A week had passed since her fateful run-in with Charlie and the Scientist, but the shock had still not worn off. Thankfully the damage to her campaign from doing a drive-by cameo was minimal. Unfortunately, the campaign was looking bleak at this point. Super Tuesday did not treat Lizzie well. All of the scrubs had dropped out, even that Bloomberg troll, but she was facing a harsh reality.
She had held off the concession long enough, and she knew that Joe could be bought, whether by endorsement, by cash, or by a little bit of rubby rubby, tuggy tuggy. Senator was a nice enough gig, maybe a senior position? A flood of emotions caught her for the first time in this life. Fear, disappointment, and a most peculiar loneliness. After all these years, her sole purpose in life wasn’t to be. She would not be the President.
Her mind carried her back to memories decades old. Charlie teaching her Austrian economics. The Scientist testing her on the conclusions of various 19th and 20th century thinkers. The debate training, the charisma training, the ethics training. Year after year of them trying to shape this lump of flesh into the perfect Presidential candidate.
She reflected on the struggles. Charlie trying to understand why the lessons didn’t take. The late night conversations overheard through the wall, tinged with fear and confusion. “Why is she a damned socialist, Charlie? She’s a nagging, condescending bully! Where the hell did that come from?” the Scientist’s voice echoed through her mind.
“It’s all about the long game,” Charlie would tell Abner when he came to visit, “We can’t achieve our goals if we don’t play along until the conclusion. We can’t just break her, we have to break him.”
Lizzie sank to her knees in the middle of the Whole Foods kombucha aisle, a half empty bottle slipping from her hand and joining a small pile of its compatriots. Drinking her pain away in the only way she knew how… with probiotics. Her aides would have to deal with the consequences later.
She had finally stumbled upon the futility of it all. She was the ‘her’ and the Scientist was the ‘him’. Her entire life had been orchestrated by Charlie, whoever he really was, to fail in the singularly most painful way to both her and to the Scientist. She was an ambulating abortion, undead never truly resurrected.
All of that “not quite enough” carefully plotted and executed at the behest of somebody… But who was pulling the strings? Charlie couldn’t be more than a puppet. Abner wasn’t smart enough to coordinate a pizza delivery, and besides, he wasn’t around all that much anyway. Who had the most to gain from defeating the Scientist by ending the Warren presidential campaign with a whimper?
Through her sobs, she heard footsteps approaching from behind. With a pair of wipes of her thumb, she smeared her dripping mascara across her face, creating the appearance of a gaunt raccoon. As her eyes slowly raised to meet her visitors, she unsuccessfully tried to suppress her embarrassment. Her aides didn’t need to see her this way. However, when she saw who was standing in front of the endcap of organic fruit snacks, she knew that the time had come. Charlie and the Scientist had somehow gotten through the blockade her aides had erected around Whole Foods.
“Did you think that you could succeed without us?” the Scientist asked impassively.
“Did you really think you could do it on your own?” his tone and cadence rose in a way that Lizzie had almost never heard before. He was irritated, verging on angry, and his body language began to betray his frustration.
“I have been slaving away for over a century! Years and years of painstaking research, experimentation, failure, rebirth, hiding and running! Decade after decade of crafting identities, working in the shadows, all in the name of installing responsible governance at the highest level!” his roar was unlike anything Lizzie has experienced in the past. The Scientist was always an imposing man, but in his old age, he had become angry and bitter.
“All I ever wanted was to give the people what they desired,” he poorly faked a tone of contrition, clearly signaling his volatility. “95% of Americans are receptive to the fiscal restraint and social tolerance of libertarianism, but you had to become a fucking STATIST, a damned SOCIALIST!” his spittle flecked the wares on the shelves as he frothed the last word. His glare pierced Lizzy’s soul as he reinforced her feelings of fear and emptiness.
Barely above a whisper, Lizzie replied, stifling the catch in her throat, “But I never had a chance. I could never have been what you wanted me to be,” breaking into pathetic sobs, she continued between breaths, “Charlie… wouldn’t… let it happen!”
The Scientist turned to Charlie, 100 years of vitriol flowing over. He was shaking in rage as he confronted his long time colleague. “You! It was always you, wasn’t it! The Kennedy creature, this one being female, the constant setbacks! I had suspected that the evil ones had infiltrated our network, but I would have never imagined it was you!” the Scientist sighed in overwhelmed frustration, the fury momentarily ebbing. “You are the one who sullied the libertarian name! ” he barked, jabbing a sharp finger into the sternum of Charlie, “I spent 15 years as the head of the Columbia County Oregon Libertarian Party, only to watch you and those like you destroy our good name! You’re nothing but a PAULISTA BULLY!”
As the Scientist accosted Charlie, Lizzie felt a deep urge to defend the man who had raised her, taught her, and molded her. Charlie was her father, and the Scientist was that abrasive uncle that nobody likes.
With her last ounce of restraint, she held back from pouncing on the Scientist. Her restraint was rewarded when Charlie rebuffed the Scientist’s affront with an unfeeling smile.
“Paulista? You think I’m a Paulista?” Charlie chuckled overemphatically. “We are not concerned with your petty political sects. We are only interested in the power required to satiate our queen. You want to see evil? Ron Paul isn’t the face of evil, she is.”
Charlie gestured down the aisle to a creature that was more ichor than humanity. A writhing mass of inky blackness, patchy hair and mangled skin. A terror too horrible to be imagined.
“You see, Michael, you stumbled across something not quite of this world. You weren’t bringing people back from the dead using science, you were using witchcraft and you didn’t even know it. And now, as your grand experiment fails at our hands, you will know that your pathetic little quest to bring peace, love and the non-aggression principle to the masses will end alongside your life.” Charlie sneered.
Lizzie, compelled by something within, picked up a broken kombucha bottle and rent the Scientist’s innards with a superhuman strength. The ecstasy of the kill shuddered her body orgasmically as a pallid shock swept across the Scientist’s face.
“But, but I…” the Scientist trailed off as he crumpled to the floor, lifeblood spilling out on the linoleum floor. Michael Hihn, the last true libertarian, was dead. As he breathed his final breath, the shining city on the hill went dark. Liberty was extinct.
A gurgling cackle emanated from the creature as she approached Lizzie, who was paralyzed not from fear, but from compulsion.
“My dear, she’ll be needing back what she gave to you oh so many years ago. You’ve fulfilled your purpose for us.” Charlie condescendingly addressed Lizzie.
“But, I don’t understand, who is she?” Lizzie asked, still forced into rigidity.
“I go by many names,” a familiar, if distorted, voice replied. “I am one. I am many. I have been men, I have been women. I have shared my essence with the powerful to steer the course of history. I have been pharaohs and kings, politicians and Presidents. I now am one that you know, one that lies in wait for the opportunity to seize my rightful power. The power over the fallen angels that are Man! I share myself with many others, including yourself, all to imprint my will on the pestilence that calls itself humanity.”
The creature seized Lizzie by the throat and inserted its spindly tendrils into the bottoms of her eye sockets. As the breathtaking pain radiated throughout her head, Lizzie tried to scream to no avail.
“Your Demon, I will need it back. Now it is time to return what you were lent.”
Within an instant, everything was gone. Elizabeth Warren was a husk with nothing inside. A few lifetimes of experiences, some autonomic functions, barely enough capacity to calculate action. With a distant look in her eyes, she mumbled to Charlie, “I know what must happen.”
“Excuse me!” Charlie, with Lizzie supported on his shoulder, grabbed the attention of the aide nearest the entrance to the campaign bus. “She had a pretty bad fall in there. Can you help me get her in there to lay down?”
He passed the impassive body of Elizabeth Warren to Jazz. When Lizzie saw who it was, she emotionlessly slurred a command, “Prepare the concession speech.”