I always wondered if this would get easier. Still do, I guess. Needless to say, it hasn't. The zealots around here all would think me a monster, unnatural and unjust in my existence. I can never let my guard down. If they knew, what would they do to me? There are laws that protect me, sure, but the feds won't step foot here. The local police are more likely to perpetrate crimes against me than to give me asylum. I wish I'd changed my career before I moved here, and now I can’t get out. Anywhere else I can afford to go is just as dangerous for people like me.
The worst part is acting like I can't hear them. Pets, working animals, livestock in trailers. They all talk to me, like they do to every human- whether they understand or not. And despite knowing their pain, hearing their cries for help from their trailers, I can't so much as glance their direction for fear of giving myself away. I have to eat the meat their bodies provide; being vegan is a dead giveaway in Middessa, and even a hint of displeasure or disgust could bring inquisitors (or whatever it is they call themselves) to my doorstep.
The sidewalk carries me on, falling apart from years of use without consideration for restoration. Thinking about all this doesn’t help me much at all, but I can’t help but dwell on my situation. I really couldn’t avoid it if I tried. Between the cries of the animals and the signs plastered everywhere I look- windows, walls, doors, powerline poles, and (in the case of my current mental ramblings) pamphlets handed out- I can’t help it. The caricatures of other Cross-Communicators like me (albeit much more influential than I’ll ever be) that accompany the words of the tenth amendment and uninspired slogans of the Tenthers somehow make it worse. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. ---- WE’RE THE PEOPLE!” Yeah, I know. I get it. I wish they wouldn’t hand out these things. The propaganda is all just preaching to the choir anyway; I’m convinced its sole objective is my own torment.
I’m stirred suddenly from the pamphlet and my introspection by the din of a clamoring crowd. Crumpling the trash and tossing it where it belongs, I look up to find the café to which I’d been heading has attracted the attention of an assortment of rambunctious individuals. It’s quite a shame; this is one of the few places I can go to order meatless meals without weird looks. Cafés are my only respite. My path on the sidewalk brings me to the back of the crowd.
Their shouts muddle into a continuous stream of resentment, incomprehensible to any onlooker. It’s honestly impressive that a crowd this small can’t even organize a chant, but, noticing the bright buttons in Red, White, and Blue bearing the initials T.A.P. (for Tenth Amendment Party), I quickly understand why they can’t.
“What’s going on?” I ask one of the less enthusiastic ones.
“Haven’t ya heard? Them animal speakers that stole their way into the federal government finally did it! They passed prohibition, and they expect us to “compensate” the workin’ beasts- whatever that’s supposed to mean. This here coffee shop doesn’t have up any posters supporting our cause, so we’re just inquisitatin’ is all.”
Luckily for me, at that moment the café doors opened and the owner, who I had gotten to know pretty well, plastered up a few new signs and posters reading, “We have the right to choose what we can and can’t eat!” and other thoroughly thought-provoking phrases.
The owner of the café called out, “I am incredibly sorry, folks! My printer went down, and I couldn’t fix it until just a few moments ago! Had to install new drivers to my laptop and everything- it was quite an ordeal!”
The crowd grumbled in disappointment, their transparent intentions for some form of recompense hilariously disarmed by such a simple explanation. An explanation that, if I knew the owner as well as I thought I did, was surely some degree of bullshit. Once the crowd had dissolved, I was able to enter The Bean's Knees in peace.
Brent, the owner, was almost to the back when I entered. Hearing the door open he glanced back. Spotting me, he grinned, and I could plainly see the hints of mischief hidden his grin.
“Get this man his usual on the house,” Brent called to the barista. Then he chuckled, disappearing into his back office.
I shook my head, smiling and taking my seat. Brent was something special around here. Maybe daft, maybe daring. Whatever he was, he was surely brave, and I respected the hell out of him for it.