Lincoln’s back presses against the hardwood floor. Darkness surrounds him and blocks any vision, making his heart beat faster than it should. Cold air makes him shiver, and he wraps his arms around his chest, desperate for heat. The rocking of the boat that he is a stowaway on makes it hard for him to sit in any one place for a long time. Trying to steady his nerves, he takes deep breaths and reminds himself that he will surely get caught if he cannot calm down. After all, the boat has just taken off from the shore. If he is found right now, he will surely be banished back to America.
Abraham Lincoln reflects on his current predicament. How did I find himself in these ghastly circumstances, he thought. First, he had lost the war. Any chance for reelection after losing to the south would surely be impossible. He did not even bother to organize a reelection campaign. Lincoln looked forward to returning to practicing law in Illinois. A quiet life, free from the jeering crowds that regularly surrounded the White House, angry at his loss.
But God would not even grant him this peace.
He does not believe he can continue to contemplate his sorrows. Not only because it would be taxing on his sanity, but because he does not believe he would be able to keep quiet if he kept dwelling on the past. Holding back tears, he blindly shuffles around in the darkness along the wall until the left side of his body hits another wall. Lincoln was in a corner now. He locks his knees up to his face in the fetal position. At least he thinks he is in the fetal position, but he cannot see, so he cannot be sure. He closes his eyes and urges himself to try to sleep.
Lincoln was hoping for a dreamless sleep. This did not happen, as dreams of smoke, screaming, and heat assaulted his senses. He could not make out any imagery, except fuzzy images of fire and broken wood. He wakes with a gasp, bringing himself back to the world. His eyes are now used to the darkness. Lincoln observes the room around him now. It is a plain room, made of dark wood, peeling and old. The wood creaks with every rock of the boat. Scattered sparsely around this room are crates, composed of identical wood with the same aged appearance. Lincoln rubs his head as he squints at one of the crates. He feels as though there is a second heartbeat in his head. Presumably, he did not sleep quite well. It is hard for him to get his bearings because the boat keeps rocking back and forth, causing the crates to shake and make an irritating creaking sound.
The next several days pass by uneventfully. Lincoln finds a hole in one of the crates and raids it for the salted vegetables inside (mainly corn), which he cringes at the taste of, but at least provides him with food and nutrients. He can fall asleep in the corner of the room but wakes every single time to his nightmares. Lincoln wonders during this time if he will be able to ever get good sleep again. He also wonders if his life will get any better if there are any prospects for his future. He loses track of day and night, only able to keep count of the number of times he has slept, but his fatigue causes him to lose track of that too. As a result, he loses all sense of time, responding only to the whims of his body – when it needs to eat and sleep.
One day, he is awakened from a nap before the nightmares come. Light pierces his eyes and his head feels heavy. Lincoln begins to lift his head off the ground and scrambles to his feet, moving a bit faster when a shriek startles him. It appears I have been seen, he thinks. Despite the light from the outside door burning his eyes, he stumbles forward, towards a figure standing in front of the source of the light. “Who are you,” a voice says. It sounds as surprised as Lincoln is. Knowing he will not be able to force his way past this person and out of the boat in his current state, Lincoln raises his hands in a surrender position. “Who are you,” the voice says again, this time a little more agitated.
“A mere stowaway,” Lincoln says. The figure steps forward, and as Lincoln’s eyes adjust to the light, he gets a better look at the grey-bearded man. Although Lincoln cannot discern many details of his clothing, it is stained and wrinkled. It reminds him of the clothing he used to wear when he lived in a log cabin as a boy.
“We can’t geep stowaways,” the man says. Lincoln squints at the strange pronunciation of the word “keep.”
“If that is the case, then it appears that you will have to send me back,” Lincoln says. The man nodded. Lincoln continues, “it may be reasonable to believe that this would further inconvenience you.”
“Why,” the man asks.
“Because the processes for prosecuting stowaways may be more complicated than if you were to simply let me free at once,” Lincoln said. By this point, his eyes have further adjusted to the light, and he could make out the puzzled expression on the man’s face. The man looks down and his face scrunches up. Lincoln is breathing, but he feels like he is not. After what seems like an hour, the man looks straight at him and nods. He steps aside and gestures for him to come along. Lincoln limps forward, his body sagged by his inability to sleep. Despite the pounding of fatigue in his head, he makes his way onto the deck of the boat and observes where they are.
He almost faints at the sight of the buildings. Behind a row of trees, there is a row of buildings. They are short, rectangular, and made of bricks. They have an industrial feeling about them as if they were built solely for serving their purpose, not for being pretty. They stretch as far as the eye can see. Lincoln is broken out of his astonishment when he hears the man say, “follow me.” He follows him past a row of old men, mouths all agape in surprise. The man Lincoln follows then points to a trail leading from the boat to the mainland. Now having gotten his hold on himself, Lincoln marches down the rail.
“Thank you,” he says to the man, before turning to walk away.
“Pardon me,” the man says, causing Lincoln to stop and turn around. “You seem disoriented.”
“I am merely tired,” Lincoln says, hoping there is enough confidence in his words. He then turns back and continues his march away from the boat, not letting it devolve into a limp until he is sure the man cannot see anyone. He walks down a sparsely populated street between two rows of rectangular brick buildings. It may be very early in the morning, Lincoln thought. People have not awoken yet. As Lincoln’s limp down the street continues, he contemplates what the man told him. He was disoriented, no doubt. He was looking forward to a quiet life as a lawyer after failing as a president, but now was a stowaway, unsure of where he was, and unsure of what the future held.
Lincoln wished he had, and it felt shameful for him to admit, was a friend. Someone in this strange place that he could confide in. Discuss this feeling that he had lost all direction in his life. But who would care enough to hear him? All of his friends in the USA turned their back on him after his loss of the war, and he did not know anybody here. Then, of course, there were the nightmares. He had them every time he slept since he had been on that boat. Would they go away now that he was on land? Would they ever be gone?
If he could not tell anybody, then he thought it was best that he did not spend so much time dwelling on this hurtful past. He was in a new place now, and maybe he could start anew. There was the immediate need for food and shelter, which would mean searching for a job. Perhaps he could locate a help wanted poster in the window of one of these buildings.
The streets change as Lincoln wanders them. He is looking at every front window of every building for a poster indicating that help was wanted. The rectangular buildings with no label on them are replaced with similar buildings that have signs on the front announcing what they do. There is a barbershop with a painted cartoon of a smiling man with an apron holding a pair of scissors on the front wall. Next to it, there is a clothing shop with a sign advertising the sale of sunglasses. Not only does the nature of the buildings change, but the number of people changes, perhaps because it is starting to become day and people are waking up. There is a man in a suit here, a man in a suit there, and on one block, one of the buildings is surrounded by men dressed like the old man on the boat chanting some slogan.
Finally, Lincoln notices a building labeled Jeffery Law Firm. Below the painted letters on the front wall, more painted words read “business attorneys at law.” Lincoln chuckled a little bit, remembering his days representing the Illinois Central Railroad. He turned his attention to the window of the law firm building, trying to ignore the incoherent chants ringing in his left ear, presumably from the rally he passed by. To his luck, a sign in the window read “Help Wanted – New Lawyers.” He breathed a sigh of relief and went inside.
The smell of smoke hits him before he can process any details of the room. After getting his bearings and shaking off the scent, he observes the building he had entered. In the single brick room, there was nothing except two desks, one against the left wall of the room and one tucked into the distant right corner of the room. The corner desk was empty, but at the left desk, there was a man in a suit, with two gigantic piles of paper to either his left or his right. In between the two of them, the man in a suit was writing something with his fountain pen on a single piece of paper. He stops what he was doing and looked up at Lincoln, scrunching up his face as though he was expecting an annoying salesman.
“I noticed your sign in the front, and I believe I would be good for this job,” Lincoln said.
The man’s face relaxed. He gestured over so that Lincoln was now standing in front of the man at his desk. “I am Jeffery. What is your name?”
“Abraham, sir,” said Lincoln.
“It is a delight to meet you, Abraham,” said Jeffery. The conversation continued as normal as Jeffery describes the details of the job. Jeffery’s law firm was expanding, and now he needs help reviewing all the legal documents. When asking about his previous experience, Lincoln mentions his days as a prairie lawyer in the USA. After a monotonous interview, Jeffery thinks for a moment before saying, “You are hired.” He then states what his salary would be. It is low, but what could money do for Lincoln? “When will you be able to start your work,” Jeffery asked.
“Immediately, sir,” Lincoln said.
Jeffery smiled. “In that case, work you will have.”
He is given the desk in the corner and one of the piles of paper from Jeffery’s desk is transferred to his desk. His days goes on just monotonously as the interview. He is made to read and sign document after document, creating a pile of finished work on one side as he finishes document after document. Despite having barely slept, Lincoln breezes through the documents with efficiency, one after the other. He loses himself in his work and does not notice how many hours have passed until Jeffery says, “We are closing now.” Lincoln drags himself to his feet and begins to walk toward the door, first collecting his payment. As he opens it, Jeffery says “Good work, Abraham, and welcome to London.”
London, that is where I am, Lincoln thinks as he steps onto the night street. He suspected he was somewhere along those lines because Jeffery spoke with a British accent and all the signs and people use the English language, but Lincoln did not want to be so sure until someone here confirmed where he was. But there was little point to dwell on it now, for Lincoln was anxious to find a place to stay and get the good sleep that he had been denied since he was a stowaway on that ship.
He wanders the streets, which are once again barely populated, except for a carriage here or there. Finally, he comes to a building that towers over the others, although it has the same brick, rectangular feel that the other buildings have. After walking inside, tolerating the darkness and the heat that causes his entire body to sweat, he goes to the person at the front and requests and room. After giving a portion of his payment, he goes to his room.
The heat in this room is even worse, not helped by the lack of any windows. In the left corner, there is a mattress, and beyond that, there are all the basic kitchen essentials packed against the right wall and almost nothing else. Although Lincoln had only been in here a moment, sweat from his forehead has already reached past his eyes and down his cheeks. Looking forward to a night of rest, Lincoln goes right to his mattress, putting the rest of his payment in his pocket. He kneels on the mattress, feeling it give under his weight, and begin to sag. Lincoln ignores that and places his hands together.
“Please, the Lord, our God, please seek fit to,” Lincoln begins. But he trails off. What should he even pray for? There was nothing that he was sure he wants. Well, there was one thing he wants. He wants to see his family, but that was not going to happen anytime soon. Lincoln’s drop as he realized the implication of this. He does not know what he wants that he can have. Perhaps there is nothing in this world that he wants that he can have. No, there is something he wants, something he had and lost, but could find again. A purpose. It was no wonder he lost himself in his work at Jeffery Law Firm. It gave him something to do.
With that in mind, he begins his prayer over again. “Please, the Lord, our God, please seek fit to compel to find a purpose.” He repeats his words over and over again, carefully quiet so as not to disturb anyone and stopping this repetition occasionally to utter praises of the Lord. This would have been easier if he had a bible with him, but he did not bring one on his trip to Europe because he had left in such a hurry.
For a month, Lincoln’s job in London as a lawyer gave him satisfaction. Even if he was handling cases related to vain lawsuits between obscure companies, he at least was contributing to the world, albeit in a minor way. But it was not enough to make him feel fulfilled. Strangely, he had a craving to be back in the White House in the USA, running the country. To top all that off, the nightmares never went away. Every night, Lincoln was visited by the same nightmares. Some nights, he woke up screaming. Other nights, his eyes would snap open, but his sweating body would be paralyzed, and he would be afraid to move. By his estimate, he never slept more than 4 hours a night.
The claustrophobic nature of his work environment did not help. Usually, such things did not bother him, having grown up in a small cabin. But now, he felt confined, as if Jeffery Law Firm were his prison. In a way, it was. He was not able to travel very far, having to work 6 days a week for upwards of 12 hours a day, leaving little time to explore London. The smokey smell reminded him of the one in his nightmares, exacerbating the problem. As a result, starting in the middle of his third week on the job, Lincoln began to wonder, perhaps he could find something more fulfilling and meaningful if he could explore London just a little bit more.
One day a month into his stay in London, after waking from a particularly terrible nightmare, Lincoln went out onto an empty, nighttime street to do just that. He wandered several streets before finally locating another building with a sign. This time, it was a soap factory, advertising jobs as a traveling salesman. The pay was based on commission, not wages. When Lincoln entered and asked for a job, he was informed that he would have to learn several languages so that he could travel to and communicate with a wide variety of communities to sell the soap. Although Lincoln cared little for the product, learning languages would be an intellectual pursuit that would occupy his time. As a result, he began to use the local library to study languages, starting with Russian. In the meantime, he could sell to United Kingdom audiences. And yet, despite his new job, he could scarcely afford rent on his tenement apartment. One day about 6 months later, trying to make ends meet, Lincoln decides to go on a business trip to Russia to sell the soap there. He has learned the language, spending his hours of lost sleep from nightmares studying.
Lincoln is standing on the side of a crowded street in Moscow, presenting rectangular, lime green bars of soap. The buildings he is surrounded by are quite similar to the ones in London. The main difference he notices is the temperature. His skin gets pale as he shivers in the cold. “Lime soap for sale,” Lincoln says. “Lime soap for sale.” There are crowds of people in suits passing him by and a group of men in gritty clothing chanting something, but nobody gives him so much as a glance.
Except for one man.
The man is in the crowd but becomes distinctive as he turns toward Lincoln and begins to walk toward him. Lincoln makes note of him – he does look like the sort of man who would need soap. He was dressed in a suit, but the tie was hanging limp as if he did not bother to tighten it around his neck. His face was concealed by a thick black beard, which was puffy like a cotton ball on his face. Yet, his unsmiling mouth could be made out through the beard. He emerges from the crowd and walks straight to Lincoln, his eyes fixed on him as he does so. Lincoln smiles at the prospect of commission. Maybe he will be able to catch up on his missed rent from last month.
“Have you capitalists no shame,” the man asks. He is standing right in front of Lincoln now.
Lincoln’s eyebrows jump for a moment. “W...” he tries to finish the word.
“We are starving in this city,” the man continues. “We live in tenements, starving for enough to afford food.” The man steps just a little bit closer, his hands clenched now. “And yet you bourgeois mock us by selling what we can only dream of having in prominent display.” He begins to turn when Lincoln finally gathers himself.
“I... I believe we are the same.” The man stops and turns back to Lincoln, who places his hand on his shoulder for a moment. “I live in a tenement too.” Perhaps if Lincoln got on this man’s good side, he would be more open. He did not even eat anything, so he had little choice but to try and emphasize with this man. He did not know what the word “bourgeois” meant but supposed it was some sort of slur.
“Ah,” the man says. “My deepest apologies.” He thinks for a moment, putting a finger to his head, before taking his hand back to his side. “Then it is time you set down your paltry products and joined them.” He points at the crowd of people, and Lincoln squints at them for a better view. Their clothing is not just gritty, it is raggedy, with holes appearing throughout it. They are chanting “Workers of the world, unite,” with a conviction that reminded Lincoln of his speeches as president. He realizes that the same conviction was heard in what this man had said. He had said it with the conviction of a pastor who believed they were speaking with the voice of God himself.
Suddenly, a pang of realization strikes Lincoln. They were the same as the workers protesting back in London. He had still passed by such protests now and then during his time in Europe, but gave them little thought. Now he wondered, who were they, and angered them? Why was this anger felt in both London and Russia?
Lincoln drops his soap products at his feet. “Perhaps there is wisdom in your words,” Lincoln says. “I have noticed protests of this variety in London but hadn’t given a thought to them. Who are they?”
The man looks pleased with his interest. “Why, they are the working class. Sickened at the bloodshed in the name of profit, they have taken up arms to fight the institutions that enslave them.” The man looks down for a moment, his face abruptly becoming crestfallen. Lincoln reaches a hand out to his shoulder again. The man continues, “There has been little success, unfortunately. Their capitalist masters are powerful and will not release them easily.”
“And what is it that they need,” Lincoln asks, pulling his hand away again.
“Unification,” the man says. “They are but disjointed protests composed of differing groups at present.” Lincoln feels something in his heart. He stares back at the protesters and their rags of clothing.
Lincoln takes a deep breath. “I fear I must go, but we may remain in correspondence.”
The man’s crestfallen face becomes pleased again. “I agree. What is your name, comrade?”
“Abraham,” says Lincoln.
“Mikhail,” says the man.
And then Lincoln leaves, with no sales, but perhaps a potential friend.
I am looking forward to reading your response to my initial correspondence. During the hectic life in London, it brings me great relief to have this conversation. Of late, I have noticed many similarities between the protest I witnessed when I spoke to you and the protests that I repeatedly witness while living in London. I have attempted to converse with several of them and they all appear to have common grievances around perceived exploitation by their employers. Despite this, there are also many variations like these gatherings. The protesters vary in their exact grievances and their exact demands. Some are upset because of minimal pay and demand raises. Some are upset because of being forced to work all days of the week and demand periodic time off.
I have also noticed that at some, but not all of the protests, there is a word that I have not heard of. “Communism.” It is spoken of with a positive tone, as though it were a promised land. I cannot decipher what this word means from context, nor can I find any resources at any library that discuss this word. It appears that it carries weight with many of the protesting workers. Perhaps you can shed a light on what this word means, and additionally, I wonder about your current activities in Moscow.
My dear friend Abraham,
It is a pleasure to receive my first letter from you. I have recently joined the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA). I have enjoyed the meetings with my fellow working-class men. Currently, our meetings are friendly, although petty bickering does occasionally distract us from our purpose. It ever so thrills me that you have taken an interest in communism. Why that is the very purpose of our organization. What we have observed of late is the oppression of the lower classes by a group of dictators that we call capitalists. What a catastrophe! As a result, the creators of the IWA banded together with the aim of achieving a new society. A society based on worker control of factories and other means of production.
Although I usually feel welcome in the IWA, I must admit that I and a few other prominent members are in constant debate over the merits of the idea of using the state to achieve these ends. I have never been enthusiastic about the idea of the state, for I believe that privileged men tend to become devoid of empathy, therefore government institutions tend to become corrupt. But I shall not bore you with ideological specifics. If you continue to express interest, I will be more than happy to send you an informative pamphlet.
I notice that I never asked you what initially brought you to London. Whatever it is, I hope that you find peace and purpose in that bustling city.
I pray for your continued well-being and for your bickering with the IWA to improve. Although it may seem now as though these disputes will persist forever, it could be reasonable for one to believe that your arguments will become less frequent over time. As for me, I believe my time in London is soon to worsen. I have failed to make sufficient sales of soap to cover my food expenses for this month, as the majority of it went towards covering my travel and rental expenses. Therefore, I have been starving consistently since our initial correspondence.
Despite my troubles, I have found time to be intrigued by your reports of rallying against the state and capitalists. Having been in private practice before, these ideas would usually fail to gain my attention or interest, but I have been witnessing escalating violence in London. It seems I cannot leave my tenement apartment without standing before a protest in front of a place of employment. Many of these protests have been disrupted by the military, sometimes through violent means. The actions of the military may have been what has caused me to reflect often upon a past life in which I got word of many atrocities committed by the Confederacy during the Civil War. I dare not tell them for fear of my well-being in a mental sense. Despite that, I am certain I would like more information from you on these views that you hold.
I am thrilled beyond words that you want to learn more about our movement. Attached to this document, I have given you a pamphlet. It is the one that the IWA has been distributing recently to educate disenfranchised workers on what we shall replace capitalism with. If it resonates with you, I bade you welcome, fellow comrade. At the end of the pamphlet, there is a list of ways to contribute to our cause. If you have been deliberating over what we stand for this long, I suspect you will eventually execute one of the methods of contribution on the list. With your help, the red dawn is at hand!
Your background continues to intrigue me. At your mention of the Civil War, I am left wondering what sort of life you may have led in the Americans before you came to Europe. I can see that you have little interest in elaborating on the atrocities you witnessed. I understand – what untold horrors you must have seen! I still am compelled to ask, who were you in your past as an American citizen? You have a refined manner of writing, which makes me suspect a sort of career in rhetoric. I look forward to your response after you have read the pamphlet.
I thank you for responding to my requests for further education of your views. Since receiving your pamphlet, I have read it thoroughly and have been reflecting on it for many months. Although there is still marginal hesitation in me, I feel that this may be what the workers need. My natural desires compel me to help them, but for months, I have felt paralyzed, due to having no means of acting on this desire. This pamphlet felt that it gave some form to that desire, as I believe it is something I could use to put it into practice.
As for your inquiries into my background, I sincerely regret that I cannot answer them. My previous life in the United States is haunted, invading my thoughts during the day and my dreams at night. Hence, there is reason to suspect that any mention of it would merely degrade my state of mind. My old life there is behind me, and my new life is here. And if I can, and I will help with our cause.
What a scandal! I have consulted a librarian on the history of the USA, and he revealed that you were the previous president of the United States. I did not suspect much of you when I first met you, as I believed you were a humble traveling salesman. Your background raises suspicion in me of your motives. You do not want this ideology because you recognize the plight of workers – you see it as an opportunity to regain power. And to think I did not become suspicious that you became interested in it so quickly. This will be my final letter to you.
Abraham sits in his tenement building, his mouth agape and his heart sinking after he had read this letter. No, he thinks to himself. He will prove Mikhail wrong and show that he does indeed recognize the struggles of the workers and is taking up the words of Mikhail out of sympathy, not a desire for power. But what if he is right, Lincoln wonders. He did indeed become interested in this ideology quickly – almost from the moment he heard about it. But Lincoln did not want power. He was done with that. When he first retired from being president, he thought he would get a quiet life as a lawyer in Illinois. That was not to be, as clearly, there were greater things ahead for him. At 59, he decides he is going to help lift the downtrodden of London using this new ideology as the means.
Lincoln only slept 3 hours this night. Although he was desensitized to his nightmares, they occurred in such frequency and woke him every night. As a result, he had to give up on getting sufficient sleep a long time ago. He wakes up with a startle from the nightmare smell of smoke but quickly collects himself to get to work. Today is the day. He has been preparing for several weeks. Because Lincoln has some hours before work starts, he gets dressed in his old suit to get ready to commence his plan. His suit has become damp, wrinkled, and stained, owing to be one of Lincoln’s remaining garments and having to hang it in a hot, damp tenement apartment on a clothesline. There are some papers stuffed into the front pocket of the suit jacket.
He steps out of his house. It is still dark, with no hint of the sun in the sky. Despite that, workers are still gathered around various factories, shouting their chants. When Lincoln had first gotten to London, there were not many workers out at night. They were only protesting during the day. But now they populate the streets at all hours – they are just at their peak during daylight hours. Even at night, though, many of the crowd in circles around their places of employment, their chantings blending into a chorus of anger.
Lincoln steps in front of one of these crowds. This one is gathering around one of those rectangular brick buildings. The sign on the door, which Lincoln can just make out through the crowd, announces that it is a clothing factory. He had seen those mills before when he walks around town selling soap. Through the tiny windows, he would just be able to see people working in the mills, operating these complex machines with stone-faces expressions. Even though the small windows, he notices there were several workers inside the building not participating in the protest, but keeping their heads down and continuing to work. As long as some workers kept working, any workers who protests could simply be fires.
It was time to act. Lincoln pushes through the crowd and opens the door to the building. Standing in the doorway, overlooking the vast machinery and workers operating it. They all stop what they were doing and glares at him. He clears his throat and begins to speak:
“There is a conflict in this land. A conflict involving, we the workers. As we can see when we look outside, there are many of us fighting this conflict. And what is this conflict? it is a confrontation between employers who enslave us and ourselves. We are now locked in this conflict, against our will, to see if we truly want equality, enough so that we can fight for it. If we succeed, we can create a new land. A land of the people and for the people. The question to each of us as individuals is as follows: are we willing to demand that promised land of equality?”
Far from encouraging these workers to join in, their eyes furrow so intensely they are almost closed, although the workers stop doing their jobs with their hands. Lincoln does not suspect they would join right away, but he has their attention at least. One of the workers speaks up. “Who are you,” he said in a gruff voice. Murmurs of agreement spread throughout the room, echoing off the walls.
“A mere soap salesman. Nobody of importance,” Lincoln says. Many worker’s eyes perk up a bit at that last part. Perhaps many of these people also had this feeling that they were of no importance – that they were just parts of a machine that could be replaced at will. A man voicing support for protesting while also describing himself as such may have given them a sense of empowerment. It was as if they now wondered if they could be more than parts of a machine despite their limiting beliefs.
Slowly, one worker drew his hands away from the machine and took a step towards the doorway. Then another. Then two more. Then a voice bellows out from the distance, “What’s going on here?” a figure began to emerge from the distance. It’s the foreman, Lincoln thinks. He steps aside so that the workers could get to the protest before the figure that was the foreman got closer. As soon as he clears the way, the workers make a break for the door. Lincoln blends into the crowd and follows them out, their numbers adding to the crowd.
Lincoln steps back and admires his work. The numbers of the crowd have increased. From what he can see of the building now, it is now almost empty, except for the figure of the foreman, who stands alone, his hands on his hand in distress. The shouting has now escalated. Probably, the workers he had just convinced to join already had anger over exploitation, but needed something to help them overcome their fear. But now that he has all these workers on the right side, it is time to unify them. And Lincoln has a plan for that.
He continues to step back until the entire crowd is in view. He clears his throat once again and begins. “Workers of London!” Most of them stop and turn towards him. He goes on. “It is a pleasure to join your protest. However, to make the goals of this movement realized, there is an action we must take that, at present, we have not begun.” He pauses, letting workers absorb the weight of the words. “We must unite the disjointed protests under a clear purpose, a purpose with the ends of creating an economy of we the people. Therefore, I invite you to join my residence at 80th Olive Street in room 283 to discuss these new plans at 8 PM tonight.”
A worker speaks up. “Who are you?” Murmurs spread through the crowd.
“A mere traveling salesman,” says Lincoln. Honesty was always the best policy. The murmurs die down, but the crowd does not seem convinced, staring at him like one would an uninvited guest. “Will you or will you not meet me in my residence,” Lincoln asks. No answer. No sounds come from the crowd, and all Lincoln hears is his own breath. “Let us think of it this way: Will we unite our protests or will we die separate and alone?” Smiles begin to spread across the workers’ faces, mixed with excitement.
“I’m coming,” says one worker. “I’m coming too,” says another. This new sentiment echoes around the crowd, mixed with a few responses of “I have a late shift,” or something among those lines. Lincoln smiles as the agreements spread among the crowd. He has done it. He has arranged the first and not the last meeting that will begin his new rise of political power and the liberation of the workers of London. With his first task done, he turns around and goes to his job.
He did not manage to sell more than a dozen or so bars of soap today. Lincoln’s mind was not really on the foul-smelling lime soap, but on the meeting tonight. There was a big opportunity, and at the same time, so much work in front of him, and Lincoln felt his legs trembling with excitement as if he was about to jump with joy. He contained himself just enough, though. It is best if he saves his enthusiasm for when the meeting begins.
At about 7:30 PM that night, he begins to make his way back to his residence. A few workers whom he recognizes from the protest and standing outside his apartment already. They wave at Lincoln, and he walks up to and shakes each of their hands before assuring them he’ll let them once the meeting time comes. He then goes into his apartment.
He sits in his apartment on his bed with a fountain pen in his pocket, ignoring the stifling heat that causes him to sweat from the instant he walks in. Lincoln thinks about what he is going to do once he has these people rallied up. He thinks he will identify workers among his new followers with high levels of intelligence and convince them to band with him to organize a political party. They will then run with him in various elections to create the needed reforms. But then he runs into a problem. Mikhail said that people in state power tend to become corrupt, and although Lincoln trusted himself, he is not sure he can make sure any workers who are suddenly elevated to positions of power will not then use that power to turn on their fellow workmen. Even worse, many of them will have followings of their own by that point that could be persuaded to do great harm to others.
Lincoln comes up with another idea. He takes his fountain pen out of his pocket and begins to draw on the wall opposite his bed. Lines upon lines upon lines. This is the solution. Not creating another political party. This is what will solve the problems of woe that the workers face. He labels the lines with text, detailing what will go where and what its purpose will be.
Sometime later, the workers begin to shuffle in silently. They slump down against the wall opposite Lincoln’s bed. By this point, Lincoln has covered up his drawings on the wall by moving his clothesline in front of it. Lincoln gives a few minutes for many of them to come in. Soon, they are all crammed shoulder to shoulder, with many more crowding around the doorway. They all have a sunken look in their eyes. Probably, they deep down would prefer to be home and enjoy what little rest time they had, but instead, they convinced themselves to come here in hopes that this strange man might have a solution to their problem.
They all look at Lincoln expectantly, like children waiting for candy. He clears his throat and begins. “Why are we gathered here today,” he begins. He pauses, letting the workers all look at each other, as if they thought the man next to them knows the answer to that question. “The reason we are gathered today is that in the battle we are locked in, the other side is united, yet we are not. Our side is composed of many maltreated workers from various employers all striving for better treatment in some form or another.” He pauses again, so everyone can process what he is saying.
“The other side, on the other hand, is highly organized. It is composed of a government that creates an oppressive system under which you can be treated as if you were dust. To match the unification of our opponents, we need a common goal to unite us. If we do not match the unification of our opponents, we are sure to lose this war for fair treatment.” At this point, the workers’ shoulders have gone from slumped forward to rolled back. Their heads are now held high as they look at Lincoln, their eyes squinted together.
Lincoln then surveys the crowd and notices a worker who is still slumped. “But before we witness a proposed common goal, let us understand what we are fighting for.” He points at the worker. “What is your name,” he asks.
“Trevor, sir,” the worker mutters, his eyes perking up only a little bit. All other workers turn to stare at him, then at Lincoln, then back to the slumped worker named Trevor.
“Do you work in the mill,” Lincoln asks.
“Yessir,” says Trevor, the two words blending together.
“How many hours do you work,” Lincoln asks.
“14 hours a day, 6 days a week,” Trevor says. Anger seeps into the part about the number of days per week he works. His eyes are now fixed firmly on Lincoln’s.
“Do you enjoy the work,” asks Lincoln.
“No,” Trevor screams, causing the other workers to flinch. “The foreman screams, the place’s hot, and my pay’s docked for any little mistake!” Trevor takes a breath before continuing. “Just the other day, the foreman said I was losing a day’s wage for arriving a minute late. It didn’t even matter to him that I tripped on the way here. Anything to make a few extra pounds in profit.”
“The foreman did that to me the other day,” one worker says, standing up as he does so. Lincoln turns to him and waits for him to continue, but before he can, another worker stands up and says, “Me too!” Workers stand up, one after the other to blurt out their stories of woe.
After a few minutes of this, Lincoln realizes he needs to get to the point soon before this anger dies down and people start to leave. “I recommend you settle down,” he says. The workers, who have all stood up by this point, go silent while still standing. “I repeat, we need unification to achieve the equality we are fighting for. A common goal will be what binds us together. And that common goal is...communism.”
The workers all squint, their eyes showing confusion. Lincoln says, “I’m aware of the possibility that many of you are unaware of what communism means. What it means is that instead of simply negotiating for better treatment with the capitalists, we abolish them entirely. The factories such as the mill you work in would be owned by you, the workers, and for you, the workers.” The squints on the workers go away as their eyes go wide at this new information.
“I must inform my spouse,” a worker blurts out. He is about to continue when another says “I’ll tell mine.” More and more of these statements come from around the room until they blend into a chorus of agreement and praise. Lincoln smiles silently. These workers appear to have opened up to this new idea. For the rest of the meeting, Lincoln lets the workers state their grievances of worker exploitation, and then dismisses them, promising them a meeting tomorrow to discuss how they will go about spreading this ideology. Many workers promise to bring friends or family with them.
Once they are all gone, Lincoln yawns. It has been a few years since he had a good night of sleep. Tomorrow, he and his new followers will begin a new chapter in the history of London. He then tries to brush those thoughts out of his mind. He has to do this for civil reasons, not reasons of fame. Still, he cannot shake this feeling of gratification from having a purpose again. He slumps down onto his bed and is asleep within mere minutes. His last thought before he falls asleep is that he will quit his job as a traveling salesman to devote his full time to this movement. Hopefully, he will be able to acquire donations soon to support himself while he focuses on this movement. For the first time in years, there are no nightmares. At this point, he had almost forgotten what peaceful sleep felt like, and could not have been more grateful to be reminded of it.
As packed as the room was when Lincoln held his first meeting, it was nothing compared to what it is now. Every inch of the room of Lincoln’s tenement apartment was lined with a worker. Even still, they crowd into the hallway of the building, well past the point where they could still hear what Lincoln is saying. He stands at the far end of the room opposite the entrance. Every worker’s eyes are fixed upon him. His suit is stained now more than ever, but that does not deter the workers from looking at him even slightly.
Lincoln says “And that is why our fight for equality will only begin with this room and these protests. It shall expand as it reaches the suffering comrades in every corner of London, and then we will create an England...of equality!” A clap echoes throughout the room from almost every worker’s hands. Despite the heat causing sweat to pour out of his forehead and the wretched smell of his dirty clothes, Lincoln’s heart is beating faster than ever. This is it - his purpose in England.
But then the clapping goes silent as shrieks echo in the hall. Lincoln and several workers jump at the noise and turn their attention to the door to the tenement building. The shrieks pop up again, this time closer, causing everyone to jump again. Lincoln’s muscles tense up, as he waits for the next sound. His anticipation is fulfilled when another series of shrieks occur, this time right outside the door. It slams open, sending all the workers and Lincoln jumping back. Dashing through the doorway are redcoats – British soldiers in red uniforms. They’re in uncountable quantities and wielding long rifles, which are pointed at the nearest workers. “Hands up,” screams one of them, and everyone does so, including Lincoln. “Who is your leader,” another soldier shouts.
As if being acknowledged as a leader gives him courage, Lincoln says “I am” before anyone else can point him out. Immediately, one soldier runs forward, barreling through the crowd, and presses the rifle up against Lincoln’s forehead. Lincoln can barely keep still as the cold metal pressed against his skull. Even as hard as he tries, he shivers right when the cold metal touches his forehead. He knows he is shivering not from the temperature of the metal, but from what it was going to be used for. He was going to die right here.
But then another soldier runs forward and tugs on the first soldier’s arm. “No, Jefferson. The orders were to bring them alive.” Immediately, the gun is withdrawn as the soldier mutters “Sorry, Thomas,” and Lincoln takes a deep breath. Thank the lord he’s still alive. He does not have any time to process his relief, though, because it is at this point that he notices that many more soldiers have come in, and each one has their rifle pointed at a worker. Not as close as a gun was just pointed at Lincoln, but still with clear intent to shoot.
“Attention,” screams a soldier – the same one who stopped Lincoln from getting shot. The one who was called Thomas. “You are being escorted to a local jail. Anyone who attempts to escape or causes any sort of trouble will be shot on sight.” His voice is firm, but has a calmness to it as well, as though it is coming from a calm informant of an unfortunate situation.
They march out of the apartment and through the streets of London. Every pedestrian stops to stare at this horror. Lincoln and his followers are taken past building after building, until a voice from one of the soldiers says “We arrived, boys.” Lincoln squints to see what is in front of him. Past the few buildings immediately in front of him, there is one that sticks out. It is longer, with darkness in each window. Even as far away as Lincoln is, he still sees that the bricks are yellowed and peeling, as if nobody has bothered to maintain them.
And then the smell hits him as he is marched closer. Lincoln’s eyes begin to water and he notices that several workers sneeze. It smells of water after someone with diarrhea simultaneously defecated and urinated in it. Even though at this point, there are still a few buildings between Lincoln and the strange building, he cannot help but wonder how a scent could get any stronger than it is now. If the scent were coming from contaminated water, he would usually have had to pour it into his nostrils for it to smell as bad as it did.
Yet, it gets stronger still. There is now only a single building between Lincoln’s group and the wretched place. Lincoln’s eyes water and he is not sure he’ll be able to see where he’s going soon, as his vision is turning white. Around him are shrieks and howls like those of dogs being tortured. “It’s...it’s...” A worker in front of Lincoln struggles to put something into words. “It’s...it’s...oh, Lord, no. Not that place!”
“Indeed. That place,” says the soldier escorting that worker. He sounds bemused. “And if you keep disturbing this, you might get an easy way out.”
“E...e... easy way out,” the worker asks.
“Yes. You get shot if you cause trouble, remember,” said the soldier. The worker’s muscles clench up, and he stops talking. By this point, they are standing before a door leading inside the building. As wide as the building is, this entrance is narrow. It is a wonder why the architect did not design a wider door for such a wide building. Just looking before the door makes Lincoln feel claustrophobic like this is a... this is the prison. Good lord, Lincoln thinks. He traveled across the world, spent a few years trying to find a new purpose, battled trauma he saw in his nightmares, and united many people around a new cause, all to get locked in a prison. He was told this was a local prison back in his apartment, but the full weight of the news hits him now. Is this it? Is he going to spend the rest of his days locked in a cell with no freedom or even an explanation as to why he was in here?
“Newgate prison, the house of psychopaths,” says a soldier, gleefully. Lincoln feels burning anger in his heart at the psychopathic nature of these soldiers. He always knew better than to snap at another person, but he needs to ask a question.
“Sir,” he says. “What is our crime?”
Behind him, the soldier who was escorting him says, “This is your jail.” Lincoln thinks about that. The soldier did not answer his question, but the response gave him hope. Jail, not prison. They had not been convicted of anything yet. Perhaps there would be a trial, during which they could plead their case. Lincoln used to be a lawyer. As long as he is allowed to defend himself, even if they are denied a lawyer, he is sure to win and set all his comrades free. But a thought undercuts this optimism – what if they do not make it to a trial? This place appears dirty, just from the smell and the appearance of the bricks. What if he catches a disease and perishes before the trial even begins? Who would defend these workers then?
He has no time to contemplate these questions, as the soldiers march him and the workers inside. Lincoln takes in his new surroundings. The building is gray inside, with long halls, lined with cells on either side. Soldiers ask if they have the money to pay an entrance fee. None of them do, and as a result, they are escorted past the cells. Lincoln glances inside, seeing prisoners with limbs like twigs hunched over, lined up against cell walls. They all have shackles on their ankles, and a few of them tug at them. The soldiers keep them walking until they come to a flight of stairs, from which they go down. It gets darker and darker, to the point that Lincoln begins to wonder if he’ll be able to get used to the dark at all.
After what Lincoln supposes is a few minutes but feels much longer, they are on the floor. It is so dark that Lincoln cannot see anything other than the bit of light from the stairs which he just went down. This minimal amount of light does not help illuminate anything on this lower floor of the prison. All it does is taunt Lincoln, ensuring he remembers what it was like to be able to see one’s surroundings. Lincoln can still hear and smell. He smells the wretched scent from outside, but it is also mixed with alcohol. He hears the other workers coughing, perhaps at how bad the smell is, and also some sort of chatter. He can make out a few words here and there.
“That hit the spot.” “Better than vodka.” “This crapulous beer.”
Lincoln also still feels the shotgun against his back. It nudges him, pushing him in a direction, so he blindly walks in that direction. It is mostly straight for a minute or so before it nudges him to turn. By this point, he can faintly make out the shapes of nearby objects. It appears that he is being nudged along with a few other workers to turn down to...a dead end? Why? His question is answered when a clink snaps around his ankle, and he hears a few other workers with him grunt in time with a clink near them. Then Lincoln feels the shotgun get withdrawn from his back and a bang behind him. He turns his head to see long vertical lines – bars. He is in a cell with a few other workers. He turns back to them, still unable to make out anything of the workers beyond their vague shapes.
A long silence follows, and Lincoln’s eyes get a bit more used to the dark. He can now make out that the workers’ faces are all fixed on him, watching him like hungry dogs looking at their owner.
“This cussed prison,” one worker finally says. He continues, “You got a plan, right? I can’t stay in this dratted place for one day!”
Lincoln’s heart skips as he realizes his responsibility. He must find a way to get his new movement out of here. He holds up a finger to signal that he needs a moment and looks at the black floor. He scans his brain for any information he can find. He could just wait for a trial, but how long would that take, and he and all of his comrades would surely be sick or dead by that point. His comrades’ physical and mental strength would fade soon in this environment, so he needed a solution fast. Even if all of them successfully escaped, they would then be fugitives. Perhaps he could make the trial come sooner. But what could he do from his prison cell? A lightbulb goes off in Lincoln’s head.
“What,” says a worker from the cell opposite Lincoln’s. He had just heard of Lincoln’s plan. “How will that work?” Murmurs of agreement echoed through the black halls.
“The guards of this prison would prefer order. Therefore, it is likely that even a peaceful disruption would make them willing to listen to our demands,” Lincoln says. He is leaning on the bars, still trying to get used to the prickles in his legs from his shackles.
“And if they kill us,” the worker asks.
“I believe that so long as we do not employ violence, they will desire to negotiate with us peacefully to avoid causing the conflict to evolve into a violent incident,” Lincoln says.
Everyone in Lincoln’s group, including Lincoln, goes to work. They pick out loose brick pieces from the walls and floor. Once they each acquire two brick pieces, they begin clinking them together, making a loud sound that echoes through the halls. Lincoln’s ears sting with each clap of bricks he hears, but he and the workers persist. They bang together the bricks in a rhythmic, almost musical fashion.
“Hey! Stop that. I’m disoriented,” says someone from a distant cell. Nobody stops. “You wanna get us killed,” asks another. Nobody stops. “The guards are coming,” shrieks someone. Nobody stops.
Footsteps clomp in the distance. They get louder and louder, closer and closer. Lincoln squints through the bars of his cell as he continues to bang his bricks together. From the right side of the halls, two pairs of feet emerge, followed by two bodies. They both turn towards Lincoln’s cell. He cannot discern any details of either man’s face, as their both hidden by thick beards. Black, front-flapped caps rest on their heads. The black on their caps matches their coats, pants, and boots. It’s as if they’re trying to dress like the grim reaper.
“What’s this nonsense,” one guard barks.
“Do you wish if we cease this behavior,” Lincoln asks. The guards’ eyes both widen as if they’re taken aback. They quickly collect themselves.
“Keep being unruly,” the guard who first spoke says, “And I’ll see you on the gallows.” The other merely stands in his position, completely still.
“I would prefer it if you executed none of us,” Lincoln says, talking over the clinking of bricks, which remains steady throughout the conversation.
The first guard scoffs. “You sure are a fine talker for a prisoner.”
“It is kind of you to notice that,” Lincoln said. “What we request is that...”
“This is a jail. We don’t do requests,” screams the guard, raising his voice.
The other guard flinches a little in response to his rise in volume, but only says, “Can you please stop that banging?”
“I understand that’s not the convention,” Lincoln says, putting a hand forward in both a protective and reassuring manner. “But if you want us to cease our protest, what we desire is if you would go to Parliament and request that they intervene to schedule our trial for as soon as possible.”
The two guards pause for a moment and then look at each other. Then they both burst into laughter as they point at Lincoln. Lincoln’s muscles stiffen, and he begins clashing his bricks together with more rigor, and the other workers, taking a cue, do so as well. Despite this, the two guards begin to walk away, still laughing as they leave.
One of the workers in the cell opposite Lincoln stops clashing his bricks together. “What now,” he asks.
“We persist,” Lincoln says.
“Are you sure that’s going to work,” the worker asks. A few others put their bricks at their sides too.
“It’ll work,” another worker who Lincoln cannot see says. It sounds like it is coming from the cell right next to Lincoln.
“How do you know that,” asks the first worker. The few others who have stopped staring at the other worker that Lincoln cannot see.
“I’ve been here a bit longer than you. Lincoln’s been reliable so far, so I’m just sure that'll work.”
The first worker shrugs and continues his clashing of bricks, and the few other workers follow suit.
“What’s your name,” Lincoln asks, leaning into the wall on his left to hear better.
“Paul,” the worker responds.
“Remember,” says Lincoln, turning his attention back to the group. “If they attempt to remove us from our cells, we do not comply. We must peacefully irritate them so that they will eventually desire to meet our demands.”
They persist. They clash their bricks together in unison, producing a sound that causes other prisoners to jeer. The hours drag by, with every minute feeling like a day. Lincoln is not agonized so much by the time passing so much as the prickles of his shackles. Every time he feels his eyes get heavy and the desire to collapse on the floor invades his mind, he turns his attention toward the sensation of the shackles, and his desire to keep clashing bricks together surges again. As a result, the hours pass by, and Lincoln is unsure of what time it is. It was night when he and his comrades were put in prison. Because he’s in a dungeon, he has no idea what time of day it is now.
An unknown amount of time later, his speculation of what time of day it gets answered. A voice bellows, “Up! Up and at ‘em!” Out from the left in the hall on the other side of his bars, Lincoln sees the body of a guard emerge. It is one of the guards from last night – the belligerent one. He turns to Lincoln’s cells and shakes his fists in fury for a moment before speaking.
“Is this nonsense still going on? My friends said they heard something!” The guard's fists freeze at his sides as he speaks.
“We would like to...” Lincoln begins.
“No!” The guard stomps his foot. “We’re not giving you scrap...unless you pay for it.”
Lincoln says, “I regret to inform you that we do not possess money. However, we...”
“Never! Just stop that noise,” the guard says. “All of you!” He turns around to see the others as he says this. Lincoln notices that some workers flinch a little, but nobody stops.
“It appears that you want us to cease this noise,” Lincoln says.
The guard turns back to him. “Yes. I just said that.”
“Persuading us to stop this noise is a simple matter. All you must do is send someone down to parliament to ask them to reschedule our trial for as soon as possible,” Lincoln says. He feels a flicker of pride as he says this. Ever since he almost had a duel with James Shields back in 1842, he had learned to stay restrained, even in the face of people who would not return the favor. He was confident that if he avoided showing anger and simply tried to emphasize, this person would surely give into him and his comrades’ demands.
“I’m not sending anyone all the way there just for you,” the guard said, although his tone was just a little more relaxed and even now. Lincoln stands where he is, still hitting his bricks together in unison with the other workers, waiting for further response. “I can’t use that many people. We have work to do,” the guard continues.
“Does that mean there are no guards on break,” Lincoln asks.
“No... well, uh...” the guard pauses to think for a moment. “There are 3 on break. They told me they wanted you to stop when I got here.” Lincoln stays silent for a moment, though he smiles a bit inside.
The guard says, “I’ll...I’ll ask a few of them if they can go.”
“Thank you. Your generosity is appreciated,” says Lincoln. He stops clashing his bricks together, and the other workers, upon noticing this, stop as well.
“Just don’t expect it to work,” the guard says. He then leaves.
Once he is gone, one of the workers asks, “Do you think this will get us out of here?”
“I believe so,” says Lincoln. “We likely would not have been arrested so suddenly and by the military as opposed to the local police unless we are considered of some significance by those in power. Therefore, if we cause a disturbance, it is reasonable to believe the people who control this government will notice it.”
The worker thinks about this for a moment. “This is a good thing?”
Lincoln nods. “The mere fact that we have enemies is a sign that we are starting to be noticed. They would be unlikely to take such measures against us if we were not scaring them.”
New energy seems to resonate through the workers. In just a day, they had made the impossible happen. They had gotten several guards to agree to their demands. And to top it all off, Lincoln has a positive spin on the circumstances. They are being arrested because the outside world is now seeing that this new political party is a force to be reckoned with. As a result, they stand straight up in their cells in spite of the prickles of their shackles. At this point, Lincoln’s eyes have gotten completely used to the dark, so he can now see his comrades’ smiles as they eagerly wait for the guards they sent to come back.
A few hours later, a guard comes back. His eyes are wide with surprise, but he speaks in a disinterested manner. “I cannot believe I’m saying this, but the parliament voted unanimously to order your trial for tomorrow. They want to get it over with.”
Claps echo throughout the dark halls of Newgate Prison. Lincoln raises his hand, and when the guard turns to him, he asks, “Do you know what they will be charging us with?”
“I cannot say,” the guard says. “I think it’s high treason.” He shrugs and walks away without another word.
“They believe we can do that,” a worker asks.
“It would appear so,” Lincoln says. “Not that we intend to.”
The rest of the day drags by uneventfully, but with more energy than ever. Yesterday, they thought they were going to die in prison, but now they will be given a chance to defend themselves against whatever they are being charged with. Lincoln lets himself smile a little, although deep down, he’s beaming with joy. There’s also a good deal of nervousness in him, as he knows he will have to defend himself. It will be against people who dared to toss him in prison with no investigation. Surely, if the trial is tomorrow, they will not be allowed a lawyer, so the responsibilities will fall solely on Lincoln.
When the energy dies down and everyone is left to simply exist in their cells, Lincoln begins to ponder his defense. It would be best to start with an emotional argument, as most lawyers do. Perhaps he could paint his party as a humble organization under threat from a power-hungry government. A David-and-Goliath situation with his party as David. Afterward, he could simply point to the lack of evidence and lack of criminal history of their new party to make his case. When a guard came briefly to announce it was time to sleep, he was feeling reassured. He would most certainly devastate whoever he would argue against and free his comrades from prison. Perhaps others would be inspired to join the movement upon learning of this legal victory.
In the meantime, he must go to bed. He gets down on the cold, black floor. A shiver goes through his back as he presses against the floor for friction. He gets some, but it only slightly mitigates the coldness. He closes his eyes and rests his head on the floor, which only makes the cold even worse, causing his head to start shivering as well. Lincoln switches from lying on his back to his side, to minimize the amount of the skin touching the floor. This feels a bit better, as warmth takes over his back, but at the same time, a searing cold hits his side. Somehow, in spite of all this, he at some point drifts into some sort of sleep. Right before he falls asleep, he reflects one simple reality: He must get out of this prison, for it reminds him of the basement belonging to a member of the house of representatives that he once stayed in.
He went there after a violent incident. Lincoln was in the oval office, sitting at his desk. He was deeply absorbed in a memo about the nature of the Civil War when a door in front of him slammed open and a man with a rifle at his side dressed in blue ran in. He ran at Lincoln. “President, president,” he shouted, stopping just a few feet short of Lincoln’s desk. Lincoln snapped his attention out of his paper and instinctually stood at the presence of the panicked union soldier.
“What is it,” Lincoln asked.
“They’re about to breach the grounds,” the soldier says. As if confirming his words, a chorus of gunfire rang from outside, in between which a voice screamed “Attack at full force!” Lincoln’s feet began to move before he could think. He walked around his desk to stand right next to the soldier.
“Where will we be going,” Lincoln asked.
“One of the representatives has a place. Your family’s there. He’s waiting for you in the hall.” Lincoln stood where he was, awaiting more details. More gunfire rang out, interrupted by a voice that said, “Glory to the Confederacy!” It was closer than ever, and Lincoln could also faintly hear someone saying “We’ve been breached.” Taking that as a cue, Lincoln began to dash outside.
He met the senator in the hallway, and along with a few other soldiers, they escorted both of them through a back door in the White House. Bringing them down several blocks, Lincoln was guided into an unassuming door, which led him down a flight of stairs, bringing him to a dusty cellar. Wine bottles lined the wall, as did several union soldiers, standing at attention with their rifles. Lincoln’s family meekly stood between two of these soldiers. At the very end of the cellar, there stood a small crowd of men in suits huddled together. Lincoln recognized all of them from the house.
This was what their government had been reduced to now, Lincoln thought. Rather than discussing matters of the war in a large chamber with hundreds of men, there were now only a handful of men. They would be discussing the war in this dark cellar that was so dusty that it was almost impossible to breathe without getting a handful around your mouth.
All this flashes through Lincoln’s mind in an instant before falling asleep. Not long after he goes to sleep, the nightmares begin once again. The intensity of hot wood against his hands. The smoke surrounding him, to the point that he can neither see nor breathe. At some point, a sound rings out through the smoke. But it is so loud that before Lincoln can identify what it is, he snaps his eyes open and leaps to his feet, pulling his shackle with his jump. As soon as he’s on his feet, he stomps a shoe and sees that it comes up bloody on the bottom. He just squished a rat.
Lincoln looks in horror at what he just did. He then glances around to see if anyone saw him. A few of his comrades in his cell seem to be groaning a bit, but all remain asleep. It is at this point that Lincoln finally remembers to breathe and sucks in a deep breath of air. It is dank, filled with the decaying smell of Newgate Prison, but it is still a relief to breath, nonetheless. He takes a deep sign and presses himself against the cold floor in an attempt to sleep once more. While he is trying to fall asleep, he hears something from the next cell over. Just from the voice, Lincoln can tell it is Paul, one of his comrades. Lincoln squints as he tries to make out what Paul is saying. He hears the words “pride and joy” after intense concentration but discerns any other words. Lincoln decides to ignore it since this concentration is giving him a headache when combined with his fatigue. With great effort, he closes his eyes and drifts into sleep.
Lincoln hears a bang. Despite how little he slept, the sound lets him scramble to his feet, where he sees a soldier once again banging on his bars. Now standing, he waits for a guard to come and open the bars. Soon, a guard emerges with the keys.
“Who are these people you brought,” he asks.
The soldier says, “Political prisoners on trial.”
The guard shakes his fist in fury. “You can’t just put these people in here. You have a place for those sorts of people!”
The soldier remains stiff and calm as he looks at the guard. “The parliament had very specific plans. They stated they were to be brought here.”
“Why,” the guard asks, sounding almost amazed as well as furious.
“Because if they have organized an operation to overthrow the crown with all these people, they may have other co-conspirators that we already arrested. We do not want them to be in contact with such people,” the soldier explains. “Please, let us have the prisoners.” The guard doesn’t budge.
The soldier says “It’s not as if you will have to handle them in any case. If they are found not guilty, they will be let free. If they are found guilty, they will be hanged and drawn."
Lincoln almost jumps upon hearing that. He knew of this punishment. It did not take place in public these days and was quite rare anyway, but that was mainly because treasons were not quite common. That meant that should they be found guilty, they would be hanged nearly to the point of death, then have their genitals removed, followed by their organs, followed by their heads. Lincoln began to sweat a bit. This was all dependent on his ability to give a compelling case. During his brief time in law when he first arrived in London, he learned that high treason cases would be presided over by the parliament. No wonder they were so willing to start the trial so soon.
The march goes on for a few hours. At some point, the buildings begin to change. What are once square, industrial brick buildings become buildings with pointy roofs composed of limestone that shines in the morning sun? Streets become increasingly crowded, with fewer and fewer worker protests. Finally, they are standing before a building made of similar material. This one is taller than the others but also wider, with multiple rooftops of varying lengths. Lincoln is just informed enough about London to know what building they are standing before – the Palace of Westminster. His mouth is briefly agape, but he wonders why it should be. He knew that the parliament was going to be the judge and jury for this case, as it was one of high treason, so why did he not think they would be escorted here.
Lincoln hears murmurs to his left and right. He glances in a random direction to see that gathered around him and his comrades are various people. They point at the workers and whisper to each other. In front of these crowds, a few people holding pieces of paper frantically write down notes using fountain pens. They occasionally glance up from their notes to scan the workers before going back to their writings. Perhaps these are reporters, Lincoln thinks.
He does not have any time to dwell on this, as they are pushed inside. Lincoln cannot get much of a good view of the palace’s interior, because he is now forced to stare straight ahead, but he can make out a few details of where they are. In front of him, there is a large window on the other end of the room above a short flight of stairs, which sunlight pours through, illuminating the vast room. They are also people, dressed in suits, all men. Like the people outside, they whisper to each other in hushed voices.
Lincoln and his workers are escorted forward, made to climb to a short flight of stairs, before turning to face the men in suits. Lincoln almost gasps at the vast crowd of a few hundred men. Most of them have a solemn look on their face, their eyes fixed upon Lincoln and his comrades. Some of them – just under one hundred by Lincoln’s estimate – have an expression of seething angry, with their squinting eyes drilling straight into Lincoln. He attempts to maintain an appearance of resolve. He knows that if he appears nervous, he will appear to be lying even if he is telling the truth. If this parliament, acting as his judge and jury, resolves he is a liar, he will not be able to make his case. If he cannot make his case successfully, he will be found guilty and executed, along with his comrades. He glances back to the soldiers who brought them here, who have now walked to the back of the room and are standing around the entrance, shotguns at their side.
A member of the parliament stands up and begins to speak. “We are now beginning the trial of an unidentified party that will collectively be referred to as the defendant. The defendant has been accused of conspiring to overthrow the crown and replace it with a new government. The parliament will be acting as the judge and jury.” The speaker paused for a moment, letting Lincoln take in the weight of the words – it was beginning. He better have his legal defense prepared, or he was going to die. The speaker continues, “Eugene Parkins, I cede two minutes to you.”
A man from the far-right corner of the room stands up and begins to speak. Like the guards in the prison, he has a thick beard that conceals his face. The beard just touches the top of his suit. “Observing this party’s ideology, it is abundantly apparent that they are believers of a new ideology called communism. This ideology seeks to overthrow the government and replace it with one that will control every aspect of a person’s choices, from which clothes they buy to which farmer they go to for milk. It is an anti-crown, anti-England philosophy. Therefore, this party passes the point of freedom of expression and becomes a terrorist group. I would strongly recommend bringing back public execution temporarily to send a message to anyone considering this ideology of death.”
Eugene then sits down, perfectly calm as if nothing had happened, but Lincoln shivers a bit. Not only will he and his comrades be executed, but they will minimize any chance of the cause taking off ever again. Maybe they’d be turned into martyrs, but more likely, their public deaths would simply scare the population into never rebelling again.
“A fine case, Eugene,” says the previous speaker. “Given that you were the one who proposed these charges, it has been agreed that you will be asking the majority of the questions. You may begin your questioning now.”
Eugene stands up again and locks his eyes firmly upon Lincoln’s. “Confirm it yourself. Does your party believe in the abolition of the crown?”
Lincoln takes a deep breath. “Through peaceful means, yes.” As far as Lincoln is from Eugene, he can see him flinch at his answer. Perhaps he was expecting a poorly-spoken criminal who would shout death threats during the trial.
Eugene regains his composure. “How can one use peaceful means to destroy a government?” There’s a bit more fury in his voice this time.
Lincoln feels a surge of confidence in his chest. “Destroy is a misleading word. Dismantle is a better word. We use non-violent non-participation, such as strikes, to weaken the government. You may notice these strikes if you have traveled through London of late.”
Eugene’s eyes go wide. Many of the other parliament members glance at each other nervously. A few even whisper to each other. Lincoln hears similar whispers behind him, presumably coming from his comrades. Eugene’s mouth twitches, as if he’s looking for another question to ask, but cannot find it.
“Do you have any other questions,” the first speaker asks. Eugene shrugs and slumps back into his chair. “Very well,” says the speaker. “The defendant is now recognized for 2 minutes.”
Lincoln takes a deep breath and proceeds. “Gentlemen, I would like you to imagine this scenario – you have started up a political movement for a cause you believe in. Many men join your cause, creating a grassroots political party. Then...” He pauses. “...a group of soldiers swarm upon you and arrest you and your new friends without notice.” Members of parliament are all leaning forward, hanging on Lincoln’s every word. He smiles and continues, “This is most certainly a case of an unfair arrest. There is simply no evidence from our behavior that we are plotting any sort of wrongdoing, nor does our party have a history of criminal behavior. Therefore, the verdict you should come to is clear.” He pauses again, letting parliament process his every word. “Make the right decision, parliament. I rest my case,” he concludes.
The parliament members glance at each other, a bit more frantically this time. The member of parliament who spoke first then says “Does all of the parliament feel that we have enough information to vote on this matter now?” Silence for a moment, then one member raises his hand.
“I have a question for the gentleman who just spoke,” says the hand-owner. After he is recognized, he then asks, “It would seem you’re the leader of this ‘movement,’ but I do not even know your name. Who are you?”
“Lincoln,” says Lincoln. He feels his face turning hot with shame. Will they decipher his past?
“Your first name,” the member asks.
“Lincoln,” Lincoln almost mutters. Every member of parliament goes silent and still. This time, they do not even turn their heads to glance at each other. Their eyes remain locked on Lincoln.
Finally, another member speaks. “It would appear the former president of the United States has gotten a promotion.” The parliament bursts into laughter – laughter that persists for several seconds before dying down. During these seconds, Lincoln glances at his comrades, who glare at him with disgust. No doubt, they feel betrayed. He positioned himself as an anti-elitist, someone like them. Now they know of his past.
Shortly afterward, a vote is held, with all members unanimously declaring Lincoln and his party not guilty of treason against the crown. Lincoln knows that although he won the case, most of his comrades will no longer be his comrades once they are freed.
Lincoln stars in dismay at the crowd gathered at his first meeting since they were freed. Maybe “crowd” is too strong of a word. There are only a little over a dozen people lined against the wall of his apartment. Lincoln is speaking about how they are going to spark a revolution, but although conviction comes out in his words, there is little in his heart. Most of the other comrades have abandoned him since the day before when they were found not guilty. The ones that remain are slumped against the wall, hanging their heads, not paying any attention. Once Lincoln is finished with his speech, they slowly rise to their feet and begin to shuffle out.
One of the last few people to leave, as he reaches the door, turns his head back toward Lincoln, taking him out of his depressed stupor. He says, “Looks like we got a long way to go.” Lincoln turns to him and nods slowly.
“It would appear so,” he responds. “What is your name?”
“Paul,” he says. The worker has brown hair that sticks out in points all over his head. His nose is flat and his chin is wide, giving his face the appearance of a gorilla, which almost matches his broad shoulders and arms. Lincoln combs his brain for something to say, but then an idea strikes him – a solution.
“Paul,” Lincoln says. “It seems that you demonstrated resolve when we were in prison.”
Paul nods silently. Lincoln continues, “I can still organize this movement, but I believe that I no longer compel men to fight for the cause, evidence by the dwindling numbers here.” He pauses for a moment. “Do you still believe in the cause?”
“Yes,” Paul says immediately. His head was turned from the door to him, but now he shifts his whole body so it faces Lincoln. At this point, all other workers have filed out.
“Then,” Lincoln says. “Perhaps you should be the face of the party and replace me as the spokesperson.”
Paul’s mouth is agape. “I... yes, I’d love to!” His abrupt rise in voice makes Lincoln flinch a little, but he still smiles.
“Very well,” he says. “Tomorrow, I’ll tell you where we go.”
Paul leaves the room after that and Lincoln goes to sleep. The next day, after work, Lincoln and Paul meet at a street corner in the industrial part of London with the rectangular brick buildings. The worker protests carry on, although now that Lincoln’s movement has declined, they have scattered – there are not as many large protests. Instead, there are a lot of smaller ones. They chant like they always have, but in many of the crowds Lincoln passed by on his way to meet Paul, he notices that there is a hint of exhaustion on the workers’ chants. No doubt, they’ve been fighting for so long with very little reward. Maybe if Lincoln can ignite his movement again, there will be some light at the end of the tunnel for these protesters.
He meets Paul and they shake hands. Paul stands with his arms at his sides, ready for Lincoln’s orders. Lincoln turns his head and scans a few crowds in the immediate vicinity. Finally, he points to one gathered outside a building labeled “Glass Factory” on the window. Lincolns tells him to walk over to that crowd and convince non-participating workers to join before leading them back to his place for a new meeting.
When Lincoln arrives back at his tenement apartment, he goes back to the drawing on the wall he made several months ago. Squinting at the lines, he notices that there is a bit of area he has not used. He takes a fountain pen out from his pocket and deliberates on what to put there before settling on a long, thin rectangle. That’s better, he thinks. Afterward, he steps back and admires his work. It had been several months since he planned this, but the vision he had drawn still made his heart leap every time he saw it. He smiles.
Lincoln is broken out of his thoughts when Paul opens the door. “I got em’,” he says. “They’re coming over soon. Want me to talk at the meeting too?”
“You know,” Paul says, taking a step from the door towards Lincoln. “I didn’t have a chance to thank you.”
Lincoln does not know how to respond. He has not gotten any praise for a few days and he is not sure what compels Paul to say this. Because of this, he just stands stiffly, looking at Paul.
“It’s just, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I knew it wasn’t this life we have now, but I didn’t know what to...to replace it with.” Paul takes another step toward Lincoln, his voice quivering now. “Then I went to a meeting, and you had the answer. I just...I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Lincoln smiles. “That is very kind of you. I would recommend we focus on the meeting at hand now.”
Lincoln decides he’ll leave for the meeting since his presence would decrease turnout considering his recent scandal. He knew he was still the one behind the scenes. The one with the ideology and the plan materialized in those drawings on the wall. He wondered about Paul as he left the room to go on a long walk. He was the face of the movement now, and if he can attract people the way Lincoln could, he would bring in the donations needed for Lincoln to sustain himself and grow the cause more, until he had enough people to put his plan into place. Paul seemed fully committed to the cause, but maybe he was a little too committed to Lincoln. Maybe he idolized him to a degree that no human should idolize another human.
As soon as the first people begin filtering in about 15 minutes later, Lincoln quietly exits. He maneuvers around several people at the front entrance and several more in the hall. It’s not until he’s out in front of his apartment that he sees there are nearly 3 dozen other people walking towards his apartment. After some thinking, Lincoln decides to go back inside and blend into the crowd that is forming. Maybe when Paul speaks, he could suggest some topics and see what it is that made Paul able to draw in so many people.
Back inside the hall, Lincoln finds himself between two people. Based on their sweaty appearances, Lincoln can guess they’ve both been hard at work before arriving here, perhaps in some sweaty mill. He looks behind him and notices other people parting to let Paul through. His eyes are locked straight ahead and his brow is furrowed. Once he gets to Lincoln, he taps Paul on the shoulder. “Yes,” Paul asks.
“When you give your speech,” Lincoln whispers. “Just remember the cause.”
Paul nods and continues walking. He goes into Lincoln’s room and begins speaking. Even from where Lincoln is, he can still hear the gruff voice of Paul. “Our lives are cussed! We work like slaves, eat dirt, sleep, then go to repeat this cycle. We lick the boots and fingers of our bosses, and they expect us to obey quietly?”
Paul has to stop his speech as shouts of “No!” echo throughout the room and the halls. When they finally die down, Paul screams, “We say no,” and another chorus of “no” echoes the room and halls once more.
“That’s why,” Paul continues, “We need something new. We will replace this government with another one. One that doesn’t enslave us or make starve us.” Claps and cheers ring from all sides, making Lincoln’s ears hurt. Still, he smiles. At least he’s alluding to the vision of the movement, even if he isn’t coming out with the specifics.
“To create this new system, we’ll cut this old one down! We’ll break our chains, break the system, and break the bloody government!” Lincoln cringes a little as he wonders about what sort of action that sort of language would prompt. It is good that these people are all on the movement’s side now, if not on his side, but what if one of them interprets the words literally? What if an act of violence occurs? There would surely be prosecution for everyone in the movement if that happened. Lincoln resolves to speak to Paul after this meeting.
Paul continues his speech. “Raise your hands if your life’s getting ruined by this system.” Even in the hall, where the workers would not be seen by Paul, nearly everyone’s hands go up above their heads. Some of the workers look as though they’re stretching in an attempt to reach the sky. Paul asks “You, whose exploiting you?”
A voice from Lincoln’s room answers, “Well...my landlord raised the rent yesterday. I don’t know how I’m going to pay.”
“Greedy landlords,” Paul says. “Looking for ways to rob us. How about you?”
Another voice says, “My wages in the mill were cut during the last recession, but are staying the same even though it’s over now.”
“Evil capitalists,” Paul says. “Wanting to pay us less and less.” Paul continues to call on names, eventually making his way into the halls to find even more hands raised for him to call on. Lincoln watches him pass him by as Paul makes his way through the hall. He asks each pair of hands who is exploiting them and why. Some of the most consistent enemies include landlords, employers, and local law enforcement. Finally, he’s standing at the other end of the hall, facing the crowd.
Paul asks, “And what do all these people have in common.” At this point, while everyone has been called and now has their hand lowered, they are shaking with excitement.
A few even scream out answers to Paul’s question. “They’re enemies!” “They’re evil!” “They can go to hell!”
Once that dies down, Paul says, “They are who we’ll destroy. Crush their power into oblivion. Their dictatorships will end soon.” The crowd begins to jump repeatedly, each jump resulting in a crash that blends in with clapping and howls of anger. Over the screams, jumps, and claps, Paul says “This will be the first of many meetings, but it’s going to destroy all that chains us.”
Upon this announcement, the crowd runs out of the building like a stampede of zebras, many shoving past Lincoln as they do so. Within mere moments, just Paul and Lincoln remain in the hall. Paul, now seeing that everyone has left, has his eyes fixed upon Lincoln, who stands in the center of the hall.
“Did I do well,” Paul asks, his now timid voice contrasting with the voice of his speeches.
“I believe so,” Lincoln says. “There is something of note I feel I should point out.” Paul stands firmly like a soldier awaiting orders. Lincoln continues, “I think it would be best if you avoided the usage of aggressive words.”
Paul furrows his brow in confusion and he steps forward. “Aggressive words?”
“Yes,” Lincoln says.
Paul’s brow furrows even more and he takes another step, this time a bigger one, towards Lincoln. His fists are clenched. “You wanted me to attract people? I got the people!”
Lincoln raises a hand in self-defense. “Yes, yes, but should we begin calling for destruction, somebody may take those words literally and...”
“Fight the system? That’s what we want,” Paul says. His fists are clenched even tighter and they’re shaking as well.
Lincoln brings his hands back to his chest, almost as if to protect his heart. “Well, I...”
“I joined this movement because I wanted something better. Something better for my wife and...” Paul trails off, his fists uncurling and his eyes trailing to look at some point behind Lincoln. Lincoln can almost swear that he sees Paul mouth the words “pride and joy.” Paul regains his composure and says, “So unless you have an alternative to speeches, I’m going to still do it.” He stands there, crossing his arms now and tapping his toe.
Taking a cue, Lincoln looks down and begins to search his mind. What other alternatives were there? He could not replace Paul because nobody else was as committed as him. He could not get him to stop using aggressive language that could potentially cause riots, because Paul refused. But what other options were there? Lincoln thinks back to all those attendees. It seemed as though they were attracted by an opportunity to voice their grievances with those who exploited them. All those people, if they banded together right then and there, could probably scare those in power to stop their exploitation. With that, an idea occurs to Lincoln.
The next day, Lincoln is waiting in his room. Again, the first workers begin to file in, so Lincoln makes his way out into the hall so he can blend in with the crowd. This next event seems more packed than usual. Within mere minutes of Lincoln entering the hall, the hall is so filled that to both his left and right, he can feel breath on his neck. Finally, Paul arrives, stomping through the crowd and entering Lincoln’s room. In his hand, he holds a few pieces of paper and a fountain pen. He begins to speak, loudly enough so that even those in the hall can easily hear him.
“There is power when we work together, so let’s cut to the chase. It’s time to get something done...now!” He says the last word with so much force that even out in the hall, everyone jumps a little. “You there,” Paul says. “You’re the man who said your landlord raised the rent, right?”
“Yes,” the man who Paul was pointing at responds. Lincoln can hear the bitterness in that one word.
“Well,” Paul says. “I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do. I have this paper, and we’re gonna write our names on it. Then, you’ll hand it to the landlord, and tell him that you’re sick of his rent raises.”
“Uh, OK.” The man sounds a little surprised, but he soon says after a pause, “Done.”
“Who's next to sign,” Paul asks. People around Lincoln begin to try and cram into the room, ready to help this man by giving their signature.
Soon, the density of the crowd has increased around the entrance to the room. “Well, well,” Paul says. “Looks like we got over 50 names. When you give this to your landlord, he’ll know we mean business and he’ll back off.”
“Thank you, thank you,” the person who Paul was helping says. “How could I ever thank you?” He sounds like he’s about to cry.
“No need. Just keep showing up here to help with the cause. Your real thanks should go to Lincoln,” Paul says.
At the mention of Lincoln, at the entrance to the room glances back towards him with broad smiles on their face. The attention quickly goes back to Paul in the room when he says “Who’s next?”
Lincoln stands in his room all by himself, admiring his writing on the wall once again. He’s gotten into the habit of doing that when he’s not scheduling rallies and giving Paul ideas for talking points. Since stepping down as the face of the party, he has transcribed his writing on the wall onto various pieces of paper and hidden them around his tenement apartment. It was good that he did that because the ink on the wall was starting to become drippy, distorting the pictures. Now he had precise sketches in several places that he could refer back to when the time came.
Suddenly, the door slams open and someone marches in. “Lincoln, Lincoln” the person yells.
Lincoln turns his head to this person. He waits for further explanation.
The person, who Lincoln now recognizes as a worker he’s seen at the rallies, is waving his arms wildly in a state of panic. “Paul’s in jail now!”
Lincoln almost jumps at the news. Jail? Still, he maintains his calm front, but he is a little bit nervous inside. Did Parliament decide to round his party up again? The thought threatens to send him into a panic as well.
“Was there a reason cited for the arrest,” Lincoln asks.
“Yes, yes!” The worker has gone still now and dropped his hands to his side, but still maintains his panicked tone of voice. “He called for a riot.”
A riot? Lincoln almost grits his teeth. If he did not have a reputation as a terrorist group before, they surely would now. Even if nobody rioted, Paul’s call to would surely have been covered by a news outlet, especially if he did it in a crowded area. Lincoln hopes his reputation has recovered a bit by now because he must call the workers back to his house quickly if he is to maintain a good appearance for his party.
Lincoln asks where the workers are now, and the worker states that they’re gathered outside the prison and offers to lead him there. They walk outside and down several streets before Lincoln sees it. Several workers gathered around Newgate Prison, waving their fists in the air. The crowd stretches on for almost a block, and a row of soldiers between them and the prison stare at them, rifles in hand. They scream obscenities, causing Lincoln’s ear to sting from the noise.
Lincoln decides to step forward and address the crowd. “Comrades, comrades,” he says loudly, causing the workers to turn to him. Their expressions are mixtures of fury and annoyance. Their faces seem just a little plumper than usual, with eyes that aren’t as sunken as Lincoln is used to seeing them. Lincoln continues. “I’ve received word of the arrest of Paul. We all desire to have him set free.”
“Yes, so let’s get in there!” After one of the workers says that they all turn away and continue jeering at the soldiers. Lincoln’s heart skips a beat as the scenario he was fearing comes true. Distracting Paul only worked temporarily, as he called for a riot anyway. If he couldn’t get him to change his mind, then this crowd surely would not either. He would have to contact Paul and deliver his word to the people. Lincoln nudges his way through the crowd until he is right in front of one of the soldiers.
“Halt,” the soldier says. “What are you doing?”
“I come to visit Paul,” Lincoln says.
The soldier thinks for a moment. “I’ll have a guard come with. He’ll collect your fee.”
“My fee,” Lincoln asks.
“You cannot visit a prisoner until you or the prisoner pays a fee,” the soldier says, remaining stiff as ever in the process.
Lincoln’s mouth is agape for a moment before he closes it. Paying a fee just to visit a prisoner? Whoever heard of such a thing? But before he can respond, the soldier turns around to see a guard behind him. It’s the same guard who screamed at them when they first were brought into Newgate. His eyes are sunken with boredom, almost as much as the workers’ eyes usually are from fatigue.
“What’s going on,” the guard asks.
Before the soldier can respond, Lincoln says, “I would like to visit Paul.”
The guard nudges past the soldier, who backs away a few feet. The guard outstretches his hand. “Your fee,” he says.
Lincoln says, “I’m afraid that I do not have any pounds.”
The guard withdraws his hand. Lincoln continues, “I’ll get him to calm down the protesters. If you provide me with paper and writing materials, I can ask him to write a letter, which I can then deliver to the crowd.”
The guard raises an eyebrow. “Think they’ll stop because of a letter?”
“I would believe so,” Lincoln says, looking back at the crowd. It has become frantic, with fists in the air going back and forth like metronomes.
The guard looks down for a moment. “Very well, come this way.”
Lincoln is led down to the prison doors – the ones he once entered as a prisoner but now will enter as a visitor. Like when he was a prisoner, he is led past a long row of cells, through that terrible stench, and into the wretched basement. He has to take shorter steps now that he cannot see anything. The basement is, as it was before, the blackest of all pitch black. After several tentative steps downstairs, Lincoln’s feet feel the ground. He cannot see the guard, but can still hear his footsteps, so he goes after them. He hears chatter all around him, mostly about alcohol.
Suddenly, he feels the soft material of a jacket against his outstretched hands. He stops walking and apologizes to the guard. “Left,” the guard says, and Lincoln turns in the corresponding direction. At this point, his eyes have become used to the darkness just enough so he can make out vague shapes in front of his eyes. He sees the outlines of the bars but still cannot see beyond them.
“Lincoln,” a familiar voice asks.
“Yes, it is me,” Lincoln responds.
“Oh, joy,” Paul says. “Please, you gotta get me out of here now. I knew you’d come to save me from these bootlickers.”
Lincoln says, “I’m afraid that cannot happen immediately.”
“Oh,” says Paul. After a pause, he asks, “So, what are you here for?” There’s a hint of grumpiness in his voice.
“I need you to write a letter. I want you to tell the crowd to hide their anger and bide their time,” Lincoln says.
There is another pause. Paul answers, but he sounds a little bit surprised now. “Why?”
“Because,” Lincoln says, “Should they get violent, it will threaten the image of our movement.”
Paul snaps, “Why do we need an image? We have support!”
“Pipe down,” the guard says. A silence follows. “Continue,” he says.
Lincoln says, “We need more.”
“For what,” Paul asks.
At this point, Lincoln can see shapes a bit better, although he still cannot make out any details of any of these shapes. He turns to the shape of the guard and says, “Would you mind leaving us be?”
“That’s crazy,” the guard says. “No.”
Lincoln thinks for a moment. He then says, “You can lock me in there with Paul. I’ll call back to you when we’re done.”
A pause. The shape of the guard’s head looks down. “Very well,” he says. After locking Lincoln in, he then leaves. Lincoln is now in a tightly packed room with Paul. The stink of Newgate Prison is almost unbearable now, but Lincoln refuses to let his eyes water because it would not be safe to lose what little sight he has here. It’s at this point that Lincoln notices Paul has been given his cell. He cannot see any other shapes beyond that of Paul’s body.
As if picking up on Lincoln’s surprise, Paul says, “I think they thought I’d coordinate with the other prisoners and start a riot.”
“But why did they let me in,” Lincoln asks.
Paul shrugs. “Probably cause you’re not a prisoner.”
“Very well,” Lincoln says. Now he can see Paul’s serious face, which looks at Lincoln expectantly. “We need more people on our side to realize my plan.”
“And that is,” Paul asks. There’s a hint of excitement in his voice now.
“My plan is for us to unite to construct a compound.” Lincoln feels pride surge in his heart as he says the word. This is the first time he’s ever shared the plan he wrote on the walls with anyone. Noting Paul’s confused expression, he continues. “We shall set an example of our ideology so that we can inspire more examples. It will disrupt the unequal system we stand against without bloodshed.”
Paul looks down. At this point, Lincoln can now make out the fine details in his face. His face looks more careworn than usual. His jaw is downturned into a frown and there are dark circles under his eyes. Even with his head pointing down, Lincoln sees that Paul’s eyes have a look of bewilderment, but also of guilt. “I’m sorry,” Paul says.
Lincoln remains silent. Paul continues. “I’m sorry I caused this mess. I’ll get them to stand down.” He slowly raises his head to stare straight at Lincoln. “And I won’t do what you don’t tell me to do ever again. I swear!” Paul's shouting now, causing a few prisoners in neighboring cells to grumble. Lincoln still remains silent, though the abrupt rise in volume caused him to flinch a little.
Paul seems to pick up on Lincoln’s surprise. He says, “It’s just...I just wanted something better for my wife, and my...and my...pride and joy.” Paul’s eyes begin to get teary eyes and his voice breaks on those last few words. Lincoln remembers when Paul said this in his cell. He supposes Paul means a son or daughter, but knows better than to ask. Besides, he cannot help but feel it would bring up those painful memories and those nightmares that deprive him of sleep. Best to not think of it.
Lincoln reaches into a pocket on his suit jacket and pulls out a piece of paper and a fountain pen. “I’m aware you are in emotional distress, but would you be willing to write a letter to cease this violence?”
Paul nods, though his head is down. Lincoln hands him the fountain pen and the paper, and Paul begins scribbling a letter down, while Lincoln waits. A few minutes later, Paul has finished and hands the paper and fountain pen back to Lincoln. Lincoln calls out for the guard to come and free him, after which he is then escorted back through the dark halls.
He is brought up the stairs, into the more brightly lit line of cells. The light causes Lincoln’s eyes to sting momentarily after being in the dark, but he quickly adjusts. Lincoln is led by the guard down the hall and out through the gates, from which the guard lets him go on his own. Lincoln notices that the crowd seems larger than ever right now and is shouting obscenities at the soldiers standing between them and the prison. Lincoln dashes up to the crowd and shouts “Wait!”
The crowd turns toward him. Lincoln stops once he’s between two soldiers and says between gasps of breath, “Paul...wrote...this.” He waves Paul’s letter above the crowd until a hand from within it extends out and grabs it.
The hand-owner reads the letter out loud. “Stand down. Lincoln has another plan.”
The crowd abruptly stops shouting and waving their fists upon hearing this. Turn slowly turn to Lincoln with expectant looks at their face. Lincoln is just catching his breath when one of his comrades says, “Well?”
Lincoln takes a deep breath and steps by the two soldiers he was between. Lincoln pays no attention to them as he says, “We need to escape the misery that traps us. This is why we will build... a compound.” The crowd looks at each other, confused. Lincoln glances at the soldiers behind him and sees they are glancing at each other in confusion as well. He continues, “To truly demonstrate what our ideology can achieve, we must set an example. This new settlement, which we shall build together, will be that example.” He speaks with the conviction of a pastor, with the conviction of a man who believes that they are speaking with the voice of God.
After a pause, while the comrades process this information, they erupt into a gleeful cheer. Several even begin chanting Lincoln’s name. He smiles slightly in response to this. Behind him, the soldiers are once again glancing at each other, unable to understand what is going on. Except for one soldier who catches Lincoln’s eye. It looks like one of the soldiers who arrested them earlier. His name was Thomas, was it not? He’s staring at Lincoln with fire in his eyes as if Lincoln had just killed someone dear to him. The soldier’s eyes reek of a man ready for vengeance.
Lincoln turns back to the crowd. Their cheers still haven’t died down. Although Lincoln’s smile is only slight, his heart feels like it will explode with happiness. He has a purpose again. With a purpose, he will find happiness and help others in the process. Not to mention that his reputation within his movement seems to have been healed by association with Paul. Once his example is set with this compound, it will inspire many other examples throughout the country and eventually the world. Maybe it will even reach the USA inspire the slaves to rebel and create one of their own – he would be able to free them after all.
Lincoln observes the fine plot of land in front of him. He and his comrades had scraped together enough land to purchase this beautiful piece of undeveloped land within less than a week. The land is mostly flat, with a few hills on its outskirts. Just outside the city of London, the tallest towers in the city could be faintly made out in daylight if one squinted hard enough. The flat parts of the land in the middle and the hills on the outskirts of the land are filled with the greenest of green grass. No doubt, it would be perfect for farming. The hills, while not flat enough for farming, are still flat enough to support the houses Lincoln had planned. Having them on the outskirts with the farm in the middle would ensure quick distribution to all people. The exception was the hills on the east side, which will be reserved for storage and eventually, for hospitals, once the compound was developed enough.
Lincoln is broken out of his admiration of the land when a voice calls to his left. “Lift, lift.” Lincoln glances to his left to see several workers trying to drag a piece of wood they bought up the hill. He dashes over to them and grabs an unoccupied corner to help them. Immediately, pain shoots through his arms from exhaustion, but he persists. After what is likely a few moments, but feels like an eternity, he and his comrades stop, and they set down the panel of wood on top of the hill. It is at this point that Lincoln realizes they are on the east hills.
Before he can point out the error, one worker says “This is the wrong hill.” Everyone glances at each other nervously. Lincoln looks around and sees a few other workers carrying large panels of wood. They are in similar states of nervousness, presumably from hearing the words of the worker. They stop what they’re doing and set down their panels where they are, before turning to each other to discuss the situation. Slowly, they then turn to Lincoln, with one asking, “What do we do now?”
Lincoln goes into his brain and tries to think of a solution. There is a coordination problem, but what can be done. It was interesting how Paul was able to coordinate everyone and... one thought leads to another, but Lincoln initially dismisses the idea. It was planned that they would demand Paul’s freedom after the compound was built. They only bought so much food along with their tents to sustain themselves until they could get the farms up and running. Any time spent trying to free Paul before that would mean a greater chance of them starving, as they agreed to pool all food together in preparation for when they would live communally. And yet, Lincoln thinks, if they do not get coordinated soon, they will be unable to build the farms at all and this project would collapse sooner rather than later. Lincoln makes a decision.
Lincoln says, “It would appear we require Paul to coordinate our efforts properly.”
“Hear, hear,” a few workers say.
A few workers stay behind to guard the land they purchased, but most begin a long march to London. They walk past farms and little houses, which proceed to morph into large buildings as they get closer to the city. Finally, they pass by several industrial buildings – the ones they were protesting outside of before they joined Lincoln. They still work there, but they would go home to their purchased land where the compound would be and sleep in tents on the hills every night. Soon, Lincoln’s feet are aching with every step. Pain shoots up from the bottom of his feet and diffuses into his ankles, but he and the other workers silently continue, until they stand in front of Newgate Prison once again.
They all take a deep breath in preparation to begin chanting. It is at this point that Lincoln notices people are guarding the prison now. Not prison guards – soldiers. They are packed shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the doors to the prison, rifles at their sides. Lincoln has no time to think about that, for they release their breath in the form of the chant “Free Paul!” They take in another quick breath and release the chant again. This cycle continues, causing many of the soldiers’ stoic faces to flinch a bit. After a few minutes of this, a few prison guards emerge from behind the soldiers and one of them taps the soldier on the shoulder. Lincoln shuffles through the crowd of workers while continuing to chant along with them to see who it is. It is the guard who yelled at them when they were in prison together, delivered their message to parliament, and allowed Lincoln to see Paul.
The guard looks miffed rather than furious this time, and shakes a little bit when he glances from the soldier he’s speaking with to the crowd. Lincoln slowly approaches them, trying to hear their conversation over the chanting. Finally, it becomes distinct.
“That’s why we can’t just give in to their demands,” the soldier says.
The guard responds, “But maybe they’ll go away for good this time. I’m sick of them too.”
“I told you, we can’t just...” the soldier trails off as Lincoln approaches. The guard and the soldier glance at Lincoln, as do a few surrounding soldiers and guards.
The guard says, “Here are you again” with a hint of annoyance in his voice. Before Lincoln can speak, the guard says, “I’ll get to the point. You’re nuisances, but I’ll give you what you want if you just get out of my jail and out of my hair.”
“Thanks,” Lincoln says. “I would like to...”
“Free Paul,” the guard says. “Yes, I can hear, but this soldier won’t let me leave.” The guard points to the soldier he was talking to, who stares at Lincoln silently.
Lincoln turns straight to the soldier and says, “Why will you not let this guard leave?”
The soldier’s gaze remains stoic and fixed on Lincoln. “We cannot risk it.”
“Why do you feel this way,” Lincoln asks.
“We cannot help the guard help you free a prisoner,” the soldier says.
Lincoln thinks for a moment. “Very well,” he says. “Perhaps tensions would be reduced if you let this guard go down to parliament to request that they demand the trial of Paul come as soon as possible.”
“How would that help with the tensions,” the soldier says.
Lincoln smiles. “I’ll call off the protest if parliament agrees.”
The soldier scowls. “And why would they even agree?”
Lincoln says, “It is likely considering they have given in to our demands while we were inside prison. They would most likely do so when we are making demands from outside the prison.”
The soldier nods. He steps aside and the guard passes through them. Lincoln watches the guard disappear into the distance, after which he then rejoins the crowd, which lingers outside, although the chanting dies down once Lincoln delivers the news. They wait in silence, staring at the soldiers who stare right back at them as they do so. Finally, Lincoln looks to his left and sees the guard emerge from the distance once again. Lincoln exits the crowd to join him once he is right in front of the soldiers. The guard hands a note to Lincoln before walking back into the prison.
Dear Lincoln and the followers of Lincoln,
It was a mistake for us to give in to your demands for a quicker trial the first time and we will not make the same mistake this time. Some of the parliament falsely believed that a small amount of favoritism would have you see that our government and the crown are fair and just. Clearly, this has only further encouraged you to seek exemption from our laws. Therefore, you will never get another favor from our parliament.
Lincoln reads over the letter several times, flipping to the back to see if there was more, but this was it. He needed an alternative plan. In the meantime, it would be best to keep the rally going. Surely, this would outrage them enough so that they would stay energized until he could think of another solution.
Lincoln looks back towards the crowd. He walks toward it and hands the letter to one of the workers. He reads it out loud, causing people in the crowd to stomp. It starts with the people closest to the worker reading the note, but spreads out like ripples in a pond. Once the stomping dies down, chants of “Free Paul” start once again, more furious than ever. Lincoln blends into the crowd and joins them while he tries to formulate a new solution.
A voice rings out over the noise screaming “Go!” Lincoln tries to make out from where he is in the crowd which soldier it came from, but he cannot find it. A rock about the size of a fist flies out from the crowd and hits one of the soldiers in the head. He tentatively reaches his hand to where the rock hit him. Before the hand can reach his head, a shot rings out, causing several workers to howl in pain. Lincoln jumps at the noise, and as the workers turn around to retreat, all thoughts of a solution are put to the wayside. While the crowd scuffles past Lincoln, he notices a worker with blood upon his clothes. He’s trying to scramble to his feet but howls in pain each time he’s on his feet, causing him to fall again.
Without thinking, Lincoln dashes toward him and hoists his arm over his shoulder. They run, struggling to catch up with the other workers, who are scattering in all directions. It is unclear if there will be more shots, but there is no time to think about that. Lincoln runs, carrying the worker with him. Sheer adrenaline drives Lincoln down several blocks of road that a few other workers are fleeing down as well until he’s certain he’s far from any soldier. He has no time to survey the street he’s on as he sets the worker down on his back and examines his injury. The blood is concentrated all around his leg. He likely got shot there.
Lincoln presses the worker over his heart, and his closed eyes flutter open. They focus directly on Lincoln’s own eyes. “Did I get hurt,” he asks.
Lincoln stops for a moment at the question. It was delivered in a bit too calm of a manner for a man who was just shot. Lincoln feels the man’s forehead and it burns his hand. No doubt, this man is in shock. Another worker calls out behind him. “Is he alright?” Lincoln does not answer. He has an idea.
“Do you believe you could make it to parliament,” he asks. “If I carried you,” he adds on.
The worker’s eyes dart back and forth. “I...I think so...” Without another word, Lincoln hoists the man up and puts his limp arm over his shoulder yet again. The hand weakly holds onto Lincoln’s shoulder as Lincoln runs and the worker alongside him hop down several streets. People point and gawk at the sight of Lincoln and his injured comrade with a bloody leg running through London. Finally, they arrive in front of Westminster Hall. Lincoln stares at the building before him, then at the guards surrounding it. No doubt, he will not be able to walk in. How foolish I was to believe that, he thinks. After a moment of searching his mind, he comes up with an alternative solution.
“We need a doctor,” he screams, loud enough to draw even more attention than they already have. It works. People not only gawk but stop walking entirely to observe the grisly scene.
“What’s going on,” the worker whispers into Lincoln’s ear.
“You’re going to help us free Paul,” Lincoln whispers back. He then continues his plan, repeating “We need a doctor. He was gunned down by the British!” By this point, the people around Lincoln have formed into a crowd several yards away from them. They all stare at each other as if looking for a doctor among themselves.
One woman says to a man next to her, “You're a doctor. Help them!” The man she was talking to, presumably her husband, quickly nods before dashing to Lincoln.
Lincoln steps back as the man grabs ahold of his comrade. The man sets the comrade lying back on the ground and pulls up his pant leg to reveal the bloody mess where the bullet hit him. “Hmm,” he says. “Lost too much blood. Needs bandages urgently.” After a bit of thinking, the man applies pressure to the wound, which still has blood pouring out of it, with one hand. On the other hand, he points to someone in the crowd. “You, go to the hospital 2 streets down.” The person he points at, though seeming a little surprised, nods and begins running.
“What happened,” someone from the onlooking crowd says. Lincoln turns to the direction that the voice came from, and sees that the crowd that has gathered is looking at him expectantly.
Lincoln clears his throat and began. “We were organizing a protest,” he says in a matter-of-fact tone. “We wanted a quicker trial for a friend of ours who is imprisoned – Paul.” He paused for a moment, before continuing, “They opened fire, injuring many of our ranks.” Lincoln looks down as he finishes the sentence. The crowd gasps in horror as he does so.
“They,” someone else from the crowd asks. “Who is ‘they?’”
Lincoln keeps his head down. His heartbeat is still higher than normal from the shock he recently endured. “The soldiers.”
The crowd gasps again. “What horror!” “Tyrants!” “How could they?” Even the doctor, who is still pressing down on the comrade’s bruised leg, gapes his mouth a little bit in response to the news, though his face quickly goes back into a removed professional expression.
After letting the crowd take in the news, Lincoln raises his head, overcome by determination in his blood. He says, “Though I’m aware you have little knowledge or care of our group or our friend, may I humbly ask you to help us demand to parliament that they free our good friend Paul?”
Within minutes, the baffled onlookers have transformed into a tightly packed crowd in front of Westminster Hall, chanting “Free Paul” at the top of their lungs. Lincoln is among them, having blended in with the outraged crowd that he created. This goes on for several hours, while onlookers gaze at this strange sight. The crowd is diverse this time, composing many people with varying clothing signifying differing class backgrounds. After a considerable amount of time, a red soldier emerges from the hall with a sheet of paper in his hand and the usual British army rifle in the other. He stands before the chanting crowd.
“Where the one called Lincoln,” the soldier asks. The crowd stops chanting and opens up, revealing Lincoln standing in the middle of the street. He stares ahead, unflinching, at the man with a rifle and a piece of paper. The soldier continues, “I bring word from parliament.” Lincoln walks up to the soldier and takes the piece of paper. Handwritten in pen, it reads:
As compensation for the unwarranted massacre, we have agreed to pardon Paul. However, we have also decided that to prevent any further incidents of this nature from occurring, you and all members associated with your political party must leave the city limits. As written into an act passed minutes ago, no member of your party, including yourself, may rent any residential property or book a night in any hotel or similar property while being affiliated with your party. Failure to comply will result in fines and potentially imprisonment. Furthermore, any individuals not stripped of these rights may not associate with members of your party, regardless of prior relations.
From, MP D.N.”
Lincoln knew what he must do now. He must deliver this news to Paul. Surely, if Paul was willing to be arrested for the sake of the cause, then once he delivered the news to him in prison, he would rejoice and look forward to joining him outside of London to continue the construction of the compound.
After talking his way past some prison guards, Lincoln gets into Newgate Prison once again. He is escorted by a guard down the dreadful hall into the even more dreadful basement before arriving at Paul’s cell. They are put together. After a bit of silence, which gives Lincoln’s eyes time to adjust to the darkness, Paul asks Lincoln, “What’s going on?”
Lincoln says, “You’re going to be freed.”
Paul’s mouth opens into a wide smile. He begins to jump up and down, causing his shackles to clatter in an irritating sound. After a few minutes, his energy dies down and he stops jumping, but he still has an excited grin on his face. “When do I get to go,” Paul asks.
“Very soon,” Lincoln says. “I just need to inform you that,” Lincoln trails off, hesitating for a moment.
“Well,” Paul asks.
“You will be required to leave the city of London. Permanently,” Lincoln says.
Paul’s excited look turns into one of horror. He presses his back against the wall and slides into a sitting position. His head is pointed down. Lincoln stands there, watching him go through the motions of grievance. He feels concerned – what could be troubling Paul?
Paul mutters, “Can my wife come?”
Lincoln feels the stillness in Paul’s cell now. “No,” he says. “I’m deeply sorry.”
Paul does not cry, but his jaw locks closed and his eyes crinkle up as if preparing to cry.
“It’s just...” Paul whispers. “I just wanted something better for my wife, and my little pride and joy.”
Lincoln presses his back up against the cold wall and sits next to Paul. “Your pride and joy,” he asks.
“My son,” Paul looks at the wall opposite himself rather than at Lincoln. They remain in their positions for a minute, though it feels like almost an hour. Paul finally breaks the silence. “When I first met you, I thought, ‘this is my son’s solution.’ Rather than being born in some cussed shack, he could be born somewhere decent.” His voice is rising now, as is his head, which now stares at the opposite ceiling. Suddenly, Paul's head falls back down to sea level. “Well, maybe not him, but someone else. They wouldn’t...they wouldn’t have had to die in childbirth every time.”
“Your son perished,” Lincoln asks.” Shock creeps into his normally calm voice.
“No... all the others did. I and my wife tried...twice before,” Paul says. “How can I leave my unborn child when I joined to save him?”
Lincoln thinks for a moment. “Perhaps there could still be a chance to rescue your child, should the intended effects of our compound cumulate in time.”
“Maybe,” Paul says. “How long will it take to build it?”
Lincoln says, “I lack any estimate of the duration.”
Paul says, “My child is due any day now. He’s not going to...” Paul trails off, but once again, he does not cry. He only pinches his eyes as though he is about to cry.
Lincoln lets Paul reflect on the grim truth of his child for a moment. He then says, “What about your comrades? Perhaps given all the help you’ve already granted them, you could continue your assistance when you leave...”
“I’m not leaving. I’m staying here,” Paul says. He stands up and walks to the opposite wall, facing his head against it. Lincoln stands up as well. Before he can respond, Paul continues. “I’ll never have a child. He’s going to die after he’s born, and that’d be the third time, and I’ll never be able to see her again, much less help her conceive.”
“And what of your comrades,” Lincoln asks.
“They can do without me,” Paul says, not turning towards Lincoln.
Lincoln takes a step toward Paul. “I’d like you to understand that we need you. We cannot find anybody else who could help coordinate our efforts to construct the compound.”
Paul remains silent. Lincoln stays where he is and lets Paul think about it for a minute. When no response comes, Lincoln says, “I would understand your decision regardless of what choice you make, and I’d most certainly recommend you choose to go with us.”
“Why,” Paul asks under his breath.
Lincoln takes another step towards Paul. Now he’s right at his back. “Because I saw your enthusiasm when you volunteered to replace me. Even if we could, I would dislike to replace you now.”
Slowly, Paul turns his head, then his body, back towards Lincoln. As he does so, there is no sound except the chains of his shackles clattering. Paul says, “I’m going with you.” Lincoln smiles. Paul continues, “To the ends of the earth.”
Lincoln’s arms strain from the heavy plate of wood, but he does not stop, and neither do his comrades. They continue to take step after step, getting this plate of wood up the hill. Once they feel that the ground beneath has become flat – implying they’re on top of the hill now – they set the plate of wood down aside a few others. Once they do that and back away, a few other workers walk up to it and begin hammering the wooden plates together with nails.
Lincoln smiles at this work. Everything from the nails to the hammer to the wood was bought by pooling funds together to get this compound running, not to mention the land itself. Lincoln then looks up at the sky. The sun is sinking, and the sky is gradually turning from gray to dark blue. Lincoln is broken out of his thoughts when Paul screams, “Work is done today. Good work, everyone.” Everyone sets down their tools, from the workers who were hammer pieces of wood together to the workers in the center who were digging holes for the garden. Fortunately, they pooled together enough for food to last a few months. Hopefully, they would have the gardens built by that point.
As they had done for the past week so or when they got done with their work, they all went to one hill where they kept the food in a pile. It was set upon its wooden plates, under bowls to protect from vermin. Workers lifted them and grabbed out hardtack, rice, and various dried fruits. It wasn’t delicious, but nobody had any objections, since they anticipated that the garden would produce better food soon enough. Lincoln himself had no objections because he did not eat much anyway. Some workers may have suspected he was in poor physical health due to his lack of appetite, but Lincoln had no desire to deal with that nonsense.
Usually, once the feast was done, all workers would go to the tents they set up. They were just on the edge of their property between two of the hills. Workers would go inside and tell crack jokes until it was time to sleep. A few of them had wives and even children, who would frolic in there all day while the male adults worked. However, tonight was different. The workers sat in various circles near the garden eating their food. Lincoln joined one of these circles, though he declined any offers for food. Abruptly, someone in a circle to Lincoln’s left caught his eye. That worker jumped to their feet, a smoking pipe in their hand. Holding above the pipe his head, he said, “Let us dance.” He stretched out the word “dance” for a few seconds so that by the time he finished, everyone had noticed what he said.
A few people rose to their feet and began to shuffle back and forth. Then a few others, then a few more. Some of them even began loudly humming tunes, which others began to intimate. Lincoln whispers to the man sitting next to him, “Do you know what he is holding?”
The worker says, “It’s not smoke in the pipe. Something taboo. Probably couldn’t risk using it back in London.”
The worker Lincoln just spoke joins with everyone, leaving Lincoln left sitting alone as everyone dances and hums. Lincoln shakes his head at this foolish behavior. Hopefully, the worker taking drugs will at least not cause any trouble. In any case, Lincoln disliked these types of parties. He enjoyed the sorts where you could have an intelligent conversation and crack witty jokes with your fellow man. Certainly, at his age, he was barely in condition to do work and had no desire to dance.
He decides to join the women and the children back at the tents. His nightmares were now dead. Lincoln was almost certain that he had overcome them, and that this community and this movement he had built was playing a big role in defeating the nightmares. The fire he dreamed of, the one he first witnessed in real life that then became the theme of every nightmare after the civil war, would surely never be seen again. He would rest easily tonight with no nightmares about that dreaded fire, and would never have any such nightmares for the rest of his life.
Lincoln is broken from sleep by several shrieks of surprise. He shakes off the headache from fatigue in his head and shuffles to his feet and out of his tent. The shrieks were distant, and Lincoln notices as he leaves his tent that everyone else has already left. Getting out of the tent, he sees that the workers are all down the hill where the tents are. They are gathered around the garden, some of them whispering to each other. As Lincoln walks down the tent hill to get a closer look, he asks, “What is this commotion?”
“They did this,” one worker screams. He points to somewhere in the distance.
“Did what,” Lincoln asks. He’s now just a few feet from the edge of the crowd. A few of the crowd’s members have turned towards him.
Paul shoves past people through the crowd, emerging from it to where Lincoln is. Paul stands in front of Lincoln with his hands clenched into fists exclaiming, “The soil’s poisoned.”
Lincoln’s pulse quickens from Paul’s news. Who had poisoned their soil? As if knowing what Lincoln’s about to ask next, Paul points again in the direction that the other worker pointed in before. Lincoln glances in that direction and sees two figures in the distance. “Soldiers,” Paul exclaims again. Lincoln begins to turn towards them.
“Are you confident that they poisoned the soil,” Lincoln asks.
“Yes,” says Paul. “Someone said they saw two figures poking around last night. And now the soil is too dry and it smells. They put something on it.”
Lincoln grimaced as he looks at the two figures. “Why are they still here,” Lincoln asks.
Paul shakes a fist at the soldiers. “Probably want to do it again so we can’t replace the soil. They’re going to starve us!”
“I shall confront them,” Lincoln says.
Lincoln approaches the figures and begins to make out more details of them. They are wearing their familiar red garments with the familiar rifles at their sides. They watch Lincoln as he approaches with stiff expressions on their faces. Once Lincoln is in front of them, he feels a bit of fury. He attempts to choke it back and is unsure if he is successful. These men dared to poison their soil to starve them, just so their ruler could hold on to power. Of course, Lincoln understood that they were told to this by someone with executive power, but that did not stop him from feeling the heat in his heart.
After choking back his anger for a moment, Lincoln says, “The weather is lovely, is it not?” Neither of the soldiers responded. They just watched him, not changing their expressions. “It appears you speak little,” Lincoln says, trying to keep his voice pleasant. Once again, neither soldier says a word. Taking a deep breath, Lincoln continues. “I may as well be upfront. A number of my friends stated they saw you on our land.”
Finally, one soldier speaks. “We weren’t here.”
Lincoln says, “Pardon me for saying this, but that confuses me. You are standing here at this moment.”
Once again, one of the soldiers says “We weren’t here.”
Lincoln excuses himself for a moment and turns around. He retreats into his mind and tries to think of a solution. This friendly approach was going to elicit little more than vague denials out of the soldiers. He remembers his order to stay out of the city limits, but then he remembers that it only covers associating with people in London and staying overnight. They could still enter London for a few hours if needed. And Lincoln thinks they may need to do that right now. He walks back to the crowd surrounding the farm, which has grown in size as people wake up to learn of the news about the poisoned soil.
When Lincoln stands a few feet from the edge of the crowd, they all turn to look at him. Lincoln clears his throat and says, “It seems that the gentlemen who are attempting to sabotage us refuse to even admit what they’re doing, much less stop.” Roars of anger echo from the crowd. “Therefore,” Lincoln continues, “I say that we go to London to protest once again. This time, we will demand the soldiers leave us be for good.” Roars turn into cheers as the crowd hears of the proposal and Lincoln smiles.
Just as Lincoln is about to turn around to begin the march to London, he feels two pairs of hands grab either of his arms. They tighten so hard around them that it hurts. He instinctually tries to break free as shrieks echo around him, but he’s too weak to overcome these hands. While being pulled away from the crowd, Lincoln glances to his left and right to see that the hands belong to two soldiers. Yet he also notices the two soldiers from before standing where they would. That means more soldiers have arrived.
The crowd shrieks, “Get away from him! Let him go!” The soldiers continue to pull Lincoln away, forcing him to turn away from the crowd and walk. Driven by fear, Lincoln asks “Where did you come from?”
“We were hidden from view,” one of the soldiers says. “We knew you’d plan something like this.”
“Why do you...” Lincoln’s fear has given way to anger as he is marched away, but he tries to gather himself and ask his question calmly. “Why do you never cease to sabotage us?”
The other soldier says, “The military thinks you’re a threat, so parliament voted to give us the power to keep an eye on you.”
Lincoln cannot believe what he’s hearing. He simply attempts to start a new party and build a compound, and for that, he is viewed as a threat to the monarchy. What a ridiculous notion. And now because of that strange notion, he’s going to get put in prison for a second time.
Lincoln sits against the wall of his cell at Newgate Prison. He hangs his head, reflecting on the news that was just given to him by the guards. The military is tired of his party, and to deter anyone from supporting it, he is going to be publicly tortured. When Lincoln inquired about the nature of this torture, the guards did not say anything. However, even as dark as it is in the cells of Newgate Prison, Lincoln could still see one of the guard’s faces turn so pale it was almost porcelain white. Not only is Lincoln now facing torture tomorrow morning, but he is also facing an ambiguous threat. Will the torture merely bruise him? Will it disable him? Or even kill him? He has no way of knowing.
To distract himself from the news that was received, Lincoln turns his head toward the goods stuffed into the corner of his cell, which he alone occupies. Many of his comrades had given him gifts. Not only did they have to cover the cost of those gifts, but Newgate Prison forced either the prisoner or the visitor (in this case, the latter) to pay a fee for the privilege of being allowed to bring them to Lincoln in his cell. He smiles a little at the sight of fresh fruits hand-wrapped in paper. He did not desire food much, as at his age, he had little muscle he needed to support anymore, but the gifts almost made him cry. At least some people felt for his plight. If only he could help them from where he was.
Lincoln shrugs and reaches for one of the fruits, unwrapping the paper to reveal a shiny melon. It would just go bad in these conditions if Lincoln did not eat it, so he decides to chow down. He eats melons, sweet peaches, and even a few strawberries. But once he has exhausted all the fruits, he turns back to where there was once a pile and notices... a pipe? Lincoln crawls toward it and slips it in between the cracks in the floor, carefully placing it so the material blends in with the floor. He recalls the man who smoked, and it occurs to him that the drug that man was using is in this pipe. It’s tempting, but there would be no benefit in developing an addiction. At this point, it occurs to Lincoln that it is time to go to bed anyway. He hopes there is the faintest chance he will be able to get some good sleep despite the hell that awaits him tomorrow.
The desire for good sleep does not come. Lincoln feels fire encroach upon his skin, searing his clothes and tainting his flesh bright red. But he ignores the pain in hopes of navigating the smoke. He’s trying to find his way to the source of the screaming. He blindly reaches out into the smoke, not caring that his flesh feels as though it is melting. Taking a few steps forward, he notices the screaming seems to be coming from right beneath him now. He angles his hand downward and feels a hot, fleshy surface with dozens of little holes in it.
Before the dream can progress any further, Lincoln realizes that he is dreaming and pulls himself out of his sleep. He snaps his eyes open and twists his head upward to break out of the dream. In an instant, he’s gone from being surrounded by fire and wondering if he will melt to death to being in a cold, dank cell. He breathes a sigh of relief. He never thought he would welcome the cold, dreary nature of Newgate Prison. His heartbeat starts to steady as he gets ahold of his environment. But then he remembers what he was dreaming of and the misery that immediately followed on the day he was dreaming of.
Unable to take it anymore, he scrambles to his feet and begins clawing at his head, as if he’s trying to rip out his brain. In his fury, bits of flesh are scrapped off his forehead. Not big chunks of flesh, but sufficient enough to cause him pain. He continues to claw at his forehead, as he has no other forms of relief except to give himself a new sensation. This is his only option, except for...
Lincolns recalls the pipe and suddenly begins scrapping the walls for it. He hastily locates it in between two bricks in the wall, yanks it out, and shoves it in his mouth. Immediately, a burst of dopamine distracts him from the stress, and he feels nothing but calmness overtake his body and mind. He realizes at this point that he is still very tired and upon knowing this, Lincoln collapses to the ground, pipe still in his mouth. He’s not sure what’s in it, and reminds himself that he cannot make this a long-term solution, but what other options does he have right now? Within moments, he is fast asleep, and he anticipates that he will have no more nightmares tonight.
“Wake up,” shouts a guard, jumping Lincoln out of his sleep. “You’ll be ready in half an hour.” Fighting the exhaustion in his head, he scrambles to his feet, to see the guard looking at him through the bars. It takes a second before Lincoln recalls what is coming. Upon remembering, he trembles a bit. Then another sensation hits him as the guard walks away. This strange feeling of not wanting to do anything. The desire to just lie down and sleep forever. Lincoln was familiar with this feeling. It would come upon a person while they were ill. All their energy was spent fighting the disease, leaving them with little left in them to do almost anything else. But Lincoln isn't sick, is he? It had been years since he lasts been afflicted with an illness. He is still in good shape, despite his age. What could it be?
Lincoln's eyes go over the walls and the floors, and on the floors, near where Lincoln’s head was, he sees it – the pipe. An urge to grab it overwhelms Lincoln, and he has no time to question it before he scoops it up and shoves it in his mouth. Bliss overtakes him once again. Not only that, but the feelings of fatigue associated with just waking up melt away. Lincoln breathes a sigh of relief, which extends for several seconds before fading out. He notices the bliss isn’t as strong as it was last night, but he doesn’t care. This pipe should offer some escape from what’s coming his way. Even though Lincoln can think of nothing but the interrogation that is soon to follow, he has little worry.
Turning his thoughts away from the coming torture, Lincoln turns his attention to some chatter he hears above him. It’s faint, but squinting as hard as he can, Lincoln can just make out the chatter is delivered in a tone as the people making it are asking questions. Is it the workers? Have they come to protest the imprisonment?
Soon, the guard comes and unlocks his door then comes inside and unlocks his chain. This guard’s face conveys nothing but solemness. “Quite a crowd outside. Too bad you can’t see it.”
Lincoln lets the guard grab his arm and escort him down the halls. “My comrades, I presume,” he asks. The pipe has kept him in a mental state where he cannot muster the energy to worry much.
“Not just them,” the guard says. “Lots of journalists too.”
Lincoln is a little surprised by that. Perhaps his plans to be interrogated have stirred up a controversy. Lincoln thinks for a moment as they continue to walk down the halls to a door at the end. He asks, “Are you aware of what intrigues the journalists?”
The guard thinks for a moment. “They don’t like that parliament gave the soldiers the power to do this to you.”
Under normal circumstances, this would have made Lincoln nervous, but under the influence of whatever was in the pipe, he felt an unshakable sense of happiness. Nevertheless, this got his attention. He was aware of such an order before, but he never knew the full extent of it. The military was given the power to, on the whims of the generals, harass them with violence, poison their crops, and torture them. Since he is not being led out of the prison, it is clear that this is going to happen here. That order also gave them the power to set up plans for interrogation in a building that did not even belong to them. If he had not used that pipe, he may have cracked under the pressure of the injustice.
Within minutes, they reach the door. Unlike the sturdy walls of the prison, this door is made of wood. Even as dark as it is, it is clear that the wood is in poor condition. The guard, his hand trembling, reaches for the knob and pulls the door open.
The instant the door opens, a pair of hands emerge from the entrance and snatch Lincoln by his shoulders to pull him in. Before Lincoln can react, another pair of hands pull his hands above his head and tie something around them. Lincoln grunts as the straps are pulled just a little too tight for comfort. Before he can do anything else, the pair of hands on his shoulders withdraws before being felt again on his feet, tying straps there. Lincoln squirms to confirm what has happened. He is now stuck in the center of a cold, empty room of stone. His hands are tied above his head, and he is restrained standing before two British soldiers.
One of the soldiers turns to the other. “Ready, Thomas?” He takes out a whip and hands it to the other. Thomas takes the whip and nods. He then stares straight into Lincoln’s eyes. They shine as if Lincoln is a present that he cannot wait to tear open. Lincoln thinks back to that horrible shooting and recalls the face of the man who fired the first shot – Thomas! He can now picture his hungry eyes and square jaw. Lincoln scrunches his own eyes himself. He will not give Thomas the satisfaction of watching him fold.
Thomas makes his way around to behind Lincoln, while the other soldier remains in front of him. He states, “Lincoln, you are suspected of a conspiracy to overthrow the government. The parliament has given us free rein to arrest and interrogate members to extract information about this conspiracy.”
“What,” Lincoln asks. His question is motivated partially by struggling to process what he’s saying, as the pipe has kept his head in the clouds somewhat despite the circumstances. It is also motivated by the, although he is too proper to use this word, the stupidity of this idea. Presumably, the government felt this way because Lincoln’s party’s ideas were new and different, rather than because of any concrete evidence that they were planning a violent revolution. More likely, because they just were so devoted to the crown that, in their eyes, anything suggesting the crown was bad had to be a terroristic threat.
The first soldier says, “Our first question, where are you stockpiling the weapons?”
Lincoln musters the courage he can. “We have no weapons,” he says.
A sting of pain shoots across his back.
“Where are you stockpiling the weapons? For your planned coup,” the soldier asks again.
“There are no weapons,” Lincoln says. He’s able to keep his voice calm. As he finishes the sentence, he notices that the sting of pain from the whip feels distant. It is comparable to an ache from a bruise received hours ago. But he had just been whipped. Odd, Lincoln thinks. He makes the connection between the pipe and the feelings in his head and the feelings, or lack thereof, on his back. Lincoln almost smiles inside. This pipe had saved him. If there was any chance of him breaking under the stress, it was gone now. But then Lincoln’s mind shifts to another matter – getting out of here. If he did not escape, they would surely try again tomorrow. In all probability, it would require strength to escape that someone past their prime did not possess.
The soldier asks the question again. Lincoln refuses to answer and Thomas strikes him in the back once again. As that happens, Lincoln comes up with an idea. He may not be able to escape himself, but with the journalists outside trying to hear inside to see what is happening, perhaps Lincoln can get them on his side. If he can do that, then he could surely keep the movement alive long after his passing. The new supporters could then get the soldiers to back off, and finally, the compound could be built-in peace.
Lincoln takes a deep breath. He barely flinches from another strike to the back. He begins to speak as loudly as he can without shouting.
“In this time, when tyranny attempts to keep itself in power, I have hope. Hope not only in my comrades who will build the compound but also in those who have not yet joined us. Every worker is enslaved, and such slavery is hopeless until they realize that they are enslaved.”
At this point, Lincoln has received a few more strikes to the back. They still feel faint, but he hears what sounds like paper crumbling, and cannot imagine what his back must feel like now. The soldier in front of him has stopped asking his question, simply letting Thomas hit him periodically. Lincoln looks up to avoid looking upon his face, which has developed an expression of bewilderment. He’s even stepped back a few steps as if he’s the one who is going to get whipped.
“I’m aware these may be my last words, but I have hope that this sacrifice will not be in vain, but will make such workers aware of their slavery and join us outside London to begin constructing not just a new home, but a new future...for all of mankind!” Lincoln exhausts all of his breath as he screams those last 4 words. As he does so, the visualization of his bloodied corpse hanging from where he right now comes into his mind. He’s surely not going to live, and once the drugs wear off, those last few days until the whipping kills him will be painful. The realization of the pain and his upcoming death makes a tear go down his face. But he makes one last vow to himself – he not will die pathetically, on his knees, begging for mercy. He will die defiantly. Perhaps the soldiers, knowing that his words may have been heard by someone outside and spread among the public, will try to bring him out in public to get him to take them back.
Never, Lincoln thinks.
The rest of this torture goes on uneventfully. Even with the pipe’s substance nulling the pain to almost nothing, Lincoln still feels discomfort, although it is more mental than physical. With each strike, not only is there the crack of the whip but a sound of impact, like a fist striking wood. Lincoln’s only comfort is to think of death and what will happen to his followers after his death. It distracts him from just how painful it will be once the pipe’s substance wears off.
Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the first soldier tells Thomas, “Stop. I believe we have fulfilled all the time we have to fulfill.”
No response from Thomas. There’s another crack of a whip, and another faint sting of pain.
“Thomas, that’s enough for today. You don’t have to do more,” the first soldier says.
Thomas says, “We must stop the coup.”
The first soldier says, “If you want to hang around here all night, that’s alright. But you can go home now until tomorrow.”
Thomas does not respond. He hits Lincoln with his whip again. The first soldier shrugs and saunters away. Lincoln sighs as he hears another whip. If the pain he feels tomorrow is what is scaring, what is annoying him is the sound of that whip. Lincoln heard plenty of loud noises during the Civil war, such as panicking arguments among politicians, but hearing a whip right behind you for an unknown length of time is something new to him.
It doesn’t even feel like Lincoln falls asleep. It just feels like everything gradually fades to black. The instant Lincoln is asleep, he slips into a nightmare. He’s running through the burning dwelling again, this time with tears in his eyes. His arms are blindly outstretched. It is just like the last time he had this nightmare, except strangely, even though his hands are outstretched into the flames, he feels the most pain on his back. The fire licks his back with tongues of flame, creating bruises all over. The pain gets more intense until Lincoln can’t help but...
…scream himself awake. The realization of the pain on his back makes his eyes snap open. Lincoln’s first scream of the day was a short-burst scream, but upon noticing just how much it hurts, he lets out an even longer scream. He does not break for breath for a good several seconds. When he finally does, the silence in the darkroom is shattered only by someone in the hall behind him saying “Stop it. We’re still trying to sleep.”
Lincoln was typically a man of manners, but he would lend no consideration to his fellow prisoners when deciding to let out a third scream. Even to him, this one sounds like a tortured animal – long, desperate, and low in pitch. The only reason he stops this one is that he hears the door creak open then slam shut. There is also a yawn, which Lincoln can somehow detect is coming from Thomas.
“Up all night,” another soldier asks. “Trying to get the place out of him?” It was the other one from the day before.
Thomas responds, “I got one hour of sleep.”
Footsteps clomp closer and closer to Lincoln until they are right behind him. “It’s your lucky day,” the first soldier says. There’s the sound of metal against metal, and the cold air hits Lincoln’s wrist. He moves his arm to confirm what he suspects. It is then repeated for the other arm. Lincoln’s heart almost leaps out of his chest. He is free.
Lincoln stumbles to his feet. Having been bent, straightening his legs out feels foreign, but at the same time, pleasant. He takes a tentative step forward, feeling the cold ground against his feet. Never would he think that bare feet against cold stone would feel so good. Slowly, as if it’s the first time he’s done this, Lincoln turns around to face the guards. He sees them, standing behind the contraption that he was previously bound in and a pool of blood at their feet. It stretches from where Lincoln’s back was to the entrance, growing fainter the farther it gets.
“Am...” Lincoln struggles to find strength. “Am I being freed?”
The first soldier says, “We just said that.” Thomas just stares silently. As far as Lincoln is, something in Thomas’s eyes catches his attention. Hatred. From the look Thomas is giving Lincoln, it is as if he does not view Lincoln simply as someone he was ordered to whip, but a man who had done him great personal harm.
Lincoln takes a step around the soldiers. Just from the effort, it required and the small amount of distance it yielded, he can tell that it will take a bit of time before he is outside. As he takes another step then, he asks, “Why am I being freed?”
“See for yourself,” the first soldier says.
Upon hearing that, Lincoln steps forward again, taking a wider step this time. He falls, but scrambles back to his feet and takes another shaky step. Then another, and another. He’s at the door, pulls it open, and is quickly shuffling down the hall without a shirt or shoes on. He’s now going up the stairs into the upper hall. He goes down that one and goes to the reception before befriending a guard at the front. He looks confused at the sight of Lincoln. Another guard walks up to him and says that he’s being freed. The guard nods and unlocks the door behind him and steps aside.
Lincoln swings the door open, and his mouth almost drops at what he sees. A crowd. The crowd does only have his comrades, but of journalists with fountain pens, men in suits, and even clapping children. A gasp erupts from the crowd upon seeing him. It worked, Lincoln thinks. Surely, some of the folks among them would eventually join him in his compound or at least want to contribute in some way. This sort of admiration, which Lincoln did not feel since before the Civil war, intoxicates him. His arms outstretched towards the crowd, he quickly shuffles up to them. They all gasp again as he gets closer, but it’s more of a gasp of horror.
“You’re back,” someone screams as they emerge from the crowd. It’s the doctor who helped Lincoln’s comrade with a shot leg earlier. In his arms, he holds medical supplies such as bandages. Lincoln’s outstretched arms turn to him as the doctor puts his hand upon his shoulder. The doctor nudges him to turn around and Lincoln complies. Just as Lincoln turns around, he catches sight of a distant person in the crowd holding a newspaper. He stops to squint at it for a moment, and makes out the front-page headline: “‘THESE MAY BE MY LAST WORDS.’” He recalls that line from his speech.
Yes, most certainly some of these individuals would want to help Lincoln in his mission.
Lincoln reflects on the cheering crowd as the doctor mends his wounds. Before now, he has never experienced a crowd of this size after that dreadful day in the cellar. It had been a day since Lincoln, his family, and the house of representatives had been moved into the cellar to escape the advancing Confederacy. The night before, they slept huddled together along the walls. Lincoln had slept with his wife in one of his arms and Tad Lincoln in the other.
The day after, all the remaining members of the house of representatives, plus Lincoln, were sitting in the center of the cellar, reviewing the newspapers that the union soldiers had gotten from the outside world. The headline of one newspaper read, “CONFEDERATES TAKE WHITE HOUSE AND CAPITOL BUILDING.” It was subtitled, “Robert E Lee Calling for Union Surrender.”
One of the representatives was reading over a particular line from the newspaper article, while several other members watched his finger follow along with that line. Lincoln was seated just outside of the gathered circle of the house of representatives, watching them silently. The silence in the room was finally broken when one of the representatives read the line out loud. “Robert E Lee has been quoted as saying in a public address to his fellow soldiers, ‘In its current state, there would be more pain brought upon both sides should Lincoln persist in his war. The wisest choice for him to make is surrender.’” After reading the line, all the house members looked at each other.
“What do you think,” one member said nervously. He slowly turned his head to face Lincoln, and all the other members did so as well.
“I hold the executive branch,” Lincoln said, his voice as even as he can muster. “I do not hold the legislative branch.”
Another member speaks up. “We know, but we ought to hear the president’s words before we vote.”
“What is your opinion,” another adds on. “Should we persist, or should we surrender?”
Lincoln nodded and went into his mind, weighing both choices evenly. He tried to ignore the stares from all of the house members and searched his brain for the best solution. If he surrendered now, the slaves would not be free, perhaps not ever. And yet, if the fighting continued at this point, it would surely ravage the United States of America. Not to mention that with no building to operate the government from, it was unclear what options would be available to them at this point for further fighting.
Lincoln’s arms tremble from the effort of the soil. It’s the last load, Lincoln thinks. They had spent all day since Lincoln returned trying to dig out the poisoned soil. Now that those soldiers were nowhere in sight, they merely had to replace them so that there would only be healthy soil for them to grow their crops. Still, it took them all day. Would take longer if it was not for all the people who decided to join them, including that doctor. When Lincoln asked if he could help with removing the bad soil, the doctor said it was OK as long as he took it easy. He was lucky the whip damaged only his skin and not his bones or spine.
The other people who joined Lincoln were of quite a variety. Most of them were rugged working-class folks, many of them with families. But there were others too. A few men with until-now-closeted sympathies for his ideology. A handful of wealthy businessmen seemed to feel guilty for the lives of the lower classes. A lot of people who worked for charities. Each of them seemed eager to come to the compound and help build it and begin new lives. No doubt, the oppression they’ve experienced resonated with many across London.
Lincoln sets down the final clump of dirt. Paul says, “Alright, that’s the last one. Good work, boys.” Lincoln makes a sigh of relief as he feels the tension in his arms recede. He looks at the night sky. At the end of the day, all of the comrades would recede into their tents to tuck their kids into bed before sleeping themselves. The comrades who did not have kids or wives would simply chat amongst themselves before falling asleep.
Not Lincoln, though. He looks for someone. After much asking around, he finds the man he’s looking for sitting by himself on one of the edges of the tent hill, looking up at the night sky. In his hand is a pipe, just like the one he gave to Lincoln while he was in prison. Lincoln's feet tremble as he approaches. Is this a good idea? Before he can rationalize doing or not doing it, an ache in his heart reminds him of the feeling, so he taps the man looking at the sky. He turns around. “Yes,” he asks.
Lincoln hesitates for a moment before saying, “I would like you to demonstrate how I can create the substance in the pipe. The one that you gave me.”
The man seems a little taken aback. After thinking for a moment, the man says, “OK. But use it carefully. Don’t take too much too quickly.”
“Why not,” Lincoln asks.
“I don’t want to see you go crazy,” the man says.
“Very well,” Lincoln says. “Now please show me.”
Lincoln stands in front of the entrance to the compound, a line of admiring workers standing before him. Tight smiles are on all of their faces.
Finishing his speech, Lincoln says, “And now we have accomplished a great deal. We have created a shining beacon of hope. A place we can live peacefully and equally.” The crowd cheers and Lincoln steps aside to merge back into the crowd. From the crowd emerges Paul, looking weary as ever thanks to all the dust on his cheeks. Despite that, there’s a shimmer of happiness in his eyes, even when his mouth remains stuck as a straight line showing neither good nor bad emotions.
Paul says, “There’s almost nothing I want to say that Abraham didn’t already say. I’ll just that I’m glad we showed those capitalists who’s the boss.” He immediately steps aside to join the crowd, and there’s clapping, but not the cheers that Lincoln experienced.
As the clapping dies down, something catches Lincoln’s eyes. He turns behind him to see...soldiers again. Lincoln’s pulse rises for a moment. What could they want this time? To poison the crops again or burn down all the buildings they built? What would it take to make them stay away for good? He creeps toward them and notices once he’s some yards away from them that one of them is Thomas. He recognizes Lincoln as well and stares at him with the same hatred he showed in his eyes back in Newgate Prison. Rather than getting any closer, Lincoln calls out, “What is it that you are looking for?” He’s trying hard to keep any venom out of his voice, but his effort isn’t completely successful.
Thomas says, “We are watching you ensure you do not stage a coup against the crown.” He says it flatly as if this is completely ordinary and reasonable.
A soldier next to Thomas says condescendingly, “Maybe they wouldn’t be so popular if you didn’t shoot them.” The few other accompanying soldiers nod in agreement.
Thomas says, “They were getting violent in their demands, which were to release a criminal who attempted to cause a riot.”
As the soldiers continue to argue, Lincoln makes his way back inside the compound, where all the other workers are now gathered for the night. They are gathered around the farm in the center and dancing, waving their hands above their heads in a jubilant fashion. Suddenly, a loud gunshot rings out, which causes Lincoln to flinch before bending his legs in preparation to run. He then notices that nobody else seems startled. A voice from the direction the gunshot was in says, “You missed! No points!” Lincoln breathes a sigh of relief and makes his way back to his dorm, which is identical to all the others.
On his way back, Paul taps on his shoulder to get his attention. Lincoln turns to face him. “Yes,” Lincoln asks.
Paul's mouth is slightly gaping. “T... thank you,” he says. Lincoln nods and is about to continue back to his dorm, but Paul continues. “If... if only...” Paul's eyes start to water up. He withdraws his hand and looks around as if admiring the scenery. “If only my pride and joy were here to see this.” Lincoln nods again, frowning solemnly. He does not speak. After a beat, Paul goes on. “I always wanted a son. I wanted something better than the cussed tenement I and my wife lived in, but how... how could you not have a stillbirth when you can barely buy food for your wife?” Anger seeps into Paul’s words. The sheer amount of venom in them tells Lincoln that this anger has been bottled up for a long time. Paul finishes. “We tried twice before, and now I can’t even see my wife because of that stupid act those stupid politicians passed!”
Lincoln nods once again. “I’m truly sorry.”
Paul shakes his head. “Don’t be. We made some plans before I left. She’ll be... not worse.” At this point, tears have started to run down Paul’s face and he looks away from Lincoln. Taking the cue, Lincoln walks away. Perhaps once more revolutions are sparked by this compound, Paul’s wife could see something better.
Lincoln enters a new building on top of one of the hills. It is a small rectangle of a building, merely two stories high, and made of wood. It is lined up next to several other identical buildings on the hill. There is a window on each side for each story. Lincoln enters the building to come into a hall. The inside is padded with smooth stone so that candles can be lit without setting the place on fire. Against a window opposite the entrance, a candle flickers, illuminating long shadows across the stone. Lincoln goes left to enter through a wooden door with a black “2” painted on it.
Upon entering his room, he slumps onto the sleeping bag. They were planning to replace it with a mattress by selling surplus crops and using the proceeds to purchase farm animals, including sheep, which would be used to create the wool for the mattress. Upon slumping down, Lincoln stares at the ceiling for a moment before taking place of his room. Beyond the sleeping bag, there is little else besides a candle attached to the stone wall opposite his sleeping bag and a crate at the foot of the sleeping bag. Every room had a crate assigned so that they could hold any personal possessions. In Lincoln’s, there were merely writing utensils such as a fountain pen and paper, and a few crumpled-up suits. He wasn’t a fan of wrinkling them like that, but cleanliness was an ideal he opted to suspend until other matters were addressed.
Lincoln gets back to his feet, only to then fall to his knees and put his hands together. Though he does not say any words, in his mind, he praises God. He thanks God for compelling him to help these people, to deliver them from harm, and he thanks God for giving him the means to do so. Lincoln thinks, dear God if you desired to deliver the huddled masses of London from harm yourself, you could have done so. But in your infinite wisdom, you decided instead to leave it to us as a challenge to overcome.
Once he is done praying, he reaches into the crates and feels around for a paper and pencil. He composes a letter.
My dear friend, M. Bakunin,
It is clear that our last correspondence was long ago and ended negatively. I hope you find in your heart to forgive me for what you saw as hypocrisy on my party. In the meantime, I believe you could consider recognizing the work I’ve done of late. We’ve built a large compound to live out and exemplify the ideas you set forward. We shared resources communally and decide democratically how to manage our economy. You will likely smile upon learning that we are quite happy, enjoying regular meals and work that, while difficult, is not excessively burdensome.
I pray you to come to accept me as a friend again, and that you one day in the future come to visit us.
Lincoln carefully places the note next to his crate, planning to mail it tomorrow. He slides one of its corners underneath the crate for safekeeping. As he moves the crate, there’s a clatter inside of it from metal hitting wood. Presumably, it’s coming from the pipes at the bottom of his crate. Lincoln lies back, and closes his eyes, drifting into a dreamless sleep.
Before he can go into his sleep, he reflects on the last time he was surrounded by a crowd this big. A few days after they were in the cellar, Lincoln was consulted by the remainder of the house on if the war should continue. The Confederacy had taken the Capitol Building and the White House and were openly calling for surrender. Weighing the options against each other, Lincoln slowly realized that this war was unwinnable. Their two most important buildings had been taken, the Union was about to be pushed completely out of the District of Columbia, and heavy losses were being suffered on the Union’s side.
Therefore, Lincoln had recommended surrender, and the house unanimously voted on the matter. It took a few days for the message to be delivered by a fellow Union soldier, but before Lincoln knew it, the day had come. He was walking down the road in front of the White House. To his side opposite the White House, there was a crowd of weary union soldiers, not to mention citizens of DC, who watched the procession with solemn looks on their faces. Several of them wielded tattered USA flags. On the other side stood the Confederate soldiers, one of whom held a bright red Confederate flag, shining in the morning sun. They were accompanied by a group of singers who joyously sang “Dixie Land.”
But Lincoln’s eyes were mainly focused on the man in front of him – Jefferson Davis. He was looking straight back at Lincoln, dressed in a charcoal suit that was almost as shiny as the confederate flag. Jefferson was dressed for the occasion. The ceremony Lincoln was at had to be delayed a few days on top of the time it took to deliver the message of surrender for Jefferson to make his way to DC. Lincoln crept up to the man and shook his hand, cringing at the cold feeling of the hands of Davis.
Once the choir had ended, they began to negotiate the surrender. First, there was the immediate agreement that the White House, the Capitol Building, and any other occupied property within the land still in the union would be given back once the surrender was signed. There were also matters related to trading and citizenship. It was agreed that trade, in general, would be preserved between the USA and the new Confederate nation. Both Davis and Lincoln also agreed that any individual with full citizenship within either nation would be eligible for citizenship within the other nation.
Once the agreement was done, one of the confederates handed Davis a paper and fountain pen. The paper contained the terms of surrender. As Lincoln signed at the bottom, he glanced at the crowd of union soldiers and DC citizens. He could see the fury in many of their eyes even when just viewing them through his periphery vision.
Lincoln wondered if he had even one friend among this crowd, who no doubt knew what sort of president he would go down in American history as.
Lincoln lies on his new bed, reading a work of political fiction. Even though he has recovered from the whips in the past few weeks, his back has gotten worse from age. He wanted to help out on the farm with growing the crops or attending to the new animals, such as the sheered sheep that helped make his bed. When he asked his doctor at the compound about his poor back, he apologized profusely that at his age, there was little that could be done. He assured him that had brought them to this wonderful place, he was allowed to rest. As a result, Lincoln, in his poor health, had spent much of his time in his room reading. If his body was to decay, he vowed, at least his mind would stay sharp.
He is engrossed in the book when a knocking at his door breaks his concentration. Lincoln says, “Come in.” He has long since stopped locking his door because there is little to steal from him, and with his back, like it is, he has no desire to get up and go to the door each time he has visitors. The door opens and a boy steps in. Lincoln has seen that kid around – he's one of the workers’ sons. He’s wide-eyed and always seems to be focused on something. Today, his wide eyes are fixated on Lincoln.
“Sir, I just wanted to tell you something. The soldiers are coming back,” the boy says.
Lincoln’s fists instinctually clench up for a moment before he lets go of his anger. After a deep breath, he asks “What is their motive?” He wants to says “What do they want THIS time,” but he would rather not lose his manners.
The boy shrugs. “They just said they wanted to investigate. Make sure this place isn't dangerous.”
Lincoln asks, “Why are they doing this now rather than earlier?”
The boy says, “I’m not sure. May I offer my idea?”
“Sure,” Lincoln says.
The boy says, “I believe they were just waiting until we let our guard down. And until the public forgot about when they...” he trails off and Lincoln flinches upon remembering his last time in Newgate Prison. The boy then says goodbye and leaves, closing the door behind him.
Lincoln tries to focus back on his book, but his mind is racing. The harder he tries to focus on the text before him, the more he can see the emotionless face Thomas. He does not want to see that man walking through his compound, rifle in hand, with several other soldiers beside him. What were they even planning to do? An investigation would certainly accomplish nothing, so perhaps this was merely a first step used as an excuse to get entry. Are they planning another beating for Lincoln? A mass arrest of everybody in the compound? A massacre? That last possibility in particular shakes Lincoln to his core. Even if it wasn’t allowed under normal circumstances, with parliament having given the soldiers the right to do whatever they wanted to them, Lincoln had to wonder – how far did that extra power over them go?
What scared Lincoln most was the possibility that the British soldiers could find a way to destroy his compound. That they could dismantle this project, and take away something Lincoln and many others had dedicated months to. Without this compound, Lincoln did not doubt that he would once again be nothing. A scarred man jumping from job to job, mourning the good old days of power that he once had but then lost. It was not the lack of power that Lincoln felt fear towards, but the lack of purpose. Without this project, he was useless, nondescript, and had nothing to live for.
Lincoln glances out of his window and notices that the sun is going down. He puts his book beside his pillow and lies down. He had developed this habit after his back pain had first confined him to bed because having the book beside him eliminated the need to go over to his crate. He could do it, but he loved to have the book right beside him so he could resume his studies in the morning.
Sleep did not give Lincoln any peace. Not too long after Lincoln closed his eyes, he finds himself in the same nightmare he always seems to have, only this time, it is so vivid that Lincoln cannot help but believe it is real. It starts differently this time too. He is dressed in a clean, but second-hand suit, his eyes locked ahead. He reflects on a long day at his job and all the various papers that he had to sort through and sign. Just another day in the life of a small-town lawyer from Illinois.
Then, he smelled something. At first, he cannot identify the scent, only that it makes his nose dry. But as he continues his walk, it becomes clear what it is – smoke. Lincoln squints his eyes to make out what is over the horizon and sees something odd. The place where he lives is surrounded by orange. As he gets closer, he now knows what it is. His house is up in flames. In a second, his heart races and he dashes towards the burning building, tears building up in his eyes as he does so. As he gets closer, the scream gets louder and louder. The scream comes from a boy and is a mix of agony and terror. After what is probably a few seconds but seems to be an eternity, he’s in front of the house, pacing around to the other side to find the door. Once he’s in front of the door, he reaches for the handle when...
Lincoln snaps his eyes open and awakens with a scream. Not a short one resembling a gasp, but a long, drawn-out scream like the kind he made back in Newgate Prison the day after getting whipped. Acting on instinct, he leaps out of bed, ignoring the pain in his back, and puts one foot in front of the other, until he’s abruptly pushed back by a pain in his head. He stops and gets his bearings, seeing what he has just done. He’s slammed his head into a wall. Someone in another room says, “I’m trying to sleep!” Lincoln mutters an apology as he rubs his forehead with his palm. The pain isn’t that bad, but the butterflies in his stomach are what’s bothering him. It takes him a few moments before he recalls the cause of them.
He knows thinking about it right now isn’t going to help him – he can tackle this problem in the morning – and it will just impede his ability to sleep. He tries to fix his mind on something else. Lincoln remembers the character in the book he was reading before bed. The character was Pollock the Potter. He tries to amuse himself by remembering all of his funny jokes, from his name to the bizarre reasonings he gave for price gouging his pots. But the more he tries to visualize Pollock, the more he can do nothing but think of Thomas.
As Lincoln settles back onto his bed and reaches for his book, he knows that he will not fall asleep. He will stay up, be extremely tired in the morning, and have to make up the sleep the following night. Unless...
Without any further deliberation, Lincoln gets back up again and digs around his books and his suit and his pens and paper to find the pipe. Once he feels the metal, he pulls it out and examines it briefly before shoving it into his mouth and inhaling deeply. Peace overtakes him, as the substance in the pipe flows through his veins. While it doesn’t take his mind off Thomas, he suddenly now doesn’t feel that frightening. Lincoln’s fear dissolves like salt in water. A smile overtakes his face and the pillow comes up to meet his face. The combination of his fatigue and the euphoria from the drugs ensures that he does not even need to close his eyes before falling asleep. The instant his face hits the pillow, he’s unconscious.
The next instant that Lincoln’s consciousness is having his eyes open to Paul in his face. “Yes,” Lincoln asks.
“Just wanted to bring you a bit of lunch,” Paul says. “I put it beside your bed.” At this point, Lincoln notices the distinct smell of potato and turns to see on the other side of his pillow is a fresh potato.
“Thank you,” Lincoln says, leaning up as he does so.
Paul smiles. “I know the doctor told you to retire, but we miss having you outside. You give us hope.”
Lincoln smiles in return. “Thank you.” He’s not sure what else to say at first, but then he picks up on Paul’s enthusiasm. Most of the time, he has a stoic expression on his face, so seeing the happiness on it seems a little odd to Lincoln. “You appear jovial,” Lincoln says.
Paul says, “I just learned that Wales is building their place. Just like this one.”
“Really,” Lincoln asks.
“It’s true!” Paul’s shaking with joy now. “Perhaps my wife can live there.”
Lincoln is now beaming with happiness himself. “Wonderful! I must ask, how do you learn of this? Yesterday, a boy came by to tell me of other news, but I’m unsure where you people learn of it.”
“Oh,” Paul says. “We use a bit of the crop sales money to buy newspaper for anyone who wants one.”
They then proceed to make a little bit of small talk, after which Paul leaves, saying he is soon to get back to work. Before shutting the door behind him, he tells Lincoln to enjoy the food. Now alone with himself, Lincoln turns to the potato. He squints at it. Strange, very strange, he thinks. But then he snaps out of it. Why did I call it strange, he wonders. Still, a feeling that it is alien invades his mind. He slowly reaches his hand over to it and grabs it. Turning it over, he looks for the source of his concern. But after scanning over it, he realizes it is not the potato, it’s Paul. Why would he give him a potato? Sure, he said he loved Lincoln for what he had done, but people could say the sun is blue and that is not true.
Finally, Lincoln snaps out of his stupor once again. What is going on? Then he remembers – the pipe. He feels around the bed to find it under his pillow. He leans up to open his window and is about to throw it out, but pauses when his hand is behind his head, ready to realize the pipe into the outside. What would happen if he quit? How could he cope with the stress any other way? No doubt, he would need to remember what the man who gave him the pipe taught him to make more soon because he was going to be out of the pipe’s substance soon enough. Lincoln reflects on his dilemma. On the one hand, he was warned of side effects, but on the other hand, his nightmares had devastated him so much that he was not sure he would remain sane even if he never took the pipe again.
Lincoln recalls that his nightmares came back only when he learned that Thomas would be investigating. Using this information, he makes a choice. He will continue to use the pipe until the investigation is over. Once the guards cease, he will then focus on finding another way to mend his nightmares. But until then, he needed to this to cope with the challenges ahead. With his choice made, he turns his attention back to the potato and begins to eat. Lincoln pays no attention to the quiet voice in his head telling him he can’t just accept anything from Paul. That’s just the voice of the drugs. He probably took a dose of a larger quantity than he did last time.
With that out of the way, it is now time to focus on plans. Lincoln shall get out of bed to go to where the general meeting is taking place. There was a building on one of the hills that were mostly empty, except for a bunch of chairs and a large bell at the entrance. At any time, anyone could ring the bell to summon anyone who wanted to participate to discuss any matter that the bell-ringer thought was of importance. Currently, there wasn’t any discipline system for anyone who may abuse it for trivial matters, or for any violation for that matter, but in this peaceful, little community, no such measures are needed.
Lincoln gets out of bed and gets dressed in his wrinkled suit. He shuffles out of his building, down the hill of the dorms, past the garden, and up another hill to the building with a bell outside. He gives it a good push, causing a ring to sound out across the compound. The workers who are focused on farming remain engaged, but some of those that do not currently have something to do make their way to the building. Lincoln steps aside to let them inside.
After all the people who wanted to participate have come inside and taken seats, Lincoln begins to speak. “I was informed yesterday of an upcoming investigation by the British soldiers into our compound.” People groan at the mention of the soldiers, and a few mutter obscenities under their breaths. “Although I imagine that an investigation on its own will fail to defeat us, there is a risk they may be planning something worse. An act of violence.”
As Lincoln says that last word, everyone’s expressions grow solemn. Their eyes are locked upon Lincoln as he stands at the end of the room. After letting the news sink in, Lincoln says, “To address these concerns, I propose a solution. Am I correct when I assume we have many dorms that remain unoccupied?” One of the workers in the meeting says yes. Lincoln continues, “My solution is that we dedicate one of these unoccupied dorms to the production of firearms. Does anyone have any dissenting ideas or thoughts?”
One worker raises his hand. “Why could we not just purchase them?”
Lincoln says, “If we begin purchasing the weapons directly, it will be too suspicious. If we purchase steel and then refine it into firearms and ammunition, then the only fact that will be known is that we have steel, which can be used for a variety of purposes.”
Another worker raises his hand. “How will this stop them? We can’t fight the whole army.”
“True,” Lincoln says. “Nevertheless, once we create the defense, the prospective of us using firearms will act as a deterrent. If there are no further dissensions, let us choose a building to use and spread the word among our comrades.”
After this, the workers all walk out, except for one man in one of the chairs. Once all the other workers have left, Lincoln notices this man. He stares at Lincoln with a shocked expression. “Yes,” Lincoln asks.
“I... I have a question,” the worker says.
“I’m listening,” Lincoln says.
“Aren’t we an anarchist commune,” the worker asks.
Lincoln does not answer. Instead, he leaves.
It took a considerable amount of time before the soldiers followed up on their promise to investigate the compound, but the day had come. At least this time, they had the courtesy of announcing a day in advance when they were coming, perhaps to avoid more negative press coverage. Lincoln stands outside the gate as the soldiers approach. “Good afternoon,” Lincoln says. “On account of my poor back, this will have to be a brief tour. That will not anger you, will it?”
“No that will be fine,” says one of the soldiers, even though Thomas seems a little miffed by the news. “By the way, nice sunglasses,” he adds cheerfully as he points at Lincoln.
They are led in between two hills to come to the center, where the garden is. Lincoln points at it. “This is where our crops are grown.” The soldiers observe the brown dirt, from which crops that hold shiny fruits and bright green vegetables emerge. Workers gather around the gardens, be it to till the soil or carry produce up to one of the hills to nearby storage. Lincoln stands still for a moment, letting them admire the garden and the workers who tend to it. There are also a few men wielding guns standing at each corner of the guard. They watch the soldiers with hatred in their eyes. The soldiers’ gazes turn from the garden to those guards, and for a moment, they observe each other.
Before the situation can get particularly tense, Lincoln says, “Now that you’ve seen where we grow our food, let us see where we sleep.” He leads the soldiers up one of the hills to the rows of identical wooden buildings. As they walk up the hill, Thomas says, “So you do have weapons.”
Lincoln says, “Only very recently. We’ve recently undertaken to manufacture of them.” Now that the weapons have been distributed, Lincoln feels comfortable sharing this information, because now that they are both armed, what are the soldiers going to do about it? Lincoln saying this has the desired effect on Thomas. He grits his teeth for a few seconds before recomposing his face back into its usual stoic expression. They come up the hill and look at the buildings for a moment. At one point during their admiration, Lincoln’s glasses are flung off by the wind, and he chases after them, covering his face from the view of the guards with one hand as he does so. Within a few seconds, he has grabbed them and put them back on.
After that, Lincoln faces the guards again. “Are there any other areas you want to explore?” He then takes them to the food storage, where all the fruits and vegetables are stored. The soldiers admire the large quantities of food they have on display. He takes them to his place, showing off his book collection of political essays and fiction he has already accumulated in his short time in the compound thanks to gifts from his comrades. After one soldier asks about the guns, Lincoln even takes them to the building where they produce the guns and bullets.
The soldiers look at the handful of workers who stand in pairs, each doing a task. One of them pours molten lead into a crooked cast. Once it is dry, the worker then hands it off to their partner, who polishes it. There is also one row of workers dedicates exclusively to making guns. Each one creates then puts on a piece until at the end of the line is a finished gun, which the last person at the line loads to test. Many soldiers gasp at the efficiency of this assembly line. One soldier even asks the worker at the end of the assembly line to hold one of the finished guns. That worker reluctantly agrees. Upon being given it and looking over it, the soldier says, “What a fine gun,” before handing it back to the worker.
Soon, the soldiers and Lincoln are both back at the entrance. The soldiers are speaking with each other and laughing at each other’s jokes. Except for Thomas, who stares at Lincoln. Lincoln says, “I believe this concludes our tour. I believe this will satisfy your suspicions.”
“Of course,” one of the soldiers says. “Doesn’t seem too bad, right Thomas?”
Thomas grunts. He’s not amused. As Lincoln stands in front of the soldiers and waves goodbye, they all turn around and leave, with Thomas eventually joining them. Once they have disappeared over the horizon, Lincoln decides to go back to his dorm and continue reading the book he was trying to finish. He tries to avoid eye contact with waving workers as he goes back there. Once he finds his dorm and walks inside, he takes off his sunglasses and looks at his eyes in the reflection of his window. Though window reflections don’t display color, Lincoln knows thanks to comments from a few workers who got physically close enough to notice his eyes were changing color. More specifically, the whites of his eyes are turning a deep shade of red. It started with comments about “pink eyes,” then evolved into jokes about “brick eyes.” Fortunately, Lincoln convinced those few workers to not tell anybody, but right before the tour, he accessed a small amount of the communal funds to go down to London and purchase sunglasses.
As Lincoln looks at his reflection, a surge of panic breaks him out of his thoughts. He flips his head to the door, but there’s nothing there. Why did he turn his head to the door? Was there a rational reason? No, it’s just that cussed pipe. When he found out that the soldiers were taking longer than expected to show up, Lincoln tried to quit the pipe by throwing it out the window, but that night, he had such a bad nightmare that he woke up and ran outside, combing the ground with his fingers until he felt the pipe. Fortunately, he did not make much noise and nobody was outside at that hour to notice.
Lincoln shakes his head and decides to go for a walk. He gets his sunglasses on and goes outside. He stands atop the hill where the dorms are and surveys the thriving community he and his comrades had created. A sense of peace returns to him as he reminds himself that this is his home now, and vows that he will not let anyone take this peaceful place from him. This boat of freedom is a sea of slavery. Lincoln puts his hands together and closes his eyes in preparation to utter a prayer.
But before he can do that, someone says, “Lincoln, we need your help.” Lincoln snaps his eyes open to see one of the guards in front of him.
“What is going on,” Lincoln asks.
The guard opens the barrel of his gun and takes out one of the bullets, which he drops into Lincoln’s hands. The guard says, “The bullets don’t fire.”
“Why,” Lincoln asks.
“The cast was bent,” the guard explains “One of our guys fixed it, but it’s going to take a few days to replace all those bullets.”
Lincoln asks, “How many bullets were affected?”
The guard responds, “Most of them since we only started making them recently.” That was true. Until they were able to successfully make the guns, they did not produce any bullets. In an unoccupied corner of the compound, there was a pile of many failed gun prototypes, as it took a considerable amount of time to create a blueprint for a gun that was not either so wide it could not be held or so narrow that no bullet could fit inside it.
Lincoln sighs. He breathes to calm himself down and says, “I suppose it does not matter very much. Those soldiers were successfully deterred from...”
A worker walks onto the hill and interrupts Lincoln. “I read in the paper that they may be coming back tomorrow.”
“What,” Lincoln says. Worry surges through him. They will be unarmed. Sure, they could carry around the guns and that may scare the guards, but if they somehow figure how that they have no bullets, that leverage will vanish. They will be as good as dead. Lincoln resolves, he must fix this. Without further thought, he dashes to the conference room with the bell at the entrance, using one hand to keep his sunglasses in place as he does so. He reaches for the bell and rings it as hard as he can, prompting most of the workers to pause their work. “Hurry up, hurry up,” says Lincoln, which causes them to arrive faster. Lincoln enters the building and at the far end of the room opposite the entrance, watches as the workers and guards scramble in and find a seat. Soon, the place is so filled that only the areas around Lincoln and the entrance remain open. All chairs are filled, forcing many to stand.
“This is an urgent meeting,” Lincoln says. “We may have won this battle today, but very shortly, those soldiers to return. Furthermore, we have lost all our ammunition, and it will take the time we do not have to replace it.” The workers all glance at each other at this bad news.
“Because of this,” Lincoln says, “All able-bodied individuals will work day and night.” Lincoln raises a fist above his head. “We will be fully armed by tomorrow. Those soldiers did not dare threaten use today and they will not dare threaten us when they return!” Many of the other workers raise a fist in celebration, and they cheer. The energy Lincoln projects onto his audience reflects onto him. “Comrades, let us get out of this room and begin this project.” Like a stampede of zebras, the workers leap from their chairs and dash out of the room. Lincoln dashes after them, but as soon as he’s outside, pain shoots up from his back, and he falls face-first into the grass. A hand reaches down and Lincoln grabs for it. The hand helps him up. It belongs to his doctor. “You’re in poor health. I would recommend you do not...” As soon as Lincoln is up on his feet, he runs again to the bullet building to begin to help, leaving his doctor in the dust.
The workers sing as they pour molten lead into the new cast and then pull out the bullets to be polished. Lincoln sings along with them as he polishes his assembly line’s batch of bullets. It’s been afternoon since they’re working, and now the sun is coming up for the next day. With almost all of the workers, except for a handful, focusing on the bullets over the farm, they had to find a few more spare dorm rooms to dedicate exclusively to the production of the ammunition. Several guards with guns stand next to them, testing out random bullets from each batch on the grass outside. To their relief, they all shoot quite well, gradually creating a deep hole outside each factory from where the guards have been testing the bullets.
“Lincoln,” says one of the few workers still focusing on the farm. He dashes into the bullet factory. “Lincoln,” he says a bit louder. Lincoln turns his attention from the bullet he’s polishing to the worker. “They’re here.”
Lincoln sets down his bullet and marches outside. He passes by the garden and the handful of people still working there, including some guards who now are armed with working bullets. The guards glare at the handful of farmers, occasionally telling them to work harder in gruff voices. In no time at all, Lincoln is at the entrance. He yawns as he looks at the soldiers. There seem to be fewer than last time. “Good morning,” he says. “It appears you are back for a second tour.” Except for Thomas, all of the guards have bored looks on their faces.
“Yes,” one of the soldiers says.
Lincoln leads them on a tour of the same places he did last time. He shows them the bullet factory, the dorms, the storage area, and the garden. It is so quick that within half an hour, they are standing back in front of the garden, with most of the soldiers being anxious to leave. Except for Thomas, of course. Lincoln has to wonder about that man. What was it that made Thomas so dedicated to Lincoln’s destruction?
Trying to contain his annoyance and fatigue, Lincoln says, “I believe that concludes our tour once again.” The soldiers immediately turn around and begin walking out, even Thomas. Lincoln stands there as he leaves, and catches a few words of conversation.
One soldier asks Thomas, “Why do you care so much about this place?”
Thomas says, “Because of my...” Lincoln cannot hear any more of the conversation, as they all exit and disappear over the horizon. With all this done, Lincoln resolves to go to bed. He had been working all night and his doctor advised it anyway. Better to listen to his doctor later than never, Lincoln thinks. He makes his way back to his bed. Before flopping onto his bed, he takes a hit of his pipe. He can never forget to do that, for the nightmares will surely plague him if he does not. Once Lincoln is sure he has gotten enough of the pipe’s substance into his system, he then falls into a dreamless sleep, not even bothering to take his sunglasses off first.
Lincoln’s eyes snap open sometime later, and he rushes outside. He knows where he needs to go and why. Without any deliberation, he runs faster than he knows he can, falling face-first into the grass a few times on his way to the conference room. The sky indicates that it is morning the next day, so only a few workers are out. Lincoln yanks the bell and within a few minutes, he is in the room once again, facing seated workers and guards who are ready to listen. Most of them appear fatigued, but hopefully, they have recovered from having to work all day and night yesterday and this is merely morning fatigue.
“Comrades, comrades,” Lincoln says, pacing the room with long steps. “Those soldiers, those soldiers are not going-going-going to stop with just one more visit. They’re going to keep coming-coming-coming until we are gone. Gone from the face of the earth. Vanished!” The workers become nervous as they witness this panic in Lincoln. “Because of this, I have decided that we must take more measures. Lockdown!” Lincoln stops pacing and starts flapping his arms around as he continues his speech. “Nobody enters. Nobody leaves. We all stay. Stay put until...” His speech trails off. He freezes, his arms still above his head. The workers glance at each other as Lincoln becomes catatonic. After a moment, he then starts moving again, going back to flapping his arms. “What are you waiting for? Guards! Secure the border.” The guards dash out, and the workers walk out as well to get on with their days. Except one. Paul.
Lincoln notices him as the rest leave. “Yes,” Lincoln asks.
Paul timidly rises from his chair. “Lincoln,” he asks. They stare at each other as if the other person were a different species. They try to analyze each other’s faces. In Paul’s face, Lincoln sees nervousness and confusion.
Lincoln says, “I’ve never lied to you. I’ve never hurt you. I’ve never...”
“I know that,” Paul says. “I just think we need to...to...”
“Go on,” says Lincoln. “I’m listening.”
“We just, maybe you need a rest,” Paul says.
Lincoln says nothing. He walks out of the conference room.
Dear friend Lincoln,
I smiled upon reading your letter from last month. It appears that you have created a community that will embody the ideals I have dreamt of my whole life. Glory to anarchism! Although my political activities keep me very busy, I have at last arranged to set aside some time to travel to London to visit the glorious new settlement. I have brought a translation book with me so I can communicate and understand basic phrases despite the language barrier. You have done well, my friend. How wrong I was to view you as a hypocrite.
Lincoln sits in his room, reading the letter from Bakunin. If only Bakunin knew of recent developments. It was difficult to get his hand on this letter because he had to strategically choose a guard to go and retrieve from the outside world who would not defect. Lincoln could not afford one defection. Once they began, it would establish a precedent that would cause the whole house of cards he had built to come crumbling down, leaving him with no purpose. He could not allow that.
Lincoln steps out of his house. Though the warm air calms him a bit, it is eclipsed by a voice of a guard telling someone, “Get along now. These crops aren’t going to grow themselves.”
Disliking the noise of the guards shouting and people grunting, Lincoln makes his way to the edge of the compound. There are no walls around the compound, but Lincoln has contemplated changing that once they fend off the soldiers. For now, the surrounding hills and the guards should prove sufficient protection enough. As Lincoln walks down one hill to make his way to another, he is stopped by an armed guard. He asks what Lincoln is doing, he says he’s merely going for a walk, and the guard accepts his explanation. If it were anybody but Lincoln, or maybe Paul, he probably would not have. Instead, he would have nudged the person with his gun back to wherever he was previously working.
Lincoln now stands on one of the hills. It’s the smallest hill, and on it sits only the storage where all surplus food and resources are kept, leaving the rest of the land uninhabited. As Lincoln stands on the hill, overlooking the world outside his compound, he reflects on how he missed his birthday. It was last month, but he was preoccupied with nightmares and anxieties of the soldiers to care. Lincoln shakes his head at his forgetfulness, holding his sunglasses in place as he does so.
What saddened him was reflecting on how his birthday was a month ago, which led him to think of Tad. His birthday would have been next month. Lincoln’s red eyes begin to water a bit behind the lenses. He chokes back the tears, reminding himself that what happened to Tad was several years. He tells himself it is best not to dwell on it, but the more he tries to get his mind onto something else, such as Pollock the Potter, the more clearly he can see his son’s face. The more clearly he can remember that when he was young, he squiggled so much that everyone called that boy a tadpole.
Lincoln is broken out of his thoughts when he notices something in the distance – a figure. It appeared over the horizon for a moment, but by the time Lincoln went to look at it, it disappeared over the horizon. Lincoln shakes his head again – just a traveler hopefully. Then why does that figure give Lincoln a scare? Lincoln cannot help but keep his eyes fixated on that one point where the figure appeared. He squints, trying to make out it again in case it’s still there. No, Lincoln thinks. It cannot be. They’re sending an army now. They’re going to raid the compound and slaughter everybody.
Lincoln dashes from his spot on the hill into the compound. Once he’s at the garden, he taps the shoulder of one of the guards, saying “Listen to my orders.” The guard flips his head towards Lincoln and nods immediately. Lincoln continues, “An invasion is coming. You are to tell all the other guards to distribute weapons to everybody in this compound. Now!”
“Yes, sir,” the guard says. He dashes towards a guard on the other side of the garden and repeats the instruction. The guards who are informed dash for the storage, screaming at other workers to follow them. They shuffle behind the guards with confused expressions on their faces. Once the guards are in front of the storage and the other workers are right behind them, the guards yank open the storage and rummage inside for bullets. They hand them to the approaching workers, including Lincoln.
One guard, the first who Lincoln alerted, stands outside the storage and shouts Lincoln’s vague news. “There’s an invasion.”
Workers mutter among themselves as they’re handed guns. The mutter is silenced when Lincoln pushes through the crowd to join the guards on top of the storage hill. He tells a few of the guards to make sure the children are safely back in the tents. He then turns to the crowd of workers that has fallen silent and says, “The soldiers are coming, coming. They won’t leave us alone. Gather at that wall.”
Without question, the workers run to the wall Lincoln has pointed at, and all the guards and Lincoln join them. They extend their guns, ready to fire. Some of them are screaming obscenities at the supposed army that’s about to come. Others are silent, their teeth gritted in anger at the supposed army. As everybody stands, locked in position, the people screaming eventually die down, and total silence spreads over the environment as everybody aims their guns at the empty field.
Then, from over the horizon, a figure emerges again. It approaches slowly. “Hold your fire,” Lincoln shouts. The figure moves closer until Lincoln can make out the stoic face of who it is – Thomas once again. Still, he does not give the order to shoot. This could be a trick to get them to waste their bullets on him when a bigger army is right behind him. So, he lets Thomas creep closer. Once Thomas is close enough to see Lincoln’s army, his eyes widen in surprise. He was not expecting it. Oddly, Thomas is not dressed in his military uniform. He’s dressed in ordinary clothing that dictates nothing about his class or status. The only thing about his clothing that stands out is that it is green, blending in with the green grass around him.
The instant Thomas sees the army, he puts his hands up and begins to walk backward. No doubt, Thomas is part of the plan, Lincoln thinks. He should be put down, but Lincoln does not want to waste all the ammunition on one soldier. He also needs information about what sort of attack the military is planning. Lincoln says, “If you take another step back, I will give the order.” Thomas stops walking backward. “Start walking forward,” Lincoln commands. Thomas obliges.
After a few minutes, his chest is right in front of one of the guard’s guns. Thomas’s usually stoic face is now one of terror. “What do you want from me,” Thomas asks.
“What is the British military’s plan,” Lincoln asks.
“Their plan,” Thomas asks.
“Yes,” says Lincoln. “Their plan to destroy our compound.”
“There is no plan,” Thomas says.
“Then why are you here,” Lincoln asks.
“I was just passing...” Thomas begins.
“Liar,” several workers abruptly shout.
“Why are you here,” Lincoln shouts. He turns his gun from just being pointed at the field, in general, to specifically at Thomas.
Thomas swallows. “I was planning to break into your compound because I believe you are going to destroy the monarchy.”
“Who did you come with,” Lincoln asks. He’s running out of patience.
Thomas says, “Nobody. I acted alone.”
“Liar,” screams several workers, including Lincoln.
Lincoln points to two guards. “You two, with me. Bound him. We’ll get him to talk.”
The two guards nod and get to the front of the crowd, where they grab Thomas by either arm. The crowd parts as the two guards drag Thomas to the outside of the storage building. Lincoln follows, shouting to the crowd, “Stay there and keep your positions.”
Lincoln gets some leftover nails from the storage from when they were building the compound. One of the guards pushes them into each of Thomas’s wrists and ankles, causing him to scream in pain. The guards each aim their guns at Thomas’s head. Lincoln stands in front of Thomas behind them. He screams, “Who did you come with?”
“Nobody, nobody, nobody,” says Thomas. He’s panicking as blood seeps from his ankles and wrists. The panic sounds like a wounded animal, causing one of the guards to glare at Lincoln briefly before turning his head back to Thomas. One of the guards loads his gun.
“I know you came with someone,” Lincoln says. “If you answer otherwise, this is your end. Who did you come with?”
Thomas sighs. “I did come with somebody.”
“Do tell,” says Lincoln.
Thomas takes a deep breath. “I came with not only somebody but everybody.”
Lincoln raises his eyes in shock, not that anyone can see it behind his sunglasses. “The British army in its entirety?”
“Yes, yes,” Thomas says. He seems a little pleased now, perhaps that Lincoln’s getting a little bit calmer. Thomas continues, “The whole army, including the reserves.” Lincoln commands both of the guards to lower their guns so Thomas can continue his story. “I was sent as a scout, but even if I don’t come back, they’re still coming.”
“To slaughter us all, right,” Lincoln says.
“Yes, yes,” Thomas says. Panic is rising in his voice again. “A total massacre. Everybody will be dead!”
The guards slowly turn back to Lincoln. “Is he telling the truth,” one of them asks.
Lincoln says, “I fear so. Gather all the others here.”
The guard says, “But sir, what about the...”
“Just do it,” Lincoln says, dropping his gun as he says this.
Soon, the entire group is gathered at the foot of the hill, while Lincoln stands on top, his rifle lying at his feet, and Thomas pinned to the wall, his head down. Lincoln says, “Thomas has told us the plan. We have underestimated the size of the attack. It will not be a handful of soldiers, but all of them.” The workers glance at each other, a few even dropping their rifles themselves. Lincoln continues, “Because of that, there is only one measure we can take. We must deny them the satisfaction of killing us themselves.”
Everybody goes silent, with some glancing at each other as if trying to decode what Lincoln means. After a moment, what Lincoln means sinks in. When Lincoln has understood this, he says, “We shall start with the children, for we cannot let the army kill them.” He points to a guard in the crowd. “Round them up from the dorms and bring them before us. Once they have been saved, us adults shall all do ourselves in at the same time.” Lincoln picks up his own rifle, ignoring the cries of sorrow that the crowd produces.
“No,” screams Thomas. Lincoln turns back to face him. “No, no, no. Don’t do this!”
Lincoln says, “You’ve brought this upon us by sending the army. We are only reacting appropriately.”
“Please,” Thomas says, tears dripping down his cheeks. “I... I was just saying what you wanted. There’s no army!”
Lincoln turns back to the crowd. “Thomas is lying!” The crowd erupts with “hear-hear.” Lincoln continues, “He’s told us the truth and is now trying to take back his lie that he is only acting alone.”
Thomas screams, “I broke into here alone. I wanted to... I thought that if exposed you, I could... achieve the honor.” Lincoln ignores him. He stands by, waiting for the guard to show back up with the children. Thomas continues, “My family always told me that I was made to be something to the crown. A protector. When you came...” Thomas’s voice breaks as tears merge at his chin and drip onto the ground. “When you came, I saw my chance, so I went after it with everything I had.”
Nobody listens to Thomas. By the time he has finished, the guard has shown up with the children. They stand in the front of the guard, shivering and disoriented. The guard asks, “Am I ready to begin?”
The guard loads up his gun and aims it at one of the children’s heads from behind, when a voice says, “Thomas is right.” Everyone turns to see the source of the voice – Paul. “You’ve gone crazy, Lincoln,” Paul says. He loads up his weapon as he says this. Lincoln stares at him, with no hint of emotion on his face. Paul continues, “Thomas was just saying what a man with a gun at his head would say. There’s no army out there. Look for yourself.”
Many workers shake their heads in disbelief at Paul. “Why am I the crazy one here,” Paul says. “Look at us. We’re killing children! Children!”
Lincoln turns his attention away from Paul. “Proceed, please,” he says, pointing to the guard behind the children. The guard loads his gun and gets ready when a loud boom rings out. The gun goes flying out of the guard’s hands. Paul dashes headfirst from his spot in the crowd to the children swoop up two of them and run down. Each child is in either of his arms, and Paul is still holding his gun. The guard who lost his gun runs after Paul, but Thomas pushes one of his nail-bound legs forward against the sharp pain. It comes free and he puts it in front of the guard, causing him to stumble over it
“Stop, Paul,” Lincoln says.
Paul sets the two kids down, and they run away. He quickly turns around. What is his doing, Lincoln thinks. That’s the last thing Lincoln thinks before Paul shoots him in the chest and dashes after the two children. Because he’s going down over a hill, nobody in the crowd is at the angle to shoot him. Lincoln falls to his knees, bringing a hand up to his chest before pulling it away. It comes away red with blood. He tries to take a breath, but he can’t. Even being on his knees feels like too much, so he collapses on his face and closes his eyes. The last thing he hears from the outside world as he slips into unconsciousness is the sound of bullets. With his last bit of strength, he turns to his side and seeing the people have begun shooting themselves and the remaining children. A few of the children try to run after Paul, but one of the guards steps in front of them and shoots them.
In unconsciousness, Lincoln relives the memory from his nightmares one final time. This time, it is in its entirety. He’s walking down the dirt road in some small Illinois town when he notices a red glow around his residence as it comes over the horizon. He takes a few steps forward before he realizes what it is – fire. He dashes for the house and goes around it to find the doors. Someone has put some kind of bar in between the door handles and crooked it. Lincoln pulls and pulls until he finally breaks it free. There’s a high-pitched wail coming from the inside that keeps Lincoln going despite the agony in his hands from touching the hot handles and bar.
He yanks the door open and goes inside. He cannot see anything due to the smoke, which causes him to cough as it is released from the door entrance. He steps inside, feeling around blindly and trying to follow the wails until he feels something at his feet. He leans down and feels raw skin. The wailing is at its loudest. He grabs the flesh, which he now knows is Tad’s arms and pulls him out of the house.
Once Tad is outside, Lincoln can see the damage. Tad’s skin is burnt thoroughly. His face unrecognizable, and bones protruding from several points in his arms. Most of the clothing above his upper body has been completely burned away. He has stopped wailing, and his eyes are now fixed on Lincoln’s with no hint of emotion. Lincoln’s eyes are in tears. “Tad,” he asks. Tad’s head nods slowly. “Where are the others?” Tad shakes his head. Nobody’s left. In all probability, it was that man who always hated Lincoln since he moved from the White House to here. He hated his failure to save the union and made sure to remind him every day. He had even shouted death threats at him when they passed by each other. He probably set this fire and meant for it to take him. If only.
With nothing left to do, Lincoln gets on his knees and takes Tad’s naked upper body in his arms. Lincoln buries his chin in Tad's hair, most of which has burnt away. “It’s OK,” Lincoln says. “I’m right here.” He moves his eyes down and notices that Tad’s disfigured arms are trembling. Lincoln smiles a little bit, as it reminds him of where Tad got his name from. When he was young, he’d always squiggle like a tadpole.
Lincoln can feel Tad’s heartbeat against his own, but it now goes still.
The next several weeks were quite a blur. Lincoln, in his traumatized state, ran miles after miles, until he had gotten to a boat. He went onto it as a stowaway, not sure if he was fleeing something or looking for something to replace what he just lost.
This all flashes through Lincoln’s mind as he is unconscious. It fades away after that, to darkness.
It was difficult for Mikhail to get the documentation needed to get into London for a brief stay, and it was difficult to fund a hotel cheap enough so that he could afford the journey, but he had arrived. The sun was just coming up for the morning, and he was wandering outside London, looking for the place Lincoln had built. He is standing in a green field, but after much scanning, a building in the distance atop a hill catches his eye.
He approaches it, and as he does so he notes the features of it. It’s made of wood and it looks to be quite fresh, without dents or rust. Then the smell hits him. It smells like someone with terrible digestive problems had passed gas. The smell brings tears to his eyes, but he keeps pushing forward, determined to see Lincoln’s grand project in action. When he gets atop of the hill and overlooks the rest of the places, it pales in comparison to the smell.
Dead bodies, with dozens of holes in them. A few children tossed to the foot of the hill, and several bodies lying mostly on their backs behind the children. Mikhail gasps in horror at this, but before he can recover, he hears a voice.
Mikhail turns to see a man with all limbs except his right leg nailed to the building. The man wears ordinary clothing, all green. Without further question, Mikhail pulls each of the nails out, flinching as the man shrieks in pain when each one is pulled. There’s also a loose nail in his right ankle, which he pulls out himself.
“Thank you,” the man says. He falls to his knees and looks up at Mikhail. “Who are you,” he asks.
“Mikhail,” says Mikhail. “And you?”
“Thomas,” the man says.
“What...” Mikhail reaches into a pocket on his suit jacket and takes out a pocketbook on translations from Russian to English. He finds the one he’s looking for and reads it out loud. “What happened,” he asks.
“Crazy,” Thomas says. “They all... they just all killed themselves!” Mikhail’s mouth is agape. He lets Thomas go on. “I came, and Lincoln thought a whole army was coming, so they... did that. I look at that and... I just think that if the crowd was me and Lincoln was replaced with the royal family, I’d be dead.”
Mikhail asks, “Why did they do this?”
Thomas says, “When Lincoln spoke, everybody listened.”