“Red Hats”

“Red Hats”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

“The end came just like the fella predicted,”
The old man said. “They were legion,
Wrapped in flags and carrying crosses,
And they were insane.”

He regarded me with a resigned calmness
Across the flames of the campfire,
Studying me intently as his eyes flickered,
His haggard face ensconced in a fiery
Red-yellow glow. At his feet, a small black dog
Lay curled in a tight ball of oblivious slumber
Beneath frigid late-autumn stars,
Occasionally twitching in some
Alien canine dream. The denuded woods
Surrounding us were silent save for
Sporadic cries that echoed remotely in the dark.

“They caught us unaware,” the old man continued.
“Their lies were slippery and darkly enticing,
And they awoke a feral animal bloodlust
In the gullible low-hanging fruit. It was
Modern-day sorcery, a triggering of
Mass psychosis, a mental blitzkrieg,
A philosophical paradigm shift of
Cult-like proportions.”

He stirred the fire with a stick as he
Gazed into the embers, scrying memories
Of the end of all things. The dog let out a
Muffed whimper and kicked weakly in its sleep.

“You never know a man’s heart until you
Dangle a piece of raw meat in front of him,”
The old man said, still lost in his contemplation
Of the embers. “All it took was the raw meat
Of lies and fear and hate, bow-tied in a
Pretty box of false patriotism. Guns and ammo
Included.”

At this, he looked at me through the fire,
His eyes burning. “And they had all the guns.
And when they ran out of bullets, they
Used their fists. And when they ran out of
Enemies, they fell on each other like a
Pack of rabid hyenas…and their
Mad orange god was pleased…”

To the east, the bilious moon climbed
Above the bony fingers of the trees
As a gust of wind kicked up sparks
In the fire, sending them heavenward
Like a swarm of hellish fireflies.

“After that, it was just mop-up duty
For the shock troops,” the old man said.
“The base had fulfilled its sacred duty
Of wanton slaughter and blasphemous
Self-sacrifice. The plutocrats performed
Their symbolic fellatio on the
Mad orange god, then everyone hunkered
And bunkered down. And this…” he said,
Nodding at the cold dead woods,
At the distant insensate stars, at the bloated moon
Clawing its way up the night sky,
At the howls of the damned echoing
In the darkness, at the utter extinction
Of all hope, “…is what’s left…”

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