Ayn King stood on the wet, grassy field; soldiers, press, and nearby citizens gathered around her in drab, muddy grays and browns. She stood out in her bright red coat, clean knee-high boots, and superior gaze. She was perfectly balanced upon the wheel of her polished automobile, and the distant fires cast an orange glow upon the fog behind her between the black silhouettes of tall pines. She looked like the elected queen she thought of herself, “We represent culture of the New World,” she shouted; “We are the East, the birthplace of modern democracy, industry, and liberty. Physically, only the river separates us. But truly, there is so much more.”
Several heads nodded, but many were wary to agree or voice their unsure thoughts. Some stood as if waiting for instructions. Some wore angry scowls and stood with tense postures. One even grumbled his disapproval.
“They are like wild animals and parasites, feeding off our ancestor’s success!” Ayn cried, opening her arms as if pleading reason with infidels; “What have they done for us? Other than take our money? They stay in comfort among the fields and mountains and deserts. We have much less land, and what have they done with theirs? Nothing! Our cities far surpass any they could ever imagine.”
The press, in their khaki trench coats, rapidly scribbled notes and took photos; the flashes highlighting her sharp features, and piercing eyes. She didn’t seem human like the rest of them, “What universities do they boast of? None comparing to our academic empires! Perhaps some that teach proper farming techniques.” Nobody smiled or laughed until she gave them a smug grin, which commanded a few nervous laughs. She was beginning to sound right. They were better than those Westerners.
Ayn watched them for a moment, unspeaking and grim, “Well, where does that leave us? Forever picking up the slack of a lesser region of our great country? What makes them so much worse? We all came from the same settlers. We all, supposedly, love this country… right? Wrong. They have grown used to our superiority and have used it to their advantage for far too long. They merely produce the food we eat, but nothing to the worth of what we do for them. We bail them out of their pathetic loans across the sea at their coasts. We build them cities which they, in turn, destroy. We send them soldiers, we send them you!”
The various soldiers in the crowd nodded quickly in fierce agreement. There were only a few of them in the crowd, from the outpost and base nearby. A couple were foot soldiers in brown and green, but one was an officer, identifiable by his clean-cut jacket and breaches and polished brass buttons. The soldiers and their families often felt uneasy about the things in the West, as very few others traveled there, because of the danger and costs.
“But do you come back? No! Either slaughtered by savages on the plains or killed by corrupt bands of criminals on the coast. The only businesses that survive there are brothels, capturing our daughters! Bars that send our sons to hell! Drug cartels that destroy the lives of everyone they ever come into contact with! The west coast is corrupt. Sodom and Gomorra reign, and soon fire will fall upon them!” She was screaming now, her fist clenched.
Blood boiled. Their daughters. Their sons. Their people. Neighbors with such repulsive civilizations. The people were shouting, too, now. Cheering at every fiery word that came out of Ayn’s mouth, “Where will that fire come from, though?” she wondered loudly, holding her arms wide, similar to a divine figure, palms open at a table. In red, as well. Ayn was no fool, “I have an answer.” She stared many of them in the eye, and those she looked at—they knew she was talking specifically to them. How did she know? How did she know they wanted the answer? It was as if they had suddenly faced the answer to a problem they didn’t even know they had. How did she know?
“We are that fire.” Those words were somehow so quiet, but reached every ear in the crowd. Like a spark landing in oil, oh, the sudden, mighty scorch. The crowd exploded a moment later, in full, uncontained agreement. Finally, the entire crowd was wild. She smiled, and the fire she spoke of was somehow in her amber eyes.
“We are the fire that will take down Sodom and Gomorrah. We will burn away their sins. Their unpaid debts. Their failures. They asked for this, and we will answer. Those who bend the knee, the innocent ones, however small, will be spared,” she assured, suddenly becoming an iridescent angel who would graciously extend their salvation; “But the guilty ones, those who deserve this, will pay. Your fists, your anger, and your freedom to take back what we have unintentionally given them, will be the answer to our prayers. We will be that fire, because, like us, fire is not easily stopped.”
They were a fire, an army, a force to end the evil across the River. The savage tribes of the deserts, the southern cartels, the sin-on-the-coast, the corrupt farmer unions of the plains. How had they not seen this so clearly before? She knew them, and had released an idea that suddenly seemed so right. Those in the east, characterized by their civility and steadfastness and culture, deserved better than the westerners, “Join me. Together, we can put an end to injustice. But the only way we will succeed, the only way I will succeed, is with you;.” She raised her hand in salute, mothering half a nation. The elected queen. That is what they saw.
That is what they needed to see, anyways. Ayn reaffirmed her argument in her head, knowing it was best to spark this fury. The things she said, however fiery and dramatic, were still true. Those people deserved retribution, and if it simultaneously provided political security for the party, for the Kings, so be it, she thought smugly.
Ayn lived in a torn world. She had to protect what was hers, no matter the consequences. Her world had been divided for so long; some wanted to close the gap between them, but Ayn knew that was fruitless. The others were like rats that would spread their disease and putrid germs across her beautiful mountains, through her old cities, and to her freeing seas. Their twisted political ways would infiltrate the democracy and liberty she practically worshipped, gifted down from her ancestors like true kings, from one King to the next. The red coat of thick woolen fabric, carefully cut to fit her slender frame, was crafted after those ancestors. The tri-corn had back home, signifying their position in the political arena…practically royalty, but not, of course. The King family itself. These things meant everything to Ayn. And a future had to be protected.
Ayn would do anything for the future; their future; her future. And if it meant travelling into the deep south to lands steeped in ungodly horrors, she would do it. She would ask for their help. Her journey in history and towards her future began there, if she was to truly start a fire in the West. One was already sparked here; now all she needed was to direct it towards her enemies and watch them burn.