He hadn’t been elected. The time it took to follow the steps of democracy was not a luxury still afforded to them. Dallas was old enough to remember how the nation once painstakingly mulled over these decisions. This was different. Leadership had been shoved into his hands like the hot potato no one wanted to be caught holding when the clock stopped. The center-set faucet of the sink before him was suffocating beneath years of grime and rust but it was still inviting. Dallas wanted nothing more than to turn its handles and splash a refreshing dose of clarity in his face but poisonous liquid flowed through city plumbing systems now. Even the simple pleasures of their life before were like a dream to him.
Dallas stepped out of the filling station’s restroom and climbed onto the roof of his mud covered sport utility vehicle. He greeted the growing crowd with a modest wave and held his hands in the air to steady their cheers. He didn’t want to be responsible for them but someone had to be. They were scarred and starving. The lucky ones arrived in struggling vehicles but most dragged to join the crowd on foot. Many were carried. They were the survivors gathering around their last chance of hope.
This was the end of The Life War. They had been fighting for 17 years when Dallas heard the term after he and his army won a battle outside of Nevada. The name was so fitting he wasn’t surprised when he reached Missouri and people spoke of it as if it was always called The Life War. They were fighting for their right to edible food and drinking water so they were, in fact, fighting for life.
The crowd waited for him to speak while his best friend and second-in-command rigged a microphone to a generator powered amplifier. Not long ago these people were fighting each other in makeshift gangs and hoarding resources but now they all stood as one force. Dallas traveled the country from coast to coast uniting them all. The real enemy was barricaded in Fort Hood and surrounded by hundreds of defected military personnel. The crowd before him totaled well into the thousands.
Screeching feedback echoed from the speaker and Charlie handed him the battered microphone with an encouraging nod.
“Thank you,” Dallas began and another wave of feedback drowned him out. He tried again after Charlie turned a few knobs and flashed him a thumbs up.
“Thank you for taking the journey to meet me here. I realize it couldn’t have been easy and I appreciate your effort. Some of you are old enough to remember the way things used to be. I am lucky enough to remember how we were once a prosperous nation. But, this will not be a speech about nostalgia for days past because it was the events of the past that led us to today.” A furious cheer tore through the crowd and Dallas waited for it to subside.
“Greed was the way of before. Greed polluted the fresh water sources. Greed twisted the life-sustaining nature of this country into a wasteland and greed is what lives within the walls of Fort Hood.” The crowd roared again and a few let off gunshots in the air.
“We are the people of a new union. All throughout human history the rise and collapse of nations have been recorded and it seems it is the natural order of civilizations to become so great that they collapse into themselves like a dying star. But we will not disappear into a black hole they created.” Dallas paused for the cheers, letting his words settle into them.
“Tomorrow we take the fight to them. Tomorrow we storm Fort Hood and even the score.” Someone started chanting his name and the sound infected the crowd as they all began repeating it.
“I am not your savior but I will be your General. We will fight shoulder to shoulder as brothers and sisters in arms and when the time comes for me to give my life for yours I will do it with honor. We are the people of the great nation of America!” Dallas was yelling now. Adrenaline coursed through his body like an electrical storm. “And this is the fight for our lives!”