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One step on a Justice Journey, a summary

This April, I had the opportunity to travel with an amazing and diverse group of people to visit historical sites and museums documenting a significant part of this country’s history relative to Black people, beginning from the earliest days of white colonists bringing Black people over in chains to cultivate the natural resources they were in the process of stealing from the indigenous people who were already here, through the days of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the horrors of the Middle Passage, the promise of Reconstruction and the absolute betrayal that followed it and led to Jim Crow, the fallacy of “separate but equal,” decades of lynching as a tool of domestic terror, the hope and progress of the Civil Rights movement along with tragic losses and assassinations, up to the present day where drug laws have been used to rapidly increase the prison population where a nightmare (allowed by the 13th amendment) known as “convict leasing” allows white people to, as we have done for more than 400 years, continue to gain wealth via the exploitation of Black bodies.

I’ve spent the last two months trying to figure out how to share what I saw, learned, experienced, and felt during those four days. It’s not easy. The horrors are immense, the present-day problems massively complex and far-reaching, and the systemic obstacles (both active and passive) daunting and depressing. There wasn’t a person with us who was not overcome with emotion multiple times. So I’m going to do the best I can, because I need to, and acknowledge that there may be better ways to say these things.

Logistics

There were about 20 of us on the Journey (side note: we were asked, and I’m sticking with it, to call this a “Journey.” Something that’s a trip has a beginning and an end. A journey, on the other hand, is an ongoing process, and this is sure as heck an ongoing process), ranging in age from ~30 or so to 70+. Our group was roughly half Black and half white. A couple of people on the journey, including the man who organizes and runs these events, are practicing pastors, but we had atheists and Jewish people (and perhaps more). Our group was gay and straight. One person uses a wheelchair to get around. Some grew up financially well-off. Some grew up incredibly poor. Interacting with people with this variety of perspectives made the journey that much more meaningful and rewarding.

The journey was organized by the Justice Journey Alliance, based in Chicago, and was one in an ongoing series of such pilgrimages to help build understanding and strive to find a way forward. This journey was the first of its kind, aimed at business leaders in the Chicago area with a goal of finding ways to use the resources and connections within this community to make progress towards a future with racial equity and justice. Though I am not a leader of a business, I was invited due to my role on our office’s Anti-Racism Core Team.

During our journey, we visited four cities – Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham. We flew in and out of Atlanta and then took a coach bus to our various destinations.

Atlanta

In Atlanta, we went to the Martin Luther King Jr Center – a museum chronicling his life, his accomplishments, the culture in which he lived and worked. We watched an incredibly powerful documentary about his assassination told in large part by people who were there that day. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1360068/)

Did you know, for example, that the rate of death threats he received went up significantly as he supported the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ strike (which is why he was in Memphis when he was murdered) and prepared for the Poor People’s March on Washington? As someone put it, having Black kids in your kids’ school or letting Black people vote might not take a chunk out of your bank account, but if the system was changed to one with economic justice, well, that sure would?

One of the things that made this whole experience work was effective community-building. By the end of the bus ride the first night from Atlanta to Montgomery, connections were definitely being built and everyone seemed like they felt comfortable with everyone else.

Montgomery

This is the day that is hardest to process – I think for all of us. We visited two places in Montgomery: The Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. They are both run by the Equal Justice Initiative, a group that has, for decades, worked to save the lives of people wrongly convicted and sentenced to death. Both of these museums, I believe, should be required viewing for anyone in this country who can get there. Unfortunately for this conversation, we were not able to take photos in The Legacy Museum, so you will have to rely on what I can write here.

I am somewhat of a connoisseur of museums. There are a lot of ways to display artifacts and tell stories. Some museums don’t do much more than arrange what portion of their collection they want you to see. Others use technology, layout, artistry, and the space itself to increase the impact of what they are saying. The Legacy Museum is as well-done as any I have ever seen. I was so glad to see that – the story it tells is so very important, and it is presented in a way that conveys that. (The restaurant attached to the museum also serves some of the best fried chicken I have ever had.)

The power of The Legacy Museum comes from many directions. The level of detail they went into as they researched this part of our history was exceptional. They seamlessly integrate technology, information, and artistry to convey information in powerful and informative ways. They collect artifacts that took away my ability to speak as I stood before them. And they choose language very carefully – not embellishing with unnecessarily emotional pleas, because it’s utterly unnecessary. Consider the term “enslaved persons” versus “slaves,” for example. When someone is a slave, it is who they are. When someone is enslaved, it is something that is done to them. The phrasing that blew my mind was replacing “life in prison” with “death in prison.” Means the same thing, right? Does it feel the same? Not even close.

I cannot possibly detail all of the things that left an impact on me. I didn’t even get to see all of it in the depth I wanted due to scheduling. Some particular notes:

  • A clear history of how the entirety of the American colonies participated in the process of kidnapping people from Africa, putting barbaric “chains” on them – seriously, seeing the actual devices used to force enslaved people to do as they were told teaches you that the awful images you might have in your mind of men and women chained together at the ankles pale in comparison with reality, bringing them across the Atlantic crammed in the holds of ships, and then sold them in ports north and south. Somewhere around 12 million people were kidnapped and forced into slavery, and somewhere around 2 million of them died during the voyage across the ocean. Sit with those numbers for a minute.
  • A discussion of how this process started. The first colonists came here and tried to force Indigenous people to do the work for them. That proved to be too hard, so they started kidnapping people from Africa. It’s kind of mind-boggling that the white people didn’t even give it the good-old college try. They looked at the vast wealth on this continent, decided that it would be too hard to take it all for themselves, and immediately set about finding people they could force to do it for them. Of course, they’d been given explicit permission to do this – hell, one Pope even encouraged it.
  • A discussion of how, at the end of the Civil War, Reconstruction opened political power and political office to Black men (it took 100 years to expand voting rights to all Black women, of course), and Black voters showed up in droves to exercise this power. Black people were elected to office all over the South. And then by the mid-late 1870’s, it was all gone. Jim Crow became king. If you don’t know how, it was largely due to the 1876 election. The presidential election was contested – multiple slates of electors from some states, other states being unable to declare a clear winner. Rutherford B. Hayes was essentially tied with his opponent, a southern Democrat. Hayes cut a deal – he would be declared the winner of the election and he would pull federal troops from throughout the South. Since those troops were the primary thing standing between the racist mobs who were still pissed off about the Civil War and Black people voting and serving in public office, once the troops were gone, the gates slammed rapidly.
  • After that, the era of lynching began in earnest. (The National Memorial for Peace and Justice tells very personal stories of lynching, and I’ll get to that soon.) White people responded to crimes – real and imagined – committed by Black people with organized mob violence. And this wasn’t the “men in white hoods keeping their identities secret” mob, either. These were parties and picnics that often took place on Sundays after church. We know this because there are photographs. Families in their Sunday best with small children around them eating fried chicken out of picnic baskets while the body of a Black victim hung in the tree overhead. People were not ashamed of this behavior. There is an exhibit at The Legacy Museum that I cannot put emotions to, I can only describe it factually. Researchers have been diligently working to identify where lynchings took place, when, and who was murdered. They have gathered soil from the spots of the lynchings, under the trees, and filled jars. They have labeled the jars with a name and a date, writing “Unknown” where no name can be found, and they have lined shelf after shelf after shelf after shelf with these jars. The feelings I had looking at that, trying to hold space for each name, knowing that I could not, are not ones I know how to describe.
  • I knew about Poll Taxes and Voting Tests and all, of course. I knew that the tests had questions that were either impossible to realistically answer or required knowledge of political events that required an encyclopedic knowledge to come close to answering. I knew about questions like “How many jellybeans are in this jar?” I did not know about questions like “How many bubbles are there in a bar of soap?” I mean, what the fuck? The jellybean question is unfair and awful and disgusting, but there is an answer. One could count the jellybeans and know it. But questions without answers? I mean, the utter gall of putting that in writing? And whole systems existed to protect this.
  • Finally, the part of the museum where I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time but which opened my eyes in understanding – the section on Mass Incarceration. I’ll talk more about this at some point, but as far as understanding the museum, this part is crucial. It connects all these horrors of the past to things happening right this very moment and forces us to understand what we own in this entire story. The centerpiece of this room are rows of chairs in front of video screens, each with a phone next to it, just like you’ve seen in a thousand shows and movies about visiting a prisoner. When you pick up the phone, a video starts playing of an actual person talking about their experience in prison. Some of these people have been freed, some are still in prison. These aren’t dusty artifacts about dead people.

After we finished with the Legacy Museum, all of us were emotionally fried. We had lunch and then went to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a block or two away. This museum is focused on documenting the history of lynching in the US. The research they did for the Legacy Museum  is built on here, and they have memorials for every lynching they can document, organized by county and by state. These memorials are arranged twice. Each is a very large, rusted iron box engraved with the names (when known) and dates of every person lynched in that county. Below are the memorials for Illinois.

The first set of memorials are hung from the roof. You start out at eye level with them and then spiral down so that they slowly rise until they hang above your head.

The walls here are lined with “reasons” why people were lynched. They range from outsized reactions to small crimes to imagined offenses. One older woman was hung because she yelled at some young boys and told them to stop throwing rocks at her.

When you come out of this tunnel, you enter the second part of the museum where duplicates of each of the hanging memorials are laid out next to each other. This allows you to more easily read the names. One of the common things Black people do when they visit this museum is to search the names to see if they have any family members who were lynched.

Selma

Day 3 started with a bus trip to Selma. I wrote about this earlier, and I’ll copy that here: On March 7, 1965, hundreds of people gathered outside the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma to prepare for a 50 mile March to the state capital in Montgomery in order to demand that they be guaranteed the right to vote. One of the marchers that day was an 11 year old girl named JoAnn.

When the marchers tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met by brutal and dehumanizing violence. Fire hoses. Police batons. Attack dogs. Many were severely injured, including one of the march’s leaders, John Lewis.

The marchers succeeded two weeks later, after support from numerous places, including a wide variety of religious leaders, and it wasn’t too much long after that when the Voting Rights Act was passed.

The space behind the church now is an old and cracking cement pad. It is surrounded by run-down public housing. Selma was poor in 1965, it’s poor now – the ninth-poorest city in the country. The median household income is just over $26,500/year.

Rocks like the one in the photo are all over the cement. JoAnn asked each of us to choose one and hold it up. When she looked at mine, she paused. “That’s John Lewis’ rock,” she said. “He stood on that rock before he marched to the bridge on Bloody Sunday.”

Then she took my hand in hers and closed my fingers around the rock. I was entrusted with it as a commitment for what John Lewis – and so many, many others – fought so hard for. She – the 11 year old girl and the 68 year old woman – told me in a voice filled with the pain of so many battles that it was my fight now.

After that, we walked from the church to the Edmund Pettis Bridge and crossed it, arm-in-arm with each other. We weren’t in danger of violence, of course, and we weren’t planning on walking 50 miles to Montgomery to protest for our rights, but we were still on sacred ground.

Birmingham

We took the bus from Selma to Birmingham to visit the Civil Rights Museum there (worth a visit, but a little dated, especially when compared with the Legacy Museum – they are beginning renovations, however). There was one moment there that took my breath away, however. One room was filled with large glass panels, each engraved with a ghostly figure of someone who might have been around in the 1960’s. There’s a speaker that plays quotes from people, words filled with bigotry and hate. The glass panels are sort of scattered around the room, so there’s no clear sightlines. And then when you get far enough into the room, there is what looks like another glass panel with a ghostly figure on the wall but is something far worse. It’s the robes and hood of a grand wizard of the KKK, all shiny and silky and white. When I realized that, I literally could not breathe for a time. I had to turn away from it. When you’re not looking at that, though, you can see a video of a small boy, maybe 4 or 5, wearing his very own white robes and hood (lifted so you can see his face). I could almost feel the hate emanating from those robes on the wall.

Across the street from the Civil Rights Museum is the 16th St Baptist Church. This church became famous when a terrorist planted a bomb and set it off during a Youth Day at the church, killing four teenage girls. Much like the violence in Selma on Bloody Sunday, this horrific act catalyzed movement, with a growing number of white people essentially saying “we don’t like Black people voting and stuff, but we don’t want kids to be blown up in church even more.” The church has a very well-done museum in the basement, and there’s a Spike Lee documentary about it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebuKaY0KIbI ).

Kitty corner from the church is a park where Bull Connor, the violent racist bully in charge of “public safety” would have his officers and firefighters meet marchers coming from the church with billy clubs, vicious dogs, and fire hoses. The park is filled with some amazing sculpture designed to put you in the shoes of the people who were brutally attacked over and over.

Summary

Earlier in this essay, I talked about community building. Here’s a simple illustration of that. The first night, I was invited along with four other colleagues to a bar near the hotel to attempt to come down from that first day. The second night, we picked up some wine and met in the hotel lobby, and this time there weren’t 5 of us, there were 10 or so. The third night, there were about 15 (out of the 20 of us).

I’m running out of emotional energy here, but I did want to talk a little about the issue that I mentioned earlier – Mass Incarceration. Starting in the 1970’s, conservatives set about changing drug laws in order to imprison more Black and Brown people (in their own words – this was the explicit intent). Over the last 40 years, we have seen a 500% increase in the number of people in prison, and the prison population skews heavily towards non-white people. As of 2001, roughly 1 in 17 white men will spend some time in prison, but 1 in 3 Black men will. For women, it’s 1 in 111 white women and 1 in 18 Black women. This has been fueled, in part, by the growth of the for-profit prison industry which incentivizes politicians for creating laws that put and keep more people in prison. Not only is this intentional incarceration of non-white people a moral wrong and a sign of the racial biases throughout our “justice” system, but it leads to an even greater wrong.

When the 13th Amendment was ratified, it outlawed slavery “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” That’s a very big “except.” In most states, prisoners who work are paid (a whopping 63 cents per hour on average), but in eight, they are paid nothing (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas). Prisoners pay fees and purchase things (such as tampons) with their “wages.” And to earn this money, they are put to work maintaining the prison, dangerous jobs (like fighting forest fires), and, in a particularly terrible way, through “convict leasing.” Businesses can pay prisons to “lease” their prisoners, who, remember, are working for next-to-nothing. Some businesses even build facilities *on prison grounds* so they can have ready access to their labor.

What does this mean? Recall that this country was founded by white people who essentially immediately began imprisoning Black people and making a profit on their labor. What is happening in prisons today is the same thing. We created laws and systems which disproportionately imprison Black and Brown people and then, because of this massively important clause in the 13th Amendment, white people can use these imprisoned people to increase their profits.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about that, but that has to end. I wasn’t here when Black people were kidnapped and enslaved and I wasn’t here when Jim Crow laws and domestic terrorism in the form of lynching punished an entire race but I am here now. Those can’t be my fights, but this can.

I am going to stop here, but please reach out to me with reactions, thoughts, and questions.

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#ThursThreads, week 524

Prompt: https://siobhanmuir.com/thursthreads-tying-tales-together-week-524/

I sat down across from myself. Was I ever really that young? 

The youth of his (my) face was betrayed by his eyes, sparkling in the light, but wary, apprehensive, darting away from direct contact. 

“You know who I am, right?” He nodded, but only slightly, as if he was waiting for me to tell him how he was wrong. 

“It’s alright. This isn’t exactly an everyday kind of thing.” He didn’t respond. I wanted to hug him, and I knew he’d let me, but touching messed up the device that allowed me to be here. 

“Anyway, you must have questions.” He just shrugged. 
I pointed at my hairless scalp. “1998.” 

My wedding ring. “2004, although yours might be different.”

I sighed. There was so much I wanted to say. The ‘How am I doing so far’ question wasn’t just in his head. 

“Okay, look. Two things.” I held his eyes. “Fuck ‘em. And run.”

He blushed at the first word. How innocent I was. “Fuck ‘em, you hear me? Everyone who tells you you’re not good enough. They’re wrong. Just wrong.

“It won’t be much longer until you can get out of here. When you do, run. Don’t look back. And when they tell you you’re wrong, that you’re a bad kid, that you’re abandoning your family, what do you say?”

He didn’t speak, but I saw the wheels turning, trying to see a different path forward.

C’mon, kid. You’re smart enough to get this.

“Fuck ‘em?”

“Fuck ‘em.”

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#ThursThreads, week 523

Prompt: https://siobhanmuir.com/thursthreads-tying-tales-together-week-523/

Whiskey with a Ghost

Maybe your dead can’t talk, but in my experience, they never shut up. Sometimes the brown liquid muffled their voices. On nights like tonight, though, I just got pissed.

“You know that I loved you and did my best. Life was hard and we did what we could do, all things considered.”

I took another sip and paused before speaking. Yelling was a game both of them taught me, but I was trying to do better.

“Did you though? Did you ever think about what I was learning from you?”

“I tried to teach you so many things.”

“Yes. I know you did. By constantly questioning everything I did, you taught me not to trust myself.

“By finding fault in everything,” my voice caught, and I took another sip. “You taught me that I was never going to be good enough. Did you ever notice how hard the world was for me?”

“I know school was rough. Those kids were so mean to you.”

“Uh-huh. And when I got home, did you let me know I’d always be good enough in your eyes, no matter what the bullies said? Did you make home a place where I knew I could be me and that I’d be okay?”

“We loved you!”

“But did you ever like me?” I drained my glass and poured another.

“You know you shouldn’t drink that stuff.”

“And you should have realized that your problems weren’t my problems. Go away, mom. Or at least shut up.”

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Chapter 1

The wind had picked up since earlier in the day when the windsurfers had trouble staying in motion, but nobody was on the water now. It was coming on dinner time, and people had moved on to yard games. The kids had all found friends, somebody else’s kids who they saw once a year, most years. My wife was talking to different people every time I found her, a beer in her hand and a smile on her face.

I’d worn myself out earlier in the lake, playing with the kids and playing water volleyball, mostly with people who were younger and in better shape than me, but it was a game for everyone. The late-afternoon not quite late summer sun had started to head toward the horizon to the southwest, and everything except a few white fluffy clouds in the distance was blue and green, the colors popping against each other like an apotheosis of life.

My headphones filled my ears with the words and music of John Prine singing about Lake Marie. That man had insights into the truth of being alive that few I knew about could match, and somehow Covid took him and left that monster who had been President. Further evidence that no benevolent deity could ever exist was not necessary. Whether there were no gods or whether they existed and were capricious and cruel was a mystery the universe had not chosen to reveal.

I took this all in, the kids and my wife and the sky and the laughter and the music and the breeze and the water and the beer, and I thought what a wonderful day this was. And I thought about the dark buzzing sound that gnawed at the base of my brain. The sadness that blew in, but not on the breeze. The pain that filled the earth and the sky and the water and the people like a luciferous ether.

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#SwiftFicFriday – Week 131

Prompt: https://fictiontrials.wordpress.com/2022/07/22/swiftficfriday-week-131-prompt/

There Will Come Soft Rains

Lucy floated down the stairs, her tiny wings helping her hover over the dusty and ill-kept stairs. She’d spent all of her eight months in this house and loved it as much as any place she’d ever lived.

Not in this life, of course.

Wyatt bounded up to her as she entered the den, his long, shaggy ears flopping in time with his pointed tail. Lucy grabbed on to his thick fur and laughed with delight. She’d been a baby more than a dozen times before, but she’d never had a dog, hell-beast or otherwise. More often than not, she’d been called on to rule from the moment she crawled out of her mother, and that put a damper on playtime.

When she’d opened her eyes this time around, though, she heard Wyatt bark and saw Rufus smiling down at her. Rufus never changed from one life to the next. They’d tried to explain it to her more than once, but while she was adept beyond all others at magic, science was never of interest to her. His giant metallic hands were somehow warm and soft, though, and he loved her.

In the 40 years that always passed from the end of one life to the beginning of the next, something strange had happened. No battles took place outside her door. The smell of blood didn’t permeate the air. The night air didn’t resonate with cries of pain. No one knelt to her and asked her what to do and how to do it and when.

Lucy’s giggles rang down the hall as Wyatt leapt after sunbeams and barked at shadows. She could smell the breakfast that Rufus was cooking, and the last three beings left on Earth began another day filled with joy.

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#ThursThreads, week 521

Prompt: https://siobhanmuir.com/thursthreads-tying-tales-together-week-521/

This is the way the world ends, one generation at a time. Most people have no idea that anything is happening, the process is so slow. But the things that are supposed to be passed down aren’t and the things that are supposed to go away stay. And the end approaches. 

This is the way the world ends, one year at a time. Some start to notice – we hear friends and loved ones talking about how the past year was the worst one ever and maybe next year will be better. But if you cry out that the end is coming, you’ll be largely ignored as people go to work and school and eat and fuck and die. And the end approaches faster. 

This is the way the world ends, one week at a time. People – some people, anyway – notice, but they’re so consumed by bouncing from crisis to disaster to crisis that they can’t act in any collective ways. And so they work and fuck and go to class and die, but none of it, not one thing is really okay. The faint (really, is it faint or do we not want to hear) sound of the end coming is everywhere. 

This is the way the world ends, one day at a time. So many things, so many places, so many people are on fire that even the protected people and places and things feel the heat. “Why didn’t anyone warn us the end was coming,” the people cry.

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#ThursThreads – 10 years!

Prompt: https://siobhanmuir.com/thursthreads-tying-tales-together-for-10-years/
The dead woman sat down on the sofa. Since she wasn’t there – not really – she didn’t sink down into the cushions. But it still felt good.

“I always did love this room.”

Katie could still remember the day she and Emily walked into this house along with their realtor. It needed a lot of love, but love was something the two of them had in excess, and they thought they had time to play the long game of transformation. They’d transformed themselves, after all, finding each other in the dark, each having fled somewhere that didn’t deserve them, and creating their own light.

The house became their sanctuary, their fortress against the anger and the hate and the voices that told them they didn’t belong. Each room got the attention it needed, transforming from a paean to mid-20th century banality into a new thing unto itself, something that never would have existed without her and Emily.

But this room – the library – was her favorite. A fireplace, cozy blankets, a sofa that was comfortable to sit or lay on, alone or with Emily, and shelf after shelf of books.

The books were packed away after Emily died. She’d hung on to the books for years after the gunman took Katie, but there was no sense in keeping the books locked up when the readers were gone.

Katie sensed a presence next to her on the sofa and reached out to put her hand in Emily’s. “I always loved this room too.”

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#ThursThreads, week 519

Prompt: https://siobhanmuir.com/thursthreads-tying-tales-together-week-519

“Fascism for Dummies”

Introduction

You know you want to create an authoritarian regime that crushes your opponents and elevates you, and those you favor, above all else, so you rush right in on day one and try to take over everything. And it fails. Don’t worry – it’s a mistake many beginners make.

For your attempt to create a nationalistic or theocratic (or, for the particularly ambitious, both!) government that will allow you to codify your “just following the natural order of things” beliefs into law, backed by a police state with virtually unlimited authority, play the long game.

You will need to get your people into place in offices at all levels first. To do this, work the populist angle. People love hearing that you’re on their side against all those people who are responsible for all the bad things in their lives (because everyone’s life sucks, right?). It’s best if you can couch that blame in language that hides your true motives, at least early on. Talk about threats to the country. The good ol’ days. Lament anything that changed things from the way they used to be.

The lynchpin, however, is the judiciary. If you can get your people in place – it’s particularly fun to use the system to do this by breaking norms but not the so-called rules – you can validate or invalidate any laws or governmental policies you want. That’s when you can really go to town.

Chapter 2: When is it time to set up death camps?

250 words
@drmag00

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#ThursThreads, week 515

Prompt: https://siobhanmuir.com/thursthreads-tying-tales-together-week-515/


The first one showed up near Madrid. Lucia stared in amazement at the burbling spring of saltwater on her patio. She lived hundreds of miles from the ocean and the water table under her house was too deep for a well.

Lucia called the mayor’s office, her priest, and her brother at university in Boston. The first asked her why it was their problem, the second told her it was a miracle, and the third swore at her and said, “You’re telling me this now? It’s the middle of the night here.” Then he hung up.

The second was in Prague, the third in Tokyo, the fourth in Nairobi, and by the end of the week, the website tracking these things showed more than a hundred active saltwater springs, including three in Antarctica where the ambient temperature was -28 C.

Geologists were baffled. Politicians blamed whoever was in vogue to blame at the time. Instagram influencers raced each other to the newest sites to take vapid photographs.

At the end of the month, there were thousands, and the rate of flow was increasing seemingly hourly. Lucia’s village was flooded. Washington DC was turning from a figurative swamp back into a literal one.

They tried bulldozers. Explosives. Religious figures of every stripe gathered in prayer.

As with all things, the poor and weak started dying first, but the rich and powerful weren’t spared. The waters climbed and climbed until no land was seen.

And still the Earth cried on.

248 words

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#ThursThreads, week 514

Prompt: https://siobhanmuir.com/thursthreads-tying-tales-together-week-514


It had been eons since Lord Beelzebub felt unsure of what to do next. She had many great ideas for torture and had refined them over millennia. But the reports she’d been getting from Earth were getting more and more confusing, and the things that had always worked just didn’t seem to be…enough?

She sighed deeply and pushed the button on the intercom. “Send them in.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

The demons she’d been waiting for entered her office – some slithering, some on leathery wings, others on a blurry cacophony of feet – but none of them would meet her eyes. Not in the “please don’t tear me in half, Lord” way either. That, she was used to. This was just more uncertainty.

“Report.”

The snake-thing raised its head. “We already submitted our report, My Lord.”

Beelzebub glared.

“Yes, uh, My Lord. The extra report. So it’s all, uhh, true.”

“They are destroying their habitable environment, for profit?”

“Yes.”

“They are dying by the millions from a wholly preventable illness, for profit?”

“Well, that one is more for power, but yes.”

“And this latest one? They are sacrificing their children, over and over?”

“For profit and power, yes, My Lord.”

“And that’s why they’re not suffering when they come here?”

“Yes, My Lord. They are…grateful, I think. At least this makes sense to them.”

Beelzebub sat back in her chair and sighed. “We have got to do something, soon – by the end of the week, if possible. Home Office is not happy.”