19 – The Kill Switch

Washington D.C.,
Outside of the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery,
United States

Kibby stared at the footage he had just recorded on his iPhone. The President just admitted to the biggest scandal in the history of the world. He wondered what Dasher’s overall plan had been, given that he had no way of recording the confession. Dasher was always one step ahead, but now, looking at him sitting in a booth at a budget-friendly, imaginary luxury restaurant with a face crudely stretched and glued over his own, he wondered if Dasher had lost his mind. The legend of Operation Diesel Fist had been just that, a myth. Seeing him pull the same stunt in person was both incredibly sad and disgusting. Kibby wondered how anyone had ever fallen for the tactic in the first place. Dasher didn’t seem to have even a remote idea of how human anatomy worked. There was a visible white paste forming just below the chin. Had Dasher really thought that Elmer’s glue could be used as an effective adhesive for human skin? Maybe everyone was just that aloof, too concerned with their own personal agenda to notice a lunatic in a carved-off face impersonating a Russian spy.

Maybe we were all just too obsessed with forward momentum to detect a man sitting across from us using a bad Russian accent and wearing a freshly harvested bloody face. Kibby reflected briefly on his own shortcomings. If Kibby hadn’t been aware of the plan from the start, would he have even noticed a mutilated freak sitting across from him in a booth? How many hours had been lost waging a war of attrition with an unceasing onslaught of mundane tasks, deriving no pleasure from completing them but instead experiencing a meager, passing comfort before being clubbed back into anxiety and despair by the next pointless chore? Was the momentary relief spent shitting out a regrettable room temperature shrimp cocktail the night before worth the lengthy stomachache leading up to the frantic discharge? Maybe those small gasps of air taken while circling the toilet bowl as you spiraled into oblivion were filled with just enough purpose to keep you barely satisfied another day in your miserable existence. Though the motion of circling was at least something. The cyclical nature of the tedious daily grind was both killing him and keeping him alive. The blinking cursor on his work laptop was his heartbeat. This recording gave him purpose; it made him feel like something in his life, in the world, could actually change.  

Kibby vowed to change things in his life, to eliminate the parts that caused him so much unhappiness, though part of him knew the fleeting promise had no substance to it and was only made with hopes of momentarily euthanizing his wandering mind. He intrinsically knew that he would remain the same, growing distant from friends and family in favor of lazy consumption of content and aimless toiling. Routine and repetition were the most natural forms of escape, no matter how miserable. In another six months, he would be just as oblivious as the President. Sitting across from someone who was clearly wearing the face of another man in a pee-soaked booth at a restaurant built for contemptible failures of humans trying to convince themselves they were eating a fancy meal and stiffing the waitress on the tip.

“Guys…we got him,” whispered Kibby turning towards Mikel Serone and Stacy Dasher. 

Inside the restaurant, President Knudson circled his tongue on his chapped lips several times, licking off the dead skin and swallowing it aggressively. He looked at the kill switch on the table. It would turn a subsect of celebrity clones into a bloodthirsty army willing to do the bidding of whoever controlled the switch. The President had no plans of actually working with Popov and the current opportunity  presented itself perfectly. Popov was utterly alone. The excess from the night before had rendered any guard a mangled mess on the cigarette burned carpeting. He just had to wait for the exact right time to have his guards execute this Russian fraud. He would then control the kill switch and thus, the world. 

“I’ve sworn my allegiance to you Popov. What else needs to be done?” asked Knudson, his eyes darting around the room.

He passed an otherworldly fart through his poorly made suit. It instantly sought and filled the nostrils of every man in the room. The thinness of the suit left nothing up to mystery in terms of the President’s diet earlier that day, which had included almost exclusively shellfish and several cans of Monster Energy. The man proudly raised his glass and toasted.

“To the downfall of democracy, the rise of communism, and death of snowflakes,” said Popov, an enormous grin spreading underneath the now sagging skin around his mouth.

Just as he finished the toast, he whipped the pint of vodka into the face of one of the guards and rolled onto the ground. The guard’s nose spewed blood all over the table and his body collapsed next to the President. The other guard stood up and drew his weapon, pointing it at the man who was now standing in the middle of the dining room. 

“You son of a bitch!” screamed Knudson. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” 

The man’s head tilted slightly, like a confused puppy, then straightened. “President Knudson, do you take me for a fool? Your guard had his gun pointed at me the entire time. He was going to blow my balls off the second I handed over the kill switch,” said the man, the Russian accent seeming to deteriorate. 

“Well, now he’s gonna blow that god-awful face off Popov because I’m sick of looking at it. Enter the launch code into the kill switch and hand it over, or this man is going to turn your brains into borscht you commie scumbag,” said President Knudson over heavy breaths.

“Hold it right there President Knudson,” came a squeaky voice from the front of the restaurant. It was Patrick Kibby, followed closely by Stacy Dasher and Mikel Serone.

“We recorded the entire thing: the deal, the clones, you bending your knee to Russia, we’ve got it all,” continued Kibby, holding up his phone in gleeful delight. 

President Knudson looked up in a daze. This sniffling little pipsqueak was not going to ruin everything he had worked so hard for. Being tricked by a Russian spy and then convinced to topple his own government with the help of a clone army was by far his most significant political achievement so far.

“Kill them,” Knudson calmly said to the guard who quickly aimed his gun at Serone, Stacy and Kibby.

Kibby’s urine-soaked pants grew even darker yet; He shrieked in terror while the other two stared on stoically. Just as the guard was about to pull the trigger, everyone in the room heard a detestable ripping noise from where Popov was standing. The President looked up just in time to see the man who claimed to be Popov whip the blood and glue soaked face at the guard. It flew through the air, spewing shards of skin and varying tendons, nerves and Elmer’s glue, flapping through the air with all of the majesty of a Frisbee golf disc thrown by a heroin fiend from high school. 

The face landed on the guard with a dull thud and he wretched behind its suffocating grasp on his face. The vomit spewed through the varying holes of the face, seeking any crevice to explode from. The guard clawed furiously, attempting to get the face off, but panic had fully set in and he was unable to free himself from the disgusting flesh saucer. He raised his gun under his chin and pulled the trigger; it was the only way to escape the horror. 

“Just like the good ole days,” said the man who had ripped his face off. “He’s gonna have trouble getting into heaven like that. Suicide is strictly forbidden.”

The President was now doubled over on his hands and knees, fumbling for a bottle of pills. He desperately needed his heart medication after witnessing the death of the only man capable of saving him from his current predicament. His chest felt like it was caving in. His right arm was completely numb, and he knew if he did not administer his medication soon, he would die at the hands of his own heart. As he grasped the bottle and frantically chewed a handful of pills, he realized that he had heard the voice once before. Duke Dasher. That grisly voice, which oozed a beautiful combination of masculinity and Christianity, was unmistakable. His face was heavily obstructed by undried glue and leftover fragments from Popov’s face, but his eyes were brimming with the type of supernatural, self-perceived piety that could only exist inside of one man.

But how, he wondered? How could Dasher have escaped Popov’s mercenaries and clones? The probability seemed impossible at best.

“What…awesome…power…” said Knudson, his mouth agape and eyes bursting from his face. Drool flowed freely from his mouth onto the carpet. A monstrous vein in his forehead twitched furiously, itching to escape the diseased skin it had been trapped under all of those years. 

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that overthrowing your own government is a sin?” asked Dasher. His large grin was a clear indication that he was unaffected, at best, by the suicide he had caused only moments earlier.

Dasher’s statement was immediately followed by the sound of Serone’s insides ricocheting off the floor. The substantial amount of liquid splashing on the floor made a loud enough splat for Dasher to look up and finally recognize their presence. Kibby’s voice had done nothing to take Dasher’s attention from the President before, but the sound of a weakling losing their stomach always suggested an opportunity to ridicule someone for Dasher.

“Serone! Don’t tell me you had one too many Fireball Whiskey-infused Pringles from the hotel minibar last night?” yelled Dasher jokingly.

He walked towards the President and took the gun out of the dead guard’s hand. Serone, Stacy and Kibby approached the chaos ahead. The amount of killing Dasher had done in such a short amount of time was an incomparable monument resurrected for the worship of violence and bloodlust. The President sat sadly on the floor like a scolded child. His enormous legs crossed over each other.  He hoped for a quick death, but judging by the state of the other abused corpses strewn about, he knew it was wishful thinking. 

“We did it, Dasher. We got it all. Once I turn this video recording over to the people at TMZ, it’ll be slotted in immediately after their celebrity nip slips segment and we’ll have exposed the biggest conspiracy in American history,” Kibby said showing the phone to Dasher. 

“Say, what was your plan if we weren’t here to record it anyway?” Kibby asked curiously. Dasher’s face still had flecks of skin, blood, and Elmer’s hanging off it. He flicked one of the pieces of loose skin and it landed fortuitously on Kibby’s phone; he instantly shook it onto the floor. 

“I never think that far in advance Kibby,” laughed Dasher, as though the question were somehow unreasonable. 

“Dasher, listen to me…in your hand, you hold something that could give you more power than anyone in the history of mankind. Genghis Khan would look like Ross Perot. If you hit that switch, you control an almost unlimited amount of clones who will do your bidding. I could guide you Dasher. I could help you,” groveled President Knudson, reaching and holding onto Dasher’s ankles. 

“Imagine you and me, forcefully instilling your Christian ideals on this country. Imagine raising young Terry in such a beautiful country!” continued Knudson. Dasher brought the pistol up and whipped Knudson hard in the face. Knudson spit up a heaving mouthful of indistinguishable bone fragments. 

“Keep my son’s name out of your mouth, you sick piece of crap,” replied Dasher.

“But think about the possibilities Duke: secure borders, one nation truly under God. These changing times would halt instantly. You could force the world to adhere to your principles…preserving your way of life forever Duke,” the President continued, now ugly crying.  

Kibby and Serone looked at each other in disbelief. Could the President really be trying to barter with a man whose moral compass was allegedly dictated directly by God himself? A man who had just been through hell and back in an effort to save the country from the evils of communism? The President looked on hopefully as Dasher picked up the kill switch, which had fallen to the ground. 

“You realize your plan would have worked if you would have just let me be,” said Dasher calmly. “All I ever wanted was to live a simple life where I could judge people with the same authority as our Lord, and then get fast-tracked into heaven for services rendered for the greatest damn country on earth,” continued Dasher.

“A loving husband, a good father, and more patriotism in my big right toe than you have in your entire pathetically obese body,” continued Dasher over the uncontrollable sobbing beneath his feet.

“Duke, we have what we need right here. Let’s leak this to press and have him thrown in jail forever,” Kibby said encouragingly. Stacy and Serone nodded.

Dasher’s preaching was getting tiresome to everyone who just wanted out of the nightmare-inducing restaurant. Dasher stared silently at the President, who was still grabbing his ankles. His face was planted on the floor and tears streamed onto the carpet mixing with all of the blood. He wondered how this groveling insect was ever elected to represent the United States. As a Republican, nonetheless, Dasher would have understood if this was a Democrat on the ground, but not one of his own. The snow was drifting gently through the blown-out windows. The restaurant and the warm glow of the streetlights made the dining room almost picturesque, if not for all of the dead bodies and horrible Celtic-themed decor. Everyone in the room listened closely to Dasher’s ragged breathing; the betrayal of the President had clearly cut deep for the man who was the self-proclaimed ‘greatest patriot to ever exist’. Dasher lifted his leg slowly into the air. 

“Duke, just put your leg down. Think about what this means if you do what I think you’re going to do. We lose all credibility! This could plunge the country into complete anarchy – the only thing worse than communism Duke! Just think about it,” yelled Serone over the howling wind blowing through the restaurant windows. 

Dasher looked up at him and muttered, “Wrong choice of words. The only thing plunging is my boot into this man’s head.” His leg swung down and his heel drove into the President’s head, which caved with the same enthusiasm as a rotting jack o’lantern. Brain matter exploded through the top of his skull like a similarly festive New Year’s Eve party favor. A lengthy gurgling sound filled the room. They all waited eagerly for it to stop. Overcome with emotion, Stacy Dasher ran to Duke and threw her arms around him. Kibby and Serone both stood with their hands over their heads, perplexed at how quickly the situation had escalated. 

“Duke! Do you realize what you’ve just done?” shrieked Kibby. Serone remained silent, numb to what was happening around him. Of all the atrocities in the last three days, this was the most heartbreaking. Though he didn’t much care for the President, something about the way his melon brains sprayed all over his shoes made this death particularly poignant. 

“I just saved the country Kibby…and your soul,” said Dasher, walking towards Kibby with the gun pointed at his chest. The next thing Serone saw was the flash of the weapon. Kibby fell to the floor and a red stain began forming on his white Untuckit shirt.

“The United States deserves better,” continued Dasher. He approached Kibby, who looked sadly at his ruined luxury business casual fashion statement. The shirt, which had functioned as a personality for him for so many years, was now covered in his own blood. He felt fortunate enough to die in something so fashionably sensible and elegant.

Very few men could say they had been killed in a shirt that looked so good untucked. He desperately hoped the brand would create a shirt in his honor. He would finally be immortalized in something that humanity needed and used every day. He looked around; deep down, he knew he would be forgotten with the rest of the characterless dead goons strewn about the floor. Though he was dying at the hands of a delusional religious fanatic, at least there was some pageantry. Before today, he always assumed he would die choking on reheated Tuna Helper, sending out a high importance email on a Wednesday in February. His social media followers would be proud knowing he died at the hands of one of the greatest heroes in American history. He imagined the posthumous likes flowing in and hoped that whoever had the honor of boomeranging the last drops of blood flowing from his body would tag the Untuckit official account. 

Dasher bent down and picked up the phone, which contained all of the evidence against the President, Popov, and the cloning facilities. He held it in his hands, gazing into the blue light for several seconds. His face appeared possessed in its magnificent glow. Dasher assured himself that Kibby’s blind faith in this device had ultimately led to his death and he was in no way personally responsible. Serone began slowly walking back towards the door. He wouldn’t meet the same fate as Kibby, and though Dasher had called him a friend while they were in the woods, friendships can be confusing when two people are tethered together and hunted by ruthless mercenaries.

He wondered if Dasher had ever really considered him a friend. Was someone who claimed God was his best friend capable of maintaining a remotely functional friendship with another human?

Absurdist exploration into our agreeable descent to madness.

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