, I know. You'll have to forgive me: I haven't slept in days. Not since my boss and our President Elect put a target on my head and called out his goons on me. Not since the Giant Squid decided that I had poisoned him.
And, I've gotta say it, America: What the Fuck? I know I was his running mate, but it was you, 78% of you who put the Squid in office. You elected a monster. Literally: a for-real monster. What the hell were you thinking?
It's ironic, I know. The Most Important Woman in America is on the run, a fugitive from a deranged Architeuthis and his menagerie of psychotics.
I sleep in my car most nights that I can. But it's cold this time of year, and I'm afraid of frostbite, of illness, of falling asleep in a freezing car and not waking up again.
My dad— again, God rest his soul— lost two toes and an ear to frostbite once while hunting in Northern Wisconsin. He had planned to camp in his blind while on an extended trip with some war buddies— deer are diurnal, so they're best hunted at dusk and dawn— but a freak coldsnap dropped the temperature overnight from 50 degrees to something below zero. They were miles and miles from the car, and in the trudge back through the snow he got just a bit too cold for too long, and that was it. Bye-bye toes. Bye-bye ear.
So every night that I sleep in my car this fear dances in my head. This fear of bodily loss.
I tried staying in hotels at first, paying cash. I worry that the Squid's creepy assistant, Sang, will trace my credit cards should I choose to use them, so after an initial maximum withdrawal of seven hundred bucks two weeks ago, I've been living on a cash basis.
But hotels are expensive, and a thing happened in the second hotel that scared me. In the lobby there was this aquarium that had some listless fish in it and a little crab. And I'd swear that when I walked into the hotel that crab looked at me, and then went and opened up that little bubbling chest that every aquarium seems to have and pulled out a tiny cell phone. But that's impossible, right?
Here is the crux of the issue: I never believed the Squid. I mean, an enormous talking squid is freaky enough. And fascinating, too, for awhile. But when he would talk about the Rising Times and his legions of crustacean operatives scattered around the world and his mental connection to the internet I would never believe him. Every man I ever knew fronted like he was some Grand Poobah— even Dad, may he rest in peace. Never was a man of woman born who didn't think he himself was three-fifths God.
And the Squid, his sense of humor is so crude, and his feelings are hurt so easily that I began to think of him as this great big wounded child— again, like every other man I'd ever known— captured and experimented upon and creating this profound escapist fantasy where he is the leader and scout for a massive incursion force. Like a lonely child left at home for a week who invents a story wherein they are the lost daughter of a faraway Queen who will show up and take that girl out of the poverty she grew up with and make her the princess she always knew she was meant to be.
I thought that the Squid was a girl imaging she was a princess, impotent and small. Christ, was I stupid.
It's real. All of it. I've seen the crabs watching me. I've been careful not to drive past any pet store, not to eat in seafood restaurants with aquariums. I've seen the foul-smelling and cruel chimpanzees that the Squid insists are Belgians walk past my car, sniffing the air hungrily for me, fingering straight razors in their filthy paws.
I swear. I swear to God. I swear on my father's restless soul. I've seen this. Two days ago I stopped at a rest area, and behind it, between it and the farmland it abutted, there was a pond, and the pond was iced over— ice maybe nine inches thick, and clear as glass— and beneath the ice was a single fish, swimming back and forth. My shadow fell across the ice as I watched it, and when it passed under my shadow it stopped dead. I continued walking along the edge of the pond, smoking a cigarette, and the fish swam along, always staying in my shadow. I turned back, and it turned back. I took a quick step left, then two quick right, then jogged back left 20 feet. It stayed with me the entire time. Then it swam off, across the pond, and I realized that the pond stood at the foot of a huge antenna, one of those red and white cell phone repeaters you see out in the farmlands along the interstate, between crappy little towns and crappy sprawling suburbs. One of the big microwave antennas swiveled, just a few degrees. Then I heard sirens, far and wee in the distance. And I ran.
It's real. The Squid is evil. He has been elected to the most powerful post in the world, and God help me I'm partly responsible.
But only part. What about you, America?
It's real. But, I wonder, is all of it real? Is ancient evil lies sleeping below the sea, ready to wake and devour us? My Lovecraft is rusty, but if there is a Giant Squid, why couldn't there be a Cthulhu or however you spell it?
Likewise, couldn't the Squid be just another megalomaniacal, egotistical jerk who spent too many years in the basement reading Lovecraft, polishing his 20-sided die and jerking off to airbrush paintings in Dragon magazine?
But no matter how real it is, it has to be stopped, right? I mean Bush sucked hard as a president, but still, I can't believe I was so distracted by my loathing for that smirking idiot man-child that I failed to realize that I was running-mate to an ageless evil.
He's evil, but I'm the Most Important Woman in America right now. Or at least I will be when I arrive in Washington. I'm close. I can't say how close, of course, because he may read this.
But I'll be there, at the Inauguration. Nothing will stop that. Am I walking into martyrdom? Yeah, maybe. But what else can I do? Hide in my car until a chimp with a razor slits my throat? Wait until I freeze or starve to death? Until a fish in a Chinese restaurant or a lobster at the supermarket rats me out? No. I need to take this to him. I need to use my Fifty-foot woman voice to expose him, to fix this evil I have helped put on the throne.
I don't know when I'll have a chance to write again. If you don't hear from me soon, I'll see you in Washington.
(to be continued . . . )
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson