[Boulder Free Zone] Post-Apocalyptic Politics

In which if you didn’t get enough politics in the last year, here have some more.

Chapter 51

It’s been a couple of days since Our Heroes have finally converged in Boulder. Ralph Bretner’s been putting up signs for a public meeting, people are starting to fix cars, get the electricity on, and bury the dead. Larry’s still on the lookout for Harold,

Harold jerked with surprise, then turned with a brick in one hand and his mortar-dripping trowel in the other, half-raised like a weapon… His first thought was, sure enough, Harold didn’t look at all as he had imagined. His second thought had to do with the trowel: My God, is he going to let me have it with that thing?

Well, Larry, when you sneak up on someone like that, I’m certain whatever they’re holding is going to be used for self-defense.

Larry and Harold get to talking a bit, and while Larry wants to like the guy who led him and Nadine and the others all the way from Maine, there’s something about Harold that’s not quite right. Smiles too much, for example. Larry leaves, ruminating on the fact that something may be up with Harold.

Speaking of Harold, Stu shows up at his house to tell Frannie that one of their committee members, Dick Ellis, is calling it quits because Boulder needs a town doctor, and at the moment, he’s It. Stu says that he’s thinking about Larry Underwood taking that spot. Frannie agrees, although they talk about Harold at length and how much he’s changed since they all met up back on the East Coast.

Anyway. This is also the first meeting of the Ad Hoc committee. EXPECT A LOT OF TALKING HERE.

There’s a bunch of talk about food safety and setting up the clean-up crews to bury the dead and get people living once more. Nick brings up the elephant in the city—that Mother Abagail thinks that they’re going to be used as pawns in a battle of good and evil, and so they need to go and find out what the dark man’s up to. The committee nominates three possible scouts: Judge Farris, Dayna Jurgens….and Tom Cullen.

Nick:…I see no problem at all in giving Tom a very simple story to memorize. In the end, they’ll likely assume that we sent away because—‘

Sue: “Because we didn’t want him polluting our gene-pool? Say, that’s good.”

(I know it’s just a cover story, but still. *headwall*)

(Wouldn’t it make sense for Nick to have left Boulder for the same reason? Now that I think about it…)

Nick brings up the idea of putting Tom under hypnosis and planting suggestions about what he is to do while in Vegas, and majority of the committee doesn’t like having Tom as a scout, but it has to be done. Except for Frannie and Sue—Frannie, who rightfully calls out the men for not only making Tom go off on this mission but the Judge as well. A point for you, Frannie.

Fran: “I’d like to change my vote. If we’re really going to put Tom into it, we better do it together. I’m sorry I made such a fuss, Nick….Frannie votes aye.

Ten points from Gryffindor, Frannie.

Chapter 52

“Show me my sin, Lord. I don’t know. I know I’ve gone and missed something You meant for me to see….I feel like I’m prayin’ into a dead phone, and this is a bad time for that to happen. How have I offended Thee? I’m listenin’ Lord…”

As much as I rolled my eyes and headwalled a few chapters ago about how Mother Abagail treated Nadine, I have to give this scene a lot of credit. Abagail knows that she’s not perfect, that she’s always been proud and that she has gotten it into her head that she’s meant to be the one to save all of Boulder. I think if a lesser writer had written Mother Abagail’s character, she would have fallen hard into the Magical Negro stereotype (and I could argue that King himself did this later with John Coffey), remaining in Boulder before dying of psychic wounds from her mental encounter with Flagg.

Besides, if Mother Abagail was dying from a psychically-induced stroke, it’d be kinda boring.

“…She didn’t answer my knock, so I went on in. I thought if she was asleep I’d just leave…but I wanted to make sure she wasn’t…wasn’t dead or anything…she’s so old.”

Stu, Glen and Nick decide that vision quest or not, they need to know whether or not Mother Abagail’s all right. Stu grabs Harold and Ralph and they go off to find her. However, it’s useless to keep the fact about “Oh, btw, our spiritual leader just wandered off into the desert for guidance,” so by noontime, everyone in Boulder knows about Mother Abagail leaving.

Frannie goes over to Harold’s house to wait for Stu and the others to find out what happened with Mother Abagail, but Harold’s place is locked up and deserted. Frannie breaks in and starts snooping around, when Nadine shows up, looking for Harold.

While all of this is going on, Harold’s being his cheery nihilistic self. He’s accepted Stu’s offer to hunt for Mother Abagail, with the hopes of doing what he’s really wanted to do to Stu since Vermont.
No one would take alarm at the gunshots; game was plentiful, and lots of people had taken to banging away at the deer that wandered into town.

Harold comes home and discovers that Frannie accidentally left the basement door open in her wake to get out of Harold’s house. He panics and retrieves his ledger from his hiding place, now completely paranoid about who could be watching him.

To be completely fair, this is another chapter with a lot exposition and Glen talking. (There’s a lengthy bit where he proclaims that rationalism and technology are dead and they have to trust what theological forces are at work.) There’s a lot that happens, but as for a lot of action, there’s not so much of it. But as I said above, the Ad Hoc committee really can’t ignore the fact that there are larger forces at work appearing, and they need to do something about it.

In the end, someone does come back to Boulder—Kojak has managed to follow Glen all the way to Boulder, half-starved and wounded. Glen takes it as some sort of sign. (For the record, should I survive the apocalypse, I really don’t know how my dog would take it. I mean, she’d probably stick with me because she needs food, but honestly, she’s too afraid to leave sight of my house. I love her, but it’s the truth.)

Chapter 53

After much talking and deliberating, we’ve finally gotten to the first general meeting of the Boulder Free Zone.

In the majority of popular dystopic/post-apocalyptic novels at the moment, there’s very little discussion about what happen to the rest of the world. Most of the ones I’ve read take place in a decimated America, with either vague details of where in the US the characters are, or not even bothering to change the names. (Aside from Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies quartet, every YA dystopia I’ve read is guilty of this, and that includes the Hunger Games. Westerfeld at least took the time to map things out and even explore the global ramifications of his world in Extras.)

The main world-building in all of these dystopias I’ve is this: America as we know it has been ruined because of reasons, and the documents which protect our freedom are invalid. The reasons are never really expanded on (much less the world-building but that’s a rant that I can put elsewhere). It also never helps that the reader never gets a ‘true’ history of the revolution/apocalypse, just the one set forth by the oppressive government.

Which is why I like the opening of the first public meeting. While the political infrastructure no longer exists in any form (I’m surprised that no politician manages to survive Captain Trips, although I like to think that there may be a few who aren’t speaking up. It’s more likely that King killed off everyone in Washington as a nice big “fuck you” to politics in general), I think everyone in Boulder is going to still think of themselves as Americans. So it’s important that they do start with the singing of the National Anthem and ratifying the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. The latter two documents gives some idea as to how the Committee is going to run things from now on, even if the circumstances have changed. And the anthem is a nice reminder—that the world hasn’t ended, and we may be able to rebuild. Despite what Larry wants to think.

(Erk, falling into soundbites. *slaps self on the wrist*)

At the beginning of the chapter, Glen discusses the idea of the committee members getting other people in the community to vote for their place in the permanent committee. (Which Glen refers to as “not entirely democratic.” AHAHA, Glen you have no idea how modern politics operate.) However, before any of the chosen representatives get a chance to nominate, Harold makes use of the opportune moment:

“I’d like to move that we accept the slate of ad hoc committee members in toto as the Permanent Committee. If they’ll serve, that is.”…

Then the applause swelled out again, filling the room, and dozens of cries of “I second!” rang out. Harold was sitting placidly in his seat again, smiling and talking to the people who were thumping him on the back….

He planned this, Stu thought. These people are going to elect us, but it’s Harold they’ll remember.

The meeting adjourns, and everyone begins to head home. Frannie breaks down on the back of Stu’s bike as she realizes that everything she knows is gone, and the two comfort each other.

Nadine shows up at Larry’s house, and says she needs to talk to Larry. The two of them go off a walk, and Nadine reveals that she needs something to anchor her to Boulder. Her idea? Finally give up her virginity to Larry, as she’ll be unwanted by Flagg.

…but somehow [Larry] reached up and unlocked her hands and pushed her away with such force that she stumbled and almost fell…

“Larry, if you knew—“

“Well, I don’t. Why don’t you try telling me instead of….of raping me?”

It’s kind of heartbreaking on both sides as Nadine walks away from Larry, because while he thinks he’s doing the decent thing by letting Nadine go and staying with Lucy, he just fucked up massively. And the worst part is that he knows he fucked up somehow. Oh Larry. You have no idea.

I used to see that commercial on all the time as a kid. While I didn’t really get into the paranormal and horror and fantasy until much later (knowing it was all bullshit, of course, but there’s something so fascinating about paranormal studies), I always did kinda like ghosts and scary stories, even if it did scare me. I’ve never played with a Oujia board, partially maybe because of I’d read stories about people unlocking Forces Beyond Their Control.

It was a tool she would only use once—only dared to use once—and even a poorly made tool can serve its purpose: to break open a door, to close a window, to write a Name.

The flashback with Nadine and the planchette is one of those stories gone horribly wrong and man is it creepy. Not only is it something that she can’t explain (or doesn’t really know what’s happening with her) but for all of the other girls she’s playing with who really have no idea what’s going on. I love this scene, it hits all the right notes on my creepy factor.

…she spoke two words like an incantation to all the black spirits that had ever been—incantation and invitation:

“Tell me.”

And beneath her fingers, the planchette began to write.

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