The inaugural ball of 2028 was the first I had ever attended. Initially, I had wanted to side-step the entire affair, leave off going. By this time everyone had come to the conclusion that I, Mr. Reynaldo Steed, was little more than a modern day Joseph Goebbels. Of course no one had ever said such a thing to me or the President personally. Freedom of speech was a right still allowed by the powers that be, that power being the President of the United States, my employer. Editorials in some of the nation’s leading newspapers and news magazines had expressed what so many Americans had come to fearfully suspect. The United States of America was being led not just by a strange, new dynamic leader who had the power to withstand not only a sniper’s bullet, but also the power to influence the world in ways that had never been considered before. Many attributed some of this peculiarity to the skills of his Personal Speechwriter, me. So my employer allowed the critics to speak. He did not want to give the world the impression that tyranny reigned at home. Every American was allowed their opinion, especially the press. Therefore, the spokesperson could not be permitted to miss such a momentous event. My presence would be required.
Yet the ball was strange and unsettling. To begin with there was the matter of the First Lady, now a paraplegic after having suffered her debilitating stroke. She sat in her wheelchair, barely able to move her head to witness the festivities taking place below the band box. The tube she used to manipulate her movements looked cruel and obscene. My employer’s attentions towards her although indicating his kind and gracious manner, were a ballet of horror to some. She had once been a startlingly beautiful woman. A Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, who seemed the epitome of what it means to be blonde and perfect-looking. After all, she had married the man who would one day be President of the United States. Now she was a hollow, gaunt marionette, the spirit within her imprisoned in its cell of afflicted and slowly decaying flesh. The attendees did their best to show their support with kind gestures and tear-filled smiles, but inwardly her presence made them uncomfortable.
The story of how the First Lady had helped to arrange the attempted assassination of the President was well known to all of the top Washington insiders. They suspected this was his revenge for her treachery. Because of the un-natural power he possessed not even the Justice Department, had the courage to come out and say as much. I suspect that as much as they would have been terrified to learn the truth, they would have been even more scared to understand that any of them could have easily suffered the same fate. The rumors could always be discounted as rumors but loyalty was something tangible and real. If one was disloyal to my employer then one suffered the consequences.
As the ceremony and entertainments continued I watched the crowd’s reaction from my seat in the band box. The President had insisted that I sit with him and his wife for the duration of the event. He smiled and laughed at the entertainers doing their best to honor the Chief Executive’s night of nights. Stars of stage and screen performed flawlessly and there was even a moment of prayer asking for divine guidance for the country, divine guidance for humanity since it now seemed that world peace was at hand. Nuclear weapons had been abolished; Russia and China were now staunch and faithful allies of the United States. The terror of worldwide destruction that had so frightened the world after the Korean debacle had been abated. It all had been due to the leadership of one man, my employer, the President of the United States. He looked at me as if to say, “You were a part of this too. I needed someone with the ability to put my thoughts into words, someone who would be loyal to me no matter what. What shall we strive towards now? There still is much to be done…”
I returned his gesture with a faint glimmer of a smile. “Mr. President,” I said softly leaning towards him. “You have to admit you’re on a roll tonight.” I hesitated as the First Lady blew into her tube in order to turn to look at me, her hollow, haunted-looking eyes searching my face pleadingly. Suppressing a shudder, I ignored her and continued with my thoughts. “What I wanted to say is thank you for allowing me to take part in all of this.”
My employer looked at me with a bemused expression on his face. “I could not have done it without you Mr. Steed.” He said gently.
My thoughts were far from being light-hearted or even optimistic. I was troubled, as I had been from the very beginning, by a feeling of dreadful premonition. A nervous, almost electric-type of feeling filled the air around us. I was familiar with its presence but I had never quite gotten used to it. It made me wonder if the only way to help this charnel-house of horrors that we call Earth was to be comfortable with evil, the lesser evil that would allow good to be done. Was there any other way? Everyone who had ever tried to change things without acknowledging, honoring this dilemma had been frustrated by the ultimate failure of their plans. Non-violent protest only worked because the world, in its hypocritical fashion, was quick to judge, quick to condemn. But take away the adverse publicity and you have a return to the way it has always been: might makes right since justice is in the interest of the strong.
I sat back in my seat watching the pantomime below. It all seemed faintly ridiculous now. Come tomorrow morning these people would all return to their lives and their pre-conceived notions and their degenerate, selfish motivations. Their loyalty could be counted upon so long as they were allowed their desires, their conveniences. None of them really cared if the world was at peace, just so long as peace did not infringe on their lives of entitlement. After all, this was Washington D.C. Only the wealthy and best and the brightest were allowed to work in or associate with, the upper echelons of government. They had earned the right to be here. It made perfect sense that they hated me, an outsider who had been picked out of obscurity to become the spokesman for the man who was destined to eventually become ruler of the world.
What right did they have to suspect that man of being the long awaited and feared Anti-Christ? Was not each one of these people an Anti-Christ themselves? After all many here had devoted their lives to ensuring that America was the only dominant force in the world, come of it what may. Wars, economic sanctions, assassinations, intrigues and machinations both domestic and foreign were the hallmarks of their belief that America should and must be the only nation in the world that matters. Only people who truly do not believe in Christ and his teachings could do such things believing in their hearts that they had done no wrong.
I was no false prophet. Every speech I had ever written had been a matter of telling the truth and that truth was that mankind, even Americans, must honor the fact that the world cannot go on as it had in the past, cooperation and not competition was the only rationale that would save us, the citizens of the world. Yet the irony is that the truth really does not set one free. It only imprisons those who believe in it into basing their lives on what they believe. They can either ignore it or honor it. So I choose to believe in love, compassion, hope for tomorrow.
For tomorrow is promised to no one.
“Hail to the Chief,” is a sequel to a novel I had written called “How I Helped to Change the World.” The subject of the novel was the story of Reynaldo Steed, an unknown writer who is hired by the Secretary of State as a personal speech writer. However, the Secretary of State is in actuality the Anti-Christ and Mr. Steed becomes his false prophet. I am a native of Houston, Texas and a poet as well. I hope you enjoy my story. Thank you for your attention.