Skip to main content

Air Brushed

 "The United Peoples Headquarters, formerly known as the Grand Imperial Palace by its previous owners, was at the center of a dense urban maze sprawled out from the ancient citadel. The centuries-old walls and turret towers were occupied by guards equipped with modern submachine guns. The archway and iron gate were replaced by a steel one that slid on an electric rail. 

In the south-facing wing of the palace was a former servants' kitchen that had been converted into a photo lab and office for the Supreme Executive's official photographer, Doctor Krutzov. Krutzov had been in the Supreme Executive's service long before the great leader had even thought the title up. 

Krutzov had been in that photo lab for nearly 22 years. He had followed the godfathers of the national revolution into the temple of power. They fortified their position taking care not to repeat the mistakes of the regime they overthrew. 

Krutzov had passed into old age inside the walls of the headquarters. The hair on the back of his head had stubbornly stuck in his scalp, but the rest had fallen away. His skin had wrinkled, and his always small eyes seemed to be shrinking as the frames of his glasses grew.

Krutzov was having a busy week with the Supreme Executive's latest damnatio memoria. 

Krutzov's position put him at the head of this effort. Statues aren't smashed in the modern version of this mode of personal eradication; instead, photographs are gently altered.

People were erased every day, but most would be forgotten as quickly as their families could be killed. A select few faces, though, required Kurtzov's direction if they were to be erased from public sight and the national memory.

Sometimes a recent persona non grata was very well known. Sometimes the non-entity in question was a person the Supreme Executive had known for years and had been photographed with on numerous occasions over the years.

Kruzev spent the last three weeks tirelessly combing the national archives for every photo of the Supreme Executive with the offender. They were to be airbrushed out and never mentioned again.

Kruzev had already produced several photos of the Supreme Executive shaking hands with the air, looking thoughtfully at a wall, and standing at an awkward distance from other people. The final portrait was a group photo of the Supreme Executive at the center of his old entourage. Well, that's what it had been a picture of. Time had reduced the 7 ministers in the photo to just three people placed seeming at random. 

Kruzev thought about his own dwindling circle of confidants. Though most of them had been done in by old age and illness. He supposed it was just the same that even the greatest men ultimately leave this world alone.

Kruzev's contemplation was interrupted by a knock at the door. He set the photo down.

"Come in!" he called.

Two giant guards entered the room and flanked the door. The one on the right stepped forward.

"It is my duty and an extreme pleasure to announce the presence of the Supreme Executive! First in the party, Grand marshall of the nation, and -

"That will be enough. He's heard all of this before."

The Supreme Executive shuffled through the door. He was never as large as the official portraits were meant to lead people to believe, but he seemed to be shrinking in his old age. He had stooped shoulders, a slight humpback, beady black eyes, and a thick plume of coarse snow-white hair. He looked more like a kindly old grandfather than a revolutionary warlord. He was dressed in a simple tunic adorned with shimmering party orders and military medals.

Kruzev stood up as quickly as his old bones would allow and saluted.

The Supreme Executive smiled. "As you were."

"To what do I owe the honor of your presence?" Kruzev asked.

"I just wanted to check on the project of your recent special project."

"I've just finished, your excellency. Have a look."

The Supreme Executive took out a pair of glasses from his breast pocket. 

"Don't tell anyone you saw me using these, or it's your head." He said to Kruzev with a smile

Kruzev chuckled. The Supreme Executive had taken to joking around more in his old age. Kruzev supposed it was because he was confident he'd outlasted all his enemies.

The Supreme Executive examined the pictures. "Very good," he muttered. Finally, he came to the last photo, the group photo. The great leader held the picture up and studied it for a moment.

"Didn't there used to be a few more people in this photograph?"

Kruzev thought hard about his answer. "No, sir, I don't believe so."


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On the Eve of Extinction

The river was like a massive indigo snake coiling in the shadow of the canyons its eternal flow cut out of the very earth. Somewhere along the watery corridor, settled human life grew out of the muddy banks. The tribe sustained itself on the arterial river, steadily expanding and contracting with the rhythm of its flow like a beating heart. As far as anyone in the tribe knew no other arrangement had ever existed. The river had birthed them, molding sand and clay into flesh, and infusing the husks with its life-giving waters. Life under the desert’s smooth turquoise sky seemed safely stagnant. There was no inkling, no deciphered omens, absolutely no hunch of the approaching cataclysm lurking just out of sight obscured by the landscape’s jagged ridges. Not far from the isolated patchwork of green and brown earth settled by this tribe, the scion of ancient god well into his twilight years was on the cusp of fulfilling his divine purpose. Harmakar was sitting in the dust staring into t

In the Blink of an Eye

 Until now, the gears of history had ground at such a slow pace our perception of it was like a puzzle. The constantly shifting pieces created an eternally changing picture inhabited and shaped by generations. Progress made it possible for the change to arrive in the form of a flash just a millionth of a second long with a blinding light and the pain of flesh-searing fire that burned away the world I knew as if it were covered in lighter fluid. For us, there were no blue skies. Daytime was just when the sun was shining bright enough to penetrate through the acrid black clouds that had consumed the sky and mingled with the distant glow of the burning horizon, painting the atmosphere with blood. For an indeterminate number of hours, maybe as long as a day, it was the only thing I saw. The constant screams became white noise; as I spiraled into death, my perceptions continued to dim until there was nothing left but fear and pain. Every hour the world became dimmer, and I saw everything t

Concubine

 Himari lay in bed on her side, staring at the barren wall with dry scarlet stained eyes resting her head on her small delicate hands. Her spent, and tired body was still as a statue. The royal child left her womb, and everyone followed it to the home of her masters, and he would be raised as one of them, and she would be nothing more than just another subject. This wasn't the only child Himari had given to her imperial lord, but the first boy hadn't lasted a week before dashing his father's hopes for a worthy progeny.  When she was with child, a stupid part of her started to forget how it would inevitably end. Once the golden boy left her womb, what happened to her wouldn't matter much after.  Even after enduring the pain of childbirth, she wouldn't be given the catharsis of cradling the fruits of her labor in her arms. That had been the hardest part the first time. Watching her baby get carried away was just the first shock, though. The little prince had clawed ou