6 – The Betrayal of Duke Dasher
President Knudson sat in the custom-made chair that had been made for a man of his stature. Even with the custom chair, the springs pleaded for mercy as Knudson adjusted himself in a perpetual war to find comfort. He had been battling a case of athlete’s foot on his ass for months, and each adjustment in the chair reopened another barely healed blister. The President’s doctors advised him to avoid any itching, but the President scooted furiously in his chair – the relief provided by the friction on the ergonomically correct seat was almost orgasmic. So despite warnings from doctors, Knudson’s flaking ass cheeks ground into the wool chair with an uncanny enthusiasm. Rocking back and forth like a splintering old row boat lost at sea, seeking and failing to find reprieve from the chapped tentacles of the Kraken that haunted his hole. The White House office itself was aggressively beige and indifferently decorated. It was a perfect representation of the current political climate in which forward momentum and progress were gleefully ignored.
President Knudson found himself, like most Americans, sitting alone in a room, suffering through a hapless existence while refreshing the Barstool Sports Twitter feed in order to euthanize actual human emotion and thought by way of GIFs and Boomerangs. He considered sadly masturbating, but instead, decided to turn on the news, which required the same mental capacity as the aforementioned activity, though it had been particularly painful to watch in recent weeks. News of continuing attacks against America was pouring in from varying parts of the country. On top of it all, Duke Dasher had disappeared. Was Dasher somehow a part of these attacks? President Knudson knew Dasher feared God, but did he fear the authority of this country? Had God turned his vengeful eye towards an America that was rapidly descending into madness?
Everyone was a suspect at this point, and Dasher’s untimely disappearance was not helping his cause. Was he working with the four mercenaries the President had shown him driving towards his house? He had left rather abruptly. It was entirely possible Dasher had hijacked that helicopter as a means to wreak more havoc on a country already on its knees. The President grew more suspicious of Dasher by the minute. He turned the events repeatedly in his head, the paranoia slowly transforming Dasher into a monster capable of anything. The helicopter had been recovered at Dasher’s house, where his wife and son were interviewed. The interviews had been fruitless however, as the wife described a deranged Joel Oscreen as the primary culprit, Knudson quickly dismissed her account of events given his relationship with Christianity and televised sermons. They were back at square one after leaving Dasher’s wife and kid unguarded and emotionally neglected in the confines of the house they were almost killed in. Knudson had grown furious that more information could not be extracted from the two; he briefly considered waterboarding but thought better of it, mostly from fear of retribution from Dasher himself.
Fortunately for the President, the attacks were happening with such regularity that they were generally buried under the onslaught of other celebrity gossip and directionless outrage. There was a numbing cadence to the atrocities, which allowed the President to consistently offer up prayers for varying victims without the public realizing the prayers were for separate crimes against humanity. The nation was stuck in a self-imposed stalemate of sorts – seemingly seeking change, but too apathetic to exchange actual physical effort for the endless streams of content being hammered into their bleeding eye sockets. Maybe humanity had run its course. Maybe watching a stranger doing squats in white spandex was more important than anything else. Perhaps gazing at Kris Kardashian harvesting her children for organs in an effort to make a new all-natural Xanax lip filler was the most significant thing someone could do in their life. What was left in the world was pulsating legions of maggots slurping the last little bit of rotten, sagging flesh from the rapidly disintegrating corpse of humankind. Maybe the perpetual cycle of chewing and spitting up, reheating, and snorting ejaculate from varying social media content orgies was not healthy. Maybe the blue light was killing everyone faster than the men snapping necks. Knudson immediately cast the thought aside after watching another gender reveal fail on Instagram. If not this, what did we really have?
Knudson scrolled through Twitter and realized the news of the most recent attack had been buried under a story about one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills suffering from loose bowels. He chuckled at the coincidence that he had recently been suffering from the same affliction. The most recent attacks adhered to the prior ones inflicted on the country, happening primarily in depleted Midwestern States that ultimately helped swing the election in his favor. Each attack was as horrific as the last, with surprisingly no bullets fired, but rather dozens upon dozens of snapped necks. Families were being torn apart by this. It was only a matter of time before the celebrity gossip culture dried up, and the attacks were prioritized.
“Get Watley in here,” President Knudson yelled as he wrestled a full chicken bone down his protesting throat.
Tom Watley promptly entered the Oval Office, noting an immense stench that governed every inch of the room. Watley saw the boiling red face of President Knudson and immediately recognized the look of severe indigestion and misplaced anger. He anticipated the meeting going poorly.
“President Knudson, a pleasure to finally meet you. I’ve heard so many good things,” Watley said sheepishly, hoping that some lambasting would keep the president from shitting his pants during the meeting, which he had been rumored to do if unhappy enough.
“Tell me something Watley. You were Duke Dasher’s commanding officer during the mission that forced him into retirement, were you not?” replied Knudson.
“Yes sir, that’s correct. His method of cutting off the face of the leader, wearing it as a mask and convincing the rest of the terrorists to commit suicide wasn’t necessarily in the Geneva Convention, but it sure as hell got the job done. If it hadn’t caused so much outrage, I would have given him a purple heart and two weeks paid vacation,” said Watley.
“That’s not what I’m after Watley. We are all well aware that doing that was simple American ingenuity. I know your decision to honorably discharge him was a difficult one that was highly influenced by backward leftist media. The real problem is Dasher has now been missing for weeks, and these attacks keep happening,” the President replied, gnawing the last piece of a hangnail off.
The way the President had left the sentence hanging made Watley uneasy, as did the President’s relentless squirming and micro belching.
“Sir, I’m not sure I follow,” said Watley.
“What I’m getting at is I think Dasher might be behind these attacks,” continued the President.
“Sir, you can’t be serious. Dasher is fiercely loyal to this country, almost to a fault. Don’t you recall the time he almost divorced his wife for accidentally forgetting to remove her hat during the national anthem of an NFL game? If divorce weren’t a sin, they would no longer be together, sir. Mind you, this also occurred in their living room during a DVR’d stream of a game from a decade prior. Not to mention, he strictly abides by the concept that only sinners should be casualties of war,” Watley said, staring at the carpeting and remembering the irate phone call he had received from Dasher the day of the incident.
“Watley, something stinks about this whole situation, and frankly, we are desperate to pin this on someone so we can start up a morale-boosting manhunt. Just what this country needs,” the President replied, placing his hand awkwardly on Watley’s knee.
“Sir, Dasher could very much so be in trouble. He may need our help,” said Watley.
“He won’t get it. He made that decision for himself when he decided to go dark,” the President replied, leaning back in his chair and taking a hero’s load from his JUUL. The plume engulfed Watley’s face, which was too stunned to evade the thickness and depth of the mango scented money shot. Enormous plumes like these had been the perfect way to prove imaginary dominance, and in President Knudson’s mind, Watley had just been cucked into oblivion. He ordered Watley to leave his office immediately. Watley looked at the President in disbelief before abiding by the request. He thought back to a saying that Duke had taught him during their time in the military together, vaping hands are the devil’s playground. The phrase had seemed arbitrary at best, but now the phrase idled in Watley’s mind like the smoke that followed him as he left the room. He had seen something more than just a hangover and an addiction to softcore pornography in the President’s bloodshot eyes, something sinister was hatching from his popcorn lungs.
President Knudson picked up the phone and demanded an immediate press conference. Watley looked on completely perplexed, knowing that what was coming might shake the country to its very core. In a remote part of Southern Illinois, Popov listened to the entire conversation through his laptop. The $25 in Kohls Cash he had paid the janitor to plant a bug in the President’s office had been money well spent. Popov got all of the information he needed and the janitor could now get a shrimp deveiner, a travel sized lava lamp, a pair of potentially used Nikes and Burn Notice Season 3 on Blu Ray from an iconic department store. The government was imploding on itself, just as Popov had predicted. Now if he could just get a hold of Hisan and the three other mercenaries with their precious cargo.
Somewhere in Montana,
When Hisan awoke, he was upside down. His head was pounding. He unbuckled his seatbelt and crawled from the overturned Honda Civic. The three other goons stood around a small campfire they had built. How long had he been out? Moreover, why hadn’t they unbuckled him and pulled him from the car? He had been left hanging upside down for a countless number of hours or days. With friends like these, who needs enemies, thought Hisan. If these had been his mini horses, they would have released him from the car immediately.
“Where are we?” Hisan demanded, recalling that the car flipped onto the shoulder of the road on a busy stretch of highway in Montana.
“We’re exactly where we need to be and nowhere else,” Joel Oscreen replied cryptically.
“We were at risk of being seen, so we got out and dragged the car into the woods where we believe Dasher ran off after the crash,” Titus Rains added, nursing an infected looking bloody stump full of mangled fingers that Dasher had eaten up like a wood chipper.
“And you couldn’t have pulled me from the car first?” asked Hisan infuriated.
The group shrugged and returned to gazing blankly into the fireplace app that one of them had downloaded onto their tablet. Hisan wondered why they hadn’t started a real fire but didn’t bother to ask, any eccentricities these psychopaths exhibited could be attributed to being sequestered outside of a Cracker Barrel for the better part of a decade. Dasher had somehow bested them, and though they were genetically engineered elite murderous psychopaths, they still possessed the conventional fragile masculinity that accompanied all men who are incapable of getting laid. Each of them struggled to internally justify the failure at hand. Each making excuses, overcompensating, posturing, and using irrational blame as a mechanism to cope with their own shortcomings. The judgment never turning inwards, but instead spewing outwards like the blood from Rain’s gnawed off fingers. The incident had severely wounded the already delicate nature of these creatures who had been programmed exclusively for killing. Fortunately enough, when male confidence is challenged, the direct product is uncontrollable and misdirected rage. This rage would transfer straight to the hunt of Duke Dasher, who had, for now, put their perceived manhood under a microscope. A fantasy of capturing and torturing Dasher consumed them all. It would be the only way to win back their confidence and avoid a lifetime of impotence.
They each wondered how the hell he started that fire and though none would admit it, the vision of Dasher’s flaming, bald head birthing through the seat was making them all very uncomfortable. Hisan approached the fire being standard definition broadcasted from the tablet. If they were going to find Dasher, they would have to split up. Unfortunately, they would have to wait until morning to continue the hunt. If they did it at night, they would be in Dasher’s realm of blindness.
Dasher was undoubtedly injured in the crash and was visibly on fire right before the car turned over, so he would be alone in the woods and losing strength by the minute. If they waited it out until morning, he would be a shell of a man by the time they found him. He may even die in the woods, which would be all the same for Hisan, who thought the corpse could then be defiled and used as communist propaganda. Imagining Dasher’s dead body used as a marionette during a commercial advertising the health benefits of grain alcohol satisfied Hisan to no end. Popov would be happy with Dasher dead or alive; they just needed to capture him one way or another.
Hisan laid out the plan for the other men. They would each scout a section of the woods and flush Dasher towards a clearing in the middle of the forest. He distributed firearms and flare guns to each of the members. If anyone found him, they were to shoot a flare into the air, letting the others know Dasher was being flushed to the clearing. Once in the expanse, the final confrontation could begin yet again, and the team could put this country back on the track to a communist regime installation. They gathered around the fire and prepared themselves for an undoubtedly restless sleep. The plan seemed simple enough, though nothing was simple when it came to Dasher. Even wounded, Dasher was more dangerous than most men were.
At the other end of the woods, Dasher lay under a pile of dead leaves. When the car had crashed, he propelled through the front windshield, landing a dozen or so feet from the vehicle itself. He instantly felt the beautiful 6,000-year-old planet underneath him and started crawling. He remembered being fascinated at the age of the earth; several thousand years was a very long time for a planet to exist. Once more, he thanked his guardian angel for selling him a condom full of flammable blood from the traitor Judas. He also thanked God for cursing Judas with the flammable blood, an ingenious penance for ratting out his only Son. Dasher thought it was inspiring that the Bible could still surprise him every day. Even though he had read the book thousands of times in favor of other literature, there was always something new to cherish. He would have to talk with his professor at the University of Phoenix about getting the flammable blood and autoerotic asphyxiation story officially added to the Bible. Dasher got excited about his contribution to the Bible, being immortalized in his favorite book seemed far overdue.
Though Dasher was still blind, he could hear birds chirping in the distance and instantly began crawling towards them, knowing they were in the forest where he would need to seek refuge. He made it deeper into the woods and buried himself in more dead leaves to increase his camouflage until he could figure out his next move. He reached his hand into his pair of tactical cargo pants and felt the beautiful, familiar shame that accompanied feeling the fray of the worn pages contained in his Bible.
He had nothing else in terms of survival gear and could not physically read the Bible. Nonetheless, he thanked God once more for giving him the opportunity to sit in nature and plan the brutal murder of the four men who kidnapped him. God would be impressed with the cruelty Dasher anticipated employing when exacting his revenge. He focused on the light breeze brushing across his face and the smell of decomposing wood filling his blood-caked nostrils. What if this was the same forest Adam bit the forbidden fruit in? Dasher thought longingly about being the first man and easily refusing the temptation of the fruit and the knowledge it possessed. Adam could technically be considered the first iteration of a Millennial cuck: a self-indulgent asshole who obsessed over himself instead of the greater good. If he hadn’t eaten that apple, we would all still be living happily without unique thought or complex emotion in the Garden of Eden and this entire debacle would have likely never happened. He cursed Adam for taking the fruit and Eve for being a woman. All of which he now saw as a catalyst for his favorite pastor attempting to murder him and having to endure an entire generation of sniveling snowflakes.
In the midst of this bizarre, beginning of humankind daydream, Dasher smelled the sickening scent of incense burning in the distance. Incense was never burned without marijuana and though severely injured and blind, Dasher longed with every fiber in his being to find the party responsible and offer a stern reprimanding.
President Knudson struggled up the stairs on the way to the podium, his knees nearing collapse with every pained step. They shook under his enormous stature, bowing inwards with every step forward. He reminded himself to fire the intern who was supposed to install a miniature lift up to the podium at press conferences like this. He had demanded a lift be created to make him appear more powerful, being hoisted like a god three feet off the ground to the stage where the podium stood. The makeup that had been applied made his face less human than usual. It sat squarely above his skin, making it appear as though he was wearing a lumpy, glistening Halloween mask that had been poorly sewn onto his dehydrated skin. A vast cold sore looked particularly disturbing as it feasted on the chalky makeup, making it appear like a syringe erupting with gristle-forward ground turkey. The rolling sand dunes of grainy, blemished skin seemed to stretch forever.
There was also an odd-looking contour applied to his cheeks to thin them out, but it made his face resemble a deflating hunk of roadkill gasping its last few breaths of air rather than thin it. Every liver spot was its own sickly tide pool; the yellowing waters stirred visibly beneath his thinning skin, which looked ready for puncture from one of the hardened growths he referred to as his intestine barnacles. His suit was visibly drenched and the walk caused him to break into a full drop sweat. Undetermined fluids were leaking from his sweat-logged sleeves.
Nonetheless, the President took to the podium like a hero and the country watched on because they had nothing else to do. The only remote escape from their otherwise regrettable existence. Something to lap up and disgorge into the ringing ear drums of friends and family who also watched the pointless occurrence and established an equally uninteresting opinion. Something to fill the time between Hawaii 5.0, Two and a Half Men reruns and death. The President served as something to strive towards for much of the public: an overweight, overpaid public servant with eternal indigestion, uncompromising sleep apnea and a loose grasp on the English language.
“I would first like to comment on the important, recent news that one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has been suffering from loose bowels. I would like to offer my sincerest thoughts and prayers in this difficult time!” Knudson said purposefully into the mic. The crowd immediately exploded in applause at the heartfelt condolences. The first of many undeserved standing ovations that would occur during the press conference.
“But what I would really like to talk to you about today is the recent attacks on our country. Sources are telling me these attacks are being fueled by none other than disgraced war veteran Duke Dasher,” Knudson continued, hoping he could focus the hatred and anxiety of an entire country on a single man.
The crowd sat silently, uncertain how to react. Watley stared at the President in shock; Dasher was never described as disgraced by anyone. How could the President think this was the right thing to do?
“Bear with me,” continued Knudson. He was now out of breath from talking for several seconds continuously and his right arm began to go numb. “I didn’t believe it myself either, but no one has seen Dasher for weeks and these attacks are happening with increased regularity! We believe Dasher has gone rogue!” screamed the President as white flecks from his mouth covered the front row of reporters who accepted the spray with the delight of a child in the splash zone, watching an abused Orca be flogged to death at SeaWorld with commemorative mugs sold at the gift shop.
The crowd had heard enough extremely loose evidence to be satisfied. The reporters began firing questions at the President. When did he think Dasher had turned? What was the motif? How would he be stopped and was it possible to get Operation Diesel Fist removed from the history books? The President had no further comment on the incident, knowing the statement was incendiary enough to start a nationwide manhunt for Dasher. Guilty or not, this government needed a win, and capturing a scapegoat for slaughter would almost certainly guarantee another term.
However, one young reporter eyed the melting President with skepticism. The rest of the crowd were eager to be the first to break the story that a former national hero had turned on his country, but he refused to believe Dasher would change allegiance so quickly. Patrick Kibby stood in the sea of reporters carefully surveying the President’s mannerisms. A former TMZ reporter, who now worked exclusively for Buzzfeed News, Kibby was well versed in sniffing out red herrings. He had a reputation for going where no one wanted to go and report on things that absolutely no one wanted to read. He once broke a story detailing the pornography preferences of Chumlee from the hit show Pawn Stars. Although the article managed only fourteen views, the content was interesting enough for Buzzfeed News to hire him on full-time as their new political correspondent. Kibby was the type of guy to own both a drone and a 3D printer and relentlessly talk about them. The kind of absolute loser who regularly participates in escape rooms and indoor skydiving.
Kibby maneuvered his way out of the crowded room; he had to get some air. Something seemed off with the President. Yes, it was a borderline elderly man in clearly failing health making feeble attempts to lead the most powerful country in the world, but there was something even more peculiar than that. Dasher had been at the White House only weeks earlier and had a personal meeting with the President. Kibby discovered this while documenting a new article for Buzzfeed Politics titled “Top 10 Glory Holes You Didn’t Know About Inside the Whitehouse”. What happened at that meeting? It ended with Dasher sprinting to a Blackhawk helicopter outside and taking off in a hurry. If Kibby could figure out where that Blackhawk went, he could start pulling the shit thread on this shit sweater and find out whose shit covered hands had woven the whole damn thing in a JoAnn Fabric bathroom. This was his world, wading around in the sewage and entrails from the Perdue Chicken slaughtering plant to find that golden beak. The truth amid a world of deceit.