Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.)
September 16, 2015
The faces you skim over when you look at a large audience. The names and pictures on a long list of comments beneath an article or a post. The people you don't focus on, people you never know. The crowds in front of stages, at TV performances, rallying in what you call the real world or in the corners of the internet. You don't see them clearly, but you feel them, and their presence has force.
These were the ones who filed in the door of the museum. Their faces were sallow, pinched and terrified. They were of all ages, even children. Jespersen quietly welcomed them, and he gave each one a piece of the charcoal.
“Small marks,” he said – he said it again and again so everyone would hear as they spread out to every room in the building. They wrote single words, sometimes single letters, everywhere. Bits of messages in corners – nothing that could be grasped in one glance. They looked random. You could only assemble them into anything meaningful if you knew the order to arrange them in. But if properly arranged they would have spelled out phrases that surfaced in focus groups, editorials, cable news talk shows, and on paranoid rants everywhere.
When they were done the entire building had been filled with the words like an enchantment. Maybe it was the oldest spell in the nation, because every person who had ever held the highest offices had felt it drawing life. And no one could ever speak about it.
Each person made a mark and took his or her place. They faded into shadow. Almost vanished. You would never notice any of them, or what they did, when the camera panned the room or showed its establishment shots tonight.
"It won't be long," Jespersen said. "Let's stay here and be still." He thought once of Lisa Styles, who'd be stumbling through a rain of ash by now. She'd soon fall to the ground and let it cover her. She should have listened.
Jespersen turned out the lights. Then the figure who was always behind Jespersen walked among them, touching them with his burning hands, and they were too afraid to flinch. They made muffled cries of pain, and the sound was delicious.
The Conclusion of the story was live Tweeted during the GOP debate at 8pm EST. Read the edited version here.
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