Adjustment day, p.20
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       Adjustment Day, p.20
 

           Chuck Palahniuk

  Mexico in the meantime would, as Xavier put it, “blossom like something out of the Italian Renaissance.”

  Shasta kept her head bowed slightly. Staring at her wooden clogs, she asked, “Is there wax in my hair?”

  “European archeology,” Xavier continued, “has imposed its own bogus narrative on Pre-Columbian everything.” For example, he cited the paintings and carvings reputed to show Aztecs ripping out the hearts of human sacrifices. He knew for a fact such artwork actually depicted Mesoamericans conducting successful heart transplant surgeries. The lofty stone slabs atop their pyramids were in actuality operating tables placed where the healthy daylight was strongest.

  “Even more amazing,” continued Xavier, “the paintings that showed tribesmen severing heads and holding them in the air as blood gushed and veins dangled from the severed necks . . .”

  Shasta cringed.

  Those gristly scenes, he explained, were, in truth, proof of successful full head transplants.

  “White scientists,” the young man half-shouted, “have to deny what they themselves can’t replicate!”

  Near them a young woman stepped up to peer into a shop window. The candles sprouting from her crown set the shop’s striped awning on fire. Not far off, another young woman sipped a mocha at a sidewalk cafe, unaware that her candles were slowly igniting the Cinzano umbrella above her head.

  Xavier held the cigarette lighter for her to take. “Come with me,” he demanded. “Leave these crazy gringos to destroy themselves.”

  It was tempting, and Shasta definitely felt tempted. Her parents had already self-deported to the Yucatan Peninsula. Not to mention that Xavier looked alpha macho hot with just enough dirt smudged on his hip-hugging white jeans that they didn’t read as gay. His gay brother had probably skated off to Gaysia. No wonder Xavier wanted company. He was so alone.

  She accepted the lighter and snapped open her purse. “I’m supposed to give these pastries to strangers.” She sunk the lighter into the sugary muck. “It’s a weird ritual that goes with wearing a candle hat.” Shasta was stalling, not wanting to break Xavier’s heart. But she really needed to find Walter. To redirect, she offered the open purse. “Here’s a chocolate éclair that doesn’t look too mangled.”

  Xavier got the message. He took the damaged éclair. The whipped cream bristled with stray hairs. Its flaky goodness was flecked with purse lint and embedded with stray breath mints. “Thanks,” he sighed. He looked wounded but still highly doable.

  “Thank you for lighting my candle,” she said lamely. She turned slowly and, step by careful step, balancing her halo of fire, forced herself to walk away.

  It was a national disgrace. Nothing less than a badge of shame, as far as Charlie saw it. Blacktopia had only recently announced a successful launch of its new flying pyramid, based on a long-forgotten antigravity technology suppressed by Eurocentric interests. After centuries of white denial the blacks had proven that pyramids built by the Egyptian pharaohs were in fact flying machines.

  While whites had been hiring esteemed film director Stanley Kubrick to dummy up convincing moon landing footage in the New Mexico desert, the blacks had kept their own functional method of space travel a secret for ten centuries.

  Well, the secret was out. Charlie crouched in front of the television and watched news footage broadcast from Blacktopia. It clearly showed gargantuan Cheops-sized pyramids levitating off the ground at a military installation. These impossible stone ships rose into a blue sky. One great ship had already landed safely on the moon, near the site NASA had claimed as their own in the fictional late 1960s stunt. In a matter of days black astronauts would venture forth to explore the site. They’d find no American flag. No golf balls or moon buggy tire tracks.

  The white ethno state of Caucasia teetered on the brink of total humiliation.

  To distract himself from the inevitable, Charlie cracked open a copy of the Talbott book. He read from it even while his handlers entered his great throne room to present selections of comely young women who hoped to become his bride.

  The television continued to goad with images of huge pyramids floating above a prosperous landscape peopled by proud, beautiful blacks. Their dashikis flashed vivid colors. They carried themselves—men, women, and children alike—with the posture of nobility, with their spines straight, their shoulders thrown back, as if every citizen were an aristocrat.

  How Talbott Reynolds explained it, the smartest most determined faction of blacks had been on a labor strike since 1600 or thereabouts. The idea of Adjustment Day had resided within them like a seed for generations. To this end they’d practiced their fierceness by targeting one another, knowing those in power wouldn’t take note of a brother wasting a brother. According to Talbott, whites had practiced for Adjustment Day with school and workplace shootings. Gays had wasted gays with AIDS. The homos went to gyms and learned to destroy with their beauty. All the factions had been building a cold-blooded ability toward the future takeover.

  If they could acclimate to killing their own brothers and sisters without hesitation or remorse, surely they could slaughter their masters in politics, media, and academia. When the time came, they’d cease killing each other and turn their rage outward.

  This in-group collateral damage stoked each army’s fury toward those safe, insulated, so-called leaders who’d come to the fore buoyed on good speechwriters and kissing babies, but who’d never demonstrated any real physical power in the world.

  The opioid-addled, NASCAR rubes . . . the grill-grinning, thuggish blacks . . . the sex-crazed queers . . . they’d rehearsed for Adjustment Day on soft targets in their own communities, and no one suspected anything would manifest beyond these in-group killings. And the practice taught blacks to shoot better. It taught the queers how to smile their way handsomely into anyone’s trust. And it schooled the whites about the patterns of flight that a mass of terrified people under fire will take.

  As Talbott explained events, they weren’t a fluke. Adjustment Day had come a day closer with every drive-by shooting, every viral transmission, every letter carrier going postal. Once those groups had fully shed their humanity, it was only inevitable they decimate their shared oppressors.

  On television, a vast, flying pyramid hovered in the sunny, cloudless sky above the dancing, cheering hordes of Blacktopia. Their gold jewelry flashed, as did their smiles of complete joy and unbounded pride.

  It felt as if the white race had lost its way. It no longer had blacks and queers to feel superior to so a key source of its pride was gone. Whites had been like a wealthy family who performed an ongoing pageant of morality and ingenuity to impress a household of idiot and degenerate servants. In the absence of queers and blacks, Charlie and his fellow whites had lost their motivation to live superior lives. Without underlings to dazzle, the white ethno state seemed to be floundering.

  He muted the television’s sound and watched the jubilant, dancing citizens of Blacktopia.

  The white race was like a father who’d survived his children. He had no one around to harangue or impress. No weak, flawed version of himself to lecture or rescue. Like a god who’d watched his last creation die. In the new, neat, orderly world of the white ethno state, what did the future hold? The white race had met its every challenge. Could they make the grass greener? Make the trains run more exactly on schedule?

  Moments like this made Adjustment Day feel like a giant step backward. Following the risky social experiments of the last three hundred years, white people could only return to a world of knights and aristocrat,s. A fortress of Norman Rockwell, Reader’s Digest prettiness.

  A voice whispered in Charlie’s ear. His majordomo alerting him, “Some female guests for your review, sir.”

  The heel-clicking, kowtowing flunky filled him with sick disdain. Any man who hadn’t taken part, hands-on, in the butchery sickened Charlie. He’d made his mark, Charlie had proven his valor, and that meant for the rest of his life weaker men would avoid him. Cowards woul
d resent and despise his achievements. He would exist alone for most of the rest of his life, with none but his own counsel, because his true peers were few. That’s what made the selection of the perfect mate so all-fired important. Important but hardly easy.

  Charlie set aside the book and clicked the remote to resolve the images on television. He scarcely needed to turn his head to take in the sight of the nubile young fillies being herded in. Dressed in short, pastel skirts that suggested Easter eggs, they fidgeted. Their doe eyes tried to capture and hold his attention. Eyelashes batted. Glistening lips pursed. Some drew deep breaths and thrust out their chests. He wasn’t fooled. How could they understand what it was to be anything beyond being female? They lived such corporeal lives, not believing in anything beyond the visible, the tangible, the openly stated.

  Amid this chaos of preening, one drew his focus. One among them stood with a regal stillness, her willowy limbs motionless, a potential queen. Her honeyed hair pooled on the shoulders of her richly embroidered peasant smock. Charlie could picture her swinging a scythe in fertile fields of golden wheat. Her loins would push forth a new generation of gods. Charlie would sire in her a horde of inventors and artists to revitalize the white race.

  He studied her ivory arms and the pear-shaped swell of each innocent breast. Her small feet were otherwise bare in simple, leather sandals. Her periwinkle eyes hinted at a docile, animal intelligence. Charlie indicated her with the slightest flick of his fingertips, bidding, “Little one . . .”

  At most, she appeared to be only a year or two his junior. Using his lordliest voice, he inquired, “How are you called, girl child?”

  For a breath she stared back, speechless. Perhaps she’d heard how, for weeks, he’d done little more than glance at the parade of prospective wives. He’d yet to speak directly to any of the legions of attractive females. Her muteness added to her appeal, and Charlie felt his sex excite at the idea of having her soon.

  When she failed to speak, the majordomo broke in. “Sire,” the man said, “her name is Shasta.”

  Shasta. Queen Shasta.

  She would be his, Charlie’s perfect Aryan consort.

  Few thoughts in her mind were her own, living on soda crackers and gin as she was. Miss Josephine dared not eat the food Arabella brought up. She assiduously flushed it in bite-sized chunks, but only late at night when no one would hear. Night and day she’d taken to leaving her little television play. She needed the company, despite how it was always just that Talbott man. According to him the white folks were glad to surrender Jackson, Mississippi. Just as glad as the blacks were to abandon Detroit. He said it was a three-hundred-year embarrassment to ethno Europeans that they couldn’t till their rice plantations or cut their own tobacco or sugar cane in the sweltering heat. Michigan amounted to little more than snow and rusted fenders. Whites needed winter, said Talbott, needed an enforced rest, otherwise they went crazy with their labors. Blacks despised the ridiculous snow.

  One could picture Talbott, a performance on paper in his book, fully in character as saying such. Instances of lunatic insight, Miss Josephine called them. An insanity that passes as the new sanity.

  He said southern whites had balked at migrating north immediately after the War of Northern Aggression because they didn’t want to prove the New York Times right. They had no business in Georgia or Mississippi or Louisiana. But to tuck their tails and relinquish the South to its rightful occupants would be to allow the second shoe of the war to finally drop. Ethno Europeans wouldn’t miss those landscapes of kudzu and water moccasins. To retain Florida was to pose smiling with a dead body, the body of an infant daughter wearing a lace christening gown and a tiny pearl necklace and to pretend that girl would someday come back to health. Florida was death to white people.

  As if he spoke directly to Miss Josephine, Talbott waxed eloquent concerning the miasmas and the swampland’s constant pull toward decay and corruption. Nothing on Earth could sustain the whites of the South except their own Scots-Irish obstinacy. Malignant breezes and the steaming everglades offered whites nothing except skin cancer and malaria. In the North, cities like Chicago and Philadelphia afflicted blacks with vitamin D deficiencies, malnutrition, and frostbite.

  Miss Josephine, perched on high in this cramped suite of rooms, rooms crowded as a junk shop with every silver cup and trophy, every diploma, diary, memory, and family Bible, she was the brain of things. A sentry in an isolated outpost. The spirit, spirited upstairs, among the spirits of the cellar’s wealth, she’d ordered the entire inventory of brandy and Madera port interred with her for safe keeping. The cases of it, smuggled by blockade runners during the war for seccession.

  A drunken, fleeting impulse dawned upon Miss Jo. She could burn these treasures. The past rested in her hands as a steward or an executioner. She could burn this house and all the flawed relics within it.

  Charlie knew what the problem was. You see, the white race had learned to sublimate its sexual impulses. It had learned to delay gratification and to invent electric lights and mammograms and botany instead of just jerking off to porn or poling every skank who needed it. The result was that white people, mostly white men, in all honesty, had created technology and gotten the kudos of a perfect civilization where stuff worked. Trouble came when other races didn’t sublimate like they ought to, they just kept on railing every piece of snatch, AIDS or not, herpes or not, and kept cranking out the babies. You see, the white men had traded babies for the patent on everything good and the royalties, which were considerable, except the white man had neglected the big race. The population race. That’s how Charlie saw the situation. Seeing how the white man was so busy not fucking that he had energy leftover to invent solar energy. But this left him losing the reins. It’s all in Stoddard. You see, technology and babies always seek a balance throughout history. When technology got ahead, babies fell off. And when babies got ahead, then civilization fell behind. Right now mankind’s progress was about to get swallowed in a sea of other people’s babies, and that meant giving up vulcanized rubber and reverse osmosis because there wouldn’t be the smart people needed to run those segments of society.

  If white people could slack off. If they could just take a break from anodizing everything and maybe just nail some pussy, then civilization would have a chance. Not that white women were much help. No, they were only just getting their feet wet with inventing X-rays and eBay, and they obviously did not savor the idea of giving up public accolades and putting their legs in the air. That’s why Adjustment Day had gone down. It would give the few remaining alpha studs the chance to boost white numbers. It would remove the temptation of Women’s Studies degrees and other horseshit that baited ladies to let their precious Aryan eggs dry up.

  Adjustment Day gave men like Charlie, with loads of sperm and not the best grasp of Calculus II, the opportunity to catch up the game for the white team.

  Simple as that.

  Dawson hadn’t the heart to cut off the woman’s ear. It didn’t matter how much she’d begged. She’d finally snatched up the carpet cutter and began to do it herself, then gave up in tears.

  She knelt there in the dust at his feet. Standing over her, he could see the top of her right ear was crusted with dried blood. Apparently she’d tried, likely several times, to slice off the ear by herself.

  Detail followed detail about her Adjustment Day. First, despite her request that students silence their phones, a phone began to sound an alarm. Another joined it. A chorus of phones were marking the same moment. Beeps and squeaks and dog barks, a cacophony. And it wasn’t as if a smattering of students in the huge auditorium reached into their Hello Kitty and G.I. Joe backpacks and produced guns. The professor and her team of graduate assistants looked on in confusion as every hand reached down alongside a desk. A deafening chorus of countless zippers roared. Every student sat upright, extending an arm, and gripped in every raised hand was a firearm.

  “It looked,” she said, her voice faltering. One of her trembling
hands flailed in the air. “A forest of black sticks were pointing at us.” The short barrels of pistols, the longer barrels of rifles and shotguns, and in between were the muzzles of revolvers.

  The black sticks belched fire, a wall of muzzle flash and smoke, the smell of black powder, and a graduate student crashed to the stage with two thuds. She could hear nothing after the first blast.

  The graduate student dragged himself toward her. His legs remained where they’d fallen, but his torso and arms dragged themselves pathetically toward safety, dragging his ravaged bowels like greasy fringe behind him. He’d, crawled his way near where she crouched behind the podium. Bullets and blasts of buckshot exploded the screen behind them and punched holes in the plaster walls.

  The only sound was the constant firing. She couldn’t hear if he’d actually said the words, but as the graduate student extended his blue, dying, already dead hand toward her, his dead man’s lips formed the words, “Help me . . .”

  Around her, her precious team of adjunct professors, the team she’d carefully handpicked and spent years assembling and recruiting from other institutions, they were flopping like beached dolphins, mangled beyond anything alive but kept leaping like puppets and obscenely jerking as ordinance slammed into their corpses.

  She’d risked reaching out from behind the podium. Her fingers laced themselves between the boy’s icy fingers and she dragged his sodden bulk to safety. His head resting on her lap, he looked to be asleep.

  Dawson clenched his jaw to keep himself from asking the graduate student’s name.

  Now with Dawson, the woman no longer sobbing, she looked at the ground morosely, muttering, “Only days shy of completing his doctoral thesis on gender fluidity . . .” Her entire body seemed to convulse with the emotional pain. “Just because he made some undergrads read bell hooks!”

  They promenaded through his gardens, Charlie and his bride-to-be. Idling among the ancient Roman bird baths and classical Hellenistic lawn ornaments requisitioned from leading museums throughout the formerly united states. He pointed out a Babylonian garden ornament he found when they sacked the Getty. Hoping to impress her, he called her attention to a mess of yellow petunias planted in a Mesopotamian carved-stone thing he got at the National Museum in Washington, D.C. Peacocks paraded their glory, but they were nothing compared to Shasta.

 
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