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Executive Order 167588: a flash fiction

In the absence of Congressional approval, the existing President of the United States may conduct the removal of any documents that could yield unfavorable opinions of the military or other protective forces of United States citizens.

“How are you feeling, private?”

“Good, sir – never better.”

“That’s what I wanna hear.”

Somewhere inside the debriefing unit, an American news station is droning on the television. A light trill on the tiny headpiece just behind the private’s ear indicates its full capacity. Leaning over, the captain pulls the magnetic headpiece from the private’s head.

Pulling out a tablet, the captain places the magnet inside a small, oval port. Another trill indicates the file upload.

“What do you remember?” the captain asks. The private leans back in his chair.

“I remember the explosions. And people yelling. I remember my gun.”

“Is that all you remember?”

“Yes, sir – I’m sorry. My head is foggy. They said we’d have a hard time remembering –”

“Yes,” he interjects. “War makes soldiers forget things. It’s why we need heroes like you out here, fighting on the front lines to keep the world safe. Right?”

“Yes, sir. Of course.”

The captain nods in satisfaction. “You know all that stuff about war you used to read about? Did one textbook ever talk about memory loss in soldiers? Did they ever talk about how hard it is to go into battle and not remember a single thing?”

“No, sir.”

“Got that right. Every damn textbook makes us look like the villains. You’re a hero, son. All of you! And after today, the new generation will know the truth.

“Will they, sir?”

“Do you remember when the United Nations decided to centralize the location of digital records of “war crimes” committed by the United States in 2036?”

“I do, sir. That was their cyber-attack on the States to destroy all digital copies of anything they considered a crime – and kept all the information for themselves.”

“All of that is no more, son. It’s gone – all of it is finished.”

“All of it…?”

“Every copy. Every excuse and damned reason to hate a brave, US hero is gone. You’ll come home a hero. All of your men will.”

“Our mission was successful?”

“Very,” the captain promises. He pats the private on the arm. “Tell number six to come in.”

“Yes, sir.”

He stands as the captain pulls up the file of the private’s memories. He’d seen a lot today. With two clicks, the file is deleted, and its digital footprints dusted away.

Outside, the fuzzy television drones on in the hallway;

“Following the United States’ digital purge of its own military records, a devastating attack on the United Nations building in New York City leaves over five hundred civilians and UN representatives dead or missing. United Nations describe the advancing soldiers in a “dissociative state” as they – “

The television cuts off with a high trill as the screen goes blue. The captain asks Number 6 what he remembers.

Sam Walsh is a fourth-year student majoring in special education and English. SW850037@wcupa.edu

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