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30 September, 2009 / Erik

The Fuller Equation, Chapter Eight

8: Man of the People

When I was young, I suffered lots of migraines. Now, I know you’ve seen commercials for this or that brand of pain reliever’s migraine strength product. If you can actually get those products to work, lucky you. They didn’t exist in my younger days and they don’t do much to help me now. I simply have to suffer a migraine. If you’ve never had one, let me give you an idea of what one is like.

It generally starts when you wake up. You’ll sit there with your cup of coffee and a bagel or something when you noticed you can’t actually see the cup anymore. It’s been replaced by those floating things you see when you’re trying to go to sleep. Well, except for one difference: it’s really thick. So, you start blinking to get rid of the pea soup growing on your eyes. If you’re lucky, you lose your peripheral vision in your left eye. If you’re like me, you lose sigh entirely. About a half hour after that, the pain really starts.

This is intense pain. It isn’t like that pressure that builds up over your eyes when you can’t take ragweed. This is the head in the vice and a taffy pull at once. This is such a startling and rocking pain that all you can do is yell … because you can’t quite believe that this is actually happening. Your perception of the world changes and your face is strapped to a twenty ton weight. Oh, yeah, one more precious gift from that stage-light makes it worse! All you can do is lay down and try to go to sleep, but by this point your eyes are bloodshot with tears and your stomach is in knots, but evening crying about the pain in your gut makes it feel worse. So, you lay back, trying to remain perfectly still when the gastro-intestinal fluids start bubbling up.

So you’re laying there and you feel a mouthful of spit fill up, you swallow it and realize that it’s not spit … it’s stomach acid. So, while still dizzy and off balance from the pain in your skull, you stumble and run to the nearest toilet, sink, or bed that isn’t yours and puke.

I don’t mean a little upset tummy, I mean you let go of all the contents of your stomach … it just keeps coming worse than any binge night you’ve ever had, at least you fall asleep and forget that. This vomit you have to remember. So you kneel at the porcelain god for something on the order of ten minutes losing that bagel and coffee you had earlier … there’s nothing left in your stomach to come out … so you head back to bed.

Then you run back to the toilet because your stomach is letting you know it’s not going to wait much longer. What it unleashes is long stream of spittle dangling from your mouth and something vaguely resembling shit. It’s at this point, staring down into the bowl, realizing you’ve actually just coughed up shit, that the horror of the thing hits you—that migraines are not a part of some technology age demon. It’s not because of the way we feed our cows or the way we grow our carrots. Migraines are a natural part of body chemistry. They’re another gift from on high. Then you puke some more shit up.

If you’re lucky, when you’ve stumbled back to bed … you’ll pass out and wake up in the morning with a slight sinus pressure and a soreness in your stomach from upchucking the day before.

If you’re like me, you get to live with the pain for while longer. The longest ever was three days. I’ve heard some poor souls can get them for up to five days. Imagine, five days of intense pain, vomiting, and staring at shit you’ve coughed up. That my friends, depending on which god you subscribe to, is Hell or the beginning of becoming a shaman.

Anyway, after I met the Fuckhead for the first time, I lost three days to a migraine. Following that first real use of the Awareness, Garland always kept in touch. Valerija and I were allowed to stay in the local HQ for awhile, but aides and occasionally the man himself would call. On her purple phone, Garland came up as “The Man on High.”

I was surprised Garland had a dedicated line at all. I always figured those people co-opt the phone of the nearest lackey.

A week in April, we were flown out to a college tour in the South. Garland was going to be speaking at places more moderate. I was expected to hit up a few more left-leaning places to energize the base.

Oh, also, Garland was pretty sure he’d made his choice for his running mate. It wouldn’t be announced for another month or so, but we were in Governor Fuckhead’s state … so why not meet with him.

Yeah, it might be childish to constantly call him the Fuckhead, but I am a fucking child. In my previous life as a high school teacher, he lumped me up with “activist” teachers in his state distorting the true meaning of the nation with “dangerous” leftist goals.

All I wanted to do was show the kids that Ben Franklin was pretty spry for an oldster with a gouty leg.

“So why him?” I asked of Garland as we rode in a limo to one of his events.

The Senator considered his response. “Balance. There are factions in the party that would prefer a less extreme platform. Choosing him will show I recognize the more moderate elements.”

I’ve just realized I skipped Super-Tuesday and the whole primary cycle that transformed the Senator from unlikely to the candidate. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the media can’t kill the break-out candidate during the New Hampshire primary.

That said, the run from New Hampshire to that moment in the limo is painfully dull.

“I do need you to do that … whatever it is you do, Fuller. I need the magic on him,” Garland asked.

“Whatever you think I’m capable of, Senator, is not guaranteed.”

Garland smiled. “Well, I’ve arranged a meeting. I’m sure the two of you will be able to settle any differences between you.”

I looked out the window and watched the road of a new state pass us by. “I’m sure, Senator.”

#

I was brought into a suite where the Fuckhead was waiting for us. After shaking his hand, I notice no contact. Instead, I hear a buzzing about the room. Reflexively, I lit a clove.

” Y’know, son, they don’t allow smoking in this here hotel,” he said.

“You sure about that, Governor?”

“I signed that piece of legislation into law.”

“I’m surprised. Tobacco is still a big crop here, isn’t it?”

The Fuckhead had brownish hair so coifed, it might as well have been a wig. His suit was off-blue and his state flag pin had a habit to blind me if it caught light. He was handsome in a vat-grown homogenized sort of way. He really should’ve had his own toy-line.

“I think my record speaks for itself, young man.”

“I suppose it does.”

The buzzing got louder.

“Fuller, I would like there to be an understanding between us. I know, in the past, I have said some harsh things about you and your intentions.”

“‘These teachers intend to undermine the fabric of the nation with their gross misrepresentations of the Founding Fathers. They twist the details of the birth of our great Republic to further seditious aims.'” My voice, of course, changed into his as I quoted him.

He laughed. “A fairly accurate impression of me; I was not aware you had that talent.”

I took a drag off my clove.

“Son, we are not enemies here. I just worry you may jump into things without proper thought. That incident is just one example. Even that first television interview was ill-advised.”

“Was it?” I asked. The buzz had that familiar resonance of an aggressive fly.

“You really should’ve vetted those comments with the local directors. All of you should have had prepared statements in the event of such a situation.”

“Is that how you run things?”

“My boy, preparation is key.”

Scanning the suite, all I see is a spread of food, a bar, and several tables. No insects.

“Do you have a speech ready in the event of a meteor crash?”

“Don’t be glib, lad. As crazy as that might sound, the people will look to their leaders in such a calamity and we cannot be seen to be unsure or slow to respond when the unexpected occurs.”

The light bouncing off his pin gave way to the floaters. I got up to get a can of soda, hoping the caffeine might stave off the migraine. I took a big gulp of the sugar water and doused my clove out in the can.

The Fuckhead got up as well and placed a hand on my shoulder.

“We should always be prepared for anything, Fuller; even the likes of you.”

Before my sight completely disappeared, I saw the Fuckhead retreat to other side of the room and talk to one of his advisors or aides. A man dressed entirely in white.

“Something wrong, son?” he shouted across the room.

I scrambled to get my words together. “I … I am sorry, Governor. We … we’ll have to continue some other time.” I spoke politic with my own voice.

“Of course, my boy. I understand you have a history of debilitating headaches. I used to suffer from such things myself. Perhaps when all of this is over, I’ll tell you how I learned to manage them.”

At that point, another handler escorted me out of the suite and into Valerija’s arms. She was given a key to another room and told to let me sleep there.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Not now.”

“Why?”

“Because every time you open your mouth, you make it worse.”

“But–”

“Sensitivity to light and sound, I thought I explained before.”

Oh, there was no blacking out or visions. As soon as we got to the room, we drew all the shades and made the place as dark as possible. I hit the mattress and buried my head under the pitiful hotel pillows. Valerija was still talking, but I was too busy holding back a scream to respond.

Later, I just started screaming at her from the pain.

At some point the pain did give way to sleep, but the hammer returned with consciousness. At the very least the buzzing stopped as soon as I left the Fuckhead.

Three days later, Garland came to visit. Valerija had put a washcloth with vap-o-rub on my forehead. He touched my arm. Contact.

“She’s a good field nurse,” the Senator said quietly.

“Oh, you don’t need to whisper. He’s just taking advantage of our natures, Senator Garland,” she said.

Heh.

The Awareness told me his concern was genuine and his talk with the Fuckhead was unsatisfactory.

“So what happened, Fuller?”

“Magic.”

#

I still don’t fully understand this Awareness of mine. Or why it allows me to mimic other people’s voices or why it blacks me out during speeches, but I recognize the absence of it. While no other interaction with that Fuckhead has laid me out for three days, I’ve never been able to get the Awareness to work around him.

Also, he seems to be surrounded by aides in white ties.

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