Monday, November 7, 2011

S. Michael Wilson

A Quarter at a Time
Fiction by S. Michael Wilson

I have met the future ruler of the free world. Under this leader’s tyrannical rule, the nations of the globe will be ushered into the unfaltering dominion of one focused, unified vision. There will be no more countries, no more borders. There will only be One World Order, led by a single, stoic personality.

Her name is Lilith. She is eleven years old.

Lilith is not shy when it comes to talking about her plans for world domination. When asked about it, she will nod eagerly and matter-of-factly, as if confirming her attendance at a slumber party. This unassuming girl with the fire-red pageboy haircut, diminutive even for a girl her age, can often be heard informing people of their predestined place in her benevolent dictatorship. Her older sister has been promised a position of power and stature among the higher ranks of government. The diner waitress who spilled juice in her lap last week will not be so lucky. Apparently, she has also become quite accustomed to the idea of deciding who lives and who dies.

Lilith has already decided on a name for her empire: Lilantis. Domed underwater cities will provide strategic defense in the early years of her nation-building campaign, guarded by soldiers riding genetically altered giant War Seahorses. Flag designs are being taken under consideration.

She plays close to the chest when it comes to her takeover plans. It will be by force, that for is certain; there will be time for diplomacy after the initial battles have ended. She knows not to give away too many strategic details. Nevertheless, she has confided in a select few that insects will play a major part in the first wave of the invasion, as will large numbers of rats. Possibly even zombie rats, although the logistics behind this have yet to be properly researched.

A massive campaign of domination and subversion perpetrated on a global scale requires an adequate amount of funding. Zombie rats and aqua-domes aren’t cheap. There is a price tag attached to any endeavor of such magnitude, and Lilith has calculated the budget of her master plan precisely. The total cost of her eventual world rule: seventeen million, five hundred forty-two thousand, seven hundred twenty-six dollars and fifty-seven cents.

When questioned as to how she arrived at such a precise number, she will usually shrug and assure whoever asks that the numbers are indeed accurate. Of course, it could just be a casually derived amount, pulled out of the air while eating her Lucky Charms and watching SpongeBob. However, what is possibly most disturbing about this seemingly random number is the chilling finality of the fifty-seven cents.

You can ask her whenever you like. Try to catch her off guard, but the number never changes. She will rattle it off instantly when prompted, the price of her world rule firmly dedicated to memory. This grand sum is always on her mind, and she is constantly in fundraising mode. Family members and strangers alike are regularly asked for loose change and other small donations. Those who are unaware of her nefarious plans assume that the money will simply go towards Pokemon cards, Bakugan figures, or her growing collection of Silly Bands. It is true that she collects these things with the same unwavering passion as other children her age. However, trading cards and bracelets are not the only things you can collect, especially if the world must one day bow trembling before you.

Most of the money collected for “The Campaign” is stored away in a large mason jar, prominently displayed on Lilith’s bedside table. A few years ago, Lilith’s mother noticed that the majority of loose change and stray singles that had half-filled the jar just the other day was missing. In its place were dozens of non-descript folded slips of white, ruled paper. When questioned, Lilith simply shrugged and explained that she had been “trading with friends.”

Lilith’s school called two days later. It seemed Lilith had concluded that you could not just raise money towards the eventual goal of world domination. Occasionally, you have to spend a little.

With an eye towards laying the groundwork of her massive future armies, she had approached several of her fellow classmates (or, as she affectionately called them, “future followers”) and offered to purchase their souls. Upon closer examination, each slip of folded paper in the Mason jar contained the name of a student, the words “My Soul,” and the cash amount paid for each ethereal entity. The amounts varied from student to student, ranging from twenty-five cents to a couple of dollars, no doubt based upon Lilith’s shrewd appraisal of each soul’s future value.

It had taken two days before some of the students exhibited seller’s remorse and complained to their parents that they wanted their souls back. The parents were not amused by Lilith’s “collection.” The school was even less amused. Having previously banned Halloween parades for fear of exposing students to the influence of occult iconography, the faculty was more than a little perturbed at the thought of lunch-money soul-trafficking taking place on school grounds. Their solution to Lilith’s spiritual investments was to line up all of the students she had purchased souls from and make her hand each student back his or her slip of paper--effectively giving their soul back to them--and apologize for treading in God’s domain.

She protested the massive soul recall at first, stating that possession is nine-tenths of the law, extolling the virtues of a free market, and balking that the money she paid out for the souls would not be returned. Her complaints were ignored. However, she did what she was told and performed the school’s soul redistribution ritual without any undue strife or commotion. Weeks later, when asked why she did not put up more of a fight, she would merely smile and reply, “I only gave them the slips of paper back.”

Ever since the “Soul Incident,” as it is known on her permanent record, Lilith’s plans have become more low-key. Many have assumed that her lust for global conflict and world domination have simply been abandoned, but those wise enough to question her are quickly assured otherwise.

“Just you wait,” she will say with a smile. “The rats will come soon enough.”

Lilith just recently turned eleven. As she grows into her teenage years, it is quite possible that interests normally shared by teenage girls, such as boys and fashion, will divert her attention away from plans of nation-building and global conquest. Alternatively, her gradual progression towards maturity might simply bring about what she ominously refers to on occasion as “Phase Two.” Until then, a small chill travels down my spine with every quarter that she feeds into her piggy bank, and I am vigilantly on the lookout for folded slips of white, ruled paper.

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